Dev Blog 142: Revealing The R&D Update

December 11, 2019

Hello airport CEO! Two weeks has passed since we moved the dev blog day from Mondays to Wednesdays and as you can see it’s working wonders! It’s still Wednesday in parts of the world, you’re reading a dev blog and we’re in the middle of our work week and have made very good progress on Alpha 34, or the R&D update as it henceforth shall be known… and today it’s finally time to let you in on the juicy details! But first, as always, let’s just do a little recap of what’s going on besides new development…

A new Early Access trailer released!

Last week we finally published a new early access trailer for Airport CEO. The old one was heavily outdated showing old and, in most cases, completely removed graphics, gameplay systems and UI. The new one is as recent as Alpha 33.7-47 and tells a story of how a small and aspiring airfield eventually became a multi-terminal international airport – just like most of the other stories told in Airport CEO. If you haven’t checked it out yet, here’s another chance:

Pretty neat, huh? We’ve delisted all of the older videos on the ACEO channel to avoid confusion as to what the game actually looks like today but for those of you who joined us early on and for us as developers it’s extremely interesting to look back at where we’ve come from, where we are today and of course where we’ll be going next!

Quality-of-life updates for Alpha 33

Speaking of where we’re going and despite a very heavy focus on new development with Alpha 34, Alpha 33 has still been seeing the occasional weekly quality updates to void it of its most pressing issues as reported by you. Most recently today, on the experimental branch, with Alpha 33.8 which is destined for the default branch tomorrow bringing a fix to the issue where an airport at heavy load would not spawn passengers on a next-departing-flight-basis which could cause a wide array of issues, especially delayed passengers as they did not show up for check-in. We’re also with this update finally officially supporting Spanish, French and Brazilian Portuguese which is the first result of the community’s Localizor effort to make it into the vanilla game (of course still on an early access basis). If you’re a native speaker of any of these languages and discover discrepancies with the language in the game, please don’t hesitate to bug report it and we’ll make sure to get it sorted as soon as possible.

The R&D Update

As we’ve mentioned multiple times before, the R&D update is targeting a wide array of issues existing in the current version of Airport CEO. ACEO has a whole heap of system and features implemented that currently lack purpose and this is what we’re trying to solve with the R&D update. It may not necessarily contain all of the gameplay related changes we want to make before a full release and there are surely a few more additions and polishing to be made, but it will be the single largest gameplay focused update to this date. And while you can see most of what’s currently planned in its current development state on the public Trello board, we though that it was time to take a deeper dive into what we have planned so far – and of course to get your feedback on it. In the last dev blog, we mentioned that Alpha 34 hopefully would be out for internal testing by now but unfortunately that has not happened yet as we decided to dive a little deeper into a few of the features we’ll be talking about today.

R&D projects

The perhaps most substantial new feature in the R&D update is the implementation of a feature progression system. Initially, when ACEO was still in its cradle, we couldn’t really see the use for one but as the game has progressed in its development and as content has been added over time we have thanks to feedback from existing and new players realized that it is certainly time for one. A feature progression system will not only make experienced CEOs feel as if they’re on their way towards a strategized goal or always expanding on-site knowledge, but also help new CEOs learn the basic features of an airport before expanding and tackling more demanding airport layouts. Going immediately for a huge international airport without learning the intermediate functionalities is, as most of you have probably experienced, a very difficult task.

When designing and developing this system it was very important for us to make sure that it’d become a progression system that’s both realistic in an airport management setting but equally fun to play around with. Commonly used terms for progression systems in other games within the management genre are “tech-tree”, “technology”, “science” or “research”. We decided on “R&D projects” since that’s a vital part of any growing business in real life and since it’s a term that can be commonly found within organizations that deal with more traditional business models such as running an airport, rather than developing technology on a theoretical research edge. The system is similar to how you previously unlocked procurement (in fact a lot of them are moved from the procurement panel into an R&D project) and we’ve added a heap more to cover all of the game’s existing features, but now you need hired and on-site employees called administrators to work on those R&D projects… but more on that shortly. In a few cases, a completed R&D project results in a permit which gives you access to certain equipment, staff types, functions and features. An example of this is one of the first projects you’ll encounter, the big one: the commercial license. Without this, you don’t have the right to handle passengers and if you don’t maintain an adequate security rating while utilizing the services of the commercial permit it may be revoked by the nation’s aviation administration… but more on that later.

In addition to the R&D projects we’re also introduce programs. The operation of a program will also require the same type of administrator employees, but instead of unlocking a certain feature like the R&D projects do, a program will generate a static beneficial effect to your airport, for example reducing salary costs or increasing construction speed. Programs have an efficiency rating and will generate a higher boost depending on how many administrators that are assigned to that particular project (maximum five per program). Another quirk is that you can only have two of the four programs in each group active at the same time and the longer you keep a program active the higher effect it has (as it builds up over time). We’ve still got a lot of balancing to do with these systems and there’s some additional UI work to “iron out” but it’s all coming along very nicely and we’re very excited to have this out on the internal branch before the week is over. Below is a sneak peek of the new R&D project panel:

This is where your new knowledge journey begins!

Programs selected to boost parts of your airport's operations. The green bar is showing what efficiency your admins are working at for each project; the longer they've been assigned, the more efficiency they will produce.


Introducing the admin! The administrator is a new employee type as of the R&D update and they are hired to be assigned and to work on R&D projects and programs. Contrary to other employee types in your airport which is based on single job tasks, admins are continually working with R&D development as long as they are able to find a desk to work at and progress projects and programs. Also, which is further described below, they are together with executives considered to be white-collar employees and thus allowed to leave and go home after their working hours have ended. Admins will always follow your orders and work for you even if you decide for them to remain on-site 24 hours per day but in order to get their best performance out of them you need to make sure that their needs are tended to – the more content they are, the better they will perform!

Look at them go! Your airport will hopefully grow and prosper because of the hard work they're putting in. If they're talented enough that is...

Employees reborn

Employees have as of Alpha 34 seen a slight overhaul and gone are the days when they were fine with just a salary payment. In Alpha 33, an employee’s skill is made up of four different traits that had no immediate effect or purpose. We’ve changed this so that employees now instead have one single skill variable that is simply a generic indication of how good an employee is at their job and a productivity variable which acts as a current performance score. Employees in Alpha 34 now truly care about two basic needs, their energy level and going to the bathroom. If a skilled employee has a high energy level and has just relieved themselves, they will have a very high productivity while a not so skilled employee with none of their needs met will have a mediocre productivity. The better an employee’s productivity is, the fast and more qualitative their work will be. For example, if an admin has a high productivity they will contribute to faster research and development of a certain project or program, if a ramp agent has a high productivity they will service an aircraft faster and if a passenger service agent has a high productivity they will not only check passengers in faster but passengers will also experience them as more friendly and thus rate them based off of that value.  

This also carries over to executives which just like admins has assignable working hours. If an executive is content and skilled, they provide a significant boosting effect to a certain area of the airport’s operations. For example, an HR director that is present at the airport and has a high productivity yield will boost the productivity of all other by up to 5 percent; the lower the executive’s productivity is the lower their boost is.

With these new additions employees now as mentioned requires bathroom visits which means that whenever an employee does not have a job task assigned and they are in need, they will try to visit a bathroom. Naturally we’ve implemented a staff only option for bathrooms, and even an extended option to build executives only bathrooms. Accompanying the employees only bathroom is a staff parking setting for the public parking lot which means that employees arriving by a personal vehicle will only be allowed to park there. There are a few additional more minor fixes and improvements to the employees in this update but we’ve surely gone on long enough about this so we’ll save those for yourself to discover once the R&D update is ready for the experimental branch!

Admins hard at work... looks depressing.

The new airport rating system

Another big part of the R&D update is of course the new airport rating system. It consists of four major scores that together make up the total airport score. Those four major scores are then in turn made up of several minor scores that each represent a certain type of rating. Confused? Yeah, probably, the below image will hopefully make things a bit clearer:

The new airport rating panel.

So, as you can see above the four major ratings are GA, airline, passenger and security. Unless you have acquired the commercial permit via a R&D project only the GA ratings will be accounted for. This panel is opened by hovering on the airport icon of the rating panel in the lower bottom panel, if you hover on any of the other icons only the ratings relevant for that score will be shown. If you hover on a rating icon, a panel will pop up and detail how that particular rating is affected and how you as a CEO can impact it. For example, looking at the passenger ratings there are several: Cleanliness, staff treatment (as in how employees treat passengers), queue time, whether or not they boarded their aircraft on time and more.

As you can see there are many ratings which each, as mentioned, has some sort of impacting factor. In turn, the major ratings also impact game systems in various ways. If you take a look at the lower part of the above image you can see that for the major ratings, you have both a current rating and an average rating. The current rating is what it sounds like, it shows the value for that particular rating as it is right now. The current rating then in turn, over time, impacts the average rating and the average rating is what matters in the long run. GA pilots talk a lot and the better the average GA rating you have, the more GA traffic your airport will see. The better the airline rating you have, the more you prove yourself as a reliable business partner and airlines will offer you more flights. A good passenger rating also enables more traffic to your airport and attracts more franchise partners to your terminal which in turn allows to generate more profit. Lastly, a good security rating is necessary to maintain if you’re handling passengers because the aviation administration is watching you and a poor average security rating may not only invoke hefty fines but also eventually revoke your commercial permit which would be damaging to your business to say the least.

So, what happens if you have a really high average airport rating for a long while? Well, there’s this one competition each year where the world’s best airport is elected… but we’re sure you’ll get an e-mail in your inbox about that the next time you boot up Alpha 34.

The new rating system connects most loose ends of Airport CEO and together with the new R&D project system guides you, and challenges you, into building the best airport possible. We’re very excited to see what happens when we make these systems available to you.

… and more!

There’s a lot of minor quirks and features in Alpha 34 that by themselves do not make up enough content to talk about but together are of more significance. Balanced economy and construction values, various improved ATC controls, fuel depot sliders for when to trigger refueling and at what level to refuel, an overhauled and improved economy overview panel, an overhauled e-mail system, realistic route generation and an overhauled map system, daily operations and economy performance reports, more statistics graphs and more… we’ve gone on way too long with this dev blog already so we’re going to leave all of that for you to discover on your own.

In other news

… we’re preparing for a little holiday break! As of the 20th of December, we’ll go into a sort of low power mode as we spend the holidays together with our families. We’ll as per usual not be able to stay away and may drop by for the occasional bug fixing update and of course provide support as per usual but the dev blog won’t be back until the 15th of January.

… we took a little trip together with our friends at Game Habitat Dev Hub in Malmö (where we have our office) to Slovenia and Slovenian Game Conference 2019. It was a really fun trip and if you want to check out what we did there’s a highlight story post over at the Apoapsis Studios Instagram.

That’s it for this week! A lot of information to digest and now we’d like to hear what you think, whatever channel you may prefer. Happy hollidays and fly safe!

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