Time to try out another map in Farming Simulator 19. This map is based on a real location in Cornwall called Bessy Beneath. Like most maps it offers a choice of possible starting farms from the main dairy farm in the area to a couple of very small sheep farms. As far as I can see, all aspects of gameplay are present and the scenery is well crafted although it’s probably not quite as good as the Oakfield Farm and Six Ashes maps which I have been playing on.

Perhaps it’s time to tell a bit about what happens before any of my Farming Simulator 19 series. There’s a lot of background work goes on in this game before I start to show you my posts. I test some options, try out owning various farms on the map that I’m hoping to build a series around. Some maps fall by the wayside during this testing – not because there is anything inherently bad about them, they just don’t suit my style of play. A classic example would be Marwell Manor – created by the same modder as Oakfield Farm, the removal of all the farm buildings if you choose to play as anything other than New Farmer doesn’t sit well. But a lot of players only ever play as New Farmer, so it fulfills a need. The West Newton Farm map has the issue of all that farm equipment sitting there if you choose to play somewhere other than the main farm, whatever mode you choose to play in.

Then there is the decision of whether to play with Seasons activated. It took me a long time to cross that bridge but I’m glad I finally bit the bullet with Boundary Farm on the Six Ashes map. Now it’s time to push on to the level that the Season’s developers feel gives the most realistic feel of time passing – that’s using nine in-game days to represent each 3-month season and setting the clock to 5x speed. I’ve been playing Boundary farm in real time, so this will be quite a change.

To assess the change I have tried several starts on the Bessy Beneath map and after testing I think I can say that the 5x speed probably reins in the amount of work you can achieve in a day to a much more realistic amount. From mixing and matching different types of work and earning up to £70k per in-game day, I may get two fields ploughed and earn £8k before the light goes during an early spring day. That’s quite a hit on the potential finances of a farmer trying to start from scratch!

During testing I’ve taken some shots that I hope will give a basic idea how the map looks in early spring…

…And it’s clear that there’ll be a lot of dawn starts and quite a bit of working into the late evening. And there’s also the opportunity to do some submarine ploughing too 😉

I’ve decided to play this map alongside the Six Ashes map – so then you can see just how quickly I move through the seasons on Rosland Farm compared with Boundary Farm. It will also display the much harder financial task facing me as I play at the faster clock speed. If you’ve been watching the monies in the top corner of the screenshots you’ll know that I’ve been doing a good job of keeping my head above water on Boundary Farm and I expect to have almost all the money I need sitting in the bank when it comes to harvest time and I need to make that big purchase! Rosland farm will be so very different and if I want to progress I will almost certainly need to take out a bank loan.

On this map, I’m going to be a Sheep farmer with some arable work thrown in. That will be a learning process too! I’ll tell you how it goes over the next few weeks 🙂

I’ve spent the much of my recent driving time in American Truck Sim getting to know New Mexico and assessing the impact of the changes made in the v1.29 release. Now I think it’s time to give my thoughts.

The first thing to note about the release is its scale. It could have been just connecting map sections to join Arizona with New Mexico. But in map terms alone it was so much more. New sections of road to explore all over the existing states. There’s so much of it that I haven’t explored everything there yet. And, along with those new roads came additional scenery beside the new roads and in other locations too. For example……beside the I40 – I don’t remember those tanks being there before! Roadsigns have been improved in many locations and I expect that will be an ongoing improvement with each release as the devs work back over the existing areas. But there’s other less obvious changes which may be a mix of improved map and improved physics. Some of the hills seem to be even more of a grind than they were before 🙂

Which brings us handily on to AI improvements. One of the most frustrating things prior to this update was the AI trucks and their ability to ignore the laws of physics. You could be struggling up a hill with an 8t load and an AI truck would blast past with a load you know weighs over 20t. Either the AI trucks all have 1000HP engines or something was wrong with the programming. Well, that’s all changed. Now you find most of the other trucks on the road struggling up hills too 🙂 There’s also a lot more variation in how they are driven. I normally cruise around 55mph and every truck would scream past me. Now I find some trucks doing similar speeds to me even in states where a higher limit is permitted. So some AI truckers are now behaving as if fuel economy is their priority too! Another new AI improvement is the slower vehicle. We used to find the occasional pick-up that overtook and then settled into the lane in front of us and slowed to around 50mph which it then maintained for a long time – this is vaguely realistic behaviour. That’s changed – now you can be cruising along and you’ll gradually come up behind a slower moving van. Close inspection reveals it to be a glaziers van with glass sheets on one side or a builders van with ladders on the roof both of which may have a good reason to be travelling more slowly 🙂

Random events – definitely the WOW factor in v1.29. You can meet these just about anywhere in any state. There’s quite a variety like this aircraft that has made a forced landing……also available in ‘undamaged’ 🙂 Or a fellow trucker who’s in a shedload of trouble……having shed his load all over the carriageway! And there are the roadworks closing off a carriageway……available in many different configurations including a mobile barrier trailer that you can get as a haulage job 🙂

The Police vehicles have improved. The non-descript star that sufficed in the early days is gone. Now they identify with their locality…

Yes, v1.29 brought a whole plethora of improvements and I’m probably still to discover some of them. It also has one well known bug which should be fixed in the next release. The weigh stations at Grants Road on the New Mexico border don’t work properly. The westbound one doesn’t give any indication of whether you can pass or not (so we just drive past). The eastbound one is ok if it calls you in but if it says you can pass, the indication doesn’t clear. The only way to clear it is to swap trucks and have a kip! There’s always something that slips through isn’t there 😉

Meanwhile, over in Europe… Oh God – It’s Broke! Yepp, the update for the Italian DLC dropped in last week and it has broken the mods big time. So I have to go and sort that mess out now. A quick check last night revealed that all the traffic mods need to be disabled for the game to run at all. All the drive train mods are probably broken too – by changes to the engine mapping code. I’ve lost all interior sounds in the MAN TGX. What this means is that until the mods I have been using are brought up to speed with the new version of the game our Build a Trucking Company project is on hold. I think we’ve covered much of what we needed to cover anyway for a game walkthrough but it’s disappointing none the less. I’m going to clear out the mods in my main profile first and gradually feed them back in to see what works and what doesn’t – that should keep me busy for a couple of weeks!

I’ll leave you with a shot of Midnight Cruiser parked up for an early morning breakfast in Roswell…

The SCS Truck Simulator games have a few minor issues that affect game immersion. Firstly, the companies in the game are made up names rather than real world. I can understand why this should be – real world companies can be very protective of their identity so the game’s developers have shied away from possible conflicts. It has even impinged on the names of Trucks in the early days of Euro Truck with the manufacturers Volvo and Mercedes-Benz appearing as ‘Valiant’ and ‘Majestic’ – despite the fact that the trucks themselves were clearly recognisable!

Fortunately, through a slow process of licensing, every major European manufacturer now has current or recent models in the game. The issue of licensing is very apparent in American Truck Sim where only three vehicles are currently officially available – leaving me awaiting the release of the Peterbilt 389 and no doubt trying the patience of International and Freightliner fans. The other issue is the variety of AI traffic and trailers/loads in game which also impacts player immersion.

This is where Mod’s come in. People create modifications that can be downloaded and added into the game to create new content. So, for example, I can have real gas stations. I can also get different cargoes to those supplied with the game. I can even get trucks that aren’t yet available through the official game. I think a big vote of thanks is due to SCS for allowing the community the freedom to mod the game! And, of course, SCS add their own mod’s to the game in the form of Downloadable Content (DLC’s) – which may be maps or new vehicles. Expected soon is the South of France DLC.

Belle Coaches on Summers Lane
Belle Coaches on Summers Lane

There can be issues with mods produced for the game by members of the community. The mod may well have gaps in its skin allowing the background to show through. Or it may not work with some of the game mechanics – coupling to the tractor unit for example. But, overall, the standard of mods is high with some dedicated modder’s producing excellent in game content. One example is ‘Jazzycat’ who produces an amazing selection of AI traffic mods along with trailers and loads to enhance the game experience. One of his mod’s adds in coaches in a variety of company colours. It was great driving down the autobahn one day to find myself being overtaken by a Belle Coaches vehicle – a company that shows up on Summers lane when Lowestoft Town or Leiston come to visit Wingate & Finchley. It’s things like this that enhance the realism and grow the game for me 🙂

R3000 Trailers Everywhere
R3000 Trailers Everywhere

One issue that I have experienced with mods is the spawn rate – one that I loaded into American Truck literally took over all the AI trailers so that any truck out there was hauling an R3000 Reefer in one of the liveries the mod supplied. I disabled that one but will put it in again from time to time if I want to get a screenshot with one of the specific company’s trailers. Other issues include skin textures that don’t load correctly resulting in bright red trailers, sometimes displaying the word ‘texture’, running around in game 😦  Another, less important, issue is the mods that break the game economy. I prefer not to use ones that do that – I could already have a ‘389 but the mod sets the price at just over $50k which is unrealistic as it should probably be closer to the $120k cost of the Kenworth W900. I have recently added the Peterbilt 351 into ATS again.   This is a very old truck and the asking price of around $45k probably isn’t economy breaking – I may indulge myself and buy one to drive as a change from ‘Rolled Gold’.

Northern Nevada - all the Town names in white were added by the MHAPro map upgrade.
Northern Nevada – all the Town names in white were added by the MHAPro map upgrade.

The other type of mod is a Map – either upgrade or extension. Some are merely new roads to drive beyond the current ‘official’ maps and vary in quality quite a lot – probably the best of these from the videos I’ve seen are the Promods ones. However, I’ve decided to leave those alone and wait for the ‘official’ expansions. Upgrades are also available and the best of these are probably the ones from MHAPro. I added the latest version to ATS and was very pleased with the improvements – more towns and settlements (particularly in Nevada) and more places offering cargoes along with realistic roadside rest points. It also adds other trucks to the drop off points and rest areas increasing the challenge of parking. I was so pleased with this upgrade that after the latest SCS code update to Euro Truck I added in the MHAPro map upgrade there too. It precipitated a change of play decision in ETS2 for me as well, of which more in the next trucking post!

Peterbilt 351 - Should I buy one for Historic Vehicle Rallies?
Peterbilt 351 – Should I buy one for Historic Vehicle Rallies?