If The Road Doesn’t Get You…

…The AI will! This is one of the lessons of American Truck Simulator that I have learnt over the past month.

Many roads in American Truck Simulator are dual carriageway Freeways or Interstates. Nice easy drives on which you can make good speed once you’ve gained an understanding of handling your truck. However there are other roads, that if you are disrespectful, will destroy you – or at least leave you needing the recovery boys! I learnt this while trying out the game initially before settling in to play seriously and build a company. I think that lesson was on a small road out of Carlsbad. I was being cocky and driving fast up a gentle slope when I hit a corner that my truck couldn’t turn quickly enough to follow – Big washout across the opposite side of the road and over the concrete barrier into the Cacti beyond! That’s what happens when you play a simulation as a gamešŸ˜‰ Play it as a sim and you understand that you have to treat the road with the respect it deserves.

One of the highways in the game map is California Highway 152. I’m a Londoner and that road meant nothing to me until I started driving the trucks. I’ve been over it once from the Watsonville end. That is one very twisty road and as I was driving at night I had to take it very careful. The result was a late delivery but the alternative would probably have been a wreck. The road fascinated me enough to go and do some research. I’ve just watched a motorcyclist’s video of descending the same climb and even he’s having to slow to 30mph on some of the switchback corners – so it isn’t a good road to drive in a truck. The road apparently has a bit of a reputation – see this fascinating article on Skeptic Report from a trucker who was driving the section past the San Luis Reservoir. That’s a relatively easy bit of the road but it illustrates the point. So, we now know the roads need to be driven in a sensible manner.

The AI is altogether a different issue. Rest assured that traffic violations will be punished! Run a stop light and you will be fined whether there is a police presence or not. Speeding offences have to be seen by the Cops for a fine to be issued. I understand that they have been toned down a bit following complaints and a minor speeding violation won’t trigger an instant fine now (as long as you slow down promptly).

He's Behind You!

He’s Behind You!

At this point, you might think that actually being seen speeding by the cops is a remote possibility – let me tell you, never were C W McCall’s words more true than in this game – “Them Smokie’s as thick as bugs on a bumper” is definitely the truth of the situation. I’ve seen squad cars hiding behind bushes, driving close behind your trailer so they’re not visible in your mirrors or tail-gating a car so that you don’t realise they’re there!

You will usually get punished for damage to AI vehicles, unless the game decides it wasn’t your fault. Normally, the game rules against you – I clipped mirrors with a truck going the other way in Bakersfield and that cost me $480. As much his fault as mine I suspect but I don’t know if he got a bill too. The commonest accident in game is the one where an AI vehicle doesn’t follow normal road practice or sense and allow for the extra space that a truck needs when making a turn – never mind the fact that you may have right of way at a set of lights, they just drive into you and you get the bill.

One incident that got me shaking my head was on a turn out from a company where I’d collected a load. It was a left turn onto a fast highway with the traffic coming from the right descending a slope. I looked both ways three times and with nothing coming began executing my manoeuvre. There is a point when you can’t look right anymore in a truck – you need to be watching where your fender is in relation to the opposite road side. So I’m already straightening out the truck onto the road and watching the trailer in the mirror to make sure it doesn’t foul the gateway when Bang! A VW van drives into my truck from behind at speedšŸ˜¦ That one was definitely not my fault (and the game concurred!) but I still had to pay the repair bill on my truck.

Sometimes you get a really odd collision – I was sitting at a set of lights and a coach made a right turn and hit me. These happen because the AI takes a really wide swing into junctions even when it’s only a motorcycle doing the turn. Cars and trailer-towing trucks are ok but a long rigid wheelbase vehicle can get it wrong – no fault to me for that one either.

I thought I’d learned all about the tricksy-ness of the AI but then… I’m driving on an interstate in Nevada at around 65mph in an 80mph zone and I can see another truck in my mirrors approaching in the fast lane. He’s alongside as we hit a bend in the road. At that point his speed is too great for the turn and he washes out into me, forcing me off the road! Guess what… The game says that’s my fault and I get the billšŸ˜¦ The air was blue for a few minutes after that, I can tell you! Ahh!… The joys of American Truck SimulatoršŸ˜‰ But when you can enjoy the scenery and the glorious sunsets… It’s all worthwhile:-)

I’ll be skinning next time… I’ll leave you to work that one outšŸ˜‰

Growing the Company

I’ve been working hard – driving forwards. A lone truck owner with a dream of building a company. The decision to upgrade to the Paccar MX13 engine seems to be helping me to shift heavier loads without increased fuel consumption over the Cummins ISX (whilst a game-mod with the correct engine sounds helps with the immersion!). I’ve earned enough to pay off the original loan that I took to buy my own truck. I built up the bank balance to nearly $160k before taking another loan and getting my headquarters garage in Bakersfield rebuilt to house potentially three trucks. A few more days down the road and more money in the bank after some long distance drives with high value cargoes and hazmats – I can finally buy a second truck.

Buying that second truck means I can employ a driver and become a company in more than just name. I opted for another Peterbilt 579 from my local dealer. I didn’t over indulge in the specification – just the Cummins ISX and a 10 speed box for now but I did go with a non-standard paint job. I think it’s important to have a company image (something I need to create, of which more next time!).

Then it was time to hire a driver so a trip to the job market was called for. The drivers you can employ are usually in the very low experience levels with the best ones usually having a rating of 1.7 whilst the majority have a rating of 0.8. These relate to their ‘experience’ and reflects the ‘points’ they have in things like Long Distance driving or handling ‘Fragile’ loads. It would be easy to treat this as just a game but I think you lose something if you don’t try to relate to each of AI the candidates for the job as you would a potential human employee. As I was only looking for a single employee I discounted those drivers that were only at 0.8 rating. That left me with three at 1.7 – one man and two women. The male driver had a slight edge in that he had distance driving experience – that ability generally makes money quicker. Both the ladies had exactly the same experience points – just in time delivery and fuel economy. Just in time is one of my weaker areas so, if I chose one of the girls, I’d be adding some balance to my company. I discounted the man partly for this reason but also because I intend to be an equal opportunities employer and wanted to stamp that policy on the company in my first employee choice. How to choose between the two ladies though – that was a real quandary and one where I would need gut instinct (assuming the AI works on appearances – some players think there is an element in there!). In the end I went with Patricia – a winning smile that I hoped would go down well with my customers. She’s an Asiatic lady too which fits nicely with my company’s multi-cultural ethics.

A week or so of game-time and Patricia has picked up the first level long distance skill and is earning the company $1200 a day after pay andĀ maintenance expensesĀ – I think I made the right choice:-) Must treat her to an engine and gearbox upgrade soon as reward for her efforts! I’m now waiting for the Peterbilt 389 to become available in the game – then it’ll be time to hire another driver, pass on my current truck and buy a 389 for myself. A gallery of in-game images follows. You can see the rebuilt garage, details of Patricia and the new Peterbilt and a shot of my Peterbilt with a CEMEX delvery…

Ceeā€™s Black & White Photo Challenge: In the Distance

A distant storm settles over LondonDistant Storm-2

The town of Horwich seen from the railway worksHorwich-2

Catch up with Cee’s B&W Challenge here.

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