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How-Tos iOS & Mac how-tos

Fiz Brewery Management: Tips & Strategies

I do rather love a craft beer (my brewery of choice: Scotland’s BrewDog) so Fiz: The Brewery Management Game ($1.99) recently made its way onto my iPad. As a fan of both unusual craft beers and the Kairosoft classic Game Dev Story (which this very closely models itself on), this looked like it could be right up my street, a brewery management game with no infuriating IAPs. So despite having opened my new PS Vita just hours before, by the evening of Christmas Day I was several virtual months into running FizzBat, my new virtual brewery.

Pretty quickly I discovered the need to strategise, particularly after that cocky swine Blumbrau beat me in a competition to win a bigger brewery. You can’t just churn out whatever colourfully monikered beer takes your fancy and flog it to any old shop, you’ve got to actually plan for the seasons (both sports and weather) and get it into the right shops, priced to beat out the competition but still turn a profit. Um… you did research the competition, right?

So I’ve been making a mental list of Fiz Brewery tips and tricks and thought I’d share. If you’ve come up with any strategies of your own feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!

  • Pause the game – if you’ve ever played Faster Than Light (PC or Mac, superb spaceship management game) you’ll know the value of pausing constantly. The first release version of Fiz auto-pauses just once, when you finish a batch, but when you select to sell it time starts again. This behaviour might be made more sensible in a forthcoming update but for now – remember to pause All The Time! It’s easy to get distracted and forget that as you’re dilly-dallying over this IPA or that American Wheat, this tiny beer specialist or that massive supermarket, time is ticking away. Pause!
  • Always be brewing, queuing or selling – time passes constantly, and time is money! If you’ve not got a batch on the go, one enqueued, and at least one on sale, you’re doing it wrong!
  • Level up the correct skills – you should assign brew jobs based on who has the highest appropriate skill levels for each job. When staff level up make sure to spend the points on those pertinent skills, or occasionally on their Craft score. There’s no benefit to spreading points amongst their other skills if they’re not using them in their regular brew job.
  • Skill points versus Craft points – as well as Skill scores, each staff member also has a ‘Craft’ score that you be increased when staff level up. When brewing a new batch the total Craft points across your team are pooled and made available to spend on ‘Yield’, ‘Speed’ and ‘Quality’. However, if you’re planning on pouring all your Level Up points into Craft so you can spend them all on ‘Quality’ it’s worth noting that according to the developer “the way it’s set up, increasing your employee’s required stats for their job will improve their Quality better than increasing their Craft and spending that point on +Quality in the Brew Menu would.” For this reason, I’d advise focussing on getting your staff highly trained in their particular brew role before putting points into their Craft score.
  • At the start go for ‘Yield’, not ‘Quality’ – in the initial stages of the game you just need to make money to stay afloat, and the best way to do that is eke every last penny of potential profit from each batch by pouring all your craft points into ‘Yield’ and not ‘Quality’. And for the most part you can completely ignore ‘Speed’ until you’ve got a few more Craft points to play with.
  • Easy money at the Bodega – whenever you run out of money the game tosses enough ingredients your way to make a quick batch of the bog-standard lager, Grubb’s Lite, and the Bodega owner waives his stocking fee. So if you’re getting started, or you’re flat broke, brew up some Grubb’s Lite, spend the Craft points on the highest yield possible, and flog it all at the Bodega for around 15 coins for a profit of around 350-400.
  • fiz brewery strategy

  • Plan for the seasons – work out what your go-to Summer, Winter and in-between beers are and around 10 months before you’ll need them start on at least one batch to go into storage in readiness. For example, the Surf Shop – once this opens it’s an almost guaranteed summertime money maker, a boon for beginners in the early stages of the game. It’s only open for a few months from month 6 each year, and their customers really like summery lager, so make sure you have batches of Get Off My Lawn on the go from month 10. Get them into storage, then come month 6 send them to the Surf Shop, price them right and they’ll fly off the shelves over summer, netting a huge profit to pour into new beers.
  • Don’t necessarily always sell full batches – proud as you are of your 100-unit batches, the shops you sell to may not have the space to stock them, or enough customers who prefer that type of beer to buy them all within the two month shelf-life. Refer to the research and consider splitting the shipment.
  • Research! Research! Research! – there’s no two ways about it, you need to do research on your customers and your competition. I always select 50 customers (for more detailed results) over four weeks (because it’s cheapest) and I select both customers and competition the first time.
  • Buy & research new retailers in advance – unless you like spending all your profits on costly Instant Research you’ll want to research a new retailer before you’ve got a batch ready to sell there. Buy into new retailers is while batches are brewing, and run research on them immediately. Then when a batch is ready you’ll have all the relevant info about the new shop at your fingertips.
  • fiz brewery tips

  • Refresh your customer research – competitor research only needs to be done once per shop/market and updates itself monthly after that. Customer research goes out of date over time, however, so remember to occasionally run more customer research at the shops you sell to most in case customer tastes have changed significantly. Start research as soon as you buy into a new retailer, and buy into a new retailer at least a month before you’ll want to sell there.
  • Undercut the competition – if there are competing brands of a similar style at the shop you’re sending your new batch to, look at their quality and their markup. Unless your quality is significantly higher, don’t set your markup higher than theirs.
  • Make whatever the competition ISN’T selling – check to see if a beer type popular at any given shop is actually in stock from your competitors; if it’s not, get your own version in there as soon as possible while there’s no competition!
  • Don’t waste money on stiff competition – the game will warn you if you’re trying to sell in a shop that stocks competitor beers with a far higher Quality score than yours. However, as a rule if your beer Quality score is in the lower third of the range for the competition then don’t bother selling unless you’re willing to seriously undercut them (and throw away potential profit).
  • What’s the recipe for (insert beer here)? – all the recipes are randomised every time a new game is started, so you can’t just start making the best ones cribbed off a Wiki page 😉
  • Finally, don’t forget the mice! – if you find yourself with a spare moment while a batch brews, check out the brewery screen and tap the mice that run across from time to time, they’re always carrying something valuable!
Categories
iOS & Mac reviews

Coffitivity review: perfect for working from home

coffitivityCoffitivity is a free app that recreates the ambience of a coffee shop with three different audio tracks to match the mood you want to create. It’s completely free and available for iOS, Mac and Android, or you can load up coffitivity.com in your browser and play the sounds from there. And it’s had a huge impact on my ability to focus when working from home, so I highly recommend it.

FOCUS!

I’m a freelance photographer so I should be good at focussing, right? Ba-dum-TSH, here all week folks, try the veal.

Seriously though, I spend a lot of my free time kicking around the house either relaxing with Netflix or a game, doing chores, or, most problematically, studiously avoiding doing chores. When I’m on a job somewhere, surrounded by other people also working, I have zero distraction issues but at home, alone, in silence, I have a serious problem with procrastination and distractions, particularly when it comes to doing certain computer tasks.

I recognise my procrastination and avoidance issues and I’ve got a number of tools and personal processes to combat them: I’ve made jotting down anything I remember I need to do in Things much more of a habit, meaning I can stop worrying about what things I might have forgotten to do and just get on with doing them; I keep our budget spending updated daily using the YNAB iPhone app; I try to remember to turn off distractions like Safari, Mail and Tweetbot when I sit down to do computer work; and I keep an Rdio playlist of gentle jazz handy as background noise.

Turns out background noise has a much bigger impact on my ability to focus than I thought and reassuringly there’s scientific research backing this up. When I sit down to tackle something that needs to be done in the lonely silence of our flat my mind wanders and has a terrible habit of dredging up all sorts of negative emotions, drawing on past negative situations, and projecting negative futures, all of which scare me off making decisions and taking action by making me afraid of how I might fail, and how it’s easier to just avoid failure than it is to face up to the possibility of it occurring.

Pretty heavy, huh? Well that’s a post for another day. Right now I want to tell you about the simplest step that made the biggest difference to my focus and my mental attitude when I sit down to work: installing Coffitivity.

Coffee shop ambiance, at home

Music has always been my first recourse to silencing the silence of our empty flat, but that can be a distraction in itself. Do I want to put on the same old playlist? Find something new? But what genre? Nothing too pop, rock or dance. Nothing too atmospheric in case it’s depressing (so no Clint Mansell soundtracks then). I could spend half an hour idly flicking through Rdio, then hop onto Safari to research ‘work at home’ playlist suggestions… And before you know it I’ve run out of time allotted for the original task.

The ambiance provided by Coffitivity seems to let me get right into the task at hand, puts me In The Zone. I tried it for the first time a couple of days ago and spent the next five hours without distraction compiling the year’s expenses for my tax return, something I’ve been putting off since April. Sure, I had to do it this month anyway, but surrounded by other (imaginary) people all doing their own thing, working away and supping coffee and getting on with it, I got started and… enjoyed the process of working. It’s like a human version of ‘white noise’, that somehow keeps my brain marching forward following the map rather than wandering off into the shadowy forest of distraction.

The details

Once installed the app lives in the menubar. Click to reveal the drop-down menu, pick a track, set the volume and hit play. You can have it launch at login, and there’s a ‘one-click’ mode to play or pause whenever you click the menubar icon, with a right-click revealing the drop-down.

The icon itself is the coffee cup from the logo. It’s black and grey when not in use and turns a kind of aquamarine colour and presents a swirl of steam while a track is playing. I’d love an option to set it to black to match my other menubar icons, though.

The tracks are different enough from each other to suit various moods and are all long enough that the looping won’t start to grate. However, I noticed that when they looped it was a noticeably hard cut back to the beginning rather than a crossfade, which takes the sheen off the illusion somewhat. The University Undertones track in particular had a 1-2 second pause when it looped – ouch.

Still – it’s free, and these things can be fixed with small updates. All in all, while you may well be able to find similar background sounds in other ambience apps, Coffitivity does one thing and does it well. I’d love a more modern icon and would welcome a couple more tracks but those would just be an extra syrup shot in an already excellent cup of virtual joe. It works for me – I highly recommend it!

Download Coffitivity for iOS
Download Coffitivity for Mac