With major changes happening in both SCS Software titles, it’s hardly surprising that I’m not finding time to post about anything else 😦 The good news is that v1.35 of Euro Truck Simulator was deployed to live yesterday afternoon. I expect that American Truck Simulator will follow late this afternoon or tomorrow because we’ve been promised that the new state, Washington, will become available to buy on Tuesday next week. Of course, just because I used to prefer to deploy new code on a Thursday, doesn’t mean that SCS will 😉

There have been a huge number of changes and some unexpected upgrades included in both titles. We were gifted a surprise addition at the 11th hour – our Satnav’s will have a voice option. This dropped in to test on 1st June and was an immediate like for most people. Forget the satnav voice in your car – there’s definitely a bit of tongue in cheek from each of the voice actors. Notable actors are Doug Cockle – famous for voicing the lead character in the Witcher series of games – and Skye Bennett – of the Xenoblade series, both providing English audio. I believe some of the other language voices may have been provided by members of the development team. I prefer Skye in ETS2 – I love it when she has a mini hissy-fit because you chose to alter your route and the satnav has to recompute 😉 I don’t have a preference in ATS yet because I haven’t done a lot of testing there.

I’ve shown you some screen shots from the new French roads and upgraded German roads in ETS2 in the previous post. I’d love to have been showing lots of shots from the US too. New road signage has been spreading west from New Mexico where it first started into Arizona and other areas of the map. I’ll try to show some of this over the next week or so as I have now started back in ATS. Because the changes have totally broken my current profile (there are some mods in there that won’t even let it load), I’ve decided to start from scratch just like in ETS2 and I will be looking to reach a level where I can purchase a truck that I actually want rather than getting a compromise. Initial estimates show I will need Level 20 in the skills area (they are different to the ones in ETS2 and probably equivalent to level 12 in that game). I will need around $200k for the truck I would like. But there is the issue because I’ll need to make a final decision on the day between the Peterbilt 579, the 389 or the Volvo VNL730 – it’s actually not a simple as Euro Truck despite there being more truck choices in that title! We’ll see what I choose when the time comes 😉

In the meantime… I could have called this post ‘Wheels of Confusion’. Apart from the brief visit to ATS for the suspension test that I posted about 3 weeks back and a couple of other one-off drives, I haven’t driven consistently in the US for close on two and a half months. I have to admit to being more than a little out of touch when I set out on the first couple of runs as a driver for hire! This run in a Kenworth T680 from Oxnard to El Centro was a classic case of trying to understand what was going on…… I felt like I was behind the truck all the way along the route and I even missed my initial turn-off at the destination and had to come back. There’s definitely a different mindset required for ATS compared with ETS2 and being current in both is a good thing. I felt rusty and driving the T680 didn’t help (I don’t like them at all). I had a more enjoyable time in a Volvo VNL on another run heading up to Santa Cruz. It’s a European truck under the skin, so we were probably speaking the same language. I wound up driving a narrow road through the the trees on that one and thinking that I was lucky that I am an experienced driver with proper wheel and pedals – I’d hate to drive this as a noob on a keyboard and mouse set-up! …
…and that descent to the bridge is much more steep than it looks from the cab – the engine brake alone couldn’t keep the speed under control and there wasn’t a retarder so I had to use the air brakes 😦 I think the bridge is a new from the addition of roads in the 1.34 update as I’m sure I have driven this track before and it wasn’t there then! Good old SCS adding new roads and other things for Free (Unlike certain other game publishers) and scaring the hell out of little me when I come to try them out!!! 🙂

I’m enjoying my return to the US states and looking forward to sharing some more shots from the recent state of Oregon and the soon to arrive state of Washington. I’ve missed my freeways and interstates. For the record, since both games were almost in parity with each other after christmas, the combination of special events, a competition and my decision to do most of my v1.35 beta testing in ETS2 have resulted in me doing 200 additional hours in Euro Truck. My hours in that game currently stand at 1550 whilst ATS is a lowly 1345. Between them that’s 120 days of my life – sobering thought isn’t it! And blogging about my experiences – I don’t know how many hours that has taken each year. But if I look at the benefits against the time, I think it weighs out as a positive. I’ve learned so much about other countries and their histories from researching things initially discovered from the Truck Simulator games! I’m looking forward to many more miles across states and countries over the next few years 🙂

As part of my diversification into other computer games I decided to give Fishing Planet a try out. It’s quite a departure from driving trucks which has formed the mainstay of my gaming over the past year. The one similarity is that Fishing Planet is a simulation requiring the player to learn the necessary skills to be successful.

Fishing Planet is available through Steam and is Free to Play. Free…? Well, yes but with a caveat. You can choose to pay to play by purchasing premium status for your account – available for various durations up to a year. This ups your in-game money and experience points on each angling session by around a third allowing you to level up faster and afford new equipment faster too. So we have a sort of Pay to Win situation. However, if you have the patience of a true angler and enjoy your fishing then why would you want to buy a premium upgrade?

There are two kinds of in-game currency. Credits which you can view as the greenbacks in your wallet and Gold which can be viewed as a sort of Bitcoin. Guess what, you can also buy packs of Credits and Gold using real money – which might come in handy if you over extend yourself and become bankrupt. That is a definite possibility if you aren’t careful and there’s even an in-game award for it (which doesn’t give you money!). So, as in Euro Truck Simulator, caution with your finances is important unless you want to Pay to Play!

Like most games, Fishing Planet has a number of DLC’s available. These are mainly packs offering fast routes to desirable fishing, opening specific equipment or fishing venues with licenses early in the game – more Pay to Win options. I have to say – they seem very expensive compared with say, SCS Software’s DLC’s for Euro Truck or American Truck so I wouldn’t contemplate them personally at this time.

Anyway, here’s the map with the current fishing locations……several of them are unlocked because in the 10 days that I’ve been trying out this game I have risen to level 18. Currently everyone starts at Lone Star Lake in Texas – highlighted in brown above. Every venue has an info screen like this one……And from the side menu you can check out things like what fish species are present, what the weather is like and how that will affect the fishing…

Everyone starts with a Telefloat rod, number 8 hooks, 2lb line, a float and some basic baits (Bread, Red Worms and Cheese – ignore the others in the screenshot, you get access to them as you level up) Here’s my current inventory screen with the Telefloat rod……You add things like the tackle box, waistcoat and rod bag as and when you can afford them and they become available. I didn’t mention the reel because I can use that to show the shop screen……You can see that most of the reels can be bought with credits but one of the ones on screen requires you to spend gold – this is true of certain items and baits in the shop. choose wisely where to spend your gold!

Everyone starts with the Minispin 800 Reel. If you look back at the inventory image you’ll see that I’m not using that reel any more. I now have the InspireCast 2000 on this rod which becomes available at level 4. If you decide to have a go at this game my first tips to you is – upgrade the reel as soon as possible. The issue with the Minispin 800 is its recovery speed – how fast it reels in the line. You will find when you go hunting Smallmouth Buffalo (which are a type of carp and inhabit Lone Star) that these fish are both strong and fast. They’re also clever enough to know that running towards you loosens the hook. If your line stays slack for too long, you will loose the fish! The rod itself will serve you well – I was using it just yesterday to haul out some large fish at another venue.

That’s an introduction to Fishing Planet. My thoughts on this game are hugely positive with the caveat of the Pay to Win aspect. The fish behaviour seems to be well modelled – there are a significant number of real world anglers playing the game and this is the consensus view. I will issue a health warning on this one – It is highly addictive! Now I need to get my life back – Tight Lines everyone 🙂

When I looked up the challenge that Cee set for this week my thoughts turned to the past and the toys I had when I was young. Then I thought about how times have changed for the present generation. Sadly, my old toys have long since gone so words will have to suffice as photos are not possible. I can remember a large red metal crane that worked and provided endless hours of fun digging up the back garden. I had a electric trainset from the age of 8 – a highly detailed Hornby Doublo set. I even got an Action Man doll when they came out!

One of the most enduring current toys is the Thomas the Tank Engine range. But when I was a child Thomas was limited to the story books written by the Rev W Awdry. I had the pleasure once in the mid- 1970’s of seeing the Rev Awdry at a model railway exhibition in Westminster. The trains on his layout were all accurate models rather than the Thomas we know and love but each operation on the layout was accompanied by a story-like commentary. Televising the stories in the mid-1980’s changed that and created a spin off market for Thomas toys. And this has been a pattern – TV series and kids movies, which ironically include ‘Toy Story’ and its sequels, creating the modern toy market. It all became quite circular with the toy manufacturers like Mattell and Bandai commissioning cartoons to sell their toys. Here’s a car from the Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 series……One of my Son’s discarded toys.

Something else happened in the 1980’s too. Home computers and games consoles arrived to challenge the traditional toy market. A lot of traditional toys saw their market devastated and many disappeared or had to seek a new approach. I think the toy market today is compressed into the formative years of a child’s life – ages 0-10 – whereas when I was a child the toy market probably extended into early adulthood. Electronic games now take the place of the traditional toys of the 10-18yo market. So we find my Son playing Assassin’s Creed on his PlayStation……Or Overwatch on the PC along with a whole host of other games.  ps – his hair is a bit of a mess because he only just had it cut.  It looked a lot better after he had a shower and combed it! 😉

The thing about console and PC games is that they have extended the age of playtime into adulthood and beyond. At an age when my Father would have been content to sit down and read a book by the fire whilst listening to radio or perhaps watching some TV, I find myself playing with my toys……A steering wheel that is better than the one in my real-life car and headphones with infra-red head movement tracking for my simulation games.

What happened to the traditional train set? I’d love to show you some shots of a model I’m working on. I have often looked at getting back to building a layout. But, with a lack of space it’s a project that’s always getting ‘shelved’. And I’ve found that driving the old 4mm to the foot electric mouse is not quite the same as driving the Railworks locomotives. Suddenly, when you put on the headset and begin shunting those wagons you find yourself in a 12 inches to the foot world even if it is a virtual one…

The traditional toy market has moved on though. The aim now is to produce small volumes of highly detailed limited edition models rather than toys. These are pricey items that appeal to both the serious modeller and to the collectables market. Here’s an example of modern model buses……Limited editions both.

I hope my thoughts were of interest. It’s a complex subject that could do with a more in-depth analysis than I have given. I’d like to thank Cee for firing up my brain with her Black & White Challenge this week 🙂