Jean and I usually arrived home at odd times and regular evening meals were out of the question. But, with Jean needing to work the same hours as his clients, us farmers, we invariably were up at the same hour and had breakfast together. I used to have tea with my breakfast, but Jean hated it, so I got in the habit of making strong coffee to kick off the day. Sometimes, we’d talk through the day ahead and sometimes there wasn’t much to discuss.

One morning in mid-February, I was once more looking over my finances and muttering to myself about the cost of the local fields and how hard it was to get together the cash I needed to buy one. Talking to myself helps rationalise my thoughts. The thought-train was interrupted when Jean coughed to attract my attention. “You’ve been playing with those figures for the past week…” “I’m just wondering how I can expand the farm – doesn’t feel like I’m getting anywhere at the moment.” “Have you thought of looking at the fields along the road just down from my shop?” Jean asked, “There are several near Xavier’s field that might be available for less money than the fields up this side of the valley.” I must admit that the idea of having another field so far from the farm hadn’t occurred to me and I knew that in Mark’s time hands would have been raised in horror at the idea. I did raise mild concerns but, as Jean reminded me, all the farmers had plots of land dotted all over the area – no one had all their fields in one place!

I took up Jean’s idea, having not much work on that morning. I drove down to Xavier’s field and was pleased to find him at work. When he’d finished a row of cultivating, he shut down the tractor and I went over to have a quick chat. He told me about the fields either side of his – “That one belongs to Maurice – he’s not likely to sell. The one on the left… That belongs to Alexis – she might be willing to sell… I don’t see a lot of her.” I looked at Maurice’s field anyway – it was well kept and looked like a crop had been sown. I would check on its estimated value. Then I looked at the other field. It had been dusted with lime, though whether the amount was enough for the soil I couldn’t tell. What struck me was the boulders scattered all over the ground. It was a mess and that got me thinking – maybe Alexis doesn’t really need this field and would be willing to sell? I set off to hunt down Claude to find out more.

Things happened pretty quickly – the field was available to buy, and the price was within my available budget after some vigorous negotiation. With a bank payment agreed, I was given permission to access the field and begin working it on 18th Feb with the deeds to follow soon after. The first job was to get rid of the rocks – Jean hired me a stone-picker…

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…It was a pain to use but I cleared all the boulders. I finished February by applying more lime to get the field’s ph right. Then, in the first week of March, it was time to set about sowing a crop – I decided on Oats for a quick return. Jean bent our rules slightly by bringing down the Massey with the roller attached on his way to work – I promised to drop past with his van later when the sowing was done. It was unusual to see both of my tractors out and about at the same time…

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That was the end of winter on the farm. Spring brought some good times – several fertilizing jobs earned me the money to buy a trailer and to repay the extra €15k that I had loaned πŸ™‚

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…That’ll reduce the outgoings. But I still don’t have my own harvester and I think I may have to continue hiring for the foreseeable future 😦

By the beginning of April, the Oats in the new field were ready for a dash of fertilizer…

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…And by the middle of May, the Canola on my home field was in bloom…

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…Things are looking up and, with luck, both fields will be ready to harvest at the same time – That will save on the Harvester hire costs! It’s been a busy Spring on Ferme du VieuxΒ ChΓͺne πŸ™‚

Here I am after a couple of days trying out X4: Foundations… Beyond does not really sum things up. I’m caught in a mealstrom of thoughts and concerns. This game is overwhelming in the first instance and I’m not sure when the second instance will kick in! Let’s see if I can put that into words…

My initial thought that this space game sits somewhere between Elite and EVE Online is largely correct. However, it seems to lean much more towards the EVE side of the fence. I think in the long term game I will be spending more time manageing my ships and stations than I will be flying myself. But in the beginning, when there’s just me, I will have to fly my ship and do some work to make the money to kick off whatever get-rich-quick plan I think I have in mind. And that’s the issue – this game relies heavily on very detailed menues. Until I have mastered them, I won’t really know what my long term goal is.

I’ve spent the first 3 days since I bought the game in the Steam sale, trying out flying the ship and learning some basic ways of making money. There are missions and there’s one that is intended to play a part in expanding your knowledge of the surrounding area and the way to do things like hiring crew and buying ships. But, you may need to keep accessing the encyclopedia and help videos from experienced players to understand what is going on because it’s not really clear in the game itself. Elite is a much easier game to understand at the beginning – choose a cargo, ship it to where you can make a profit, and try not to get killed along the way. I can still remember my first couple of battles in Elite and the feeling of fear that was finally replaced with jubilation as the attacker ran away or was destroyed. I can’t say that I’ve had that in X4. I have been killed by someone who came at me out of nowhere when I was trying out that first mission. Unlike in Elite where I’d have known what I needed to do to survive, X4 is not so intuitive when it comes to combat – note to self: try the tutorial and see if that helps!

So, back to making some money outside of doing missions. I’ve been wandering around the local area trying out the long range scanner and finding other stations that are not visible to start with. Then I’ve found some asteroid fields. If you go and look on YouTube for beginners guides, you’ll find that asteroids sometimes have crystals and they can be very valuable. I’ve proved to myself that this is correct. I’ve found lockboxes – a sort of easter egg in space – but I’m wary of those as I understand that they may be injurious to my ship’s health and the goods inside may be illegal anyway! It has been a slow process of getting to know the ship that you’re given to start with and to test out it’s capabilities. Yesterday I spent a while mooching around a couple of the stations in the sector where the game starts me off. I was looking to see what other missions would pop up. But, perhaps the most important thing to happen on my patrol was the opportunity to take on some criminal vessels. These pay a small Cr500 reward but they often drop valuable items that you can collect. By the end of an hour or so, I was feeling a lot happier with my flying skills. I had 2 killed criminals and I’d been able to pick up the loot that they dropped. The first had an illegal cargo, so I ditched that (no point in getting a criminal record myself). The second had some ship parts that I made Cr30k on when I sold them. So, I can kill small ships but I will definitely need to get better at it or find out how to run in this menu driven game.

Ultimately, the beginner videos make it clear that you should be prepared to lose ships and crew. Possibly even stations if you get around to building those. This is going to be a very long-haul game and I’m not sure if I’ve made a pact with the devil on this one 😜 If this post seems less positive than my gaming posts usually are, it’s down to the uncertainty of how best to proceed. Like Elite, there is no right path to follow and no one holds your hand. However, I think I’m just about ready to start the game proper this week πŸ‘β€

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More about gameplay in the 2021 edition of Car Mechanic Simulator. Lets start with fluids. Previously, the only fluid represented in the game was Oil. If you forgot to drain it before taking off the Oil Pan or the Oil Filter, then you had a spillage and had to pay a clean up fee. For newcomers to the game, the Oil Drain tool can be found next to the computer terminal…

…In CMS 2021 this has been expanded to include coolant, hydraulic fluids for power-steering and brakes, and washer fluid. There is a tool provided in the tools menu to drain these systems.

During testing I confirmed that if you accidentally remove the washer bottle without emptying it, you get the fine and the same applies for the water pump and dumping coolant on the floor. I’m not sure that it’s working for the steering pump, but if you don’t want a 50cr fine then I’d advise caution with all items that would have fluids in them. As there are no hoses implemented in the game, you’re ok to change brake callipers without draining the brake fluid.

As you play and obtain the skills to repair items, you will learn that some items can’t be repaired. Nothing with lower that 15% condition, for example. But there are also a lot of classes of item that you can’t fix anyway. Lights and windows in the bodywork area are one example. Wheel bearings, shock absorbers and tie bars for the chassis are another. A number of engine parts like pistons, push rods and rocker arms are also non-repairable. No exhaust parts can be repaired So when buying a car to rebuild you need to deduct the replacement cost of these items from your possible profit. One of the improvements in the 2021 edition of the game is giving control of the repair to the player with a simple ‘stop the pointer in the green’ minigame accessed from the workbench once you have one…

…It sure beats the RNG system it replaces πŸ™‚ Another improvement is a tool to re-skim brake discs if they’re over 15%…

…That saves buying quite a few new discs πŸ™‚

Lets go visit a barn and see what that’s all about πŸ™‚ Barn’s are one of the rewards you can receive for climbing the experience ladder and for the jobs you complete. They are delivered in cases with other rewards, here’s an example…

…Cases used to give you three items, a mix of car parts and the occasional barn map. Now you get 5 cards and can choose 2 – they give a mix of Barn maps, XP, credits and scrap (and sometimes another case). This means you no longer get a load of car parts that you might never use – definitely an improvement πŸ™‚ Barns are accessed from the top right corner of the main map and cost 100CR to get to.

Here’s what you might see when you enter a barn…

…Previously, barns were different sizes and might have 1, 2 or 3 cars present. Now they all seem to have 3 cars but unique layouts. The car on the left is an Edgewood Wildcat (Oldsmobile Cutlass)…

…and it’s a good example of a car that is overpriced…

…All of the cars in this barn were overpriced, so I didn’t buy any of them. However, there are parts to be found in barns too. As long as you remember which parts you can’t repair and the simple 15% and over rule, you can pick up some useful bits by checking the various collections of boxes and cupboards around the barn…

…Here’s an example of what might be available…

…And here’s what I left with…

…There’s always a case hidden in there somewhere too πŸ˜‰

I visited 2 more barns yesterday and bought 3 cars. Lets take a quick look at how I choose. Firstly, price is important…

…and that bought us a nice example of a ’65 Chevy Impala…

…Looks good but will need a lot of work! You can form a judgement on the amount of work by using examine mode. This will show the condition of most parts that are still fitted in the car…

…Of course, it can only show parts that are still there and usually many parts are missing πŸ˜‰ This is a Katagiri Tamago (Honda Civic). I came back with that car too and from that final barn I also bought an FMW Panther (BMW 3 series)…

…All at a good discount compared to their value πŸ™‚

That’s the joy of Barn visits – you never know what you’ll find. As long as you stick to the rules of car price checks and part condition, you should maximise your profits. The same process can be applied when visiting the Junkyard – the only difference is that you will be buying wrecks that will need a lot more work and new parts to complete the rebuild!

Hope that’s given more of an insight into Car Mechanic Simulator 2021 gameplay and some of the improvements over its predecessor πŸ™‚