The Sim

“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.

THE NEW HOTNESS

I recently discovered a great new successor to Railroad Tycoon 3 called “Transport Fever”, a game which is available through Steam and is purpose-built to support modding! A lot of what I learned from my previous forays into game customization (see OLD & BUSTED below) can carry forward into TPF, and I have already begun scoping out a broad-scope mod to work on.

Basically, I am intending to widen the selection of freight cars (at least the USA versions) to the point where the user always has a choice among two options. By default, the game only presents the user with a single option for, say, a boxcar. There are three different models, but unless one uses a mod to inhibit retirement of old equipment, only one of those models is available in any given year. By adding to those three, with two more models in eras that overlap the other eras, the user will have two options instead of one (at least after the 1880 model becomes available). One option will be the older model which is cheaper to buy and run but doesn’t haul as much or as fast, and then there is the latest and greatest.

Part of this involves tweaking the relative purchase and running costs, so that it’s not always just more efficient and sensible to buy one over the other. There should be trade-offs. For a route that doesn’t make a lot of profit, it might make sense to keep running costs low. A logging operation that has to climb a mountain might well prefer the older rolling stock. But a high speed manifest crossing long distances would want the newest and fastest cars, regardless of maintenance costs. As the game calculates its defaults currently, it is almost always more economical to utilize older wagons (using the no-expiration-date mod) and just use more of them, rather than adopt the newly available wagons.

I possess the 2D image editing skills to do reskins, but not the 3D modeling software or know-how to create new bodies. Hence, I am developing this with a number of placeholders, and awaiting the efforts of others to produce candidates for inclusion in this mod package. I will request explicit permission to do so, and will credit those I include. Thus, if you are a capable 3D modeler and want to make a more faithful Rail Box modern box car for me, I will welcome your contribution; just know that I may need to tweak its costs and availability settings to fit within my overall scheme.

These first images show you my first set and the difference it makes to the game. Compare the game’s defaults to the proposed set of five that I have made. A similar situation will hold for the open wagons (for which I hope to have at least a few actual hoppers in the mix), stake cars, and tank cars.

Set of Five Boxcars

Default set of 3 boxcars

OLD & BUSTED

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.