Oh, to go to Spokane on a brilliant summer time morning. Bakersfield, Albuquerque, Reno and Salem. The night solar shining throughout the floor of the I-10. In these locked-down occasions, American Truck Simulator is an opportunity to tour America, or at the very least its western edge, working from Washington within the north all the way down to California within the south, and over to Utah and New Mexico within the east.
These states are articulated by highways and truck stops, industrial centres and sweeping multilevel interchanges. But that doesn’t imply their sweep isn’t superb. America is, in spite of everything, constructed on trucking. The business’s motto is, “If you bought it, a truck brought it,” and in ATS you get to expertise mass haulage in a world which goals to reflect, as shut as it may, the nice American west. But it was in-built Prague, on an engine that typically requires intelligent tips to signify the dimensions of all of it, by a crew of map designers who’re strangers to American tradition.
ATS has taken a protracted street to get to the place it’s at present. Though developer SCS Software had made trucking video games earlier than, together with 18 Wheels Of Steel and the primary Euro Truck Simulator, ATS’s direct roots are in 2010’s German Truck Simulator, which featured cities which had been little greater than squares surrounded by just a few buildings. Then in 2012, Euro Truck Simulator 2 expanded the identical map to surrounding international locations and connecting them with new roads.
“That’s when I joined the company,” senior map designer Patrik Sadloň tells me. He was 16. “My first road was in the UK, around Southampton.” Back then, the crew didn’t have many belongings to work with to depict native flavour; within the UK they positioned sunflowers in every single place.
“Then someone wrote on a forum, ‘Hey, what the hell is wrong with you? The UK doesn’t really have sunflowers!’ These kinds of mistakes happened regularly. We had no research department, we did it all on our own, two days of researching and then a few days of making the map with nobody who lives in that area supporting us.”
Today, many places instantly mirror particular locations, like this one near Rockport in Washington.
Though made by simply 25 folks (“The whole of Europe. It was crazy. Now we have 180 people”), Euro Truck Simulator 2’s gross sales blew up, permitting SCS to develop the crew and its ambitions for the sport. So, after they added Scandinavia to the sport as DLC in 2015, it launched a swathe of recent belongings, skyboxes, lighting — and customized junctions.
In the outdated days, junctions had been large, immutable chunks of prefabricated geometry which got here fitted with traces for AI autos to comply with and set locations for signage. They made it fast to throw collectively a street, however these prefabs had been sluggish to render as a result of computer systems needed to deal with all their geometry without delay fairly than in lots of smaller sections, they usually couldn’t be tailored to suit particular locations.
With Scandinavia, although, got here a brand new template system, by which a map designer can place single small sections of freeway, after which the engine generates connecting street between them, based mostly on camber, curvature, lanes and plenty of different options to make each freeway and each junction distinctive.
“That allows us to create these massive things,” says Sadloň, displaying me an unlimited junction in Phoenix. He personally made effectively over half of the junctions since New Mexico was created. “America is full of them, so why not?”
A junction in Albuquerque. “This was the first massive junction we did,” says Jakub Mráz. “It took a month to produce,” provides Sadloň. “It takes 30 seconds to drive through it, and then it’s away.”
“It takes a lot of skill to get the roads right,” says fellow senior map designer Jakub Mráz. “Roads in real life follow a massive number of rules: when you’re travelling at full speed, like 65 miles an hour, the truck shouldn’t roll over, the curves have to be a certain size. It’s all very technical.”
Since ATS’s world is its roads, getting the roads proper from the beginning is significant. Having to rejig a street on the finish of manufacturing means additionally having to rejig all of the issues which can be hooked up to and oriented round it, from terrain to signage.
One factor the engine can’t do is generate indicators. They’re all hand-produced. “The names, the directions, the shields, the arrows, everything. If we could put a sign down and the tools automatically do their magic, that would be a lifesaver,” says Mráz, laughing. “We actually have an external specialist who only focuses on signs in ATS, because it’s such a huge and difficult task.”
Earlier in ATS’s lifetime there have been many incorrect indicators, however occasions have modified. Since making New Mexico, which was added in 2017, they’ve been designing the world for gamers – usually truckers – who need the purity of navigating by indicators, fairly than leaning on the in-game GPS.
ATS at all times places trucker tradition first. It defines each selection for what seems on the planet, which is sketched first by means of figuring out the sorts of locations which can be necessary for truckers.
“Which are the largest cities, which are the most interesting in terms of industries?” says Mráz. “You might have a giant or beautiful city but it has has no industries for us to represent. You’re not going to haul a bulldozer to a museum. The world has to make sense; the cities have to have an industrial background for us to work with.”
The subsequent step is for the crew to deeply analysis these places – principally on Google Maps and StreetView – to search out the most important routes into these trucker-relevant places, which they attempt to signify at 1:1 scale. This means newer cities, similar to these in Oregon and Washington, are fairly shut in type to the true locations.
And but few members of the map design crew have even been to the US. “Patrik has a few times,” says Mráz. In reality, he lately went on a analysis journey there, one thing SCS Software is more and more doing.
But Mráz has by no means been. “As you can imagine, recreating American culture and atmosphere from Central Bohemia is kind of hard, so it takes a lot of effort to get things right. Things that Americans consider second nature, they’re completely alien to us, and we have to experience their mentality a little bit as well.”
Sadloň’s favorite place in ATS is Seattle. “What we did with perspective and how we created the feeling of Seattle: the important junctions and tunnels, the double-deck tunnel; it looks just like it does in real life. That’s the most beautiful part of the game to me.”
While necessary places are offered at 1:1, the remainder of ATS’s world is at 1:20 scale, so each mile on display screen is 20 miles in actual life, and there there isn’t house to incorporate each street and landmark. “Sometimes we engage our community to pick important spots, because we may be able to pick out 80% right, but then we might skip 20% of what means a lot for the truckers,” says Mráz.
Sadloň reveals me Pacific Tower in Seattle, a particular 1930s constructing the place Amazon was once headquartered, on a hill subsequent to a freeway. “That building is specific for that place,” says Mráz. “We had to request the model, put it in the map, figure out how big we want it so it feels right. We’re trying to represent the spots that truckers remember from real life.”
But for a sport set throughout the complete north-south extent of the USA, and with ambitions to incorporate much more, ATS suffers a decidedly limiting downside. Its engine isn’t designed to attract any greater than 1500 metres into the gap.
Jakub Mráz’s favorite place in ATS is the San Raphael Swell in Utah. “It’s an imposing piece of landscape, massive, and after you drive though the pass you get to the viewing point and can see down the entire piece of road you drove on. It might not look like it, but working with the scale and the technology we have, it was an incredible task for the artists and four or five map designers. Probably a little bit too much time was spent on it, but it’s my favourite part of the map.”
That’s true for nearly in every single place, however within the plains of New Mexico this restrict is prolonged to 4000 metres to permit distant low hills to be seen. “Otherwise we’d have a flat horizon,” says Mráz. But because it’s shoehorned into an engine that wasn’t designed for it, 4000 metres is extraordinarily performance-heavy, so usually, ATS’s map designers need to get intelligent to ship a way of scale.
“We have to work with what we have, so we use perspective tricks, where a canyon might only be 1000 metres away so we use a trick to make it look further away. We darken the textures, use fog to hide that it’s so close.”
One frequent place a trick is used is on downtown skyscrapers, that are represented by dynamically scalable fashions. At distance they’re rendered smaller than they need to be, to present the impression that downtown is additional away than it truly is. Then, as you close to it, the sport ever so subtly scales it up — unimaginable to note on the pace a truck travels — till it’s towering, credibly, above you.
“The world is a lot smaller than you might think it is,” says Mráz. “That’s something we can be proud of in ATS, because the way our previous games were made, they were a lot of tight corridors to make them simple to produce. But with ATS and especially New Mexico we started to push the boundaries of our engine to try to recreate the world as it is: no more artificial corridors. We’re trying to make the world as wide and big as possible, because the USA is huge.”
And the sport is designed to emphasize that expanse in the best way it represents time: simply because the world exists at 1:20 scale, time additionally proceeds at twenty occasions regular pace. That means, a driver can simply expertise a crimson dawn and golden sundown on any given journey.
“You need to see the change of atmosphere and scenery, so you feel you’re travelling between Stockton and Sacramento, or San Francisco and Las Vegas,” says Mráz. “We’re creating an illusion, and the scale helps us a lot, both the time and space scale.”
Not all of what’s necessary in ATS’s world is about inserting apparent landmarks. There had been main omissions within the first areas of the sport, issues that each trucker wants and makes use of: truck stops and relaxation areas. “The simple term, ‘truck stop’, it tells you it should be part of trucking culture, right?” says Mráz. So they added them.
And past trucker gamers, including relaxation stops performed into making the sport higher for informal gamers. ATS represents real-life legal guidelines on how lengthy a driver is allowed to work earlier than resting, in addition to finite gas, so distributing locations the place the participant can relaxation and refuel throughout the map helped to de-stress driving lengthy journeys.
For senior map designer Saimon, who’s current in our interview however says of himself, “I’m a quiet person,” the US 20 in Washington is his favorite place. “I’m for the mountains and hills. I love that road.”
And now we will’t go to any of those locations in actual life, I recognize having a mild means of experiencing their grandeur. ATS’s capability to ship us into within the spirit of the American west’s cracked asphalt and grand vistas, relaxation stops and skyscrapers, warehouses and waterfronts – normalcy and magnificence all witnessed from a tall cab on the open street — is precisely what I want proper now.