Most games for car enthusiasts follow a simple premise: Buy a car and go fast. Maybe you're on a track setting times or maybe you're on a highway escorting a paparazzo. According to this Oppo review, Automation combines the build-it-yourself simplicity of Minecraft and the control-the-world ethos of the Tycoon series. Interesting.
The engine roars to life, rocking around on the dyno, the throttle opens up, the engine screams, crack, bang, boom; you just blew out your bottom end. No this isn't an passage from every over-boosted car owners diary.
Many of you have already heard of Automation. For those who haven't, Automation is a computer game in which you manage your own car company. From basic start up with limited parts availability to full on 'lets compete with Lamborghini'. You manage everything from engine design and layout to chassis details and more.
The game is still in development so currently not all options are accessible (as they are not done being created yet) but you can currently pre-order the game where you will gain access to all current available features, all future updates, and finally, the finished game, when it is done.
Now I know what you are thinking; why should I spend my hard earned cash on something that's not done?
I was in the same boat as you. I had been following the progress of this game for some time, and kept telling myself just to wait for the final release. Well I got tired of waiting, and figuring that helping the game designers with my small contribution would help them get the full game done quicker, I bit the bullet and got the pre-order.
First impression: It's not Forza.
I set my graphics to low-ish settings as my laptop has a terrible on board card, but the game still looked rather decent and would probably look 1000x better on a system with a proper graphics card and a good monitor.
Second Impression (or First impression part 2): It's Minecraft!!!
Minecraft. A simple game built around simple concepts. You mine various objects and then use those object to build different things, and everything is blocky-8-bit-like graphics (by design). Minecraft is also one of the most popular, best selling games across multiple platforms.
So what does Minecraft have to do with Automation?
All of my time so far has been spent in Sandbox mode, as the campaign mode is not yet active (remember they are still building this game). Currently you can build I4, I6, V8, and Flat Plane V8 engines (they will be adding many more). There is also a basic version of the chassis creator to play with but I will get to that later.
Once you choose the engine layout, you then select the block materials, crank type, connecting rods, and pistons. You also select your stroke and bore. Moving on from there you begin to build your top end; push rods or DOHC? (SOHC and OHV are also available) Head materials, cam profile (this is my one complaint, the cam profile is just a 0-100 number which translates in no way to an actual profile, lift, or duration that I can figure out other than the bigger the number the racier the cam), VVT and VVL. You can also set timing advance / retard (again, the layout on this is okay, but it is a 0-100 slider where, presumably, 50 is 0*) and compression ratio.
From there you can choose your aspiration, N/A or Turbo. And if you choose turbo, you can mess with all the settings, from boost pressure to compressor sizes and A/R (it's awesome!). Install your fuel system (so many options from carbs to FI with multiple, multiple options for each) and finally your exhaust system.
These engines are then tested and tuned. Change the air/fuel ratio and get more power but worse emissions. Have too high of a compression or the timing too far in the wrong direction and you'll get knock.
You can spend hours working out all the kinks on a motor if you so desire. And the engine noises are pretty spot on. At the end, you end up with a dyno sheet and a list of specs for that engine, and they are pretty spot on (I work in the dyno industry so I know how the graphs should lay out, and all I can say is Bravo!).
Later, you can put your engine into a chassis you designed, and as previously mentioned, this feature is very basic as of now, but is set to be updated in the near future.
Now sandbox mode is good and fun and you can loose hours on it (ask me how I know) but the fun part will be the campaign mode. You notice things in Sandbox mode, like when you add a forged crank it says you need a forge, or when you want to use an AlSi head, you need a CNC shop. Every part has a cost and a weight associated with it, as well as man hours to create and build. And there is a skill level required to build higher quality parts.
From what I can gather, you will start out just being able to make basic parts and have to sell your cars to make profit and upgrade your shops.
This is Minecraft for car folks. This game is a ton of fun and I can't wait to see whats next. I highly suggest you go try the demo (it's free to try) and I am sure you will enjoy it, I did, and I look forward to going home and playing around some more.