John Vs The Trees: Woodcutter Simulator 2013

By John Walker on January 7th, 2014 at 7:00 pm.

I know a classic when I see it. There it is, near the top of Steam’s list of new games: Woodcutter Simulator 2013. Sure, it’s already out-of-date, and likely won’t feature 2014′s most exciting range of woodcutting innovations, but I was prepared to suck that up and get on. I, as a woodcutter, am burly, powerful, able to take on anything. Look at my rugged frame! My bushy woodsman beard! LOOK AT ME HOLDING A CHAINSAW!

Except oh good grief. I’ve been playing Woodcutter Simulator 2013 for approximately two minutes, and I already have so much to write about it.

Here’s where most games go wrong with invisible walls: they save them up. They’re a surprise. You’re running about in the game’s world, merrily enjoying your freedom, and then THWACK – you’re nose-smooshed against a barrier. Suddenly the suspended disbelief comes crashing down onto the floor in a pile of limbs and custard. It’s a horrible moment, and DAMMIT Woodcutter Simulator 2013 isn’t going to make you go through that. No way, sir. No, instead, Woodcutter Simulator 2013 begins the game, its very first moment, standing you immediately in front of an invisible barrier.

There’s you, a first-person entity with a chainsaw HANDSOMELY slung over your right shoulder. There’s a small bush. And behind it is a tree. A tree! Your nemesis, your barked bane. And so to it you charge! But you don’t, because it’s impossible to step forward. That little bush, despite only occupying a weeny space in the middle of the front yard of a building, is guarding that tree. Sure, you’ve got a chainsaw, but no way mister – you’re not using it, because “You are not in the right position!” What about a sneak attack, creep up behind that bastard tree and evade its cunning bushy guards, by going around the back of the house? Nope! Invisible barrier there too! WCS2013 is not messin’.

Damn you tree. You can stand there while I slaughter your brothers and sisters. RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU.

Except of course I can’t. Crossing the road outside this building takes me to a grassy patch with a few tree bastards growing on it. To them I shall take my Chainsaw Of Justice! No. These trees have outwitted me too. They’ve turned immaterial to evade my woodcutting rectitude. These cunning buggers. I just walk straight through them, and as every woodcutter knows, if you can walk through a tree, it’s especially tricky to chop it down with a chainsaw.

There’s a tutorial, in fairness. Also in fairness, it’s not a tutorial. It’s a collection of tiny, creepily silent videos that waver the mouse around the microscopic screen and don’t seem to actually explain anything. I grew a bit bored of waiting for anything to happen in them, and thought: hey, how hard can chopping down some trees really be? VERY HARD INDEED when the trees are bloody cheating.

There’s a church on the horizon. Maybe the Lord can help me? But damn their eyes, the trees have gotten there first! Their compatriots, the hedges, are impossibly extending their reach to block open paths. THEY’VE GOT CONTROL OF THE CHURCHES. Two different churches! This is like Day Of The Triffids meets The Happening!

But wait, what’s that? On the map. I’ve just noticed that on the minimap, about a mile from what I guess might be my house, is a tree. A single fir tree. Heading toward it, I run and run across fields and through woods of diaphanous trees and… around lakes protected by pellucid walls. There’s a mysterious floating yellow arrow in the sky, and it’s right where I’m heading. Here I find so many pine trees, and – and – they’re solid! I can’t use my chainsaw on them, obviously. “You are not in the right position!” But then there’s one. One lone tree, stood a bit not quite under the mysterious floating yellow arrow, and it sports a mysterious yellow band around its trunk. This is it. This is my moment. This is my destiny. I AM IN THE RIGHT POSITION!

What follows is a little strange. For a game purporting to be a woodcutting simulator, my interaction with the process amounted to hitting the Spacebar. This done, an extended animation played from my first-person view of the chainsaw making three precise cuts into the trunk, which I really feel like I could have tried. Then the camera pulled away to show the tree start to topple, and without a rewarding cry of “TIMBER!” it fell down. Hitting the ground, it became apparent the physics engine believed it was the inside of a toilet roll, and then it exploded. No, I promise. It exploded. In fact, let’s get this on film. Oh, and enjoy the music.

I’ve yet to fathom what the “right position” is. It seems entirely arbitrary. But I sure did chop down that exploding tree! But according to the task window “the National Chainsaw Championship is nigh” and I need to train for it. So chop down these vulnerable trees I must. It wants me to take out a total of four of the shits.

Four down! Er, the task has changed, and mentions of the exciting championships are gone. It now tells me I need to chop down one tree in order to keep up with some mysterious demand – a demand for dead exploded trees. Okay, one more down, and… oh, now it wants me to chop down six more trees. This time in the name of “forest maintenance”. Ah, but a twist! This time I’m not allowed to use heavy machinery which I don’t have, and instead to use my chainsaw which is all I’ve got…

There’s no mention of completed tasks, no notion of progressing, and I only know these “quests” exist because I clicked on all the various icons and found one offering me something to do.

The level of detail in the environments – while looking like they were developed in the early 2000s – is surprising. Especially surprising in a game about woodcutting that doesn’t let you cut the wood. There are recycling bins for all waste types clearly coloured and labelled in the streets. Not to interact with, of course, but I love that someone thought this was the important detail they needed to focus on, rather than, say, letting you chop down trees. It could go some way to calling itself an “open world woodcutting game”, so vast is the expanse you explore to find those few non-invincible trees. It’s just that the open world is so insipid, and so achingly slow to move around, that it becomes an obstacle rather than a place. However, quick tip: Go diagonally to double your speed!

It’s atrocious. I’m sure that’s fairly obvious. But it seems even the developers know it. The link from the game’s Steam page takes you to the German page about Agrar Simulator 2013, and attempt to visit the developer/publisher’s page for the game itself and you get this.

So the trees win again. Those conniving arseholes. Soon I shall have my revenge, though. Perhaps in Woodcutter Simulator 2014?

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83 Comments »

  1. norfolk says:

    In a perhaps-not-so-surprising twist, the animation in the video actually cuts the tree incorrectly. The face cut is never removed and you’ve cut all your holding wood. Run!

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      “Holding wood”

      • colw00t says:

        Furthermore, even given the extraordinary length of the world’s cleanest Stihl saw, using just the tip like that will result in disappointment and backlash. To say nothing of the limp-wristed grip! You have to hold the upper shaft with a firm but gentle touch!

        Seriously, I’ve cut some wood in my day, but never with an implement that seems to be about eight feet long like that. There’s bad practice all over it. You have to knock out the wedge and the third cut needs to be slightly above the first so as to create a hinge effect. Tim Stone would never approve of the terrible simulation going on here!

        • Sharlie Shaplin says:

          “You have to hold the upper shaft with a firm but gentle touch!”

          Oh my…!

        • Blue_Lemming says:

          Is there even a section where you have to spend 20 minutes cleaning and sharpening the teeth, I think not. Does it accurately simulate what happens when you don’t add two stroke oil to the fuel? or if you hit a nail that some berk smooshed into the tree 10 years prior to you cutting it?

          This tripe has besmirched (or burched) my love of chainsaws.

    • PenGunn says:

      LOL. The last tree i dropped, a few years ago, I quit using wood for heat, rotated 90 degrees to clear the big ol limb sticking out and dropped nicely on the road. That is using your holding wood in a slightly trick manner.

      I have used up a few chain saws in my time on Vancouver Island.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      The music to their youtube video is brilliant, but out of place.

  2. kulik says:

    I saw this coming.

  3. CookPassBabtridge says:

    This article was clearly written by an old .. wait for it … hack

    EDIT: Damn, just missed the start of the pun thread.

  4. Cryptoshrimp says:

    UnReal World is a better woodcutting sim than this garbage. Why is this even on Steam?

    • stoner says:

      Why, indeed. Garbage like this gets on Steam. Yet, there are many wonderful indie games out there begging for Steam exposure.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      Because Valve when accused of not letting good games get on steam – instead of spending some of the ridiculous mountains of money Steam brings in on a dedicated team doing quality control for the thing that brings those mountains of money – decided to let “the community” handle all this shit with Greenlight and a new steam acceptance policy that’s effectively “you get to be on steam ,we’ll take you down later if we get complaints”.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        To be fair, it’s loose or loose. They decided for themselves first, and the community (parts of) complained. They said “ok you choose” and the community (parts of) complained. Basically they only see money, and outsourcing is both free(ish) and opens up hundreds of games for them to take a share of the pie from.

        • Baines says:

          Steam never really let the community choose. Greenlight, at least from what few descriptions Valve ever bothered to offer, operated under a system where people either voted “Yes” or didn’t vote at all. According to Valve, “No” votes didn’t affect approval. So all that mattered was getting enough “Yes” votes for your game, which you could try to achieve through various means that held no reflection on how likely your game was actually going to sell once released on Steam (and one of the more popular methods actually actively worked *against* your game selling on Steam.)

          Greenlight was broken from the start for a variety of reasons, and Valve’s changes over time seemed more like attempts to stop people from complaining than actual attempts to fix the process, until Valve eventually just opened the flood gates.

          People complained before Greenlight because Valve couldn’t be bothered to review new games for inclusion on Steam and were horribly inconsistent about their process when they did. Valve was secretive enough to make it look like they were just making it up as they went along, which was whenever someone had 10 minutes to kill and decided to pick a game at random to check out.

          People complained after Greenlight because Greenlight was flawed from the start, and because it looked like Valve showed even less interest in reviewing games afterwards. Greenlight originally was to just be a gatekeeper that Valve would use to decide which games to review in its limited time. But that resulted in few titles being Greenlit, and then it looked like Valve was just rubberstamping the top games, and later Valve clearly was just rubberstamping the top games.

          • Josh W says:

            If I were them, I’d set up a system where I looked at which were getting the most no votes, or had got the most before they were added to the story, and check them for crapness first. That way yes and no both count, but in different ways.

  5. darkChozo says:

    Well, obviously you’re playing as some sort of lumberjack savant. Normally the trees mean nothing to you and you pass them like they’re not even there. But if you’re in juuust the right mood and juuust the right position you’re taken over by some unknown force, and take the tree out with three impossibly precise cuts, severing its lifelines and sending it on the short path to self-destruction.

    I mean, it’s like you don’t even know what roleplaying is. Jeez.

  6. soulblur says:

    Weirdly, that 3-cut isn’t even accurate. If you made a cut like that, the tree would fall over backwards. On you. You would die. No, you make the third cut slightly above the second cut, in effect creating a hinge that then guides the tree’s fall and stops it from falling backwards.

    I bet they didn’t even consult any real lumberjacks about this, did they?

    • SominiTheCommenter says:

      They did consult one that dressed like a woman in bars…

    • waltC says:

      Exactly…;) Everyone knows that you never cut all the way through, and before that happens the lumberjack pushes on the tree, in a direction away from himself, preferably, and when the tree starts to fall he yells “Timber-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-rrrrr!” and *then* the tree falls and explodes into neat bundles of kindling and stacks of green firewood.

    • Graerth says:

      I came to comments sections wondering if anyone else posted about the silly cuts (Nooo, the 3rd doesn’t go through and definately not on same level as the first).

      Already 2 people on it.
      Good job people.

      Good job.

    • Ibed says:

      I didn’t understand your hinge-description, so I went looking and found this:
      https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/logging/manual/felling/cuts/notches.html
      So I guess that’s what you meant.

      And yeah, it’s so weird that they got the actual simulation of woodcutting the most wrong. The empty environment and invisible walls could be dismissed as window dressing, but you’d expect that if you make this game you have (1) some knowledge of how to cut wood, and (2) you want the actual woodcutting to be both fun and realistic. Or at least realistic.

  7. Dingbatwhirr says:

    In opinion, it seems that this game is a metaphor for the inescapably deterministic nature of the human mind. We think we have free will, that we can cut down any tree we like, but as time progresses we come to realise that our own nature represents a barrier to us, an invisible wall if you will. Our free will is an illusion. It’s only when we surrender to that truth and resign ourselves to following the path our genetics and environment have collectively prescribed for us, cutting down the tree marked with a yellow ribbon rather than another tree, that we can truly achieve anything.

    …Or maybe it’s a just really bad game about woodcutting…

  8. Toastmonster says:

    The trick to being “in the right position” is the radar-like graphic in the bottom right corner of the screen. As you move near the tree, you’ll notice a blip on the radar. You can only cut when that blip is somewhere within the inner circle of the radar scope. You were trying to cut when the blip was at the edge of the radar.

  9. Lambchops says:

    Is it just me or in that video does John sound like he has been possessed by the spirit of one of the Tellytubbies?

  10. GernauMorat says:

    This is clearly the COD of woodcutting simulators

    • LawL4Ever says:

      I kind of doubt that this is the best selling of woodcutting simulators.
      Ok, maybe it is because it’s the only one. idk.

  11. DrScuttles says:

    This is the Serious Business of videogames and why I read RPS. Though I am forced to admit that beneath my surface layer of well-meaning sarcasm, part of me really wants to play a good version of this game. Woodcutting with Proper Physics, deep management aspects, paper doll customisation (with checked shirts), the ability to wistfully stand with one foot upon a fresh treestump gazing proudly across yonder canyon and also survival aspects that essentially boil down to basically eating Big Soup in front of a roaring fire before a depressingly early bedtime.

    • Dingbatwhirr says:

      I couldn’t agree more. I want to feel like I am a lumberjack. The smell of fresh cut timber. The crash of mighty tress. Leaping from tree to tree, as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia: the larch, the pine, the redwood, the mighty Scots Pine! The smell of fresh cut timber. The crash of mighty trees, with my best girl by my side.

      There should also be an option to have buttered scones for tea.

    • YogSo says:

      What you need is to ask Tim Stone to lend you his copy of Husqvarna Sunrise.

  12. Wisq says:

    As much as we laugh at this game … I really wish Minecraft trees actually fell over like that.

  13. Harlander says:

    The detail in the world – the train, the recycling bins – makes me think they’ve got some kind of OTS world and just put their awful sim in it.

  14. Chaz says:

    Funnily enough I was looking at this on Steam the other day, and it came to my attention that for a game about wood cutting, they hadn’t included a single screen shot of said activity on their store page.

    Reading the forums I discovered that you don’t really do any woodcutting at all, the closest you get to it is that automated chainsaw bit. It’s more about buying and trying out lots of industrial machinery. Most of which is pointless, because the biggest logging contracts you get in the missions are for a mere 8 logs.

  15. Stense says:

    Can some one just go and make an Evil Tree Surgeon game, complete with PhysX enhanced destructo-stuff for when you topple a tree bastard on it? Please?

  16. phenom_x8 says:

    British Chainsaw Massacre- The Beginning

  17. Scumbag says:

    I used to work at Maplin and the overpriced software rack was always filled with these games. Woodcutting Simulator, Train Simulator (at least 6 different flavors), Tunnel Simulator, Roadworks Simulator, Street sweeper Simulator etc… I used to wonder what they were like, if there were good or not. I wondered if there were actually the best games on the market and I was simply ignorant to the truth, playing all the MAN shoots GUN games promoting only violence and death.
    I have seen the videos and now I know the truth. The one nice memory of Maplin, looking at the software rack of mystery, has become another one of the many regrets I have in life, pining for something that was too good to be true.
    I hope you are proud RPS! I hope you are proud!

  18. BooleanBob says:

    I think we may have finally found an angle to get John interested in a MOBA.

  19. quietone says:

    *shakes head*

    John…John…John, John, John….errrr…John!

    Be honest, how EMPTY would RPS be if not for the many articles about these sims?

    Some appreciation for the legions of awful simulators sacrificed in the altar of funny, sarcastic RPS articles!

  20. Moraven says:

    Don’t forget, Starforge has epic flying Chainsaw duels and treecutting.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHKJjYlHEa8

  21. Themadcow says:

    Oh, colour me disappointed. I took a chainsaw to the tree at the bottom of my garden a few weeks ago and it was pretty much the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

    …not that I had clothes on at the time, obviously.

  22. bstard says:

    Gosh. Few days back that OMSI perl and now this? I understand time is scars and one need to be picky, but why only gaming industry’s finest? Give the lesser gods a chance as well!

  23. FireStorm1010 says:

    Lol loved the review, in fact it prompted me to finally sign up just to comment how much i laughed reading this review:)

  24. Hencts says:

    my classmate’s mother-in-law makes $87 every hour on the computer. She has been without work for 10 months but last month her payment was $21413 just working on the computer for a few hours. read,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, http://www.Bay95.com

  25. Romeric says:

    The funniest article I’ve read in some time. Great stuff.

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