Bus Simulator 16–My First Look

I must be 100% honest.  While watching many of the Twitch streamers on Wednesday, 2 March 2016 (the release day) I had almost convinced myself to give this game a pass.  At least for now.  My reasoning for this was due to the fact that I just didn’t feel the game was 100% ready for prime time.  But today I noticed they have pushed a patch out to address some of the performance issues many experienced on day 1 and while I don’t know with any degree of certainty know if all the issues regarding performance have been fully resolved, the action of the developer to listen to the customers and perform some optimization has convinced me to give the game a try.

A little fine print before I get started with my review.  First, I’m an independent and non-professional blogger.  Meaning, I am not earning any revenue (subscriptions, donations etc.) from my blogging or streaming activities.  Second, I purchased Bus Simulator 16 via the Steam store and paid the same amount of money that any one else would pay.  So my feedback is that of an unbiased customer who has no obligation to anyone other than those who read my blog or view my Twitch Live Streams.  Having said all that, allow me to provide you my review.

After having spent a few hours playing Bus Simulator 16, I must say that I still believe this game needs more work.  Actually, a lot of work!  But first, let me get back to my game play.  I purchased, downloaded and install Bus Simulator 16 on Thursday, 3 March.  To date, I’ve invested a total of 5 hours (per Steam), but another 2 hours mucking about trying to get my Logitech G27 wheel and pedals to work.  As I had mentioned in my post yesterday about this game, I had watched several live streamers on Tuesday (release day) who I know were using Logitech G27 wheels and pedals, and they made no mention of any issue.  As a matter of fact, I even remember one well known streamer applaud the game developers for making it so easy.  So you can imagine my surprise when after I installed the game, launched it and began to work through the process of configuring my G27 that I ran in to roadblock after roadblock.  Basically the game would fully recognize the wheel and all buttons.  But it simply would not recognize the pedals.

To make sure something hadn’t happened with my G27, I fired up American Truck Simulator and all worked fine.  I then launched Farming Simulator 2015 and yep…all worked fine.  For the heck of it, I even launched Euro Truck Simulator 2 (fully knowing what would happen) and yep…I wasn’t disappointed.  It worked!  Then back to Bus Simulator 16 and no worky.  Grrrrr

It seems as if all user support is being handled via the Steam Discussion section.  So I did some searching and found I was not alone.  Many others had been pulling their hair out as well in trying to get the pedals working.  Some of the info provided was as follows:

The need to have both the newest version of the Logitech gaming software installed and the older 5.10.x version.  Now keep in mind that those of us using the G27 need the older 5.10.x version as the newer 8.x version is not for the G27 hardware and will not recognize it.  But somehow, Bus Simulator 16 needs a .dll from the new version to assist with Force Feedback issues.  Ok…so I installed the new version and tested.  Still no worky.

Finally, further down in the discussion threads I found that with the G27 (perhaps other controllers as well) that having the option for “Combined Pedals” enabled in the Logitech Gaming Software will cause Bus Simulator 16 to not detect the G27 pedals.  However, as those of us who have the G27’s know…games like ATS, ETS2 and Farming Simulator 15 need this option checked or they don’t work.  From what I have read in the forums, more games require this option versus those that don’t.  So I guess it is a bit of a head scratcher as to why they setup Bus Sim in this fashion.

OK…now with that resolved, let’s play Bus Simulator 16.  As I mentioned earlier, I have 5 hours of game play.  I feel this is substantial enough to provide a “First View” and as the game is still new…I want others to have the opportunity to read this review as soon as possible.  I will post follow up articles as I continue to accumulate more time in the game and of course as (hopefully) patches are released to resolve some of the problems plaguing the overall game play.  To my knowledge, one patch has already been pushed out to address various performance and functional issues.  All time spent playing the game has been with that patch installed.

Things I like

Language Support – I truly applaud Stillalive Studios for making this game multi-language.  While the game developers are German and the game play takes place in a fictional city in Germany, they have done a great job in supporting other languages.

Entrepreneurial Simulation – It’s possible Bus Simulator 16 is more of a simulation of running a bus company than it really is about driving a bus.  But of course, you get to do that too.  The game play requires you to purchase additional busses, hire drivers and establish efficient routes.  As you play along the city rewards you by granting you access to additional parts of the city.

Mod Support – I believe without this important piece, this game would quickly die.  These types of games take on a completely different life when the mod community starts working their magic.  By allowing mod support from day one, it will allow for a lot of game customization that the developers just won’t have the time or ability to perform.  Once the mods start rolling in, I believe the level of excitement for the game will also increase and that will be a win-win for all parties.

Modern Feeling – Unlike OMSI 2 which depicts bus service in Spandau in 1986 and 1994, Bus Simulator 16 has a more modern appearance.

Learning as you play along – Taking the tutorial which is offered at the start of the game is both comical and informational.  Plus in order to unlock certain things in the game, the process makes you paint a bus, apply decals etc.  Just play the tutorial and you’ll laugh and learn all at the same time.

Performance –  I can’t attest to what the in-game performance was like before the patch was released.  But I can tell you that my gaming system (with my new 980Ti) doesn’t even work up a sweat with this game.  While I think there is room for improvement, it hasn’t performed in such a way that I couldn’t play and enjoy the game.

 

Things I dislike

GPS Map Rotation –  This is HUGE.  While your bus is equipped with a GPS SatNav device (a tablet on the dash).  The arrow which indicates the position of the bus does not function correctly.  The map doesn’t auto-rotate and it can be a bit confusing as to which direction you should turn.  While it can be worked out with a little patience…with everything else you need to look out for when driving (AI Cars, AI People) etc.  This simply just needs to be fixed by a patch.

Steering Wheel Support – As I shared before, better support for our wheels and pedals is not only appreciated, it needs to be a requirement.  With all other driving games that I know of requiring “Combined Pedals” to be enabled in the Logitech gaming software, just patch this game to also require that and we’ll all be happy.  Also, why should I be required to install a set of drivers for a version of a Logitech product that I don’t own?

No TrackIR Support and poor camera support – I was somewhat late in using TrackIR for most of my simulation games.  I’ve only had my TrackIR unit for about 18 months.  But in that time I’ve grown to use it in Flight Sim and ETS2/ATS.  Yes there are times I don’t use it, but I very much like the fact that the functionality is there.  But there is no TrackIR support in Bus Simulator 16.  Surprisingly, some of the comments from the developers tend to lead me to believe it will not be high on their priority list.  This is unfortunate because the in-game camera view system is also very disappointing.

No other AI busses – I’ve spent 5 hours driving around my little virtual city and I’m the only bus on the road.  I see cars, I see the occasional police car and those bloody ambulances….but no other busses.  I just looked outside my office window and within 2-3 minutes I saw three city busses drive by.

In-Bus Events (passengers standing in the way of the door) – OK…this is really getting old.  Occasionally, as driver you’ll need to go to the back of the bus because a passenger is standing (just standing) in the doorway entrance.  I wouldn’t mind if this type of event occurred once in every 3-4 hours of game play.  But experiencing it more frequently is more of a pain in my opinion.

Multiplayer doesn’t mean what we think it should mean – The game features what is called multiplayer functionality.  You can invite your friends to drive your established bus routes which will help you grow your business at a faster rate.  But you won’t see your friends driving around in other busses.  So multiplayer isn’t really what we think it is or what we’ve come to know it to be.  When I think multiplayer, I think flying an airplane on VATSIM or the MP servers for ETS2 and ATS, or even the multiplayer functionality of Farming Simulator where you can invite friends into the game to help you farm your land.  That is Cool….this….not so much!

Advertising and Art Work – The advertising banners and art work included in the game is some pretty weak sauce.  Makes the game feel like it is geared towards children.  I completely understand issues with licensing and copyright infringement.  But the advertising banners provided in the game look nothing like advertising banners.  The developers could have spent more effort and come up with some nice looking banners, using fictional company names instead of what they provided.  Of course, the modding community is already working hard to provide real life company banners and better art work.  Thank you!

Human AI looked better in Second Life when it debuted in 2003.  I did play Second Life for about 5 minutes back in 2003 or 2004 when it first came out.  The human AI in Bus Simulator 16 is pretty bad…but it is better than OMSI 2.

Is it really a Simulator?  I have a very narrow definition of what makes a game become worthy of the term simulator.  While many of the elements are there…so many just are not (at this point in time).

Price –  Perhaps with everything I’ve pointed out, the price is a bit high.  Especially if you compare it to say American Truck Simulator at $19.99 versus Bus Simulator 16 regular price of $24.99 (currently on sale at $22.49).  While I realize there are some differences between what ATS offers and what Bus Simulator 16 offers, ATS is far more aligned with the definition of a simulation based game than Bus Sim 16 (at this time).

 

GPS/SatNav really needs work.

Not sure what we are advertising on our bus roof, but they are bringing in $2000 per week.

This idiot was just standing in the door way.  When I asked him to move, he tells me he didn’t realize he was in the way.

My final thoughts.  I’ve been blogging about simulation games and my personal activities and game play in these simulation based games for over 5 years.  I truly hope that in this span of time I’ve provided more help, direction, tips and general insight into these games through this blog than to use this blog as a mechanism to complain and be negative.  I realize I’ve pointed out a lot of areas that I feel fall short of a game being called a simulator.  I’m not picking on this game or singling it out.  I truly hope that in time (sooner rather than later) I can return to the subject of Bus Simulator 16 and be able, without any hesitation say…this is truly a simulator.  But right now, this games falls really short of using the word simulator in the title.

Going forward, other than to hopefully report on some good news regarding patches to Bus Simulator 16 and to showcase cool mods, I’m really not sure how much content I’ll be able to provide.  As it currently stands, the game really doesn’t lend itself to provide detailed adventure type stories the way I do with the Trucker’s Logbook for ATS/ETS2 etc.  But we’ll see.

Well…that really is all I can come up with for now.  I’ll hammer away at Bus Simulator 16 more over the weekend and try to grow my bus empire.

Until next time…

When you step on the bus, please have the exact change and take a seat.

J


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