I want to highlight a problem with choice redundancy. I was looking at specifically the Automation slider for the factories, and ran a few iterations, and came up with the below:
The effects of what JUST THE AUTOMATION slider does is really only apparent when the data is played out like it would be in a spreadsheet. (I am aware now, proofreading this post, the above screenshot has computational errors. Corrected screenshot is at the bottom.)
However, is this the sort of busy work you expect the player to do? I found it took almost 10 minutes to do each set of numbers, just for the data entry and and troubleshooting the excel formulas to present the data I wanted to see. And I think these sliders are inelegant and too complicated, because the effects from it are not apparent to the player.
And then the problem I have with these sliders and both the overload of useless information and obscurity of useful information is also at play in the engine and car designer.
Here is my suggestion:
Factories start at zero automation and you “buy” automation as a production unit. So for example, this Medium 3 car factory has a potential production output of 414,000 and requires 4,220 employees spread over 2.0 shifts to achieve that. This means each employee - who has a wage and varying training levels - provides about 49.05 production output. And each employee has a monthly wage and varying training levels.
So what if the player could “buy” blocks of automation within the factory - as a permanent stat bonus - that included a recoup calculator.
- For the current year
- For a factory of this size
- At your current automation % (early automation is cheap 0-30, mid-level is pricer 31-60, high-level is much more expensive 61-90, and maximum automation is a non-efficient steam achievement 91-100)
- then the cost of a “unit” of automation is X and the absence of wages means the factory will recoup this investment in Y number of months
Because the automation is an integer, if the player upgraded the factory to a larger size with a then-larger pool of “potential” production units, the raw amount of purchased automation remains constant, but the % of automation for that factory would decrease. In this way, a player couldn’t cheese by maxing out the automation of a small factory and then upgrade to a huge factory. That 80% automation would decrease to w/e the PO of a huge factory is.
And then I have similar criticisms about the Tooling Quality slider, the QA Threshold, and the Worker Wages.
For example, if I take worker wages at 0%, I have 5,559 cars being produced and efficiency of 79.3%, at a running cost of $24.7 million (as wages increase, so does staff cost and material cost, because they work harder and so use more material). So as a baseline, I’m getting 1 car for $4,443 in operating costs.
If I increased worker wages to the max, 52%, I end up with 6,320 cars @ 32.1M per month, or 1 car for $5,079.
If I decreased worker wages to the min, -28%, I end up with 3,959 cars @ 17.7M per month, or 1 car for $4,471.
Paying workers the maximum makes each car cost $636 more, and average quality goes from 99 to 101. Somehow, cutting wages results in cars costing more and the average quality drops from 99 to 95. So I have all this information and very little context for what it means or what makes a “good” decision.
Should I be doing intersectional data analysis of of all possible variations of automation, tooling quality, qa threshold and worker wages? That would provide the “most efficient” means of producing the cheapest car at a desired quality level, but it would also be tedious and time consuming. If it takes 10 minutes to do my analysis of just every 10th increment of the automation slider, times 10 runs for tooling times 10 runs for qa threshold times 10 runs for worker wages, I’m looking at 167ish hours of work to determine this knowledge - for this one factory.
In a lot of strategy games, you have actions to take that are almost always a good idea to do. This button builds “more” army. “More” army is better than “less” army, so it’s almost always a good idea to build “more” army. But then the game gives the player feedback not too much army! This army cap is either the limits for the program or the limits for your size.
The game is called Automation, but I’m not certain about when automating my factories makes sense or not, not without first doing a bottomless pit of data entry into an Excel to actually see the numbers.
Is this design as intended? I feel like “buying” automation for my factories ought to almost always be a smart thing to do, but as the screenshot below shows, the best value comes from 80% automation, at a 60 month per car cost of $4,551. And that’s only playing with the automation slider. If I looked into the other three sliders, undoubtedly the “ideal” number would change.
Great, for as far as I’m willing to go, I found the sweet spot. But do you intend for players to do this much work? Am I giving up too easily?