Reader Submission #47 – BeamNG Drive

Better late than never, we received this Reader Submission a few days ago from Plush Labs giving us a detailed overview of physics sandbox BeamNG Drive. This is a game we’ve never covered here at, so I’m rather interested in what he has to say…:

moonhawkvsunburst1I’ve tried submitting an article about BeamNG to in the past, but I’ve never been able to talk about this game in a way that makes it look like it’s good bang for your buck. It has no multiplayer, the FFB is weird as fuck, it lacks in content, and it looks extremely odd with the graphics all the way up. I had to think about what makes me like the game despite all its flaws, and even then it was hard to come up with enough positives or perspectives to make the purchase worth it to people.

What I can talk about, though, is how it compares to Rigs of Rods.

Rigs of Rods is the predecessor to BeamNG Drive, but for the fellow readers just learning of RoR’s existence now, you’re not missing out on much. RoR is a freeware physics sandbox game that gets an update maybe once every year or two. The game itself isn’t too bad, but setting a controller up with the game is fucking infuriating, and that’s pretty much where I stopped giving a shit about the game. After a long time of trying as hard as I could to find a way to configure my Fanatec wheel and pedals, I just couldn’t get them to work, and nobody had a config file that worked for me. All I wanted was to pretend like I was driving a monster truck – flying twenty to thirty feet in the air, doing slap wheelies, and using the rear-wheel steering for endless cyclones. With BeamNG, however, the game automatically detects what button you’re pressing or what axis you’re moving when you’re configuring your controller, just like a normal fucking game should.

No word on any Monster Jam monster trucks for BeamNG as of yet, but I’ll get back to you on that.

RoR and BeamNG both share the same draw to their games, which is the soft body physics. Breaking shit has never felt so satisfying when you’re intending to break shit, and wrecking has never felt so devastating when your intention is to race through a rally stage as fast as possible. However, in BeamNG, the cars are realistically fragile. Suspension can collapse, tires can pop off, and the toe or camber can get realigned in both games, but in BeamNG, your driveline can snap. You still can’t completely detonate the engine in either game, but at least we’re on the right track.

So yes, BeamNG is already more interesting than RoR, but comparing it to a game nobody’s heard of and everybody’s forgotten is kinda stupid. So, I think this one thing can make the game more appealing to a wider audience: Live Timing.

Rigs of Rods has tried to implement a live leaderboard already, but when I last played the game, it was completely broken. If the developers behind BeamNG take their time and make this system work right, it could make the game worth buying for a lot of people. Actual online multiplayer for the game just won’t work properly; there would be a gigantic amount of lag thanks to the sheer amount of data that would need to be transferred in order to make the game run similarly online and offline. Rigs of Rods’ multiplayer is completely dead now, and considering how inactive all racing games are at the moment, free roam multiplayer would be wasted time and effort.

So here’s how I think multiplayer should be implemented in BeamNG, which I think will bring people in from all the other automotive simulators to give the game a shot.

First, there should be an official server keeping the times for all official scenarios. The new update for the game has locked vehicle choices now, where previously you were able to start the scenario, select a new car through the car spawner, then respawn the vehicle to restart the scenario with the new car. An anti-cheat method of some sort will also need to be implemented to keep the game less about mastering exploits and more about driving as fast as you possibly can without completely wrecking your car. Scenarios might also need to be reworked to prevent corner cutting.

In addition to official leaderboards, there should be an ability to host a private leaderboard server for time attack leagues, where organizers can create a custom scenario and upload it for others to download and race. This competitive atmosphere could drive people to push the line between risk and reward in an extremely unforgiving video game and get people interested in the game who would otherwise overlook it.

Is buying BeamNG on early access worth it right now? Nah, I say you should buy it when it goes on sale instead. But the game does have some decent third-party content, and the official content isn’t bad either. Hell, there’s even a three wheeler pickup for those in the UK who ever wanted to fuck up a Reliant Robin with a cement truck, and a drag configuration of the old American sedan for KORTUR MULLS and shit.

2I actually bought BeamNG Drive when it first dropped back in 2013, way before the eventual Steam integration, so I have played it, just not for very long. My PC struggled with the game at the time of release, and I didn’t save my CD key as for a very long time the game didn’t show much promise, so I’ll most likely pick it up again when it goes on sale.

In the meantime, I enjoy watching BeamNG videos; some of the stuff people come up with is really hilarious:

The biggest thing that deters me from games like BeamNG, as well as Rigs of Rods, is my own imagination. Both titles give you a massive map and a bunch of cars to mess around with, but in most cases it’s up to you to decide how to spend your time within the game. And I don’t have the mental capacity for that – I needed a strategy guide for Super Mario Sunshine, so creating my own fun is out of the question entirely.

If controller support is as good as you say it is, I’d love to drive the totally not a Chevy 1500 featured in the above picture being smashed to bits. I drive a similar truck in real life, and no racing sim on the market has a late 90’s pickup that I can directly compare with my daily driver. From the footage I’ve seen, the physics themselves look quite decent, especially the suspension model, but I’ve also heard from certain sim racers that the cars handle like tanker trucks sliding through molasses. If there’s a way I can get my wheel working flawlessly, and if there’s a way I can manually edit the cockpit view seat position through simple text files, I’d really like to give it a full shakedown.

As someone who played Rigs of Rods online competitively, your online format works for free roam, but at the end of the day, live stewards with stop watches are still the way to go. The biggest exploit I could see arising from your proposed functionality is INI file edits, because there’d be no anti-cheat mismatch detection like there is with rFactor and Stock Car Extreme. I know when I ran with a bunch of years ago, some of the craftier kids would break into the vehicle file and modify their truck’s engine output & gearing, and the only reason they didn’t win was due to their complete lack of driving skills.

Then you’ve also gotta factor in netcode and other junk, which neither BeamNG nor Rigs of Rods does all that well.

I don’t know, if it goes on sale, I’ll give it a shakedown and see what’s up. Unfortunately I know once the inevitable Breaking down the late 90’s pickup in BeamNG Drive article gets posted, it’ll be six months until I touch the game again…

Any of you guys play it regularly? Let us know below!


8 thoughts on “Reader Submission #47 – BeamNG Drive

  1. I quite enjoy BeamNG Drive also, nice to know I’m not the only one. πŸ™‚ Though I have that problem that it’s a bit aimless also. I’m not really interested in smashing stuff, so I tend to just take to a track and run laps. Going for times in the scenarios helps too, as long as you’re happy with “faster than my PB” as a target.

    One of the big improvements IMO from a little while ago is big changes in the tire model they’re using. It’s not as comprehensive as what we’re used to from our typical racing sims, but it makes tire behavior more familiar to reality. Which is especially important as the FFB improves.

    And although multiplayer seems impractical with the sheer volume of data that needs to be sent, we’re also all on the best Internet infrastructure to deal with it we ever have been. And that’s only improving. So multiplayer with such huge amounts of physics data to send/receive is only getting easier, and may be doable already on a small scale.


    1. Yes, I check on this game frequently and often spend more time just playing around with it than I plan on. Recently updated to dx11 and it definitely runs with less effort (the physics scaling can be tested with a benchmark in the game’s folder, ‘bananabench’).

      It’s really the un-optimized assets that hold people back and not necessarily the physics themselves if you’re just running a few cars. The beam benchmark will give you a baseline for how many cars you can run at once in realtime, graphics pipeline aside. I think they have just one guy making the maps and he makes steady progress on asset and LOD optimization.

      Also, you can retrieve your CD-key from their website. iirc, it’s a little tricky to find but I can point you in the right direction if you need (someplace in the user settings after you log on to their website).

      FFB is getting to be very respectable for me lately. Though a touch sparse for now in some ways, it has some very natural feeling forces already coming through, not much need for canned effects.

      FFB has a lot of similarities to RoR, but at this point I already consider the FFB to be considerably better in beamng.

      Both RoR and beamng are based on a beam system attached by harmonic oscillators, though beamng has been enhanced in several ways and handles more beams concurrently. beamng = beam next generation.


      1. πŸ™‚

        I also lost my key for a while at the start like you did, progress was pretty slow and not necessarily stuff that made much of a difference to us in terms of entertainment. Was surprised to see they had a decent little system in place for the keys.

        I think it was only ~$15 to gain access back then, so I’m pretty happy with how things are shaping up. However, for the current steam price, there’s not much in the way of gameplay, as you said.

        Once they really get the AI pathing and logic down, it should be more interesting.


  2. The open world with no goals aspect drove me away from it as well, though it sounds like they’re adding some scenarios to change that. I’ll pick it up if I see it in a Steam sale or something, probably.


  3. Yeah love this, i did a lot of rigs of rods too, in that I use top do crazy hillclimbs and wait till I crash (always did, and dramatically) then spawn a crane or tow truck then my mission was car and body recovery, lots of fun.


    1. Yes!

      We might be getting there with beamng soon. In one of the last few updates, they added a flatbed variation with a car on it. Before now, the physics bugged out when they tried to place a vehicle on the flatbed.

      Might be another year or two before it’s really ready for cranes/towing crashed vehicles, but I think i’ll be worth the wait. That’s when the whole sandbox concept can really stand out.


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