I mean, just look at that sunset!
Of course, it’s not a real truck… I don’t have a license to drive HGs (Heavy Goods Vehicles, for those unfamiliar with the acronym) and I have never sat in the cab of one in my life.
So let me explain…. For my birthday in 2017 my son gifted me a driving simulation game on the game platform Steam, called Euro Truck Simulator 2 (or ETS2). I’d seen him playing it on his PC and had admired the graphics, which looked very realistic. I’d never been much into computer games so although I was pleased with the gift, I wasn’t sure if was really going to be my ‘thing’.
Well, a year and a few months later, I am hooked. At the present time I have 9 small (3 bay) garages and 1 large one (5 bay) which means I ‘own’ 32 virtual trucks based all over the UK and Europe, and ’employ’ 31 drivers (myself being based in my London garage, from which I drive a Volvo. I also ‘own’ a flat-bed trailer, but when I had it ‘delivered’ one of the other drivers in London nabbed it for a job, so I have never used it myself (the cheek of it).
As you can see from the second image, I get to carry some interesting items! Most challenging on the narrow roads of Europe are the oversized loads. In ATS (American Truck Simulator) the loads I have most problem with are the double-trailers – I have yet to master reversing one without getting into a complete pickle! The earnings are lower in this game but the roads are much wider and easier to navigate, even with a double trailer (unless you’re reversing).
What I like most about ETS2 and ATS is the realistic quality of the graphics – the detail, especially in ETS2, is AMAZING and I can barely imagine the hours of coding it must have taken to get to that level of detail. If you have your graphics set to ‘high’ then you can see the grime, the road texture, and after rain, the spray coming up from the wheels of the vehicle in front. On my current ‘job’ I’m really enjoying the way the light changes as clouds race across the sky, momentarily obscuring the sun. It really is amazing. As are the sound effects – obviously I’m no expert when it comes to real trucks, but all the truck models (Volvo, Scania, Iveco, Man, Mercedes, DAF) have different engine sounds (apparently SCS, the makers, record real engine sounds – and they also use real peripheral sounds like air brakes, the noise a truck makes as it goes over an uneven road surface… the sound of a truck driving over gravel or snow is to die for! Yes, I know I’m weird…) which adds to the realism. You even get the sound of other vehicles driving in the opposite lane as they fly past you.
I’m not sure if the towns and cities in the game are exact replicas of the real ones – some generic views are almost inevitable, given the complexity of the virtual world. One day I will look up a town from ETS2 on Google Street View to see if ETS2’s version is accurate… until then, I can still enjoy travelling right up to Scandinavia and even parts of Russia. I’ve even been to St Petersburg, and without a passport!
If you set your options for ‘roadside incidents’ to mid or high, you have the added challenge of crashed trucks and cars to contend with, which can loom up on you around a blind corner with little or no warning – I’ve totaled a few trucks that way! You can always get your truck repaired, though, however bad the damage – but you will most likely lose the cargo you were transporting at the time and, of course, the payment you would have earned for the job!
My son also gave his father the same gift, because he loves vehicles and driving. However, it turns out he much prefers real vehicles. He took his truck out and crashed it almost straight away…. Apparently it is still lying there, blocking the road and annoying the other virtual drivers! I would like to go and retrieve it for him, at least put it back safely in the garage, but he’s forgotten his password. Ah well…
Although each game is single-player, you can go onto the Multi-Player version and engage with other players. My son and one of his Uni friends meet up online from time to time and have their own little convoy. I’ve been invited to join them, but until I can work out how to install MP (or my son can help me) I’m confined to my own version of the game.
You can also sign up to ‘World of Trucks’ and get a wider range of job opportunities – the pay is often better, too! As you expand your trucking empire you can ‘buy’ trucks online. I drive a Volvo (I like the throaty engine sound – the Scania is very popular but I think it doesn’t sound nearly as powerful).
It does take time to get used to using the W A S D keys to control stopping, starting, braking, etc, and using the mouse to control turning and indicating. The first time I tried the game, it took me ages to even drive the truck off the Eurostar and I almost gave up…. but I persisted, and I’m so glad I did. It has given me a whole new appreciation of the skill of real truck drivers, and it is a great way to relax. I also find it useful for thinking about writing – I often come up with ideas when driving to my day job (not so much coming home) and the same is true when I am driving a virtual truck. (That’s how I justify spending time on the game when perhaps I could be writing…)
In case this rather rambling post has made you curious about ETS2 or ATS, there is some info (and links) here. Do let me know if you take up ‘truck driving’ and what you think of it!
Elaine, March 2019