Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Under The Hood: US Traffic Signs

Welcome back to the fourth article of the 'Under the Hood' series. Today, we're going to take a look at the traffic signs in our games, specifically focusing on American Truck Simulator development.

As our experience and our team size are growing, we can afford to dedicate more attention and development time to various aspects of our game world. Traffic signs are no exception. During the early years of development, with a relatively small development team, we had to take a lot of shortcuts and simplifications to finish the project in a reasonable time. Looking back, we now realize that our first take at the arrangement of traffic signs as used in our rendition of California and Nevada left much to be desired. From our perspective of a developer based in Europe, we thought it was believable, when in fact we have unknowingly omitted quite important building blocks of the whole logical system.

We have focused a lot more on research in the past year, and managed to dedicate enough manpower to road signs. Especially for drivers with actual experience from US roads, this is going to be very noticeable in New Mexico

It's not just about the look of individual signs, their shape, dimensions, color, numbering, or proper font choice - these are non-negotiable of course. We now have a very flexible toolset at our disposal to compose a sign from its elements. We can also choose specific details that are particular to a given state or region, like different poles. But ultimately, it's about the whole system.

New Mexico DLC marks the start of a new era, taking advantage of the new set of traffic sign building blocks. The new set is also used when building the next ATS world region, which is already very much under development.

For future game updates, we have a plan in place and capacity reserved to also revisit the "older" states of American Truck Simulator, to make the signs more accurate. So you can look forward to further improvements in California, Nevada, and Arizona.

As you can see in the images, our asset designers have created a new set consisting of about 200 new traffic signs. Our programmers have come up with a new system, allowing the map designers to use and combine the base and info part of the traffic signs from a wide variety of options. This efficient new system will be useful for example for traffic sign poles made out of wood instead of the more typically used metal.

Only overhead traffic signs on our highways? Not anymore, because we've also created several new types of traffic sign placement. There will be signs placed on highway bridges you're just passing under, affixed to sound barriers placed alongside the road, and so on, just like in real life. We are doing some tweaks and upgrades to the standard overhead signs. We can now appreciate even small details like the difference between the placement and style of how the exit number is positioned. With all these upgrades we're trying to cover as many specifications per state as possible.

You can also look forward to meeting some diagram traffic signs, showing a schematic drawing of the upcoming intersection. We can also work better with "control cities" on highway signs. Eventually, even though for sign placements we are somewhat limited by the 1:20 scale of our world compared to reality, our ambition is to have 100% realistic road signs in American Truck Simulator.

Please let us know your opinions, wishes and suggestions, or which topic should we cover next our 'Under The Hood' series articles.

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