Sunday, March 10, 2024

Under The Hood: Christmas Winterland Event

In December, we launched the Christmas Winterland event for Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator. This ended up being one of our biggest and most successful World of Trucks events in which truckers completed over 2,600,000 deliveries. Recently, we spoke with some of the developers responsible for creating the event to bring you another "Under the Hood" blog.

As this project involved dozens of people, we couldn't interview everyone, so we selected a few of them from various departments to bring you an insight into their work on the magical Christmas Winterland! Let's take a look at how we put this exciting event together.


"It was the largest World of Trucks event we've ever produced, incomparable with anything previously attempted. We wanted something more engaging and visually stimulating than previous Christmas events, but the final result was much larger than what we initially discussed," says Gavin, our game designer.

The discussions about the Christmas event first took place in November 2022, so more than a year before its release. "The initial idea we had for this project was to create a wintery and magical depot, impressive in looks, with an environment attractive enough that you would be willing to come back to it for the duration of the event, with three portal entrances offering different routes to reach the depot," Gavin shares with us.

An event this big required everyone to chip in to make it on time so we could deliver the Winterland to our community in perfect shape. "A lot of people were involved! There were sixty people in the event channel on our internal communication platform. On the whole, the event called upon many disciplines; gameplay and event design, production, map design, asset design and research, vehicles, technical art, programming, audio design, 2D graphic design, quality assurance, and marketing. It was the incredible effort made by all the teams that made this event possible," Gavin tells us.

Lucie, our producer, managed the Christmas Winterland map and asset production, which required facilitating communication and assisting all teams in identifying and resolving issues. Her previous map designer experience was of great help in this process.


"It was my first project and it wasn't exactly a small one. Challenges were found almost every other day, from unfixed bugs to lost assets, and map hacks. All year I acted as a sort of organizational glue connecting people pushing the production forward and doing everything I could to make sure we got it done in the end and surprised our community. I'm so happy that we did it together and it was a great honor to work with everyone," Lucie reflected on her work on this project.

The magical snowy Christmas Winterland map was created by our map designer Milan who walks us through the process: "The map was done in several steps and it was a bit different from a normal production. We had to find an angle that had the reality of trucking while evoking the festive and slightly fairy-tale feeling of Winterland. We ultimately chose a world resembling old Christmas postcards. We also tackled the size and content of the map, the result was determined by the time limit we had. Also due to this, the map creation was done through the heavy use of placeholders and alternate solutions, which pushed the final testing phase a bit and led to some hectic work at the end of the project. But otherwise, it was enjoyable, thanks to the enthusiasm of everyone involved."

"Probably the most complicated part of the whole project was the fact that the map and the assets had to work for both ETS2 and ATS and since it was the first time we did such a thing, it was not without problems. But we made it," Milan says.

What makes every map come to life are the assets such as houses or cars and the surroundings. In Winterland, we had to give them a layer of snow for the first time which was quite challenging as Anna told us.


"I used procedural generators to decorate and cover most of the assets on the map with snow. The biggest challenge was to maintain a balance between beautiful visuals and performance. Due to the geometry of the snow, the 3D model polycount was significantly higher than our usual standard. We had about two hundred such models in Winterland, so there was a bit of a risk. Players could officially see snow for the first time, that's why everyone on our team was excited to give the best Christmas gift to our best community," says Anna, our artist.

The first part of work on the assets was done by our research team who gathered reference material as guidance and inspiration for our asset makers.


"This event was special for ATS & ETS2 in many ways, it was important to gather all possible references and inspiration that would help the process of creating the Christmas map. Part of that work was also the design of Christmas depots, including their brands. We made sure they felt warm, welcoming, and in the right spirit for the event. That was the fun part for us," says Mary, our researcher.

Not only did we come up with a new map, but we also made specific trailer and truck paint jobs for this event which turned out to be more difficult than one might think. Tomáš, our graphic designer responsible for the paint jobs, told us more about it. 


"The main goal was to come up with 5 trailers, each representing a specific Winterland depot. Dealing with the paint job was complicated, as it had to be compatible with both European and American trailers, which differ in size. In the end, we created one identical frame that was the same for all the trailers, but only the inside of the frame was changed."

"The next step was to come up with a paint job for the truck that would match all the trailers. As with the trailers, we created a single paint job for the cab that was compatible with both ETS2 and ATS. Despite the initial nervousness, I ended up appreciating that the team gave me this task and I was able to be part of my first big project which allowed me to develop some new skills. I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the success of this project," Tomáš says.

The Character Assets department had a lot of work on their plate. They had to develop completely new characters for the Winterland map and create new animations for them. The most memorable ones were probably the ice skaters on the frozen pond.


"For the event, we have created an extensive list of new characters and their animations in winter clothes with a sufficient number of variants - 16 women and 8 men with 10 versions of each character. In addition to human characters, a group of reindeer and an animation of the crank mechanism of a steam locomotive were created for this event. Another task we participated in was the modification and creation of new particle emitters like snow coming from the truck and trailer wheels and different types of smoke from chimneys and the locomotive," says Rado, our Character Assets lead.

Another task the team had to tackle was the design and implementation of the portal tech. "Early in the project, we decided that each generated Christmas event job should have a decent selection of portals available nearby. We also did not want to place the portals at services or garages; those would not feel magical enough. In the end, we decided to use parking areas outside of cities," Sipak, our programmer, says.

"This was a challenging task since parking areas weren't designed to support the spawning of vehicles after players teleported there. We developed a set of algorithms that automatically decided which parking areas are suitable for portals, find safe spots where the player's vehicle teleports to, and decide which portals to use so it's neither too far from nor too close to the destination and also on the correct side of the highway. We also had to teach the servers about the portals to enable them to generate the event jobs, and to update the game's UI in many places to correctly support jobs where the player, not the GPS, chooses the path," Sipak shares with us.

To add as much realism as possible, we also needed to adjust the truck's physics of driving on snow and ice, which our programmer Max told us about.


"Creating the support for snow, snowy roads, and ice physics simulation was fun indeed. Since we introduced an electronic stability protocol with more precise simulation and refined physical behavior in the previous update, we could make use of that even further. The rest was just a matter of fine-tuning the ABS, ASR, and automatic gearbox shifting conditions to fit the new terrains and physical materials. Now we have another source of trucking fun, especially if you disable all those assistants," Max told us.

And we cannot forget about those beautiful cabin accessories you received if you successfully completed the event! Those cute Christmas-themed decorations were made by our graphic designer, Wolfka.


"This year, thanks to a completely new map for the Christmas event, the approach to inventing accessories was a little different than in previous years. In the past, the overall theme of the event was more of an issue, but this year it was necessary to connect the interior decorations to the individual depots the players were going to while still maintaining the connection to Christmas and the event theme. The biggest challenge in creating the Christmas toys was to make them in a short time so that they were presentable and exuded the Christmas spirit, which I think was successful and resulted in a beautiful collection that combines the classic Christmas colors. Does anyone have any idea where you can get a sweater exactly like the one I made? I'd love to wear it next Christmas," says Wolfka about her work on the project.

Of course, before we release any new content, we must test it thoroughly to ensure that our #BestCommunityEver can enjoy it without any problems along the way and this event was no different.


"Testing the Christmas event was a fascinating and challenging experience. At QA, we were aware that this big event required the utmost care as it was a Christmas gift for our community. I was excited about finally having snow in the game, and eager to see the players' reaction when they saw it. It was very interesting to tweak the behavior of the truck on the snow. Our programmers did a great job of maintaining a sufficient simulation without affecting the fun of truck control. Zigzagging on a frozen lake leaves many fond memories, especially when a flying tree suddenly appears next to you or you plummet under the roadway into an endless abyss," says Petr, our senior tester.

We also had a beautiful old-school steam locomotive driving around the map which gave it a more fairy-tale feeling. Our graphic designer Dino tells us about designing this locomotive. "One of the things I didn't expect to work on in our games was a steam locomotive. I didn't have any knowledge of it prior to this task, so the researching of the components was very fun. And since it's supposed to be an AI vehicle, it means it will be animated so all the logical moving parts should be there. Texturing was very fun too, and it was all very well coordinated by Lucie, the producer. She was giving quick feedback which helped to achieve the Christmas feel of the old locomotive and wagons," Dino says.

With a project this big, the teams had to overcome a lot of challenges. "Especially understanding and agreeing to the artistic vision as a team; there were many challenges in conveying and iterating the creative vision with all key stakeholders. Effort forecasting and scheduling were difficult, because of the uncertainties surrounding the new map-loading technology and the portals," says Gavin. 

"Testing posed another significant hurdle, due to new gameplay mechanics, especially regarding the impact on convoys in multiplayer. The logistics and resource management were also complicated due to other competing high-priority projects. Moreover, fine-tuning assets and refining the environment presented their own set of obstacles, due to the nuances of the Christmas event lore and the information that we wanted to convey to the player," Gavin adds.

Even though there were a few last-minute concerns and challenges, we luckily resolved them and released the event in time. "When we finally saw what the event was going to be like, once it came together and was being reviewed and tested, it galvanized the teams to commit to the final level of polish to make the map and event really shine. And typically, it’s that last ten percent of polish that requires the greatest effort. We simply saw that the event was so good, we had to nail it for the players, and for ourselves, since we had been working on it for such a long time," Gavin concludes.

This definitely isn't the last time you're seeing the magical Christmas Winterland. We are already having discussions and design meetings on how we can improve the whole concept and technology for future events to come, so stay tuned for that! Remember to follow us on our social media (X/TwitterInstagramFacebookTikTok) so you won't miss out on any news about our upcoming events. Until then, we'll see you on the road!

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.