Friday, November 20, 2015

Parallel Jobs
Introducing the Concept of World of Trucks Time

Greetings! Today we'd like to cover a design-oriented topic relevant for the upcoming Euro Truck Simulator 2 Update 1.22.

After quite a few rounds of private beta tests and fixes, we are getting close to releasing the first Open Beta of the update to Steam. Along with the release of the Beta, we will roll out the Contracts feature on World of Trucks (as already covered earlier on our blog).

Once you'll run the new version of the game, you will see that we have been through a slight modification of the main user interface "desktop" screen. We have redesigned the job info widget - the element on top of the screen showing you information about your current assignment.

With the addition of World of Trucks Contracts, we now need to provide the player with enough information on the jobs received this way as well as on the regular Freight Market or Quick Jobs supplied by the standard game economy.

In fact, the player can be assigned both type of jobs in parallel. The new Contracts are actually happening "online" - the game communicates with the back-end servers frequently to update the system on each player's vehicle position and situation. Network connections though can be shaky, and the player should also be able to take a break from a delivery easily taking two-hours in real time, so we need an ability to interrupt a Contract (save the player's progress) and resume it later. But the next day, the player may be offline, or just decide to go for a quick normal delivery before resuming the Contract job. So in principle we need to make sure that there can be two concurrent job assignments.

With Contracts (and the fact that they are the first step towards more complex features), we have also faced a new game design challenge - the concept of time in the game. As of now, you were used to the accelerated Game Time (sometimes shortened in the game as G.T.). It's the clock used for the standard-game day cycle, accelerated so that 24 game-time hours take approximately 72 real minutes. We are not going to change the flow of time in regular game, but for Contracts, we are going to introduce a new clock - World of Trucks Time  (you may see it shortened in the game as "WOTR Time", or "W.T."

World of Trucks Time is based on Coordinated Universal Time, a real-world "clock" where 24 hours takes no less then real 24 hours to complete. We use it to synchronize all World of Trucks features - jobs, future economy and player interactions, and upcoming online activities. It is what the servers use internally, but we have decided to also make it visible for the players, so that they can understand what the delivery deadlines are etc. So you will encounter World of Trucks Time immediately when taking your first World of Trucks Contract.

All World of Trucks jobs will be based only WOTR Time limit to complete. Right now during the beta, while we are stress-testing our server infrastructure and sorting out potential bugs, the WOTR Time for job completion will be fixed to only several hours for any job. Once we feel the servers are working as intended even under load, we will further increase the precision of tracking and also have Contracts with a wider range of time limits for enhanced gameplay experience.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Many Projects, One Goal

We are working hard on American Truck Simulator: California, fine-tuning it and polishing the content and features.  You may have seen glimpses of the locations already before in our earlier blog posts, but we thought the couple of panoramas below are still so cool that you will appreciate seeing them...

We have to admit that we have been in the "let's finish it" mode working on American Truck Simulator: California longer that we hoped.

Basically, the "problem" is that we want to give it all to you. Euro Truck Simulator 2 has been great success for us - so we thought that we absolutely should not abandon it - let's continue to improve and expand it! While we are at it, let's venture across the ocean too with American Truck Simulator so that we can make happy more of the global fan base of the truck sim genre. At the same time, we knew that we will need to go deeper - and from this the ambition to create the complementary World of Trucks project was born.

We are adding community features and infrastructure to support implementation of a grand trucking universe with Virtual Trucking Companies and eventually with rich multiplayer. We would also like to introduce more vehicles into our world than just plain semi-trucks, so work has started on adding alternate gameplay and driving experiences into our simulation system. At the same time, we know that we need to keep pushing our graphics technology, there are still many things in our game engine to improve and optimize, and balancing such changes while trying not to break the game mods too badly is not easy at all.

Pursuing all these goals at the same time has been quite a ride. We have more than tripled our head count at SCS Software to over 50 people currently since the days of release of ETS2. While the content teams working on the projects are separate, they share the programming team, and we are still learning tough lessons when it comes to improving our testing and release pipeline.

Sometimes it feels like for every step forward we need to take two back, but we are stubborn and dedicated, and we are confident that in the end we will deliver on all that we have started. In our quest, we feel that quality is the most important thing for you and us. That's why, more often than not, we tend to adjust our plans and sacrifice release schedules in order to stay true to our mission and to build new pieces of the puzzle in a way that they will all fit well together.

Very soon, you will see us take another step with World of Trucks. The first release in American Truck Simulator line is on the horizon, and the team working Euro Truck Simulator 2 has great things in development too for you for the next year. Please be patient with us and stay tuned!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Japanese Paint Jobs Pack Released

We are continuing in our quest - to cover the territories where Euro Truck Simulator 2 has a lot of players - with a new paint job DLC pack. This time we are paying tribute to Japan.

Very surprisingly even for us, the number of activated copies of the game in Japan puts the country into a Top 15 list, so we thought that it should definitely be included.

We would like to eventually cover at least the Top 20 regions, so in the next few months, our players in the Netherlands, Turkey, or South Korea can look forward to receiving a paintjob treatment. At the same time, our goal is to cover Europe for ETS2, surely the European countries where we have a sizeable loyal player base, as we of course understand the complaints from players for example from Italy or Hungary that they do not have their own flags available yet. So more paintjobs are still on the way, and there is also a refresh of the paint job selection user interface screen on the way to make the interface less clumsy when working with a long list of choices.

Some of our fans complain that we pay attention to such unimportant cosmetic stuff (from their point of view anyway), when we should push to include the more important features. At the same time, we get a constant stream of e-mails from players in countries that we do not yet have covered by paintjobs, asking us to finally create their national paintjobs pack.

Rest assured that the work on paintjobs does not detract our attention from any other development projects going on at SCS Software. It is handled by a dedicated micro-department consisting of two talented artists, working at their own pace. It is not a major source of revenue for us, and the pricing policy we have in place makes it clear that we do not plan to get rich selling truck liveries. Yes, every little bit helps, but we see the work on new paintjob packs mostly as a service to our playerbase. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

It's all about the Tyres/Tires

Today we would like to introduce one of the features that you can expect with the upcoming Euro Truck Simulator 2 update 1.22 - Tyre grades. We have already mentioned that we are looking into it in one of our earlier blogs. We are happy that it finally came to its fruition.

Inspired by actual European regulations, we tried to adapt reality to fit our game. All tyres are now graded based on three parameters: fuel efficiency, wet grip, and noise levels. The game takes tyre properties into account, so real life tyre grades correspond with in-game behaviour. Of course by long wear or damage, tyre quality may degrade.

We will now also support different tyre sizes. In the original game, we referred to a tyre (back then actually the whole wheel) just by its name. We are now enriching the simulation to include support for alternate tyre sizes, so the size is added to the naming convention.

While revisiting the tyres, we thought that it would be cool to add support for what we see in the tuning and modding community - tyre coloring. Stock tyres just sport the standard rubber look of course, but for additional tuning effect, the colour of designated parts of a tyre (like the manufacturer names or logos) can be altered. The in-game support is quite comfortable, allowing to choose the particular colour with a comfortable colour picker widget.

We are about to enter internal testing phase of this feature. As usual, before the final release, you can expect a round of Steam open betas - for those of you ready to help us out with community QA, or just cannot wait but experience any new features as soon as possible.

Oh, there is also a new original manufacturer-branded DLC coming, which will greatly expand your tyre choice ;).

Friday, October 30, 2015

Tractor-trailer Challenges

American Truck Simulator is bringing a wider range of semi-trailer lengths compared to what we have in ETS2 now. The longest variants and the overall resulting length of the whole tractor-trailer pose an extra challenge for navigating tight intersections and maneuvering at the cargo drop-off points.

Consider the comparison image above - it's clear that the driver of the big rig on top will have a considerably harder time getting through tight bends or taking a turn on a narrow street. Often the shortest path through a city may not be the best path to reach the destination without risking damage to your semi. The same cargo delivery point which seemed easy with a shorter trailer before can become a nightmare when you come next time with a 53-foot trailer.

A trailer's axle positioning will also challenge the players to expand the skills they are bringing over from driving trucks in Euro Truck Simulator 2. Double axle configurations are more common in the US, and certain configurations of axles will have a different tendency to jack-knife.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

World of Trucks report

We haven't reported much recently about what is going on with our World of Trucks vision. Yet through all our recent releases, in the deepest and darkest caverns of our office, a small team has been integrating networking code, programming the back-end servers, and establishing base economical design structures of World of Trucks. The project is very much alive, although we have to admit that we are slower in being able to roll out the first wave of features than we hoped a year ago.

We are about to achieve an internal milestone at last, and we'll start preparing the first proof of concept test with the World of Trucks community at large. The plan is to provide the facility to take jobs via the Job Market on the World of Trucks website to deliver inside our Euro Truck Simulator 2 game, and have the results reported and stats updated back on the WoTr site..

With such a system in place, we'll open up a route to do more frequent special events (still remember last XMas gift delivery event?). Thanks to a system of events or "quests" provided via World of Trucks, we should be able to spice up the experience for some of our most hard core players who play the game every day. But that's only a start, the "online jobs" system should be at the core of a major upgrade of World of Trucks eventually, providing robust Virtual Truck Companies support.

But for now, let's show you a hint of what's coming in the first wave. We call the new online delivery jobs "Contracts" - you will sign up for them directly from the World of Trucks website. In the current form, the presentation is a kind of mixture between Quick Jobs and Freight Market you are used to seeing in ETS2. It allows for performing the jobs using a stock truck as configured in the standard game, but it doesn't rule out the use of modded trucks. Completing the contracts will also still contribute to your progress through the normal campaign of the game, adding the appropriate XPs and money earned to your bank account.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Halloween DLC revisited

Greetings truckers!

Halloween is approaching, and we continue with our occassional habit of injecting older DLCs with new content. This time, our Halloween Paint Jobs Pack has received two new spooky decoration items for your interior as a bonus: Pumpkin Bobblehead and hanging Evil Bat.

Note: the new interior accessories are accessible only if you also already have installed the Cabin Accessories DLC activating the hook-up points.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Poznań Game Arena 2015

Last Friday we woke up in the middle of the night and drove over 500 kilometers to visit Poznań Game Arena - the biggest Polish gaming trade fair.

Our publishing partner IMGN.PRO kindly organised a gorgeous pre-release presentation of American Truck Simulator at PGA, with a total six stands where the visitors were able to preview the game.

Three of them were equipped with professional driving seats and high end Logitech steering wheels. All of that in order to give the thousands of visitors a chance to experience the driving in the best possible way.

We were positively shocked by the attention paid to American Truck Simulator by the visitors and media, the booth was crowded non-stop. We had an opportunity to answer on microphone quite a few questions regarding topics which are frequently raised by the fan community. We are embedding and invite you to watch a couple of interviews given during PGA which have been already uploaded online.

IMGN.PRO booth was also visited by several renowned YouTubers, including Wujek Bohun - the most recognizable Polish YouTuber focused on the simulator genre. Wujek was very kind to become the host of one of trailer parking competitions taking place in front of an 80-inch TV screen.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Trailer drop-off redesign

Today we would like to talk about a different approach to dropping off trailers at the destination for delivery that we are about to introduce with American Truck Simulator.

We wanted more variety, and implement it in a way similar to what would be happening in a real-world situation. Upon arrival to the destination, you are expected to stop at the gate's activation point (just as you already do when picking cargo in Freight Market). This emulates the dialogue the driver would have in this situation with his dispatcher or the gate-keeper to get instructions on the particular spot or bay for unloading.

The feature is still under evolution as we get lots of feedback from beta testing, but above you can see a possible - very schematic - user interface presentation we are trying now. (So far the feedback is telling us we need to be clearer about the kind of challenge ahead, so we may still improve the user interface.)

In American Truck Simulator, the majority of cargo terminals has been designed to contain several alternate spots for dropping off trailers. Some are easier to manoeuvre into, some harder. The game will select one of the more difficult spots randomly, and this will be the spot at which you are requested to drop the trailer off during this particular delivery. But a fall-back spot will be also offered for the drivers who don't feel up to the challenge (and there will also be an offer to skip any need for parking the trailer whatsoever, just as it was possible anytime in ETS2). There will also be varying XP rewards based on difficulty of the maneuvers needed to park the truck & trailer in the particular spot.

We believe that this added variety will be appreciated by our fans, it is kind of a mini-game inside the game that breaks up the monotony of deliveries that we had in ETS2. In fact if we do see positive feedback from ATS about it, over time we'd like to come and revisit our existing Euro Truck Simulator 2 cargo depots to allow for more spots for trailer drop-off as well.

If you are not in favor of more UI windows popping up on you and breaking your "flow" through the game, there will be a new entry in Gameplay Options to set your preference there - whether you always prefer to take on the more complex challenge - where the company "really" wants it - or just mostly settle for the easiest back-up unload spots.