Shifting cargo in American Truck Simulator is entirely what the game is about until you have so much spare cash flow that you can afford to go sightseeing. In that way and in a couple of others, it differs from Elite: Dangerous where trading is but one road you may choose to travel. When I choose a mission in Elite, I no longer get a rigid time to complete in outside of a 24 hour period. I may get a last minute hurry-up to complete with a bonus payment on offer, but effectively there is no time pressure. When taking a mission I understand (and it’s mentioned in the mission briefing) that there may be some attempt to violently prevent me from completing the mission. That’s it. Trucking in space is very much just watch out for Pirates and make sure you have enough fuel to get there.

Now, having pushed on to owning my truck and building a company I learn the depths of the challenge in ATS and its European counterpart. Management of Fuel, Driver Time and Consignment Time is what the game is all about. A lot of jobs allow you the time to have a rest en-route or are clearly one working day tasks that you can complete in the maximum driver’s hours without taking a break. But, there are a lot of ‘trap’ jobs out there which will be right on the limit for your hours or for the customer’s delivery time over the distance. An 18 hour job is the classic example of borderline – you can’t drive for 18 hours but if you take the option of a rest period (10 hours) then you will find yourself outside of the timescale on many deliveries and you’ll get a financial penalty on your earnings from the run. Most times you run the best you can through the route and hope to scrape in on time before you bust your drivers hours – I’m not going to tell you here what happens if you do that but it does differ from Euro and American TS. I will try to cover an example of a borderline timescale run in ATS in future.

This is a simple run though – Me fully rested and Truck fully fuelled. Flagstaff (AZ) to Ely (NV) with a load of packaged food. I collected a short trailer from the local retail distributor…
ats_00095… In Game it’s Wallbert but a mod provides real life trailer skins. An interesting note here – one might assume that short trailers are easier to park but actually they can be harder than the standard length. I also note that the trailer is not a reefer, so I guess that the packaged food is crisps, pot-noodles and Uncle-Bens rather than frozen peas or there could be some dodgy tummies in Ely when this lot hits the shelves πŸ˜‰

Leaving Flagstaff we pass this rather English looking building – 1950’s roadside pub I was thinking…ats_00096…It’s amazing how we find parallels in ‘alien’ cultures! I don’t know whether this building was intentionally of English appearance or even if it exists in the real world. Some things in the simulation are real and some are just pictures at an exhibition.

The run up to Kingman (AZ) is good freeway but even on those roads you have to watch for the AI trucks and cars (as well as the Cops). Descending off the freeway into Kingman and you’ll see a Mack ahead – that AI carved me up approaching the exit and then proceeded to block me at the lights ahead 😦ats_00097…As I intimated before, the AI will get you, or at least it will get to you!

North of Kingman we’re in open desert a lot of the time on good freeway roads and we can settle into a rhythm with our driving. Next major settlement up the road is Las Vegas. But, before we get there, we pass the Hoover Dam…ats_00100…and then we’re into the outskirts of Las Vegas and glancing at the skyscrapers from afar.

Now planning your journey becomes critical. North of Las Vegas fuel and rest stops become thin on the ground. With our own truck, fuel efficiency is very important, especially when you go through the more remote area of the map. You plan ahead for refuelling and rest stops before you set out and keep monitoring the situation as you go. I knew I could not make Ely in a single run so I had picked a gas station with rest stop to the south of Pioche on route 93. In the real world, I think this is a representation of Caliente. With fuel in the bottom quarter and driver’s hours into the red it was like finding an oasis in the desert…ats_00103…And so, to bed πŸ™‚

The dawn saw us underway leaving a Kenworth still sleeping in the parking lot with a NedLloyd container…ats_00105…Hope we didn’t wake him!

The run north to Pioche was mainly open desert with just the occasional fellow driver for company. In the game, Pioche seems a very small town with a road through and a ring road to take traffic around. The ring road gives a glimpse of past ambition in the form of a long closed Oasis Motel…ats_00107

The run up to Ely is a simple drive past cacti and the occasional abandoned truck or farmstead. We arrived to find the local Wallbert hosting a sale which I assume prompted the delivery job? ats_00108

That was an example of a simple run in American Truck Simulator. Simple because I could take a night’s rest en-route. Simple because the timescales were adequate and I didn’t hit too many issues on the way. Not all jobs in ATS are so straight forward. Beware the 18 hour run to an out of the way place with no fuel or rest facilities! – there are a few towns out there like that 😦 It’s what makes the game more challenging than initial perceptions might suggest and thus makes it much more fun than it could be πŸ™‚

I intended to run two trucking companies – one in Europe and one in the USA. What I got was one in California and a still-born idea somewhere in London. Then, a change happened in Bakersfield… My company became Martin’s (Contract Haulage Specialists). The change was a result of the desire to create a corporate identity via a truck skin. But in achieving that goal, it triggered a European renaissance!

My mind likes stories and links. Martin’s in Bakersfield is, in my story, the off-shoot of a European company seeking new avenues in the Americas- the use of a European House Martin as a logo gave a clue. Martin’s is a friendly sounding name aimed at the US market but in my conjured company history the founding company is one based in Europe with the name Martin. Immediately, I realised that this is an unlikely name for a UK based company. So let me introduce you to Martin’s German based parent company – Martin gmbh i.g. of DΓΌsseldorf.

The title says it all – I’m building the parent company after creating the subsidiary – very much the Cart before the Horse! I’ve worked through the initial period of driving for other people and I’ve just bought the company’s first truck. It’s a MAN TGX – as a German company we should be buying locally. Now I need to work hard to build the European arm until it is plausible that the company would have sought to expand into the USA. That will take some playing time!

I hope to share with you the growth of the company and some screen shots. But I will also be posting some ongoing tales and shots from the Bakersfield side of the business too. So, without more ado, here’s our first truck (in a custom colourscheme)…

Border CrossingCrossing into Holland

I hinted in my previous post about American Truck Simulator that this next post would be about skinning. Whatever you were expecting, I’m not about to show you a newly made Davy Crockett hat or an Alligator handbag πŸ˜‰

In a number of sims and games you get the chance to change how your vehicle or character looks. How much depends on the amount of freedom the game’s developers want to give you and is usually ruled by the potential impact on profits should players be given too much leeway. One regularly voiced complaint on the forums of Elite is the lack of ability to custom paint your ship to your own design. Instead, new paint schemes are offered via the game’s shop for a fee, as are some modifications which do not affect your ship’s capabilities and therefore are not ‘pay to win’. I can understand this approach – generation of additional revenue and control over content (preventing inappropriate images in a multiplayer game with a target age range of 7 to ancient). Other game developers have taken an approach where allowing the game community to create additional content is actively encouraged. This is true of the train simulator games and SCS’s Truck sims – ‘niche market’ games with a small but enthusiastic community. The upshot is that the means to create new trucks, trailers and other in-game items is freely available for anyone wishing to modify Euro Truck or American Truck simulator. Additionally, those modifications can be shared with the community which is why I was able to show some trucks not available in the game as supplied a few posts back.

The simplest form of modification you can make is to create a skin for an existing vehicle. The means to do this are freely available and there are tutorial videos on YouTube. Ones I found helpful are: –

MisterMoose video
Benji Video

Both contain links that will get you the mechanical pieces you need to carry out the skinning process. The reason I wanted to do this was to make my fleet of trucks my own. However, that did raise a problem – I wasn’t sure how I was going to create a ‘corporate’ Chisum Trucking image. I had thought about utilising some graphics from the John Wayne film (which was in my line of sight when choosing the company name initially). But it all looked rather complicated – I wanted something simple for a first attempt.

Lateral thinking time – how about I start a new company? In game terms that’s just another profile. This time, the company is called Martin’s. I originally was going for Martin Logistics but I see there’s a company with that name already and they’re involved in government work (were they once part of Lockheed-Martin I wonder?). Anyway, plain old Martin’s will do and that gives me the chance to introduce a simple logo as our brand. So, here’s the first attempt as seen in the Upgrades screen of the game after I uploaded my skin…
Martin_skin_01
…spot the immediate issue – Logo and mirror mount conflict! The truck templates don’t show where the mirrors are mounted on the doors 😦 Doh! I re-did the skin, moving and resizing the logo and the writing to accommodate the mirrors and this shot taken in my Bakersfield HQ shows the outcome…
Martin_skin_02
You’ll note that in the shade the color is a very pale blue. A new issue – out in the sun it becomes dazzling and you can’t read the company name 😦 Back to the skinning workshop and a re-color to a blue-grey based white. This time the result is ok and Martin’s has a corporate livery to be applied to all our trucks when we finally have a fleet!
Fertilizer to Tonopah
Only… Now I’m not happy with how the text sits in relation to the design of the door! Back to the workshop one last time…
Here’s the finished articleFinal Skin
Now, that looks OK πŸ™‚ So, next time you have a load to shift, don’t forget to call Martin’s – Contract Haulage Specialists of Bakersfield, CA πŸ™‚ Actually, please don’t call the number on the truck door… it may be a Bakersfield number but I have absolutely no idea whose it is! And the USDOT number is false too. Both were added to give an impression of reality. I’m hoping to find an image of a Clean Air California sticker to add too. And… Perhaps I should add the Californian Flag when I differentiate my truck from the one’s belonging to the employees πŸ™‚