Almost exactly seven years ago, during the Poznan Game Arena in Poland, I had an interview with Pavel Sebor – CEO of SCS Software and one of the best people I've met. We talked mainly about the upcoming premiere of American Truck Simulator and about further support for Euro Truck Simulator 2. I recently revisited Poznan Game Arena, and met a team from the Czech Republic again – this time I talked to Daniel Nemec, PR & marketing manager from SCS Software, and again took the opportunity to ask him about the future of these popular games and about the ins and outs of creating new content for them. Luckily, it almost coincided with the 10th anniversary of Euro Truck Simulator 2. So what awaits us in the next decade?
Gamepressure: I can't help but start with a hot topic – Kralovec! When can we expect a new DLC to complement the Czech Republic with the territory recently annexed by it, the former Kaliningrad exclave? Is there an intention to create missions with transporting goods to the port there, since Czechs now have access to sea?
Daniel Nemec: [laughter] We haven't talked about it yet and I don't think it's in the pipeline. But maybe some modders will create something like this, maybe just an easter egg?
Gamepressure: Seriously now – seven years ago, I talked with Pavel here about what new features await us in American Truck Simulator, how the premiere of the new game will affect ETS2, etc. What has changed in the world of Truck Simulator since then? Have the players switched to the new title or are they playing both simultaneously?
Daniel Nemec: I would say that a large number of people play both of these games, or at least they try both. We can see ATS catching up with ETS2, though obviously the latter still has a larger player base. If only because it offers more content, more maps, more variety in every way.
Gamepressure: So do you focus on both games equally or does any one have priority depending on the current task?
Daniel Nemec: We don't single out any of the games. We invest equal effort in each of them, even in the number of people assigned to them. Some sections work on both games simultaneously, such as programmers, marketers, testers, and we have separate teams for maps, graphics, objects. And we always try to balance them by considering these two separate projects.
Gamepressure: What does development of a new map usually look like? Do you send a team to a specific area to collect data, or do you rely solely on online research?
Daniel Nemec: Yes, we've been trying to send people on reconnaissance lately, but that still doesn't give the full picture. They do not have the time or opportunity to see a state of the US in its entirety. That's why our maps section always has a dedicated online research team. We rely on satellite imagery, Google Street View. Many of the materials are sent by truck drivers themselves, who travel on those routes with video recorders. Sometimes the ETS2 and ATS community also sends us photos or videos from a given area.
Gamepressure: You seem to have ran out of desert states in American Truck Simulator – they seem a bit easier to create due to uncomplicated, mostly empty landscapes. Does this mean that subsequent regions will now require more time and work?
Daniel Nemec: I don't think so. If you look at ATS, the states like Oregon or Washington, you'll find that they are green, full of forests and mountains. We already have a large library of assets not only for desert states. The next projects are unlikely to slow us down, because with each DLC, there were a lot of things that we had to do from scratch anyway. You might think that "these are all deserts, so you can reuse textures, objects," but in reality it is not like that. Even similar areas always differ in something, for example the color of rocks, road surfaces, signs. Of course, we re-use some assets once we decide that they will fit the new map. But each of them always has a long list of things that should be created from scratch anyway. So no – changing the landscape isn't something that can really bog us down.
Gamepressure: What is the biggest challenge when creating a new map?
Daniel Nemec: This is not a question for me in general, but if I had to answer based on my own observations, I think it's the right research. We always want to recreate the country or state at such a level that people who live there or know these places can say they recognize it, that everything looks familiar.
And the second vital thing is the decisions about what can be included in the DLC, because everything has to be adjusted to a certain scale. Our maps do not correspond to the reality 1:1, so we always only have to act within certain compromises and decide which cities, highways or places of interest to include. Apart from that, of course, there's also the time needed to work on a given map, and the costs. Arranging everything at the beginning is a big challenge for us.
Gamepressure: Which countries are you going to update next in ETS?
Daniel Nemec: We've had many requests our community, from Poland or the UK. Over the years, we have built a strong team dedicated solely to terrain updates. We started with Germany, then Austria, and now we are working on two more countries. Can't tell you which countries are next exactly, though. Hope you see your own countries in the new version sooner than later!
Gamepressure: American Truck Simulator started just with California. Seven years ago, I asked your CEO if the goal was to include all US states in the game, and he confirmed that this is the overall vision. There have been quite a few new regions in the meantime, so is the entire US map still on the agenda?
Daniel Nemec: That's the idea. It will be very difficult, because we started in the west, and these states are huge, but quite empty, not so populated. The farther east we go, the more populated and diverse the areas are. The challenge will be to scale it properly so as not to give the impression that the big cities in the west are located a few minutes away from each other. This is a difficult task for our maps team, and they will have to find a good solution somehow.
Gamepressure: And if a completely new region of the world was to be created – neither USA nor Europe, what would be the most interesting for you? Maybe Australia with its road trains and vast landscapes?
Daniel Nemec: Yeah, road trains would be awesome...! I have no idea what could be next, though. We talk a lot about the future, but not so distant. We still have a lot of work to do in ATS and a lot of countries to fix in Europe. What could be next? Maybe Canada or South America? I really don't know...
Gamepressure: Do you plan to enhance the game engine with some modern graphic tech, such as DLSS or DX12? In the last interview I asked about the same thing, but then it was about switching from DX9 to DX11. Then I heard that many players used older hardware and you should always make sure that an update doesn't suddenly prevent them from playing. Is it still a relevant question, or has the quality of hardware used to play ETS2 and ATS improved?
Daniel Nemec: As for new technologies, yes – work is ongoing and that's all I can say for now. As for the support for older hardware – over the years, a lot has changed, and it is certainly better now. Nevertheless, we still try to keep the balance so that our games run well even on laptops. We see a lot of people using them for gaming, and furthermore – many truck drivers play ETS2 and ATS on the road, during breaks between courses, and we don't want to exclude anyone.
On the other hand, we are trying to improve the graphics, for example, we recently reworked the entire lighting system in the game, and now we are working on another key element of the visuals. We are also constantly adding tweaks to the engine. So it's always about maintaining this balance – beautify the game, but at the same time not make prohibitive hardware upgrades so that the game keeps working well on low-end hardware.
Gamepressure: Now let's move on to the heroes of the game, i.e. trucks. Can we hope for a retro-trucks DLC in the future? Do you think trucks from previous decades could be added? Or would that be difficult in terms of licensing?
Daniel Nemec: It is possible and I don't think licensing would be a problem for us here. But the companies we work with, such as Kenworth, DAF, Mercedes or Scania, always want us to bring their latest models to the game, as they use ATS and ETS2 as advertising platforms for their products, latest developments, models, etc. When we tell them that the community would like to see this or that model from years ago, they say, "Oookay, but let's do the new ones first..." Nevertheless, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Even recently, we released the International 9900i Eagle, a very classic tractor from the USA. And we always try to talk to these companies so that we can have not only the latest models, but also some retro ones. I believe more will be coming soon.
Gamepressure: At which point will Euro Truck Simulator 3 be created? Are you waiting for any particular moment? Have you been considering something like recreating terrain in 1:1 proportions, vide the new Flight Simulator?
Daniel Nemec: Oh, you're talking really distant future here. Honestly, we don't have any plans regarding ETS3 nor ATS 2. There is still so much to do in the current games that we will certainly have a lot of work in the coming years when it comes to new maps, vehicles, auctions and mechanics. Our vision of something like a universe of the road, where not only trucks are available. For example, we would like to have vans, coaches – everything that could exist in one universe of large, transport vehicles. This is what we intend to do before we start thinking about sequels.
Gamepressure: What can we expect in the near future, then?
Daniel Nemec: We're just finishing Texas for American Truck Simulator. This is a really huge project that will be the biggest DLC we have ever released. If all goes to plan, it will be released soon. We hope the community will enjoy the Texas DLC. At the same time, the team has already begun work on two more states.
As for ETS2, we unveiled development progress of the Western Balkans DLC not so long ago, so this is what we focus our efforts on currently. In addition, the location update team is dealing with another part of the Europe. The truck team also has a lot of work to do, because the recent IAA fair in Hanover resulted in really good contacts and announcements of an interesting cooperation. So, you should see new brands and new models in our fleet soon. Work has already begun on three new trucks.
Of course, the developers are still busy, the console version is still being developed, and there is also the World of Trucks portal on top of that. We have big plans for it, which are just conceptualizing, so unfortunately, you will have to wait for more concrete details until next year, perhaps even later.
Gamepressure: So, we are looking forward to the second decade of ETS2 and the entire promising future! Thank you for the interview and take care!