I was originally going to write a big post with my impressions, complaints and suggestions from playing a number of campaigns, especially since I’ve done my big text Let’s Play recently. It’s here for reference.
However, I think that many of the things I wanted to say have either been said by other people and acknowledged, are likely to be affected by 4.1/4.2 which are already planned, or otherwise I at least already wrote about them. But there’s one big thing which I don’t think anyone has talked about before:
Facelift Engineering Time
The actual engineering time of designing a new car, or a facelift, potentially has little to do with the engineering time shown in the designer. This is due to a few factors, and the game’s UI does not indicate any of them to the player while designing cars, and only hints at them in the engineering screen. To be clear, I’m not talking about engineering sliders. However, these are super important and understanding them has been very valuable to me while playing campaigns.
The two sources of engineering time alterations are: Changing design options VS using existing ones during a facelift, and differences between trims in a design or facelift.
Changing Design Options
When you are making a new facelift of a car, one of the most important factors in the final engineering time is whether you have changed features, or kept them the same. For example, if I have engineered the original version of a car with Advanced 80’s Safety, and I change it to Advanced 90’s Safety, then the total engineering time will probably increase by about 5 months.
However, this makes a huge difference in the actual engineering time. The Advanced 80’s safety has already been engineered, so it is vastly cheaper. On the other hand, Advanced 90’s safety has to be engineered from scratch, taking the full engineering time.
Not only is this huge difference not indicated when using the designer, even once I knew about it, sometimes it could be easy to forget which design options I had chosen, so I had to exit the designer and look at my old facelifts to be sure if I was changing a feature or keeping it the same.
Differences between Trims
This one is a little more obvious, or at least more intuitive. If you have differences between your trims, such as offering both a Standard and Premium interior, you have to design them both, and their costs are (presumably) vector added. Even if this is obvious, however, it’s never indicated to the player quantitatively. Instead to see this, you must exit the designer, configure your factories(!), and then you can look at the engineering screen to see the consequences. This makes it rather difficult to weigh the cost of engineering time against the gain of competitiveness.
Also, once again, you have to mentally keep track of the differences in your trims. It’s easy to accidentally miss something. For example, if you add ABS to one trim and forget to add it to another, your engineering time will be longer than if you added it to both trims, and engineering is the main cost of ABS!
Once you get to the engineering screen, this could be hinted at by a large value in one category, but it isn’t clearly indicated if this is cause, as opposed to just having picked features with a long engineering time.
Early Unlock Penalty
This isn’t directly related to the other issues, but it’s worth mentioning here. When you unlock a technology early through R&D, it costs a lot of time to engineer. All you need to do to prevent this is use some negative quality, but it isn’t indicated anywhere. This could really use a yellow warning that tells the player they need to use negative quality.
Another problem with early unlocks is they can force entertainment and safety systems our of your UI earlier than normal. When some of the new options have significant engineering penalties, this really narrows your options, especially when the best option of all is “don’t change anything” but your previous feature has been automatically replaced!
First off, please please include an indicator of the final, total engineering time (before sliders) for the facelift, visible in the designer. I don’t know how hard this will be to set up, since it involves information from multiple trims being visible in the designer, but it would make such a huge difference.
Second, there really should be an indicator that shows which features on each screen you have engineered in a previous facelift. It should be clear to me if I am leaving a feature unchanged, or engineering a new feature. This could be done by highlighting options (when familiarity is not highlighted?) or with an icon or border or something like that.
It might also be good to have a bonus spot for my previous features. If I engineered a car with Advanced 70’s safety, it would be nice not to be forced to upgrade when Advanced 90’s unlocks, especially because it makes me regret spending on R&D (I just wanted quality, man). Just one extra slot somewhere which holds my old feature, or a “don’t change anything” button would be nice. Alternatively, a warning indicating that my old feature has been automatically replaced would help me understand why my engineering time ballooned.
Last, some indication in the designer of the differences between my trims would be nice. Maybe a blue warning when I have cars with, say, two different interiors, which tells me I’m going to have longer engineering. As I said before, a warning for early unlocks would be great.
Also, on the engineering screen itself, a “number of different features” column could be added for each category. Much like there are columns indicating the quality, tech pool, and familiarity, a column which shows that my car has 3 different interior types, 2 different transmissions, 2 different safety types, etc would help a lot in understanding why the engineering time categories are what they are.
In conclusion, many elements of the UI feel like they are only intended for designing a single car as in the designer. In campaign, they’re missing anything which indicates to the player the behaviors of multiple trims and facelifts, but some of this information is very important to making design decisions. I had to figure some of this out by watching Killrob’s gameplay videos or talking to him in discord, and some of it by experimentation. I didn’t realize a lot of it until I had run a few campaigns, and at first I often updated my safety every facelift and mixed features, then said, “oh well, 8 year facelift is fine I guess”. I think this actually leads to a lot of the frustration players have expressed over engineering times. It’s not so bad if you know how the game works, but the game doesn’t go out of its way to tell you.