Running a trucking fleet is a complicated business: Vehicles must be purchased and maintained, clients acquired, contracts signed, cargo delivered, routes planned.
In practice, it’s an industry in which reputations are hard won and easily smashed. But in “TransRoad:USA,” a computer-based business simulation game available Nov. 9, players can experience the trials and travails of a logistics operation without any of the real-world risk.
“TransRoad,” developed and published by Deck13 Hamburg and Astragon Entertainment, takes cues from classic computer games such as “The Oregon Trail” and video games like “The Sims.” Players don’t follow a preset storyline — instead, they’re given latitude to choose their own adventure.
“We would describe it as a challenging and fascinating game for everybody who is interested in complex economy-simulation games, as well as trucks and the beautiful U.S.A.,” said Astragon spokesman Felix Buschbaum.
In “TransRoad,” PC and Mac users become managers of their own transport companies. The first order of the game: buying from seven truck and trailer options and hiring drivers. Next, users choose clients with whom to do business.
The game features 37 U.S. cities — each with a trading center and local companies in need of hauling services, all laid out in a zoomable three-dimensional map complete with landmarks. In total, there are 77 businesses representing 14 industry sectors.
Players choose one city as the headquarters for their trucking business and then move cargo between businesses, cities or multiple points. They can operate along the entire supply chain as raw materials are worked into finished products and then delivered to distribution hubs.
Contracts are sorted by location, client and trailer type and listed by availability and value. Some involve special orders, which are lucrative but difficult to execute.
Each contract lists information including the starting and end points of the delivery, the type of goods being moved, delivery deadlines, breach-of-contract penalties, number of partial shipments and cancellation terms. Players can receive bonuses from clients but must also consider costs such as driver salaries, loans and fuel expenses.
Successful, prompt deliveries earn reputation points, which help players access more contracts and clients. But to make a name for themselves within the game, players must deftly manage their resources — assigning heavier loads to more powerful vehicles, for example — and plan efficient routes and design marketing campaigns.
“TransRoad” requires a level of strategizing that can trip up even experienced real-world logistics operators. To maximize the verisimilitude, developers even baked in unpredictable economic cycles that can wreak havoc on fuel prices.
Ultimately, though, it’s just a game, like the construction, railroad, firefighting and policing simulations that are also in Astragon and Deck13’s portfolios. TransRoad will be available both in retail stores and as a digital download for $24.99.
But trucking simulations can be an effective marketing tool for the logistics industry. “TransRoad,” which will be available as a digital download on platforms such as Steam and as a retail package in certain countries, already has pre-orders.
“Demand is really high,” Buschbaum said.
It enters a growing field of trucking games.
Last year, Czech video game developer SCS Software launched its “American Truck Simulator,” inspired by its 2008 game “Euro Truck Simulator.” Players roleplay as tractor-trailer drivers hauling cargo, managing earnings and growing fleets across the American Southwest.
Between 2002 and 2011, SCS also developed eight versions of its “18 Wheels of Steel” trucking simulation game, with subtitles such as “Extreme Trucker,” “Haulin’” and “Pedal to the Metal.” Another series of trucking simulators — called “Hard Truck” — was first released by Russian developer Softlab-NSK in 1998. Other computer-based variations include the “Scania Truck Driving Simulator,” “Formula Truck 2013” and off-roading-themed “Spintires.”
Trucking companies are also trying out their technology via virtual reality.
Last year, Mack Trucks Inc. launched 5-minute virtual reality test drives of some of its commercial vehicles, including the Pinnacle, Granite and Titan trucks. By donning a headset linked to a smartphone app, users could experience how drivers navigate big rigs out of muddy sand pits, tight turns on rocky quarry paths and steep highway inclines.
Yale Materials Handling Corp., which makes forklifts and other factory equipment, showcased its own virtual reality technology at the ProMat material handling trade show in Chicago in April. A simulation space built into a stationary truck allows companies to screen applicants for distribution jobs or train new warehouse hires without the danger of accidents, according to the Cleveland-based company.
“Leveraging innovative technology to make the most of limited available labor resources offers a solution designed for the realities of the current labor market that help drive the higher levels of performance today’s warehouses require,” said Chris Murtha, Yale brand manager, in a statement.