Microsoft Flight Simulator (aka MFS2020 or MSFS2020) was released for the PC on August 17, 2020. Now that we’re approaching a one year anniversary for the sim, I thought I’d take a semi-quick look at how it’s been doing since launched on PC. Has it improved? Gotten worse?
Please note this is only one person’s take on it’s current condition after spending more than 380 hours with the game (including update downloads) and 150 hours of actual in-game flight time thanks to NEOFLY.
MFS2020 is visually hands-down the best flight simulator available on the market today. It was in 2020 and it still is one year later. On July, 27, 2021 the simulator was released for console for landing on the latest Xbox. Although many argue (including myself) that the visuals have degraded on the computer version since the sim was released for the Xbox, MFS2020 still is a beautiful masterpiece. My goal here is not to debate points about why things may or may not have changed for the PC version of the sim since the July 27th release on Xbox, however I will note some of my experiences of those changes.
Photogrammetry is a game changer
You can visit any place on God’s earth you wish. Many updates to the simulator over the past few months have provided some visual upgrades to models of real-life buildings around the world such as Stone Henge, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Pyramids in Egypt and other iconic buildings in major cities around the world. With the use of photogrammetry, the sim can replicate a 3D image of satellite imagery. The satellite images are streamed from the internet within the sim as you fly over! Thankfully this part (photogrammetry) of the simulator has not been downgraded or changed (at least that I have noticed). Apparently however some textures at higher altitudes do appear fuzzier than when the sim was first released. Some draw distances of trees and buildings as you approach them have changed as well. Many users, including myself report noticable pop-in of objects as you pan the camera which I do not recall noticing only months ago.
Performancewise, the simulator is fantistic, provided you have the computer to run it. I do not have the latest computer with only a GTX 1070ti and a i7-8700k cpu with 16 gb of memory but have been mostly pleased with my overall experience.
Before the July 27th update, flying on high settings was mostly a joy, with smooth panning and banking of the plane, even over major city centers like Los Angeles and New York. However there would be small stutters when landing at major airports like LAX or JFK. And yet I was still pleased with the performance since the visuals were breathtaking and this mine isn’t even a VR experience! After July 27th, flying has gotten smoother and framerates have improved even at major airports. Cleary there has been some kind of performance boost. You would think this would be a good thing, right? And it mostly is in my case, but many users are reporting game crashes (and I don’t mean plane crashes because we’ve all had those, virtually speaking).
More flight time with Neofly
Early this year in 2021, I discovered a free mission based program called Neofly which is run while flying in MFS. With Neofly, you start with a Cessna 172 or other small plane and build up an income doing various missions, passenger flights and deliveries. Neofly tracks your flight in the sim. Currently I am in the process of flying around the world. I started a KACV with a Cessna 172 and now the plane I use is a Cessna Citation Longitude. It’s been a long journey down to South America and back to Alaska as I prepare to head to Asia and Europe. MFS now has a purpose and it’s a great way to visit places virtually even it’s all for pretend. The last fsix to eight months of flying hasn’t seen any game game crashes. Now since July 27th, I’ve experienced two. Hopefully that gets sorted out sooner than later.
Satellite imagery has been added to the World Map page in MFS in the July 27th update. This is a great feature but it also has caused game crashes for some, including myself. Currently airports history of last flown from or to are not remembered on World Map as they once were. I would love to say that overall the simulator has grown and gotten better since August 2020 but with some the strange behavior with flight dynamics, rapid speed changes, game crashes and over visuals issues, it’s hard for me to say it’s better. Before July 27th it was better. A month or two after the August 2020 release, I had had some random game crashes during flight (aka CTD’s, crashes to desktop). These were to be expected since the sim had recently been released. Then some updates later and the game settled down. The visuals even increased and I went months without a single CTD. The simulator was improving even if there was only Autogen (not photogrammetry) when flying over my town.
Today the game is working for some and broken for others. For me, it’s still fun to fly in and learn how to fly in, as long as the simulator behaves itself and doesn’t crash to desktop. I have pretty high hopes that future updates will iron out any steps backward MFS2020 might have taken since July 2021.
Why do you think Oculus Rift is going to require a Facebook linked account to use it? We can’t know all of the reasons….but I believe one reason is because Facebook spying on it’s users. And at its core Facebook developer’s do not love God, His Word, or support the current POTUS. Unless one has been living in a cave without the internet, Radio or TV, it’s clear that Mr. Trump is pro life and a staunch supporter of law enforcement, Israel and has been a public defender of Christians and Jews alike. Facebook backers however, along with many other left-wing media outlets, probably know this more then the average citizen. President Trump’s views simply don’t jive with theirs. And of course they won’t when you advocate for the murder of babies through open support of the Democrat party. Or how about their support for violence against police and law abiding citizens as seen in there defense for the riots in major Democrat controlled cities across the country. And let us not forget about their attempt at hiding their support for the abuse of women through their defense of Islam and the adult entertainment industry. And we cannot forget about their hate speech aimed at hurting the President and his supporters. It’s no secret that conservatives and Christians are banned on the site. And just how much does Facebook employees, members, and family members support the Democrat Party? See for yourself.
Don’t be next
So why should any support this type of platform or product? Answer. They shouldn’t. If everyone left Facebook, and all of us never bought an Oculus Rift tomorrow, Facebook would need to rethink a few things. But until that happens, Facebook will continue to lure the unsuspecting into it’s devious grasp of control. Will you be next?
I speak of those beyond pesky server disconnections that cause players to randomly lose their progress or fail to complete a mission or get a chance at some extended exploration. Why try to do anything in a game if you are going to be disconnected every 20 minutes only to have to start all over again? And this brings to me a fundamental reason I generally am not a fan of online multiplayer games despite their benefits.
I miss the days where one could put a copy of their favorite game on DVD straight into the computer and play it knowing it was your game and no person or disconnection would interrupt the gameplay. Sure the games where smaller in size but all this online cloud stuff is actually not the best thing for us.
Now days, games are downloadable from cloud based servers such as Steam, Epic games and Origin etc. and many are single-player which is an okay way to play a game but you never really own it. If the game service ever decides it’s time to say “bye’bye” for whatever reason, so does your game. Similarly, dedicated servers that allow online multiplayer games and require a constant internet connection such as Star Citizen, Eve Online and Elite Dangerous are even more prone to interruption. Any hiccup in your connection and back to the main menu to go. If you were making some great in-game progress, it’s possible the game server saved some game data but oftentimes games requiring continual internet connection only save basic stats such as your current weapons, clothing and currency. As is in the case of Star Citizen any disconnection from their game server means you lose your location in the game too and any mission cargo you may have been carrying. Losing your location is big drag especially in a massive open world because your travel time to anywhere is wiped out. Getting ready to land on a new planet? Forget it, you get to start over from your starting location. The greater the distance the bigger nuisance any server disconnection becomes.
I haven’t listed why people enjoy online multiplayer games or even why despite what I don’t like about them, they are the future of gaming. There are two simple reasons multiplayer games are here to stay.
First, a non playable character within a game (NPC) will never be able to compete with a real player. Nothing can beat the experience of two human beings playing with or against each other within the same game world. Human players are more unpredictable than any AI NPC player could be programmed to be. Besides in multiplayer games, players have the ability to team up with friends and play together in their favorite games. Those are just a couple the biggest reasons why online connected multiplayer games are the future.
Now to be clear, I don’t discount the popularity or the very good reasons for multiplayer games. It is genuinely fun to shoot bandits with a friend or even doing missions together. However, when a disconnect occurs the game is essentially over for the player who gets booted from the game. And so to avoid that problem I think a game MUST include a singleplayer component to it and one that works the same or similar to its multiplayer counterpart. Perhaps the game can fall back to singleplayer mode should any internet disruption occur. The only thing that would be lost would be your friend and other human players from your game world but you won’t lose any game progress. The game world would stay intact and so would your location.
So Star Citizen game, if you are to ever succeed game-world speaking, those random in-game disconnections that players experience sometimes multiple times an hour, must be eliminated for good to keep me coming back.
Star Citizen is that online multiplayer living space game currently being developed by Cloud Imperium Games. More about the development here. As of this post, Star Citizen is in an alpha state of development which its been in since 2012. It has been operating on a pledge based system where a player must pledge or pay for a starter package to enter the world of Star Citizen and play the game. A starter game package consists of, at the very least, a basic spaceship, some in-game currency (currently aUEC) and the entire game to download and test. However, one glaring question many folks have been asking is, how long until the game is actually finished? And that remains to be seen. In fact, if time is any gauge for future events, a beta version of the game isn’t even on the horizon.
How many pledges make a game go?
Nevertheless, like many other players before me, we have been curious as to the degree of play-ability the current alpha version of Star Citizen is in. YouTube videos show great scenes from the game but how much editing, if any, went into removing game breaking bugs from those videos? And what about those reports that Star Citizen is some multi-million dollar scam. I decided to get some first hand facts based on personal experience of the game and research.
According to current pledge numbers, Star Citizen has raised over 280 million dollars. I won’t say this instantly makes Star Citizen a scam simply because of all the money it’s generated through millions of pledges. Businesses make money, that’s one purpose of having a business. And yet, it would also appear that the $280 million (which continues to grow) should be a good….no wait….. a great start for being able to pay developers and build a game and a very playable game at that.
Of course the developers do need to be paid so pledges are a great way to make that happen. One big concern I would have and is something that I have since learned more about from getting my hands on my own copy of the game itself, is a little something to do with priorities. More on that later.
So, just how playable is alpha Star Citizen?
Not knowing a lot about how to play Star Citizen, I first purchased a starter package which included the Mustang Alpha ship and so my first few hours spent in Star Citizen have been doing basic spacey things and learning the controls. So far in the game I’ve managed to learn how to walk round, run, jump, fly, use the mobiglass, land better, refuel my ship and not crash, land on a platform without crashing (joystick makes this much easier by the way), quantum jump to planets, take off and not crash, attempt basic deliveries all the while exploring the only star system currently available in game called Stanton. Now, I knew going into this experience that SC was only in a feeble alpha state so I didn’t expect much but then again it’s been in development for many years. So naturally I anticipated game bugs and I most definitely expected the game to crash. I wasn’t disappointed. (Although the crashes of late have been network disconnects.)
Look, what bugs you?
The bugs I’ve experienced have mostly not been the type of bugs I had anticipated when I started. I expected a nearly complete and broken mess of a game in terms of graphical mishaps such as missing doors, broken floors, ceilings, all wrapped in some ugly looking environments due to missing textures. Instead I have been treated, for the most part, to a beautifully rendered, and sometimes jaw dropping game world graphically speaking that is. And while the game indeed looks fantastic, some of the gameplay features such as missions remain broken or seemingly not complete.
Of course you won’t know which part is broken or incomplete until you get into the mission and drop your box and the game won’t let you pick up the box anymore. Oh well it’s only 1000 UEC you didn’t get. Try that mission again. And again. And yet again. Go ahead maybe this time? And yet performance wise, the game in it’s current state runs well on my computer which apparently not everyone can report.
You’re kind’ve stuck, now what?
Now as magnificent as the game world looks, with it’s detailed and carefully rendered ships, planets and spaceports (which you can even land on and walk on) includes those broken game features that do ruin the gameplay. In fact, as of this writing, I am currently unable to play the game with my own ship because the two ships I have are not retrievable at the Port Olisar spaceport. (I’ve read of the some workarounds which includes resetting my character or spawning at a different location of which both options I haven’t figured out how to do yet nor think I should have to.) And this brings me to my biggest question for the success of this game (from a players’ standpoint). What are the priorities for the future development of this game? And do these priorities benefit the players or mostly benefit the developers and game creators)? Are they going to help new players enjoy the game or has Star Citizen lost it’s way somewhere in the verse? (The “verse” is the term used in the game for the universe for which players are able to explore).
I do wonder what the 280 plus million dollars is doing, if anything, to help make basic gameplay, such as being able to retrieve a ship or complete a basic delivery mission, become a finished polished part of the game. Especially since I don’t find the game any fun without a ship and I really don’t want to hitch a ride on someone elses ship when I paid for my own. So a game bug that can cause you to lose in game credits and/or a flyable ship seems to me to be something that should be a fundamental priority for developers to fix. First, before they create more ships. And it may be that the developers are hard at work fixing this basic problem as I speak. I do hope this is the case.
Pay 2 Win?
Another questionable situation I see in Star Citizen is something called pay 2 win. And I don’t mean the developers win and the players lose (although maybe that’s the case for some). I must first clarify that since Star Citizen is a living space style sandbox for which you the player get the freedom to explore however you choose there really isn’t any endgame or “winning” in Star Citizen. And winning I mean in terms in winning or losing a race and game over. Rather in Star Citizen, you the humble citizen player, are continually working/playing/grinding to gain in-game credits (aUEC) in the hope of someday being able to either purchase a better ship or you are free to simply have fun exploring in the ship you currently have.
However, a potential problem I see that could occur in Star Citizen is that a player may purchase with real money a powerful luxury ship complete with great combat abilities, or better storage capabilities. The starter package of $45 doesn’t do a lot for competing with a grand luxury spacecraft worth $1000 of real money. So if you are wealthy in real life you might have a better starting advantage in Star Citizen. Sure you can earn in game credits to buy that luxury starship or combat ship of your dreams but if you have a lot of real money that you think you should waste (I mean, spend), why wait? But should you be someone like me who doesn’t believe it’s wise to waste hundreds and thousands of dollars on a virtual spaceship than I guess you won’t have the better ships for a very long time. And yet if you think of it as a simply a pledge to help the game along (as I’m pretty sure the Star Citizen game studio hopes you do)……I still say those expensive ships are better than the starter ships.
Broken Ship in Basic Starter Package?
In my experience there is another not-so insignificant game bug that makes Star Citizen a game you might want to reconsider before getting your hands on it (at least with one of the two $45 starter packages). The starter package which includes the Mustang Alpha as of this post, is broken because the ship is unable to hold any cargo even though the game website shows the Mustang alpha is fully capable of hauling cargo and is game ready. Without cargo space however, personal delivery missions are impossible to do unless you rent a ship (but you need lots of aUEC to do that). So this brings me to my final question about Star Citizen. What are the priorities for this game? Clearly making money has become a priority if it wasn’t from the start back in 2012. But why isn’t the starter package on the website pledge store (which includes this particular broken cargo bay on the Mustang ship) either fixed, removed from the store or at the very least showing a note mentioning this problem? Apparently this particular bug report/complaint isn’t old but has been around for at least 3 years! And yet, there are numerous new and impressive looking ships continually being developed and added to the game every quarter. Some ships cost hundreds and even thousands of real dollars.
I would think that with a $250 million dollar plus income that a mandatory starter package (which costs real money) would include a fully functioning starter ship by now. It should be noted that so far in my experience, I have yet to see any problems with the other basic starter ship package which includes the Aurora MR aside from the game locking me out of using the ship! (Note of caution and warning: if you are still considering getting into the game with a basic starter package, I would as of now only recommend the Aurora MR because of the cargo problem on the Mustang. But a cargo bay failure might be the least of the problems you experience especially if it happens where you are unable to retrieve your ship at all and need to reset your character. )
So should you get into Star Citizen? The answer is entirely up to you because if you’ve read this far, you will know I think the game is fantastic, disappointing, better than expected, beautiful and includes game breaking and mission breaking situations, game server wipes (when an update is released) but then again sometimes missions work fine.
Disclaimer and general warning of the risk you take downloading and playing this game: Star Citizen is in alpha stage of game development which means it’s broken and many problems either exist, haven’t been fixed and/or may never be fixed. I will not be responsible for anything that might go wrong (and things do go wrong, as of this post) should you decide to purchase any starter game package for Star Citizen. Doing so is done completely at your own risk.
Now in 2019, RDR 2 is ready for the computer but not without some apparent trouble. Metacritic reviews shows a general critic score of 92 (as of this post) but among users the game gets general unfavorable score—a 3.7 (out of 10). Players have apparently experienced launch crashes, freezing and generally overall poor optimization. And all this from a developer that isn’t new at making games.
Red Dead Redemption 2, according to the many critics who have played it (PC or Console), say the game is both beautiful and breathtaking and so it would appear they are willing to excuse Rockstar for fumbling out of the gate. For whatever reason, players weren’t as kind to Frontier for their fumble. Now players want change. Like Frontier, I doubt that if any indie developer had had the trouble RDR 2 has had on launch, the critics wouldn’t be so kind.
What do you think of the Red Dead Redemption 2 launch problems? Do you think Rockstar is getting a pass? Let me know in the comments.
Elite Dangerous is a massively multiplayer online space game by Frontier Developments. Although the game requires a persistent internet connection it also features a solo or single-player mode. Elite Dangerous is the successor to Elite which was first released in 1984 and now 30 plus years later, the game has seen quite a change.
My history with Elite Dangerous is virtually non-existent aside from hearsay about a learning curve and how fantastic the game is to play in Virtual Reality. Now it’s true I have interest in open world simulation games such as X-plane, Microsoft Flight Simulator and both Euro and American Truck simulators but interest in a space game not so much. It seems most space games are about aliens, monsters and mostly shooting other spaceships in an arcadey fashion. Something about the wide open vast nothingness of space travel also hasn’t had much appeal….but then again I have never encountered game quite like Elite Dangerous.
What Learning Curve?
Something about Elite Dangerous seemed different. Oh and there’s that learning curve I kept hearing about. A learning curve to play a game? There is always some learning when you are starting a new game especially in flight simulators but this game simulation was suppose have a notable learning curve and was not meant to be taken lightly.
And so armed with a wee bit of knowledge of what I might be getting myself into only through those online game reviews and gameplay, I took the plunge into beginning my journey into the world of Elite Dangerous. And what a journey it has been.
Read the Manual and Make Friends with the Options Menu
Now I don’t consider myself a very fast learner and besides that I prefer to take my time to make sure I’m understanding what I learn. And so after 14 hours later, I was able to fly my first ship! Did I mention I like to take my time? You see, perhaps Elite Dangerous is a game at heart but it’s also a simulation that takes place in space. It must be experienced and that’s not even with VR! Now I generally do not enjoy multiplayer games and so my time in ED has been spent in singleplayer (Solo) mode, along with training tutorials and the options menu for keybindings and that is probably one of best places to start in Elite Dangerous.
If you aren’t familiar with the game, within the universe of Elite Dangerous there are 400 billion star systems as part of the in game reproduction of the Milkyway galaxy. All these systems can be seamlessly traveled to in a spaceship which you can upgrade as you gain credits. You begin the journey in a spaceship called the Sidewinder. If you die or crash in Elite Dangerous you will get your Sidewinder back but will have to start over. Later, when you buy a different ship, you will need to pay a rebuy amount (5%) of your total ship value should you die or crash it.
Flying and docking is an accomplishment in Elite Dangerous
For me the learning curve in Elite Dangerous has been first and foremost related to keybindings and understanding both the game, menus and ship systems terminology. At the start you will want to take a look or two or three at that Elite Dangerous manual which gives a nice overview of system terms. Of course you will need to learn how to operate your ship and it’s not a point and click operation (at first). Each ship features a six-way on-board thruster system (vertical(up and down), lateral(side-to-side), forward and backward and don’t forget about pitch, roll and yaw) somewhat like trying to fly a Harrier jet in space. But unless you would like to go spinning uncontrollable toward the side of the spaceport you might want to leave Flight Assist on.
If you have familiarity with flight/combat simulators then learning to fly in Elite Dangerous will a piece of cake, maybe. Your ship features thrusters are not unfamiliar but figuring out your keybindings just might be! I am using a Flight Stick with throttle control – Thrustmaster Hotas X (Hands On Throttle and Stick). Also a keyboard, a mouse and a Xbox controller. I have heard you can fly with a keyboard and mouse only but I haven’t tried it.
Moving your ship to another star system is another accomplishment
Moving from one star system to another within the galaxy is also a new experience which must be learned. We just don’t do that kind of thing on Earth!
Likewise docking (landing) in a spacestation-like port is also not like driving to grandmas around the block in your car unless you use AutoDock which is a newer feature of the game. (Note: All ships come equipped with AutoDock, Auto Launch and Auto Cruise. Auto Cruise can be useful when hyper-traveling around the galaxy.)
Doing most anything successfully in Elite Dangerous feels like an accomplishment
So you can move around in Elite Dangerous and you’re learning the keybindings and termology? Good. Now what? As a noob to ED at just over 80 hours (at the time of this post) I have learned about a few things you can do in this vast openworld galaxy. There is a war going on within the game but it appears to me, at least visually speaking, to be a nearly silent war (maybe it’s different in Open mode with human players?). But nevertheless, space is really big and so unless you go looking for a fight you might not find any. Each port features a news and mission board which displays information about the faction war and their particular allegiance (if any). You can choose to do missions for the leaders of the factions to earn credits (in game currency) or go exploring on your own.
I have found that doing Courier jobs at first helps as you are learning how to jump from star system to system and it doesn’t require any cargo space. The data is store on your internal computer and if you get scanned by another ship or pirate they will not try to steal your stuff. NPC’s or none playable characters are all that is found in the solo mode but in Open play mode you will encounter human players.
Explore some Planets with Horizons
Recently I have begun to explore systems and map individual planets using the Detailed Surface Scanner (which must be bought at a Starport). The data you get after mapping a planet and from discovered systems can be sold 20ly (light years) away in a different star system for sometimes hundreds of thousands of credits!) If you prefer combat, you can learn how to shoot other ships down and gain credits for doing it. Besides doing missions, you might try mining an asteroid, landing on a planet and disabling turrets on the base for a particular faction leader. This is part of the war except you won’t encounter actual people or aliens walking around with guns. Maybe you like to free-roam and wish to visit a random planet (not for a mission). You can with the included SRV (Surface Recon Vehicle) that is part of the Horizons expansion pack in Elite Dangerous. Horizons is great especially if you want to be able to land on some of the planets and moons. (Note: As of this post there is no life on the planets and you cannot land on any Earth-like planets)
The Universe in Elite Dangerous is really big
I haven’t really scratched the surface (aside from a few planets) of what this game probably has to offer since I am still quite new. However, I have been able to get a glimpse of what this game is and how vast it is. Elite Dangerous is masterpiece in it’s size and beauty but something more jaw dropping is what this game is based off of. When you go outside on a clear night, look up at the night sky and see hundreds of dots of light and realize those are suns similar to our own—one cannot but ask at least one big question. Who made all this?
I know the Maker of the Universe and perhaps you do as well. But if you do not know the Creator Almighty God, there is a reason why it matters more than anything else on this earth. Elite Dangerous was made by mere men but someday all men will face God. Some will meet God willingly in worship and some will be kicking and screaming but today you have an opportunity to find out who the true God really is and why it matters. Many people believe in Heaven but if hell is real place you need to find out what that means to you. I don’t want anyone to go there. If you haven’t already why not check out the good person test linked at my website or read my post called 5 things you should know before you die. And if you have a Bible start reading in John 1. The good person test and starting with John 1 from the Bible will give you a good start to understanding who God is and why it matters since none of us are promised tomorrow. And in case you wondered, this is a matter of life or death and not about joining a religion or church.
But after all we’ve learned, is the game any good?
You learn quite a bit in Elite Dangerous, you need to even to survive but is it a game I would recommend? And how about that learning curve? I would enthusiastically recommend Elite Dangerous but especially to anyone with special interest in Flight/combat simulators and/or truck simulation games with a twist. If you don’t mind learning and setbacks and frustrations and grind to get a reward (menial at first) then you might like this game. Each person is different but do your research and then if you still like what you see, get it on sale with Horizons. Naturally, you will need to take your time to learn ED but I think it can be a rewarding experience when you learn something new. I know it has been for me (and that’s saying a lot).
Planet Coaster or Planco for short, (not to be confused with Planet Fitness), it seems was released a long time ago (2016) but this year (2019) I have finally got my hands on it.
Will you like it?
Everyone’s tastes are different but if you enjoy city and/or transport building sims (City Skylines/Transport Fever) and management style games you will probably like/love Planet Coaster. Note about Roller-Coaster Tycoon Series from the early 2000’s: I never got into the Roller-coaster tycoon games from the early 2000’s, but if you liked those games, I’ve heard this game improves upon them.
Build roller coasters and rides while you manage staff and the rides (yes, the rides do break down for which you will need a mechanic.) You can play various modes. Challenge, campaign or Sandbox/free play mode (unlimited money). I haven’t played the scenarios as all my time has been in sandbox mode (80+ hours and counting).
Good to excellent. Something to keep in mind though. Must have a high end computer to play this game otherwise you will probably become disappointed with the performance. (My computer has 16 gb ram, 8700k and gtx 1070ti 8 gb, and it still slightly lags, stutters when building a park to fill the default map size.) There are also some anti aliasing issues visible at certain angles which for me slightly mar the overall quality level of the graphics.
Tips for first-time players
Before you really get into building a good park, I recommend practicing getting use to using hot keys on a empty map (in sandbox mode). Here are a few of my favorite commands and settings. NO CLIP – In the menu camera settings, be sure the option NO Clip is selected. This allows movement through terrain ( otherwise building/moving/seeing underground will be impossible or difficult. ) Key Command T allows a first person camera view which is essential when building tunnels and general moving around the map. X allows the precise placement of objects and rides without the camera moving (especially when you zoom in).
Two hands on the controls
Using your mouse in the right hand and W A S D keys with the left hand move the camera around the map. Hold SHIFT while pressing WASD keys to speed up the movement. When you have the T key toggled (don’t hold it down), raise and lower the camera with Q and E keys. Note: If those keys rotate, then press T to enable first person view (freelook).
Ctrl Z will undo your last action and Ctrl Y will redo it.
The path and track laying system could be improved (Transport Fever gets it right) but in time you will understand how pathing works in Planet Coaster, so don’t give up. Note: there are two ways to make a path. Either on a grid or freeform. (In my experience, both ways kind’ve stink and could have been implemented better. Just remember to practice to see which method works for you best)
When all fails, you might consult a YouTube tutorial or two or three.
My rating (out of 10): 7.5
It’s on Steam
Get the game and dlc in a bundle on a steam sale and it’s a great deal.
What do you like (or not) about Planet Coaster? Tips or tricks for me? I would love to hear them.
Updated 7/22/19 (for ATS version 1.34 and some mods updated for ATS 1.35)
In my previous post about American Truck Simulator I mentioned briefly the added benefit of using mods in your game. Not all mods are great but some mods can become an essential part of your game especially when you want to try to create the best (and most realistic) game experience possible.
I am constantly discovering new or better mods that really enhance American Truck Simulator but listed below is my current essentials list. Many can be found on the Steam workshop page for American Truck Simulator. Others I have found elsewhere. Some mod settings I even tweak to my own liking, which if your new to mods, I will explain a little about that at the end of the post.
My favorite Mods for ATS 1.34 (most working in 1.35)
Filmic Lighting by Pixelgrapher (Note about compatibility: There is no bloom effect when using Filmic Lighting mod, therefore HDR – No Bloom mod is not necessary when using this mod) (not working in 1.35)
This information is specifically meant for those who are new to modding and in American Truck Simulator. I don’t know anything about creating a mod but perhaps I can help with tweaking a modders mod to your liking.
Some mods are easier to tweak than others. I have only tweaked one mod in particular but others have settings that can be changed in a similar fashion. (Important note: You cannot redistribute or upload tweaked or changed mods without first getting approval from the mod creator. )
Mod Location and Subscribing
Once you have subscribed to a mod on the Steam workshop perhaps you would like to find their location on your hard drive. First, it’s important to note that there are two places for mods on your computer. Steam workshop mods that you have subscribed to from the American Truck Simulator Steam workshop website will be located in a numbered folder (To help clarifying this post I will call this folder xxxxx). This numbered folder can be found in your steam workshop content folder. Follow this path on the drive Steam is installed on your computer. (Program files (x86)/Steam/steamapps/workshop/content/xxxxx (where xxxxx designates your steam numbered folder for ATS)
Within the correct numbered folder for American Truck Simulator there will be more numbered folders pertaining to each mod you have subscribed to. Finding the correct numbered mod folder can be tricky especially if you have subscribed to a lot of mods but here’s a tip. Sometimes within the numbered folders there will be a jpg image inside which can give you a hint as to which mod folder you have opened.
Mods you have download from other websites outside of Steam will need to be placed manually into a different mod folder that is located in your documents folder on you hard drive. (documents/American Truck Simulator/mods) Important note: Steam workshop mods will not be located here. As example Jazzycat mods go in this mod folder
DP Traffic Mod tweak example
Once you have your favorite Steam mods for American Truck Simulator in game enabled, you can sometimes tweak the mod if you don’t like the exact settings used by the modder. For example I have tweaked DP’s Traffic mod slightly. This mod contains a file called traffic_data.sii. If you want a more safe and patient reacting ai traffic response (like default) change ai_safety_modifier to 0.3 and ai_patience_modifier to 0.0. You will still see lots of ai traffic with this mod in use but their likelihood of crashing into you will drop significantly. Tweak those numbers and see what you get but do it at your own risk!
Have you played American Truck Simulator? Let me know what you think of this game.
Note: All images are from my modded version of American Truck Simulator
Warning on mods and altering mod files and settings: Tweaking settings of your mod files can not only mess up the local version of the mod that you have downloaded or subscribed to, it can corrupt your saved game. If you are unsure what you are doing exactly I would leave the mod files alone. I will not be responsible for undesirable results!
American Truck Simulator was released in 2016 and is a game about truck driving in American western states. Before ATS (American Truck Simulator) there was the highly popular Euro Truck Simulator which I have not played….yet. Euro Truck is also a great game too by the way. (Note: As of this post, latest version of ATS is version 1.35)
SPOILERS: Yes, this post contains spoilers and not the kind that you can add to your car.
Having been blessed with the opportunity to actually drive a big truck (Werner Enterprises) you might wonder why it has taken me until 2019 to get my hands on this game. I remember playing or trying to play a game called 18 wheels of steel sometime between 2000 and 2011. Perhaps it was the weak visuals or keyboard controls that caused me to lose interest but whatever it was when American Truck Sim game around I didn’t give it much of a look. Around it’s release I tried the demo and didn’t care much for it either, until now. What has changed? I don’t really know since I haven’t followed the game’s development up until lately.
Today the game (Version 1.35) features California, Nevada, Arizona with Oregon and New Mexico as DLC (Downloadable Content Expansions to the base game). Washington State is next in line to be released sometime this year is now released!
Real trucking vs ATS Trucking
What I enjoy about American Truck Sim is how this game gives the player the ability to pretend one is actually driving a 18-wheeler. As you complete jobs (deliveries) you earn in game money allowing you to buy new trucks, upgrades, trailers and do it again. ATS also features a bit of business management. While you drive and complete deliveries, you have the option to buy garages, higher and fire drivers and then let them begin to bring in the bacon (aka dough…..aka money) for you!
So how are the graphics? First, my standards are pretty high. I like photo-realism in games but who doesn’t? So how does ATS measure up? To me the graphics in ATS are like a mixed bag of nuts. There are some good parts but not others. First, the UI (User Interface) has a slightly dated feel to it with large mouse cursor and big menus as if it’s still from early 2000. This does not detract from the game though because it’s still highly functional.
Outside the skies can look visually stunning when driving through the desert in Arizona for example but this game (similar to other games I have looked at—yes you Cities Skylines) is also plagued with virtually no anti aliasing. The truck and vehicle models are top notch as are many of the landscapes but it’s those jagged edges I keep see on bridges, fences and distant objects which really hinder the graphics in this game from becoming completely stunning.
Gameplay, realism and accuracy
You pick up a load at one location and deliver it to the business that is expecting it lets say….12 hours later. And once you arrive, you get to decide if you want to back it up to the dock or easy park or move on to the next job. (By the way, twelve hours of in game time can be equal to about 1-3 minutes of real time driving…er….game play driving….you get the idea.) Along the road there are weigh stations and as you pass the sign……you will hear the pre-pass beep signal to either pull in to the weigh station or continue on by. That’s what I call the real thing!….the best part is you don’t really have to deal with the law or overweight loads but you had better not miss it or run a red light or you will pay….$150-$700…the violation tickets seem to increase as you progress in the game. And hitting another vehicle can be $900. At first this hurts when you’re trying to save up money to buy your first pretend truck if you didn’t use a bank loan but later in the game….well….that’s why you hired those drivers!
Controllers and Performance
I can safely say, using a keyboard to steer your truck isn’t going to be much fun. And backing? Forget it. It’s much easier in real life. Perhaps thats why I didn’t like this game when I first discovered it because I only had a keyboard and mouse. Now I use a controller which isn’t much better but it has improved the experience. The wheel, so I am told, is the best way to experience ATS and I do imagine it is.
I don’t know for sure, but I have heard ATS runs good even on older computer systems. In my system (gtx 1070ti, I7-8700k) The game runs smooth at 1080p with most graphics settings on high but can hesitate slightly in cities with AI traffic mods and reflections on high. (Tip: Lowering mirror distance to medium seems to help.)
The MapNow ATS isn’t for everybody. If you like exploring open roads you might enjoy ATS. Only specific roads are driveable within ATS and they are mostly interstates and state highways in California, Nevada, Arizona and the add-on expansions (OR, NM). But what you do get to travel on is fun especially if want to taste what it’s like to drive a big rig. Many of the cities are not really too exciting but they do offer load pick-up and drop-off locations for freight and cargo. The expansion States Oregon and New Mexico DLC are highly recommended for adding more locations to travel, buy garages and get jobs.
Simply put, mods make ATS better (and more realistic). And the right mods can made ATS a truly great experience. The default AI traffic in ATS is sometimes scarce (which makes driver around easier) but with the right mods you can have loads of trucks and cars and some can actually hinder you from making that delivery on time! (I am constantly discovering new mods, but I do have some favorite ones that I have listed here.
While many places look familiar, some of the locations, landscapes and roads within ATS are not very accurate or familiar looking. For example 299 in Northern CA (Redding to Eureka) in real life is a mountainous two lane and four lane highway with a river on one side much of the way. Within ATS this section of 299 looks dated and there are no mountains or hills in sight. The in-game road is two lanes the entire way. (Interesting to note: That stretch of 299 use to be only a slow two lanes but it is much improved today)
Driving through Los Angeles in real life can be a nightmare of waiting in traffic and busyness everywhere but in ATS there isn’t much of Los Angeles to actually experience. In fact, even with a traffic mod, there isn’t much traffic to speak of. And when traveling on Interstate 10 or I-5 in ATS there are no mass tract housing projects, malls, more housing, more malls and grids of streets lining both sides of the roadway as there is in real life. In addition, the freeways of ATS in Los Angeles (and California in general) could use an upgrade to remove a dated 1994 gaming look. (It’s probably worth noting that with California being part of the base game release it’s interesting to see the massive improvements to development in the latest expansion DLC.)
Larger entrances and exits
Many job locations and even rest stops feature extremely small entrances and exits and areas to turn a trailer in general especially if your trailer is 53 feet long. There is no way of knowing this until after you have arrived at your job recipient only to find out you won’t be able to enter their parking lot without getting stuck.
Repetitive Spawning Aircraft
Some location based activity, such birds or airplanes landing at an airport might be okay but at times the other repetitive animations you will encounter make the game feel stale. A little more randomness would help this game a lot. For example instead of the same four hot air balloons spawning in a particular location all the time, they should sometimes simply not appear. Likewise, the same bi-planes we see throughout the game world which appear at precise locations, should either not appear at times or be a different randomly spawned plane.
There are some prominent but missing truck manufactures and truck types in ATS (ie, missing logging trucks, doubles tankers etc.) Freightliner, Mack, International are just some of the missing truck manufacturers which need to be in this game. (To be fair, these manufacturers must first give approval for addition to the game)
Before I make it seem that ATS is a terrible excuse for a game, it is quite the opposite. While ATS isn’t for everybody, there are the little things in this game, such as the myriad of random animations, visuals and sites (although many repeated) throughout your travels that make it great for us who enjoy it. But now speaking as a former trucker, there is one thing I wish would or could be implemented within ATS that might just give the game that edge it so desperately wants to have. In real life when a truck passes another truck sometimes the driver will signal with their headlights by quickly turning them off and then back on to signal the driver ahead that it’s clear and safe to move over. I hope this little touch of realism gets added one day into ATS.
American Truck Simulator has exceeded my expectations in many ways. Will you like it? I don’t know but there is a demo on Steam and I highly recommend giving it a test drive if you aren’t sure. Get the game and expansions on a steam sale and it’s a great deal.
Have you played it? Let me know what you think of American Truck Simulator.