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  • The 3D Sounds Package


    The 3D Sounds Package


    By Nels Anderson (30 April 2003)







    One aspect of simulation that can get easily overlooked is sound. Humans
    tend to be more visually oriented and thus more easily impressed by the
    visual elements...whether the sky looks right, the color of a freight
    car's livery, the correct number of rivets. But sound does add to the
    experience, perhaps more than we sometimes realise.



    Kuju/Microsoft didn't do a bad job with the default sounds, but like most
    default features there is room for improvement especially for non-default
    circumstances. 3D Perfection Models has taken up the challenge of offering
    improved sounds with their The 3D Sounds Package. I've been
    giving this add-on a workout, so let me share what I've found.






    What's Included



    The main thing that's included is, obviously, sounds. According to
    the box the sounds are true to life reproductions recorded from
    actual trains. That's certainly a reasonable thing to do. To show
    off the sounds they've also included a Union Pacific GP20 locomotive
    (well, two actually, since it's offered in two different numbers)
    plus rolling stock including box cars, coal hoppers and cement
    hoppers. There are multiple versions of each type, making for a total
    of 15 pieces of rolling stock. The screen shots show most of the
    included rolling stock as well as the GP20 cab. Finally, three
    activities taking place on the default Marias Pass route are
    available, each of which uses the included locomotives and cars and
    serve to demonstrate the sounds they make.



    Of course, if this were all the usefullness of the new sounds would be
    limited. The designers obviously considered this and so included a series
    of three tutorials in .wmv format to view. Each is short and not overly
    technical but they cover the basics involved in editing the files that are
    used to determine how rolling stock works and should allow users to add the
    new sounds to their own favorite cars.



    Also included is a PDF file documenting the available sounds plus additional
    PDF's for each activity.






    Running The Activities



    Using the supplied activities is the easiest way to get started. Each is
    a freight job on the Marias Pass and in total about three hours of train
    driving are involved.



    The first thing I saw here really impressed me...these activities are
    actually documented thoroughly! Other activity designers could take a
    lesson here. Each activity has its own PDF (Adobe Acrobat) file with
    detailed charts of the yards with the required moves clearly labeled;
    see the sample page on the right. Combined with the usual text
    briefing and occasional pop-ups during the actual running it's
    actually possible to complete these activities correctly the first
    time without the confusion that often accompanies others that I've
    tried. If this group comes out with an activity package add-on that's
    done as well as this small sample I'd have no difficulty in
    recommending it!



    The activities were fun to run and also a good reminder that there's some
    nice scenery on the default routes, something I'd sort of forgotten having
    not run them in a while. As for demonstrating the sounds, they did that
    too...






    The Sounds Package



    It took me a while to realize it, but the supplied sounds really are better
    than the originals and in fact do make the sim noticeably more realistic.
    It's a subtle thing but having heard the 3D Perfection sounds going back to
    the defaults make them more noticeably lacking.



    The default trains are just too quiet. You get those random squeeks,
    rattles and squeals as the train goes by, but there's all too much silence
    inbetween. The 3D Perfection package changes that...the train now has
    presence...close your eyes and you still hear large vehicles rolling
    by. You hear wheels rolling, flanges catching, even the occasional flat
    wheel.



    Also added are startup and slowdown sounds. Again, the difference is
    subtle but it's especially nice on stopping to hear that little squeal as
    the brakes catch and the train comes to a halt.






    Customizing



    Of course, the value of the package would be very limited if you could
    only use the included 15 cars and two locomotives, but in fact it's quite
    easy to use the new sounds with your own rolling stock. In fact, in most
    cases all that's required is changing one line in the .wag file for a car
    so even quite a large number of cars can be changed in short order.



    I enjoy running 1950's era equipment, with early diesels and 40 foot box
    cars so I thought I'd add the jointed rail sounds included to a consist
    and take that on the road. First, I figured I'd better take a "before"
    reading so I started up with the default sounds, only to find...there
    weren't any! I'd never noticed before (a certain example of how sounds
    can get overlooked) but my 40 foot box cars had no sound...none at all.






    Not to be stopped, I did some digging and found that they all had an
    error in the .wag file, an extra parenthesis that in effect made the file
    end early causing everything after (including the sound definition...and
    the brakes!) to be ignored. I mentioned this in the forums and apparently
    it's a fairly widespread problem. At least it was easily fixed and I was
    back on the road with the all too quiet default sounds.



    After a short run, it was back out of train-sim and with just a few
    minutes of editing .wag files I was ready to go again with the new 3D
    Perfections sounds installed. Sure enough, it worked and now my custom
    cars have that same "presence" as do the sample cars.



    Depending on the size of your rolling stock collection it could take a while
    to change over, but it's not a bad task. You might also want to leave some
    cars with the original sounds, just for variety sake.



    Conclusion



    I wasn't quite sure what to make of this add-on when it first arrived, but
    having tried it, it really works and it does make a difference to that
    overall "as real as it gets" goal that we all seek. It's easier to use than
    I would have first imagined and the tutorials on how to make it work are of
    value in a general sense for anyone who has not previously learned how to
    edit train-sim files.



    I'll be editing the sounds into more of my rolling stock and I'm sure any
    other train-simmers would enjoy doing the same.






    Nels Anderson

    nels@trainsim.com




    Visit 3D Perfection Models

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