Dev Blog 151: Businesses and contracts

May 27, 2020

Good evening, airport CEO, or something else depending on where you are! Welcome to the one hundred and fifty first development blog in the series and another update on what we have been working on for little over two weeks now. We have had two good and productive weeks with somewhat equal work distribution between Alpha 35 bug fixing and new development on Alpha 36. With that said and as you know, just like always, time is of the essence and thus we’ll immediately just get into it…

Continued stabilization of Alpha 35

Since the previous dev blog which talked about the major release of Alpha 35 we’ve deployed a number of minor stabilization updates to the default branch addressing the most critical issues reported since then. Judging by the bigger picture, i.e. our backlog of bug reports, we’re now seeing that those critical issues not caused by player design have been solved and that we are instead seeing an increasing number of reports on issues relating to terminal design. This is not completely unexpected as Alpha 35 added a lot of new terminal design options which add to the overall complexity of the game in general and we thus recognize that the lack of information and intuitive design tools as a player is the major cause of these issues – something we’re addressing on multiple fronts in Alpha 36 and will talk about in a later dev blog. So with the general stabilization of Alpha 35 completed we’ve started to invest more and more development time into Alpha 36, however do expect the occasional future minor update as a result of the continued bug report flow.

With that said, let’s set our sights and see what business and contract related changes Alpha 36 and the emergency update will offer…

Franchise contracts

Airport CEO’s franchise contract system has for some time been a pain point for many CEOs due to some of its rather whimsical design implementations. With Alpha 36 we’ve decided to remove the current contract expiry system meaning that a franchise contract will from now on work just like all other contracts in ACEO, i.e. having no end date. The sales target, which had to be reached before the contract ended, has been altered to be counted and evaluated on a daily basis instead of the current evaluation which is done when the contract expires. If you succeed to meet the daily sales target you will with this change be given a bonus but no penalty will occur if the target is not met. However, since we want to avoid CEOs misusing the system by simply building a bunch of different shops and restaurants across the terminal to get “free” money from franchise rent, the contract will be cancelled if a single daily sales target is not met within five days. If you serve your franchises with enough business and passenger flow your franchises will want to continue their business venture with you but if you cannot at least meet their bare minimum they will take their business elsewhere.

The airline overhaul project

The airline overhaul project has now been ongoing for some time and initially started with the major airline fleet overhaul change which took place with the deployment of Alpha 35 where multiple aircraft swapped liveries and we introduced a few new vanilla airlines. This was the first step of this major change and in Alpha 36 we are continuing the journey as the airline contract system will see some notable changes.

The airlines have now been divided into classes just like the other contracts in ACEO, meaning that they range from a rating of one star all the way up to five stars. This change is in line with the mentioned recent overall aircraft fleet update which together with the rating system is intended to mimic real airline fleets to a greater extent. An example of this is that one to two star rated airlines will not traffic large aircraft while four to five star rated airlines will not traffic smaller aircraft which is closer in line with reality - this of course only applies to the default airlines and not mods unless changed by the mod creator. The star rating your airport is eligible for is tied to the airport’s average total airport rating. If you have a low rating, you will only receive one or two star contracts and therefore you will be forced to improve your airport rating before a higher rated airline will want to do business with you. Important to note is that this change will in fact not only apply to airline contracts but instead apply to all businesses and their respective contracts in Alpha 36, including franchises, which means that your airport rating will play a much greater part in the next update.

Important notice for modders: Unless specified in the business .json file, mods will have a default star rating of two. This will be the default business star rating value to avoid lower rated airports risking not receiving any contracts at all from that particular business mod. To fix this, the creator of the mod will have to update the .json file with the appropriate rating (business class).

Contract negotiation

One of the most requested feature we’ve seen across the entire development cycle of Airport CEO is the ability to negotiate contracts. We’re happy to announce that Alpha 36 will not only bring all of the great and cohesive changes mentioned above but also the ability to negotiate the terms and conditions of those businesses' contracts. A contract between you as the CEO and an outside business should be something that needs reviewing as the relation grows and ages. It definitely should not just be a paper quickly signed, discarded and forgotten about. We want to bring you, as the CEO of your airport, a more dynamic experience and relationship nourished or harmed by certain aspects on how you run the airport and interact with the businesses you have an ongoing contract with. What this means from a direct gameplay aspect is that in Alpha 36 you can, if you want, renegotiate your current contracts with companies and the original signing prices you have disclosed.

If you are running a successful, highly rated airport, you will accumulate power to negotiate better terms on a contract. Taking an airline as an example, one of these terms will be the fee you are able to charge per passenger. In the works is a system that over time rewards you with “negotiation points” which you can distribute across your signed contracts come the renegotiation period for that specific contract. The assigned points will increase your chances to bring home a deal that is beneficial to you and there will be both general points and company-specific points. The general points can be distributed on any contract while the company-specific points are, well, company-specific and fixed to that contract. While the design of this system is not fully completed, i.e. yet to decide is exactly what produces those points, but they will be closely related to the airport’s rating system. When sending a new offer, if negotiation points are assigned, they are consumed and new ones have to be collected for a renegotiation if your offer was rejected.

Since some CEOs might not want to spend time negotiation every contract we’re of course also including an “auto-negotiator” which will take care of the distribution of points automatically and tries to get the best deal possible for you (although human intervention is hard to beat...). We believe this is both a solid and, more importantly, a fun system that rewards your efforts in keeping a highly rated airport while also rewarding you for the efforts you take with contract negotiation.

In other news

... Steve is working hard in the aircraft factory and has been producing a number of new birds which will be released together with Alpha 36. Some have been announced and some haven’t but today he’d like to let you in on his most recent completed project. Can you take a guess at what series of aircraft this is?


Three little birdies...

And that is all for this week. We’re really excited to have started work on Alpha 36 and the last major content update for real and are looking forward to reveal more of its innings as we’re reaching more conclusive and final designs for its various features. Those will, as always, be revealed in a future dev blog. Fly safe!

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