I realize the Heart of Russia DLC must already be pretty far into production, but I hope it is still not too late to contribute some research tips and other information.
I. Some feedback on Heart of Russia screenshots so far
I have to say, everything looks amazing and very authentic!
However, I just want to point out one minor detail that I believe can really increase immersion. The generic containers on the right in this screenshot, which some of us believe is based on this location, should be painted to match those in real life: dark grey bottom half (RAL 7035 or #CBD0CC), light grey top half (RAL 7040 or #9DA3A6), and a thin red line (RAL 3020 or #C1121C) in the middle. This is the official color scheme of Russian Railroads, and they paint almost everything they can like this. If there is any object alongside a railroad - a fence, an electrical box, a maintenance building etc. - there is a good chance it will be painted in these colors.
II. Research tips about Russia in general
- I’m sure you guys already know this, but Yandex Maps street view can be a useful alternative to Google sometimes. More importantly, it also has a great feature called Mirrors (Зеркала) - a vast collection of user-submitted dashcam recordings placed on the map, similar to Mapillary. Mirrors cover a lot of roads that street view doesn't, and often have much more up-to-date footage than street view. And they cover a lot of Belarus as well.
- Wikimapia is an amazing research tool with information about pretty much every object on the map (albeit mostly in Russian), be it an important massive monument or some random godforsaken shed somewhere. Unfortunately, it is somewhat broken (satellite layers often don’t work).
- Here is a route calculator for truckers. The third button from the right in the top-right corner (“Показать ограничение для грузовых Т/С”) will highlight roads that have restrictions for trucks. Zooming in on a restricted road segment will reveal a sign showing the exact nature of the restriction (complete, by weight, by height, for dangerous cargo, etc.). Be advised, however, that the restrictions shown on the map may not always be accurate to reality.
- Here is a map of gas stations in Russia, which can be searched by brands, regions and major routes.
- For researching cities: here is a map of bus lanes in every city, and here is a similar map of tram tracks. Tracks isolated from the rest of the traffic are shown in green.
- And just in case, here is an extensive map of road construction works across the country, with links to forum threads where users collect photos and information about each construction project.
- Again, I'm sure you already know about some of these, but there are extensive official state standards (GOSTs) for virtually everything, including:
- ГОСТ Р 52290-2004: road signs and their design
- ГОСТ Р 51256-2018: road markings
- ГОСТ Р 52289-2019: application of all the road signs, road markings, traffic lights etc.
- Recently, a bunch of new signs and regulations were introduced after a period of limited experimentation in select cities. They became official in ГОСТ Р 58398-2019.
- As Snark pointed out, the circle is now the priority road on roundabouts. The roundabouts in Beyond the Black Sea should be updated to reflect this.
- Another recent change is the introduction of "waffle grids" (box junctions) on select intersections (examples: Moscow, Smolensk, Kazan, Oryol, Tula). They are becoming more and more common; however, because street view footage is often outdated, you will not always see them there. Here is a map of them in Moscow as of 2018, but it is not up-to-date, because new "waffles" kept appearing since then.
- Many traffic lights, especially in cities, have a timer: when the yellow light isn't on, it will instead display a countdown towards the green or the red light (video example). Furthermore, drivers will sometimes encounter these new modern-looking flat traffic lights (example). If they have an additional turn signal, there will be a red circular contour around the turn signal that lights up when the arrow is turned off (example). It would be great to see these features implemented in the game.
- Speed control cameras and radars are common. In addition to the official ones operated by the traffic police, there are those operated by snitches private individuals or organisations.
- There is a road tax/toll system for trucks over 12t called "Платон" (Platon). It is paid by either planning and reporting for your route in advance, or by using an onboard device that evaluates your route in the process. Official site (has English version).
- There are many points of weight control, which can be found either standalone or near the outposts of the traffic police (ДПС, a.k.a. Road Patrol Service of the GIBDD). They come in three flavours:
- Stationary: an outpost with scales fixed into the ground. It looks like they are becoming a thing of the past though.
- Mobile: certified dedicated spots where a weight control inspection van can come and set up mobile scales.
- Automatic: a frame with radars, with scales built into the road underneath. They are supposed to automatically detect overweight (and oversize) cargo without the involvement of an inspector, but are more prone to errors. Here is a video.
Also, this last site also seems to serve as an advertisement/job market board for tipper cargo and related jobs, so in other tabs you can find locations of some quarries and concrete plants.
- To expand upon what Snark said: whenever you enter a region, a subregion (district), a city/town, or a district of a city, you will very often see a stele or a monument of some sort bearing the name of the place you are entering. See the "Entry sign" search term on Yandex Maps, or the "указатель, памятный знак, стела" category on Wikimapia.
- For creating building models: there are many various types of generic Soviet and Russian apartment blocks that populate Russian cities, and some of them are quite iconic and recognizable. Here is an extensive guide to different types (series) of apartment blocks and their variations.
- The common types of apartment buildings vary from region to region. Overall there are a lot of 5-9-floor buildings, but in large cities they will go up to 16-17 floors. Here is a breakdown of building series popular in provincial cities. And then there are some iconic series of buildings that are especially common in Moscow and Moscow Oblast (I'll talk about them later).
- A random detail: a somewhat iconic element of the Russian countryside is a Rozhnovsky water tower, so look out for these on the horizons (example).
- An even more random detail: on roads, pavements and on the ground in cities, one can find a lot of types of manhole covers, but perhaps the most iconic ones are these designs with waves and radiating curves.
- Manhole cover designs are required to have a letter code on them (usually in the centre, but it can be anywhere as long as it lies on the line connecting the two handles) indicating the type of infrastructure it leads to (e.g. В - water supply, К - sewer, Д - storm drain, Г/ПГ - fire hydrant, Т - telephone and so on, full list here).
- Here is a way too thorough examination of different manhole covers in Russia (partly even has English translations!).
- Of course, there are lots of industries of all kinds in Russia, especially to do with extraction and refinement of natural resources. Typically, even a small town will have some kind of local manufacturing, like a bread factory or a dairy factory.
- Just a small tip for designing fictional companies for the game: many plants and factories retain authentic but rather unoriginal Soviet-era names like "[City/town name] [Product name] Factory/Plant" or "[Product name] Factory/Plant «[City/town name]»" (for example: "Bryansk Machine-Building Plant" in Bryansk, "Plant of sterilized milk «Mozhayskiy»" in Mozhaysk), even as modern private companies.
- Retail. There are various big countrywide chains of hypermakets (Lenta, Auchan, METRO C&C, Karusel, Globus), smaller supermarkets (Magnit, Pyatyorochka, Dixy, Perekryostok), home improvement stores (Leroy Merlin, OBI, Castorama and of course IKEA) and large electronics stores (M.Video and Eldorado) that can be parodied in the game.
- Note that in large cities, these big stores are usually found within larger shopping centers, rather than as standalone locations - and yes, trucks do deliver to them. Furthermore, shopping centers will often contain several large stores under one roof, so for some locations the introduction of multi-company depots would be appropriate. In particular, large IKEA stores in Russia are almost always found within larger MEGA shopping centers, which are operated by IKEA Group and usually also contain an Auchan and an OBI or a Leroy Merlin.
- In regards to Magnit and Pyatyorochka especially: with over 16000 locations each, they are extremely common and recognizable, so parodies of these two brands would be a very welcome inclusion at least as scenic companies, like Mebeland and Bon Market.
Also, I just wanted to put it somewhere: here is a random Magnit truck in the wild, and here is a random Lenta one.
- Russia doesn't have any Carrefour or Lidl stores, so the re-use of the corresponding fictional brands Kaarfor and Bon Market wouldn't be appropriate.
- Closely related to the above, retail companies tend to have massive distribution centers (examples: 1, 2, 3), which is something we're yet to see in ETS2.
- One thing I need to mention is that, at least from what I see, Russian truck trailers often don't have elaborate designs with company logos like we see in the game, but are instead plain white, grey or blue. If there is a logo, it usually tends to be a foreign company trailer.
III. Moscow (and surrounding areas) research tips
As Moscow is the largest (or second largest, depending on how you count Istanbul) city in Europe, there is a lot to talk about here. I imagine that the choice of companies largely defines the final road network, so I'll start with these.
Industries and companies in Moscow (and some surrounding areas)
- First and foremost, as an ever-growing enormous city, Moscow is FULL of construction sites, pretty much everywhere you look. Especially the construction of high-rise residential buildings and various transport infrastructure such as highways, interchanges and railroads. Here is a map of active construction sites. Because of this, trucks carrying building materials and machinery are a very common sight in Moscow.
- One particular kind of construction site deserves its own mention. Moscow Metro is a famous landmark in itself and is the busiest metro system anywhere in the world outside of Asia. It is constantly being expanded, with dozens of active metro construction sites. This blog has a great coverage of them. The majority of metro tunnels nowadays are constructed with specialized machines using pre-cast concrete 6m⌀ segments, and you can often see them being delivered by flatbeds around the city. I honestly think that it would be a mistake to not represent the metro construction aspect in the game at least in some way.
- Moving on to actual industries. Although much of industrial activity in Moscow has ceased or relocated out of the city, there are still many notable plants and industrial zones. The biggest is the Moscow Oil Refinery in Kapotnya, operated by Gazprom (map).
- Another significant one is the Renault automobile plant in Pechatniki district, which occupies the territory of a former Soviet automobile plant (map).
- Wimm-Bill-Dann (formerly the Lianozovsky dairy plant) is a major producer of dairy products and fruit drinks, holding a 34% share in all dairy products in Russia. It is owned by PepsiCo and has a factory and distribution center in the Vostochnoye Degunino district (map).
- Krasny Oktyabr (Red October), a.k.a. Babaevsky, a.k.a. RotFront - formerly three distinct very famous Soviet confectionary brands that have since been absorbed into one company, United Confectioners, and relocated their production to the Babaevsky confectionary factory in Krasonselsky district (map). I kid you not, the smell of chocolate can sometimes be felt a mile away.
- Ochakovo is a popular Russian brand that produces both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Their sizable plant is located in, well, Ochakovo district (map).
- Then there are some more generic industrial zones, such as Kaloshino in Golyanovo district (map). In particular, it contains the concrete plant MosPromZhelezoBeton (map), which, among other things, produces those tunnel segments for the aforementioned metro construction sites.
- This is a very obvious thing to point out, but Moscow has four international airports, out of which three are notably significant: Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo and Vnukovo were the 8th, 22nd and 29th busiest airports in Europe in 2019.
- On the south, just outside of MKAD, we have Food City, an enormous wholesale food retailer (map). It is a sight to behold for sure. Just look at all these trucks, it's insane:
- Moving further out of the city, there are many, many warehouses and distribution centers located alongside major highways near Moscow. In particular, this company has some notable massive logistics centers around Moscow (as well as other regions), including Istra, Noginsk, Pushkino and Sever.
- One warehouse complex that stands out even more is the 540 000 m² Severnoye Domodedovo logistics complex (map).
- Not far from it is the warehouse of Miratorg, a major Russian producer and distributor of meat (map). Miratorg is notable for doing pretty much everything meat-related, from the production of animal fodder and farming to the production and distribution of meats and pre-cooked meals, and even running their own supermarkets and burger cafes.
You might have noticed a random Miratorg truck in the wild in Ruza when I was showing examples of city entry signs.
- Further south along the M-4 is a big Scania dealer and service center (map). Oh, and a lot more warehouses to the east.
- To the west of Moscow, along the M-1, there is a Liebherr warehouse and service center (map). I find all the excavators and cranes stored in the open to be quite a fascinating sight when driving past there. Also note that there are expansive construction works on the M-1 as it is currently being upgraded and will include paid segments.
- Further west there is this cluster of interesting locations (map), which includes another Scania center, several car dealers, and a customs terminal with a truck stop.
- On the M-9 there is Major City, a giant complex with dozens of car dealers (map). There is even a logistics warehouse in the back.
- There is one other interesting place that I wanted to point out: in Dologoprudny, just to the north of Moscow, there is a cluster of yacht clubs with a yacht shop and service center (map). And while we're there, further towards the Sheremetyevo airport, past an impressive warehouse of a yet another logistics company, there are truck dealers for DAF and Ford. (hint-hint!)
Moscow Automobile Ring Road (MKAD)
MKAD can probably be considered the main road of Moscow, so I want to give it its own section.
- Here is a 10 minute timelapse from 2016 of someone driving around the entirety of MKAD, starting from here counterclockwise.
- All the exits on MKAD are numbered and are usually marked on the top of directional signs, as well as sometimes on dedicated smaller signs.
- There are a lot of pedestrian overpasses over MKAD. Most of them have one of several generic designs (this, this or this), but there are a few that stand out due to having unique designs, which I will point out below.
- On MKAD, drivers will encounter large overhead LED color screens displaying warnings and other useful (or useless) information, with electronic speed limit signs underneath. Here are some examples of displayed messages:
- "Always buckle up, regardless of the choice of seat! Stay safe! Have a good journey!"
- "No stopping on MKAD! In case of a traffic accident drive onto the roadside"
- "8th of March - Happy Women's Day!"
- "Satrting from November 7th, dedicated bus lanes will be in effect daily. Be careful!"
- "If there is an obstacle or an accident ahead, slow down and turn on hazard lights! Help each other by warning about danger!"
- "Keep a distance of 1.5-2 m from others"
- "Motorcyclists are with us! Watch your mirrors!"
- "The segment of M-5 from A-107 to A-108 is closed for trucks. Detour via M-4"
- "Rizhskaya metro station is closed for repairs until August 2021. Use the free compensatory buses between Prospekt Mira and Rizhskaya stations"
- "Cameras will start detecting unbuckled belts and talking on the phone while driving. Follow the rules!" (sheesh...)
- "Children are nearby! Slow down near schools! Be careful!"
- "Make way for the ambulance!"
- "In case of an accident on MKAD, exit onto the roadside, call 112"
- These residential buildings of the 6A microdistrict of Reutov, a city bordering Moscow (street view)
- Vykhino metro depot (street view)
- A pedestrian overpass with a notable unique design (street view)
- The infamous Sadovod shopping complex, an enormous marketplace of dubious legality (street view). Behind it is the aforementioned Moscow Oil Refinery, and on the opposite side of MKAD is a MEGA mall containing IKEA, OBI and Auchan.
- The Besedinsky Bridges across the Moskva river and the building of the Yuzhnye Vorota (Southern Gates) Bus Terminal (street view). Further south is another unique pedestrian overpass with a cheerful design (street view)
- VEGAS, an enormous shopping mall (one of at least three in Moscow) (street view)
- ТЭЦ-26, the largest thermal power and heating station in Moscow (but not the only one visible from MKAD) (street view)
- The iconic Moscow entrance monument on the interchange with M2/E105 (street view)
- The triangular building of the Avtograd car dealer (street view)
- The aforementioned Ochakovo plant (street view)
- The Bakulev Centre for Cardiovascular Surgery (street view)
- The buildings of the Moscow Oblast government and the Moscow Oblast court (street view). Right next to them is the enormous Crocus City expo and shopping complex containing another VEGAS mall among other things (street view). Further north are the Spassky Bridges across the Moskva river with a panoramic view of the Strogino bay (street view). Finally, on the other side of the river is the building of the Gvozd (Nail) shopping centre, which has an appropriate design and is honestly the most interesting thing out of this entire bunch (street view)
- The Khimkinsky Bridges with a view of the Moscow Canal, with the Khimki Arena visible to the side behind the Novatorov glass building (street view)
- ТЭЦ-21, another major thermal power and heating station. (street view)
- The Hanoi-Moscow building (street view)
- Along other major roads in Moscow, there are almost 200 or so smaller screens displaying similar messages to those on MKAD. Here is a blog introducing them, and here is a map of their locations (as of 2016, but all the screens are still there today as far as I can tell). Here are some examples of displayed messages:
- "Attention! A dedicated bus lane is in effect on the Novaya Bashilovka street"
- "Be careful! Obey speed limits"
- "Don't stop on the waffle road marking! Fine - 1000 roubles"
- "Rizhskaya metro station is closed for repairs until August 2021. Use the compensatory buses between Prospekt Mira and Rizhskaya stations"
- A traffic light isn't working? A sign is broken? Call 3210
- Distance and estimated time of arrival to main highways
- Information about changes in the organization of traffic ahead
- "Motorcyclists are with us! Car drivers, don't forget about turning signals!"
- "Make way for the ambulance!"
- Since 5 years ago or so, many old bus stops in Moscow are being replaced with fancy new ones. Here is a whole presentation about their design. A few months ago I even caught one in the process of being installed - perhaps this could be an idea for a background NPC scene or a random event or something?
- Please note that the above applies to Moscow itself only. Moscow and the surrounding parts of the Moscow Oblast might look like one big uniform urban area, but they are two different jurisdictions and there are notable differences in their infrastructure. The Moscow Oblast is gradually updating their bus stops as well, but their new bus stops look different. They have three designs: "City center" , "City standard" and the brutalist "Intercity", although the last one, thankfully, doesn't appear to be commonly used, if it all.
- Back to Moscow proper: another new feature that is showing up everywhere is Velobike - a network of bike renting stations. Most of them are in the central parts of the city, but they are starting to appear on the outskirts as well, so I think a trucker is likely to encounter one. An interactive map is supposed to be here, but it doesn't seem to work properly, however you can simply search "Velobike" on Yandex Maps instead.
- Coming back to the topic of typical series of apartment blocks, here are some that I'd say are especially common in Moscow:
- II-18 buildings come in 9-floor and 12-floor flavours. Usually these are white single-entrance blocks made out of panels, but there is also a rare brick-built variant.
- There are multiple variations of II-68, but I believe the basic model is the most iconic and recognizable: a grey single-entrance block with the front side completely covered in balconies. Has 16, and less commonly 12 or 14 floors.
- П-3 and П-44 are newer, and are considered to be some of the most durable and successful series. Their modern variations are still being built today.
- Э-93 are brick-built towers with 9 to 14 floors. They are actually non-existent in Moscow, but appear to be common in the Moscow Oblast.
- II-18 buildings come in 9-floor and 12-floor flavours. Usually these are white single-entrance blocks made out of panels, but there is also a rare brick-built variant.
Well, this is all for today. I plan to add more info in the future, in particular about AI traffic, more landmarks and interesting places, and companies in other cities and regions.
I hope any of this has been helpful!