• 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
    [email protected]

    Visit 3D Perfection Models

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