New purchaser of the game, new user to the forums, howdy!
Ideas on office footage restrictions:
Offer some in-game method of relocating / consolidating office square meterage. Obviously this would require a research unlock first*, and there would likely have to be a per-transaction cost to act as a balancing mechanic – possibly an escalating cost. The cost can be a time-delay period where both the old and new locations are greyed out, with an elapsed in-game timer until the old tiles are released to production and the new tiles are released to office. A financial cost, obviously. Possibly even a point-cost of a generate-over-time resource such as research points / “design” points / etc. Or even a no-take-backsies element to prevent repeated relocations – default mapgen office tiles are green, but office tiles placed by this relocation mechanic might be purple, whereupon only green tiles are relocateable. If more colors are used, this can dovetail well into a nested-research unlock, where RE-relocating an office tile would obviously be more expensive / longer cooldown, and would even possibly come at a small loss of square meterage, where 10 purple tiles are deselected but only 9 tiles are spawned into the newly designated location. This has the gameplay benefit of incentivizing and rewarding the seasoned / veteran player on a new map to zoom out and foresee future expansion locations so that they can decide up front which neighboring plot will eventually house a single contiguous block of office space.
*You explicitly state that you are hopeful to disincentivize research-spamming and tech-racing. Break up the mapgen office tiles into smaller segments of the same overall aggregate number of floor tiles. The code logic would need to ensure that at least one office segment in the initial play area would have to be no smaller than 1x3 in order to guarantee that there would not be an auto-loss instance of not being able to place even a single research bench. Have a semi-random chance of errant 1x1 or 1x2 segments possible, but generally favor a 2x3 to 3x5 area of the bell curve. Sub-logic to ensure that there’s a 95% or greater chance that any 1x1 or 1x3 would be a maximum of 4 tiles taxi-distance from a hard-corner of the production floor area (with some lottery possibility of having a single 1x1 appear in a random dead-center location, which can easily be navigated around in early game.) I’m re-reading what I’ve typed so far, and honestly it sounds like I’m advocating for procgen map configurations…?
At any rate, for both topics above, game-difficulty sliders can influence these mapgen variables. Noob-settings would ensure more office tiles in fewer discrete sections, and could also influence edge-portal distribution as well. HardcoreQQ mode could guarantee “dead pixel” floorspace distributions, with edge-portals in corner-bottlenecks that would guarantee that an in-game relocation transaction would be necessary in order to free up all input lines, or even allow for a portal relocation entirely. With procgen, maybe the initial play area on hardcore would only indicate expansion edges without revealing future overall floor areas, thereby forcing the veteran player to make strategic and expensive expansion decisions with reduced information. Hell, allow for a 3-time research unlock to be able to reveal past a fog-of-war boundary for unexpanded territory for a flat calculated cost of 1x the revealed floorspace’s monthly rental cost, with the second costing 2x, and the third and final reveal transaction carrying the heavy pricetag of 4x (exponential increase.) This allows for deeper game tree randomization, since procgen could simply await revelation before spawning in the unexpanded arena chunks, necessarily meaning that the player would want to conserve such a finite supply of cost-prohibitive reveal transactions (since cost is both financial as well as research.)
I’d like to see office space segments be independently controllable, or even have segregations between office segments be changeable in-game, such that you can differentially prioritize various short term / high priority and long term / low priority research goals. Segregation segments would be another use for floor tile overlay color. Maybe delineate user-segregated (generally free or inexpensive) distinctions with hue and shade, whereas actual RBG colorwheel distinctions would convey information as to how many times before the same office tile was previously relocated. If the GUI could allow for those colors to be toggled between palette-view of all colors verbose, and a normal factory runtime display mode of monochromatic and low-saturation binary distinctions as between production tiles and office tiles.
These hue / color distinctions could allow for production slot manipulation as well in some not-yet-designed slot manager gui. We can differentiate smart-junctions in either conveyor species by color-zone overlay, and different line segments based on model or options packaging. I’m imagining that higher-tier luxury and hypercar models would have paint booth options for higher gloss, color-shifting paints, UV-reactive, iridescent. Maybe even a special “mod-bay” slot for lategame to fulfill VIP custom orders. I’m imagining a tooltip description of a fictional crown prince places an order for a new-line copy of a previously-archived vehicle model that sold very well. This is a perhaps-hidden (or at least not tutorial-described) easter egg achievement where a model of vehicle sets such high sales benchmarks when it’s in live production that there’s a nostalgia element to the vehicle as a collector’s item after the line is discontinued and archived. Maybe even impose a limit to the number of models that can be archived at any given time, so that the player can discover that they opted out of archiving and can therefore not fill the legendary-rare order for $1.2M for a 1985 Impala with undercarriage lighting, a flamekit in the exhaust, metallic bubblegum-pink paint, sectioned hood scoop, windshield-projected HUD instrument display, dual-side steering wheel dashboard, and the back seat folds flat into the floor to create a closed-shell “convertible” interior-theater area where someone can stretch out to watch a movie while parked. Component costs for such a legendary-rare order could be further reduced by having had the foresight to develop research tech and production line preparation for custom-fabrication of low-demand high-cost parts, such that the hood with scoop and turbo intake could be fabricated against the original design’s form factor that never offered the sectioned hood as a dealer option.
Uncommon-rare custom-booth orders might involve converting an SUV into a stretch limousine. A common-rare would be a Lincoln Town Car form-factor limousine. A custom-booth production slot could be cost-justified by allowing for it to be repurposed as a pull-aside bay for line vehicles that failed QA because they missed having a single option component installed due to a supply-line shortage early in the drivetrain process, for example. This would benefit from a research unlock to allow for conveyer belt segments to accommodate vehicle chassis on a rollaway palette-cart so that human workers can detach the mid- or even late-stage vehicle from the conveyor belt and manually wheel it into the pull-aside bay (at a penalty to speed, since it takes humans to do it and those workers would at least temporarily have to leave their assigned post while the vehicle is in transit to the pull-aside bay.) The baseline research unlock would upgrade the conveyors themselves to be able to accept such chassis-carts, and a secondary unlock would allow the carts to be pulled off the line entirely with no prejudice to the rest of the conveyor line.
Also, please note that my professional background is in commercial transportation – buses, trucks, lorries, etc. Lategame and / or high-difficulty playthroughs would allow a player to reskin their sprite set to allow for diversification into larger vehicles, such as campers / camper trailers / work vehicles. Pickup trucks with external chassis-rig configurations, large passenger vans with stripped cargo interiors as moving vans, extended-body utility vehicles for conversion to first responder equipment variants, etc. Land fleet supply contracts with car rental fleets at the local airport, a fictional reference to a contract with an Uber-type provider, partnerships with a fictional-Google for a test fleet of self-driving cars prototyping a new design of street-grid navigation infrastructure in a city like London or Boston or Melbourne. An ultra-rare contract might be for a small run of 15 copies of an iconic vehicle used in a blockbuster film (think KITT from Knight Rider, the next version of the Batmobile, the yellow Camaro used as Bumblebee in Transformers, etc.)
And note, for gameplay purposes, the code-efficient method of reskinning can be used as a stopgap measure until later in game development when full vehicle-type diversification becomes more feasible. Ford and GM and Volvo all have healthy industrial-variant operations, as a lot of large work vehicles carry their drivetrains housed in industrial-only chassis variants (International trucks are a division of GM, Freightliner is a division of the company formerly known as Daimler-Chrysler, Mack trucks were owned in common with Volvo for a few years back in the 90s, etc.)
I really need to drink less coffee. :-\ I hope even 1% of my ideas inspire something that ends up in the game. Awesome alpha game, I bought it on Steam a few days ago, played it for the first time a few hours ago, no regrets. Love it! 7.7 / 10!