Take a good look at the following few examples:
Does it look familiar?
Have you too encountered other vehicles of little sanity driving around on the roads and highways of Euro Truck Simulator 2 or its predecessors?
Traffic AI is not known to be a particularly strong suit of ETS2.. yet. Most of us know that while driver behaviour is sometimes humourously close to the real-life behaviour of dumbass car-drivers, others cutting in, breaking abruptly in front of you etc., and generally behaving in a visible scripted manner can be critically immersion breaking, especially when you happen to damage your truck or cargo as bad as 20-50% as a result of the AI causing crashes.
Fear not! The AI update is coming, possibly in patch 1.9. The latest news according to a December blog post is that “our new AI code and physics improvements need more time “in the lab” as programmers are still tweaking things based on tester input.”
However, until then we have the chance to review what Pavel Sebor had to say on the matter of the new AI in the relevant sections of the Big Eurotruck interview with DaSquirrelsNuts (scroll to 36:43 for the part about the AI), in anticipation of the big AI patch:
DaSquirrelsNuts: So this new AI, is this going to improve what? Sort of, basically?
Pavel: Well you will see it immediately once you look at an intersection, and you will see how better the cars can behave, that they are now aware of what the situation on the road is. Where they should break or where they should not break. So rather than the current AI which many people are currently hating for these random slowdowns or unbelievable acceleration or stupid behaviour when merging, suddenly it will open up opportunities for us to redo intersections and crossings. Because of too many limitations in the AI, sometimes the arc (of turning) was looking weird and not really realistic as it should have been, but this was all built with the limitations of the AI, which we were aware about.
So the AI is another thing that is connected to how we build maps or what we do with the gameplay, and the new AI will make the driving experience more believable, more realistic, more like simulator-people would expect versus having really simplistic routines that were not satisfactory, certainly not to ourselves but definitely also not to the majority of the players.
DaSquirrelsNuts: Do you think you could give the AI sort of different characteristics, some variance in the way they behave? Like some slower, some quicker, some aggressive, that kind of thing?
Pavel: What I know is that we have a different… maybe I can describe it correctly: different cars can take on more aggressive or slower approach to how they drive. We should also finally make it possible – with this new AI – to make pursuit AI. So let’s say… I wouldn’t like to overpromise now and have people take my word for it that in this or that month features are coming, but in theory what we will have should allow for, like ambulances riding around and other cars yielding to them or having police in pursuit, or having really having various interactions between the various AIs on the road. And you know, we took a year now – and it’s still not out – to prepare the technology to make this possible. Now we will have to actually take advantage of this capability that’s built into the core of the new AI. But we hope that with this new AI, down the road – I’m not promising any deadlines – we will be able to do much more varied situations on the roads and the streets, with more people happening around you or more random encounters maybe happening that are believable but are spicing up the situation.
DaSquirrelsNuts: So are we going to see random accidents or random events, you know road closures, pedestrians and other stuff that just make it feel like it’s lived in?
Pavel: Not immediately, but we have opened up the way for it to happen. For us now the ambition is: basically when you update the game with this new AI eventually you shouldn’t see any immediate major difference in the feature set you see – for now – more believable truck traffic flowing past you or whatever you meet coming from the other direction, and this would be just the start of some meaningful stuff for us, this alone – having this new stable AI – would be a major step forward from where we were for many years.
DaSquirrelsNuts: That absolutely sounds wonderful can you please do that before the end of the year! *laughs*
Pavel: Yes the ambition is there, we a bunch of volunteer testers from our open community already actively testing, just for a couple of days but they have already been testing the first two or three builds, discovering imperfections. Lots of the problems we are dealing with is that we have this huge heritage with the map, with the world that we have to live with. If we were each time starting from scratch with our data it would make our lives so much easier… but what we have is this huge map built over many years by many people and whatever we do with it we have to keep on using it. We have to only iterate on what we have, so when we change the AI we have to change the intersections to support new data, it really means adjusting a lot of data, or changing a lot of prefabs, testing them, sometimes revisiting each of them to set up different settings for a particular spot in the world.
So with this legacy of this huge map even simple things can take many weeks of work. And people don’t realize that there so much effort going on behind it. They think you just plug-in and code the AI but it’s not just code, it’s a lot of data being changed. And at the same time as we are changing the map we want to make it backwards compatible for people using mods. It’s not like we’re always successful but we strive for it, we try to pay attention. So when we release the new AI, the map coming from us should supply data to the AI routines that will have the AI cars navigate the world better. But the AI needs to be written in a way so that old maps or mod maps wouldn’t still break down, they wouldn’t stop working, so we aren’t only supporting our new features but we also have to “think with our past sins” and make sure that somehow until people are able to migrate, with updated mods over time coming out, people will still be able to survive and not to lose their profiles and not lose the equity of their time invested into playing their career mode.
So it’s all a combination of this legacy work combined with big ambitions and in the end you look past and you see a year has passed and it’s a feature you thought would take several months and it’s now taking over a year.
DaSquirrelsNuts: It sounds like you need about a hundred guys working on this, if I’m honest *laughs*
So there you have it. If you haven’t had the chance to listen through the two-part interview yet, I can only recommend you do so, as Pavel talks about many interesting things about both SCS as a company and their products, how and why they are developing upcoming features and games, trucks and brands, bus simulators, and generally fascinating trucksim stuff.
SCS is not known to do things by halves; ETS was promised to be expanded and soon followed a German and UK versions of the game, we had been promised a second ETS and it made a breakthrough when it came, I have no doubt this promise will be delivered as well. When it’s ready, the new AI system will be here to stay and allow for a new world of AI experience and hopefully allow modders to create even more realistic and life-like traffic, events and world-encounters, as well as support the traffic in American Truck Simulator and hopefully whatever other games are to follow. Remember: patience is virtue!