The Missing Foundation - The Importance of Gameplay in BeamNG.drive

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by EruptionTyphlosion, May 18, 2020.

  1. EruptionTyphlosion

    EruptionTyphlosion
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    Introduction:

    Think of a sports car. Let’s say you have a great transmission, top notch tires, a well crafted and lightweight body, powerful brakes, and a genius ESC system, but for some reason instead of that supercharged V8 engine you expect, you instead have the inline 4 engine from a Chevette. Even though you have so many components that are critical to making a top of the line sports car, you can’t refer to it as such because of that one underperforming component.

    BeamNG.drive suffers from the exact same issue. It has spectacular vehicle designs, well crafted levels, great visuals and audio, and obviously its amazing physics engine. But the gameplay is severely lacking. Many people I talk to have a lot of trouble finding enjoyment in the game, myself included. Updates and user made mods are the main things that breathe life into the game, but after a day or so you’re already bored with playing with the new content. The content isn’t the issue, many people play older games that are likely never going to get any more content again, myself included, but they still enjoy them.

    The reason for this is because all of these iconic games have fun and intuitive gameplay. BeamNG lacks this foundation. Instead, BeamNG relies mostly on its sandbox aspects. As discussed later, this “make your own fun” approach loses its charm over time, and thus drags the entire experience down with it, yet for some reason little has been done over the past few years to change this. BeamNG has the potential to be the greatest car game of all time, but it lacks the gameplay to make it happen.

    The goal of this thread is to discuss the issues with BeamNG.drive’s current gameplay and what little we know about the upcoming Career Mode, and then outline some potential ways to turn BeamNG into the fun and enjoyable gameplay experience that this game deserves.

    Section 1: The Current State of BeamNG.drive’s Gameplay

    BeamNG.drive mostly relies on the idea of “make your own fun” within its core free roam mode to produce entertainment. The idea of “make your own fun” seems very appealing on paper, but after a while it becomes stale. There is no challenge, and there are no rewards for doing anything. The game hands everything to you on a silver platter, and tells you to run wild, but after a while you start to realize that there’s so much to do, but little to no reason to care. Driving around aimlessly gets old after a while once you’ve seen all there is to see, crashing gets old relatively quickly, and the AI is so unpolished that even it can’t solve the major issues this mode suffers from. BeamNG.drive’s foundation is still the physics sandbox, but it desperately needs additional gameplay to support it.

    BeamNG.drive does provide a small selection of additional game modes, however most of them are just reskins of the same scenario system implemented five years ago. Scenarios themselves are usually fun the first time, but they severely lack replayability. Campaigns are just scenarios connected to each other via a loose plot, and suffer the exact same issue. It also does not help that many scenarios are extremely similar to each other. Time Trials are simply configurable race scenarios. There isn’t much else one would expect from a time trial, and their leaderboards are the closest thing to any sort of competitive play, however times must be uploaded to external sites rather than being compared via some sort of in-game online leaderboard as seen in many other games. Light Runner is simply a reskin of time trials with a different setting and restricted vehicles. The drag racing mode on West Coast, USA is similar, but it does provide the ability to race against other vehicles. Last but not least, the Bus Routes Mode is detailed, but it only appeals to a niche group, and for most people it is unbelievably tedious and boring.

    The extreme hype brought on by updates is likely a result of the lack of substantial gameplay modes. It’s like opening card packs, although the cards may be nice and it is exciting to find out what they contain, there isn’t that much to do with them besides getting hyped to open the next one. If BeamNG.drive received significant gameplay improvements and innovations, people would finally have other things to do with the game besides getting overly hyped for the next content drop.

    BeamNG.drive also lacks any sort of a traditional progression system. This is unfriendly to both brand new users and veterans. When I first got the game, I was overwhelmed with all the content BeamNG had to offer, and the game provided little to no help as to how to get started. As an older member, seeing as the game gives you access to everything without having to earn anything in game, it makes me lack any sort of attachment to any particular vehicle or other piece of content as I never worked to earn it. Obviously, I still believe that BeamNG’s sandbox free roam mode should let you access everything instantly, but for other game modes a progression system is much needed. Also, BeamNG.drive really needs better tutorials for new users.

    BeamNG’s lack of a focus on gameplay is deeply concerning. Gameplay is the most important part of a game, yet it seems to have been mostly ignored or pushed aside in favor of other projects. You can have a game with amazing content, breathtaking graphics, and a kickass physics engine, but if you don’t have the gameplay to back it up, it’s just going to wind up being mediocre. BeamNG has been in development for over eight years now, an absurdly long time for a video game to be in production, but after all that time the fact that gameplay is severely lacking significantly hurts my confidence in the game.

    Section 2: Analysis of the Current Career Mode Design

    There was originally a section in an earlier draft of this thread that discussed the history of Career Mode, and what we know based on leftover files and official developer statements. It was extremely long and technical, and so for the sake of concision, it was cut. However, based on this information, the current concept for Career Mode can be summarized like this: The game focuses on buying cars, upgrading them, and competing in events to earn money to buy/upgrade more cars. There is a wide variety of event types given by various characters: Race, Crawl, Chase, Stunt, Time Trial, Delivery, and Photo Safaris (I’m not making this up; this mode is referenced in numerous places). There would be some sort of a light storyline told through comics using the Spline software, although how much it would impact gameplay is unknown. Lastly, a map switching system would exist using the roads leaving maps, airports, and ports.

    The first potential issue that I see is that it appears that Drift, Drag and Derby events are somehow absent. One would think that these modes, amongst others, would have been deemed important enough to include, especially over a mode about driving around and taking pictures with photo mode of locations and vehicles. Overall it seems very inconsistent and it feels like the focus is being put into non-essential areas while essential areas are ignored.

    The wide range of gameplay modes introduces another concern. It will likely introduce a large quantity of issues likely unforseen for the developers. Firstly, it would be hard to build any sort of a cohesive plot around all of these disciplines and characters. It would make little to no sense to be working for law enforcement (evidenced by the cop and ranger characters) alongside those involved in illegal activities (shady guy). Also, constantly bouncing between different event types (IE: from chases to rock crawling to stunts to racing) would be very hard to write a plot around. It would be far too chaotic and would likely result in a career mode that is a “jack of all trades but a master of none”.

    Another major issue with this is the potential for major balance issues. If the game forces you to engage in all of these event types to further the story and thus career mode, the difficulty of the game modes could cause two major issues. The first is if the gameplay gets too difficult in certain modes. Although it would provide a challenge to some players, it could potentially result in certain players getting stuck on difficult missions for game modes they aren’t very experienced with. One example of this is crawling, I suck at it, and if the game made hard crawling events mandatory, I would get stuck, even though I’m capable of doing well in other game modes. The issue at the other end of the spectrum is that if one makes the events too easy in an effort to make it so that all players could complete the career mode, it would result in an experience that would be viewed as too easy by some and thus not fun. A difficulty option would not fix this, as it wouldn’t fix the issues that a player might have with a certain game mode without the cost of making another game mode potentially too easy.

    By covering this massive variety of game modes, this would also result in the player needing to own a wide variety of vehicles to cover all of the different modes. There’s no way that a race car would do well in a crawling event and a crawler would get left in the dust during a circuit race. The player would likely be constantly busy managing multiple cars for multiple disciplines rather than just focusing on one specific project car, which would be expensive and thus could potentially result in grinding in an effort to afford keeping all of their vehicles competitive.

    Long story short, the current career mode concept seems like it is attempting to do way too much at once and it has the potential to spread itself too thin. Again, the “jack of all trades, master of none” analogy works perfectly here. Featuring all of these different disciplines seems good on paper, but if one or two don’t work well, it could drag the entire experience down.

    Section 3: A Better Career Mode

    There is a simple way to fix this issue. By adding multiple different career modes that one can switch between at will, you can focus on specific game modes that would make sense together rather than trying to group them all together under one umbrella. It also allows the plots to be more consistent as it would no longer have to justify jumping between different modes and characters constantly. Most importantly, the gameplay would be better. Players would be able to choose what they want to focus on rather than being forced to play event types they might not like in order to get to the content they actually want to play.

    Each career would be composed of a few game modes grouped together based on how well they fit together. Below is a list of some potential career mode ideas:
    • A stuntman career, composed exclusively of stunt and chase scenarios under the premise of shooting various movies. You don’t purchase cars, rather you are given different cars based on the mission.
    • A derby career, composed of banger racing and demolition derbies. You buy old beat up cars and modify them to compete in various events.
    • A police career, composed of chase missions and time trials under the guise of emergency responses. You don’t purchase cars, but rather you unlock them based on your performance and progress.
    • A drag racing career, composed solely of the aforementioned event. You buy cars and modify them to compete in various legal and illegal drag racing events. Illegal drag racing has much more lucrative rewards and less regulation, at the risk of dealing with law enforcement.
    • A delivery career, solely composed of delivery missions, where you buy better trucks to be able to unlock more delivery options and make more money.
    • A traditional circuit racing career, composed of upgrading cars for circuit racing.
    • A street racing career, composed of sprint races on open roads, dealing with cops and traffic alongside opponents. It would have large cash rewards at the expense of risk.
    Obviously, this is not all inclusive, but it should provide an idea of the point I’m trying to make. You should be able to see how this allows for far more player choice, a clearer focus in each mode, and the ability to generate better plots. Career modes would be completely independent, and rewards from one would not carry over to another.

    On the topic of the plot, it should have a limited role within the gameplay. Ideally, it should be written with an invisible protagonist so the player can insert themselves into that role. Most importantly, it should never hurt the gameplay. There shouldn’t be any missions that are unenjoyable solely for the purpose of furthering the plot. Last but not least, there should be decent modability, so that players can design their own modes and stories. If this were to take place, the game would need to support another cutscene format besides Spline, which costs a minimum of $70 to get a license that would allow saving and exporting. The cutscenes also would need significant optimization over the current performance seen in “A Rocky Start”.

    Section 4: Other Improvements

    The career mode ideas listed above would go a long way towards improving the BeamNG.drive experience, but they would not serve as the proverbial silver bullet for BeamNG’s gameplay issues. Therefore, many other changes would need to be made.

    The first, and most critical change that needs to be made is improving the AI. For most of these new game modes, good AI is mandatory. BeamNG’s AI is extremely inconsistent, switching from appearing competent at one moment to reversing into a pole the next. I don’t feel that it is necessary to go into detail, the issues with BeamNG’s AI are obvious enough.

    The game also needs better player onboarding. The game can get extremely overwhelming for new users, and there needs to be better ways to teach new players how the game works. The Driver Training campaign does teach a bit about BeamNG’s driving physics, however I strongly believe that some sort of tutorial mode is still needed that teaches driving physics alongside many other useful functions within the game, for example vehicle teleporting and recovery, how to use AI, how to activate vehicle functions, etc. Obviously a difficulty curve should exist within career mode as well. A little work in this department would go a long way towards making BeamNG.drive appear substantially closer to a finished game.

    A “Quick Play” mode is another useful addition. It would feature all of the event types from career mode, but without affecting Career Mode. Vehicles could be unlocked for Quick Play mode via gameplay in Quick Play mode or things you’ve already unlocked in Career Mode. This would not work the other way around, and Quick Play unlocks would not carry over to Career Mode. Unlocking vehicles here would be another way to provide players with a sense of reward alongside the existing Career Mode rewards. Drag Racing, Bus Routes, Time Trials, and Light Runner would also be moved here into this framework.

    Scenarios and Campaigns would be completely separate from the Career Mode and Quick Play frameworks. Scenarios would now be complex missions that don’t really fit into any of the traditional game types. The “Gravity Fuel” scenario is one example of a scenario that wouldn’t fit into a traditional game mode, and thus would be part of the new Scenarios list. Campaigns would be relatively unchanged, and would still be a way to tell smaller stories or group together various scenarios.

    On the topic of Free Roam, it should remain untouched. It’s the bread and butter of BeamNG.drive, and it is still extremely important. The only change that I would suggest on the topic of Free Roam is to potentially rename it to “Sandbox” mode. I strongly believe that is a more descriptive term for the game mode.

    Conclusion:

    I did plan on going into a lot more detail in this thread, and there are drafts that delve far deeper into various topics, such as how I went about analyzing the leftover career mode files, lessons learned from other video games, more specific details on how the UI could be reworked alongside my various gameplay suggestions, and discussions about polish and other things. For the sake of being concise, I cut those topics from this post. I would love to have a discussion about game design with BeamNG’s game design team, and I strongly believe that a lot could be learned from it.

    My point still stands. BeamNG has the potential to be an amazing game, but it isn’t fully realized due to its lack of a focus on gameplay. It is concerning that after all of these years very little focus has been put into this core aspect of the game, and I strongly believe that we aren’t really going to get anywhere until this core aspect receives the focus that it deserves.

    And the TL;DR for those who don’t feel like reading the entire post: BeamNG has most of the parts of an amazing driving game, yet the lack of a focus on gameplay has prevented it from reaching its full potential. The current gameplay is severely lacking, with many people having trouble finding enjoyment from it, and the current design for career mode is severely flawed. BeamNG has a ton of potential, and if effort is put in the right places, it could be turned into the greatest driving game of all time.

    As always, please leave your thoughts and feedback below. :)
     
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  2. JBatic

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    I completely agree. I love this game but really the only reason I haven't moved to something else is the updates and beam's relative ease for modding. Once the mod creation process is mastered it is then possible to create content only limited by your imagination and spare time. However, all areas of modding have a fairly steep learning curve and I suspect a massive amount of the playerbase is uninterested in content creation, so having an actual career mode would dramatically increase playtime and retention for those players as well as attract many new players.
     
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  3. LucasBE

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    I will only talk about the base game in my post and try to stay away from the Multiplayer mod as it isn't official.
    Wow, I really liked reading this. It's really in-depth.

    As I agree with you on many points - such as BeamNG.drive missing a lot of gameplay elements -, I've really been enjoying this game simply setting up AI scenes, driving around on Italy's mountain roads, completing simple scenarios, and overall enjoying the sounds, atmosphere and driving feel.

    To me, BeamNG.drive is more of a physics sandbox than a game. And it's been great fun with it just being that.
    Although the community isn't that good, and the moderators not that good either, I've still been enjoying the forums and their content.
    The mod community is amazing and we always have diverse content almost everyday!

    Can't wait for the devs to give us more updates on Career mode!
     
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  4. EruptionTyphlosion

    EruptionTyphlosion
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    I love driving around too, usually when listening to a podcast of some sort. I do wish there was more to do though.
     
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  5. ClassicMike

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    IMO, Beam desperately needs a roadmap. The game has been in early access for a long time, with no sign of ever coming out of EA.
     
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  6. EruptionTyphlosion

    EruptionTyphlosion
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    I agree and disagree here. A roadmap might be too limiting and lock them to specific ideas that might not end up working. But I do agree, it's been in EA for an eternity. It's been over eight years since the first node/beam in game was ever made.
     
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  7. The Shotty

    The Shotty
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    What I kinda feel like this game is compared to a game like Wreckfest for example (in terms of how the game evolved gameplay wise to what it is not, i'm not comparing anything like Wreckfest's car physics or anything) is like comparing Universe Sandbox (BeamNG) to something like No Man's Sky or Elite: Dangerous
     
  8. ClassicMike

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    I understand your point, but even a roadmap would be better than nothing.
     
    #8 ClassicMike, May 18, 2020
    Last edited: May 18, 2020
  9. MrAngry

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    Online leaderboards would keep me playing for longer than the typical 10-15 minutes I spend just sliding around Grid Map. Or at least some kind of a scenario randomizer, I cannot be bothered to set things up myself.
     
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  10. EruptionTyphlosion

    EruptionTyphlosion
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    I totally agree. A lot of BeamNG's gameplay requires you to set things up yourself and make your own fun. A conventional game should be able to do that for you.
     
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  11. NOCARGO

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    I'm one of those :p (but I did threw my eye on the main concerns)

    Are those the same people who have trouble finding enjoyment from other real simulators were everything is difficult and complicated ?
    Because that's the reason why I myself am so stuck on the 'game'. A reason why some of the members recently addressed their dissatisfaction is the rather less adult mentality residing on the forums (I will explain below why I mention this) . I see the subject of your op from a different view : To me it looks like BeamNG as granted more access for a broader public to a complicated simulator by making it more accessible with a 'gameplay-like' experience. I also think that for example if you give the less satisfied people Microsoft Flight Simulator they would quickly turn around and run away from it while I, as a sim fan, had it for breakfast in my early twenties. I had my first simulator experience in the late eighties so to me BeamNG is a gift from heaven, I mean it really is :D
     
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  12. EruptionTyphlosion

    EruptionTyphlosion
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    I specifically said the main simulator and free roam modes would remain intact, and all the additional gameplay stuff would be additional for those who want it.
    --- Post updated ---
    I get what you're saying, but I would note how BeamNG's marketing specifically promised career mode functionality.
     
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  13. Glitchy

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    Well written piece. I do agree with most points, but would BeamNG actually work as a game with any kind of story?
     
  14. EruptionTyphlosion

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    I'm not the biggest fan of racing game storylines. I believe it should be light if it is present at all, and it should not exist at the cost of gameplay.
     
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  15. ManfredE3

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    Personally I like the direction it looked like the game was taking with A Rocky Start, combined with earlier comments about "SLRR style" career mode. Open world, work your way up through various racing leagues, comic strip style story. We know it's still early WIP, which is the same we've been told for years. Like I keep saying, we need an Over the Horizon 2020.

    As for the ideas of more specific career modes, I mentioned before that I would like to see campaigns become this. Sort of mini career modes that explore alternate storylines or gameplay elements that wouldn't fit into the main story. For example, a 1960's campaign that explores the WCUSA racing scene mentioned in the Bad Bubu description, a police campaign, and so on.
     
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  16. EruptionTyphlosion

    EruptionTyphlosion
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    I believe the split should be as follows:
    Career Modes - Multiple based on different groups of events/themes
    Campaigns - Side stories that wouldn't be major enough to warrant a career mode

    Again, the reason I believe there should be multiple career modes is because the current idea for career mode is attempting to encompass too many disciplines and game modes at once, at the cost of story cohesion, balance (certain event types might serve as roadblocks to certain players), and overall enjoyment (being forced to do event types that you might not be interested in). Again, this was explained in detail in section 2. Multiple career modes would get around that issue as I mentioned earlier. The issue with moving most of those alternative career mode ideas to campaigns is that they would be limited in both functionality and replayability if they were forced into the existing campaign framework (refer to my issues with campaigns in section 1).
     
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  17. Wheel Nut

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    Definitely some good points made. Personally I have so much I want to do I've barely scratched the surface, but that's just me. I can see why people want more challenges and purpose to the game etc.

    I really like everything the developers have done so far, so I have faith in them to continue to build the game into something even more people will spend a lot of time with. With all the ideas we have, I'm sure the devs have at least as many that they are super excited to realize in BeamNG.
     
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  18. aCharmlessMan

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    Great post and hopefully the devs will respond!

    I've been of the opinion for some time now that the number one priority needs to be improving the AI and providing some race based scenarios. If multiplayer was a possibility this wouldn't be a huge issue, but there is going to be no multiplayer any time soon or perhaps ever. For this reason a functioning AI is absolutely imperative for the playability of the game.

    We have racetracks galore but for the average Joe there is no means of actually racing on them. And how many of the official scenarios allow you to race other vehicles?

    This could be the best rally sim, the best short circuit sim, the best single seater sim, the best touring car sim, the best stock car sim, the best banger sim, the best rally cross sim, the best sports car sim, the best you name it sim. We have the vehicles, we have the tracks, we have the real world physics, we have the ultra realistic damage, but we still have no viable AI and thus no real means to truly enjoy all the hard work and passion the devs have put into the game over the years.

    However, in spite of this I still spend my time playing BeamNG rather than Wreckfest or Assetto Corsa or F1 2019 or any other driving game. Having waited my entire life for a damage model like BeamNG offers and having spent thousands on hardware just to mess around on what is essentially just a sandbox, I really hope the potential of what is now becoming a highly polished driving simulation can be fully unleashed.
     
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  19. EruptionTyphlosion

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    I couldn't agree more. The AI needs a ton of work, but not just that, BeamNG needs a lot more work on the "game" itself. It has great content, physics, graphics, and audio, but little to no focus on gameplay improvements.
     
  20. Wheel Nut

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    I absolutely agree, and you can add drifting, autocross, off roading, and more to that for sure :) However, I think the issue for a lot of people would be the lack of official, licenced real cars and circuits in BeamNG. It doesn't bother me at all, but I feel a lot of people see value in real cars on laser-scanned tracks as in iRacing and Assetto Corsa, and real cars on pretty realistic rally stages on Dirt Rally. But yes I agree, BeamNG has huge potential to expand into a lot of these areas, it just has to do it in it's own way, I imagine without licensing real cars and tracks.

    For sure! I am playing iRacing and Dirt Rally 2.0 a little bit with friends right now, but on my own it's all BeamNG.
     
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