The job of the player is to make money, and the player will receive money when freight is onto the ship/train that will take it to its required location. Meanwhile, every operation that is required to get a container from one side of the dock to the other will be costing the player money (Staff costs,Crane costs, truck costs, container rental costs), so if you take too long to get containers to where they need to go, it will lose money.
The challenge of the game is in the management of the unloading/loading /storage process and getting containers to to the ship/train they need. The number of containers in the game should be massive and and efficient system will be required or else they will be stacked in the wrong spot, put under a pile of containers/miss the boat they had to depart on.
Miscellaneous game ideas:
- Social/Facebook integration. Certain players can be given access to certain commodoties – and require certain commodities based on their location. A real time market would ensure. While offline from the game the player can see virtual ship/cargo movements in social applications (eg: Facebook ship map, twitter cargo delivery update)
The cheapest form of transport is a truck. You will initially be able to buy many trucks for local delivery, but you will also need to staff each one. As the game progresses the cost/benefit of many trucks will be outweighed by a large train.
You would start the game with 1 train in your dock. You can choose which inland destination it goes to.
So you could load for Inland North, unload, come back, and go to Inland East
- Purchasing/Upgrading Trains
When the supply of containers outweighs the needs of one locomotive, you can buy new engines and rolling stock.
* Add the locomotive to the existing train, so it could pull a larger amount of cargo (eg: 1 locomotive can pull 14000 tons, 2 locomotives could pull 20000+ tonnes,3 could do the all this and also maintain speed up a hill )
* Add the locomotive and rolling stock as a separate train, allowing you to deliver to more inland destinations at once
* To do this you would first need to lay new tracks/loading points to allow 2 trains to load/unload at once
Have you ever heard a freight train rumble past your house?
They don't all sound the same, some rattle the windows, some are smooth, and the age of the engine would affect the noise it makes.
Likewise a dock has noises for everything from reversing beepers to fog horns.
Replicating these sounds would ensure the atmosphere of the docks.
Ships would require the purchase of tug boats to navigate harbours.
If you don't have sufficient tugboats, ships will be queued and wont be able to enter the harbour.
Initially there will be a steady flow of ships to ensure a positive inflow of freight into the dock.
Eventually, you will have enough outbound cargo to warrant purchasing of your own ships to speed up the outflow. (Otherwise your dock will be full of cargo)
Ships will be incredibly expensive (Billions), but will make you a lot of money.
- Roads/Tracks/Shipping Lanes
You will need to lay down roads or tracks where needed
- Container stacks - You will need to make stacks of containers. (This would account for the majority of space usage at any dock)
A ship/train might arrive with lots of containers to go to destinations x, y and z, but a train/ship going to z might not arrive for a while.
You will be able to assign stacks to for incoming/outgoing containers, furthermore, you can specify that stack 1 is for incoming containers for City 1 only.
You could also just dump all containers in a big stack, but if a ship/train arrives that is going to destination x, and the most of the containers for destination x are at the bottom of the pile, then it will take a while for the cranes to move the containers on top of container x, and the container might not be got to in time to make the ship/train it has to depart on.
If you are not successfully getting containers out of your dock, all your stacks will fill, and you wont be able to accept any new deliveries.
Each vehicle/object in your game requires staff. These staff can be efficient or lazy.
You can hire and fire them as in Roller Coaster tycoon.
A huge crane may require 5 staff, a truck may require 1.
Assigning only 4 people to the crane would make it work slower, while if no people were available, it would not work at all.
- Popularity, The more popular your dock is with the community , the more ships and trains it will attract , which in turn should lead to more money. The higher this rating, the more compliant staff are.
You will need to build/allocate
* ship unloading cranes
* rails for the cranes
* rails for the trains
* train unloading cranes
* truck unloading cranes
* container space (Run out of container space and you're in trouble)
* laneways (Allow minitrucks to get containers to trains/ship)
* coal storage
* coal conveyor belts (Connect coal piles to trains/ship)
* wheat storage
* wheat conveyor belts (Connect wheck piles to trains/ship)
* livestock storage
* Animal runs (Connect livestock storage to trains/ship)
* petrol storage
* Petrol pipes (Connect petrol tanks to trains/ship)
* Security posts
* Control tower
* Emergency response stations
* Train maintenance yards
* Ship maintenance dry dock
Each building would have their own management window to alter speed/maintenance - ala Roller Coaster Tycoon attractions
Purchase patrol cars, patrol boats, emergency response boats, emergency response vehicles,
Game Events - Occasionally you will be asked to undertake risky manoeuvres that will bring monetary benefit, but might adversely affect popularity. (Eg Transport Nuclear Waste and have Greenpeace sail around and delay your ships, pay unions well, or a union strike will cripple your dock,) Think Transport Tycoon newspaper pages.
Animation- The underlying appeal of the game should be in detailed animation of trains/trucks/ships/cranes- and the appeal of seeing them realised as a detailed Lego creation.
The user should be able to sit back and just watch the complex process unfold like the other tycoon games mentioned.
Security - Security personnel will be needed , vandalised containers will affect popularity. (But would look cool) (Security will drive around in little security cars, preferably with flashing lights)
Security would also deal with illegal cargo, cargo pirates/ransoms, greenpeace protesters, union strikes etc. If piracy affects a shipping line - security via warships would need to be negotiated with the govt (ie: $$$)
Safety - Disasters need to occur,a small Health & Safety budget will equate to accidents.
Stack containers to high and they will topple over, spill nuclear waste and you're in trouble, run cranes too fast and they will break down, don't have boom gates at rail crossings and trains will crash occasionally.
You will also be able to accident response teams (That will drive to accident sites), otherwise accidents wont get cleaned up, and will bottleneck the dock.
Outside events - Sometimes events will occur that will affect your dock directly. eg: There has been a blockage on the passenger line - so all passenger trains will have to run through your goods lines for a period- blocking your freight trains.
Vehicles - You will need to be able to buy lots of different vehicles - Trucks/Trains/Cranes/Personnel Vehicles.
Vehicles will get upgraded with research to be able to move containers faster, or be able to handle bigger containers. (Once you are able to handle bigger containers ships with bigger containers will start arriving which will be worth more to unload)
Traffic - managing the flow of trucks, vehicles and trains around your port will be a big part of the game.
Build bridges, major roads, traffic lights etc to streamline traffic.
Trucks - As well as trains arriving to pick up cargo, trucks would arrive for local drop off . (Whereas trains would be to deliver stuff further away)
Trucks would be easier to unload/load, but provide much smaller returns. They would also require different equipment to unload.
Competition - You would be in competition with other docks in the area (Or friends playing the game online ), and be able to see statistics etc.
Just like other Tycoon games.
Container usage - You will be able to see at a glance where any container is headed for, if it is inland , or offshore, and how long it has been at the dock, and the profit/loss on that container
Different Freight Types - You might need to transport other cargo type, such as Livestock, Oil, Coal , Wheat, which would all require different machines and workflows. (You couldn't leave livestock on the dock for a month)
Coal and Wheat would be stored in huge piles. Oil/petrol in big tankers.
Customs - You might be offered bonuses by the government to assist in national security.
If you install container x ray devices you will be able to detect illegal cargo in vessels.
You will be able to get a bonus for every bit of illegal cargo detected, but detection will slow your container loading process down.
You will be able to set how many containers are scanned to increase throughput (eg every container, or 1 in 10 like real life where it is difficult to scan every container), but this increases the risk of missing illegal containers (Which will give negative popularity if found)
The primary goal is to make as much money as possible and beat your competitors.
Each scenario would have more specific secondary goal(s) - which cannot usually be completed without the primary goal.
Scenario goals could include:
- Achieve a certain popularity level
- Load a number of ships in a certain time
- Build an Aircraft Carrier (Afetr making enough money and building the infrastructure).
- Trial a new technology and make it a success eg: try making money on a dock in a different part of the world with vastly different import/exports.
Other rewards would include the ability to unlock mingames or bonus scenarios (Drive trucks , tug boats and cranes) and the ability to ride any vehicle in 1st person view (Like Roller Coaster Tycoon)
Each player would be able to build their own dock.
Each dock would have 1 or 2 natural resources - and require 2-3 other resources.
The players can setup trade routes between each other with- sometimes undercutting another players exports.
Misc - Sources of inspiration
A Google video example of a container port in action (As an example of the hive of activity that would make it a great game to watch in motion)
And one of big ships as well: