Thursday, July 30, 2020

Iberian Energy

The Iberian Peninsula is the second largest European peninsula by area; with an estimated 53 million residents, the demand for electricity is more than ever before. So what are Spain and Portugal doing to make sure that there is enough energy for everyone? One of the many ways they are achieving this is by using modern energy sources instead of using traditional ones such as coal to generate electricity.

One of the more popular modern energy sources are solar panels, which uses the sun's energy (which Iberia has plenty of) as way of creating electricity. Today, solar panels have become common place across a lot of towns and cities, but are most effective when large amounts of them are used together on a solar farm. These areas covered by thousands of solar panels provide a sizeable chunk of Spain and Portugal electricity.

Another source of energy typical for the Iberian Peninsula is from wind captured at turbine farms found on hilltops, in valleys, and even offshore. These powerful wind turbines can produce enough electricity to power around 1,500 homes each!

There are of course also other sources generating electricity to meet all of Iberia's demand and we are working hard to represent this important industry in the upcoming Iberia DLC for Euro Truck Simulator 2, which will include new prefabs such as the abovementioned solar power plants found across the peninsula.

If you are a big fan of what you see, please consider adding Iberia to your Steam Wishlist! It really does help us and we thank you for your on-going support. You can also check out our InstagramTwitter, and Facebook profiles for more exclusive content.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Great Plains of Colorado

As one of the more diverse states in terms of geography and topography, the US region of Colorado is known for its national parks and modern cities. The state is especially famous for its Rocky Mountains, however, much of the eastern part of the region is dominated by a unique grassland that extends across the American continent.

From Northern Canada to Southern Texas, the Great Plains is an area that stretches more than eighteen hundred miles from north to south and more than five hundred miles from east to west. Today, much of this expansive prairie is used for agriculture that produces dozens of food and fiber products.

Wheat, barley, canola, corn, cotton, sorghum, and soybeans are just a few types of crops and produce planted and grown by farmers in the Great Plains; but that's not all! This large expanse of land is also perfect for grazing livestock, the majority of them being pigs and cattle.

In Colorado, nearly half of the states 66 million acres are dedicated just to farms and ranches, which makes it one of its largest industries. Drivers in our upcoming DLC will be sure to play a key role in contributing to this important economy and exporting the states produce across the states. From hay bales to farming equipment, truckers will be the backbone of making sure this important and large industry in Colorado keeps on moo-vin'!

If you think that Colorado for American Truck Simulator will be plain amazing, then be sure to add it your Steam Wishlist!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Under the Hood: How to Build a "Functional" Area for a Truck Simulator

Michal "Seki" Sekela has been working at SCS Software for a few years in the 3D Graphics Department. Together with our American Truck Simulator art team, he has worked on the Oregon and Washington map expansions and continues to work on upcoming content releasing this year. He shares the following with us.

We have covered the process of map creation in one of our previous blog posts, which is a highly complex task which our map team has been doing a fantastic job with. The job of a 3D graphics designer will probably be easier for you to understand, and we expect that most of you will have some idea about what this job entails. Let us show you a peek under-the-hood of the design and creation process of depots in American Truck Simulator; depots that may become a factory, an industrial area, a production complex, or a storage area.

A depot is also a place where we thoroughly test your driving and maneuvering skills while giving you a glimpse of the various industrial activities that you may typically find happening in such a location. In Seki's opinion, depots are the second most important part of the game, right after trucks. One might imagine that modeling a depot means having a 3D designer locking himself up in a dark room for weeks, while others peer through his/her door eagerly awaiting the final result. While some of this is true when finalizing the models, the process most-certainly involves more collaboration between departments.

The design draft of a selected location and its functionality is a multi-department process. This may involve our game-researchers, map designers, programmers, testers, and graphic artists. A researcher begins the process by scouring for information about the industry in its given location. At the same time, a map designer prepares a prototype of the surrounding road network and terrain; we need to know exactly what fits in the given area because we're limited by the game's 1:20 scale.

The United States is a massive country, so a lack of space is something that most companies need not worry about, which is evident with some factories stretching up to a few kilometers long. A 3D designer, therefore, has to come up with a solution to capture the essence of the location, while fitting within the limits presented by our scale (as we cannot utilise too much space for a single factory). The results must be acceptable when viewed from every angle; when players drive to such places, they should be able to recognize the location (with a little bit of "artistic license").

Some of the depots found in ATS are real-life landmarks. With these, we strive to preserve them in their truest form, given the constraints. We also have a lot of generic depots that are expected to be re-used; with these, we are trying to distill the typical patterns shared across a variety of real-world locations. Unfortunately, the architects of these buildings did not expect to have their designs featured in a video game. Consequently, our team has to come up with a three-pronged approach. Firstly, the depot has to make visual and logical sense, secondly, it has to fit in the map, and lastly, it must be completely functional for the player.

The biggest depot you will find in ATS covers 591,692 square feet. In this case, it's a landmark depot of course (take a guess what this might be). In most cases, we usually have smaller places in order to fit them into cities such as storage areas, supermarkets, and small service depots.

Right now we're trying to create depots that are as unique as possible. Since Oregon, these have consisted of a core area on which the player drives his/her truck, while additional parts are created and placed manually from suitable assets by the Map Designer responsible for this part of the map. Thanks to this we are able to create a more immersive experience for the player and give them a feeling of navigating within a large complex. Dividing the depot into parts also helps us to better customize and optimize it.

When we're certain what depots are coming, our researchers help us with the logic and functionality of said location. For example, a paper mill has a specific building layout, with each building serving a unique function. This research allows us to accurately represent this area in a realistic manner so that it lines-up with our real-life references. Another example is the food industry, where it is industry-standard to have the loading and unloading docks separated. This also means not placing trash cans too close to a place where new goods are accepted.

The 3D designer also has to take into account the length of the truck and trailer combination. At this time, we have trailer combinations up to 118 feet in length, when paired with the longest truck configurations. With the arrival of triple trailer combinations and oversized transports, we've had to adjust all of ATS' depots, so that a player can get in, hook up the trailer, and drive out.

After gathering all the necessary data, the 3D designer will create a placeholder model, where all the different depot parts and various parking locations (for the 3 different difficulty levels) are marked by simple shapes. What follows then is a back-and-forth between the 3D designer and our testers, who will test the depot thoroughly for gameplay and visual issues. Our testers' feedback allows us to adjust the model to fix any identified issues. This is not a quick or easy task, considering all the possible combinations. To hasten the process, the 3D designer is generally familiar with what is expected, and to apply these considerations to the initial prototype in advance. This is to prevent the testing/feedback process from taking too long before the depot is ready for final production. This and a great many other details depend on how experienced a 3D designer is, which is why only senior designers are working on depots here in SCS.

After all this, a Map Designer connects the placeholder model to the road network and the rest of the map. With that, the economy team starts working on the depot, and the Map Designer on the depot's surroundings. This is also the phase when the 3D designer can lock himself up in some dark basement and start modeling. He still needs to communicate with the rest of the team, so at the very least, he's got to have an internet connection there.

The whole process of depot-creation can take weeks or even months in really difficult cases. The depot's presence and quality grow incrementally in the map as the 3D designer updates it, while a map designer checks to make sure that everything is integrating properly. The depot's progress is also often consulted with our Art Lead. Modeling is pretty smooth-sailing when the necessary research and testing of the placeholder's layout is done.

And with this, we conclude this inside look into creating one of the major parts of a Euro/American Truck Simulator project. We hope you appreciate this small insight into the 3D graphics team, which doesn't only create vertices in the shape of a house but also has to devise and execute the entire depot-creation process. In the future, we are planning to build even more complex and impressive depots with the aces up our sleeves. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Euro Truck Simulator 2 1.38 Release

After an exciting week for American Truck Simulator with the arrival of Idaho, we are happy to announce the arrival of the 1.38 update for Euro Truck Simulator 2!

We'd like to thank all those who took part in the open beta and contributed with bug reports and general feedback. We hope you can now begin to fully enjoy the various new features which are included within this update. So, what can you expect to find in the 1.38 update ETS2? Lets us give you a quick recap of the most significant changes.

First of all, one of the more significant changes that drivers will notice across the map at most major cities in the introduction of newly designed and unique truck brand dealerships. All dealerships locations across the Euro Truck Simulator 2 map have received a refresh, so make sure to visit them in-game as you drive past (it is well worth the stop!). 

The French city of Lille has also received a reskin in this update. Some of the main changes include updates to road junctions, which have been re-worked and created with more accurate layouts. Road signs and roads, in general, have also been updated with more accurate, realistic, and detailed textures, along with new buildings and assets. If you happen to be passing by on delivery, we recommend making some extra time to see Lille for yourself.

We are also excited to introduce the inclusion of a computer graphics technique for efficiently approximating ambient occlusion effects in real-time. Screen Space Ambient Occlusion, better known in its shorter form SSAO, creates shadows in the areas where objects connect, to give it a more natural and believable look in terms of lighting and shadows.

Less powerful GPUs may struggle to keep up at full quality, and with 400% or similarly high scaling selected, even mid-range machines would feel the impact on fps. If you are not happy with framerate after this update, please open the advanced graphics options in the game and try to find the right combination of scaling and SSAO quality for you. With a weaker GPU, it may be advisable to switch off SSAO completely.

This new feature can be better explained by one of our senior programmers, be sure to read a more in-depth post about the topic at our Under the Hood blog post here.

We are also happy to introduce a long-requested update to the RGB Color Picker which drivers use to paint their trucks when purchasing or tuning their truck. You now have the option to input specific color inputs (HSV, RGB, and HEX).

We know that many drivers like to match their truck colors the same across their whole fleet, so we hope this feature is useful to you.

There have also been changes made to our GPS Route Advisor, which now features a cleaner and more modern-looking UI allowing for a larger on-screen map view. That's not all, however, as we also added new information for drivers using checkpoints for their journeys.

Players will now be able to see useful information on their next checkpoint markers such as the distance to their next checkpoint, and their estimated time of arrival through their GPS and world map.

The DAF XF Tuning Pack has also received a small update which will now allow all DAF trucks chassis covers to be painted. We look forward to seeing how drivers will take advantage of this new customization on their DAF fleet as we know many drivers like to match their truck colours.

The FH Tuning Pack for Volvo Trucks has also received a small update based on feedback from our community. Drivers can also expect to find new tuning parts including front wheel covers, side deflectors with LEDs, stock front bumpers and rear top fenders with plastic and chrome options. 

This isn't the only change however, as we also have included new horn models to better reflect the reality of the design of air horns. To reflect actual truck setups properly, our vehicle team has added new "pins" on truck cabins that are specific for air horns. We did our best with the research to make sure their locations are chosen on proper references, mostly on factory defaults, of course, but also taking into account what we could find in tuning photos from truck festivals. You can read more about their addition on a previous blog post.

We are also happy to bring 3 new Special Transport routes for drivers to take on in our latest map expansion for Euro Truck Simulator 2, Road to the Black Sea. These routes are:

Reșița to Târgu Mureș
İstanbul to Edirne
Pleven to Sofia

Each journey will come with its own challenges. So make sure to adhere instructions given on the GPS advisor and the speed limit which have been set out for you before your departure, as there is no room for mistakes!

This addition will come as a free update for owners of Road to the Black Sea and Special Transport for Euro Truck Simulator 2.

There is much more packed into this update!

  • Lille re-skin
  • Unique Truck Dealerships
  • Special Transport routes in Road to the Black Sea
    • Reșița to Târgu Mureș
    • İstanbul to Edirne
    • Pleven to Sofia
  • Automatic transmission improved (shifting points, adaptive modes)
  • Paintable chassis covers for XF Tuning Pack
  • New tuning parts added to the FH Tuning Pack
  • Roof Horns (standalone mountable accessories)
  • Renault Trucks Range T AI vehicles added (4x2, 6x2)

  • Visual improvement - procedural ambient occlusion generation (SSAO)
  • Route Advisor redesigned
  • Navigation ETA to the next waypoint in route adviser and in world map
  • Tobii eye-tracking presets
  • RGB color picker redesigned
    • Added RGB, HSV and hex inputs
    • User defined color presets

  • Update to FMOD 2.01.01
  • Individual horn sounds for each truck
  • Fixed the retarder sound when the engine is off
  • AI - exclusion of gear-shifts for trains and electric vehicles

To enjoy the 1.38 update, make sure to OPT OUT of beta branches and your game will be automatically updated on Steam.

For the legacy non-Steam edition of ETS2, the update should be ready in a few days.

Some mods, however, may have not caught up yet - this update may effectively break them. So remember that you can always stay on 1.37 or an even older branch. The way to access and select them is: Steam client → LIBRARY → right-click on Euro Truck Simulator 2 → Properties → Betas tab → select the version you want.