So…Here we are, a few days after the release of Production Line into Early Access on Steam and GoG. How did it go I hear you ask?

Well if you read my earlier post on the pre-release guesswork and nerves here, you will recall that I was hoping to sell 300 copies in the first day, and had extrapolated to that showing the game to be a decent success that i would be very happy with. It turns out we sold about triple that amount (including humble,steam and GoG), so suffice to say I am very happy with how well the game is being received. Also we are getting some very nice coverage like this, which is always good.

On the flip-side, we clearly have a few crashes in the game AND also had a bad problem with balance. Essentially, the 1.19 release which was the EA build was unbalanced in terms of the rate at which the AI researched car technology, and also the number of technologies that could become universal. The system meant that very rapidly the AI had reduced cars to being effectively worthless because you needed a ton of essential tech which you could charge for, and went bankrupt…yikes.

This was patched yesterday, and the AI is now much calmer, the list of tech that can ever become universal is shorter, and the universal tech is still (partly) chargeable, making the game much more playable. of course now a few people say it is way too easy so…thats the next step in the path of game balance :D

The big moment of stress for me over the weekend was a sort of self-induced problem. I had been working for a while (in the run-up to the 18th) on a major revamp of the way car designs are done, allowing you to define different car ‘models’ such as ‘Standard’ ‘Sport’ Deluxe’ etc, and have your production line recognize each car and install the appropriate bits. This is VASTLY better than the old system  that shipped in 1.19. This was also something that players of the game had requested quite strongly through the priorities voting, and something I wanted to get in ASAP. The problem is that I hugely underestimated the ramifications in code of doing this, and how much needed to be changed, tweaked, fixed, and tested. The result was that I had a half-finished feature I really badly needed to finish before I could look at the balance and crash issues people were angry about.

At one stage we dropped out of ‘positive’ steam reviews to ‘mixed’. ARGHHHHHHH.

So to cut a long sleepless story short, I worked a damned lot of hours on coding, testing and verifying this feature, did some emergency code fixing for the balance stuff (which is also a vast improvement) and finally after a lot of testing released 1.20 to the world yesterday (GoG build still uploading…damned internet). As a result we are back in ‘positive’ scores, and things can only get better :D

So…apart from how stressful EA launches can be what else have I learned?

  1. People don’t leave steam reviews. Maybe 1% if you are lucky. You really would be amazed at how skewed steam reviews are. I have no idea how to fix this to ensure its more balanced :(
  2. Youtubers who request keys through a proper site (like keymailer) often do not accept the key when you give it to them. then most of them who accept it never install or run the game. Most of the ones who install and run the game don’t make a video, or even tweet about it. This is both surprising and infuriating.
  3. People automatically expect to get a game cheaper in the future. We have about 15,000 wishlists already. I have zero intention of dropping the price or putting the game in a sale. it will be interesting to watch what happens as a result.

I feel so much happier than yesterday when I was stressed as hell. And yet then, today some extremist maniac blew up children in my country. FFS.

I’ve been around a long time, and released a lot of games, so this is hardly a new experience for me to be releasing something new. Plus its already out there in alpha pre-orders anyway, and this is just the appearance on Steam and GoG, plus I am not in dire financial straights or debt needing this next weeks sales to buy food, so taking all things into account, this weeks release of Production Line on Early Access should be no big deal.

Holy fuck its stressful.

I’m kind of prone to ‘fear of the future’ anyway. Nothing to do with games. As a kid, we did not have much money and I was aware of the constant fear of future financial problems. I also grew up during the height of the cold war, where we actually assumed we would all die in a nuclear war. We had TV programs like this, for crying out loud. I also remember watching a TV show (for kids, believe it or not) where armed police broke into a kids house, arrested his parents and seized their stockpile of food, because they were hoarding some. (70s TV for kids was pretty fucking bleak).

I am a political junkie, and an avid watcher of predictions about the future. I go from worrying as a kid about money and nuclear death, to worrying about the politics of my country, the environment, my own finances and pretty much anything I can worry about. I worry about how this blog post will be received. maybe thats why I used to have lots of hair.

..and now have less.

Anyway, I find solace in numbers, facts, statistics, and so on. Nothing reassures you that you don’t need to worry about X better than a chart showing you that X is fine. So lets go to the data!

Production Line went on sale to pre-order alpha buyers from my website on 22nd January. Since then it has sold about 9,900 copies. The price has risen steadily from $10 to $13. On Thursday it leaps to $15.99. You can do some rough maths and work out how much the game has earned so far, and indeed, it is in profit, if you assume all that code I wrote was free. if not, it works out as $23.84 per hour of my work. Thats not *bad*.

If we assume that the game sells another 10,000 copies at full price during its time in early access, plus another 20,000 at an average 50% price during its full release, that would bring in a total of roughly $425,000 revenue. Deduct development and marketing costs, and distribute that over the current dev time plus another six months… and my hourly income would be $93.22. Holy fuck. I can live with that. That sounds good.

Of course that assumes a long term tripling of sales. How likely is that? The market is tough…hmmmm.

Right now Production Line has a total of 2,313 wishlists on steam. There really has not been very much press about it at all. Press just seem impossible these days, and I can see why. they are swamped with whats new on steam. How to cut through? The occasional promoted post and facebook ad is ticking along for me, but I admit I am aiming for a lot of word-of-mouth here. I’m paying close attention to what players of the game think, and hoping if they really like it, they will play for a long time and encourage their friends to get copies. I’m also hoping people who played ‘Big Pharma’ will find the game interesting.

My YMLP mailing list has about 8,000 people on it. I have about 9,000 twitter followers and the PL Facebook page currently has 2,616 likes. I think all these numbers are ‘ok’, but does that put me in the top 5% of indie games? Hardly anyone above the real beginner tier of devs shares this information, so who knows?

I have bought a bottle of prosecco to drink Thursday night regardless, so I need to deduct that in my spreadsheet too… hmm….

So I have to ask myself what I am assuming here, and allows me to predict future trends. If I’m thinking 10,000 copies during say 6 months in Early Access, then I reckon 25% (2,500) in month 1, probably 1,200 in week one, so I’m thinking 300 sales on release day is a sign that I am on track.

I’ll let you know how it goes. I’ll aggregate GoG, Steam and mine direct, because you cant legally reveal exact store numbers. Even as I type this I find myself thinking ‘fuck, 300 sales in a day is *not* going to happen. ARGGGHHH. Quick! Add it to your wishlist :D

BTW I am still sending out review copies to popular youtubers, and websites, so email cliff AT positech dot co dot uk about that. I’ll be using keymailer on the launch day to send out some more.

With any luck, this Production Line build will be the one that goes into Early Access next week on steam (hopefully GoG too). This is partly because doing so requires some admin, setting a build live on steam and having it approved by valve. After that we will be back to a regular update schedule :D

Here are the highlights in this new build for those of you already used to the game:

New Pop-up Message GUI

This is in the bottom right of the screen and notifies you when autosave has happened (instead of fullscreen), when the AI has researched something and when new loans are available. it will eventually also get more use for world events.

Paintwork polishing added!

A new researchable stage coming after dry finish, and allowing you to provide a higher quality paint finish for your car, complete with groovy new slot.

Balance changes to the AI research algorithm, and a number of bug fixes.

Too many things to list here, but a lot of minor bugs have been fixed, some visual, some gameplay related. This is not a bug-free build, but its better than its ever been. A number of long standing graphical anomalies finally got squashed this time.

New compact car body style!

Eventually these will be not just visual, but will have an impact on sales through different markets and demands being modelled for each body style. For now its just another cool car design. This one has less doors, so uses less door panels :D That means that if door-panel is your bottleneck, switching production to this style (or interleaving it with sedan or SUV) may be a wise move.

GUI improvements

Since initial release the GUI has been entirely coder art (and it sucks!) I have a professional GUI design now, but its going to take a while to fully implement it. This build changes the R&D screen (a bit), the slot picker, and the finance summary, and a portion of the slot details window. Over the next few builds more of the ‘pro’ GUI will go in. It needs feedback from you to make it really good, so don’t be shy!

Note that this build will be $15.99 when we go to EA on 18th May next week. its currently still $13 from humble:

And you can add it to your steam wishlist using the link below.