Euro Truck Simulator 2: taking virtual trucking to the next level. - Games Weekly

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Euro Truck Simulator 2: taking virtual trucking to the next level.

Euro Truck Simulator 2 is one of my favourite games of all time. I seem to spend half my life explaining to people that no,  seriously , it’s  really good . That I haven’t gone mad. While most niche simulators are creaky and rough around the edges, Euro Truck  is a surprisingly well-made, polished, playable game. It somehow makes hauling bags of sugar and bits of pipe around Europe a deeply compelling experience, and it’s one of the most relaxing games I’ve ever played. It’s my Zen garden.

“We’ve been creating truck simulation games for almost a decade,” Pavel Sebor, CEO of SCS Software, tells me. “We knew there was a dedicated and vocal fanbase, but we always assumed that these games would never resonate with ‘normal’ gamers, and that their sales potential was very limited. But ETS2 surprised us all.”


Around the time of its release, Euro Truck Simulator 2 was at the number one spot on the Steam charts, sitting comfortably alongside giants like Call of Duty and DayZ. In the days since, thanks to Steam’s seasonal sales, it still regularly pops up. I ask Sebor why he thinks this most unlikely of games has captured people’s’ imaginations.

“We often hear that the calm non-racing experience in  Euro Truck Simulator 2 is very different from the majority of driving or racing sim games. We have repeatedly heard the term ‘Zen experience’ when our players describe the long, mostly uneventful driving sessions.” Sebor also chalks its success up to the visuals, which are uncommonly good for a game like this, and the RPG-like management elements. “Somehow we’ve nailed that ‘just one more trip’ feeling that keeps players hooked for hours.”

The next stop on SCS’s trucking adventure is the USA.  American Truck Simulator  is coming to PC in August, and will significantly increase the scale of their already colossal game. “We’ve been working on  ATS  for well over a year, but given the size of America, we have only really just started,” Sebor says. “The challenge is humongous for our small team. At this pace we would need perhaps a decade to create the whole continent at the chosen scale and level of detail.”

Their solution is to release the game in chunks, similarly to what they did with Euro Truck Simulator 2’s Eastern Europe and Scandinavia expansions. “Hopefully we’ll be able to speed up the work as revenue starts coming in,” Sebor says. He also tells me that anything new they develop for ATS will also appear in ETS2. Both games will be continually updated, sharing technology and features.
Somehow we’ve nailed that ‘just one more trip’ feeling
While Euro Truck Simulator 2 is composed mostly of grey motorways and green fields, American Truck Simulator will take advantage of the country’s varied landscape. From dusty desert highways to the Douglas firs of the rain-lashed Pacific Northwest, SCS are trying to faithfully recreate the geography and ambience of the country. “We’re trying really hard to portray all the places in the game as realistically as possible,” Sebor says. “Whether it’s a desert, a lush forest, mountains, or plains. We’ll have it all.”

While larger development studios would use a game like this as an excuse to go on an extensive ‘research trip’ across the USA, SCS doesn’t have that luxury. There are only 20 staff members in their Prague office, and everything is done in-house. “We are mostly relying on what we can find online,” Sebor tells me. “Google Street View is a great source. In the age of the internet, we can find high quality reference images without leaving our office chairs. Although we have accepted a kind invitation from a US truck manufacturer to have a photo session with one of their trucks.”

The trucks are, of course, the real stars of these simulators. I ask Sebor how the differences between US and European trucks are affecting game. development. “In Europe we have much tighter regulations for vehicle length. So having longer US-style trucks puts extra strain on our AI code, especially when it comes to interacting with other AI vehicles. Also, American trucks have longer noses, on which a pair of extra mirrors are often placed. Having upwards of five mirrors in the cabin means we’re spending more resources rendering the reflections than with the player’s main view!”

As for new features, Sebor says SCS has a lot of ideas on the drawing board, some of which have been requested by fans of the series. “We’re looking at double-trailer trucks, trucks getting dirty and needing a wash, more varied tuning options, and additional vehicle types,” he tells me. “But we don’t want to bring these to just one game. We want players of both  American Truck Simulator  and  Euro Truck Simulator 2 to enjoy them.”

New weigh stations will, however, be exclusive to  American Truck Simulator . In the US, truckers have to stop at these to verify that their cargo complies with state regulations. You’ll have to pull in and park on the scale before you can continue your journey. Expect more exclusive features like this to be revealed as development continues.

For me, Euro Truck 2 was all about the driving, but there’s also a whole business management side of the game to sink your teeth into. Sebor says there won’t be much difference between the existing mode and the one in the new game, but that their ‘World of Trucks’ online community will be a factor.

“Right now people just use this to share screenshots, but our ambition is to provide an additional layer of depth, with persistent profiles and team cooperation. Our fans have been asking to be able to set up virtual trucking companies, like an MMO guild, and we’re heading in that direction.”

The word ‘American’ in the new game’s title isn’t just the usual shorthand, either: SCS wants American Truck Simulator to go beyond simply the United States in future expansions. “We’re aiming to cover more of the continent. I’m sure we’ll feature Mexico, and Canada is a high priority goal too. Relative to population size, Canadians are some of the most active truck simulator player groups.” I love the idea of being able to drive through Texas, across the border, and into Mexico, and Canada should provide some beautiful scenery too.

As someone who’s dedicated many, many hours to  Euro Truck Simulator 2 , I’m understandably excited about this new American adventure. While the mundane, drizzle-soaked environments of  ETS2  do add bizarrely enough to its charm, the chance to cruise through the Nevada desert or across the Golden Gate Bridge is hugely exciting.

If you still don’t understand why we’ve dedicated  four pages  to a  truck simulator, download the free demo of Euro Truck Simulator 2  from Steam and find out for yourself. I honestly think it’s one of the best games on PC, whether you care about large road-haulage vehicles or not. Let’s hope SCS can recreate that strange magic on the wide highways of America and beyond.

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