American Truck Simulator

SCS Software returns to the shores of the United States with their highly anticipated American Truck Simulator

TRUCK-001

Released in early February (2016), American Truck Simulator (ATS) brings the feel of Euro Truck Simulator 2 to North American audiences. At a release price of $19.99, ATS provides great gameplay value for the initial investment. SCS no doubt anticipates additional revenue from DLC that will likely include different vehicles, custom cargo, and expanded map areas. For those that want to take a look and get the feel of the game, SCS has offered a demo that includes a limited number of jobs and a limited demo area: DEMO HERE

Initial impressions

After purchasing and downloading ATS from Steam, I fired up the game to gather some initial impressions. While I own Euro Truck Simulator 2, I’ve probably only spent a few hours with it, so I would be approaching ATS from a novice viewpoint. On opening the game, you are presented with menus to create a profile with a character photo, a truck, and company logo and name.

TRUCK-002

Difficulty levels can be tailored to your preferences and hardware. I’ve been playing the game using an X-Box wireless PC controller and it works great. I have a Logitech MOMO that would no doubt be a better choice, but I haven’t wanted to swap out hardware on my desk lately, so I have no reports on how it works with that. The selections include different shifting options that range from automatic to actual sequential shifting and other controls such as trailer brakes that can be assigned to your hardware.

In the career mode you select a home garage for your new company. Other areas of the map have upgraded garage facilities that you can purchase once you earn enough money and grow your company.

TRUCK-004

TRUCK-021

When you launch a career you only have a limited amount of money, so you typically start out by driving jobs for other companies to build up cash. You can select routes that appeal to your desire to explore the map, or you can go for maximum cash per mile, or perhaps you want to drive a certain type of cargo – it is up to you. Route length and type of cargo determines the payment and allows you to tailor your session length to the time you have available.

TRUCK-022

In the cab

Once you select a job you are plopped into the cab of the truck you have been contracted to drive. If you are driving a job for another operator (using their equipment) then you are instantly placed in their rig at the start location with the trailer already hooked up. Later in the game, when you buy (or lease) your own truck, you will be responsible for driving to and from the job locations, so that is an important consideration when selecting where you choose jobs. The truck cab is nicely detailed and there are many adjustments to positions and displays that you can set. (I have not tried TrackIR yet!) Exterior views include top down views, tire views, panning views, drive-by, and a few others that will help you maneuver your truck into tight spaces.

During your first drives, tips and hints will pop-up to introduce you to the game mechanics and features. I elected to use the “Real Automatic” driving mode, which simplifies driving to just using my controller button to select reverse, neutral, and drive while the automatic transmission handled gear shifting. The X-Box controller works great by assigning steering and accel/brake axes that allow for fine control of the truck. While truck control difficulty is fairly scalable, the game sort of stays consistent in it’s driving difficulty. For instance, my first job had a fairly tight maneuvering exit from the trailer dock that required a very slow and methodical approach – a lot of fun for sure, but I was surprised that the game didn’t start off a bit easier.

On screen aids include a GPS with route prediction capability and a moving map. Also included are icons to select damage reports, the status of the current job, e-mails, and roadside assistance in case you damage something or need repair. A status bar indicates truck health, driver fatigue, and time of day. Your account balance is also reflected, giving you a good gauge of your financial status at all times. When driving for another company, fuel is paid for, so you don’t have to worry about that expense.

TRUCK-012

Driving on my computer was silky smooth with maximum rendering options enabled. The environments are very nice and half of the fun is driving to new areas of the map to explore how SCS modeled the different regions. As one would expect, the urban areas are full of traffic, stoplights, buildings, and congestion. As you leave cities, the terrain gradually changes to reflect the new area you are driving to. Thus, driving through California and Nevada you encounter deserts, mountains, dirt roads, straight highways, twisty mountain passes, and all manner of different scenery. The Pacific Coast Highway is a beautiful seaside road that snakes along the coast and upon entering cities such as Oakland and San Francisco you are greeted with local landmarks that are approximations of the real thing.

The entire driving area is scaled down to give a sense of long distances without the requisite hours behind the wheel. I’m not sure of what exactly the scale is, but miles tick off at about one every few seconds and time acceleration is constant so that you get periods of dawn, day, dusk, and night throughout the longer deliveries. Typical mission lengths are anywhere between 10 and 30 real time minutes depending on the length of the route you select. Atmospheric lighting, shadows, glare, and HDR are very well done in the sim, giving a great sense of the environment. Penalties are assessed if you don’t turn your headlights on as dusk turns to night – so take care to get those lights on. Driving on darkened country roads and through the forest can be really cool and you sort of feel like this sim should take on a horror movie aspect at some points as you wander through some of the more desolate areas of the map. The weather will occasionally change and driving through the rain with wipers thumping will soon have you humming the classic  Eddie Rabbit song

Making that money

The gameplay in career mode is centered around making money and gaining experience, then turning around and reinvesting both the money and the experience points into further building your character, equipment, and business (as well as repaying debts!). The game is chock full of ways to trick out your truck, including engines, transmissions, interior options, etc.  As you earn money, you can buy your own truck and start to mod it with the money you earn. To help you out, you can expect to receive offers from banks to loan you a certain amount of money. As you gain experience, the banks will want to loan you even more money. Obviously, you must make enough money on your transports to pay the bank back, provide for fuel, maintenance, and upgrades if you are modifying your truck with more advanced parts. Making enough money is not all that difficult to do, but requires an investment of time and hauling goods. It’s not all just driving point A to point B though – as you’ll get deductions from your account for damaging other vehicles, speeding, traffic violations, and things such as tolls and fuel. Fortunately, the game is pretty balanced in that it doesn’t automatically fine you for exceeding the speed limit – there is some buffer there to go over the speed limit. Turning right on red without signaling can earn you a ticket as well.

 

As you drive through the map areas, you will also discover new businesses and opportunities. Truck dealers, service shops, banks, rest areas, and employment agencies will soon start populating your map. At service areas, you can spend your cash to upgrade your truck, or you can wait until you are back at your home base. For those that want to get into management, and help grow their business faster, you can recruit other drivers, buy more equipment, and purchase a bigger home base. Keep an eye on your in-game e-mail for offers and specials from banks and possible employers that have lucrative jobs. I haven’t become big enough to hire anyone yet, so I can’t really comment on how that component works, but I’m guessing it is just like running any business – earn more revenue than expenses and you’ll be good to go.

TRUCK-083

Earning money and experience can vary according to how you drive, the route you take, and some of the options you select. As you gain experience points, you can apply those points to build skill levels that will unlock more types of missions (high value, fragile, HAZMAT, etc.). All of the levels and points are explained in detail on the menus, so there is a lot of depth to the game beyond just driving cargo around and trying not to hit things. One of my favorite parts of the game (and one no doubt many people will skip) is the actual delivery portion of each mission. Upon reaching the delivery point, you are given the option of just skipping the parking, taking an easy parking space, or really putting the trailer exactly where the recipient wants it. The hardest option gives you the most experience points, allowing you to ramp up the accessible missions faster. Some of the delivery points are pretty tight, and you risk damaging your cargo or truck in the process, but it is fun stuff learning to park these big rigs. It is a bit of a shame that physical damage to your rig isn’t reflected on the 3D model.

While your truck requires maintenance, fuel, and maybe the occasional upgrade, the driver can only perform if he is well rested and alert. A fatigue system is in place that shows a colored symbol as you become more tired. Just in case you don’t monitor the symbol, an audible yawning sound (which scared me the first time I heard it) is played to caution you that you need to find a stopping place. Rest areas and hotels are scattered across the map, allowing you to pull in and get some sleep. Why is this a consideration? Because for some hauls you are given a certain amount of time, and while the time allocations are very generous, a broken down truck, or taking a wrong route could cause you to run up against that time. Throw in a weary driver and you could lose the job. If you decide to ignore the yawning, eventually your driver will start to micro-sleep for short periods and the screen will go dim. Running into the back of another truck or running off the road will quickly earn you several thousand dollars worth of damage, so ignoring sleep is to flirt with disaster. If you are struggling to stay awake, perhaps tuning in to the radio stations that are streamed live from various sources on the internet will help you stay focused.

TRUCK-033

Play it your way

Now, ATS is probably not a game for everyone – it does involve fairly repetitive activity. Flight sims could borrow a page from the career building aspect of the game though in that you do become vested in your character, your company, and equipment. It would be nice to see a flight sim approach the “gamer” portion of their audience with a similar resource and experience building model. That said, you can just drive single transport missions all day long in ATS and not worry about the deeper aspects of the game, or you can dive headlong into building up a huge shipping business – the choice really is yours. I’m unable to comment specifically about the more advanced career options available, such as hiring drivers and buying more trucks, since I’m still working my way up the ladder.

Coming soon….

According to SCS – the next state expansion will be free to all ATS owners and will feature the state of Arizona. There are also apparently plans for a Collectors Edition boxed version that will have some additional merchandise within. SCS has alluded that the paid DLC success or failure will ultimately determine how far the ATS map stretches – with hints of the Arctic Circle, driving to the East Coast, and South toward the equator. It isn’t hard to imagine all of the fantastic areas they could model with such diverse environments.

Conclusion

American Truck Simulator is a perfect time waster that has some nice hooks to get you involved. Exploration, career building, precise driving, and a polished piece of software with what looks to be long term support and expansion (at a cost of course) promise to give this game/sim legs well into the future. As well, mods are already becoming available to tweak your ATS experience to your liking. It would appear that SCS is in it for…..uh…the long haul..!

Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth

Like this content? Want more of it? Let us know – we are a fledgling site and your input will help us shape our future!

Notable Replies

  1. Sryan says:

    Nice read. How big is the map? just Nevada and California? I’m with you that I’d die for a flight sim with a career mode like that.

  2. Nice!

    Can confirm it works with TrackIR in ‘cockpit’ and can confirm I still can’t park the damn thing while looking backwards.

  3. Nice article @BeachAV8R, as usual. TrackIR and a wheel make this game amazing, gives you time to look around and enjoy the scenery. And backing up is nice, turn your head far enough left and the view flips out to over-your-shoulder out the window view. Helps with parking for sure.

    @Sryan the map currently includes California and Nevada, with probably 15 cities in each state. As the article said Arizona is coming soon as a free addon. To give an idea of scale, the longest hauls can take close to approx 30-45 minutes depending on your driving and weather/time.

    Also a really nice Multiplayer mod at www.truckersmp.com. go convoy with your friends!

  4. Aginor says:

    What happened to me?
    For years I was just making fun of such simulators like “farming simulator” and “euro truck simulator”, and now I am really tempted to try some of them…
    It started with Spintires which I played a bit, and I was shocked to notice that I was excited to be able to park a truck with a long trailer somewhere.

    But I wonder, are those sims any good without a steering wheel? It works halfway decently in Spintires but I wonder about the other sims.

  5. ATS is the most fun with a wheel ofcourse, but sometimes I don’t feel like setting up my wheel and just use the mouse or keyboard, it should work perfectly fine like that for most people.

    But, you can try for yourself, I’ve heard a demo has come out!

  6. I play ETS 2 and ATS with a Xbox one controller. It works great!

    For Farming Sim I use the keyboard.

  7. Just Nevada and Califorina but Arizonia is one the way as a free DLC. SCS said they will release other States as paid DLC and contiune to released based on sales.

  8. Yeah…the XBox controller works surprisingly well… I’m just too lazy to break out my Momo and attach it to the desk. I need a “Bridge Commander” type setup where I just rotate my chair to face the new sim pit setup of my choice…LOL…

  9. 99.9% of the time this decides what sim or game I play. LOL!

  10. You should make it so the display and chair stays stationary and the control-setup rotates around!

  11. I like your train of thought there… :smile:

  12. I just realized my ATS skillz are very much near zero…

  13. Those sort of docks are quite common in new buildings where I live, it takes the trucks that are unloading away from the streets, I really wish we had these in ATS/ETS2! The closests I’ve found is the little dock in pro-mods:

    You have to do a 90 degree turn but as you can see cars park straight in front of the dock! Anyway, I love parking in ETS2/ATS, it’s the most fun you can have with trucks!

  14. That’s awesome. I love the Arma 3 Steam Workshop (though some of the stuff can be hit or miss)…

  15. Arizona teasers…

  16. Arizonia is released, All be it in Beta but its out.

    Some more game improvements as well, including advanced trailer coupling.

    ATS and ETS 2 received the same updates minus Arizona. Both are in Public BETA right now. Other changes included updates to the way external contracts are handled. Before you had to leave the game and go to the website, now its all in game.

    More updates coming this year including France and a new Renault Truck for ETS2 and if I was a betting man a New truck or two for ATS and maybe another state.

  17. Been waiting for this, wanted to set up shop in the Old Pueblo, coincidentally, my old pueblo. Curious to see what direction they go after this. Would love to take a long haul from one side of the country to the other on I-40 or I-10 in the game, so here’s to hoping they stay down south for the next few :smiley:

  18. I would like to see the I-10 run as well However that’s six states, Not sure if they have any more states in development.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing the I-5 finished off either though, That would only take two states(Oregon and Washington).

    Im not so sure we would ever get all 50 states from SCS but the ones we do get will probably be awesome. Modders might fill in the rest.

  19. And that 850+ mind-numbing miles across central Texas…

  20. Ok, since I never played such a game I have to ask: Are those distances kinda shortened or are you really able (and/or forced) to drive the whole distance?

  21. Shortened. I think it take me about an hour to drive across europe, Italy to England, Maybe an Hour and a half. And I can drive from the top of Cal to the bottom of Arizona in around an hourish

  22. …so no simulated wrecks that back up through the Grapevine…? Or pulling your hair out in rush hour traffic at the El Toro 5/ 405 split? What’s the fun in that?

  23. No wrecks but traffic is bad. I sat at an intersection in Tonopah for about 30 mins real time. And very few traffic lights have left turn arrows. So If your not first or second in line to turn left it could be awhile.

  24. If you play multiplayer you can get some pretty spectacular crashes. They get cleared up quickly though.

  25. AZ map is out now!

  26. Oh god. So much to play so little time!

  27. Got it installed on my dads PC last week(selected beta in Steam) and he absolutely loves it!

  28. Just meant the release version is out now :slight_smile: in case anyone else was waiting for the non-beta version. Darn and here I was thinking of going to bed early tonight :smiley:

  29. It was more a celebration of it being in full release, my father is absolutely addicted to ATS/ETS2 so I tend to look up new stuff for him to enjoy!

  30. I have been playing ATS a bit lately and I have to say it seems an improvement of ETS. The trucks with the same tonnage of cargo in ATS feel more weighty (if that is a thing). I still have both in stalled but enjoying what is happening with ATS.

  31. I still need to check out the Arizona map…

  32. Finally got to play some tonight. Seems to be a big improvement with the AZ map. Heck I even saw a protected left turn! Don’t remember which city it was, so can’t say if it was done properly or not though. But what a difference!

  33. I’m going to have to check this out. This might be my Father’s Day present to myself.

  34. Yeah…sitting here trying to decide what do do for myself too. :smiley:

  35. Ooooh new announcement, they are going to be going back over the 3 states and changing the scale from 1/35th to 1/20th, for free of course. They basically said, if we don’t do it now, it’s just gonna be more of a you know what later. So they are fixing up a lot of the stuff people gave feedback about, and making it bigger :slight_smile:

  36. Thats gret news. needs more “B” roads though

  37. That’s really cool…and still seems like it must be a lot of work… :sweat:

  38. Well they said that sales were a lot better than anticipated so they wound up hiring a lot more people so I guess it was good enough sales wise that they could afford to do it. They were planning on having a team of 8-10 but it’s going to wind up being 20 iirc

  39. I think i saw an easter egg.

    Plinking away through the desert (daytime) i guess in nevada somewhere. I wasn’t paying much attention, and there was no traffic, but something black shot accoss the sky low level insanely fast.

    It was gone by the time i realised something was happening. Anyone else seen it, and know what it is? i am guessing an area 51 easter egg or something.

  40. I have seen that. I thinks its just a fighter jet.

  41. Necro thread revival

    In traffic with my Peterbuilt and owned trailer enroute to drop off

    Job completed and not the easiest of parking spaces with poles each side of the parking bay.

    Random encounters can mix things up a bit. Here is one, a nasty crash. Its blocking my exit. This trip there were 3 encounters. I had 2 blocked intersections (one by police barrier the other the afore mentioned crash), and a broken down car on the opposite side of the road which had no impact on traffic.

  42. Nice! I’ve been driving my Volvo around lately. Pretty decent truck.

    Also SCS just announced the next state will be Washington. Which will be out sometime this year.

  43. To solve this, take contracts for oversized or multiple trailers. They should all be straight in parking

  44. Mace says:

    That is cool! What was in that blue container at the back of the trailer? Looks like it’s really compressing the back and rear tyre.

  45. That was a container full of drums of oil. The trailer was a bit small for the tractor unit as we needed something with twist locks to secure the container. You can see from the horrendous angle its not tall enough for the crane lorry. So once I unloaded the first box all the weight was on the back and the tyres weren’t impressed but space dictated unloading that way round and nothing bad happened. Trailer was horrible to tow behind that big tractor unit as well

  46. Did you have “duty time” limitations? I’m not sure if they are Dept. of Transportation hour limits or company policies here in the United States…but you often see trucks pulled over on highway exits and rest areas that are grabbing naps. Much like being a pilot…I wonder how you manage to work around the odd schedule.

  47. You can be “on duty” for 15 hours 3 times a week and 13 hours twice a week.

    You can work a sixth day provided your fortnightly hours do not exceed 90 hours total. Although breaks and periods of availability (not on break but not technically working) are subtracted from this each day to bring the totals down (and allow for work days to be used in full over the week and not having to stand down once or twice a fortnight)

    The driving rules are slightly different.

    You can drive for a total 9 hours a day. 4.5 hours total means you have to take a 45 min break although you can split this into a 15 min and a 30 min break provided the 30 min break is taken before you have been on duty for 6 hours or less and less than 4.5hrs driving daily total.

    You can take a second break at 9 hours driving and extend your driving time by 60 minutes for a total of ten hours daily “driving” time 3 times a week.

    We have a machine called a digital tachograph in the cab which has a personal card inserted into it at the beginning of a shift and records ALL activity during the day. And stores data for 28 days.

    If pulled over by the police or the agency in charge of transport (dvsa) the driver can be prosecuted for any infringements on the card for the last 28 days. This can be thousands of pounds or loss of licence or even imprisonment if serious enough. They REALLY love giving out fines as well so if you get pulled over even if your perfectly legal they WILL find something to get you for. Sods.

  48. Interesting information…are those Euro-Union wide rules I would assume? I’m guessing that here in the US we have similar rules.

  49. Yep that’s the EU rules in a nutshell. The US laws are completely different I believe but I honestly don’t know.

    I drove in Australia and New Zealand for a bit in my early 20’s and they worked on logbooks recording data and relied more on camerasoon the road network to back up the information stored in the logbook.

    I know the US is much more concerned with weigh stations and load inspection than we are. I’m pretty sure that in the US passing a weigh station without using it is a crime. In the EU you don’t need to stop unless blue lights and waving hands insist you do so lol

  50. Yes…we have a weigh station about a mile from my house on a major interstate. It is a bit of a more modern station that uses “weigh in motion” which (as you probably know) means the trucks exit, but maintain about 35 MPH on the exit and there are sensors embedded in the concrete that weigh them without them having to stop. If they are flagged, a digital message flashes up to instruct them to pull of on an inspection exit. It is probably more convenient than the older type of weigh stations.

    Even still, the trucks slowing in the far right lane to 45 MPH or so in anticipation of the exit is fairly hazardous considering there are fools in autos doing nearly 90 MPH flying down the highway. I always laugh because I’m an air ambulance pilot rushing to the airport to get a time critical heart or something and I’m still being passed by people doing 20 MPH over what I’m doing. Nuts.

  51. I could spend a day recounting stories of idiots in cars lol.

    My wife is convinced that people not indicating using turn signals will be what gets me to finally snap and go full ‘postal’

    Hence why a career change is coming shortly… Full time flying instructor rather than full time depressed driver/manager of drivers :rofl:

  52. I hope that your career change works out. It was the best thing I ever did. I still get a tinge of excitement as I walk up to the airplane at the beginning of a trip.

  53. Yeah…I’m with Paul. I’m so grateful for this aviation career, and I still really enjoy it. That isn’t always the case - I know some pilots that hate their jobs. I’m glad I actually like what I do.

    Back on topic though - does American Truck Simulator have some sort of social mode where you can have a shared trucking company?

  54. We do have similar rules in the US. The DoT mandates a lot of them, and states can be more restrictive as well. It used to be that about 95% of all independent truckers ran only a paper log books. One for the police, and one for the company. Working traffic enforcement on the highway I got really good at doing time and distance in my head (So you’re saying you traveled 800 miles to get here, and only drove 2 4 hour periods with an hour break in the middle?! You’re sure about that…). The log books are handwritten in a manner that can allow for some fudging if they’re careful.

    Most big companies went to mechanical log books, or digital ones like @Victork2 is talking about. Ironically most officers have no way of checking those, and some are even proprietary to the trucking company. So theoretically everyone is still supposed to have a hard copy we can just look at.

    Being on 2 major interstate highways, one heading from Mexico to Canada, and the other coast to coast, I was usually far more concerned with contraband than hours or logbook violations.

  55. That’s very interesting! I didn’t know the Americans had digital systems for recording data.
    When I started driving we used these which were an analogue chart an a complete PITA as they were so easy to manipulate it was a joke.

    Were now on these which is a much more secure system for owners and drivers. However they don’t lie so you have to be right on top of the rules or the fines get dumped on you more and more!

  56. Yep, the mechanical logs like that one were very common for about the last 5-10 years before the switch to digital. Trucking companies used them to so they could say they were in compliance, but as you noted they were very easily manipulated (and also a pain to read on the side of the road when you pulled a truck over). The good companies have by a large gone to digital, but we still still quite a few hard copy logs.

  57. Mace says:

    Yeah, you can setup a virtual trucking company with livery for the trucks and trailers and then play in either MP (which is a mod I think, never tried it) or in SP and represent the company.

Continue the discussion forums.mudspike.com

Participants