Here we go trying out a different challenge and a thank you to Cee for bringing it to my attention 🙂 This is a new challenge started this month by Clare on her Clare’s Cosmos blog. If you follow the link you can read all about it and how it came to be.

Being me, I’m already going to bend the rules a little. You see, my desktop isn’t always a photo. Quite often it’s a screenshot from a game and that is the case this month with an image from American Truck Simulator…

You can catch up with Clare’s inaugural post Here and hopefully join in too!

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 😉

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 🙂

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 🙂