Car Mechanic Simulator 2018 [official site], the latest iteration of the surprisingly zen-like automobilic repair game, launched last Friday. It brought flashier graphics, raiding junkyards for salvageable car husks, over 1000 parts to wail in confusion at and, it transpires, about as many bugs. I found that, on launch day, the game was in worse shape than a Robin Reliant that had spent the last thirty years abandoned in a tumbledown barn, and sadly had to bail on playing it. I was very much not alone, as the currently 'Mixed' Steam reviews reveal - prompting the devs to issue a public apology.
"You have full right to be angry at us, to be disappointed. To make refunds. We deserved it," they acknowledge in an uncommonly desperate post, but pledge to make the game road-worthy asap. Indeed, they've already issued five patches in the four days since launch.
There's a mess of mini-issues under CMS18's hood, but the ones that would most contribute to this particular garage having a very poor Checkatrade rating are:
- overall performance (so much so that the devs recommend running the game on Medium graphics settings, no matter how powerful your GPU)
- an assortment of game-breaking bugs that can, amongst other things, make repairs impossible, parts disappear, cars immovable or menus that stick to the screen forever
- bigger game-breakers such as a black screen bug for some players and infinite loading screens
- a janky interface that seems to be stranded in a bizarre and uncomfortable halfway house between keyboard+mouse and gamepad.
- assorted missing content
While the dev's mea culpa doesn't go into the reasons for the game so spectacularly failing its MOT, they're about as a heart-on-sleeve as it gets, kicking off with what scans eerily like a William Carlos Williams poem:
"We are deeply sorry for all those problems with the game.
There are way too many bugs, We are aware of that.
That kind of situation never should happend."
After noting how 'disappointed' they are by CMS18's less-than-positive Steam ratings (in contrast to the more rapturous response to CMS 2014 and 2015), they admit that "You have full right to be angry at us, to be disappointed. To make refunds. We deserved it."
Which is a bit of a head-spinner, as I'm so used to games companies who've messed up in this way obscuring the depth of the issue with talk of "some players experiencing issues", "we are aware of reports that" and similar downplaying.
"This series, each part - it's like a baby to us. We love those cars. All mistakes we made, are very painful." Oof. Rather more positively, "We won't stop until CMS 18 will be perfect. Please give us a chance to fix our faults... We owe you a great game. And we will deliver it."
Let's hope that doesn't mean sleep and family time is denied to staff members who are not in any way responsible for whatever managerial decisions led to shipping a game in what is clearly premature shape, eh?
As for the state of the game right now, five patches on (read through the long list of changes here), I'm glad to report that it's a whole lot more playable this morning than it was on Friday. Performance is still poor, though not as slideshowy as it was, but most importantly I've only hit one game-breaking (i.e. required me to exit and reload) bug so far, as opposed to a couple of dozen first time around.
There have also been some interface improvements - including now being able to use the mouse on the main menu, hilariously - so that side of things is now more on the 'irritating' rather than 'disastrous' end of the spectrum.
All told, it still feels, if you'll excuse the use of this term as a pejorative, rather early access, but my sense is that it's fixable in the shortish term rather than totally unsafe to drive, as was my feeling on Friday. I'm enjoying the slow-burn maintenance now, though I'd love a slicker interface.
Kudos for the quick fixes, and let's hope the airbags and selt belts all past muster in the very near future. I'm working on a review, but it's contingent on the rest of the game being in good enough shape to keep playing. Watch this space!