Trailmakers (PC) Early Access Preview

Developer/Publisher: Flashbulb || Outlook: Seems Promising

My generation, like a couple of other generations, had access to physical toys, such as building blocks or “LEGOS.”  You could build spaceships, castles, cars …or at least something that could pass for them.  In many ways we see that “idea” of creation in many of the most popular games today, but getting back to the basics of “creating a car” with building blocks is what Trailmakers attempts to do.

Now this particular concept isn’t new to gaming, but since I’ve never played Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, it’s new to me.  I’ve seen videos and heard awful things about that game.  So, to me, Trailmakers, seems like someone had a part in developing that game, thought they could do a better job in retrospect, and from that comes this Early Access title.  Flashbulb, the developer, is apparently made up of Rare and IO Interactive veterans, so the scenario is entirely plausible.  Obviously at this point, the game doesn’t feel anywhere near complete, but there is plenty of foundation built into it, and is seemingly waiting for the content to make it “fun.”  There have already been a couple of updates that add different modes, so the focus of the game has already changed since I initially began playing.

In Expedition Mode, your character arrives to this “racing planet” full of hazards, ramps, and lots of annoying shit to collect along the way.  The more things you collect, the more things you unlock to customize your vehicle.  You can save as many versions of your creations as you like, modify an existing blueprint, import blueprints, or start from scratch just to get through one hazard.  Once you have more pieces unlocked, your creations will obviously get more complex, with engines, wheels, different size blocks, doohickeys, gizmos, dildos, and an assortment of other random things I don’t know how to use correctly.  This might be fun for some people, but unfortunately if you’re impatient and don’t really find the enjoyment in tinkering around using a mouse/keyboard (or a controller) to build vehicles, it becomes a tedious task.  The builder itself is about as good as it can be, but since you are building in a 3D space, it can get annoying to see where things are being placed without moving your camera multiple times for each piece.  It just isn’t the same as holding blocks in your hand and putting things where you want them to go.

The driving isn’t necessarily that much fun, and the map is full of forks and different paths that lead to the same end point.  There’s also a lot of empty space, but considering you’re meant to drive around, its probably not that big of a deal.  Outside of collecting shit, there’s not a whole lot “to do” other than get past hazards and get to the next zone to collect more things.  More plainly, the gameplay loop is lacking severely; there’s just basically no reason to play unless you really enjoy making new things in the builder.

The driving controls are floaty as hell, but I’m unsure if this is part of the design or not.  The point of collecting better upgrades and designing a vehicle that works well aerodynamically and with the types of engines you are using seems to be part of the challenge, but it isn’t structured very well.  There are no early-on upgrades that can improve your controls very much, and its a constant struggle considering they intentionally make them worse if you aren’t designing your vehicle correctly according to the in-game physics.  Another annoying aspect is that the camera isn’t able to be controlled while driving, at least with a controller.

I think the fact that it is an open world with no other “racers” to race against is a large part of what makes the game feel boring outside of building.  There isn’t any motivation to continue dealing with the crappiness of the controls or tediousness of having to build something to just get through one hazard. Redesigning everything from scratch over and over becomes an exercise in “doing the bare minimum” to get past whatever is stopping you.  You might be able to stumble through hazards with your same vehicle, but you’ll be dying over and over.  There’s a lot of things that will clip your vehicle or make you blow up, so you’ll constantly be respawning at the last checkpoint over and over.

The Race Island mode, which was recently added, allows you to more fully tinker around with the game’s systems as everything will be already unlocked.  You’ll only be doing “time trials” as there are still no other racers to race against, but it is more satisfying to be able to mess around with a large array of items from the beginning — it doesn’t feel like you’re “missing” anything.  However, without proper tutorials you’re going to be building some really wacky things that don’t work the way you think they should, and all of a sudden you have a helicopter that flies upside down and goes directly up.

Trailmakers will probably appeal to a certain set of gamer that really enjoys fiddling around with mechanical engineering concepts.  Seeing what works and what doesn’t work in a real physics-driven world is pretty cool considering the amount of freedom you’re allowed to build things.  I would have really appreciated some sort of generic base blueprint archive of some sort so that I could just click it and go with a new vehicle once I had everything unlocked and then modify it as I saw fit.  As of now, there’s plenty more that needs to be added to the game to make it more appealing to someone like me, but with the existing foundation already included, it seems promising that a worthwhile game could be made out of this.

 

Joke #21241: Parachute Situation

You are one of *two* people on a malfunctioning airplane with only one parachute. How would you react?

Pessimist: you refuse the parachute because you might die on the jump anyway.

Optimist: you refuse the parachute because people have survived crashes just like this before.

Procrastinator: you play a game of Monopoly for the parachute.

Bureaucrat: you order them to conduct a feasibility study on parachute use in multi-engine aircraft under code red conditions.

Lawyer: you charge one parachute for helping them sue the airline.

Doctor: you tell them you need to run more tests, then take the parachute in order to make your next appointment.

Sales executive: you sell them the parachute at top retail rates and get the names of their friends and relatives who might like one too.

Internal Revenue Service agent: you confiscate the parachute along with their luggage, wallet, and gold fillings.

Engineer: you make them another parachute out of aisle curtains and dental floss.

Scientist: you give them the parachute and ask them to send you a report on how well it worked.

Mathematician: you refuse to accept the parachute without proof that it will work in all cases.

Philosopher: you ask how they know the parachute actually exists.

English major: you explicate simile and metaphor in the parachute instructions.

Computer Science: you design a machine capable of operating a parachute as well as a human being could.

Economist: you plot a demand curve by asking them, at regular intervals, how much they would pay for a parachute.

Psychoanalyst: you ask them what the shape of a parachute reminds them of.

Dramatist: you tie them down so they can watch you develop the character of a person stuck on a falling plane without a parachute.

Artist: you hang the parachute on the wall and sign it.

Environmentalist: you refuse to use the parachute unless it is biodegradable.

Sports Fan: you start betting on how long it will take to crash.

Auto Mechanic: as long as you are looking at the plane engine, it works fine.

Surgeon General: you issue a warning that skydiving can be hazardous to your health.

Association of Tobacco Growers representative: you explain very patiently that despite a number of remarkable coincidences, studies have shown that jumping out of a plane is NOT harmful to your health.

 

Joke #18662

A steam locomotive passing through Poland one night was running low on coal.

The engineer said to his fireman, “We’re coming to a town, let’s stop and send the porter out to get more coal. Can you see the name of the town on the depot sign?”

The fireman replied, “It appears to be Danzig in the dark.”

And the engineer shouted, “Buy coal, Porter!”

 

Joke #18649

Two men sank into adjacent train seats after a long day in the city.

One asked the other, “Your son go back to college yet?”

“Two days ago.”

“Hm. Mine’s a senior this year, so it’s almost over. In May, he’ll be an engineer.”

“What’s your boy going to be when he gets out of college?”

“At the rate he’s going, I’d say he’ll be about thirty.”

“No, I mean what’s he taking in college?”

“He’s taking every penny I make.”

“Doesn’t he burn the midnight oil enough?”

“He doesn’t get in early enough to burn the midnight oil.”

“Well, has sending him to college done anything at all?”

“Sure has! It’s totally cured his mother of bragging about him!”

 

Joke #18431

Engineering classes at the University of Maryland are tough, and struggling students sometimes go to extremes in order to pass.

Grading exams one semester, I got to this question: “What is the relationship between kinetic and potential energy?”

One student, obviously stumped, decided to get clever and wrote, “As far as I know, they’re just friends, but there could be something else going on there.”

 

Joke #9380

An engineer, a mathematician, and a physicist went to the races one Saturday and laid their money down.

Commiserating in the bar after the race, the engineer says, “I don’t understand why I lost all my money. I measured all the horses and calculated their strength and mechanical advantage and figured out how fast they could run…”

The physicist interrupted him: “…but you didn’t take individual variations into account. I did a statistical analysis of their previous performances and bet on the horses with the highest probability of winning…”

“…so if you’re so hot why are you broke?” asked the engineer. But before the argument had a chance to grow, the mathematician takes out his pipe and they get a glimpse of his well-fattened wallet. Obviously here was a man who knows something about horses. They both demanded to know his secret.

“Well,” he says, between puffs on the pipe, “first I assumed all the horses were identical and spherical…”

 

Joke #9379

In a foreign country a priest, a lawyer and an engineer are about to be guillotined.

The priest puts his head on the block, they pull the rope and nothing happens — he declares that he’s been saved by divine intervention — so he’s let go.

The lawyer is put on the block, and again the rope doesn’t release the blade. He claims he can’t be executed twice for the same crime, and so he is set free too.

They grab the engineer and shove his head into the guillotine, he looks up at the release mechanism and says, “Wait a minute, I see your problem……”

 

Joke #9378

An engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician are shown a pasture with a herd of sheep, and told to put them inside the smallest possible amount of fence.

The engineer is first. He herds the sheep into a circle and then puts the fence around them, declaring, “A circle will use the least fence for a given area, so this is the best solution.”

The physicist is next. She creates a circular fence of infinite radius around the sheep, and then draws the fence tight around the herd, declaring, “This will give the smallest circular fence around the herd.”

The mathematician is last. After giving the problem a little thought, he puts a small fence around himself and then declares, “I define myself to be on the outside!”

 

Joke #9377

Three engineering students were gathered together discussing the possible designers of the human body.

One said, “It was a mechanical engineer. Just look at all the joints.”

Another said, “No, it was an electrical engineer. The nervous system has many thousands of electrical connections.”

The last said, “Actually it was a civil engineer. Who else would run a toxic waste pipeline through a recreational area?

 

Joke #9212

There are four engineers traveling in a car. One is a mechanical engineer, one a chemical engineer, one an electrical engineer and the other one an engineer from Microsoft.

The car breaks down.

“Sounds to me as if the pistons have seized. We’ll have to strip down the engine before we can get the car working again,” says the mechanical engineer.

“Well,” says the chemical engineer, “it sounded to me as if the fuel might be contaminated. I think we should clear out the fuel system.”

“I thought it might be a grounding problem,” says the electrical engineer, “or maybe a faulty plug lead.”

They all turn to the Microsoft engineer who has said nothing and say. They ask him, “What do you think?”

“Well, I think we should close all the windows, get out, get back in, and open the windows again.”