Little Big Workshop

Little Big Workshop has managed a fairly rare feat: Getting onto my Regrets list despite my coming very close to completing it. This game was fun just often enough to make me want to keep playing, but it was also very stressful a lot of the time, because it never quite had enough tools to really make the little factory I was running efficient enough. I couldn’t partition my workforce and say “right, you lot hang out in this section of the factory and you lot hang out in that section of the factory and I will have you working on separate projects all the time,” so as my factory grew and I had more and more workers running more and more machinery, my output didn’t go up nearly linearly because I had workers who would decide to cross the entire length of the factory to reach a workstation that had opened up on the other side, working on an entirely different project from the one they had been working on.

The game is full of trap options, things that look like they will increase your productivity but actually aren’t efficient enough to balance out their increased costs. The clearest example is that you unlock specialists way before you unlock the advanced machinery that only specialists can operate. Specialists require a higher salary, but because of a bug, they don’t actually work any faster than your standard generalist workers. Even if they were 20% faster or whatever, it would hardly matter, because once you’ve got midgame machinery up and running, by far the greatest bottleneck on your productivity will be the time spent moving things around your factory. You can, of course, minimize this by designing your factory such that things involved in the same process are nearby one another, and that’s the part of the game that actually works, but it means that any upgrade to your workers that doesn’t improve movement speed had better have no ongoing costs, because no increase in worker salary could possibly be worth it. Going 20% faster at something that only makes up 10% of your construction time is only a 2% increase overall.

I still feel the game tugging at the edges of my mind to go back and try to find a way to push myself up to the level of profitability required to finish the Champion Milestone and call this a win. There are strategies I haven’t tried, but the problem is that it takes an hour or more of gameplay to build up the kind of funds needed for a major factory expansion, even with the clock set to as fast as possible, so every time I try anything I am spend an hour in boring production of routine products to build up wealth to then spend another hour watching my newly expanded factory operate and trying to figure out if the general trend is an improvement or if its increased costs are too much. I like the gameplay loop, it just takes way too long to implement a new strategy and get feedback on whether that strategy is working.

I tried looking up guides online to see if I can just copy someone else’s factory layout exactly and put this one on the “Completed” pile, but the only things I’ve been able to find are one suggestion to exploit a bug and another that’s basically just to engage in another ten hours of glacial expansion and micromanagement, making the same products with the same machinery, but just assigning them to different sectors of an ever-growing factory. I can’t even zone out and zen-grind it while listening to podcasts and audiobooks (did you know that they’re finally getting the entire Discworld series on audiobook? I can’t believe it took this long, but this year it’s finally been happening!), because I have to keep figuring out exactly which contracts to assign to which parts of the factory – if I accidentally assign a second contract for making cupboards (or whatever) to Workshop Alpha, then they’ll get bogged down with two projects at once while Workshop Beta sits around twiddling their thumbs, so I have to keep doublechecking which parts of the factory are active and which need new work, and the amount of micromanagement required steadily goes up as I buy more plots of land and build a larger factory, but the actual resource management stays the same. All I have to do to march to victory is keep doing more of what I’m already doing, but I just don’t want to do that for another ten hours to tick the final box on the final milestone when it’s all the worst combination of too much busywork to zone out but too little new content to be interesting or fun.

While I’m certain there are winning strategies to Little Big Workshop and that I could figure them out with another 10 hours of time investment, the fact is I’m not having fun anymore and I don’t want to spend another 10 hours not having fun just to call this one a win.

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