“Sim” means “simulation” in computer game-speak, and is a certain type of strategy game. Railroading lends itself well to this nonviolent and slower-paced gaming mode, and some games are more like actual railroading or model railroading. This is where I will post screenshots and custom content; check back often.
I have tried out Microsoft Train Simulator, but it doesn’t satisfy the creative side of me; I prefer Auran’s Trainz because it is built around the concept of user-created content, and got its start as a model railroad simulator, even if now it behaves more like a true sim. It has been a great way to mock up some scenes, and I even discovered some track planning features that I wanted to include in my new home layout.
Railroad Tycoon has a long heritage; I never played the first version of this game, because it looked like it was a bit too abstracted back then. I got on board with RRT2, and WOW! what a game it was. Later improvements to that game moved in the direction of greater realism, allowing one to micromanage the train consists in a way that more closely resembled real car routings. Everything was more or less in scale and based on real-world trains, and that got me hooked.
Then came RRT3.
With a switch to a true 3D game engine, now you could zoom and pan all around the game map, and really enjoy those rolling stock models. Plus, now all your curves could be nice and gentle, and you could survey low-gradient routes with precision. The revamped economic model made some things more difficult, such as moving a commodity over a long route – you can’t relay it from one train to the next, if the cargo value isn’t just right at the transfer point, and there is no way to store a load for later pickup, apart from parking a train to wait.
But, with a focus on user-created content, it has certainly kept my attention, since 2003 no less! I have crafted game maps based on the territory surrounding the WP&P, and am recently learning how to reskin the locomotives in the game. My first such effort is a Norfolk & Western Class J skin for the Northern 4-8-4.
I have not tried out Sid Meier’s Railroads yet, because it seems a step backwards, back to the abstracted sense of the first game, though in this case it is more of a cartoon / out of scale aesthetic that offends me. I’m in the camp of those who long for a RRT4, one which builds on the strengths of 3 and leans more in the direction of realism. Such a beast may never come to be, but there is an active community of Modders out there, making continuing improvements to 3 and keeping me playing it.