Simulation videogame offers detailed graphics, soft-body physics, and low price. The result is dozens of bloggers going viral with fun-oriented car tests rendered on BeamNG.drive
Videogames should have a special place in the heart of all car enthusiasts. The simple fact of featuring so many beloved examples, from hypercars to tough off-roaders, means a lot. But they go further and allow us to drive them on closed tracks and/or open worlds. The latest titles can use dedicated accessories such as steering wheels and pedals and run on cutting-edge hardware. The experience is amazing.
Now, I have to mention that BeamNG.drive is an exception. Most videogames focus on competition. They may offer drifting, time attack, or open street, but those are all different types of racing. BeamNG GmbH’s game aims at realism. Real cars, believable scenarios, and realistic simulation of physical interactions. At a first look, it seems perfect from a technical point of view. But players have found new ways to enjoy it.
Tell me about typical car games
Gran Turismo is a good example to begin with. You start off with a few options of cars and may race them in a few tracks. In its “career mode”, victories earn you rewards (usually labeled as in-game money) which you can use to acquire new cars and unlock tougher tracks. Need for Speed became prominent for adding tuning to the mix: you can work on the car’s design, mechanics, performance… pretty much everything.
Forza Horizon, in turn, is one of the best (in my humble opinion) in terms of open-world car videogames. It is not just about driving from race A to race B. You can test-drive your cars, engage in specific missions, collect bonuses… There is a whole part of the game outside typical competitions. Then again, you have to pursue victory in all those cases. Which is fun, sure. But it also makes it intriguing to see an exception.
Isn’t that the case with GTA?
Yes… in a way. Grand Theft Auto is actually a simulation game that happens to use cars. You can race with them, tune them, drive them in an open world etc. In fact, some versions even allow you to engage in side missions like taxi driving. However, if you have ever played that game, you certainly know that car driving, car tuning, and all the other interactions with cars, are only a part of what you can do in those games.
In case you have never played it, let me sum it up to you. As your in-game character moves forward in the story, you may attack members of the local mafia, fight street gangs for neighborhood turfs, do a couple mundane jobs as decoy for a plan, and alternate between escaping from the police and fighting them. All while riding aircraft, bicycles, boats, motorcycles, jetpacks… and cars. See how cars are just a part of it?
How is BeamNG.drive different?
While it also has typical gameplay modes of car videogames, it also features a “free roam” that works like a highly customizable sandbox. In other words, BeamNG allows you to build the entire scenario in which you are going to drive. That means you can set the track’s path, create grass patches or water bodies, add ramps of all kinds, define hills and mountains, and include items like trees and rocks. But there is more.
Earlier in this article, I mention that BeamNG has soft-body physics. That means it represents car handling, and damage caused by interactions with the environment. That damage may come from typical situations like crashing onto a tree, or artificial ones such as having a missile shot at the car. Parallel to that, you can change external properties like gravity, terrain, and wind. And the cars will suffer damage accordingly.
The ‘The Sims’ effect
With so many detailed options, one can think that BeamNG is more of a technical simulator. It can render damage in ways that would surely be interesting to engineering students, for example. We could say that two decades ago, The Sims debuted in a similar situation. You could create a family, build or buy a house for them, and control their lives, but everything was quite mundane and stoic, especially for a game.
Success came to that franchise once players and developer chose to dial down realism in favor of fun. The game received expansion packs that opened possibilities such as throwing parties, going on dates, having a robot maid, becoming famous, going on vacation, adopting pets, and even doing magic. Going back to BeamNG, we can say that people are enjoying it by having fun with its numerous sandbox capabilities.
BeamNG.drive on social media
The best way to explain this is using examples. Now, keep in mind that we are talking about viral content, so this is a sample of what you can find online. These are the most common types of videos I have seen:
Different gravity values
This is the first type I saw. The creator submits a car to a specific test on BeamNG using gravity values of many planets. The notable exception is the sun: it has such a high attraction that the outcome is unique.
Realistic dynamic tests
Some people also submit the car to rolling over, crashing onto another vehicle, and riding on rough types of terrain. The results are not real-world accurate, but they are realistic enough to be interesting to see.
Unrealistic dynamic tests
It is obvious that some creators would go further. Some BeamNG videos submit cars to dynamic tests that are clearly made just for fun. There is no way someone would drive their supercar on water, for example.
‘Just because I can’ tests
BeamNG has a lot to offer if you decide to let go of realism. Have you ever thought of jumping over piled buses with your car? Or crashing head-on into a tank to try and stop it? No? Well, some creators have.
BeamNG.drive in car culture
The first videos came from gamers. People who enjoy videogames in general and played BeamNG as yet another one. However, it did not take long for car fans to join the trend. That change was quite impactful because it brought more sophisticated videos. There are typical car tests (like the moose test), some cases with everyday cars like Dacia Logan and Fiat Multipla… And quite specific roasting to some car models.
Tesla is the best example I can mention here. At first, the creator would cheat in discreet ways, like making the car take a ramp sideways, so it would fail on purpose. Over time, the trend evolved towards pure fun. Some BeamNG creators add a landmine out of nowhere at the Tesla car’s turn, others maximize gravity so it cannot move, others simply change the car’s path, and so on. It has become a meme inside a meme.
Has BeamNG become a trend?
We can surely say so. BBC’s Jack Stewart has praised the game for the possibility of simulating film stunts without crashing actual cars on set. Automobile Magazine has praised its car variety and the realism of its crash physics. And there are several blogs saying wonders about BeamNG while helping new players find its many functions. One of them is the career mode which the 0.26 release brings in experimental stage.
While offering those gameplay modes is great, I believe that being a sandbox is what will keep BeamNG popular. After all, we already have many other games focused on racing and on victories. There are times when we want to enjoy pressure-free gaming doing pretty much whatever we want. The Sims became so popular mainly because of that. Now, this Steam videogame is becoming the car-related counterpart.
I hope that this article has helped you understand what everyone is talking about. BeamNG first arrived as yet another independent game, but it quickly expanded its scope once people – not necessarily car fans – realized its potential. Now that you know more about it, would you be interested in trying it? Or do you still prefer traditional car videogames, whose primary goal is to compete with others on and offline?
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Danillo Almeida has explored his passion for cars in two distinct ways. The first one is his graduation course in Mechanical Engineering, which will hopefully lead to a job position in the field. The other one is expressing his knowledge and opinions on the matter through writing. Almeida has already contributed to blogs, stores, and websites in general writing automotive content in many formats.