I admit that I didn’t expect so many thousands of people to pre-order Production Line. The target I set for ‘I should be on early access when this many people are playing’ has already been hit, and I don’t have the video done yet, or the steam info ready for early access. I’ve been caught a bit by surprise.

This latest build changes the way engines are built, changes (again!) the financial modelling, adjusts a lot of numbers, puts in proper achievement art and text, adds a simple bit of tutorial stuff fixes a whole bunch of small issues, and adds some new research tech too. I feel really good about this build, its definitely the most balanced, fun and playable so far by a long way. If you are already playing the game you should get an update popup, but either way, just re-download the installer and you’ll get the new version. You can trigger an order email re-send from here.

The near term will see me getting new car model types into the game (coming soon, my artist dude rob is already working on them) and some proper music (are you sick of that loop yet? :D), and then the immediate order of business after that is to get the correct steam and GoG integration done so that I can get into Early Access on both platforms. (I know GoG call it something else). The longer term will see me thinking about marketing, competitors, a better tutorial, mod support, multiple language support, more achievements, and an expansion of the tech tree in all sorts of directions. I’d also like to get steam workshop support in there, obviously trading card support, and a bunch of character and polish.

I haven’t really done much to promote the game other than my weekly youtube videos which are fun to do and fairly popular (by my paltry standards). I’ve spent a few hundred dollars on reddit and facebook to boost the game a bit, but nothing serious. I’ve partly relied on it having a bit of a bargain price (that is likely to go to $13 next week, and probably $15 for early access), but that wont be my strategy forever. I’m considering getting a booth for EGX in the UK in September (when I assume the game will still be in Early Access) to help get the word out a bit more. I haven’t made much of a push to contact youtubers, but once I hit early access I will start to do that a bit too.

Anyway, the most important thing by far is that I’m really enjoying working on it, its gets better every week, and so far the community have been really helpful and understanding when I break stuff or mess things up :D. If you haven’t already grabbed the game, its still $12 for a few more days:


Complete 1.15 changelist:

[version 1.15]
1) [Bug] Fixed crash bug when upgrading power plants.
2) [Bug] Fixed memory leak caused by the save game dialog. (Big one :D).
3) [Feature] Engine system redesign. Flywheel no longer used, engine is now a powertrain, new research, new slots for new engine production line.
4) [Feature] Stop-start engine is a new researchable upgrade. This is the first upgrade applying to a component you can manufacture.
5) [Bug] Fixed issues where changing the requirements for a supply stockpile would cause overlaps and confusion.
6) [Bug] Fixed routing for production line slots so resource requirements changes frees up the right room for newly required components.
7) [Performance] Vastly sped up drawing and creation of the car stock dialog when number of cars in stock is very high.
8) [Feature] Load game dialog now auto-sizes where possible and will not load invalid save games.
9) [Feature] Changes to economic model. Design screen now automatically matches market value unless you override. feature price tab removed.
10) [Feature] Basic tutorial pop-up windows added.
11) [Bug] Some achievements that did not display progress now do.
12) [Feature] 2 new researchable factory upgrades increase the refunds from demolishing equipment.
13) [GUI] Refunds now have a green rising value to distinguish them from expenditure.
14) [GUI] Supply stockpiles now also show their delivery point as a colored tile like normal stockpiles in resource-placing mode.
15) [Balance] Major re-pricing of upgrades and the market-values of features. Most upgrades to slots doubled in prices. Many features are now less valuable.
16) [Graphics] Some production slots now have work-pits next to the conveyor belt.
17) [GUI] Achievements now have final graphics and better text.

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I talk a little about it in this video, but will blog about it properly soon. basically I want a separate system for putting together engines, but do not want to overcomplicate matters, or for that matter…under complicate them. Interested to know peoples thoughts on this. Also I remain excited about new car body designs, they can’t come soon enough :D. I should blog about promoting and marketing PL at some point too…its definitely something I have not done much work on yet.

Two views of the near future

March 25, 2017 | Filed under: Uncategorized

Depending on my mood, and alcohol intake, I find that I flop between vastly varying views of what our future may look like. The pessimistic, dark one comes easily to me, but sometimes the positive one breaks through. I suspect we face a future of extremes and may end up in either, or both depending where you live, and what you earn. Here are my upbeat and downbeat views.

The pessimistic view:

Lots of forces are conspiring to change your world in a bad way. Nuclear proliferation has not gone away, nor has terrorism. The chances are, at some point, some terrorist will successfully use a nuclear weapon, even if its something as relatively trivial as a ‘dirty bomb‘. The impact of a dirty bomb isn’t measurable by deaths,m but by economic damage. Set it off in central park, or Time square, or outside the houses of parliament. The economic damage and panic would be off the scale. Even fukushima was hugely mitigated by being in a *relatively* low population area. Worse still, our abilities to spot such things are not good.  Even if you think that society *can* prevent all terrorism, do you want to live in the ‘total surveillance’ state that it would require? Its highly possible that the last twenty years may become remembered in history books as an anomaly of privacy at the start of the digital age.  We are one major terrorist strike away from compulsory ID cards, total internet monitoring and a ban on personal use of encryption.

When privacy goes, business will step in. I recommend you read super-crunchers if you think corporate collection of data is harmless. For all our lives we have assumed that we have nothing to hide, and no useful data to collect, because who cares so much about our buying habits. that’s before big data and smart AI makes it possible to adjust cliffs health insurance costs based on what he orders from Starbucks for lunch. We are hurtling at high speed towards a future where big business knows way, way more about you than you do, than your family does, than even your therapist does. Advertising will get smarter, more targeted, more manipulative. The idea of dumb ‘banner’ ads may disappear in a future where every word of text, every font choice, every image choice in every ad you see has been curated in real time to appeal to you, at this time of day, on this date. Multiply the creepy feeling of seeing ads ‘follow’ you around the web by a thousandfold.

Not that you will be able to buy anything anyway…because robots just took your job, and if you think you are smart, you better be ultra-smart because AI just took the other jobs too. Of course, you *might* have a job cleaning the expensive sports cars of the super-rich by hand (purely for show of course, even that will be done better by a real car cleaning robot), or be able to compete for one of the rapidly decreasing jobs that robots cannot yet do (or we prefer them not to).

If you do manage to get a job, its likely to be not for ‘the company‘, as thankfully there will still be more than one company on earth, but its likely to be one of a very small number. Remember those glory days when entrepreneurs could start a small company? thats kinda quaint in a future increasingly dominated by massive companies, like Amazon and Alphabet with a market cap larger than many small (and even medium sized) countries. The wealth will continue to concentrate, and the chances are it wont be in your hands.

Name Market cap
Alphabet $563bn
Sweden $517bn
Microsoft $500bn
Amazon $403bn
United Arab Emirates $375bn
Greece $195bn

Not that any of that matters because we are still doing nothing about climate change. It wont kill you directly, but it will make your life hell. Climate shifts will mean devastation to harvests pushing up food prices beyond breaking point for many societies, leading to increased war, massive migration to ‘the west’, and a huge squeeze on the cost of living (compounded by the robots taking your job anyway). Globalisation will not stop, so you will be competing for the last few human-viable jobs with desperate refugees all over the world.  A combination of climate instability, resource wars and food shortages will provide a fertile breeding ground for yet more terrorism, and lead to more extremist politics around the globe. By the way antibiotic resistance could fail soon due to over-prescription and help wipe us out, if a bird flu pandemic or something similar doesn’t get there first. And don’t even get me started on topsoil erosion.

We are fucked.

The optimistic view:

In 1900 a car cost a fortune, went at a pitiful speed, was unsafe, noisy, polluting, unreliable and a pain-in-the-ass to drive. In 2016 a car can be scarily fast, trivial to drive (or even self-drive at times), as comfortable as a sofa, eerily quiet, safer than ever before (by a vast margin), and emit zero pollution. A lot of that has changed in the last 10 years, and the rate of change is accelerating.

I’m 47. As a kid we knew that phonecalls (even local ones) were expensive. nobody could afford to phone another country, unless it was an emergency. These days, phonecalls are effectively free, and communication by high def image, video, voice or even virtual-prescence in a  game is virtually free. Access to vast amounts of human knowledge is virtually free online. the world has never been more connected. Global violence has never been lower. Poverty has never been lower.  Diseases that were commonplace are now virtually eradicated. the human genome is sequenced. Some people in the UK are getting ‘bionic eyes’ on the NHS.

Futurists who talk about the ‘singularity’ are excited at the idea that as tech advances, the rate of tech advancement also accelerates, as the output of that new tech leads to more educated and technologically literate people able to achieve more and more. Kids born today will take to computers and virtual reality in the same way someone my age took to television and books.

People worry about automation causing job losses, but this will just lead to an explosion of leisure. The huge extra wealth generated by an automated workforce that requires no pay, no healthcare, no pension, no breaks, so sleep, will allow society to capture the surplus as tax to pay for either a universal basic income, or for the state to pay for vast social enterprises that create employment. The arts budget could be multiplied by ten, or even a hundred, as the profits from robot-crammed factories pay for a life of creativity and leisure. the forty hour week will give way to a twenty hour week, maybe even a ten hour week.  Democracies will ensure that wealth cannot be forever hoarded by the few, and a need for people to actually afford to buy their products will persuade the super-rich than even the 10-hour weekers will ned to earn a decent wag for society to operate.

Automation and AI will lead to such an economic surplus that once unsolvable problems (climate change, global poverty, unaffordable housing, homelessness) become affordable, maybe even trivial to fix.  Advances in renewable energy point to a future where energy is effectively free, and where almost everything is done by robots and almost all they need is energy, we effectively live a life of pure exploration, enjoyment and leisure.

It sounds unlikely, but we already live relatively blissful lives thanks to the advance of robots. A robot washes my dishes, another washes my clothes. We already have robots that clean cars, that mow the lawn and that vacuum your house. Is it so hard to imagine a special purpose robot that takes out your trash, that irons your clothes, that drives you to and from work (or to the pub!), leaving you to do the ten or less hours a week of creative thinking that you already do, but without the tedious pen pushing or lifting/carrying nonsense that makes up the majority of so many jobs? We no more WANT to keep so many of us stacking shelves in shops than we WANT to go back to hand-washing of cars, or even hand-scything of crops. Technological advance has always given us greater wealth, greater comfort and more leisure and it always will.

We are so lucky.

This blog post was partly inspired by this story, where a business decided someone did not fit their corporate culture because she asked how much she would earn. Yup, let that sink in for a minute, and lets talk about the myths that a lot of tech startups perpetuate, that are complete and utter nonsense.

Myth #1: Forget your salary, its all about the exit strategy!

There is a myth that every ‘startup’ is the next facebook, or twitter, or snapchat. As a result, you should not give a damn how hard you have to work or what you earn. Living on peanuts and sleeping under your desk is frankly an honour, and you will get to write a book about it one day on your yacht, after the company IPOs and you get your share of ten billion dollars. Thats the myth. The likelihood is that you will either burn out long before then and have to quit, that your significant other will leave you and you will have a meltdown and get fired, or far, far more likely: it turns out that making a toaster that connects to the internet isn’t actually a billion dollar idea after all, the company burns through cash, crashes and burns and everyone gets a tweet informing them they are unemployed.  In the idea is really good, it will raise some money, if it raises money, it can pay its workers.

Myth #2: We are the brightest and best in the world!

No you aren’t. You are probably a bunch of relatively well off middle class white guys from California who read a lot of books about steve jobs and now think you are a genius because you understand a bit of java. Whoopy do. Unless the company is Deep Mind, and a bunch of you have phds in artificial intelligence, or maybe quantum physics, and unless you have a few people with nobel prizes and fields medals, you are NOT the brightest and best. And frankly, that would be deeply embarrassing. if your startup does contain ten of the cleverest people on earth and you use those collective skills to develop a bluetooth enabled cat feeder…then what a terrible, insulting waste of your vast abilities. Get some fucking perspective.

Myth #3: Get users now, revenue will follow!

Really? Ask twitter how that went, or maybe myspace. Having a lot of users just means a lot of server costs and admin. The point of a business (and I feel it sad that anyone has to type this) is to make profit. Note that the word is profit, not revenue, which is totally different. Its amazing how many people think that a big userbase automatically generates revenue ‘somehow at some point’. Ask ANYONE in the games business if you can just bolt on Free-To-Play to an existing game, and they will laugh you out of the room. NO is the answer, you need to build that business model in right from the start. This is common sense, but companies like twitter and snapchat ignore it. Building a vast network of people who love your service because your service has no ads….yeah thats not going to be easy to monetize is it?

Myth #4: Our company is just like amazon. We will get big fast.

Well done, you have learned a buzz-phrase, and totally failed to understand the underlying business model. Amazons get big fast worked because they had an actual business model that they knew made a profit AT SCALE. Selling over the internet is highly profitable, and the economies of scale are vast. This does not apply to snapchat or instagram or twitter etc Amazons system had to be big because ‘every book in the world’ was compelling, and because books sold for MONEY. You can waffle all you like about how your business model has network effects, but unless there is a statement at the end of the company business model explaining where the profit comes from, its just a fortune cookie. The only thing that will get big fast is your debt.

Myth #5: We are making the world a better place.

Fuck you. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on. Do you know how a business can make the world a better place? by creating quality long term jobs that pay decent salaries and benefits. By contributing to the local community. By building things and solving problems that make society better. By paying their god-damn taxes. By setting an example of fair treatment to their employees, and ensuring a welcoming business environment for all races and genders and backgrounds. If your idea of making the world a better place is making billions of dollars so you can become another internet cliche with your bright orange Lamborghini and a swimming pool, then do us all a favour and just give up now.

Wow, that was angrier than I thought it would be. :D

I’m still shorting snapchat. YMMV.  Pics are from the televisual genius of HBOs Silicon valley.