07 November 2012

Just a quick heads up that I've uploaded (successfully) another Trainz (TS12) route to the DLS. Actually, it's more of a doodle than a behomoth being based on the old Dalmunzie estate railway in the Grampian mountains of Scotland. With a fictional extension to Spital of Glenshee it's only around 4 miles in length, but I'm secretly quite pleased with it. To download you will need to be running the latest version of TS12, open CMP and search either for Dalmunzie or KUID2:30024:20252:1 . Unfortunately after building the route I discovered there's not a whole lot of narrow gauge stock (especially 2ft gauge) on the DLS so you may need to search external sites like Trainzone or SubPar for suitable items.

23rd October 2012

I've finally managed to upload a short review of Run 8.

30th September 2012

Just to confirm my Mount Hood route for Trainz TS12 has now gone live, however for now I could only upload at due to issues getting it on the N3V DLS. So if you're a member at TS, just log in and do a search for file . NB: You'll need to install the cdp's via the Trainz Content Manager and obtain the required dependencies from the DLS.

In other news, it looks as if the Zusi 3 demo has received another update. Grab it via this page. Hopefully that means full release not far away though I'm still not holding my breath.

27th September 2012

I've just updated the Railworks page with a few thoughts on RSC's latest incarnation of their game, now known as TS2013.

In other news, I'm getting quite close to releasing another route for Trainz (TS12) based on the Mount Hood Railroad in Oregon USA. It's just undergoing final testing and it will be uploaded to the N3V/Auran DLS in the next few days. More information to follow.

9 September 2012

Unless you've been living under a train simming rock for the last few weeks, you've probably read elsewhere that are undertaking their round of annual changes to the Railworks programme. First off, it will be called Train Simulator 2013 (TS2013) and it appears all references to Railworks have been dropped. Detail on core changes of particular interest to simulation enthusiasts are thin on the ground, but what has been announced is support for the XBox 360 (PC) game controller to drive a train, a new "Quick Drive" feature to get started on a route quickly and access to Steam Workshop which is essentially a repository for user created material.

The upgrade path is also somewhat complicated.

Existing users of Railworks 3 will get the TS2013 upgrade but no additional content.

However as TS2013 includes new routes, in a departure from the normal Steam process existing users will be allowed to order TS2013 and add it to their existing install as a means of getting the routes cheap. The new routes are Sherman Hill (US), London to Brighton (UK), the reworked Isle of Wight (UK) and the Northeast Corridor (US). Of these only Sherman Hill is not already available as payware DLC. There was also mention of a German high speed route (Munich to Augsburg) but this is not referenced on the UK Steam order page.

The sting in the tail is that all new users to TS2013 will only get the "new" routes. They won't get the original routes such as Somerset and Dorset, Cajon Pass etc. or the associated motive power and rolling stock. More importantly they won't get the assets in the original Kuju folders. That means new users to TS2013 will not be able to use 99.9% of the existing freeware (and some payware) which relies on these assets. Now it appears RSC are working on some method of making this content available via Steam, but whether this will be complimentary or paid for remains to be seen.

What this may lead to in practice is multiple levels of TS2013 ownership, depending on which content you have and when you started with the programme. In my view, not good news at all for the hobby (freeware) developer or the independent payware producer for that matter. More to follow when TS2013 arrives...

I'm happy to report that things are going a little better with Run 8 now than when I posted 3 days ago and I have managed to (almost) haul a freight train up from Bakersfield to the summit at Tehachapi. Put it down 33% to user error (me), 66% to the erratic documentation and 1% bad luck! I've started work on the review but it will be a fairly lengthy process as it is not the easiest title to evaluate. Already evident from the forums much divided opinion over all sorts of aspects and those also need to be taken into account, not to mention compensating for my own lack of interest in multiplayer which of course is the primary means for which the sim has been designed.

27th August 2012

Run 8 was released a few days ago and I'm currently evaluating with a view to writing up a full review. However, in the meantime the following extract from a post I made at on the "First Impressions" thread may be of interest/use:

"Install went easily enough but game wouldn't run. A passive check of the Run8 forum revealed this likely to be because I hadn't installed the XNA framework. Sure enough, found that and after installing able to get Run 8. A minor hurdle but given this is a retail product, would have been better if the installer checked the user's system for XNA and offer to install if not found.

Front end menu, well... This is not a very good shopfront at all for the product. As noted elsewhere the manual/help screens have not yet been written. To start a run in SP mode there's a list of train headcodes (to use the UK terminology) on the RHS of the screen, but no description as to what the trains are in terms of power, consist or starting location. I happen to know that the BKDOU (or similar) is the loaded oil tanks from Bakersfield over to Mojave which seemed a good place to start.

After poring over the keyboard instructions posted at I eventually grasped that I needed to move towards the train in freeview mode and select the lead engine to get on board. Up pops a menu with various parameters, I opted for quick start and quick handbrake release. Ctrl-F11 is not exactly mnenomic to get in the cab, but once aboard and set the switches and breakers as described in the forums, there was a nagging EOT message on the MFD. This meant getting off the loco and "walking" (quick travel didn't work) to the rear of the train to set the EOT. Once that was done Ctrl-F11 put me back in the front cab and we're off to Mojave - or so I thought.

At this point a word about the Despatcher screen. It is beautifully designed and a credit to the artist but... the most important functionality - interlocking - appears non-existent. I was able to clear signals in opposite directions which would have caused a collision, I was able to clear signals with points set against them and able to move points while the signal was cleared over them. I also noticed passage of the train was not putting signals back to red behind it. So never mind the kiddies getting in a MMO session and causing havoc, it would be quite easy for whoever is acting as despatcher to overlook something and with no interlocking cause a collision or derailment.

Meanwhile back on the "high iron", chugging along merrily, progress did not exactly seem very gainful, the 1% grade up to Sandcut having reduced speed to around 18 MPH. On a hunch, I called up the DPU screen on the MFD to see if the locos behind mine were working but nothing shown. So it appears (correct me if I'm wrong) on the train prep you need to individually start each loco? Also appears you need to nominate the lead DPU but should that be the loco behind the head end unit or the first mid-train? I know, I'll Read The Flipping Manual - oh dear, there isn't one.

In order to do this I had stopped the train. Following the procedure detailed in one of the text documents I applied Notch 2, released the brakes and promptly started to roll back. Obviously still not got all the locos powering so I went to apply the brakes (which BTW I'm assuming are self lapped positional rather than set and lap) to find there was no pressure in the system, the compressor running was not recharging the main res - eek... runaway!

At this point I did a Casey Jones and jumped to drive another day, i.e. exited the programme.

BTW the Save function is undocumented and only found after scrutinising the Run 8 forum.

Anyhow in conclusion. I actually think Run 8 has great potential but it has tremendous wrinkles and strikes me as still being a work in progress. This should never have been put out in such a raw state and needed a couple of months extra to tidy things up, put a decent front end on it and write up some decent documentation. It is definitely a product for the hardcore simmer. Anyone coming straight from driving a Class 166 turbo in Railworks is going to be in for a massive shock. The learning curve is almost vertical. Run 8 would benefit from a proper structured tutorial and in addition to Tehachapi maybe they should have included a shorter, flat route where noobs could cut their teeth on basic train handling before attempting to traverse the mountains. I think it is worth persevering with but it needs tidying up by the developer fairly quickly and the lack of interlocking on the signalling is a major bug that shouldn't have made it through beta."

15th May 2012

From information gleaned off various forums, it appears the author of the excellent OpenBVE programme has decided to call it a day and cease further development on the simulation. Some more information can be found looking through posts at the BVE Worldwide forum and it does appear as if others are intending to step up to the plate and try to keep things going. However it is nevertheless still a sad moment for the train sim hobby as OpenBVE complemented the original BVE programme and included some powerful features, such as the ability to mix and match routes and trains without having to rewrite the route csv files.

2012 so far not proving to be one of the better years for the train sim hobby, apart from Railworks and its rampant payware big business model, we have had no further news on Zusi 3 despite last year's demo version (it's been nearly six months), still nothing concrete from Cascade Game Foundry as to whether they're doing a train sim and apart from Run 8 which I mentioned in January not much new on the horizon. At this rate I will be reinstalling FSX or buying Flight!!

10th May 2012

Myself and UK Trainsim... Just a quick note to advise that I will no longer be posting on the UKTS forum, having closed my "bigvern" account after some ten years of membership. My views on Railworks and its developer have led to friction previously with the moderation policy over there and this spiked again yesterday evening following a rather forthright expression of my views about the subject of DLC withdrawals by the publisher/developer. From a warning message sent to me, it appears I am (was) regarded as a disruptive influence (me!!). So rather than suffer the ignominy of being banned I decided to fall on my sword and terminate my membership.

In practical terms this means I will no longer be able to provide any support on their forum for my work hosted on the UKTS file library. I have already removed a few minor files, scenarios etc. which were largely obsolete or run their course anyway. I am still considering what to do with my Railworks routes hosted there and will leave in place for at least the next couple of weeks, but with my interest in Railworks fast dwindling and the advent of much better content both freeware and from the DLC factory I am seriously thinking about retiring them. My own path now lies in developing content for Trainz as I feel Railworks no longer represents the kind of community sim I campaigned for and have much interest in supporting.

I still intend to remain active on the various other forums I frequent, particularly (as NorthernWarrior) and the N3V Trainz forum (as Vern).

2nd May 2012

Further to my note on 21st April, have clarified what users can and cannot do with assets from DLC content. The full text is reproduced here on their Facebook Page. (Apologies for linking to Facebook but it seems that is RSC's preferred method of communication these days). So my interpretation and that of the general community, is that so far as route building is concerned it is okay to reference assets from RSC DLC, providing this is not actually packaged and bundled with the route.

23rd April 2012

The Swindon to Cirencester route for Trainz TS12 is now available on the Auran/N3V DLS.

21st April 2012

Work on my current route project, the Swindon to Cirencester railway for Trainz TS12, is almost complete and should be uploaded over the weekend to the N3V (Auran) Download Station. I've put together a short page with some information about the project, here.

Those of you who follow the Railworks forums may be aware of an issue that has popped up in the last couple of days. Following a response by Technical Support to a query, it appears route builders should not be using (referencing) assets in their own projects from routes purchased as official RSC/Steam DLC. Apparently we are only allowed to use the default assets supplied with the core game. This has caused considerable concern amongst route builders as many publicly released freeware projects (including some of mine) reference assets from various DLC's released over the life of the sim. I have emailed RSC support myself requesting clarification and thus far have received a holding message to say they are considering the matter. So my advice to Railworks route builders is, it might be worth hanging fire ticking all those developer boxes on your latest route project, if it turns out you shouldn't be using the items (even though they are only referenced and their use guarantees more DLC sales for RSC... ).

18th January 2012

Best wishes to everyone for the New Year (a little late I know) and hoping 2012 will see further improvements to our train simming hobby. I can certainly start the ball rolling with a couple of pieces of good news:

Digital Traction are a well respected maker of add on content for Railworks, their collection of Mark One coaches are pretty much essential to augment the default types. The developer is currently running a "blowout" sale on all items, at 75% off. That means for example the Class 40 which normally costs £10.00 plus VAT can be purchased for £2.50 + VAT = £3.00. I've just purchased several pieces including the Class 40 and can vouch that these are quality add-ons which will provide many hours of enjoyment. The Class 40 in particular is very nicely modelled with a superb cab and sound set - an excellent rendition of these iconic machines. The sale runs until 25th January so you have a week or so to take advantage of the offer.

Many people will remember 3D TrainStuff as a developer and publisher of add-on content for MSTS and I was involved many years ago now with their first Cambrian Coast pack, as lead route builder. They have just announced via a company called Run 8, that they are developing an all new train simulation programme for release later this year. Not much more information other than what's on their site at present, but the preview pictures of the Tehachapi (?) route look very compelling. Hopefully I'll have more to report on this as the year unfolds.


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