Tthere is no way out for me at this time. The rear axle of my pick-up truck is stuck on a large rock sticking out of mud in a remote Michigan road. I tried to install the winch to a nearby tree to pull myself out, but it didn’t work. I had to leave the vehicle, install another, and try again. This wood load will not be shipped alone.
I play Snowrunner, the latest in a series of painstakingly authentic off-road delivery simulator games where players have to transport goods through various unforgivable scenes at speeds that will make garden snails embarrassed. Before each trip, you must choose the right vehicle for the job, fit the right tires and level your possible fuel consumption to the nearest milliliter. On the frozen roads of northern Alaska, there is no room for poor planning.
Over the past five years there has been a resurgence in serious work simulator games. Titles such as Euro Truck Simulator, Bus Simulator and Train Sim World have attracted many fans and critical acclaim, each replicating his profession with unrelenting attention to detail. In the entertainment sector where fantasy power has power, where players become space marines, the princesses of ancient warriors and football superstars, it seems to be the opposite that 25 million people have bought Farming Simulator, a game where your main challenge is harvesting successful wheat crops .
But it is the accuracy of these games that attract the attention of many fans. “Throughout the development, we collected a lot of questions,” said Julian Mautner in the studio Stillalive, the team behind the Bus Simulator game. “When you turn the ignition one time, which bus function does it really work on, and which icon on the dash lights up? What happens after when you change it to the second position? This is a detail that is highly considered by our players. “
According to Mautner, the studio has a partnership with a local transportation company, IVB (Innsbrucker Verkehrsbetriebe), which they regularly visit to inspect real-life buses and take hundreds of pictures. “We also talk to bus drivers about their daily challenges, about special situations or complicated maneuvers they have to do,” he said. “That gives us invaluable insights into how transportation companies work.”
Meanwhile, coders accurately simulate all aspects of engine performance – gear change, torque, acceleration – using information from the manufacturer. The audio team made more than 1,000 sound recordings from all different buses. The artists remade the interior precisely. As Mautner explains: “Right now we aim to get actual 3D data for the cockpit, because replicating details from images and blueprints often causes minor inaccuracies recorded by the community.”
Landscapes are also very important. With truck and train driving simulators, most of the attraction is the sight that goes when you haul goods from Berlin to Bonne, or drive the Great Western train to Cornwall. “Real-world references are very important for world creation,” said Ondrej Dufek, project leader at SCS Software, creator of the Euro Truck Simulator and American Truck Simulator. “Google Earth, Maps and Street View are vital tools and photo reference sources. On YouTube, there are also videos of truck drivers who drive in various states and countries, commenting on their environment and showing interesting things. Information about altitude, economy, industry, markets, traffic density, shipping routes, weather, even demographics – all are important and help us decide what roads and cities to put in our world. “
“Sometimes we will take photos directly to the wall so that our artists can see what type of bricks are being used,” said Matt Peddlestone, senior producer at Dovetail game who made Train Sim World. “As you go along the route, the brick supplier changes because the bricks are made locally and the color of the building will change. We want to catch that. “
It’s easy to think of hardcore sim fans as obsessive pernickety, but there is a quiet joy in interacting with this lovingly replicated system of lights, switches and signals. In an unexpected world, it is calming to open bus doors at the right time, to provide correct changes, to properly regulate heating systems, to comply with traffic signs. It’s nice to see a button, press it and know something will happen.
“I play simulators because they are internally consistent,” Melissa Harper fans said. “If you play the game and you are in the cockpit, and you can’t press all the buttons, it really slaughtered the experience for me. But in Microsoft Flight Simulator, you are can press all buttons, and they are all do something. That’s VERY satisfying, and then you can learn what they all do. “
His favorite example is ultra-hardcore Stormworks: Build and Rescue, where you run your own marine rescue service. “This is the most brutal game I have ever played,” he was enthusiastic. “You have to make the whole plane yourself – and all those hundreds of buttons? You have to put it by hand! The developers just throw you into a very complicated editor and say, “Hey, that’s just airplane driving and electrical engineering, how difficult is that? F *** you. ‘This is my favorite game.”
All the simulation developers I spoke to knew that some of their players were professionals in the simulated field. The creators of Train Sim World were quickly notified when the wallcoverings were placed in a slightly incorrect position, or if certain signals outside Stratford never showed a green light, only yellow because that was the way the cables were installed. “The driver sent us tips,” Dufek said. “What truck stops and unique landmarks that we have to include, which part of the road is famous for its difficulties (steep inclines, over mountains).”
Beyond all this, simulators have emotional and nostalgic value. Train Sim World allows players to drive trains and historic trips, which allows retirees to rediscover the route they have taken every day. Fishing: Barents Sea Simulator was inspired by the life of co-creator grandfather Goran Myrland, a fisherman in Norway in the 1950s. “He has a classic ship exactly like Follabuen, which is in our game,” said Yasemin Hamurcu, COO at Misc Games. “He spent months with his crew in the rough seas to find the best catch, to earn money and meet the needs of his family. His wife is always worried about him, hoping he will come home safely. “
I have a friend who drives for hours on Euro Truck Simulator, using an in-game radio application to pick up a local station. For me, Snowrunner is almost hypnotic – giving me more time to enjoy the view, to feel the countryside of North America. Many players are not here for the authenticity of equipment from small things to simulations; they are here to experience the landscape in their own way, in their own time. Slow and stable escape.
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