Those of us who don’t farm for a living but have always wanted to catch an on-farm glimpse, rejoice! Did you know that there is an immersive game, developed by Giants Software of Switzerland, called Farming Simulator? The game allows players to armchair farm in the comfort of their living room.
My curiosity was piqued when I heard about it, so I called Brian Bolger, an Irish engineer working in New York who contributes modifications to the game in his spare time, to learn more about it.
I admitted to Brian that I knew very little about the game and was interested in its origins and what it was all about. Brian first discovered the game himself on YouTube and by the end of 2015 was actively involved in creating his own model. Farming Simulator gives players a complete farming experience. The game enables players to get a sense of what it’s like to toil the land, work with heavy machinery, harvest crops and care for livestock, all on their very own digital farm.
Originally from County Kildare, a mere 25-minute drive from KEENAN headquarters in Borris, County Carlow, Brian develops game assets for Giants Software as a hobby. With a background in farming and a huge interest in farm machinery, Brian started out drawing basic shapes, making cubes and working his way up to building a small trailer. He progressed to developing more complex machines and discovered that Giants Software hosted an annual contest for the development of games assets — something that inspired Brian.
“I enjoy the complexity of developing 3D models in 1:1, or full size, scale,” he said. “Developing a KEENAN model with the same functionality as the real machine is challenging, and I love it.”
Brian gets into the weeds with the actual detail of the models he creates. From creating textures and colors for the 3D model through to digital controls, a model such as the KEENAN diet feeder can take Brian a couple of days to build from the ground up. Brian refers to himself as a “modder” (for those of us non-gamers, that refers to people who create modifications for games).
Farming Simulator did not have a KEENAN machine a few years ago, and so Brian set about to rectify this.
“I took pictures originally and built the model, adding functionality such as the feed mixing inside the wagon and the finished mix being poured out to feed the animals,” he explained. “I then created specifications for each of the effects and developed software to make it all work and come to life. It’s fairly complex, and there is no book on how to do it, but I really enjoy it.”
Today, thanks to Brian’s ingenuity, the KEENAN “Green Machine” has more than 1 million downloads. The download numbers also spiked due to the game being available for console play on Xbox and PlayStation.
“A lot of gamers are sons and daughters of farmers,” he said. “Interestingly enough, I get a lot of emails from people in the U.S. asking, ‘Where is this machine made?’”
Farming Simulator has been on the market since 2008. However, it has experienced significant growth in the past two to three years. So popular is the simulator that Giants Software is now developing a South American version of the game.
Brian estimates that the game player demographics are made up of approximately 70 percent of players aged 18 years old and under, with the remaining 30 percent being over age 18. It’s interesting to consider that many of our future farmers could be cutting their teeth and developing machine preferences through a digital platform.
Why is Farming Simulator so popular? Brian is convinced it is all about the magic of creating your own machine for the games, the fact that it has no limits and the seemingly real immersion the user gets from farming in this manner.
Farming Simulator is available to buy online. Go forth, gamers, and farm!
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