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22 July 2017
I'm pleased to announce the arrival of a new train driving simulation product which will be of particular interest to fans of classic British heritage DMU's. It's called Diesel Railcar Simulator and you can find more information at the author's Diesel Railcar site. This is a payware product but priced at a very reasonable US$14.99 which is around GB£12.00 at current exchange rates. The product includes over 50 driveable route miles ranging from a four track main line reminiscent of the Midland Main Line to a rural branch line with some single track running and nice scenery. Several different types of DMU are included. I had the privilege of being invited to test the product during development and it incorporates quite a number of features that show up the bigger sims - including excellent track sounds, realistic cab sway and an immersive timetable mode. Well worth a look.
27 March 2017
On the rebound from my emerging disappointment with Train Sim World, I decided to give Run8 Version 2 (from 3D Train Stuff) a try. Wow - what a magnificent beast of a sim. Very much improved from Version 1 (which was still excellent) this has built on all that was good in Version 1 and I have to declare should be regarded as the simmers' sim of choice. The core package includes over 300 miles of Southern California route, merging the Mojave and Needles sub-division, so you can drive a train from Bakersfield, across Tehachapi and all the way across to Needles - at least an 8 hour trip. The addition of AI traffic (which you as the player dispatch) means you now have a world in which other trains are active and you can set up meets and simulate a complete day on the railroad. Even with our current eye watering £ to $ exchange rate, still worth every penny and I can't wait to start adding some of the extended collection of routes and rolling stock 3DTS have created. More information at the Run8 HomePage.
17 March 2017
Quick note to advise Dovetail Games have just released their new Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul on Steam. Had a quick play last night, obviously early days and I've posted some of my initial thoughts in this thread at Railworks America (as NorthernWarrior):
6th November 2016
It is with a sad heart that I must report this morning the passing of one of the great characters from the train simming world - Otto Wipfel, also known as Ottodad. His knowledge and expertise in MSTS and the Railworks series was unsurpassed often applying his unique and distinctive perspective to routes and always willing to help out others.
RIP Otto and condolences to your family and friends. You will be greatly missed.
3rd September 2016
Interesting and some might say exciting news from Dovetail Games. In addition to announcing the next version of the Train Simulator (Railworks) franchise, which will be known as TS2017, they have also confirmed development of an all new train sim product, based on the Unreal 4 (UE4) graphics engine, which will be known as Train Sim World. A video presentation regarding TS2017 and Train Sim World can be viewed via Dovetail's Facebook page, here.
Obviously very early days but the fact Dovetail are demonstrating a working Alpha version is encouraging. If you watch the video above, it includes details of how to qualify for beta/early access to Train Sim World. Inevitably at this stage the video raises more questions than it answers, particularly for those of us who want to create for the sim in addition to just running trains. Will there be a user level route editor? How easy will it be to use? Will some of the bugs and less user friendly elements of the current TS20xx editing suite be swept away and replaced by something that is far more user friendly and quicker to work with - e.g. autogen of scenery and an efficient easy to use terrain painting system?
28 July 2016
In the past I've been somewhat critical of Dovetail Games for neglecting the narrow gauge scene in TS20xx (Railworks) particularly following the retirement of Phorum Peninsula (aka Project Platform) a couple of years ago.
I'm very pleased to report that situation has now changed with release of a number of routes designed to appeal to narrow gauge and specialist interests. These are (in no particular order):
Forest Rail - A semi fictional Japanese rural line, okay 1067mm gauge but still narrower than standard gauge.
Wakayama & Sakurai Lines - Another Japanese 1067mm gauge line, electrified commuter/semi rural route.
Clear Creek Narrow Gauge - North American (Colorado) 3ft narrow gauge.
Corris Railway - Welsh 2' 3" narrow gauge route.
Also currently in progress and one I'm personally very keen to see - the Albula Line of the Swiss RhB.
All of the above routes (with the exception of Albula which isn't out yet) can be purchased from the TS2016 Steam Store.
29th April 2016
The site is currently in the process of being migrated to a new web host/server so apologies for any down-time while this is accomplished.
12th March 2016
A slight apology to N3V as it appears TANE overheating my laptop GPU was at least in part due to a blockage by the exhaust port. After opening up the chassis and removing the fan, I found a piece of accumulated dust/lint partly obstructing the metal fins. Now that has been removed I can run TANE at a more sustainable temperature (at the end of a 90 minute editing session last night, temp showed a reasonable 65C). That said, this is running on low end settings and I need to start switching features back on to "stress test" the results. It's also possible N3V have made some changes to the code which have reduced the GPU load slightly as - even allowing for the vent port blockage - it was the only program which caused the temperature to spike in that manner. And of course TANE still has many other issues that remain to be resolved but at least now I can actually crack on with some route building.
In other news, Zusi 3 has finally after all these years, achieved a retail release. The bad news is that it is very, very expensive - €64.00 for the standard edition and €74.00 if you want all the up to date Zusi 2 routes to run with it. That's around £50 and £60 respectively and I'm not even sure if that includes postage (the program is supplied on a USB memory stick). Years ago we might have jumped at that price but, purely IMHO, that is far too much to be asking in today's far more competitive sim market. As much as I was looking forward to this, I'm afraid I will be abstaining until the price drops to a more reasonable level. I've also heard there is very little English language support in the initial release, other than the menu system. If you are interested, more information at the Zusi Home Page (in German).
1st January 2016
A very brief Happy New Year from me and hoping that 2016 will be a good year for the train sim hobby.
27 November 2015
Just a quick note to report Steam are having their current Thanksgiving Day/Black Friday sale, including most DTG TS2016 (Railworks) items. You can pick up the core game for £8.99 which even if you already own the programme, gives you the three routes bundled with this years release - Rhine Valley, Sherman Hill and historic (1950's) Exeter to Torbay. All three routes come with a selection of useful motive power, the highlights being a GWR Castle Class steam loco on Torbay and the unique Union Pacific gas turbine on Sherman Hill. Hours of driving fun.
As an aside, I don't know whether it's because I recently bought a new graphics card (GTX950) but TS2016 now looks really good, pick a drive in the right lighting and weather conditions I would say almost life-like. A far cry I have to say from the ongoing debacle over at N3V where the first service pack (patch) is still being tested, but sad to say is not likely to do anything to transform the dated and still quintissential Trainzy appearance of the title. Having been promised "New Era" what we got was still decidedly early 2000's.
Of course DTG don't entirely get off their hook. Despite (or because of) the excellent standards now being set by the payware releases it becomes increasingly difficult to produce decent homebrew content. This is partly due to the editors remaining largely unchanged since Rail Simulator days, particularly the ghastly terrain painting tools. Which is why, having pretty much abandoned Trainz for good, I've currently gone back to route building in MSTS. It may be old, but it still offers an excellent sandbox in which to attempt one's own reproduction of a favourite prototype.
12th July 2015
I can't quite bring myself to post a full review of Trainz A New Era (TANE) and reluctant to risk getting sued, even though I know what I have to say about this trainwreck of a sim is quite true. In the meantime, check out this You Tube video which sums up the experience and frustration many users are experiencing with the game. There are some on the N3V forums and elsewhere (colloquially known as fanbois) who defend the 2003 era graphics that max out hardware and as I can attest to result in a thermal shutdown, but ask yourself whether this is worth £30 (£56 for the Deluxe version) not to mention the £27 apiece they are asking for DLC routes.
The last thing I or anyone else wants is to see N3V fail or go bankrupt, if only because that removes the Download Station (file library) that earlier versions rely on to source assets. Heck I had high hopes for TANE, wanted it to succeed and lead the way forward into the second half of this decade for train simulation. Sadly that doesn't seem to be the case, N3V having significantly downsized and both the CEO and lead programmer (who must surely shoulder the blame for this unoptimised mess) apparently being in complete denial that anything is actually wrong. They actually seem to think they delivered a good game! (Not helped by the rose tinted fanbois putting their heads in the sand and saying how wonderful it looks). A question was asked on the N3V forums the other day, "Where does Trainz go from here?" The answer has to be, not much further, but a good start would be admitting they cocked it up, firing the programmer and getting someone fresh in to unravel the mess.
15th June 2015
The people behind Railroad Tycoon 2 and Railroad Tycoon 3 are looking to do another one, called Rails To Riches (working title), under the Combine Studios banner. More information can be found at the Rails To Riches Website. Note the project is being launched via Kickstarter (crowd funding) so the same caveats apply as to the campaign run by N3V to fund their new version of Trainz - "TANE". Wishing the team best of luck, would certainly be nice to have an updated and modern version of Railroad Tycoon to play with!
5th June 2015
Just a quick heads up, if anyone had their forum account at Trainsim.com banned/deleted in the last couple of days, it would appear there was an "incident". The site owner is working to put things right so if you were affected, go to the Trainsim.com Home Page scroll down to the bottom and use the "Contact Us" button.
15th March 2015
Here's something to keep an eye on - it seems we have a new train sim in development! Check out this site for Crosstie Studios. Jointed Rail are one of the most highly regarded content creation groups for Trainz and news they are now focusing on their own train sim product is excellent news for the future of our hobby.
1st February 2015
Pleased to announce the release of my first Trainz route in 2015. This is Duchal Moor for TS12 (Version 49922) based on a small Scottish narrow gauge prototype. Available now via the N3V Download Station: KUID2:30024:20048:1 .
Not so good news for February is that N3V recently announced a further delay to the retail release of TANE. New date is 15th May 2015(?!), we shall see...
1st January 2015
Would just like to take this opportunity to wish site visitors a belated happy Christmas and best wishes for 2015. 2014 was a mixed year for the hobby both generally and on a personal note. Dovetail Games continued to consolidate TS20xx (now TS2015 formerly Railworks) as the generally accepted market leader, with a steady stream of add on DLC featuring popular routes and rolling stock and some core changes to the sim in its annual "renewal" back in September. However my perception is that TS20xx is slowly moving away from being a hobby sim. Despite ongoing flaws in the basic product (mainly physics related) and a tetchy scenario editor/inflexible AI signalling the quality of the payware output with custom models and scenery has made it virtually impossible for the lone freeware builder to match. While in the early days we had assets which could be referenced in third party projects, the trend these days is for complete bespoke model "units" of stations, bridges etc. which won't fit anywhere else. Although it was still working for me last time I checked, some have reported issues with the Google Earth API overlay no longer working in Route Editor and it certainly hammers the frame rate more than it used to. Dovetail also announced in 2014 they are working on a significant upgrade to TS20xx using the Unreal graphics engine so a development I'm sure we'll all be watching closely in the coming year. Dovetail are now very much moving into "big" developer/publisher status having recently also acquired the rights to distribute Microsoft's last version of Flight Simulator (FSX) via Steam.
N3V announced their Kickstarter to partially fund their "New Era" of Trainz and raised just over AUS$200k to invest in the project. Unfortunately as the year drew to a close it became apparent things have slipped quite badly, both in terms of timescale and perceived final quality. The decision to retain backward compatibility with older content divided opinions and I certainly came down on the side of those who would have preferred to see an all new game and a line drawn under the past. The original retail release of "TANE" was promised in December 2014 but has now slipped back to late February 2015. Beyond that, many of the promised features will still need to be added in via patches. To placate Kickstarters and pre-order customers, N3V did release a community edition of TANE in mid-December but it soon became apparent, far from being a nearly complete public beta of the final product, it still has many, many issues to resolve and doesn't look much better than TS12. Not helped by N3V's ongoing policy of simply including content plucked from that created by users which certainly doesn't show off even earlier versions to the best. (And don't mention the awful Deltic cab). Personally I think N3V are struggling and despite all the hype and promise, TANE will simply turn out to be another warmed over update, barely competing with other products available. For the time being I've asked N3V to cancel my order and refund the money, as I don't think in the short to medium term TANE has anything to offer the other versions don't already. I still hope N3V can pull it off and wish them luck, hopefully this time next year I would like to be posting that TANE is a complete success and has revolutionised how we approach our hobby...
2014 was also the first year I paid serious attention to Open Rails. This is a freeware simulation game engine, primarily created to run MSTS routes and traction in a better more stable environment. It is now in a fairly advanced state and does that very well - new lease of life to veteran content. What OR lacks at present though is its own creator tools (specifically route and scenario editors). If it has to rely on the MSTS suite of tools for new content then that offers a limited future. Hopefully the team behind OR are pursuing this as their next objective but whatever they produce needs to be more than a clone of the existing MSTS tools. I did - briefly - re-activate the MSTS RE myself in 2014 but it's a pefectly nasty experience, compared to the editors in Trainz or TS20xx, and none too reliable on modern PC's either especially when you step away from the default. I somehow don't think I'll be going back there in a hurry.
As to the rest, well Eisenbahn Pro/Exe got another makeover but too costly with a limited audience for me to try personally. Zusi 3 once again gets the end of year raspberry award for vapourware - it's nearly 10 years since the project was announced and other than a slightly made over demo no sign of it ever being commercially released. OpenBVE seems to have largely faded away and I read on a forum somewhere that the designer of BVE proper seems to have retrenched the programme back into the Japanese end user scene only.
From my own point of view, 2014 proved to be a challenging and frustrating year for building routes. Maybe the process has grown old and my heart is no longer really in it, but I started far more projects than ended up being finished and released. So my output for the year consisted of three Trainz TS12 routes, one of which was a remake of an earlier project and another a model railway layout. Just one route for TS20xx emerged this year and that was a scaled up miniature railway. As noted above I have a certain dis-content that TS20xx is moving away from the capacity and capability of amateur hobby builders. While I have resolved in 2015 to find more focus and engagement with projects but it is getting harder.
So it just remains to wish all involved with the train sim hobby good luck and good prospects for the coming year and look forward to continuing to share my own, admittedly slightly less intense, involvement via these pages.
The following are links to message boards which may be useful:
Auran Trainz Forum - the official board to discuss Auran's train sim products.
Densha de Go Board - English language forum for users of Japanese console train driving games.
Train-sim.com - US orientated discussion site.
Trainsimdev.com - New in May 2014, forum aimed at those developing content for all train sim products - meet, talk and share ideas, projects, help etc.
Transport Tycoon Forum - For TT etc. & Locomotion discussion.
Truck Pol Forum - C'mon good buddy, 10-4, rubber duck (plastic chicken) discuss all those road transport driving games out there!
Zusi - Official board of the German sim. English language section available.
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