Project Update: Back to Basics

Sometimes, major updates are necessary to change course, adapt to challenges, or address unsustainable situations. In March of 2020, a significant update was made regarding save editing. The team had received widespread criticism for enforcing (too) restrictive save editing rules that were considered unhelpful and unclear to many users. Additionally, many team members responsible for enforcing the rules lacked the technical knowledge required to make informed judgments. As a result, it was decided to allow any form of save editing that did not adversely affect others. Today, three years later, we make another major project decision, this time regarding server configuration, specifically with regard to speed limits. After observing an extremely high demand for higher speed limits and having seen unprecedented participation in one of our survey, we have decided to adjust our server offerings to meet the community’s wishes. This decision was not made lightly and, instead, was the result of a lengthy, multi-step process. In this blog, I will take you through those steps.


Key Takeaways


A brief history of our 'Road to Simulation'

To fully appreciate the context of this decision, we must go back to 2018 and 2019 when the EU1, EU2, EU3, and EU4 servers were available. These servers offered players a choice in terms of conditions on the server. Specifically, EU1 had a speed limit of 110 km/h with collisions enabled, EU2 had no speed limit with collisions enabled, EU3 had no speed limit with collisions enabled but no cars, and EU4 had no speed limit with collisions disabled. Among the community, EU2 was the most popular server by far.

During the summer of 2019, the decision was made to place a greater emphasis on simulation by offering two distinct server types: Simulation and Arcade. The EU1 and EU4 servers at that time were the equivalent to today's Simulation and Arcade servers, respectively. It was determined that a speed limit of 110 kmh would be most appropriate for a truck simulation environment, while an 'Arcade' server with no speed limit and no collisions would appeal to those who wanted to drive faster. Additionally, save editing rules were tightened to prevent 'unrealistic' modifications (although these restrictions were later lifted in 2020 in response to community feedback, as mentioned earlier).

In August of 2019, further changes were implemented to take a more stringent stance against users who engaged in 'unrealistic' driving. This involved significantly longer punishment lengths than before, as well as the introduction of rule 2.9, which allowed the game moderation team to issue permanent bans against users they deemed unsuitable for driving on our servers. Furthermore, in February 2020, further enforcement measures were put in place to increase the strictness of game moderation.

The 'Road to Simulation' initiative has been underway for over three years now, with ongoing debate among our user base about our direction. Particularly in regards to our game moderation, there are many comments about it across our community, as well as in other sub-communities, TruckersMP reviews, social media posts, and YouTube videos, among other sources. Our vision has remained consistent throughout this whole time: we strive towards providing a fun and entertaining massively multiplayer online (MMO) environment where players can meet and play together. Along with the aforementioned changes to servers and game moderation, we also pushed map updates to enhance traffic flow (such as a complete rework of Duisburg city and the intersection on the road between Calais and Duisburg). Despite all these changes and the evident debates among the community, we however have never really reached out to community what your thoughts on all this is.

Towards community-driven insights

When I became the Project Manager in May last year, this was one of the key elements I wanted to address, considering that this project ultimately depends on its community; you guys are what makes this multiplayer mod flourish. It was my aim to involve players more in the decision we make and to learn from their needs and wishes. Instead of deciding for the community, my vision was to decide with the community.

The first step in this direction was the Community Survey in the summer of 2022. This survey was taken by 2,153 users, a respectable number. I mentioned in the previous section that we had implemented map changes to improve traffic flow, but users were never asked for input, and after the fact signals reached me of players indicating that their 'fun factor' had been taken away and that we had made things more 'boring'. Through the survey, we learned that 65% of the respondents preferred driving in highly populated areas, and that 81% did not mind traffic jams. In fact, many pointed out that dense traffic (or, as others coined it, 'chaos') is what makes our multiplayer environment so enjoyable for them. One of the key reasons players mention why they play on our servers is because they like the interaction with other users, and that highly populated areas make it challenging and interactive. This thus raised the question whether traffic flow improvements is something we should have strived for; efficiency at the cost of fun!?

We also asked users to indicate their preferred server configurations based on three options: collisions enabled/disabled, speed limit enabled/disabled, and road rules enforced/not enforced. A majority of 66% indicated a preference for the current Simulation 1 server, while at the same time half of the respondents (50%) also expressed their support for a Simulation-like server without a speed limit! Only 9% supported the current Arcade server, while a slightly larger group of 12% preferred an Arcade-like server with collisions enabled. In the open-ended questions, we additionally received hundreds of comments regarding our game moderation and the speed limit.

Community Survey 2022 results: what server (configuration) types do players prefer
Note: Total number of participants: 2,153. Participants could vote for multiple server types.

Interpreting the results and follow-up surveys

To discuss the survey findings with a select group of community representatives and dive deeper into player sentiments that are difficult to capture through surveys, we asked interested users to apply for a User Panel. After reviewing roughly 600 submissions, we invited around 20 candidates to participate in a pilot program that was initiated in December 2022. During the pilot, we discussed the survey results and exchanged thoughts and point of views, and panel members also sought feedback from their own networks to share with us. The pilot concluded earlier this month, and we are grateful for the panel's participation and input. We may consider starting a new panel in the future if we need input on another issue.

After analysing the results of the initial survey and panel discussions, we conducted a series of follow-up surveys in February of this year. The first survey (with 1,954 participants) focused on various aspects of our game moderation based on feedback we had received. The second survey (with a very impressive and unprecedented 8,912 participants!) delved into server configurations in more detail, with a particular focus on speed limits due to the highly divided opinions we had received. Finally, the third survey (with 954 participants) was not in response to any specific feedback but rather an internal audit of engagement on our community platforms, seeking to gather user perspectives beyond raw data.

Community platforms

When we first started this project, most of our services were provided through our forum. However, as time passed, various systems have migrated from the forum to the website, including support, events, and VTCs. In addition, platforms like Discord have become essential for many online communities, and forums have lost some of their appeal. We have found that many users prefer Discord for real-time communication, while the forum is better for structured discussions. Users also use the forum to react to our news, blogs, and development updates, or for social networking activities like posting and responding to status updates. Discord is suitable for active discussions or 'hot topics', while the forum is better for elements that require structuring, such as suggestions and guides.

Feedback February 2023 results: what do users think of our community platforms

Game moderation

As mentioned before, we had received numerous negative comments about our game moderation practices and rule enforcement. In response, we decided to focus on specific areas of game moderation to gain more insight. While 73% of respondents believe that the official rules are sound, only 51% are satisfied with rule enforcement, and 49% are satisfied with the quality of our game moderation team. Although not the end of the world, these results highlight a certain level of dissatisfaction with our rule enforcement and game moderation team. One factor that could be contributing to this dissatisfaction is our strict approach to game moderation as part of the Road to Simulation initiative. About 68% of respondents would prefer us to be more forgiving towards minor infractions: many players indicate they would prefer a more relaxed approach to game moderation, particularly in situations that don't impact others.

In addition to forgiveness, the community has raised concerns about the fairness of bans, the strictness of our game moderation, and the length of bans. Half of the respondents believe that bans are issued fairly, but a third disagree. Similarly, half believe that ban durations are reasonable, while a third do not. When it comes to the issue of being too strict, 39% agree, 31% disagree, and 30% are neutral. These results show that the community is highly divided on the topic of game moderation, but it is clear that many players would appreciate a more 'casual' approach, especially in situations where it doesn't matter. Our game moderation management has endorsed the results and and has adopted new, more lenient guidelines that align with the survey findings, including overall shorter ban durations and a greater degree of forgiveness. These new guidelines were pushed earlier this month, and we hope that they will have a positive impact on the community.

Feedback February 2023 results: no consensus about game moderation

Game server configuration

As shown before, the 2022 Community Survey showed a strong desire for a Simulation-like server without a strict speed limit. We had also previously received many comments from users requesting a reconsideration of the speed limit. These insights prompted us to rethink our server offerings. The survey about game server configurations clearly demonstrate the importance of involving our users in our decision-making processes, considering that we received a record high engagement (an unprecedented 8,912 responses), which indicates high demand for certain basic needs.

A large majority of respondents favour higher speed limits, with an overwhelming majority preferring a limit of 150 km/h for both ETS2 and ATS. Additionally, our User Panel also suggested implementing a regional speed limit around Calais and Duisburg, but the idea did not receive sufficient support with 43% in favour and 50% against. Another idea that was raised by our panel was applying speed limits by road type, so a rural road would have a different speed limit than a freeway, for example. We investigated the feasibility of this idea and while the game does label certain roads, not all roads all labelled as such, and thus we would not be able to apply speed limits to 'unlabelled' roads; that idea was therefore not deemed feasible for application. Our primary goal is to provide a fun and enjoyable online gaming environment for our users. Although we introduced a speed limit of 110 km/h in 2019 to create a more realistic simulation environment, we understand that there is also a need for more casual gameplay. When the Road to Simulation was pushed in 2019, we assumed that the Arcade server (no collisions, no speed limit, no road rules) would be able to meet that demand. However, we now know from internal data and reports that our Arcade servers are underutilised even during peak hours, and user testimonials have indicated that the vast majority of players do not believe servers without collisions or road rules are enjoyable. Indeed, our surveys revealed that 48% of respondents would prefer collisions on Arcade servers, and servers without collisions or road rules received only little support. There is, however, a small but not negligible group of users that do utilise our Arcade server, e.g. to get away from all the traffic or to set up convoy control profiles for events.

Someone recently said that "what the game is supposed to be is what the players make it out to be", and another reflected on the relation between driving style and speed limits by stating that some "people will be reckless regardless of their speed" and that the Road to Simulation did not change the way people play the game, but was rather a restriction of the options players have. Having a diverse group of players, each playing the game in their own respective style, is the charm of a MMO environment. Not everyone has the same interests and therefore forcing a one-size-fits-none solution is not fruitful, while a solution that only favours one group of players will antagonise the other. Our community can be roughly divided into a relatively small group of ‘hardcore’ simulation players and a larger ‘casual’ player base – each with very different preferences. We recognise that it is not possible to meet the demands of both groups simultaneously. Therefore, we have decided to offer the best of both worlds: a server where people can come together to drive in a more realistic manner, and a server where people can be more casual. We therefore go 'back to basics' by returning to similar server offerings as those that we provided in 2018/2019: Simulation 1 (similar to EU1), Simulation 2 (similar to EU2), and Arcade (similar to EU4).

Specifically, the speed limit will globally be increased to 150 km/h and it will be up to players themselves to adapt to the conditions on the road. Should you not wish to worry about any rules, then we will still have an Arcade server available. This gives players the ability to drive faster should they wish to, while others that wish to drive slower (e.g., by completing World of Trucks deliveries that are limited to 90 km/h or by completing 'real miles' in external companion apps) have that ability as well. We will maintain the current "Simulation 1" configuration as well, in a similar fashion as back in 2018/2019. "Simulation 1" will be the equivalent of EU1 (collisions, road rules, 110 km/h speed limit), a new server coined as "Simulation 2" will be the equivalent of EU2 (collisions, road rules, 150 km/h speed limit), and "Arcade" will be the equivalent of EU4 (no collisions, no road rules, no speed limit). We intend to use the Simulation 1 server as our basis where we continue to build on our unique simulation environment, for example with special 'live' events such as Operation HQ. We also hope that the Simulation 1 server provides a place where the more 'serious' and 'realistic' simulation enthusiasts can come together.

Finally, we were also informed that there are many users who believed that our automated AFK kick timer was too strict. This timer was set to 10 minutes and some felt the need to use external tools to bypass that timer. In the survey, we asked our players what they believe would be a more user-friendly timer. 95% of the respondents stated that a timer of 30 minutes or less would satisfy their needs. We have decided to go for a dynamic timer, that will automatically adjust based on how busy the server is. In the infographic below, you can see our new timers. By default, the timer will now be 30 minutes in case less than 90% of the slots are used; in case the server is busy, the timer will go back to 10 minutes. Patrons (Master Trucker tier) have received additional benefits. For them, the AFK timer will be disabled, unless more than 90% of the slots are utilised, in which case their timer will be set to 30 minutes. This change was already pushed back in February; check this infographic for an overview.

Feedback February 2023 results: what server configurations do players desire

The new server configuration will be applied to all our servers, including the ProMods servers with consent from our partners. The overview will be as described in the table below. Initially, slots for Simulation 1 and Simulation 2 will be divided equally as the Community Survey showed a large body of support for both configurations and we do not wish to steer where the demand goes; this is up to you guys. We will adjust the slots to favour the most popular server as soon as we have witnessed where the demand goes. The slots for arcade servers have been adjusted as well to distribute capacity better across a range of servers; the amount of slots is based on our server data from 2022 and meets peak demand.

New server configuration offerings for TruckersMP
Servers with a 150 km/h speed limit have city speed limits of 80 km/h (50 mp/h)

Closing remarks

For TruckersMP, this is the beginning of a new chapter and I understand that not everyone may support this change. In fact, this is and has been a controversial topic within our team. However, I believe that sometimes it is necessary to listen to the community's voice and look beyond our own vision to meet their desires. We have carefully worked to consider our options and hope the new servers should satisfy both ends of the spectrum – those who prefer a more realistic gameplay experience and those who are more casual. Ultimately, our most important function is to enable players to have fun, and I hope this update contributes to that.

For me personally, this also marks the beginning of a new chapter as I will soon be stepping down from my role in project management and transferring to a role that combines accounting and consultant responsibilities. Representing both the community and the team has been an honour, and I hope that my contributions and philosophy endure. However, it is now time to make place for others to take the lead due to less time to dedicate as a result of real-life obligations and a desire to focus primarily on the technological aspects of this project rather than the people management and politics that come along with project management responsibilities. I thank the thousands of users that have provided their input and everyone who has worked closely with me to make things possible; your contributions have been tremendously helpful.

Enjoy and see you on the road!

With regards,

Jeronimo
Project Manager


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