Bus Simulator 18: An Interview with the Developers

Who plays Bus Simulator? We spoke directly to the developer to find out just that. From mainstream sim games like The Sims or Animal Crossing to offbeat titles like Construction Simulator or Train Simulator, simulator games have been rising in popularity. What is the appeal of the sim genre? What does it take to create a simulation of real-life careers and industries? stillalive studios and Astragon Entertainment gives us the answers.

stillalive studios is the developer of both Bus Simulator 16 and most recently, Bus Simulator 18. They have also gained some critical acclaim in the gaming community for their original IP, Son of Nor which won numerous awards. Together with Astragon Entertainment, one of the biggest simulation game publishers in the industry, they endeavoured to release Bus Simulator 18. Interested and intrigued by the growing simulator genre of the video game industry we decided to go straight to the developer. Train simulators? Construction Simulators? Bus Simulators? Is there really a big enough market to support the development of these games? The answers from the CEO of stillalive studios, Julian Mautner and the senior producer of Astragon EntertainmentTim Plöger, were a surprising and intriguing revelation.

Julian Mautner, CEO of 
stillalive studios

Tim Plöger, Senior Producer at Astragon Entertainment

Starting off casually, apart from simulation games, what games do you and/or your team play to take a load off?

Julian Mautner: A lot of diversity there. From strategy, management and RPGs to action adventures, shooters and mobas. The occasional sports game and couch coop of course too! Me personally, I like to play strategy games a lot such as Frostpunk, Battletech and Total War for instance.

Why did you and/or your team decide to delve into the realm of simulation games? What about the genre attracted you more than others?

Julian Mautner: The amount of details you can put into it is amazing. Also, you get the opportunity build a world close to reality, but a little "better", where people are always friendly, joking and life is fair!

So I have to ask, I've played numerous simulation games in my time, but aside from farm simulator, a lot of these games are far from the mainstream. Is there a large market for games like Bus Simulator and Construction Simulator? 

Tim Ploeger: From what we have seen, there has been a steady increase in interest when it comes to simulation games within the last few years. While in the early days the love for simulations had mainly been a European (or to be exact a mainly German) phenomenon, we have now fans from all around the globe, who enjoy driving buses and operating huge cranes. There are of course topics that are more relatable than others: The fascination for construction sites, trains, buses and farming equipment usually starts for many people at an early age and continues into adulthood. Not everyone has the chance to become a professional bus driver of course, but that first interest remains and our games give players the opportunity to experience interacting with those machines and vehicles if not in real live, then within a virtual environment.

What type of people generally play your games?

Tim Plöger: Our games appeal to a wide range of players from all ways of live. There are lots of parents who like to play together with their kids, teenagers who enjoy the creativity that our modding support offers them, and seniors who enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and unhurried pace of a simulation game. We have players who come from the respective jobs that are being simulated, like truck drivers or construction workers, and players working regular desk jobs, whose dream might have been at one point to become a crane operator or farmer. There are also hobbyists who are otherwise interested in model trains or planes.

People who play sim games often enjoy the act of building something, whether that be building a city in city simulators, building a life in life simulators or building a career and company in construction simulators. In your case, what was the most difficult hurdle you went through when building Bus Simulator 18?

Julian Mautner: The sheer amount of details in the game and bringing it all together: multiplayer, traffic, visuals, performance, modding…

The games are incredibly in-depth, detailed, and realistic in terms of driving mechanics, passenger etiquette and so on. Can you comment on what kind of research went into molding the impeccable realism of the game?

Julian Mautner: Lots of research on the internet, but mostly just looking at real life. Every day checking out the buses in Innsbruck/Vienna. Observing how people behave in detail. Talking to bus drivers and bus passengers alike.

Lastly, what can your fans expect from you in the future? Can you tell us about any major upcoming projects or ambitions you have moving forward?

Tim Ploeger: We will keep updating Bus Simulator 18 to include new content of course that will offer players a continuous variety of interesting tasks and options. We do however not want to reveal too much at this point of time.

Oh, and just one last thing I’d like to mention, if I may: Players who are interested in the future of Bus Simulator 18 and who will be in the vicinity of Cologne/Germany this summer should not miss visiting us at Gamescom 2018 (hall 8.1,booth B-31). We’ll be very happy to meet them there!

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