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Basic Gameplay Guide
A basic guide on how to play the game, written by the designer and programmer (cliffski)
The aim of Production Line is to design, build and run a modern automated car factory. The player is the factory owner and play starts with a large pile of money to invest and vacant factory space (the exact situation depends on which mission is selected). The aim of the game is to build as profitable and efficient a factory as possible. The game supports sandbox, freeplay and scenario-driven modes, which you have to select at the start of each game.
Production Line is a single-player game, played in real time, on an isometric map. You can pause the game (pause button at the top right of the screen) and adjust the speed of time (shortcuts are SPACEBAR,1,2,3,). You can take a screenshot with the PrintScreen key at any time.
The game autosaves every five minutes, but we recommend naming and saving your game from time to time because bankruptcy comes FAST in this business, and the game ends if you run out of money. Luckily loans are available if you look like running out of cash :D
Your First Production Line
A car factory production line is made from a series of production slots connected by conveyor belts. Each production slot has an associated tile which act as a stockpile where car parts and other resources are kept ready to be used during production. The stockpile tiles are connected to a separate overhead conveyor system which ferries in resources from import locations.
The construction of cars must follow a logical order. You can start your production line from anywhere on the map although it must end at one of the 'export' locations. To begin laying out a production line you need to launch the slot-picker from the icon at the top right of the screen:
then select the option to place down 'Chassis assemble':
Place the Chassis Assembly slot on the map of the factory floor on the map (use 'r' or the middle mouse button to rotate the slot).
and then finally place down an 'Export' slot. This can ONLY be placed on one of the pre-existing export locations at the edges of the factory. When this is done you should have something that looks like this:
Next, select the conveyor tool, to lay down a moving conveyor to connect the production slots by clicking and dragging between the slots to join them like this (make sure you drag in the direction you want production to flow!):
Once you have done this you will have a complete production line looking something like this:
But wait! Nothing is happening! Why? Because none of the components required to build the car are available yet. You need to 'import' these by placing down a resource importer from the slot picker. Just as with export slots, these have to go somewhere on the edge of the map that has a socket. When placed they should look like this:
Next, click and drag an overhead resource conveyor to connect all of the slot stockpiles with the import slot. Eventually you will have a layout something like this:
This represents a 'complete' but basic production line, where resources will be bought into the factory, cars will be built, checked and then sold to the public. This is a fully functional factory producing cars, but in a very inefficient way :D
Researching a more efficient production process
To make your production line more efficient you need to break down those tasks into smaller and smaller tasks. For example the task to 'fit body' on our current production line is far too big. You can see how much time it takes by clicking on the slot itself (not the bit with the car on...) and that will bring up the following dialog box:
The data that concerns us is at the top. It shows that although this production slot is described as 'fit body', it actually carries out a whole list of smaller sub-tasks (the top row of progress bars). Plus it takes 32 minutes (of game time) to do this! If these tasks are split into more slots car production flows much faster, and the overall processing time will be much shorter. How do we go about doing that?
Return to the slot picker and expand the fit body option. A bunch more options break down this task into smaller ones. Currently all of these are locked! We cannot employ them until they are fully researched!
To research upgrades at least one research office, which also employs scientific researchers, is required. The research office is inside the folder called 'facilities' on the slot picker:
Place the research facilityon the factory floor. Note that although generally facilities can be placed anywhere, (they don't have to be anywhere close to, or connect to, the production line), in the case of 'office' facilities like the research office, they need to be placed in one of the green office zones on the map, so space is limited!
Once you have a research office, either click on it, or use the icon at the top left of the screen to take you to the research and development screen. Select the 'Body Specialization' item, and begin the research. This will take some time, depending how many research offices you have. Be warned, they are not cheap. Also note that you need to produce a certain number of cars before doing this research, but if you wish, you could research something else while those ten cars are being made.
Eventually, you will have access to those unlocked new production slots from the slot picker. In this case we have 3 new slots, Fit Bodyframe, Fit Roof and Fit Doors. Note that together (and in that order) these new slots will REPLACE the existing fit body slot. (You don't necessarily have to delete the old one, you can branch out and have one fast, and one slow production line).
By replacing the single slot with 3 different slots, the production line will get longer, but will actually move much faster. In time, you may have to demolish old slots to make room for a more complex line. Eventually, you can research every process tech and have a VERY long but VERY efficient car production line.
Car body styles and features
Once a car rolls off the production line it goes to the showroom to be sold. Whenever you have a new body style available (like the sedan at the start of the game), a 'default' design will be automatically created for you to name, and edit. At the start of the game, cars have very few features. You can access this window from the top left menu.
The car design screen allows you to edit the current price for this model. If you are manufacturing a LOT of cars, and cannot sell them quickly enough, you may need to discount the cars. If you are only manufacturing a few, for example at the start of the game, you can probably get away with increasing the showroom price of your cars quite a lot. A good way to judge if your cars are the right price is to compare the number of them in the showroom with the number that were sold in the last hour.
Note that some of the features added to your car will be shown as red, some yellow, some light or dark green. This corresponds to how common those features are. If you are the first car company to research a new feature they are 'very rare' (and you get a bonus to their value), if you have some competition they become 'common' and eventually 'universal' which means they become worthless, and all cars are expected to include them in the basic price. If you carry on producing cars without universal features, they become difficult to sell.
Note that each new car body style in the factory range (Sports, SUV, Compact, Offroad etc) needs to be researched.. you need to research them to unlock a special new button at the start of each production line like this:
Which then opens a new window which lets you schedule how each production line swaps between different body styles.
Different car body styles can be built on the same production line, although later in the game you may find efficiency improves with separate or branching lines for electric cars, or luxury cars with many features.
By default, cars are given a random color when they get painted. The color does not have any impact on their sales. If you wish to restrict a car model to only a specific color or colors, you can select them on the design screen. Note that some special colors have to be unlocked by completing achievements.
Loans, finances and expansion
Building a car factory is extremely expensive and you may need to take out a loan to finance the expansion of your company. Luckily loans are available from the finance screen! To see the loans available hit the icon at the top right to launch the finance dialog, then select the loans tab:
Note that the loan term duration is very short and the daily interest is very high, but that's because the game is running in a hybrid approximation of real time (with real-processing times for car construction) and long-term time (for stuff like researching tech, which should really take years). Try not to overthink it :D Loans can be repaid early, but there is a repayment penalty. The interest rate will vary between loans. You can see how much a loan repayment is costing from the expenses tab of the same window:
If you are looking to expand the business, you may wish to expand outside the confines of your current factory floor. To take over one of the vacant factory lots adjacent to your building, simply click on it, (assuming you have researched the appropriate upgrade for factory expansion). Note that the number of import/export slots and rent per-tile varies depending which factory lot you choose.
Expanding will incur an admin fee for arranging the expansion, as well as obviously an increase in the rent you are charged each hour. There is also a small extra cost for power to light and heat the factory per tile.
Efficiency and Upgrades
If there is one guiding principle for making money in the car production business.... it’s efficiency! All your vehicles should be worked on as much of the time as possible, and all your production slots should also be working as much of the time as possible, but it is not that easy. There are a number of tools to help optimize the flow of your factory.
First, zooming out displays a bunch of vehicle icons. These show if a car is being worked on (green), in a queue waiting to be worked on (yellow) or waiting for something like resources (red). Just remember in terms of efficiency, green is good, yellow is bad. red is really bad :D
Clicking on an individual production slot will display a pie chart of its recent activity. You can use this to see whether the slot is busy, whether its blocked because there is no room for the current car to be 'exported' or whether its waiting for resources.
Clicking the Efficiency icon will open a window that shows you a vast array of efficiency stats. The key one here is 'slots running'. You don't want those expensive robots doing nothing...
There is also an additional tab that shows you some graphs of how efficient your factory has been over time, and a snapshot of its current efficiency:
To improve the efficiency of your factory upgrade the production slots and the factory itself. The R&D screen lists upgrades to individual slots. One of the most popular upgrades is extra robots. Once these are researched, select individual slots in the production line and apply them as needed. Note, robots cost money (and drain power), so only add them where you need them.
Showroom and Discounts
The showroom is the screen that shows you how many cars you have exported from the factory but have not yet sold. This is not necessarily a bad thing. If the showroom is empty, its a sign that your cars are likely under-priced, and it also means its unlikely that new customers coming to the showroom will find a decent range of vehicles to choose from.
The showroom lists details about every single car for sale, and you can click on each one to see if it has any defects, if it is missing any features that are considered 'essential' (which would reduce its attractiveness to customers) and also if it has any 'uninstalled' features (ie: features that are now standard with that model, but which are not fitted to this specific car, probably because it was produced before those features were added to the design).
There is a button at the top right of the showroom which you can click on to access the 'discounts' window. This lets you set discount schemes to take effect automatically on cars in the showroom. By default only a single discount scheme is shown here, which lets you set discounts for cars missing a 'universal' feature, cars with defects or cars that have 'uninstalled features'. These all default to zero, but you can edit them by using the sliders:
You can also use the 'add new' button to create a number of new discount tiers, that take effect if a vehicle has been in the showroom beyond a given number of hours. This is a good way to ensure that 'old stock' which may not have the latest features get sold without you having to constantly fiddle with price bands for each model of car.
Blueprint mode is a special way of placing down slots without actually installing them or paying for them. This mode allows you to plan the layout of your factory before actually committing to the costs and buying the slots.
You can enter or exit blueprint mode by using the button at the top of the slot picker:
When in blueprint mode the user-interface for the main factory floor changes to show blueprints for all currently installed and placed slots (grey) as well as blueprints that you have placed (blue) and blueprints you have placed for slots which are currently not placeable (due to depending on research). These blueprints are purple in color.
Note that when you exit blueprint mode, you can still see blueprints you have placed in the factory. They are harmless and can be left there for planning purposes, or you can click on them to either delete, move or buy the relevant slot. You can also quickly delete them with a right click.
There is a button to buy all currently placed (and unlocked) blueprints in one go, which speeds up the process of buying slots when you have placed a whole lot of them.
Note that you can use the R key or middle mouse button to rotate a blueprint just like a 'real' slot. Blueprints are saved and loaded in your save game, so dont worry about losing your planned layout :D.
Marketing is a late-game strategy, you probably need to be selling lots of cars before marketing becomes an issue. All marketing does is increase your brand visibility and thus get more people visiting your showrooms. To see the extent to which you need to do this, click on the sales button at the top of the screen (car with a price tag) and then click to see the market tab:
Until you start marketing, your brand awareness will be zero. If you notice that you are already producing enough cars for everyone who visits the showrooms, its time to start marketing, so research the marketing facility, then place some down in an office zone.
When you have marketing facilities placed, they will; generate 'ideas', and you can click the now-enabled 'tv' icon at the top of the screen to open the marketing window. This window shows you how many facilities and ideas you have, and allows you to spend those ideas (along with money) on advertising campaigns. Those campaigns will boost your brand awareness for a time and bring more customers to your showrooms.
Smart junctions are an advanced feature that are researched fairly late in the game. There is a research item for them under the processes tab, in the branch from 'improved efficiency'.
Once you have researched smart junctions, you will find them shown as a new placeable item listed on the slot picker underneath conveyor:
Placing down a smart junction gives you effectively a slightly more elaborate T-junction. You place it and connect it just like any other T junction, and until you configure the junction, it will work just like any other T junction in the game.
When you click on a smart junction a window opens up which offers you 3 different modes of operation for the junction (the buttons at the top.) The first option is to filter cars based on their design:
This window has 3 panes. They show the car designs you wish to take the left hand path, the car designs for which you do not mind which path they take (the center pane) and the car designs you wish to take the right hand path. clicking the arrows on each design move them between the panes, and hovering over them reveals more details, or you can click on them to show more details on a specific car design.
Why would you want to use smart junctions? Because there are some tasks that only apply to certain cars. For example, attaching a sunroof is only needed for cars with a sunroof, so why route cars without sunroofs through a slot with the 'sunroof' upgrade needlessly applied? Some cars have electric powertrains and do not need emissions checks, or exhausts fitting, so you can also bypass those tasks. Plus you might want a partial 'fast-track' for budget cars with fewer features.
The second mode of operation for a smart junction is defect mode:
In defect mode, the cars are sorted either right or left depending on whether they have any defects that need to be fixed. This is the topic of our next section.
The third mode of operation is 'feature' mode. This allows you to select a feature for either the left or right direction:
Cars which have that feature as part of their design will go in that direction, and cars without it will go the other way. The benefit of this over the design option is that this system allows you to make changes to car designs without having to go back through all your smart junctions and adjust their settings, if (for example) you change a car from ICE to electric powertrain, or add aircon.
Defects and re-work
Every time you fit a component to a car or carry out some work on it, there is a tiny chance that something will go wrong and that car will now have a 'defect'. This will cause problems with the perception of your brand if it is not fixed, and eventually if too many cars are sold with defects, the amount people are prepared to pay for your cars will fall. This is indicated in the game by the 'perceived quality' indicator (0 to 100%) which you can see on the showroom and also the marketing screen:
Defects, once they happen, are entirely invisible until the car undergoes a visual inspection. You can place down a visual inspection anywhere on the production line. Note that to do this, you first need to research QA specialisation to get the dedicated slot:
Once a car has gone through a visual inspection, if any defects are found (there is a chance not all defects will be spotted in a single inspection!), they will be visible in a pop-up notice above the vehicle, and in the 'defects' tab if you click on an individual vehicle:
From there, you may want to send the cars through a 're-work' slot (which has to be researched) to fix the defects. Each defect will take a different amount of time to fix, depending how long ago in the production line it was first introduced (shown as its 'severity'). Note that there is a small chance that a defect may slip through the rework station and not actually be fixed!
If a car goes through the whole line without its defects being spotted or fixed, it will go on sale as a defective car. You can see this both from an icon in the showroom, AND an indicator of the number of defects in the mouse-over tooltip for that vehicle.
Try not to sell too many cars with defects if you want your cars to command a decent price (even maybe a premium for zero-defect brands...)
Production Line includes a simple level editor. You can access it from the edit button on each mission on the choose mission screen:
The editor lets you set up various 'zones' which are effectively the factory lots on each map. You can also place the import and export slots for each zone, and set the names and rent (per tile) for each of the slots.
The editor has buttons which let you select which 'mode' you are in. They are:
Create Zone, where you click and drag on the 'map' to create a new zone. (right clicking deletes a zone).
Create Office, Which does the same as create zone, but must be used inside a zone to create an office area.
Import Slots, where you click to place down dots to represent where resource import slots appear on the map (these can only be on exterior walls).
Export Slots, where you click to place export slots, which also have to be external walls.
You can also click to select an existing zone, which lets you edit its properties using the controls on the right hand side.
Do not forget to SAVE and name your map! It gets saved into a new folder inside my documents\my games\production line The new map will show up along with all the others when you click ‘New Game’ from the main menu. You can delete these maps but not the default ones.
Breakdowns and Maintenance
After you have been running your factory for a while, parts of it may begin to develop technical problems. When this happens, those slots will suffer from a breakdown, and stop working temporarily, until maintenance staff can diagnose the problem, fix all the machinery and get the slot working again. When you have a slot that breaks down you will see a spanner icon on the zoomed-out view like this:
And selecting the slot will show its details greyed out, and a progress bar showing how long it will be until the slot is repaired. This window also shows you how far away the nearest maintenance facility is, and therefore how effective maintenance is on speeding up the fixes for these breakdowns. (the slot will get fixed over time even if you have no maintenance facilities, but this takes longer).
Breakdowns can be a nuisance, so to speed up the fix time for broken-down slots, you might want to research 'maintenance' on the research and development screen:
This gives you access to new facilities which you can place down in the factory. They have an 'area of effect' over which they will reduce repair times. Make sure you place these expensive facilities wisely.
Clicking on a maintenance facility will show two blue overlays showing the range at which that facilities is fully effective, and at which it is partially effective. In an ideal world, maintenance facilities would be within range of every part of your factory.
Note that there is also an upgrade for maintenance slots called 'Preventative Maintenance', which you can research to reduce the likelihood of breakdowns near each maintenance facility. You need to research that capability *and* implement the upgrade at each facility to get the full effect.
If you do not like the floor tiles or the walls in any part of your factory, you can edit them really easily. You do not have to pay anything to do this, or even do any research, and you can change the appearance of any part of your factory whenever you choose.
To get started go to the slot picker and select 'factory decoration'
This opens up a window that you can scroll through to select floor tiles, wall textures or cosmetic items for the walls:
Clicking on a floor tile will close that window and change your mouse into a click-and drag placer to put down new floor tiles. You can drag over existing slots, without it deleting them or having any negative effect. Note that most slots come with their own floor tile which cannot be changed, but you can use this to mark out large zones of your factory around the slots.
You can also change the walls of your factory. To do this select one of the wall images, and then drag along the tiles at the edge of one of the factory zones to change the textures to your new choice like this:
And finally you can place some specific items such as staff doors or wall charts on locations around the factory. To do this, select the item and then click on a wall tile to see the item added to that location:
Note that all of these changes are purely cosmetic, they have no impact at all on the performance or efficiency of your factory.
World Events and Advisors
Once your factory is up and running for a while you may encounter world events or advice from your chief of operations. When either of these occurs you will see a notice pop up in the bottom right of the screen. You also get notifications here about the research that is carried out by your AI competitors (they are researching tech as well as you), and when the autosave triggers. The notices look like this:
Clicking on one of the adviser notices will bring up a new window that may give you further advice like this:
World events come in a variety of categories including:
Resource Price Changes
Changes in the popularity of a body style
Changes in global wages
Car features being considered 'universal' after laws change,
Changes in demand at each price range due to economic shifts.
Changes in global demand due to the global economy.
'R' or 'r' or middle mouse: Rotate current object
SPACE: Pause or resume game
'1' Normal speed
'2': Fast speed
'3': Extra-fast speed
'G': Toggle user interface on or off
'c' or 'C': Toggle display of overhead conveyor belts on or off
'N' or 'n': Toggle display of slot warning notices