I could hear the muted sounds of gaming machines and the occasional elated cry. We were in a small room out back of a casino – I’d asked Carmel to organise and I shouldn’t have been surprised in her choice of a venue on Shoshone territory. It made sense for us to meet here in a company central location – a very important announcement to be made and I wanted as many of the lead drivers and dispatchers to be present. I noted that there were some missing – notably John from the Olympia office – but I was pleased to see that many had made it either with rides on company deliveries or in their personal cars.

It was a great to see that Frank was there – a spotty faced youth that we employed as an accountant 6 months back. He had all the tickets to be a fantastic accountant and then he goes and demonstrates a natural ability to be possibly the best dispatcher ever… We’re left looking for an accountant again while he has control of our Colorado operation!

I swept the room further and spied Rodriguez hiding in a shadowed corner – His reflective shades gave him away! He’s one of our characters and is the lead driver for New Mexico. He never takes off his shades or his Stetson and his boots are pure western – he also chews an unlit cigar! Most companies have a uniform policy that he would never fit in with, but we don’t. As a big company that retains its small company persona, it delivers dividends – Rodriguez is known and loved by his customers and they keep coming back to us, so why would I ask him to change?

Our longest serving driver, Mille, is here too and I’m pleased to see her. She hung up her gauntlets a year back and took on the dispatcher’s role for Northern California and South Oregon. I note that she’s glowing – a child on the way, so the change is going well for her. Of course, that means we’re going to have a maternity leave issue sometime soon, but that’s going to be Jed’s concern because I won’t be here…

…And that’s the reason for this meeting…

I’ve been getting stale of late and I need to have a fresh challenge. I broached the subject with Jed a couple of months back – time for me to sell out and go elsewhere. Jed, being the level-headed one, talked me through it over some beers. There’s no need to sell-up at all, just create a division in the company. Jed always has an answer for everything! After much debate – it’s amazing how much ground you can cover in a couple of beer fuelled evenings! – a plan was formulated. Jed would buy half the company from me and I would start the new division. That’s what I’m here to announce and it’s a lot easier than saying “I’m leaving”…

So I told them the story. Republik of Bakersfield is no more – long live the King – The company will become Republik General Haulage. We’ve spread too far to be ‘of Bakersfield’ anyway! So, it’s just a change in name and no change for any of the employees – things carry on as normal… with one caveat. I will be setting up Republik Plant and Supplies. Over time the lowboy trailers and possibly some of the trucks will be transferred across to the new subsidiary. But to start with I’m on my own, which is just how I like it to be πŸ™‚

The announcement went down pretty well – I guess it wasn’t too much of a shock and maybe some of our employees know me a lot better than I know myself! I called Carmel to one side as the meeting broke up… “Would you be willing to come across in a few months time to be my dispatcher?” I asked, “You see I’m setting up in Twin Falls and that’s northern Shoshone territory – I’d really appreciate your expertise.” “I’ll see…” – well that’s about the most positive I’m likely to get from the ever enigmatic Carmel πŸ˜‰

The next day I moved into a dilapidated shed in Twin Falls. It wasn’t like home but I guess I can make it one and I fired up the first truck in our new division – say hello to Motown Dog…

Post script – Let’s talk reality – This is a change in American Truck Simulator that came about as a result of my split profiles experience in Euro Truck. The benefits of running 2 profiles outweigh all the complications. But in ATS it’s a little bitter-sweet. Bakersfield has always been my home – now, for my main profile it won’t be. Unlike Euro Truck, the expansions have made California almost peripheral to where the action is. Additionally, as I am specialising in general cargo and refrigerated loads in Euro Truck, going for open cargoes and machinery as dedicated loads in American Truck makes for a good contrast in my gaming experience πŸ™‚ Republik General Haulage still exist in my other profile, so I haven’t really left πŸ˜‰ ps – In Euro Truck my non-company profile is based in Stuttgart while my Company remains in our Montpellier home – that won’t change πŸ™‚

I was going to introduce some of my American Truck fleet this time but SCS Software had other ideas in the shape of an event and an open beta of the upcoming v1.40 release, so perhaps it’s best if I cover those in this post.

The event, called Hauling Hope, ran from mid-January to mid-February and caused some controversy according to PC Gamer and some other ‘gaming’ press sites. Apparently some players thought the idea of celebrating the start of the distribution of COVID Vaccines as being too political. Yes, a few players didn’t like the idea but it certainly wasn’t a case of ‘some blowback from fans who complained about the studio injecting “politics” into the game’ – the insinuation being that a lot of fans were unhappy. The only place where I saw debate around the subject was in the blog post responses to the event announcement and it was a well balanced discussion, if occasionally a little heated. Outside of that forum, most fans just saw it as another excellent event and a good excuse to fire up their trucks! There certainly weren’t any negative comments on Twitter. A storm in a teacup me thinks πŸ™‚

I enjoyed taking part in this short event with Lady Galadriel taking the lead role in Europe…

…and Keystone doing the bulk of the work in the US…

Midway through the event, on February 2nd, American Truck Simulator celebrated the 5th anniversary of its release. So Keystone got a suitably American repaint to mark the occasion…

Immediately after the event’s conclusion, SCS released the next update of both games into Open Beta to allow players to try them out. This will be v1.40 and brings new lighting (daylight, sunshine, weather etc) to the game. This is quite a large change so I’m expecting the Beta to possibly continue into mid-March. Along with the lighting changes, there are additions to the southern end of the France map in preparation for the new Iberia DLC. Updates to Germany continue too, with the Ruhr corridor being brought up to the latest mapping standards. In ATS there are some new truck chassis options coming along with an update to the California map, once again bringing it up to the latest standard.

I took the opportunity to take a look at the new south of France roads in the Beta along with the new lighting and I was quite impressed. Driving in heavy rain is definitely more realistic…

…with the visibility often very poor.

Driving round the new loop from Toulouse via Bayonne to Bordeaux showed some nice new scenery and some hints of the roads to Spain that should soon be open to us…

In case you’re wondering, as it’s a Beta, I’m driving hire trucks in those shots. I also took a brief trip to the remapped Ruhr, noting in passing that the view of KΓΆln from the Rodenkirchener BrΓΌcke is much improved…

Some concerns have been expressed about the vehicle lights and how they are showing up from inside the cab. I also noted that the needles on gauges seem to be almost invisible in certain lighting conditions…

…I think some work is being done on those aspects as the Beta progresses. But, overall, this looks like another great update. I haven’t been into the ATS Beta as a lot of others were sharing shots of that and I have to say it also looks good though there were some amusing incidents reported of trucks falling through the road around Bakersfield πŸ™‚

Back in normal play and I thought I’d conclude with a short video of a drive in our Mack R, Ol’Dawg, from Raton to Albuquerque. It was a pleasant run with few things to trouble us, though I did forget to flip the range switch a couple of times πŸ˜‰ – so just sit back and enjoy the sound of that Mack engine…

Kicking off 2021 and wishing everyone a Happy New Year πŸ™‚ Anyone who follows gaming, and probably quite a few non-gamers too, will have seen the disasterous release of the much hyped Cyberpunk 2077. Yet another Triple A games publisher demonstrates a lack of care for their customers and a belated offer of refunds will not heal the damage done to their reputation. If you’re wondering why I’m writing about a role-playing game when I’m supposed to be talking trucking, it’s because SCS Software also chose to apologise to their customers at the end of November. But rather than cause a tarnished reputation – it served to further enhance the good opinion of the company held by the community πŸ™‚

The ‘apology’ came in a tweet with an attached blog post detailing some of the forthcoming developments while explaining that sadly, the Iberia DLC was going to be delayed. The community response was very positive and full of understanding. It has – not to put too fine a point on it – been a difficult year with much of the development work having to be done from home. In the face of those difficulties, what SCS have achieved is amazing and the only slight gripe to be heard regards the lack of new things for Euro Truck. American Truck has seen three new trucks added to the game as free updates, The Mack Anthem,..

…the Western Star 49X…

…and, most recently, the Freightliner Cascadia…

…The image of which, with that gift laden trailer tells you that SCS have again given us a christmas event too!

Also in ATS, we’ve had two new states as paid DLC’s, Idaho (which I posted about back in July) and Colorado with associated community events to take part in. Here are some screenshots from Colorado…

It’s impossible to do justice with just a few screenshots but I can tell you it is a stunning addition to the game.

Although Euro Truck didn’t get much with Iberia originally planned for delivery during the year, a number of French cities got a reskin to bring them up to the latest standard. Moving into 2021, The Ruhr area of Duisburg and Dortmund, along with the cities of Dusseldorf and Cologne, will get the map rebuild to bring that part of Germany up to the latest standard. Hopefully Iberia will finally be released and it looks like there will be a further map addition in the East (SCS are only teasing about that presently).

In ATS, California is going to be updated to the latest mapping standard and we know that the next state, already being worked on, will be Wyoming. Both games benefitted from new trailers and improved sounds too in the past year. There will be a major update to the lighting in both games in 2021 – something that has played a part in the Iberia delay. Given all that was delivered in 2020 and what is planned for 2021 – I really don’t think SCS had anything to apologise for! Here’s to a great 2021 – Keep on Truckin’ everyone πŸ™‚