Project Automata – The Tech Demo Post-mortem

Last week we released our ‘Tech Demo’ to all those who had signed up, and the response we’ve had since then has been overwhelmingly positive. Game Development is not an exact science, it’s a creative art that takes an immense amount of time and releasing your work to the world is a daunting moment. Everyone on the Project Automata Team was nervous about the response we would receive, and the range of people that would be playing our game.

We were pleasantly surprised not only by the overall response but also by the variety of nationalities that participated in the Tech Demo. Here is a world map that showcases the broad range of nationalities that helped test and review Project Automata.

Geological Map of Opens

Shaded countries joined in the Tech Demo. The darker the shade, the more participants.

The support we’ve had and the feedback has allowed us to better understand the desires and needs of our community, and what makes a Simulator / Tycoon game engaging, fun and rewarding. We’ve now taken some time to come back to the drawing board and we’ve made some design alterations.

Moving forward with our new designs

As I said at the start, Game Development is a creative art and as such there are rarely any right or wrong answers. The feedback that our community gave us has lead to quite a few design changes already, concepts that we were in the process of developing soon became far more appealing and important as the community continued to give their ideas and views on the game so far.

While I can’t share with you today the entire list of updates and improvements, I can give you just a few hints of what to expect in the future.

Updated: Trade System

The current Trade System was sluggish and counter-intuitive to use. It was one of our biggest learning curves of releasing the Tech Demo. While we all internally knew how to use it, it was almost immediately noticeable that it wasn’t entirely user-friendly when it came to compiling the tutorial on how to use it. Rather than simply try to remove a step, and make the User Interface more friendly, we decided the best approach was to simply rebuild the entire concept of trading from the ground up.

Complicated Trade System

Does a Trade System really need such a complicated User Interface?

In the upcoming version of Project Automata, the Trading System will see the Logistic Centers removed, and much of their functionality baked into your Gatherers & Factories. We’ll also be bringing in a new building type; Trade Depots. These will encompass Dock Yards, Truck Depots, Train Stations and more, and from these new buildings (and a new Interface) you’ll be able to clearly and easily set up Trade Routes with neighboring towns


Updated: Town System

In the Tech Demo version, Towns were a placeholder and simply a place to send something to. Due to the timeframe Towns and their functionality weren’t fully fleshed out and rewarding gameplay mechanics to interact with the towns were not yet in place. There were no repercussions for not trading with them, and as such there was no reason to build the road and go through the hassle of setting up a Trade Route.

Towns

Towns will receive not just design changes, but some graphical updates too!

This was of course not our design for Towns, we merely couldn’t get the entire town system functioning in time for the release of the Tech Demo. Rather than delay, we opted to go for a cutback, simple system that effectively didn’t do much at all. But we wouldn’t want anyone thinking that was our intended design, so here are some of the updates coming to towns;

  • Towns will be able to manage themselves, expanding over time thanks to their own internal economy. They will also have their own Gatherers & Factories and are capable of trading with other towns.

 

  • They will have Population, Personalities, Prosperity and a new modifier; Partnership Rating. Each of these will impact the growth of the Town, and how you can interact with them. They can all also be improved through trade and completing ‘Contracts’ for them. The new Town functions will bring more life into the player’s world as well.

 

  • Contracts will now allow you to complete objectives for a Town, such as reducing pollution, generating a certain number of jobs, or assisting them with their financial deficit. These quests will then reward you not only with resources and money, but also improves the production and Partnership Rating with the Town.

 


Added: Money System

Originally the concept of not having a money based economy was one of the core tenants of the game. Being able to trade entirely through resources was an exciting and demanding challenge as you would need to steadily control supply and demand within the global economy.

That said, creating a capitalist industrial empire without any form of currency felt counter-intuitive to the gameplay. How were you going to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of your buildings, roads, and employees? How is it you’ve managed to purchase or rent Gatherers or Factories? These are just some of the major issues we faced with a money-free economy, and we believe that while the concept is engaging, fundamentally it wouldn’t work as desired.

Financing your company is going to be a major aspect of Project Automata, but it’s not going to allow you to be entirely competitive. The core value of the game that your industrial might comes from your ability to harvest raw materials and produce usable products is still at the heart of our game. To add value to your empire, and to the gameplay of Project Automata, you’re now also going to need to ensure you have the funds to pay and manage your empire and that your operations are profitable. We’ve concluded a balance between monetary assets & resources will give us more variance and different possibilities concerning gameplay.

These are but a few of the changes and decisions we’ve made as a team to improve Project Automata, and it was with your help, your feedback, and your testing that we were able to fully recognize current gameplay aspects that needed improving for a superior experience. Your on-going support is a huge boost to the team, and we want every single one of you to understand how much we value your input.


All these designs and more are coming your way. While we are cannot share detailed information as of yet, we greatly hope to see you all, and some newcomers, to our Public Alpha coming at the end of Summer 2016.

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