Back in 2019, four members of our American Truck Simulator map team (Nicolaj Toft Nielsen, Tomas Opekar, Tomas Dubsky and Patrik Sadlon) took to the skies and traveled across the pond to the USA on a very important research trip. While we couldn't tell you at the time (as it would ruin the surprise), our team made sure to keep a detailed account of their trip, and here are just some of the highlights of what they got up to.
Traveling over 2000 miles in just 7 days, they managed to visit everything they had planned on their list. From capital cities to small towns and everything else in between, our team had an important task to complete; to photograph and document various locations around Colorado to assist in the creation of our upcoming map expansion.
"Our trip across Colorado was a really unique experience for me, not just because I was in US for the first time, but mainly because of how diverse Colorado is." Tomas O., one of our ATS map designers explains "We were able to see a big metropolitan area of Denver on the edge of the Great Plains, travel across the beautiful Rocky Mountains and through deep canyons to see vast desert landscapes around Grand Junction... considering our game and work, the trip was beneficial in many ways. We took a huge amount of reference pictures, which was especially useful in areas with no or low-quality Streetview photos"
"One might think that looking at pictures of such places is enough & that you do not need to visit these locations, but then when you do, you immediately gain an understanding of the size of that place, its orientation, what kind of buildings are there, what type of road material they use, what vegetation grows there and so on" Tomas D says "And you can feel the atmosphere and the vibe of towns, landmarks, truck stops and it really helped me gather inspiration out of it."
"The most beneficial thing for me was gaining a sense of the vastness and size. Especially when compared to Europe, where you have a city or village around every corner and freeways are divided with one crash barrier and not a 60 meters wide grass strip... One can easily miss roughness of the road and other subtle details as well as a sense for tilt and steepness. What seems like a completely straight road across a wide plain landscape on Google Maps, may not actually be like that in real life."
The team found many examples of this on their journey, as they discovered many natural features that would have not been picked up in online photo references. Locations such as the Million Dollar Highway where the team took references of various rock formations that would not have been visible from the public road, which included a waterfall running right underneath it! Instead, they made sure to take plenty of unique photos and videos from their journey, to show and share with their colleagues back in Prague.
Along their travels, the ATS map team also came across many of the truckstops that dominate the U.S highways. With each stop, the team learned something new about these rest spots for drivers and what makes each one unique. They even had the opportunity to chat with a few friendly truckers and ask a few questions! "The best part of the trip for me was definitely to see the big truckstops, services, those huge junctions and impressive road infrastructure." says Nicolaj T. "We learned an important lesson about how truckstops work and how we can make them much more realistic! For example, trucks always back into their parking place"
The team didn't just learn about the infrastructure of truckstops but also the environment that surrounds them as Patrik S. explains. "Now we all know truckstops are much noisier then we thought... we also saw some very unique cargoes parked at these truckstops, we made sure to take some inspiration for future ideas!"
So how does all of this translate in-game? Well, you'll just have to wait and see, but thanks to this trip, the ATS map team has gained an invaluable amount of information and understanding of Colorful Colorado. "I think it’s very important for developers to see the thing they are about to recreate, with their own eyes" Nicolaj T. explains. "Especially in this case where we are developing content from the other side of the world. Personally, I’ve never been to the states before, and I actually didn’t think to have a trip like this would change my perspective as much as it really did"
We hope that trips like this will help us push the quality level of our map expansions to an even higher level. That we will be able to recreate some of the places we visit more precisely than ever before. See the examples we've prepared for your below. Did we nail it?