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Thread: My opinion on what is lacking in the train simulator realm

  1. #1
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    Default My opinion on what is lacking in the train simulator realm

    I know there has been plenty of comparisons between all the different versions out there. I also understand that some have better reviews but honestly there are fans of pretty much everything that is out there for one simple reason, it gives them what they are looking for in a sim.

    Outside of some of the SIAM text based sims and dispatching MSTS and eventually TD3 became the first 2 passions as they came onto the scene. Now I did get to see Trainmaster and TM2 and thought the original was kind of cute. I also had a European train simulator that had a US version which just had signals and track that was really cool. The AI system was neat because it would bring you into sidings hold your randomly etc. which I thought was cool. But it was MSTS and TD3 that for me was the 1st generation of real train and dispatching simulators.

    TD3 continued off it's legacty from the original Train Dispatcher (I don't remember V2 for some reason or never had an IBM compatible at the time probably Commodore 64??) but remember ads in Model Railroader and Trains magazine. But TD3 really never had much else besides some custom dispatching sims (some that are cool but nothing quite like TD3).

    MSTS on the other hand had competition in the form of the original Trainz (which to me looked like a model railroad sim at the time in comparison) but MSTS2 was also on the horizon, world of rails, and all the glory. Then M$ pulled the plug and it laid dormant for years but still with it's bugs in the editors remained something people could cope with and enjoy. To this day Open Rails has picked up where MSTS left off. I know it has other features but when I looked at videos it still looked like the old MSTS to me (probably with less bugs and some mp). Never quite got sold on it, but I know there is a huge community that is trying.

    It is activity based like MSTS runs MSTS routes and once you run an activity you know how things are scripted. There is a bit of dynamic AI in the form of timing of meets. You could use switch list generator and activity generator add ons that randomize the AI schedule as well as give purpose with waybills and switching. But it's still something you play from one end to the other and move on .

    While Trainz did improve and continued to improve I've heard plenty of complaints as well. Trainz also has some MP component but for me what made Trainz fun was the editors and the smartes AI routing of all the sims. It's not perfect but in that category is the best. For someone like myself I could easily go in and build routes, download tons of content, and for the most part have little to no issues since I don't download other routes. I only paid 15 bucks for 2019 North America on sale and got my money's worth. I never got a silver membership as I didn't want other routes or have to pay to get free ones for faster speeds of downloads. That system to me kind of sucks in comparison to other sims like MSTS and OR where you can get them on great forums like TS or through friends. Hell my son to this day still builds new routes on a regular basis on the 2nd copy I bought him so for 30 bucks we got our money multiple times over. To this day I have considered it, but something keeps me away.

    The team at Run8 was let down by the fact that MSTS2 pulled the plug. All though different because M$ vs a group of dedicated hobbyists struggling to get V3 to work the past few years is not a fair comparison. However, in many ways I know how they felt now. I've been critical enough about Run8 I want to focus on the positive for a moment. Run8 came to being to allow the team to create their vision of what a simulator could be and they hit a home run. As I've said I got my money's worth multiple times over for about 7 or 8 years of dedication. Run8 was an addiction for me until I stopped about a year and half ago.

    Run8 did so many things right and I really felt had the most potential of anyting to date, and probably to this day as well. It's really why I mention it so much because if you haven't tried Run8 you owe it to yourself to give it a try. You will get your moneys worth in single player, limited AI, operations, and of course MP. Besides physics Run8 really was awesome for MP.

    I remember one time at the last model railroad club I belonged to where a friend Ted Kocyla (MSTS author of CP Mactier & upgrade of Bala Sub to V2) said to me. He told me there will never be a simulator like a prototypical model railroad club. About 4 or 5 years ago I left that model railroad club because I was deep in the middle of V2 of Run8 and it was in fact better at it's peak than any model railroad club in my opinion of course.

    Unfortunately for me as I noted expansion continued and the manpower of a smaller group could not really keep up with so much to do. So right at when it was at it's best at it's peak it only went down from there. As I wait and see what V3 has to offer as does many others it is uknown where it will fit in if at all as far as the legacy that again is my opinion and going to be different than probably the vast majority and that is cool.

    There were others like some others like Train Simulator something or other (I can't even recall the title as it's just a sexier MSTS in my opinion and has a new version every year it seems). There was even those that looked like they had the potential to challenge Run8 that became vapourware. But TSW for me had the most potential and yet thus far it's a glorified Google Earth with train controls, assets, and a horn

    When TSW came out with a route very close to home to me in Hamilton Ontario my jaw dropped. I was so ready to upgrade my computer but thankfully I waited to see. I tried to learn everything I could about it. I could live with less physics, but as long as I had access to the port and was able to free roam I thought I would be ok. Little did I know that half the port is blocked off by an invisible wall that stops you from progressing. Then of course the stupid signals that enter the mainline (which there are so many at one place unrealistically makes it look like Toronto's Union Station). Not to mention the stupid schedule of freights on the Oakville and Grimsby Subs with NO GO or passenger services this was a major fail. I could never take TSW or any of it's yearly new version seriously again.

    So to me there is a huge gap. Between what Run8 has already shown is possible and perhaps what things like Trainz can do with editors (though for me not a deal breaker) and even TSW's graphics (again not a deal breaker but something that makes some of the versions of simulators out there look pretty dated in my opinion). Again I only upgraded my computer because I wanted the bare minimum to run TSW. I ended up having a better experience for Trainz and even Run8 (though I was already on the way out). Not regretting it because that upgrade allowed me to have very cool graphics in ATS.

    Speaking of ATS that is where I look to on what is possible. ATS is a growing network that is connected. I understand why so many people love how Run8 can connect so many routes as do I to a certain extent. What makes ATS better in this regard vs Run8 is two major factors 1) it can handle the expansion realistically and not lose resources or the experience but only enhance it with the build in AI and game play. With Run8 as you expand provided you don't mind joining a MP server out of the limited options which means very few have people on them. Depot pretty much has a monopoly on clients but that is the clients choice and is certainly fair among servers and users (who could blame them).

    ATS also shows another advantage vs Trainz2019 which to me that version of Trainz is a step up from MSTS graphics wise anyways and that is lighting. I'm not sure if it's as good as TSW, and Run8 does a pretty good job espeically their night skies. Their distant lighting and signals don't show up too far away but I don't think ATS does either. In fact ATS in the daytime is very difficult to see brake lights. Their AI in overtaking traffic or moving over to let vehicles merge in is pathetic and leads to accidents at on ramps or lane merges. So there are certainly strengths and waknesses. I only mention ATS because despite being a truck simulator it has logistics which is not perfect but something comparable to what Run8 does.

    Run8 will remain to be seen what if any major changes take advantage of their traffic networks without having to hire (for real) clients to fill all the roles Again I mention ATS because that has a good network that is built in house. Yes they have mods which are cool I think. Run8 could advance in graphics which is a step up and I expect this likely to happen with a new game engine perhaps. But they pride themselves on as real as it gets, dispatching yourelf in single player is not realistic. Some people like it and that is great. There are just as many that don't like it, and others who don't care becasue they get to go on a server they like with their friends. None of that is equal to the best physics out of any other simulator.

    Having the ability to have realatively newer graphics but more importantly a network that can operate and expand like Run8 started shows the most potential. My personal skill level is no where near what John, or the massive teams with TSW, Trainz etc. can put out. Unlike a ship simulator (which is also lacking ironically) train simulation deals with much more connected assets and appropriate physics. Does a train actually run on the rails like a derail valley (which is awesome and what I was looking to develop myself), or does it float like an illusion over a track spline and have their own physics models in the code?

    Wow there is a limit of 10000 characters (surprised I never hit that before).

    Thanks

    Sean

  2. #2
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    I certainly wouldn't count Open Rails out yet. The base engine has transitioned from XNA to Monogame, which has much better development and support for advanced modeling and lighting. There's a lot going on in the experimental versions to clean things up in preparation for much further-reaching improvements and capabilities. But, since it's a volunteer effort, it's going to take time.

    Trainz and DTG with their TS and TSW franchises have done well at competing with the standard set by MSTS and moving into more sophisticated 3D rendering of objects and the world, and in the case of Trainz and TS, accessible tools for anyone to take up route building. But they just haven't moved the needle for advancing train simulation all that much more than MSTS ever did. TS and TSW seem to perennially have trouble balancing operations with approachability, and too often all into the trap of seeming too arecade-y.

    Run8 V2 achieves quite a bit. Excellent physics. Full 3D cabs. Multiplayer that works well. Graphics that may not be cutting edge, but are perfectly acceptable for something that's meant as an operational sim. Even if V3 never comes and just more is developed for V2, it's quite the achievement.

    The only thing that might give it competition is Open Rails, which does have multiplayer and which will be getting some more attention in that department. Open Rails has end-user tools for building routes (beyond MSTS, although "unofficial") while development of Run8 is still limited to official development channels. Full 3D cabs are possible in Open Rails. It already has a sophisticated way to run trains based on timetables. Combine that with graphic improvements and multiplayer/dispatch capabilities, and I can imagine that it will offer some real opportunities for both breathing life into both MSTS-style operations as well as modern timetable and multiplayer options.

    Right now just isn't a terribly exciting time for train simulations -- not compared to the amount of progress being seen in other simulations of transportation machinery and systems -- ETS2/ATS on the roads (although in a scaled-down world representation) and MS Flight Simulator for flight and modeling of the entire globe. Interestingly, both of them use home-grown game engines, much like train simulators. Even Open Rails' Monogame implementation isn't fully as a game engine; it's used as a rendering pipeline and input manager, while physics and other specifics for train simulation are all written from scratch.

    None of these kinds of games lend themselves well to re-using major games engines as seen in "AAA" type titles. But, the major games engines have been the leaders in eye candy an flashy attractions. My prediction is that the best of the train simulation developers will find ways to leverage more modern graphics and visuals without sacrificing realism. It's just going to take time. To that end, I'd tend to keep my eye on both Run8 and Open Rails. Those seem to be the ones where so many with a real passion for accurate railroad simulation tend to gravitate. Not surprising, since both have ties to the community surrounding MSTS originally, and MSTS was meant to be a realistic train sim in the same vein as Microsoft's Flight Simulator franchise. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, to this day.


    MSTS-Roundhouse

    On hiatus and moving to a new host -- Probably in 2021
    (Because 2020 has turned out to be b0rked beyond belief...
    )

  3. #3
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    I definately agree with your analysis for the most part. I can't speak for OR as it's more impressions I see from casual observations and not in depth analysis on my part. I'd love to see OR shine, and understand that volunteer armies take time. What are they writing OR in C#? I just recently got reacquainted with the language in some Unity programming.

    Personally as a programmer with limited experience on the graphics end I put too much pressure on myself. Asking for help in a Unity forum on a specific way I need this to work in a train simulator is tough. But having a team environment is actually rather interesting to me now more than in the past (probably due to my dedication to Run8 over it's first 7 or 8 years including beta). My only concern is the overall pipeline vs. what I think is missing. Not sure how that works or how decisions are made in that environment with no heirarchy. I know some of have mentioned to me before that I should bring my ideas to them or with them, and I'm certainly curious in doing so.

    As for Run8 I'd welcome anything be it V2 or V3 at the moment. For me personally if that right small region was available now for V2 I would look into it. But I suspect it's not so much that they are 100% committed to V3 (everyone needs a diversion not to mention cash flow if your a business). My feeling is that V2 can't handle anything else as it's at some kind of resource limit. John mentioned it's not memory, perhaps a memory leak or something else. But with all the AI espeically with the humps in operation (which use AI) I suspect something is up with that.

    I think we're ripe for something else however that takes time. I've tried to get started and who's to say I may not try again. I have more than just ideas in trains at the moment. But like every weekend I get to railfan I get some inspiration for something. Lots of ideas right now, not enough time unfortunately.

    Thanks

    Sean

  4. #4
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    >What are they writing OR in C#?

    Yes they are!!

    Source code is here:-

    http://openrails.org/files/OpenRails-Testing-Source.zip
    Cheers
    Derek

  5. #5

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    Personally, I don't think there's a lot lacking with Open Rails. What's not to like about the open source platform with home-grown editors?

    Having "the most realistic simulator ever created" or something that is idiot proof delivered via an intrusive platform like Steam has never appealed to me, mainly because I like the ability to create my own content and tweak things...

  6. #6
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    Interesting that you mentioned Train Dispatcher. I had TD3 on my old Win 7 machine and it was great fun. I had built a few routes of my own, the London Tilbury and Southend / C2C in the UK, a busy commuter railway with a decent amount of freight to get in the way and foul things up Building the train schedule for that route was a bear with literally hundreds of commuter trains plus empty stock moves etc. I also built a portion of Pan An Railways operations in Maine and New Hampshire. I also enjoyed running some of the Northeast Corridor routes that various contributors had built.

    Unfortunately I am now upgraded to a new Win 10 system and haven't tried to reinstall TD3. Not sure I still have the product keys. It's a shame no one has taken on developing an updated version of this simulator.

    Jon

  7. #7
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    I considered developing a dispatcher but it wouldn't be compatible with TD3. Forgot to mention (FYM) Freight Yard Manager. That was another inspiration for some ideas this year and I actually had some code down for. Then I got sucked into the 3D world and was way over my head.

    Thanks

    Sean

  8. #8
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    To me, objectively, there are only two train simulators that are worth the time and effort to learn. Open Rails and RUN8. I have both and like both of them. Both simulators are in active development, lead by dedicated teams. Both are worthwhile of a serious enthusiasts attention...you pick your brew and drink it.

    I choose to devote my time to OR for a variety of reasons. Foremost among them is that it is a worldwide Open Source project with lots of serious, knowledgeable and very skilled people working on it...and having fun doing so. Using OR gives me an opportunity to gain new knowledge and learn new skills and to contribute to the effort...in a marginal way...and, importantly, have some fun doing so.

    So far the benefit to me has been...I've learned about the physics of railroading and diesel-locomotive engines, digital data organization, editing digital data files, bits of modeling, manipulation of sound files, railroad lore and history, and much-much more. The best part? -- I've met some very interesting, very nice folks in the bargain.

    Now...this has all been about my personal experience ... to bring it back around to Seans original point "what is lacking in the train simulator realm" ... to my experience..not much...I've gotten much more out my experience with OR than I've put in. Like Albert E. said..."it's all relative".
    Last edited by R. Steele; 07-27-2021 at 04:04 PM.
    Cheers, Gerry
    It's my railroad and I'll do what I want! Historically accurate attitude of US Railroad Barons.
    Forever, ridin' drag in railroad knowledge.


  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by R. Steele View Post
    ....."what is lacking in the train simulator realm" ... to my experience..not much...I've gotten much more out my experience with OR than I've put in. Like Albert E. said..."it's all relative".
    My sentiments exactly.

    I don't think that there is anything lacking in either OR or Run 8: each simulates the subject as well as currently possible.
    IBM XT i386; 512Kb RAM; 5.25" FDD; 1.4Mb FDD; 5Mb HDD; VGA 256-colour graphics card; AdLib soundcard; DR DOS 6.0; Windows 3.0

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by R. Steele View Post
    To me, objectively, there are only two train simulators that are worth the time and effort to learn. Open Rails and RUN8.
    Agree. There are more recent products out there that are prettier and are more accessible to a wider audience, but they lack the depth and technical minutiae of OR and Run8.

    I'll take the nerdy brunette over the dumb blonde any day. Both are fine but I can only tolerate the latter for so long...

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