Sunday, December 10, 2023

Under the Hood - Custom Depots

It's been a while since we last delved 'Under the Hood' to give you a more in-depth look into the work happening behind the scenes at our offices. Today, we're happy to share with you a deeper insight into Custom Depots! This is a work in progress project that had its first iteration featured in our recently released Kansas DLC for American Truck Simulator, which will continue to be developed for future updates and map expansions. 

Whilst we are working on creating a new map DLC, members primarily from the asset teams create depots, a type of prefab that are built upon further to create the unique industries which we know and see in-game. Previously, these depots took quite a while to create, and often resulted in industries with similar layouts and cargo delivery spots. 

However, with the creation of the Kansas DLC, the teams have created a new functioning 'Custom Depot'. This new change allows for our map team to have more customisation control over the depot's layout, both visually and gameplay wise. This brings a number of new options to the table which will ultimately allow for a more realistic and variable gameplay experience when it comes to delivering to and from these custom depots in-game. 

Starting with Farming and Agriculture depots, this new technology allows us to make every crop farm in the Kansas DLC unique not only visually but also functionally. One of the team members working on this project is Veronika B, one of our Depot & Asset Producers. We spoke with her a little more to understand the work being carried out, and what it means for players. 

"We try to add new depot sites with every map DLC" Veronika tells us. "Previously, creating depots was quite a complicated process. Each new depot had a cross-department "lifecycle" which started from research and went onwards to asset designers, then onto QA testing where it was then passed back to the map designers for implementation. We also receive help from Vehicles team (for new cargoes that usually complement new depots in DLCs), asset designers for in-game company branding or additional assets. Some depots can take a few months to create" 

"In the case of Custom Depots, Map Designers are now able to create a majority of the depot with separate models and also add new company items on the prefab to be connected to our road system. The Map Designer becomes the main creator and can also decide where drivers should deliver their loads"

We spoke with one of our Map Designers, David F about the change, and how he found working on the new custom depots. "It is a pretty big challenge, but that's what makes this part of map designing even more attractive for me." David tells us. "As a Map Designer, you have to think about every possibility where players can go, as well as what they can see and do there. It also has to be enjoyable for the player to navigate and explore that place, so it's a pretty big responsibility for us."

"You can imagine this project in three phases. The first phase is carrying out research for every type of depot and their parts." David goes on to explain, "We find a huge amount of information on the depot. For example with farms, how they look, how they work, which cargos are involved and so on. This knowledge is necessary as it would not be possible for us to build it otherwise! So I want to give a big shout-out to our research team, they are doing a great job."

"The Second phase is about creating the layout of the depot, where we focus on parking spots, where players load and unload their cargo. When we are happy with the layout, we have our Q&A team check it, and to find any potential issues with that depot. In this phase we also discuss with the asset team about new models. The Third phase is about "making it nice", so we work hard to bring the depot to life with custom models and assets and prepare the depot for integration into the map."

"Luckily, our team is not alone in the task of creating these new custom depots. We are part of a big team with colleagues from multiple departments involved, which I am very happy about, because the passion of every member brings something new to this job which I love!"

"Until today, we had only one prefab before Texas DLC for grain elevators. The map designer would use it and create the surroundings as he wished, but the core of the site (depot itself) remained the same and was somewhat rigid." Veronika shares with us,  "However in the Kansas DLC, players can discover 6 different grain elevators, a majority of which are based off of real life industry references from the actual city where they are found." 

While this project is still in its first phase, Veronika tells us that in the future they hope to continue to further develop custom depots. "We already have plans to use a mix of rigid depots and custom ones for both ETS2 and ATS too" Veronika tells us. "I cannot share more, but we already have ideas in the works to support map designers with documentation, references, share feedback (from research, QA, asset teams that normally create rigid prefabs) and bring players more unique sites for hauling."

However, this new technique of creating custom depots does not mean all future depots will be created this way. Our teams carefully select which depots should be custom created, but rest assured, we have lots of ideas on how we can best utilize them. We are sure the community will have a lot to look forward to.

"I am very happy with the work of map designers, we know it hasn't been an easy task." Veronika shares with us. "I'd like to thank those from Research, QA, Programmers, Vehicles and Assets who helped us understand Farms and Grain Elevators, unload/load points, and to fill the scene with unique models, as well as using our new company items" 

"I hope that players enjoy these depots in Kansas DLC. We look forward to hopefully bringing more of them in the near future, with some potentially exciting gameplay features in the works for other industries too! It's not an easy task to create them, but we look forward to the challenge" 

We hope to bring you more news on the development of Custom Depots in the near future. You can check out the first iteration of these depots in the recently released Kansas DLC for American Truck Simulator. Let us know if you've delivered to one already!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Spam, offensive, hateful and other inappropriate comments will be removed and authors may be permanently restricted from commenting.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.