Car Mechanic Simulator 2018 devs: “it was our great mistake”

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Car Mechanic Simulator 2018 [official site], the curiously zen-like, genre-defying game of hypnotic vehicular repair, is very much back on the road these days, but it was not ever thus. CMS18 launched in a rather troubled state, rife with bugs and interface peculiarities, but to the credit of both developers and players, it was rapidly and repeatedly patched, backlash was restrained and the result is an excellent game that’s rarely far from the upper reaches of the Steam best-sellers chart.

But what, exactly happened – and are the developers now confident that CMS is ship-shape? Also: what is it about this superficially car-nerds-only game that makes it so compelling to almost anyone willing to pick up a virtual wrench?

Note: quotes have been edited slightly for translation-based clarity.

“Honestly we didn’t expect so many problems,” Kuba Trzebiński of devs Red Dot Games and publisher PlayWay tells me. “The launch version was way too bugged and it never should have gone on sale. It was our great mistake.” But it was also a surprise: “On release day, thousands of players started to play, at the same moment, and find all those bugs, we were a little shocked.”

The root of the problem was having eyes bigger than their stomach. “We put many extra modules, content, functionalities (like Barnfind or Junkyard) into CMS 18, going after our fanbase’s voice. At some point we were started to lose ground under our feet. There was too much of that content, and too little time to release.”

On top of that, internal testing didn’t turn up many of the problems, but, by their own admission, the creators “tested mostly modules separately, not [as] a whole game.” A certain excess of confidence didn’t help the situation. “We had in mind that our previous CMS editions received great reviews from gamers. That blurred a little our clarity of vision,” confesses Trzebiński.

But, if CMS stumbled out of the gates, it’s in good shape now – not without a lot of work, however. “At this moment we are on patch number 36. Which shows how many of them appeared in the last 2 months.” By this point, Red Dot are happy to say that the game is in “a release state”, but the patches will continue nonetheless.

Car Mechanic Simulator 2018 has been a success despite this, but not every game could have survived that kind of launch. What is it about this one – or this series – that meant it enjoyed a patient and loyal community?

“We have quite a large fanbase, players of CMS 14 and CMS 15,” claims Trzebiński. We think that they appreciate size and richness of the game, and they felt that the game is in general, despite of all the bugs, very well made, that it is a high quality product, way bigger and better then CMS 15. And they simply, humanly felt that the right thing to do, is to help us, not destroy us. They supported us, helped in finding bugs, even cheering us up. They were really great. And we will be grateful for that till rest of our lives.”

Of course, it’s not only existing CMS fans who wound up gravitating to this latest installment. Like Euro and American Truck Simulator, what from the outside might appear to be the driest of ultra-realistic niche games is, in practice, a deeply compelling escape to another world – a chance to tune out of reality and then tune into an extreme, almost hypnotised focus that is by turns relaxing and triumphant. In real life, I know how to change a tyre and top up the oil, but that’s it – and nor do I feel much compulsion to do anything more to my old Peugot 207. Yet I’ve lost many happy hours to dismantling, repairing and rebuilding pretend cars in this game. Why do the dev think it ultimately appeals to folk far beyond the original target audience?

“We think that CMS combines many attributes, like: puzzle, detective “investigation”, logical,” reasons Trzebiński. “It is always nice and satisfying to put something together, make it work. And maybe there is something hypnotising in screwing?”

No comment.

Car Mechanic Simulator 2018’s out now and, yeah, it’s pretty decent shape now.

16 Comments

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  1. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    "And maybe there is something hypnotising in screwing?"

    That's my favourite Prince song.
  1. trjp says:

    Even if they get it patched-up, the game is taking the wrong direction IMO

    The first game had promise but the ‘sim’ part of the game was a meaningless/repetitive grind with no skill/learning required nor any challenge – and that’s not changed in 2 follow-ups.

    They just keep adding ‘more cars’ and ‘more customisation’ and ‘shiny shiny’ when it needs some actual gameplay – some simulation of a proper working-day – some CHOICES to be made – where parts which don’t just instantly appear – where bolts snap and things need welding etc.

    There’s no concept of ‘choosing work’, no reward for how fast you work (fixed-rate system is begging for a game – nothing here), no concept of ‘broken parts’ or ‘stuck bolts’ – no actual ‘game’ really, just “do this over and over and make shiny shiny nothing”

    They’re modelling what they THINK garages do – they’re making Barbie Mechanic Playset rather than a Mechanic Sim imo

    That’s a real shame…

    • TmcMaximus says:

      Agreed. As a paid turner of wrenches myself, I find these games leave much to be desired. No real diagnostics to speak of, no problem solving for when things don’t go so smoothly. Not particularly engrossing nor educational, I would think. What you are in these games is a mere “parts replacer” not a technician.

      • trjp says:

        There’s a HUGE community of people who watch mechanics working on Youtube too – it’s not just people “on the tools” who are interested in this stuff.

        A simulator (correct me if I’m wrong here) simulates a real thing whilst usually offering a mix of some gameplay elements and (and this may not be required but is usually present) a large amount of jankiness

        This is “Fifa” mechanic (it looks like a garage) – we want “Sensible” Mechanics (it PLAYS like a garage)?! :)

      • MrEvilGuy says:

        At the very least, it’s educational insofar as it helps a newbie memorize the names of all the parts, and how they generally fit together. Repetition helps with the memory.

    • BlueBanana says:

      Interesting.
      I never minded the lack of gameplay elements. I usually listen to a audiobook or a podcast while playing cms and I find it very relaxing. Never had the feeling that a challenge or more in-depth mechanics are missing.
      But I think you have a point there.

    • Cvnk says:

      I have to agree. I watched some LPs and realized the entire game was “click the glowing green part”. Very much like your typical mindless mobile “casual” game.

  2. wombat191 says:

    Glad to hear they are on top of the issues I might pick it up in a couple of weeks

  3. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    What, no integration testing?

  4. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    “And maybe there is something hypnotising in screwing?”

    That’s my favourite Prince song.

  5. Flappybat says:

    With headphones on the trailer made me deaf, not what I expected for a mechanic simulator

    • Bruwin says:

      You’ve apparently never been in a garage where they’ve used pneumatic tools then. Shit gets extremely loud in enclosed areas.

      Though yeah, that’s definitely part of the experience that doesn’t need to be simulated ;)

  6. BlueBanana says:

    Bought the game on release day, and was shocked by the state the game was in. But seeing how the community and the devs cared to get the game to a playable state really surprised me. I expected a major shitstorm.
    Sure, the game should have never been released like this, but if the devs really care and bust their asses to get it fixed, I’m more than happy to participate in bug reporting.
    Mistakes happen, and I’m pretty sure everybody learned from this incident.

  7. fish99 says:

    Gave this game a try yesterday and after removing 700 parts my first car was in a decidedly worse state than when it came in for new break pads.

  8. Chaoslord AJ says:

    I frankly like the series and was troubled to hear of the botched release.
    At least they come out and try to fix it. That’s a good start.

  9. Cederic says:

    Deserved the grief on release – got surprisingly little of it.

    That’s because they responded superbly. Lovely to see.

  10. tdkid says:

    why was this game one of steams best sellers? its mainly because car mechanic 2015 was a great game so everyone expected this to be even better. but this game is still one of the buggiest games i have ever played. the devs want to say they have fixed all the problems but anyone who has played it will see they fix one problem but create another.

    example) the long black screen has been moved from the very beginning when entering the game to inbetween the game the the main menu. the achivements still havent been fixed, the devs said that you wont need to start a new game but for some of the achivements like the unlicked the tablet, you will either need to reset your shop points or start a new game to unlock it. reseting your shop points cost $1,000 for every point you have unlocked, so 9 points= $9,000.

    i a recent problem i am having. my game has given me -1 shop points so when i earn another, instead of being able to get something i now have 0 when i should have 1.