Friday, January 31, 2020

Under the Hood: How to build a world for American Truck Simulator

This article was originally created for Vortex, Czech-based media. Due to the growing interest in different positions in SCS, we decided to translate the whole mini-series of these talks to publish here, on our blog. Today, we bring you first episode, featuring Ondřej "Duffator" Dufek - ATS world architect


When I meet someone for the first time, they often ask "So, what do you do exactly?". "I make video games, I'm a game developer" I often say, expecting more questions to follow. "Oh, interesting, sounds cool" they respond, but I can tell that they don't understand what that means and continue to ask more. "So work in programming or graphics?" is a common follow up question. "Neither, I'm a Map Designer" which is usually followed by more confusion. And that's why I'm here - to explain what exactly a Map Designer in SCS Software does for a living.

As the name suggests, the main role of a Map Designer is to create maps. Our job is to create a virtual world and environment in which a player travels and works. In SCS Software as you know, we create truck simulators, so we have to create everything you could possibly see outside of your virtual truck's window.


"Ah, so you create 3D Graphics!" is probably the main thought running through your mind right now, but that isn't entirely true. To clarify what we do more, I like to think about map designing similar to building with Lego bricks or playing Minecraft. Being a Map Designer isn't about making an individual cube or element, nor does he create a specific model such as a house, bench, tree. All of these are created by his colleagues in the asset department, so he can put them together in a map editor, creating a small part of our open world. With enough trees, you'll get a forest, with a number of buildings, you'll make a town. We're called Map Designers because our game space isn't composed of individual game levels, it is an open world which we watch mostly from a birds-eye view. So the comparison to the creation of a map offers itself.


Nevertheless, that would be a very simplified description of our work. The important word in the job title is "designer" - a man or woman designing something (not just a car or electric kettle).

Our game world is stylized, a miniature variant of the real world. Due to the technical requirements and manpower, it has been created in a 1:20 scale. So a designer has to choose one thing out of twenty and drop the rest, there isn't space for more. It's a pretty hard decision and one of the first and foremost duties of a map designer, to what he wants to create.

For example - take a process of road-making. Think of a section of road with the surrounding country, which connects two cities. The goal is to find out as much relevant information about it as possible (the length, height, what landmarks are there, points of interest, climates, landscapes etc) to create a draft which s/he will able to process and finalize. So the task at hand is mainly about filtering and the priority of information, along with staying within the boundaries of limitations.

And what limits are we talking about? Everything! - from scale, time, resources available and more. The real world is unique, and almost every place is original. Unfortunately, we can't afford such a luxury in our game world, where the number of available models we can use is limited. Designers must make up their mind of which models to use, and where to place them. For example, which house is most similar to the pattern found in the real world, how it could be improved using his or her 'artistic license' to stylize the in-game world. Another limitation is technology, unlike pre-rendered animations, our world must draw itself in real-time using various PC configurations. We can't fill it with an unlimited number of models and details. Another limitation is surveillance distance, which is the number of reflections in mirrors or water surfaces. All of these aspects directly influence the output and framerate. And the last big limitation is time. Our players expect a new expansion in a reasonable amount of time, so we can't take too long with our production.

In our studies of the road section we are working on, we find out the most characteristic details of the road and see if it is possible to re-create these in-game. The goal is to transfer the look and design into our virtual world. In an ideal case, a map designer creates a landmark on a 1:1 scale. During the 1:20 compression, it's impossible for us to include all of the most interesting places, as they would be located next to each other (due to the scale), which would not be true to life or distance. So our task is to combine both interesting landmarks between longer stretches of road to make them stand out. For example, if a 20km stretch of road had three farms and a large forest, it would end up likely two of the farms and a majority of the forest would be removed to correctly imitate the real-life landscape on a 1:20 scale. Another task of map designer is to connect different types of landscapes together and to create a smooth transition when travelling between forests and towns.

And that is what a map designer job consists of. Finding solutions to various design, technical and artistic obstacles. Whether it be a virtual city, junction, or dirt road, it is a combination of art and technical skills to be able to find a creative solution.

So I hope this very explanation helps you understand a bit more about what a 'map designer' does. If we we're to go in-depth into all the nitty-gritty details of our work, we would need a series of articles, perhaps a documentary! Let us know if you enjoyed the general theme of this blog, and if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

A Look Back at 2019

2019 was one of the busiest years in terms of releases for our company. As you can see by the amount of blog & social posts last year; our teams worked hard throughout the year to bring you new map expansions, trucks, DLC's, updates & more.

To help put things into perspective, we created a short compilation of all the major releases, events and updates from 2019 in a short wrap-up video. It's hard to believe all of this was accomplished in one year!


With a new year ahead of us, we are already working hard on many new updates, map expansions, vehicles, World of Trucks events and new public events to attend. Some of these have been mentioned in one our recent previous blog posts; however with a bit of luck, we hope to surprise you with a few more additional extras for you to enjoy around the releases you normally would be expecting from us.

Be sure to keep an eye right here on the blog and on our social media channels for news, teasers and more! What was your favourite release, update or event of 2019? Share with us your comments below. 

Friday, January 24, 2020

Lunar Year of the Rat - 鼠年吉祥

Happy Lunar New Year 2020 from all of us here at SCS Software, we wish you all good health and good fortune!

This year marks the Zodiac sign of the Rat, which is best known for being intelligent, optimistic & adaptable. It is also the first of the repeating 12-year cycle of animals which appear which is why 2020 is considered a year of new beginnings and renewals.


With more than 20% of the world celebrating the Lunar New Year, we have also joined in the celebrations by adding a new 'Year of the Rat' paint job as a free addition for all owners of the Chinese Paint Job Pack for Euro Truck Simulator 2.

Be sure to share your New Year celebrations with us on Weibo, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Happy New Year!


农历鼠年 - 鼠年吉祥

SCS Software 的全体员工在此祝大家春节快乐,祝福所有人身体健康,好运连连!

今年是十二生肖中的鼠年,而鼠以机灵、乐观和生命力强为象征。鼠是十二生肖之首,这也意味着2020年是新的开始、新轮回的开端。

全世界有超过20%的人共同庆祝中国春节,我们也决定通过为所有拥有欧洲卡车模拟2中国涂装包的玩家免费增加一个新的附加内容‘鼠年’涂装,以此融入到今年的庆祝氛围中。

请记得在微博推特InstagramFacebook 上与我们分享新年祝福。新年快乐!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Idaho: Landmark Prefabs

Many people don't know much about Idaho beside its famous potatoes, but there is much more to be discovered across this U.S. state. Today, we'd like to share with you an early preview of some of the landmark prefabs you will be able to see on your future travels.


With new technology and skills learnt from previous map expansions, our teams have been working hard refreshing and remaking older prefabs to create them in a more realistic light. From the release of Idaho onwards, we will be using a new approach to refresh the look of older prefabs, and re-making them with a more modern look and feel that will help them blend into their new surroundings.


As you can see, there is quite the variety of buildings; from traditional lumber built structures to modern luxury holiday resorts. Along with these beautiful sites to see on your journey through Idaho, you will also be able to deliver from many different industry facilities. These of which have been created with more modular, open and richer environments, with the new skills and reskinning techniques we have learnt.


We hope you enjoyed your first glimpse of what Idaho will offer, can you recognise any of landmarks? Be sure to let us know in the comments or on social media where you can find more unique images from Idaho! Be sure to add Idaho to your Steam Wishlist, it really helps us!

Monday, January 20, 2020

SCS Video Contest 2020

With the release of our latest and newest content, we have received a large number of screenshots, videos and more across our social media channels and forums. Last year we organized a contest that gave the opportunity to the creative film-makers of our community to show off their work. This year we're not only repeating that, but also including American Truck Simulator and Euro Truck Simulator 2 together.

So, to celebrate last year's releases, the focus of the video can be either Road to the Black Sea, Washington or Utah - featured together or alone - your choice. But you have to focus on one game, you can't mix both our simulators together.


From this point on, the contest is now live! Anyone willing to show their creative filming skills is welcome to do so by creating a trailer-like video with any of last year's map expansions as the main focus, and with the freedom to use any and all of the other DLCs for our games.

The 5 best videos will be selected by SCS Software staff and all five winners will receive a coupon allowing them to spend 100 EUR on anything in SCS Software's Merchandise e-shop, plus 1 Steam key for Euro Truck Simulator 2 – Iberia or 1 Steam key for American Truck Simulator – Idaho!

Shipping costs will also be covered by SCS Software, to make it fair for all of our fans around the globe, as we're aware that shipping cost might cast a shadow on the excitement of winning. In the event of a really high number of participants with quality entries, we may throw in some more rewards.

Keep in mind that your videos should be somewhat movie-like and cinematic. Normal "Let's play" videos won't be accepted. After-effects and editing is allowed.


Conditions (read carefully - you need to meet all of them):
  • You must use the standard game & DLC only (SCS content) - using any 3rd party mod will disqualify you from the contest; so only the base game and any of our official DLCs are allowed
  • Dev camera (free camera) can be used, as well as any other game functions (config edit is allowed completely)
  • You may use any truck & trailer combination(s)
  • The video must be shot primarily in locations from Road to the Black Sea, Washington and the Utah map expansion.
  • The form of the video is completely up to you, but remember to keep your original video file, and of course, keep any revenue if you are a semi-pro creator (see our monetization licence).
  • All videos have to be uploaded to YouTube as a publicly available video and we'll be happy to embed the worthwhile entries into our social media feeds as they reach us to help you boost the viewer numbers.
  • Music featured in the video is up to you, but since the video needs to be on YouTube, it must follow YouTube content and copyright policy
  • One video entry per person
  • To participate you have to send the direct YouTube link  together with your name/nickname to contest@scssoft.com – Subject of the email has to be "SCS Video Contest 2020"

Technical parameters:
  • Length: 90-120 seconds (not less than 90, not more than 120)
  • Resolution: 1920x1080 or higher.

16. February 2020 23:59 UTC is the deadline - entries received after this time won't be accepted.


 - Full terms and conditions are available here -

Friday, January 17, 2020

Humble Australia Fire Relief Bundle

As many of you may be aware, Australia has been under a state of emergency due to the large amount of bushfires which have spread uncontrollably across approximately 103,000 square km of land. Fueled by drought and extreme heat, the bushfires have burned across much of the country since September, and have caused devastation to many homes, towns, forests and animals.

To help with the relief efforts of this devastating disaster, we have joined forces with other great game developers and Humble Bundle to release a special one-week game charity bundle which features over $400 in games for just $25 or more.
100% of the proceeds from your bundle purchase go to help wildlife and animals affected by the Australian bushfires which can be purchased here.


Many of the games included are personal favorites among our team here at SCS Software, and include some great indie titles. Let's see what our developers have to say about some of them!

Tomáš "Timmy" Duda, duck thief:
Assault Android Cactus+ - The best twin-stick shooter I've ever played. A very fun fast paced game with cute little android characters, amazing soundtrack (I keep singing the game over song), cool boss designs, leaderboards and a lot of unlockables.
Paradigm - Hilarious point and click adventure game with a handsome mutant, a genetically engineered sloth that vomits candy and phat beatsies.

Ondřej "Duff" Dufek, ATS map DLC lead:
Tower of Guns - The name says it all. First person bullet hell shooter. Do you like quirky humour and silly guns? Play this game.
Frog Detective - Yeah, again, the name says it all. You are a frog and a detective, with a really useful magnifying glass. Use it to solve the mystery, or not. Really funny short game with great characters, deadpan humour and wicked dance moves.
Machinarium - Adventure classic. How come you haven't played it already? It celebrates its 10th anniversary. Great puzzles, magnificent art style and the soundtrack, ahh, the soundtrack...

Martin "Dirk" Haustein, ETS2 research lead:
Mr. Shifty - Another take on Hotline Miami-esque game, but by no means just a copy. The teleport mechanic makes all the difference and in the end makes this an enjoyable though short game. The story is pretty much just "someone stole some plutonium" but still manages to be witty and make you smile.
Hand of Fate 2 - If you played first one, this is pretty much the same thing, just more of it. There are new weapons, enemies, companions, quests, but in the end you are still just a card in the hand of the dealer.

Patrik Rak, programming lead:
FRAMED Collection - Hard-boiled noir detective comic book puzzle game! It's really fun to try different outcomes by rearranging the panels. Experiencing different failures is as interesting as finding out the correct solution.
Satellite Reign - Spiritual successor to the original Syndicate. A futuristic cyberpunk game focused on stealth with a lot of Blade Runner vibes.

Katerina Chatzimichalaki, World of Trucks programmer:
Hollow Knight - Cute little metroidvania game with tight gameplay, beautiful soundtrack and art style and satisfying story. It is extremely exciting that there is more to come on the next installment Hollow Knight: Silksong.
Hacknet - A terminal-based hacking simulator with a mysterious storyline, and a great soundtrack that helps you get even more immersed to the hacking contract at hand.

You can find many more great games in this bundle from Australian developers and also by developers all around the world. You can also find there our own title Euro Truck Simulator 2 bundled with the Australian Paint Job Pack which features Aboriginal art and kangaroos to paint your truck with. Be sure to share your support by using the Hashtag #HaulForAustralia on our Twitter & Instagram!

You can help make a difference by doing what many of us do best, which is play games! We thank you for your support in advance if you choose to purchase this special bundle. You can purchase the Humble Australia Fire Relief Bundle here.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Christmas Event Wrap Up

Just like that, the Christmas Grand Giving event has ended, where did the time go? With drivers from across the world participating in both Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator, we have seen communities unite to deliver gifts and earn stars for cities across the trucking universe.


With brightly-decorated Christmas gift trailers and festive painted trucks, you set out on December 17th to deliver Christmas cargo and hit milestones with the help of our city star tracker in-game and on WorldofTrucks.com. In less than 48 hours, you reached the first milestone of 200 stars (200,000 deliveries) and the first community reward!

It was clear from that time onwards that our #BestCommunityEver was set on working hard over the festive season, earning stars across the map. By December 28th, you had earned 1000 stars (1,000,000 deliveries), reaching a special community reward milestone! We couldn't have been more impressed with the amount of deliveries completed and how drivers came together to help cities with fewer stars reach their maximum potential.


You also flooded our social media channels with many pictures & videos, with hundreds upon hundreds of posts on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #XmasGrandGiving. It was great to see truckers from all around the world participate in this event. Thank you to everyone who shared their delivery progress with us!

To those who went the extra mile to earn stars for cities, your work has not gone unnoticed. Thanks to your dedication, anyone who delivered 13+ deliveries will be given one of the final rewards, The Diamond Star; those who went all-out and doubled their delivery count (24+) will be gifted the Diamond and the final Grand Star!


To every driver who took to the roads and delivered gifts in this event, thank you! It brings a lot of joy to our team to know how much you enjoy these events, and we hope to bring more of them to you in the future. Until next Christmas!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

2020: Looking Forward


It's the beginning of a new and exciting year for SCS Software. We decided to end 2019 with a bang during our Christmas stream, with our surprise announcement of our next map expansion for both of our trucking titles. We also shared information on what you can expect to see arriving in the next update, which we will briefly recap some of the main points here.


Idaho known for its mountainous landscape, rivers and it's world famous potatoes will be the next U.S state to be released for American Truck Simulator. Be sure to check out the Steam store page, with exclusive images.


It's time to head south to warmer climates to the Iberian Peninsula! The next map expansion to arrive for Euro Truck Simulator 2, will feature coastline roads, major cities and beautiful countryside. Don't forget to add it to your Steam Wishlist, it really helps us.

Although these two map expansions have been announced sooner than previous DLC's, this does not indicate they will be released at an earlier time. This is because our main focus for the first half of the year will be spent working with the technical side of our truck sims. In our next planned 1.37 update, we will be changing the way you hear, as we introduce a new sound engine, FMOD. This will allow for the inclusion of more realistic environment sounds (such as nature, city traffic and trains), as-well as an improvement to how your truck sounds on different roads.

Thereafter, update 1.38 will bring new graphical updates to our trucking titles. A re-work of lighting, assets and more are being worked on to make sure the beauty of our game can really shine this year. All of these new changes are thanks to the introduction of DirectX 11. You can find a more detailed wrap-up of all the communities hottest questions for what the future holds!


However, these aren't the only projects on our pipeline! Our teams are currently working hard on creating several new trucks that we'd like to release in the future, as well as tuning packs for existing ones. World of Trucks events are also in the planning stages for this year, with lots of exciting ideas on the table, we hope to bring the community together for more exciting scenarios and rewards.

With all of this exciting content to arrive this year, please keep in mind the size of some these projects, which may take longer than one might expect, as our teams work with new tools and technology. Be sure to keep an eye on our blog and social media channels for more news on these exciting updates in the future. We thank you for all your support, and we can't wait to show you more.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Blender Tools 2.0

Since we started game development, we knew that having an enthusiastic modding community is a real blessing in this industry. With that in mind, years ago we decided to bring to our community the ultimate toolchain for anyone willing to create content for our in-game worlds and to create mods for our titles. Blender Tools supports the complete creation pipeline of any type of in-game items such as trucks, AI vehicles, models, prefabs (including support for all possible locators including AI traffic lines) and many other game assets found in both Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator.


During all those years not only has Blender Tools evolved, but Blender did too. The Blender 2.8 project was started several years ago and since its release last year, it has delivered massive changes all around. Including a big UI overhaul, new EEVEE render engine and a lot of underlying data structure changes also. Thus we were put up to a big overwrite of our tools and today we are proud to announce that Blender Tools 2.0 has arrived, supporting all new Blender 2.81 features. We have rewritten our whole material setup code to work with new render engine, which brings you even more in-game like result within Blender itself.

Thanks to the more efficient rendering of our 3D elements (locators, AI traffic lines) and rewritten several internal handlers, start-up, file saving and the overall experience should be smoother than it was ever before. As a cherry on the top of the cake, we would like to mention the new SCS Tools main menu, which enables you easy access to all Blender Tools functions and properties in one place.

These pictures show the new version in use with the truck pipeline, animations, prefab visualisation and the new SCS Main menu, in which you can find everything our Blender Tools offers.

The limits are bound only by you and your creativity! If you want to join the more creative part of the community, download Blender 2.81 here and Blender Tools here (additional info might be found on our modding wiki).

We will constantly update this toolchain, making improvements based on the feedback from our community to make it easier for them to continue doing what they do best. Or we should say a legendary 50keda will, as he's the one doing all the work there!

Do join the Blender Tools general discussion and report the bugs you'll find, please - it's helping a lot!

Changelog:

Ported to Blender 2.81 (this is THE big step, as half of tools had to be rewritten for version 2.8)
  • Complete rewrite of viewport rendering based on EEVEE renderer
  • Complete rewrite of custom 3D elements drawing (up to 16x times faster!)
  • Complete rewrite of callbacks routines (should be less CPU consuming now)
  • UI redesign to Blender 2.8 (sub-panels, icon themes, panels moved to more appropriate tabs)
Other changes:
  • New SCS Tools main menu
  • New caching system for libraries for the instant start-up of Blender
  • New "Merge SCS Materials" operator
  • New "Relocate Roots" operator
  • Simplified lighting setup using reference lighting by default, without extra climate profile
  • Improved blender file save speeds, should be instant now
  • Added compatibility code to load old blend files (saved with SCS Blender Tools v1.12)
  • Numerous other new features & improvements (see full changelog)