The Spintires series of games is relatively young when compared to other franchises on the market, but they’ve become very big deals for good reason: they offer a sublime simulation of off-road driving. The complex physics that’s used in these games is highly impressive, and it got me thinking: what if other popular driving simulators like Farming Simulator and American/Euro Truck Simulator also had a physics like this?
If you’ve ever played Spintires or watched a let’s play on YouTube, then you should know that the experience is all about driving in rugged terrain. The rare moment where there’s actually a smooth surface to drive on is genuinely enjoyable since most of your time is spent plodding along through incredibly thick mud, gravel, and other rough terrain. Of course, that’s really the fun of the game since this is where the physics system gets to flex its muscles and show just how realistic of an experience it can offer. I was blown away when I saw it in action while watching a video, but was even more impressed when I was playing MudRunner myself. One of the reasons I gave the game a review score of 9/10 is because of how authentic the driving feels. After experiencing that, playing other driving titles felt so ‘basic’.
Now, this isn’t to say that the other simulators I’ve mentioned are bad, because they’re not. I’ve put several hours into all of these titles and always enjoy firing them up again-and-again. But, I really have to hand it to Spintires for feeling the most realistic out of the bunch. It carefully focuses on simulating an off-road driving experience, and the extra attention that it’s put on that helps it to stand out from the pack.
The whole reason why all of these titles fall under the ‘simulator’ genre is because they’re trying to recreate real-life. So, when things happen that are unrealistic, it pulls you out of the experience. With that said, out of all of the simulators I mentioned above, I think the Farming Simulator series feels the most ‘off’. The physics system of these games have gotten better with each iteration, but even the latest–entry—Farming Simulator 17— shows that more work needs to be done.
Farming Simulator 17 is addictively fun, but its driving mechanics could use some fine-tuning.
With so many different vehicles in Farming Simulator, the driving experience varies. But, there’s one common thread that runs throughout it all: each vehicle feels a bit too over-responsive. Tractors especially feel a bit too maneuverable, regardless of whether you play with a keyboard or controller. This is why I think that the series would benefit from having a physics engine as complex as the one in Spintires. You spend most of the time in Farming Simulator driving through fields doing things like seeding, fertilizing, and harvesting crops. Physics are present, such as the way tractors slow down when they’re pulling other machinery like sowers and ploughs behind them. Going up a steep incline will also cause your vehicles to slow down and consume more fuel. These are all realistic factors and I enjoy seeing them in action, but then the realism is broken when I could charge off the edge of a hill in a tractor with a fully-loaded trailer of grain with ease, and even if it tips over, nothing spills out.
If Farming Simulator used Spintires’ physics system, that would make the actual machinery-based farming experience all the more enjoyable. Sure, the terrain of the fields is nowhere near as harsh as the Russian wildlands of Spintires, but neither is it particularly smooth. On PC, there are mods for Farming Simulator which do a good job at enhancing the physics, but the limitations of the base engine are still present. On top of that, this really only benefits PC players, leaving console players in the dark. I really hope GIANTS Software can overhaul their engine for the next entry in the series.
Moving onto SCS Software’s American Truck Simulator and Euro Truck Simulator 2, things are already a bit better. The devs have been in the truck simming for quite some time now, and they’ve come a long way since the early days of their first big series 18 Wheels of Steel. But, again, Spintires physics’ has these games beat. Now, technically it’s kind of unfair to draw a comparison. This is due to the fact that most of the time spent driving in these truck sims is done on nice asphalt roads rather than rugged wildlands. There are very few instances where you’ll find yourself driving on uneven terrain in these titles, and that’s mostly due to the fact that the regions that SCS Software have chosen to create have very nice road networks in real life. That’s why I would love to see the team tackle ‘rougher’ areas of the world.
Off-road trucking would be difficult, but probably also fun.
I’ve spent most of 2017 down in South America. Ecuador, to be precise. The Andes mountain range runs through a portion of Ecuador, and driving through it is both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. I haven’t driven in the most remote regions, but areas where I have been through were already enough for me. Maintaining roads that hug the sides of massive mountains is a whole lot harder than maintaining a road that’s in the middle of a big urban city. There are landslides, mudslides, earthquakes/tremors, and even the occasional instance of a vehicle going over the side and plunging into the valleys below. Yep, it’s quite the adventure. Vehicles of all type traverse roads like these, including big rigs. Therefore, it would be nice if SCS Software tackled something more than the deserts of the western USA and vineyards of Europe.
Trying to maneuver semi trucks on a decent road is already a challenge, so could only imagine how more of a challenge it would be on an inclined road that happens to be a dirt road instead of asphalt. It would definitely be a harder experience, but like Spintires, I think that’s exactly what would make the whole thing enjoyable.
These are just a few simulators that I would think would benefit from having a more advanced physics system like what’s in Spintires. Do you agree with this list? Are there even more sims you could think of? Sound off below.