Christmas is, of course, the time when Santa Claus comes to visit every lucky boy and girl. He does that in the form of a rosy-cheeked image, plastered across the side of a Coca Cola truck. Nothing says "goodwill to all" quite like an appropriated corporate mascot slapped on the flank of a vehicle delivering syrupy slugs of overpriced brown fizz to the masses.
There's one truck that almost certainly won't be driving home for Christmas though. American Truck Simulator [official site]. And that makes this the worst festive season since the time a ghost told me that nobody liked me and that an undertaker would steal the pants from my corpse.
This isn't news as such. American Truck Simulator doesn't have a release date so it hasn't been delayed. But I've been looking forward to it for so long now and I'd convinced myself it'd be the game that accompanied me through the cold of the Christmas break.
There's plenty of trucking news to catch up on though. The most significant slice of information is a stealth renaming. The latest news post from the devs refers to it as American Truck Simulator: California. We always knew that the initial release wouldn't contain every state and I'm glad that's not the case - there'd be no way to craft them to the scale or level of detail I'm hoping for if the whole lot, with all their beautiful variety, were going to be mashed together in a single release. I knew California was likely, given that we've seen screenshots of landmarks thereabouts, but it seems that the decision has been made to release a base game encompassing The Golden State. That's a lot of land.
SCS have been explaining the process:
"We are adding community features and infrastructure to support implementation of a grand trucking universe with Virtual Trucking Companies and eventually with rich multiplayer. We would also like to introduce more vehicles into our world than just plain semi-trucks, so work has started on adding alternate gameplay and driving experiences into our simulation system. At the same time, we know that we need to keep pushing our graphics technology, there are still many things in our game engine to improve and optimize, and balancing such changes while trying not to break the game mods too badly is not easy at all.
"Pursuing all these goals at the same time has been quite a ride. We have more than tripled our head count at SCS Software to over 50 people currently since the days of release of ETS2. While the content teams working on the projects are separate, they share the programming team, and we are still learning tough lessons when it comes to improving our testing and release pipeline."
Alternate gameplay and driving experiences probably won't include taxis, as I so desperately crave, given that the Truck Simulator games are more concerned with the spaces in between cities than in the cities themselves. Greyhound Bus driver seems like a possibility though, right? They're not saying anymore on that front just yet.
"Sometimes it feels like for every step forward we need to take two back, but we are stubborn and dedicated, and we are confident that in the end we will deliver on all that we have started. In our quest, we feel that quality is the most important thing for you and us. That's why, more often than not, we tend to adjust our plans and sacrifice release schedules in order to stay true to our mission and to build new pieces of the puzzle in a way that they will all fit well together.
"Very soon, you will see us take another step with World of Trucks. The first release in American Truck Simulator line is on the horizon, and the team working Euro Truck Simulator 2 has great things in development too for you for the next year. Please be patient with us and stay tuned!"
Hopefully we'll be California Trippin' early next year. Publishers Excalibur certainly seem to think so, but then they also reckon the Arizona DLC will be out "later on in 2015". Even if the date is wrong, I'm fairly sure that means I'll be driving to Phoenix sometime next year. Can't wait.