Videogamelopnik

Illustration for article titled Videogamelopnik
Graphic: Automation (Fair Use)

I don’t consider myself a pro level gamer, BUT a couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon this game Automation, and ever since it’s eaten up most of my time. To give you a brief summary: Automation is a game where you plan, design, and manage your own car company. All the little details from specs about the car to profits and margins. It’s all under your control.

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Illustration for article titled Videogamelopnik
Screenshot: Me

Problem is I’m not smart enough for the logistics, or knowledgeable enough about cars to know what I should or shouldn’t put in them. It’s a real numbers game, but to me it’s a guessing game.

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Anyways I figured since I’ve been playing it a whole bunch I’d show you too! It is a lot of fun to just design cars with no real risk of a fictional car company going under, but if your a master strategist/car enthusiast you may get a kick out of the campaign. But I’m just going to take you through the process of designing and testing a car (you can mock my engine layout/specs when you see them).

In this game it has you design the engine before you design the car (that is unless you’re reusing an engine for multiple cars, which is a budget option that hasn’t worked for me thus far only because the engines I churn out are kinda bad). When I first started playing I was overwhelmed by the amount of options you have for creating the engine alone, the options you have for the actual car are even more vast. The game gets into super nitty gritty details like compression level, cooling factors, fuel mixture, the whole nine yards.

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This is the very first tab you’re presented with. There are 7 more afterwards.
This is the very first tab you’re presented with. There are 7 more afterwards.
Screenshot: Me

I decided to go with an inline 5 cylinder made of mostly aluminium. In the next tab over you can decide how strong the steel is with your pistons and conrods and crankshaft, but for that I just went with cast. The way I play the game is I click through and select the basic options I want, like the number of cylinders and materials, and then the game will tell me how bad the engine is and I’ll go back and fix it using the game’s suggestions. This is how my engine looked visually upon my first pass:

That’s a totally tubular exhaust.
That’s a totally tubular exhaust.
Screenshot: Me
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And this is how it performed:

Not so tubular.
Not so tubular.
Screenshot: Me
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I know, it’s a lot of numbers and graphs. I was off put by it too. There’s the line graph that shows power and torque, there’s all the nonsensical stats on the bottom like performance index and noise, but the thing to notice in this image is that, slapped near the top right corner, is a big red box that says knocking. That’s no good. When you scroll over the red symbol on the bottom right it’ll tell you exactly what’s wrong (in this case, the engine knocking) and how to fix it (in this case, I needed to lower my compression and cam profile).

So I did.

Stats/Compression Before
Stats/Compression Before
Screenshot: Me
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Stats/Compression After
Stats/Compression After
Screenshot: Me

Not a huge tweak, but it got rid of the knocking, and after tinkering with the engine some more this is the layout I got:

POWAAAAAAH
POWAAAAAAH
Screenshot: Me
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Presto! An inline 5 cylinder is born. It has 157 lb/ft of torque, which sounds like a good amount, but I don’t actually know. The power is absolutely incomprehensible. I don’t think my dumb American brain can handle measuring power in kilowatts. Thankfully, there’s this thing called the internet, and after plugging it into a number converter I discovered the engine nearly produces 170 horsepower (which is better than I thought it would be). I ended up naming this engine variation the Foxtrot 5C, and now all I have to do is slap it into a car.

The first thing you have to do is choose a car body, and this game has a TON.

Bodies...
Bodies...
Screenshot: Me
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Body types and other car parts are sorted by year. These ones listed above are only some the modern bodies from 2010 to 2020.

Bodies Everywhere...
Bodies Everywhere...
Screenshot: Me
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Whereas these are the bodies you’ll find in the 40's (which is typically where you start a campaign).

Illustration for article titled Videogamelopnik
Screenshot: Me
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Personally, I’m a big fan of small station wagons, which took me to 1955 where I ended up with this wagon body. (The next car I make is definitely going to have that long, land yacht sedan body that’s right above it. Tail fins and all).

Illustration for article titled Videogamelopnik
Screenshot: Me
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Next you put together all the pieces of your chassis. I went with aluminium again to match this car’s theme. The rest of the options were based on drivability (the game shows you how your car ranks when you scroll over each part to see what’s the most compact vs what’s the sportiest. Drivability is another one of the scores, so I chose to focus on that).

But the next part is my favorite, because now we get to actually design the car (I decided to throw this section into a little slideshow because otherwise it’d be 7 pictures with very small captions and would take up a lot of space).

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The design may be done, but the inner workings of the car aren’t Step 1 of 6 is fiddling with the drivetrain, which I elected to be a 5 speed manual (since it’s a 5 cylinder engine. Not that that has any actual correlation with how engines and transmissions work, I just wanted to use the number 5 again). The projected top speed was around 140mph, but I’d be shocked if it hit that.

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After that step, you can fiddle with the tires (which are a pain to get right), the aerodynamics, the interior and safety, driver assistants, and even fiddle with the suspension.

Three rows, 8 seats, standard. That’s how I like my station wagons.
Three rows, 8 seats, standard. That’s how I like my station wagons.
Screenshot: Me
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The stuff on the bottom is the suspension section, where you can either lift it up, or slam it down. Everything above it is just a reminder of how crappy my car is.
The stuff on the bottom is the suspension section, where you can either lift it up, or slam it down. Everything above it is just a reminder of how crappy my car is.
Screenshot: Me

As you can see, the finished product I whipped up isn’t perfect. Dampers are hard, tires are narrow, brakes are bad, oversteer is an issue, but all of those are pretty quick fixes. If you take a look on the left side you’ll see a bunch of boxes that say Family Utility and the one grey box that says Passenger Fleet. Those are target demographics, more utilized in the campaign, and you typically want them to be green.

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The moral of this story: nobody wants my car :(

Unwanted. Unloved.
Unwanted. Unloved.
Screenshot: Me
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Actually, that’s not true. This car is catered to a very niche market: me. I like this car, it’s actually one of the better looking designs I’ve had thus far, but maybe I’m biased because I made it... ok I’m totally biased because I made it.

But now it’s time to see how fast it goes around our track and to do that, we have to hand it over to our tamed racing driver...

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It’s not The Stig.

It’s The Stig’s digital cousin!

Illustration for article titled Videogamelopnik
Screenshot: Me
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In the game there’s a little map with a test track on it. You can hit the play button and watch the car go around it to get a sense of how much acceleration g force there is and get a lap time. This car did it in a 2:45.81, which may be good or bad, I don’t have anything to compare it to. But, while it’s cool to watch the little 2D car go around the track.png it’s a lot more fun to drive the course yourself.

Enter BeamNG Drive.

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Screenshot: Me
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It’s a whole different game that focuses more on crash simulations. The game uses a physics system built from the ground up where every single part of the the car can crumple and break, while still acting accordingly. Essential it’s a game where you can cars around and smack them into walls, but it’s actually a really good driving simulator in general. I’ve had it for a very long time and only got Automation because of the compatibility between the two, but this may very well be the greatest crossover in gaming history.

Illustration for article titled Videogamelopnik
Screenshot: Me
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This is the BeamNG car selection menu. Everything from the Bonanza CT to the Vanarama Persona is a car I’ve made, either in a campaign or just for fun, and imported to see how it goes around the track. The DeGrille LFA is the only campaign car that’s actually fun to drive and good, while the Goblin Groover has an incredibly powerful boxer engine (the only thing that would fit) and is completely uncontrollable. Most of the duplicates are different engine variations, but all of them are mine and most of them drive pretty well (at least in game).

We don’t talk about the brown car labeled Model 1 Trim 1 though. That thing’s an irredeemable piece of ——

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Also yes, I named the car we just put together the Clyde Cruiser... because that’s the only name I could think of.

Illustration for article titled Videogamelopnik
Screenshot: Me
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And there it is, lined up on the same track Digital Stig (Dig Stig?) just went around. Now it’s my turn to actually see how the car performs.

Illustration for article titled Videogamelopnik
Screenshot: Me
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It’s not exactly a speedy accelerator. It gets up to 60 no problem, it just takes a pretty long time to get past 15, but from there the car is smooth sailing. A bit of oversteer now and then, but manageable.

That’s a very happy car on a banked turn.
That’s a very happy car on a banked turn.
Screenshot: Me
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I even managed to get the thing over 100mph. I had to pause the game to capture the proof though.

SPEEEEEED
SPEEEEEED
Screenshot: Me
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And then soon after I spun out and skid to a stop. That lap time was ruined. It took me a couple of practice laps to keep the car on the track and actually put in a time. About 6 to be exact. But once I managed to get it across the line I looked up at my time:

Not speeeeed...
Not speeeeed...
Screenshot: Me
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3:14.5. That’s almost 30 seconds slower than Dig Stig, so I can confirm that I am not The Stig. But I’m also not a computer, and I’m pretty sure that 2D simulation in Automation only deals with acceleration and cornering. It doesn’t have to worry about the car’s grip quite like I did.

With my dismal lap time over and done, I hung up my racing suit and switched to a map where I could just drive the car around, to send it off in the only way I knew how: jumping it.

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A straight approach above 60mph
A straight approach above 60mph
Screenshot: Me
Who knew one of the best ways to lower a car is by sending it up a ramp. Momentum! Science! Yeah!
Who knew one of the best ways to lower a car is by sending it up a ramp. Momentum! Science! Yeah!
Screenshot: Me
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This has to be one of my favorite screen captures. Fly High Clyde.
This has to be one of my favorite screen captures. Fly High Clyde.
Screenshot: Me
First Contact
First Contact
Screenshot: Me
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A surprisingly bouncy car.
A surprisingly bouncy car.
Screenshot: Me
And, like a cat, the Clyde Cruiser lands on it’s wheels remarkably unscathed. Still drivable too. I don’t know about you, but I’d give that at least a 5 star safety rating, maybe more.
And, like a cat, the Clyde Cruiser lands on it’s wheels remarkably unscathed. Still drivable too. I don’t know about you, but I’d give that at least a 5 star safety rating, maybe more.
Screenshot: Me
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So there you go. Now you know how I’ve been spending the majority of my free time. Design a car. Drive the car. Realize the car is bad. Crash the car. Repeat. It’s a vicious cycle but it’s very fun.

If you read this far... you’re never going to get the time you spent reading this back. I hope you accept my deepest apologies, and this picture of me behind the wheel of my “virtual racing rig.”

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Yes, I have to drive like a hunched over granny in order to reach the wheel on the table and the pedals on the floor... Maybe that had something to do with my disappointing lap time.
Yes, I have to drive like a hunched over granny in order to reach the wheel on the table and the pedals on the floor... Maybe that had something to do with my disappointing lap time.
Photo: The guy in the picture.

(Boy this took a long time to write... specifically with image captioning and photo crediting... what a bunch of hoopla)

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