Thursday, January 6, 2011

Your comments and speculation on Bus Driver 2

I feel that it would be appropriate to address the avalanche of recent comments.

We're getting 20-30 e-mails every day with feature suggestions, wishes for future games, gripes about problems, all kinds of input and feedback. It is absolutely beyond our man power to respond to this constant stream of messages (but rest assured that we do read them all). This blog was born out of need to have a platform to talk back to the community, as we really don't have the bandwidth to respond to individual fans. We can only hope that you are a bit happier with us now; you can hear far more frequently from us this way than during the past years.

Regarding a new bus sim game and how easy it is to build it or not - SCS is really a small company, and we just cannot double our size overnight even if we wanted to. We cannot just hire a bunch of guys off the street and expect them to be done with a new good quality game 12 months later, and then dump them to the street again. It takes experience, and it takes experienced leads spending their time teaching new guys the tricks of the trade, the specifics of our engine and content pipeline. This is especially true for programming tasks, even though it applies to map design and 3D/2D art too. A new project always means disruption to other projects under development. We know it all too well, as we often were forced to work on multiple projects in parallel to keep the company afloat.

As for the idea that we can do a new bus game cheaply ("just throw in 10 good bus models") - well with the quality bar expectations ever raising, this is far from cheap. Models of our Euro 2 tractors take over 2 months to create - perhaps 40% time is spent on exterior, but majority of time goes into interior, then there are animations and paintjobs. So we are talking spending some 20 man-months just on a few buses. Add to it the investment into world creation and programming of the game, and easily you are talking 100+ man-months. I am not even counting the need to create and animate pedestrians and passengers, surely you would expect them in a game about transporting people released these days, so most likely even more development time would be needed. So maybe 120 or 150 man-months ? You do the math on the budget needed.

This is the cost that we need to feel confident we can earn back. Well in fact as we are very conservative about borrowing money from somebody else and then having them dictate their terms to us (years of working as contractors have taught us the value of independence), we first need to be confident that we can self-finance such a project through its development, which is even higher hurdle to jump. And again as I said above, the game is either built by the current team members, interrupting our work on truck sim games, or is built by new people who are supervised by current team members, still delaying current work.

Don't get me wrong, we would LOVE to be able to create a new bus game. We are proud of the original Bus Driver, it was small and far from perfect, we had to take a lot of shortcuts to get this out on a shoestring budget, but it was actually our very first "big" independently developed driving game, after years of working only as low-paid contractors on somebody else's intellectual property. So you see where our preferences were. Hopefully one day we'll be in position to greenlight such a project, but not in foreseeable future, certainly not before Euro Truck Simulator 2 is finished, and before it hopefully makes us some money to sustain us through the next project or projects.

Pavel a.k.a. Sabre
SCS Software