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Thread: Developing A Railroad Simulator

  1. #1
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    Apr 2001
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    Default Developing A Railroad Simulator

    So before I take anything else too personal (a weakness of mine) I thought I'd share my thoughts. I also want to introduce my background, what I've done, bring to the table, and need to learn. This is going to be a long one. The grammar will not be perfect, but if I can understand Unity developers in broken English, I'm sure you will forgive my butchering of the queen's English. After I go over everything I'll get into what it takes to be a developer and why things are the way things are in my opinion.

    I've worked full time for several years now. I'm fortunately not to have overtime but a nice steady Monday to Friday job. It pays the bills, and allows me to enjoy the rest of my spare time with my son, and perusing all my hobbies.

    I've been involved with train simulator all the way back to Siam text based, to the early graphic sims, MSTS, TD3, FYM, Run8, and Trainz2019. Along the way I've tried to be creative in achieving my own personal goals in the sims. At times I have developed my own systems within the RTS umbrella. With Run8 I was able to go beyond simple procedures, and wrote the first beta of Railroad Transportation Simulator that worked with version 1. So before V2 it was my software that dealt with waybills, created full train loads to spawn, provided switch lists, etc.

    My hobby programming experience started with a Commodore 64 into my early teens. It became the foundation of my original career path graduating in Information Systems from Niagara College. I only achieved 2 years of work experience under my belt. Tried to get into more entry level data positions to get a foot in the door. Eventually finding my stride in shipping and logistics over the past 10 years. Despite the career change my aspirations for hobby programming continue to this day.

    RTS was originally designed in my early to late teens as I applied what I learned in school, and hobby programming. I dreamt of a 3d simulator long before the first one came on the scene. The crazy thing is there are some parts that have designed that nobody has produced exactly the way I thought of. What often happens I find is along comes another version of something and it has enough of what I'm looking for and I settle in.

    My programming concepts have gone beyond just train simulators. I have several ideas for better ship simulators taking advantage of being close to the Welland Canal and seeing something you can't find on any simulator. That is working locks for these big ships.

    Technology has changed quite a bit over the years. The graphics ability has constantly increased. More and more developers are also taking advantage of game engines such as Unity and Unreal Engine. Personally I have both but I'm currently trying my skills and learning the craft behind Unity and C# (which I learned in my schooling but never really applied it). But there is also a trend beyond the PC as more people enter the world of VR or settle in doing things with their phones.

    So this leads into what it takes to develop a railroad simulator. It takes patience, passion, and most of all time and manpower. Keep in mind there are plenty of games on Steam in many different genres that get massive approval ratings. But it seems that train simulators do not please everyone. It may please the vocal majority, but what about the silent ones just passing through. The genre keep in mind is a micro-niche which means demand is not as strong as many of the other games you see out there. Most I feel who develop train sims are passionate about railroads. I know some of the bigger companies have their passionate members, but they are also on bigger budgets, many are like me in their spare time after work trying their best to achieve THEIR dreams.

    Now did you get that - THEIR DREAMS. Developers should be open to criticism of their product. In fact I can tell you for the limited work I've done in the hobby, developers and creators are their own worst critics. Developers also look for support from the community. They want to include ideas that are in line with THEIR DREAMS to make it OUR DREAMS. But as small of a niche railroad sims are it's a huge complicated web of various functions. Some like operations, MP, virtual art work, not to mention all the global differences on how railroads operate on every corner of the world.

    But every company, group, team, and individual involved in developing anything for a railroad simulator has their own agenda and goals to achieve. On the high end it may be profit driven, and they could be receiving funds from a developer. Those developers have deadlines, time constraints, budgets, etc. Some do it with very little help, may or may not be full time in it, and could easily have only a few hours a week.

    So yes right now I'm actively developing RTS - Railroad Transportation Simulator. I may joke around about other developers but they are way ahead of me on the curve of being able to produce something. For me it is a struggle, but I'm still moving ahead further than I'm set behind. I'm not limited to the constraints of any piece of software other than the game engine Unity provides and C#. Both are top notch platforms and it's only a matter of time. I sincerely have no idea when this will be ready, or if it will EVER be ready. But I am doing the best I can. If I react to a smark remark it's not because I can't take a joke it's because I've put tons of pressure on myself to make this happen. I'm not getting any younger and I want to see this dream happen in at least some form that I can be proud of. I was proud of my RTS work for Run8 V1, but this isn't a text based program I'm writing.

    It's very easy for me to want to go the path of least resistance. A ship simulator though not as interesting for me has it's strong points. It's not that I will lose my Unity knowledge because I'll use it for that as well. But RTS is currently on the table, and I have not stopped since I announced this journey earlier this year.

    Thanks

    Sean

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
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    Silicon Valley, CA, USA.
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    Default

    I've been running Open Rails from before there was an public Open Rails Project. Two bits of advice to you:

    1. Build whatever bolt-on to Unity is necessary to get working, end-user-ready world editors ASAP.
    2. Don't lay track or roads by pushing the path out from the end of whatever you last set down. Instead set down the tangents and trim them with curves. An ordinary map to work upon can be an invaluable aid as compared to whatever you've seen in other rail sims.
    Dave Nelson

    Seldom visiting, posting less often that that.

  3. #3
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    I can probably reply to both of these in one as they are related. As much as I would like to get a world editor in, I don't see it happening. The main object is photo realistic 2D images on a plane. The objects that are on it will be 3D objects. The main objects will be the rail cars, engines, and probably the actual rails. This is so Unity can use it's physics to move objects which in theory should run well on rails to guide it.

    Because the images are shot with a drone and not using Google to avoid rights, fees, API, etc. Every image needs to be lined up carefully. In fact I'm still learning how to get the best lighting, depth, etc. Of course this is going to be a railroad simulator and not a train simulator. The difference being it's about the railroad and not the trains.

    Most 3D views will be from various camera locations that will be fixed or travel relative to the equipment. The actual map will be 1:1 with a limited width and no visible elevation changes. All the grades will be baked into the grade profile of the line as data to determine power equivalents.

    So basically everything will have images matched up to the exact location and scale (after adjustments) and the curves etc. will simply follow the images taken from the drone.

    Appreciate the advice.

    Thanks

    Sean

  4. #4
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    Jun 2003
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    Alexandria, Va, USA.
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    As a writer and as a trainsim route builder, I just want to encourage you in following what you care about and dream about. I've had some modest success as a writer, and some of my trainsim routes have gotten compliments, but I haven't sold a screenplay yet. But I work on what I care about. I've been retired for one year, so I'm no longer spending my time editing stuff I don't care about and am not satisfied with. But I've been a published writer for more than 30 years, sometimes paid and sometimes not, and I build routes because I like it and care about it, and of course I don't get paid for that. So good luck and carry on!
    Steve Dunham
    Alexandria, VA
    www.stevedunham.50megs.com

  5. #5
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    Thanks Steve, appreciate it.

    Sean

  6. #6
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    It's not a railroad simulator for now, but it's railroad related and is coming along nicely.

    Thanks

    Sean

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