Though the vast majority of games centered around driving focus on the immediacy of racing, there’s an undeniable charm and appeal to the experiences that adopt a much slower and more deliberate approach as well. Road Studio’s upcoming trucking sim Alaskan Road Truckers definitely seems to be going for something along those lines. But not only is it promising a meditative truck driving experience set in an authentic recreation of the the Central-Eastern part of Alaska, it’s also adding in layers like survival mechanics and systems don’t necessarily focus on putting you behind the wheel. To learn more about the game and what will make it tick, we recently reached out to its developers with a few of our questions. Below, you can read our interview with Road Studio CEO Michal Puczynski.
"We value quality over quantity, and we’re spending a lot of time making sure that each truck is different, and not only visually."
It seems like planning routes will be an important part of the experience. What sort of factors will come into play on that front, especially when it comes to deciding which equipment to take on certain drives?
It’s all about thinking ahead and planning your spending and inventory. Various factors will come into play when deciding which route to take, although there are places where there won’t be much choice and you’ll simply need to deal with it. Then: is your truck prepared? Is nothing leaking? Is the weather forgiving enough, or should you get ready for freezing temperatures?
But that’s only half of the problem. The other half is you, the driver. You’ll need to have something warm to wear if it’s cold. You’ll need to get food or plan your route to take you near stores. You’ll have to stop and rest, because your eyes will start closing after spending many hours on the road. And what if you encounter any road obstacles? Are you prepared for these challenges, and if you are, should you attempt more difficult jobs? Or perhaps it’s better to get an easier job with lower pay until you buff up with perks and skills? It’s all about choices.
When it comes to truck maintenance, how in-depth can we expect the game’s mechanics to be? Will maintenance have a significant impact on the performance of trucks? Will it also have an impact on, say, how the trucks are looking, visually?
If you neglect your truck, you can get stuck in the middle of nowhere and risk dying of hunger or exposure. Of course, you’ll be able to call for help, but it won’t come free. There are numerous subsystems that can break, and some of them can be repaired only at workshops. The repairs you can do on the road are mostly temporary and jury-rigged, and you’ll need to have unlocked the right perks to attempt repairs. So in short: yes, proper maintenance is vital for the truck’s performance and overall appearance.
How extensive will the game’s roster of vehicles be? How much emphasis will it put on players unlocking new trucks and expanding their own collection?
We value quality over quantity, and we’re spending a lot of time making sure that each truck is different, and not only visually. So while there won’t be dozens of trucks, your selection will be a meaningful one. We want to make sure that getting a new truck, especially from a better class, will feel like an achievement. Not to mention the customization, which really lets you make the truck your own.
"Your truck is half of your worries, the other half is the character. If you don’t have enough food, if you don’t get enough rest, if you don’t dress warm enough, if you eat unhealthy food for too long, all of this will affect you."
What can you tell us about Alaskan Road Truckers’ progression and customization mechanics? How much control will players be afforded in how to upgrade or tweak their trucks?
There are three skill trees you can develop: personal, related to driving licenses, and mechanical. Personal skills let you get discounts or make you more resistant to the harsh conditions of Alaska. Driving skills let you drive better trucks and take more demanding jobs. And mechanical skills let you repair trucks, build and upgrade your workshops, and generally manage your base. While trucks are trucks, super powerful machines which you can’t tune like a roadster, visual customization is quite extensive and varied, with paint jobs, skins, decals, bumpers, grills, and lights… I think there are easily 100+ customization items already, and we plan to keep expanding it and give numerous options for players to create their own unique style.
Alaskan Road Truckers is not just about the driving, and also tasks players with contending with things like weather, fatigue, and hunger. But exactly how heavily will those elements be emphasized in the experience?
For one thing, you can die in many ways, and there’s even an achievement for that. Your truck is half of your worries, the other half is the character. If you don’t have enough food, if you don’t get enough rest, if you don’t dress warm enough, if you eat unhealthy food for too long, all of this will affect you. And you have a limited inventory space, so it’s always a choice of what to take and what to get on the road. We want to strike a balance, though. The game can’t be too punishing.
Players will also have to deal with troubles on the road, ranging from avalanches to unpredictable roads. Can you speak a little bit more about that, what level of variety we can expect in the obstacles players will face, and how much of a challenge they will pose?
These will come in a handful of varieties and will be quite rare, they’ll be the cherries on top of the experience. You wouldn’t encounter an avalanche on a typical Tuesday, after all! And when you encounter an obstacle, you’ll have a couple of choices. You can simply find another way around it, which will be time-consuming, and you have to remember that you need to meet your deadlines. You can also call Roadside Assistance to remove the blockade, but this option can be costly. The third option is that you can try to deal with the obstacle yourself, with the right character skills unlocked, and tools at your disposal.
"Getting Alaska right required countless hours of research, also because our map is a rather realistic depiction of the Central-Eastern part of Alaska, where most of the trucking takes place."
For a game like Alaskan Road Truckers, I suppose a big part of the experience will be soaking in the beauty of the landscapes. How much did the development team focus on that aspect while working on the game, and how does the game itself highlight that side of the experience?
Apart from the trucks, this was the most important aspect of the development, at least for me personally. Getting Alaska right required countless hours of research, also because our map is a rather realistic depiction of the Central-Eastern part of Alaska, where most of the trucking takes place. We recreated Alaska from coast to coast, from Valdez to Prudhoe Bay. We have most of the major cities and towns, and the road structure is generally faithful to the real world. It’s all condensed, of course, but the map is still huge and varies considerably: we have all the biomes that you can find in the regions that inspired us. Moreover, you’ll see them in all kinds of weather, in all seasons of the year.
I want to commend the Road Studio team for this. We’re not a huge studio. We’re indie devs, there are 21 of us as of now. Considering this, I think the team has done an exceptional job. It’s a hugely ambitious project, especially for a studio of this size. I joined it relatively late, so I can’t say Alaskan Road Truckers is solely my game. It’s my team’s game. So: congrats, team! Great work! I’m happy and proud to tag along.
What was behind the decision to not release Alaskan Road Truckers as a cross-gen title? Do you have any plans to eventually bring the game to last-gen consoles, or perhaps to Switch?
We felt we’d need to sacrifice too much to bring it to older consoles. To make things clear: Alaskan Road Truckers isn’t and was never meant to be a visual breakthrough. It’s nice-looking, but it’s not God of War. However, there’s a lot going on under the hood. There are so many subsystems working together: the weather has an impact on truck parts, which impacts themselves, which impact the driver, etc. It’s a hugely complex game, even if it doesn’t look like the one in the screenshots. So with limited memory and CPU, something would have to go. Visuals are of secondary importance, but we don’t want to sacrifice the mechanics.
Given that you have now worked on all the current gen consoles, I hope you don’t mind answering some questions about their hardware. Since the reveal of the PS5 and Xbox Series’ specs, a lot of comparisons have been made between the GPU speeds of the two consoles, with the PS5 at 10.28 TFLOPS and the Xbox Series X at 12 TFLOPS. How much of an impact on development do you think that difference will have?
Reducing consoles to teraflops really does not do them any justice. You can’t contain their complexity in a single number. They come with their own challenges and opportunities. For example, Xbox comes in two variants – S and X – which you need to optimize for. Both Xbox and PS5 also have unique features that are supplementary to the games but also expected or at least recommended by the platforms, and you need to develop them. However, at the same time, both come with unique opportunities and are great platforms to develop on. For us, the biggest challenge is the Xbox Series S, but it’s a challenge we’re glad to face.
"We felt we’d need to sacrifice too much to bring it to older consoles."
What frame rate and resolution will the game target on the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S?
Our target is 1440p/2160p depending on the mode but we are still balancing between frame rate and quality so this is not set in stone.
What are your thoughts on the Steam Deck? Do you have plans for any specific optimizations for the device?
We know for sure the game works on the Steam Deck because we played it. Will it have specific optimizations? If time allows, and if it doesn’t, then perhaps we’ll be able to implement them after the release. The Steam Deck is a wonderful portable platform, and it was our producer’s way of playing ART on vacation. Which he probably shouldn’t have been doing now that I think about it…