Wot I Think: OMSI 2

By Tim Stone on January 3rd, 2014 at 7:00 pm.

Both the OMSI and the OMSI 2 manual begin with the same Goethe quote. In 2011 “Such a work is never actually finished – one must simply declare it to be finished once one has done as much as possible given the time and circumstances.” felt like a dangled promise… a hint of riches yet to come. In 2014, in the light of the NG272-length bug list currently dominating my play notes, it feels like a whispered apology… acknowledgement that the follow-up to one of the finest driving games of recent years was bustled out of the door before it was good and ready.

I can live with the levitating pedestrians at Grundorf Bahnhof, U Ruhleben, and Charlottenstrasse…

…the permeable brickwork on the corner of Breite Strasse…

…the over-eager exiters pushing themselves part-way through doors on moving buses…

…and the huge shark fin protruding from the gutter at Staakener Strasse.

It’s the regular crashes, framerate hiccups, AI bus problems, timetable glitches, and mod compatibility issues that have brought me closest to mutiny during the past week.

If I hadn’t arrived an ardent OMSIist and fairly quickly discovered that many of my CTDs were linked to the sim’s overworked sound engine (reducing the number of wavs played simultaneously seems to stabilize OMSI 2 for many users) then I probably wouldn’t have stuck around long enough to develop a deep and deeply inconvenient affection for the new routes and rides.

While there’s no way I can recommend OMSI 2 in its present frankly rather embarrassing state, I’m dutybound to point out that 90% of the time I’ve spent with it thus far has been thoroughly agreeable. Hearing the NG272′s articulated midriff creak like an ancient barn door while turning into Grunewaldstrasse? Magical. Passing under the broad iron bridge at Stresowplatz while an InterRegio express rattles overhead? Marvellous. Bouncing along Falkensee’s threadbare throroughfares at dusk on my way to the recently opened Wall portal near Freudstrasse? Priceless. OMSI’s painstakingly recreated period venues and conveyances made other sims seem pale and synthetic. In this sequel there’s twice as many evocative Berlin boulevards to barrel along, plus an extra pair of super-talkative, super-tactile omnibus types to do the barrelling in.

The Falkensee appendix represents the franchise’s first official foray into the GDR. It also showcases the sort of clever map morphing system I always hoped to see implemented in MSFS. Set the date to October 1989 or earlier, and Falkenseer Chaussee, the tarmacked north-western tip of the old OMSI map, ends almost as soon as it begins, a monstrous concrete curtain barring further progress westward. Return in December and, miraculously, the barrier sports a breach. Momentous political changes mean you can wiggle your way through an ad-hoc checkpoint as the Falkensee Bahnhof-bound E522, one of the first BVG services to run between West Berlin and the GDR.

That checkpoint is OMSI 2′s looking glass. Passing through it for the first time and finding myself amongst unfamiliar street furniture, comical Trabants (Alas, no Wartburgs yet), and outrageous potholes was genuinely disorientating… properly illuminating. History comes as standard in most military sims. To find it lurking so vividly in a bus sim is as unexpected as it is delightful.

Not that Falkensee is OMSI 2′s main attraction. That would be the 12km ribbon of scenery between Ruhleben’s U-Bahn station and the mental hospital in Falkenhagener Field. Less demanding than the original Stadtgrenze-Freudstrasse run (which features the huge, baby-eating Falkenseer Platz roundabout) but no less interesting thanks to a bevy of bridges and turns at the eastern end and some pleasing suburban stretches at the western, it’s a typically forensic piece of MR-Software civil engineering.

Unique prototypical structures abound. A new elevation system means inclines are subtler and more faithful. Yes, if you put your foot down you could probably drive from one end to the other in 30 minutes, but as with Stadtgrenze-Freudstrasse the length isn’t especially important. Factor in the transformative effects of different timetables, vehicular choices, seasons, times of day, traffic intensities and weather conditions, and the feeling of novelty will probably last for weeks if not months.

Assuming you select an example that’s in full possession of its sound effects (bizarrely, some of the game’s NG272s refuse to creak and groan when articulating) the new bendy bus is as impressive as the extra slab of Spandau. Weighty, vociferous, fault prone (all buses now suffer random technical problems) and – if handled clumsily in icy conditions – endearingly errant, the only thing the trailered newcomers really lack are giggling youngsters using internal turntables as makeshift funfair rides.

The debuting kids are all too busy auditioning for The Midwich Cuckoos to misbehave. Added along with grannies (Berlin’s grandfathers, like grandfathers everywhere, plainly prefer to travel by jetpack or PTT) infants dress more sensibly than their weather-oblivious elders, but stand in the same odd, will-this-nail-varnish-never-dry? poses, and stroll through lampposts and bus shelters with the same idiot nonchalance.

Talking of idiot nonchalance, AI vehicles seem a little less Vauxhall Cavalier this time around. I’ve yet to be rear-ended by a Manta, side-swiped by a Golf, or cut up by one of the fleet of new panel vans, though admittedly that might have something to do with the fact that I drove for a couple of days without realising vehicular collisions are off by default.

There’s been a concerted attempt to improve OMSI’s approachability. Right now the tutorials are rather undermined by some missing translations and the same bugs that blight the rest of the sim, but the overhauled Train Simulator-style menu panel, and the slim selection of ready-made scenarios (in OMSI you usually start a session by choosing a date, placing a bus at a route terminus, then selecting an appropriate timetable) should make transitioning from that ETS2 HGV or TS2014 EMU somewhat easier.

Wisely, Marcel and Rüdiger have resisted the urge to shoehorn needless structure into their creation. You drive what you want, where and when you want from the outset. Though profiles quietly record every prang, ticket sold, and mile driven, and quantify driving skill and passenger comfort levels, there’s no attempt to turn this data into distracting XP or pointless online leaderboard positions. You play OMSI, and now OMSI 2 , because you want to hear the symphony of engine roar and transmission whine. You want to feel chassis and body tussle under heavy braking. You want to see late Eighties and Nineties Berlin brought to life on your desktop. Give it a month or two and I’m sure OMSI 2 will be everything Simulatia hoped it would be. Even now its greatness is glimpseable behind the exasperating error messages and giant guttershark fins.

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56 Comments »

  1. Didden says:

    Tim, you failed to mention if any of the wavs you had to cut included an inspector going ‘I’ll have you butler!’. That is the only Bus sim I want to play.

  2. Gap Gen says:

    Has the front-page title defaulted to whatever’s the top article?

    • LionsPhil says:

      With a pipe on the end, yes. I think something’s gone wrong again. It actually doesn’t have a “Rock, Paper, Shotgun” in it until you go to an article. The little WordPress bar along the top seems to have lost the site name and just fallen back to “rockpapershotgun.com” as well.

      …I also just noticed the “RPS FEATURE” pun for this article. Argh.

  3. Timberwolf says:

    I’m glad you picked up a faint waft of history emanating from the journey beyond the wall, as I was beginning to wonder whether too many hours happily bussing around one of the PC’s more esoteric sims had addled my mind. I’m not sure if it’s all that time cooped up in OMSI 1′s smaller representation of Berlin, or that OMSI is as much a nostalgia simulator as it is a bus one, but that first sortie past the checkpoint felt strangely evocative. There was a feeling of time and place in amongst the pixellated cobblestones and long trek to the first of the hitherto unexplored East German bus stops.

    Then I went too fast and crashed into a Trabant, and the fleeting moment was over.

  4. Keyrock says:

    Frankly, if I was a levitating pedestrian I would never enter a vehicle ever again. I would happily hover to wherever I was going. Granted that human appendages aren’t particularly well suited to propelling and steering oneself through the air, so I’d mostly be at the mercy of the wind.

    • keithzg says:

      One would hope that whatever power bequeathed upon you the power to levitate off of the ground would also allow one to move in other directions other than a set position upwards. Although the power to merely levitate a fixed distance above the ground would be a very Misfits-esque superpower. Misfits: The Late-80′s German Prequel?

  5. Urthman says:

    What does all this bus stuff have to do with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry?

  6. Dave Tosser says:

    What’s that lad doing to the corner of Breite Strasse? Answers on a postcard!

  7. Turkey says:

    my uncle’s step-aunt’s long lost cousin’s dog’s best friend’s worst friend makes $8232523/hr driving the bus. She has been out of work for 12 months to a year but last month her paycheck was $18010 just working the gear shift for a few hours. read this… Vroooom!

  8. The Random One says:

    Tim Stone never rests.

  9. mechabuddha says:

    I used to think these articles were some form of subtle satire. Surely no one would actually want to play this sort of game. Then I picked up Euro Truck Simulator 2, and now I understand. There’s something in these games that just takes you away, makes you think you’re in another place.

  10. dE says:

    I came here to protest against the unrealism of this Simulator. There’s a very sincere mistake in consistency going on. There are clearly pictures of snow. With a Bus in them. That’s bonkers!
    German busses don’t drive when there is Snow! Whenever there was even the slightest hint of Snow, you could be sure the Stadtwerke sure as hell weren’t gonna sent out their Busses. It was a popular pasttime to throw ice from the fridge out on the street in summer, to joke about how we’re now at fault that busses weren’t going to service for atleast a week.

    /Edit:
    Actually the reason being a bit of a “Schildbürger Streich”. In essence: They (in this case the Stadtwerke of a major town in Nordrhein Westfalen) just didn’t stock enough road salt to service all roads. As a result it was deemed to dangerous for busses. The reason they didn’t stock up on salt? They somehow managed to not expect the coming winter. Every year there’d be a spokesperson saying “due to the unexpected climate change, we’ve got a shortage on road salt”. Yeah, budget cuts more likely.

    • Don Reba says:

      Controversy regarding whether the unexpected climate change this December is due to global warming or global cooling has split scientists in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

    • PsychoWedge says:

      Well, as a Berliner who takes the bus even in winter and heavy snow (like jan to march 2013 ^^) I can tell you that the BVG does not even think about stopping their busses just because of some silly ice on the roads. Although I would grant you that SOME bus drivers do tend to drive a bit more sensible during snowy times. xD

      • dE says:

        Sensible driving, does it include picking up grandmas that have been plastered against the windows by a particular strand of “oh there’s the stop. How sudden. Let’s brake like a madman!”. That’s what my home city understood under sensible driving. Live on bus gravo training for aspiring jet pilots or astronauts.

  11. crinkles esq. says:

    I often wonder why small developers like this prefer to try to build their own custom (buggy) game engines, instead of using a more stable platform like Unity. Using middleware like Unity also gives developers easy access to other platforms such as Mac and Linux. A bus simulator doesn’t seem like something that would require a customized 3D engine.

    • jrodman says:

      It’s a good question.

      I think Euro Truck Simulator 2 from SCS did OK for itself. The look of the game is quite nice and it’s pretty stable. However some oddities remain. It’s quite slow (frameratewise) for what it is, and the mouse lags bizarrely when clicking on things in menus, though the driving responsiveness (from the same mouse) is fine.

      But you’d sure expect they could have delivered more, faster, with higher quality with some off-the-shelf tools. Though I may underestimate the work they put into getting the road to look just-so. It looks pretty fantastic with the sun glancing off it in the morning.

      • LionsPhil says:

        ETS2 also does a pretty big mostly-seamless world, I think? I would take a very tenuous guess that they may also express their map in some fancier fashion than a bunch of brushes and prefabs like an FPS map, because they have all these roads to lay down on it. I don’t know how well Unity copes with that kind of thing.

        I would also guess that they don’t entirely want off-the-shelf PhysX since they want to be doing lots of extra-fancy torque and traction maths to make their trucks behave right.

        • P.Funk says:

          I recollect that not too long ago SCS did a major update to ETS2 that altered the way that the maps were designed. Something about breaking the map up into cellular chunks rather than as one single map, something about this making it easier for modders to add chunks to the main map without it interfering with other parts of the map being updated. So the NE corner can be completely overhauled by SCS but if the mod affects stuff in the SW its not going to make a difference.

          How this goes with their progressive map loading as you truck across Europe I couldn’t say. All I do know is that its far more satisfying than Omsi 2′s jerky stalled tile loading. Funny thing when returning to Omsi one after a good week of trying to make a go with Omsi 2 is that I would get the same frames everywhere for the most part, I would even see the exact same kind of “popping” as stuff loaded, first the white towers, then the textures, but the difference is that it didn’t make my game freeze.

          All I can say is that Omsi 2 is definitely not as well engineered as ETS2, though I personally think its a much better game than ETS2, but I’m biased in favour of the simmier end of gaming.

    • Archonsod says:

      Same reason not everyone buys an off the shelf Dell.Generally speaking something purpose built usually wins out over modifying a generic system. It’s particularly true for simulations; your core audience usually care less about things like floating pedestrians than they do about getting things like the bus physics right.

  12. Dominare says:

    I read that whole article waiting for the punchline that never came. I think the joke is on me.

  13. Universal Quitter says:

    The first big story from RPS in 2014 is a review of a bus driving simulator?

    Ooookaaaaay…..

  14. Dozer says:

    Tin I understand the accordion noises on the bendy buses are random by design. Some buses have well-maintained silent articulated bits, while others make noises.

    • PsychoWedge says:

      They do indeed. There are bendy buses that almost destroy your eardrums because they’re so screechingly loud while others smooth themselves through curves and turns like an angular shaped yellow snake.

  15. kirkkh1 says:

    II have no idea what you just said.

  16. jroger says:

    Just a small correction: The first BVG bus line into the GDR was actually what was later called line 99: Since 1972 it drove between Wansse in south-west West-Berlin to Drewitz, the first highway exit after the border. From there, a GDR bus drove passengers on to Potsdam. There was a second line (#98) going to highway exit Stolpe (and then on to Henningsdorf,)

  17. viniciusfernandesbarros says:

    my buddy’s step-aunt makes $82/hr on the computer. She has been out of work for 10 months but last month her paycheck was $18010 just working on the computer for a few hours. read this…http://www.dub30.com

    • Dingbatwhirr says:

      My buddy’s step-aunt makes $83/hr driving buses through 1980s Berlin. Your argument is invalid.

      • Dozer says:

        I made only £7.83/hr driving buses through late-2000s Bath :( But on more than one occasion I got to take John Walker on meandering trips through the limestone labyrinth in an Optare Solo!

  18. Borsook says:

    Life is amazing, where are live there are job openings for bus drivers all the time, not enough people want to do it, yet there are those who play a game of driving a bus?? You could do it for real if this is such fun :)

    • Sharlie Shaplin says:

      But when you go nuts and drive over everything in a real bus they lock you up, except in the US where they would probably just shoot you.

    • Syphus says:

      Something fun to do for a few hours, where you don’t need to worry about the more mundane details (Hey, I gotta get up at 4am to drive this route), is not quite the same as having an actual job. Also, sometimes its more fun to have no idea what is going on cause you don’t speak German, and trying to flip the bus.

  19. waltC says:

    I would think that bus-driving simulators along with all of the other “car & driving” games would be fairly boring to anyone over the age of 16 who has been driving real cars on real roads for any length of time…;)

  20. MithrilWomble says:

    I’ve been looking for a reason to upgrade my PC and now I have it.

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