Dear TML Team (and all and one),
Greetings! I so adore the immersion of your prized simulator. It is far more evocative of the long distance coach/bus experience than anything else out there. Overnight I uninstalled ETS2, with its boxy every-city-is-the-same look; the MarioKart-esque graphic rendering; the crappy modding. ANYWAY, I have some ideas for Fernbus:
The premise of Fernbus seems to be you're the driver, the captain of the vehicle. Move passengers successfully from Point A to Point B. Get some points. Well and good, Perfect, for a first premise,
Yet the concept of coach driving can be further sub-divided into various realms. One should show competence across these various realms--this leads to good personal reputation for the driver; and fine (eventual) promotion, maintains the reputation of the company which enhances the popularity of its choice as the go-to carrier among customers. This goes for real-life, and might therefore go for the simulator driver and his/her experience.
Translating this from real life into aspects that lead to an even more engaging Fernbus Sim experience, let me suggest these:
Realm of PERSONAL ADMINISTRATION
1. A log book. How can we talk about anything else first when it comes to long haul driving? I think in EU the driving hours are 9 in a 24 hour period. A log book should therefore be maintained. It was a feature of the prototypical truck driving sims such as Pedal to the Metal. With regards long treks ranging further than a 9 hour single shift, there can be two options: a time lapse where another driver drives the next stage--human driver "rests," resuming when clear to do so. This could be an 'optional option' if coded into the game--with ability to turn this stage driving feature on or off. That is important since some people, like me, love putting in 7 hours of real game time to complete every beautiful mile in an even 24 hour trek--alone. Not realistic, should never happen in real life; but this is simulated life, and reality is therefore allowed to take a pause.
But there could be stages or shifts in driving to add realism and a measure of needing to show good personal administration in terms of planning one's driving hours. Pre-arranged before departure, a two-driver system (with AI driver 'onboard' from starting point) could be used as a feature. AI driver takes over from time to time, as is necessary; time lapses as human driver logs rest... .
2. Courtesy and Professionalism. Points should be awarded for good passenger and customer interaction. This leads to a concept of handling missing passengers, and, let's be dramatic--medical emergencies. Someone who is unwell should be given appropriate level of aid--even transfer to ambulance for comprehensive medical care. So sick passengers seems like a reasonable place to start--it happens in real life, with even a pregnancy coming to fruition in the fullest way, yes--a live birth--on board a coach in Australia some years ago. A live birth aspect in-game may scare the children. But a general "Driver, can we stop? I am feeling unwell" might be enough. Taking action swiftly and conscientiously to aid the passenger would then score the Human Driver some points.
3. Good Samaritan/Road Sharer Behaviour. Reputation points might be awarded for positive in-traffic transactions, such as giving way at those switch-backs in and around Bern and Oberhof. Helping with roadside breakdown by stopping and offering assistance, just as happens time and time again--to help fellow travelers seems to be the gift, the natural instinct and inclination of most professional drivers the world over, and opportunity to show this would surely be a worthy feature of any quality Sim.
4. Specialized Service. There are no children passengers! There should be--and they must have the right documents of authority to permit travel, including carrying the name, address and contact of people they are meant to be traveling to see. This would add another aspect to the doc and ticket checking aspect already coded.
5. Appropriate care and handling of disabled or elderly, the blind. For when the buses accommodate disabled passengers, as we see in Bus Driver style games, driver would need to show ability in operating the wheelchair deck, etc., and failure to get it right would result in deduction in points overall to reflect on relative competency.
Realm of MECHANICAL COMPETENCY
Pre and Post Checks. Apart from getting along with people and offering conscientious and appropriate service/care to passengers, the professional driver needs to have the basics down. An option to run through a pre-leaving checklist, making sure fuel, battery, coolant, oil, brakes, electrical, etc etc, are all in order would be pretty simple to code and lead to a greater sense of efficacy in application of mechanical principles, and lead to a deeper sense of anticipation in starting the trip. A post-trip check, too, could be scripted. Admittedly these are a little time-consuming (albeit present in real-life) the fastidious side of driving coaches. But would add an aspect of complexity in-game counterpart to the real requirements and protocols of real-world drivers.
Emergency Mechanical Aspect. A blow out, a flat tire, overheating engine (here we would need to politely remind supportive high profile companies such as MAN that this is nothing personal!) Difficulty in the air system making brakes lock on (mine for some reason lock on ANYWAY! Let's all experience the pain!) And how to best deal with these eventualities--or call for a replacement coach. This would be a moderately exciting and pretty dramatic element enhancing one's engagement positively with real life driving challenges. Flat tires can be changed--did you put out the markers to warn traffic of the breakdown environment? (Did you remember to pack the warning triangles at pre-check?)
"Realms" of Personal Interest and Realism
From the get-go Flightgear, the open source flight sim, incorporated three aspects that we might consider here. One is real world weather, using a small set of scripts to access METAR values, those weather values related to flight which then dictate certain steps a competent pilot should go through to manage flight dynamics in-flight. For the driver, up-to-date information about rain, snow, flood, sleet or blood-drying drought can be accessed from weather servers, thence appropriate weather conditions can be triggered in-game from those values, bringing weather realism most completely to the game. (By the way--visually--when will there appear rain on my windscreen again? I have no need of the wipers....And the condensation build up on the windscreen as in the earliest incarnations of this awesome Sim? I miss those terribly!)
We might concern ourselves with real-to-life road conditions. Too much coding to script countless scenarios for traffic conditions, but basic traffic information can be gleaned from traffic servers in most World cities and even simplified but true to life representation would make this SIM POP. Traffic build up requires re-routing, and yes, it seems every time I'm in Nice, I get lost at the airport (ha!) and there is always a morning traffic jam requiring me to hop kerbs and take some bizarre steps to get the trip underway (this even with traffic density set to 38-42). Specific real world traffic scenarios could be somewhat incorporated in-game, based on current traffic information. Depending on how abstract or real, some level of what is happening in the world today traffic wise could be realized in-game.
Enhanced pPersonal Interest comes from player involvement and interaction. Steam offers some promise of that premise, but then no-one is talking. Well and good! We are too busy driving! But what might be interesting is a form of Bus RADAR. I steal this idea--ahem, no, am "inspired" by Flightgear again--from what is seen at that open source flight sim. They have a very elegant and simple set up where the Sim pilots can log into a Google (I think?) server and thus supply their simulated location, which is then plotted against a map. Cool! My bro and his bestie are about to fly out from San Fran. Wait for me, I'm coming too! Real time flights can all be seen, if one has the address to the map. Bus RADAR access in-game would follow that idea, and we could see fellow players in real-time positions as they appear on the road.
This further leads to a set of "Let's see one another" possibilities--where we can see other players driving, and even drive with them, perhaps by combining coach services during peak times of passenger transport, or running tandem schedules; or even co-operating to make connecting services connect in a coach route network (player-built or pre-built). All it would require is server space to upload the relevant information, such as model vehicle, skin, etc., and positional information with this information then accessed and delivered to other drivers as they meet one another along the autobahns. That then initiates a certain kind of thinking: a possibility of chat, even by incorporating microphone access, so that fellow drivers can talk to each other. This then takes our wonderful Sim and pulls it from the desktop and takes it more into an online frame of contextual reference, which may not be desirable necessarily. But Flightgear thrived with such a novelty, pushing it out from potential to reality. And no-one has been harmed.
So: real-world weather conditions; a seeing one another aspect. The third aspect of Flightgear was failable systems--something we have talked about already, in terms of breakdown possibilities.
Those are my ideas for now. I work on commission But freely I discuss, only wanting this to be the best damn coach sim in all of the coded worlds and the worlds beyond. Thank you for this Fernbus Simulator. I love it, I always have.