The Makers Of Automation: The Car Company Tycoon Game Chat Life In The Studio And What To Expect Next

We caught up with the staff at Camshaft Software to see what's been happening inside the studio since 'Automation: The Car Company Tycoon Game' took off on Steam. This growing studio is keeping busy for us...

Remind me later

Meet the crew

(Left to right) Andy, Isaac, Rob, Cas and Jaye
(Left to right) Andy, Isaac, Rob, Cas and Jaye

Andrew (Andy) Lamb, Lead Artist

Background: Australian. ex- IT Support Monkey. 3d Art Graduate.
Influence on Automation: Came up with the original idea for Automation, and has been dreaming of making it since he was 10. Made most of the visual things in game.
Drives: 06’ E60 BMW 530i and ‘94 Mazda Lantis V6 race car.

Isaac Blomfield, Programmer

Background: Recent university graduate. NZ born & raised.
Influence on Automation: The reason the UE4 port is happening.
Drives: ‘83 Honda City Turbo with intercooler, turbo upgrade and lots of boost. His coworkers say, “We’re trying to convince him to daily an early 90s Peugeot 306 TD, because why not.”

Robert (Rob) Hoischen, Lead Designer & Producer

Background: German. PhD in experimental nuclear physics, worked at a large particle accelerator lab for four years before joining the crew.
Influence on Automation: Created most of the game mechanics and made them work together.
Drives: ‘08 Toyota Ractis that gets 46mpg.

Caswal (Cas) Parker, Lead Programmer

Background: Vocational teacher for games programming. From Cornwall, UK via Australia.
Influence on Automation: Making the game exist with the 100,000 lines of code he wrote so far.
Drives: 06’ E60 BMW 530i, and ‘92 Suzuki Cappuccino race car (currently being rebuilt after Andy crashed it in a rally).

Jayelinda (Jaye) Suridge, Programmer

Background: Australian. Games Programmer, worked on various mobile and console titles in Australia.
Influence on Automation: Made the original game engine they still use.
Drives: Lifts to work with Caswal.

CT: I know you all have a certain amount of passion for cars, but who are the biggest petrolheads in the office?

Andy and Cas would be the biggest petrolheads in the office, with our new junior petrolhead Isaac not far behind. When not working on Automation, it’s a pretty safe bet you find them fixing cars in the garage or participating in local race events with their cars on the weekends. Being in the organizing committee of the local motorsport club also scores them petrolhead points.

CT: How is the atmosphere within the office? Family-like, friendly, competitive?

The atmosphere is best described as casual and friendly. We have no hierarchies to speak of and communication is easy across all team members. Cas, Jaye and Andy all live under the same roof, so a big chunk of the team automatically are more than just coworkers. We probably also spend a little bit too much time linking each other weird cars we found on Trademe (NZ’s Craigslist).

CT: Automation has evolved and accomplished so much since its unveiling. How has the daily life around the studio changed?

It has changed a lot since Camshaft relocated to Wellington in 2014 and when we moved into our own proper office space. Also we were joined by Rob, who moved from Germany to join the team last year after working on Automation from around the world for three years as a hobby before then.

The launch of Automation on Steam Early Access has been a success and we got plenty of new people to join the ever growing community. With the additional funding from that we were put in the comfortable position of being able to expand a bit without taking on big risks. So at the end of last year we were joined by Isaac, who now does the porting of Automation to Unreal Engine 4. Soon, we will be joined by another new team member to help us out on the 3D art side of things too.

With us growing it will be interesting to see how the team dynamics evolve, but considering how well and openly we communicate, we don’t see any issues with growing pains and don’t expect the daily life to change much for it.

Issac says "We welcome your crappy feedback." No, not really. He says nothing here
Issac says "We welcome your crappy feedback." No, not really. He says nothing here

CT: Your staff has been praised for really pulling from player feedback and constantly improving the experience. How do you narrow player feedback and use it to make a better game?

Taking feedback is important, but probably not in the way most people think it is. If you just do whatever people cry for the most, you inevitably end up with a bad game…Players are very good at pointing out flaws of the game, but usually they do not state the core problem but rather state a supposed solution to a problem they can’t identify. What we have to do then is to work backwards and try to figure out what the core problems are…So far we have been very good at keeping the scope of the game to what we originally promised.

We draw a lot of talent from our community. Rob, for instance, started out being a member of the community. Our suspension and driving dynamics expert who implemented a lot of the car testing physics for us is a community member too. Not to speak of the many skilled artists who have made cars for the game that you see as vanilla content right now. To a significant extent Automation is crowd sourced.

The “dark” side of this whole being-open-for-feedback thing is that you hear the same suggestions over and over again, like “I have a great idea for you, how about adding diesels?”. No shit, Sherlock…five years into development and we never even thought of that.

CT: Players like using Automation to better visualise and customise their cars in different games, taking the specs straight from the screen. Is this something you all intended before building Automation? How do you feel about players using it as a tool in this way?
That is not something we expected to this extent, but of course we welcome it! The crossover to other games is something we hear a lot about and would want to do more about to foster that use of Automation, but unfortunately that definitely is out of scope and would slow down development of the game we set out to make originally. As long as people don’t use the game to predict what their car mods will do in real life and then blame us for being 10 per cent off the results Automation gave, we’re fine with all that!

The Makers Of Automation: The Car Company Tycoon Game Chat Life In The Studio And What To Expect Next - Gaming

CT: What’s next for Camshaft Software? Is Automation the sole focus at the moment?

Automation definitely is the sole focus of the team at the moment and that won’t change until Automation is out with the promised features. A potentially interesting thing on the horizon is that we currently are looking into the possibility of making an exporter for the cars you build in Automation to use them in a race sim. Stay tuned for how that goes, we don’t know the outcome ourselves yet, but it is time well spent on investigating the possibility.

During development there are so many instances where we come up with really cool stuff that just can’t make it into the core game because of the dangers of “feature creep”, but with Automation being such an amazing platform for adding more content, we’re having a whole lot of things we’d want to do with the game after it’s out. A race team manager where you design, produce and set up your cars, manage your drivers etc would be something of a priority. We have an awesome community member who already makes real-time 2D races around tracks with overtaking, slipstream, pit stops and weather - all using cars built in Automation. We’re all very much looking forward to having the time to expand on that concept.

The Makers Of Automation: The Car Company Tycoon Game Chat Life In The Studio And What To Expect Next - Gaming

CT: Can everyone in the office agree on the one best day and/or the one worst you’ve ever had together?

Cas was very quick on pinpointing a “worst day” we all could agree on. Right before our release on Steam we were in a bit of a pickle. In order to release your game your store page must go through Steam’s approval system, something that can take a few weeks….we managed to get the game up less than a day before release (by pulling some favours)… which definitely didn’t help building any hype, but it all worked out in the end and restored some of our sanity lost in the process.

The best day then pretty much follows. It’s the day or few days after our Early Access release when that tension went away and we enjoyed watching the first video we made with the guys from The Smoking Tire here in NZ two months prior.

Automation Newbies Take Note:

Automation is an insanely detailed game that simulates the workload of an automotive company boss who must make decisions for each model to meet certain criteria. You’ll need to understand how engine design, car design and business tactics work together to build a booming business. Will your auto company have a line-up of supercars, work vehicles, daily economic drivers or a mix of model types?

Before you can enjoy the game for all it’s worth, you need to also have some working motor knowledge (or be ready to learn with the tutorials). As you make changes to each component, you can turn to an info box to understand why the parts impact performance in a particular way. Once you’re comfortable, you will take off like a young mad genius, building the best, worst, cheapest, most expensive, craziest, most powerful, most beautiful and ugliest cars possible.

Visit Automation’s site for a free demo, then go to the Steam page to purchase the game. The team adds new content with a major update about once every three months, so the challenges will keep coming. If you’re already getting curious, here are the engine configurations available:

  • In the core game: I3, I4, I5, I6, V6, V8XP, V8FP, V10, V12, V16 (preorder bonus/DLC), Boxer-4, Boxer-6
  • Considered for a first engine pack DLC after the game is done: I2, Boxer-2 (Flat Twins), V4
  • If sales do well, these would be considered: I8, Flat-8, Flat-12