I've been reminded of a disappointing game recently.
18 Wheels of Steel: Haulin' - but really, as far as I can tell all the 18WoS games are practically the same.
It's a relaxing game that I could really get in to, but there are some elements that ruin it. It's hard to think of another game where I've been so disappointed by it's flaws, thinking that if only a few things were fixed, I'd love it.
1) The fatigue mechanic. I can't believe they shipped it like this. You're enjoying the game for about 5-10 minutes (real time) and suddenly the screen just goes black. You get no warning other than watching the clock. In real life, you would feel yourself getting sleepy. This doesn't translate well to a video game.
As soon as your guy starts yawning, it's the same time that the screen starts randomly blacking out. Sometimes the blackout happens first. The random screen blanking is as fun as trying to play a game with a defective monitor. At least give some warning *before* the blackouts happen, and it shouldn't be a blackout, it should start as a subtle blur or slight dimming effect. It could get worse over time. You shouldn't black out until much later, and I mean if you've been up for days, not just a mere 10 in-game hours (which is enough time to navigate out of a city and get on the highway for about 5 minutes).
Often times it's a serious burden to try to find somewhere to sleep in this game - services are sparse. One would think that you could just park anywhere and sleep. Nope - I think that's possible if you upgrade your truck to one with a sleeper cabin, but otherwise, you can't sleep in the driver seat. So even though you're randomly blacking out, I'm supposed to believe that it's impossible to sleep intentionally without a cozy bed. You end up crawling along at a low speed for a very long time trying to find a place where you're allowed to sleep, the whole time your screen randomly blacking out.
The underlying concept of fatigue has validity, but the time threshold and the implementation are so clunky that it would be better off if the feature was left out of the game. Either do it right, or don't do it at all.
You can disable fatigue in a .cfg file, but there is no user friendly option for it in the GUI. It works for the vanilla game, but it hasn't worked when mods are installed. I don't know why. Given other problems I have with the vanilla map, that's a problem.
2) Law enforcement - this should be an important part of the game, but the implementation is again quite poor. The worst part of it is the red light offenses. If you ever creep slightly too close to the line at an intersection while the light is red, you instantly get a full crime bar and become America's Most Wanted. The next time you encounter a parked police car, you get pulled over and hit with a fine for thousands of dollars.
A less serious, but still "disappointing" piece of sloppiness is the headlights. You must have your lights on whenever it is dark or you will build up a crime bar. It doesn't even matter if you are in a parking lot with the engine off, your lights still have to be on.
The police don't need to see your infractions happen, they are omniscient and will cite you for them on the next encounter. Lame.
All the police are parked on the side of the road. Also lame. This stems from older games in the series, where police were invisible but existed at distinct locations on the road. In later editions of 18WoS they became visible as a parked car. I don't think they ever added moving police cars.
3) Road signs. This game was developed by a Czech company, so maybe they didn't understand the US interstate system. The game is filled with odd road signs like "I-80 South" and sometimes referencing a city that interstate doesn't even intersect. They reference cities they think you might want to reach, even though they would require exiting to another highway along the way. In proper signage, only the next major city located *on* that interstate would be mentioned.
The signs don't indicate direction properly. Even numbered interstates should always be referred to as east/west, and odd numbers are always north/south. For consistency, the designation always refers to the long-term direction of the road as a whole, not it's short term direction in the immediate vicinity. If I'm trying to get on I-80 East, but a goofy sign in-game says "I-80 South", I don't know which way to go.
Sometimes the signs even fail to reference the interstate you're already on. You'll be on I80, trying to stay on I80, and the signs only reference a different interstate that's crossing you. So where do you go to stay on I80? In real life, the path to stay on your own interstate and direction would always be indicated.
The signs in game are positioned too close to the forks/exits, so you have little time to react. Realistically, there would be signs further in advance to warn you what lane to be in.
Due to all the problems with the signs, you can't navigate without constantly opening the in-game map. I'd like to be able to just drive, but the broken signage makes this frustrating. If you try to follow those signs, you end up confused and going the wrong direction.
I was sufficiently annoyed by this that I started editing the signs in one city using the built-in editor. I didn't have the motivation to make a major project out of it though, and there are a lot of cities to fix.
4) Sparse services, especially fuel. There are way, way too few fuel stations in this game. There are entire cities that don't have a gas station. This was alleviated with a modded map that I installed, but not entirely fixed (road signs still have some problems also).
I like the concept of this game but when I play it, I'm disappointed by how sloppy and unfinished it seems. They made several releases in the series but they barely improved anything in any of them. Despite all that, SCS apparently built a lot of success with these very rough edged games. I realize the idea of a truck driving sim is a bit obscure, but I'm still kind of surprised SCS ended up having the idea to themselves. Surely somebody could have done it better, but I guess nobody else believed in the concept.
I've recently become aware of the modern games Euro Truck Simulator 2 and upcoming American Truck Simulator from the same company. I'm interested, but their system requirements are so high my ability to run them is questionable. I don't need the fancy graphics, I just wish the 18WoS games had been implemented better.