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MSTS: The Hobby


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#1 laming

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Posted 10 December 2006 - 03:53 PM

Troops:

Amazingly, here it is some 4-5 years AFTER the release of MSTS, and there is STILL a following. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it has, basically, carved out its own hobby niche.

Seeing as I have a few minutes before I need to leave for work, I thought I would prose a bit about the various aspects of this hobby, as well as ask how you, personally, "enjoy" this hobby.

The selection of product for MSTS has literally become overwhelming. The freeware sector is incredible in regards to the selection therein. GIGABYTES of product is available!!

The commercial sector is nowhere near as laden with product, but enough is available that it too, can cause indecision for the hobbiest wondering where to spend their hard-earned hobby dollars.

Speaking as a hobbiest (and not as a commercial developer), to me one of the greatest strengths of MSTS can also be one of its greatest weaknesses. That is, the ability to point/click and enjoy different railroads and regions.

For example...

Point/Click: You're out on the West Coast aboard a modern high speed freight powered by big GE's and EMD's.

Point/Click: You're tooling through New York state in a D&H Alco in the late 70's.

Point/Click: You're wrestling a steamer up to Fly Gap in the 1890's.

Amazing.

Yet, this strength can also be a weakness. It's takes hard drive space to do the above. A LOT of hard drive space. It takes a fairly capable machine to run some of the routes being released now.

For me, though, the biggest drawback: It takes TIME to set up routes and equipment needed to enjoy a route as a hobby.

I suspect TOO much selection on one's hard drive can cause stagnancy in that the items needed to be in place in to enhance the play value longevity of a route, are not in place. So, the hobby can become one of frustration as you have all this "stuff"... but haven't taken the TIME to organize it into a way you can truly enjoy it.

It's the "TIME" part that causes me the most trouble, and I suspect some of you.

So, I'd like to develop a strategy of sorts as to how I can better enjoy this hobby, and if it can help you to do likewise, then we've pummeled two birds with one stone. Now, my parameters for enjoying MSTS may be different than yours, so we'll have to pick and choose what would work between us. That is, what would work for me, and what would work for you.

Well, at least I've opened the door and stated where this thread is heading.

Unfortunately, I'm running out of time and got to go pretty soon, so for now I'll pass the torch to you and open this up. That said, now who'll step up first and share your approach to this hobby and how it has helped you enjoy it more?

Andre Ming
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#2 wacampbell

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Posted 10 December 2006 - 04:49 PM

As you know there are many more dimensions to this hobby than just era and geography such that it is difficult to even characterize what participation is. There are operators, builders, business owners, collectors, and painters to name just a few. These participants would all differ on the parameters for enjoying the hobby.

Along these lines I would characterize myself as a historian and builder. My approach is probably not very common. I manage the enormity of the hobby through a very narrow focus Ė one route, and one era. I can pass by ( only with much will-power mind you ) models that are outside this focus. I derive ongoing interest and challenge from in-depth understanding of the subject and MSTS provides an excellent platform for this. Gaps in knowledge become readily apparent by the big blank areas that result on the route. In the virtual hobby environment its not just the major structures that get studied but now even the smallest trackshed demands some attention. And lest this narrow focus appears too confining, my subject railway connects with four other major lines all of which need to be researched and represented with appropriate models.

So my strategy is narrow focus on route and era and my parameters of enjoyment are around MSTSís ability to provide a historically accurate recreation of that place and time.


#3 august1929

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Posted 10 December 2006 - 05:18 PM

Rodster here Andre - Time , amazingly, too much choice - those, for me are the biggest killers.

I don't have as many routes on my HD as some that I know, but there are more than enough to give me a bit of a problem. The way I have sorted this out for myself is to partition the HD containing my MSTS installation. Into the first partition, I put all those routes that I regularly run (all USA routes BTW) and into the second partition, those routes that I only run on the odd ocassion, if at all. That is my first slice out of the choice problem. My reason for doing this is as much a mental partitioning as physical, and that, for me, seems to work. All my MSTS "thoughts" get channeled through the first partition.

Within both partitions, I have then (very belatedly) set up mini installations - again, this is a way of restricting choice once I have made a decision on what type of route to run. Now I used to use Trainstore to do this (and I still have that linked into my main MSTS installation, which is my testbed), but I found that I would open up trainstore and be faced with, then, about 20 + routes, some of which never got used, but which still, each time I looked, took up thought time ("will I run it or not"). This is a small saving, but by relegating all of these routes to the second partition, I have removed this indecision period (and saved time!).

The same stands true for the mini installations - I have;

V Scale TOC (Contains tha Magnus Opus of a certain Coonskin)
V Scale Diesel (waiting for the Rock Island Route Andre biggrin.gif )
Cajon_TP2 (is what it says, but now with 2 Cajon's installed rolleyes.gif )
LPS (the first, and this is the only route on this installation)
Canton (Rich's original with Dick's stock)
Canton (With Dean's stock)
Canton (Anywhere America, with a mix of Gaetan's stock)
Cumberland
Whitefish
MLT Bridge Line
Streamlines

and not forgetting

Train Simulator (Which still contains Sandpatch, another copy of the A&O Sub used for Gaetan's photo shoots plus a number of other routes that I haven't got round to moving to the second partition!)

Working this way I generally find that I am able to restrict my choice, and make quicker decisions about what to run. But the biggest decider for me is enduring atmosphere and overall realism. If a route has it, I will run it.

But what do I then do when I run the route. Well 3 things;

1. Look for good photo ops - and in this I don't just mean a full on shot of the front of an engine taken with a telephoto lens on a length of bare track. I mean real photo ops, where there will be a fair degree of realism or interest. ("Did I ever tell you that I liked to take photos, I didn't, well hey, let me show you my album.....")

Well this restricts the routes I run for a start - they are all up there in my main partition mini installations. There are a number of very well known payware routes that are in the second partition.... Nice stock though.

2. Short switching "play" where I will run a few cars through a few moves - this is reall tied into 1 above, where I will be very choosy about where this is done and will be on the lookout for a few shots.

3. Long haul on the bigger routes - now this is where I just don't have any time, so I set it up this way - I make myself an Introductory Ride, say from Barstow to San Berdoo, complete with stock in spurs etc. but probably without AI, then I set it running after unchecking the different views box. I will then go about doing other chores, popping into the computer room every 15 minutes or so just to see where I have got to - it is great fun, I will sometimes stop for 5 minutes or so to take a few shots (have to photoshop out the green type after sad.gif ) but mostly I just enjoy the scenery.

Phew - got to stop - I haven't even got on to the problem of modding routes yet ( a long list - StL&NA, Canton, Sandpatch, Bridge Line, Niagara, new Cajon) and how to fit this in or even get near completing it....for another day.

Off to run a few trains - my latest (following a lot of maxing out on new Cajon), a bit of switching at Fort Gridley with my repaint of Marc's DRGW Geep 9 into a USAX Geep 9.

Over to the next

Rod.

#4 dodger

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Posted 10 December 2006 - 06:44 PM

Hi Andre,

What i enjoy about MSTS is just playing around in the sim, nothing serious, i have my favorite loco's that i like to run in the different routes that i have installed and i spend just about as much time on a few forums like this one being able to learn what i can and talking to people like yourself as i do in the sim,

I am lucky in that i retired in October this year so i have the time to enjoy the sim now, something i did not have when i was working, i live in the UK and i have been interested in US railroads for many years, in fact since the 1960's, mainly as a model railroader ,

Due to moving to a smaller house and having to finish running my layouts, MSTS has given me back the feeling of having one again, only more so,

I am really enjoying your A&O Sub at the moment ,anyway i'm sorry to bore you all ,

All the best,

Dodger.

#5 moose49

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Posted 10 December 2006 - 08:05 PM

My route selection is simple cascade, TP with Marcs enhancement , Donner and in the east Sand Patch, and the Bridgeline. Then in the everywhere catagorey A&O and Canton these are the best of the many I have purchased and or downloaded. The only problem I have is finding a complete equipment set for the B&O and U.P. for the time frame I prefer. This is late 1950's foreward there need to be F's and E's and PA's for the U.P.. Then for the B&O and W.M. high hood early geeps and S.D.'s all need to be off the 3d trains Gatean quality and life will be good. flowers.gif flowers.gif flowers.gif

#6 TomW

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Posted 10 December 2006 - 09:54 PM

My MSTS interests just followed my Model RRing interests: early 20th century RRs and narrow gauge. Therefore, my choice of mini-routes is simple.
Andre's North Arkansas and Jon Davis' stock for T-O-C steam
Wayne C's London & Port Stanley as a 1920s shortline.
and most recently
Don Karch's Colorado & Southern, T-O-C narrow gauge.
and the lone odd-ball:
The A&O to run Gaetan B's vintage Alcos (as modern as I ever want to be!)

What is great about MSTS is that it took me years and years to build a small narrow gauge yard that covered the area of about 2 football fields, with limited running possibilities. Now, with MSTS, I have entire railroads to run, with sound, in-cab and in-caboose views and lineside photo ops. Plus, it's a fraction of the price!


#7 Genma Saotome

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Posted 11 December 2006 - 09:44 AM

How do I enjoy MSTS? Oh, I like building stuff. Routes in particular are fun to do as I really enjoy research and creating stuff. Wish I was better at making terrtexes and I'm really behind the curve on 3d Cad... still using TSM and keeping things simple.



A couple of thoughts on this hobby in general.

To make V-Scale an equal to model railroading IMO we need an open source sim engine. The commercial stuff is great but each one will eventually become unsupported and then obsolete dues to changes in MS Windows. Getting around the unsupported state is what open source might solve, assuming there is always interested programmers. If you think it thru, the underlying game engine would not change very much over time... it's the graphics UI that will change and if history is any guide, it will change frequently. Absent an open source solution there will always be a loss over time of what's been accomplished as the game software "dies".

Freeware models needs to move towards distribution of source code (i.e., the cad files). The benefits to the community would be large as various parts get reused (or upgraded). The downside would be a loss of control... but it's not like there is anything other than pride involved. There's no way to compel folks to do that but if you think about for a sec there's no reason why distributing freeware cad files should not be the norm.

Multiuser over networks has to happen. W/o it, train simming will be 80% watch it go, 20% (at best) play a scenario. Introduce multiplayer and the hobby will add a whole new dynamic that should equal model railroading as we know it.

Lastly, always getting a better graphics engine will have a detremental effect over time. There just are not enough people in the hobby who have enough artistic talent to stand up to the visual inspections that will occur as the graphics get better and better. This will tend to weed out lesser artists as well as older models -- perhaps another reason why distributing cad files is a good idea as then you can edit at the part level for skinning rather than be constrained to an existing skin mapping.

Just food for thought.



#8 milepost56

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Posted 11 December 2006 - 04:02 PM

Simply put, I use it as a substitute for my model railroading days of yesterday. It doesn't take up half the basement or garage.It doesn't suffer damage from the cat hopping up on it, it doesn't require alot of set up, dusting and maintenence.

Where else can you by a fleet of locomotives for 12 to 25 bucks? Where else can you by an entire trainset for 12 to 25 bucks. Try pricing all your trains at your local hobby shop and you'll fall out of the chair.

While it does come with a cost such as the PC, sound and video upgrade cards, commercial routes, etc, it still seems to me to make the most sense. Besides, you can't climb in your model train cabs and go for a run like you can in the virtual world. wink.gif

Sometimes it bores me to death and I stay away, especially in the summer when the weather is nice. But for now with the snow, fog and rain you will find me on the PC. (Atleast til the Bears are on tonite smile.gif )

#9 ChiliLine

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Posted 11 December 2006 - 06:04 PM

Hmm. My approach to this hobby...

My interests vary depending on the day (and probably the hour), so I could say that I have a lot of approaches. But I guess that my most fundamental approach is learning and building. I started out with an interest in trying to re-create the long-gone Chili Line, because my great-grandfather was the engineer on the last revenue run on that route back in 1941. To do that, I had to learn how to build routes, which took me into the RE huh.gif . Because there was a lot of info available on the Cumbres & Toltec RR, I used that as my tutorial. That got me into researching the key routes from Antonito - on to Durango and down to Santa Fe. That research by itself has been enormously rewarding, but something that I probably never would have done without MSTS.

Of course to build the routes, I had to learn about digital elevation models, 3D modeling programs, and graphics programs. That led me into terrain textures and how to create new ones and the possibilities of using programs like Google Earth. All of which were interesting in their own right.

Some days, though, I just like to run trains. I've greatly enjoyed the StL&NA and the A&O (still the only payware routes I've got), and again, it's taught me a ton about how railroads work. Some days I feel pretty silly - would I go out and buy a program called "Delivery Simulator"? Probably not, but that's pretty much the essence of railroading on the short lines. Even so, I know a huge amount more regarding railroads and railroading. Whether I'll ever use that knowledge or not, who knows? More recently I've tied together runs on the several Santa Fe routes to make the run from LA to Trinidad (just under 24 hours, including a couple of hour stops), just to see what that is like.

I think as long as I keep learning, MSTS will stay interesting. If it ever becomes just a game of looking at the graphics and hitting a few keys, I'll drop it. But I don't think I'm close to that point, and if people keep adding to the game, it'll be quite a while before I get there.



#10 stresstool

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Posted 11 December 2006 - 09:54 PM

I'm what must be called a casual MSTS user/player. I find switching the most interesting so I'll always choose a switching activity over a mainline run. I have no idea how railroads are supposed to operate nor do I know what livery belongs where or in what era so it doesn't much matter to me what skin is on what equipment. I'll use equipment that look, sound and perform like I think they should but without knowing or caring whether they are in fact faithful to their RW counterparts.

I do find that I need to have a goal or purpose when I sit down to drive a train. I find no pleasure in using explore mode or the various explore mode activities. I much prefer to have a printed work order at the outset. For some reason I don't much care to run an activity I've devised either. Perhaps this is because by the time I've worked out all the AI timings et al, I've become sick of it.

#11 atsf37l

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Posted 11 December 2006 - 11:56 PM

Let me say, up front, that for me the medium has never been the message. I love trains. I love operation, switching, dispatching, everything. I love just looking at them. I had my first wind up train at 2 and my first Lionel at 5. HO came at 13. The narrow gauge bug bit at 15 and I was hand laying HOn3 before the year was out.

But again, the medium has never been the message. Whatever scale or gauge or medium lets me most enjoy the hobby of railroading is where you will find me. I will not champion any scale or vendor. Iím here to run trains. For the moment, the best all around experience is MSTS.

I have long had two railroad loves: My native San Diego home road, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe; the Rio Grande Southern of southwestern Colorado.

I think the Santa Fe represents the best of Class One railroading in the era when it meant something. They were a class act in every regard. I love the stainless steel Chiefs and San Diegans but their entire passenger service was magnificent to behold. And they moved some freight! I have always enjoyed switching and branch line activity and the Santa Fe of the 50s and 60s had it everywhere.

The Rio Grande Southern is, for me, the epitome of the narrow gauges. To quote the late Lucious Beebe, ďHere were concentrated all the basic realities of mountain railroading in primeval times: Rights of way cleaving to ledges above the bottomless abyss, snowsheds, loops, stub switches, the little mixed train daily and the teapot locomotives, driven against all probability and the elements by the old bearded eagle-eyes of legend.Ē It was built where it shouldnít have been, when it shouldnít have been, and it went dead broke after the first three years. It then stumbled on for sixty more years just to make sure it hadnít missed anything. There is something about that tenaciousness in the face of bankruptcy, four-percent grades and mountains of snow that truly appeal to me.

Now having said that these are my two favorite railroads, let me say that I also enjoy every railroad that connected with the Santa Fe, particularly the wretched old Southern Pacific. The same holds true for the RGS, particularly and solely the Dangerous and Rapidly Growing Worse, the sometimes parent and sometimes foe to the RGS and always a source of rented power and freight cars, much to the credit of their bottom line.

Electrics and trolleys have never done a thing for me. Until recently. But thatís all Tim Muirís fault and a story unto itselfÖ..

So what is a person with a love of railroads to do? Go to work for them or model them. Eyes werenít good enough to get into train service so the model path was set. Looking back, I am glad it worked that way. Railroad careers are killers to families and home life and besides, best way to kill a hobby is to go to work in it. Period.

So I modeled. I modeled every scale but Z and TT. And, as you can well imagine, since this lifelong hobby has been going now for 59 years since the first wind up train, I have amassed a lot of books and information about my favorite roads. I love employee timetables and the associated paperwork of the operations end of the railroad. All these things help me to run the trains the way the big boys did it!

But modeling in brass and plastic and basswood has never given me the satisfaction I have received through virtual railroading and the various freeware and payware suppliers of routes and trains. My favorites are the Santa Fe and the RGS but I like Ďem all! I can have Ďem all in virtual scale.

I currently have 12 Ė count Ďem Ė 12 Santa Fe routes running from San Diego, LA and Bakersfield nearly all the way to Colorado and a few chunks beyond into Chicago. I have one more joint line with the SP (Tehachapi Pass II) for a total of 13 Santa Fe routes. Some of these are public knowledge and some are not. wink.gif Additionally, I have one SP (Donner Pass), one Rio Grande standard gauge (Rollins Pass), the A&O Sub and the N.E. Corridor IV for an occasional Pennsy jaunt. All of these are in my primary Train Simulator folder, sharing common equipment and accessed through Train Store for rapid access and deployment.

Then there are the Miniís. I currently have 13 routes set aside in miniís. Mini routes have been created for narrow gauge, traction and turn of the century or other period operations that use unique equipment: RGS, Cumbres, Silverton, Eureka & Palisade, Sumpter Valley and a couple other yet to be revealed narrow gauges, St. Louis & North Arkansas, a late steam/early diesel Carriso Gorge and all my electric routes are in this group. Now the new C&S route is drawing my attention, particularly with the new engines coming from Captain Bazza!

This dual setup has worked out the best for my eclectic tastes in trains. I can run the mainlines with common equipment and the miniís with their unique trains and settings. I started to do a mini for Santa Fe but decided against it just because of the magnitude of all the Santa Fe routes. tongue.gif

I like to run Ďem and just watch Ďem. I like to switch Ďem. I can spend hours in an industrial area. I also am increasingly enjoying modifying Ė kitbashing, if you will Ė various equipment to meet specific needs. If it isnít produced Iíll find a way to make it. I have yet to jump into 3D modeling but Iím sure it isnít too far off.

Time. Yes, that is a big factor. Too many trains and not enough time. Most of my train time is late evening after the family has gone to bed. I like to spend my time with them after work and on weekends so the trains have to wait until the late hours. I seldom sleep for more than 6 hours or so and it works out nicely, getting a couple hours each night to play with the toys.

With Virtual Scale: You never have to turn around at the end of the room; you never have to clean track; you never have to crawl under the benchwork and run wires; you never have to dust the trains and buildings; you never have to slop plaster. As pointed out elsewhere, Virtual Scale is a lot less expensive than brass and plastic modeling. I have 10 K36s for the cost of a download and a little detail work. In Sn3 that set of engines alone would cost me $25,000. In Virtual Scale I can have the entire Rio Grande Southern from Ridgway to Durango and the Telluride Branch Ė I donít have to pick which little vignette Iím going to model. Same for the Santa Fe. Eventually weíll have it all! I can do justice to a mainline railroad in Virtual Scale and not have to apologize for the lack of running space.

I like it. Iím in it. Iím staying in it until there is a better medium. Then, perhaps, I will move on. Maybe not. At 61 years of age I might just settle down with this one. Until that decision day, hard drives are cheap (I have 380 Gig installed) and so is memory. Bin1.6 has opened new avenues of enjoyment. If Vista leaves MSTS behind Iíll stay with XP-Pro. Iím in it for the long haul.

Man am I long winded! laugh.gif


#12 august1929

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Posted 12 December 2006 - 08:58 AM

Herb, you've said the bits I left unsaid in my own "essay" - Andre, add Herb's to mine please laugh.gif

Rod

#13 atsf37l

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Posted 12 December 2006 - 09:07 AM

QUOTE(august1929 @ Dec 12 2006, 7:39 AM) View Post

Herb, you've said the bits I left unsaid in my own "essay" - Andre, add Herb's to mine please laugh.gif

Rod


Thanks Rod. And OBTW, I like to take shots and share too! tongue.gif

#14 lelandfletcher

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Posted 12 December 2006 - 10:35 AM

Dear Friends,

What I enjoy most is to get as close to running the real thing as possible in a sim. I like to run a grade with 3 GP50's, get wheel slip, then pour on the sand only to have it stall out pulling up the grade.

Then change out the GP50's for 3 SD50's, get wheelslip, pour on the sand and make the grade at 2mph.

Or, apply the dynamics, get engine wheelslip, and need to apply sand for traction. Or, apply the engine brake too hard and skid the engine wheels.

Don't get me wrong, I don't try to operate poorly. I just like knowing that when I do something wrong, MSTS won't be too forgiving. It makes it quite a challenge.

I only wish that couplers would break prototypically when too much force is applied.

Yours truly,
Leland

#15 milepost56

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Posted 12 December 2006 - 04:22 PM

QUOTE(atsf37l @ Dec 12 2006, 12:37 AM) View Post


I think the Santa Fe represents the best of Class One railroading in the era when it meant something. They were a class act in every regard. I love the stainless steel Chiefs and San Diegans but their entire passenger service was magnificent to behold. And they moved some freight! I have always enjoyed switching and branch line activity and the Santa Fe of the 50s and 60s had it everywhere.




This dual setup has worked out the best for my eclectic tastes in trains. I can run the mainlines with common equipment and the miniís with their unique trains and settings. I started to do a mini for Santa Fe but decided against it just because of the magnitude of all the Santa Fe routes. tongue.gif

ITime. Yes, that is a big factor. Too many trains and not enough time. Most of my train time is late evening after the family has gone to bed. I like to spend my time with them after work and on weekends so the trains have to wait until the late hours. I seldom sleep for more than 6 hours or so and it works out nicely, getting a couple hours each night to play with the toys.

With Virtual Scale: You never have to turn around at the end of the room; you never have to clean track; you never have to crawl under the benchwork and run wires; you never have to dust the trains and buildings; you never have to slop plaster. As pointed out elsewhere, Virtual Scale is a lot less expensive than brass and plastic modeling. I have 10 K36s for the cost of a download and a little detail work. In Sn3 that set of engines alone would cost me $25,000. In Virtual Scale I can have the entire Rio Grande Southern from Ridgway to Durango and the Telluride Branch Ė I donít have to pick which little vignette Iím going to model. Same for the Santa Fe. Eventually weíll have it all! I can do justice to a mainline railroad in Virtual Scale and not have to apologize for the lack of running space.


Man am I long winded! laugh.gif


Your right there 100% Herb, I couldn't agree with you more. wink.gif

Now go take a breath biggrin.gif

#16 atsf37l

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Posted 12 December 2006 - 05:13 PM

QUOTE(milepost56 @ Dec 12 2006, 3:03 PM) View Post

Your right there 100% Herb, I couldn't agree with you more. wink.gif

Now go take a breath biggrin.gif


What, that I'm long winded? tongue.gif laugh.gif

But seriously, I have thought a lot about this today while tinkering with things here at work. There is just no way in creation to do any kind of justice to a Class 1 road in a model railroad. But in the sim you can have it all. I think the idea that you don't have to turn around at the end of the room is probably the most salient point of the whole exercise.

#17 laming

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Posted 12 December 2006 - 06:29 PM


Wow! Talk about some perspectives! Thanks so much guys for taking the time to share what your MSTS hobby is for you.

I will say that I still enjoy SOME hands-on modeling... but not much. Model railroading can only treat you to miniature trains running through miniature scenes with some condensed switching thrown in if desired.

No way can you wrestle with the weight, or adhesion, or manage your air, or... you get the idea... that this sim can give you. Model railroading and sim railroading are two totally different aspects to me.

What I am hoping to do with my MSTS is take the time to create plausible mini-installs that group my MSTS interests into managable mini's so I can enjoy "whatever" when the mood hits. For development purposes, I will have to keep my main install "Global add-on" free. (i.e. no XTracks, ScaleRail, NewRoads, etc.)

Development is not really a hobby any longer, now it is often like work. However, if I can find the time/disipline to do what I've just discussed, I have a feeling it will go a loooong way toward helping me derive some enjoyment from MSTS as a hobby.

One of the biggest bottlenecks I see for this hobby is: Activities.

We have a good selection of routes, equipment, you name it. What we DON'T typically find in the freeware sector is goodly numbers of activities for our chosen routes. Activities are a real pain in the a... er, backside... to produce, and IMHO, that is the reason there are so few of us that do it.

It would be GREAT if lots of others in the MSTS hobby would tackle producing solid, low-hassle activities.

By "low hassle" I mean keeping additional downloads to a minimum. In regards to commercial routes, this can easily be accomplished by using the supplied equipment as much as possible. Not so easy with freeware "no equipment supplied" routes.

Well, all for now.

Andre Ming


#18 TomW

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Posted 12 December 2006 - 10:34 PM

Andre:

I hear ya about the Activities issue.

After running several routes, the first thing I got "into" in MSTS was Activity writing. I came through the learning curve with Rich G's tutorials, and wrote a few activities for another (not V-Scale Creations) route. After running a number of activities for a very common FW route, I found them to be more of a "puzzle to solve" than a typical, RRing assignment; it seemed that if you didn't make the right move at the right time, you'd never be able to complete the Activity. I figured that in RL, there would be many ways to complete the work assignment so I tried to leave some flexibility in my Activities and not create unrealistic and tricky "situations".

Once I published them, I saw so little interest in running them that I decided to move-on to learning TSM and model building. After all, I'd built many models in On2 from craftsman kits and from scratch that model-building should be easy. Well . . . that's when I learned about the dreaded poly-count demon! Too many details = too many polys and the model brings MSTS to its knees! So now it became a trade-off between actual details and artwork, and when to use each approach. I'm still in this phase and learning as I go.

IMO, Activities don't take much longer than a good TSM model. Yeah, I had to run 'em over and over and over again (boring) to be sure they worked and make sure they wouldn't "blow-up" if the user didn't exactly follow my "script". Yeah, the Activity works great if the engineer arrives at West Overshoe on-time; but what'll it do if he's slow and arrives 30 minute late??? It's gotta allow for some variations by the user(s) and not lockup or become totally goofy.

OTOH, TSM models take longer than I plan; there's always another part to build or a texture to find or create. Creating parts from the TSM primatives is more fun for me than doing texturing.
But, I'm an engineer by profession, not an artist. Building parts, cars, and structures accurately and to-dimensions is a piece-o-cake; a good photo-texture is worth it's weight in gold. In short, my original artwork sux and I'm NEVER happy with the result.

Looks like I'm long-winded too . . . gettin' late, time to crash.

Thanx for listening . . . .

#19 atsf37l

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Posted 13 December 2006 - 09:58 AM

Ah yes, activities. I have to say that the St.L&NA activities that you did, Andre, have been some of the most fun and rewarding of any I have tried. There is a real "railroad feel" about them and they are outright fun.

Many of the activities for other routes get too bogged down in the "gotta get to point A by such and such" as Tom pointed out that they become tedious, or don't work at all if you take time to stop and throw switches or pump up and test air and the other little nuances of real railroad operation that, for me, are so enjoyable.

Another problem for me that usually keeps me in "explore" mode is that if I run a specific activity I always have to pick up the same cars and set out the same cars at the same old places. Run it twice and you're bored with it. The problem with explore mode is that there is nothing out there to start with. You can start off with a huge amount of cars and go out and place them then run a local to work them and keep saving but there is the problem of darkness falling and having to leave the sim running for 10 to 12 hours so you can start over the next morning! wacko.gif Even if you successfully get one of these saved explore's going, if you change any car in the original consist the whole scenario fails to load and is out the window. Pun intended. tongue.gif

What I would like to see, and what I someday hope to sit down and build using AE, are totally open ended switching activities. My goal is to create an activity with cuts of cars appropriately placed at the various industries on a route with no specific work orders requiring the pick up and set out of cars. The activity would have the ability to plug in a local freight consist of my choice and just go out and work the various spurs, making up the pick up - set out decisions as you proceed from one end of the line to the other. No times constraints to have to meet or exceed, just pure switching with infinite variety of possibilities in what could be worked or not from one end of the line to the other.

All of this may be possible but I am just unfamiliar enough with AE that I don't know. I tried to do this on the RGS route and got really frustrated by the first switch out of Ridgway. Although in explore mode the east wye switch at Ridgway was free usage, in the activity it would not throw manually and I couldn't figure out how to set it to free use. My first move of the activity was to back my twin K-27 powered freight out of Ridgeway, turn on the wye and head off to Rico. Of course I couldn't do it because the wye switch wouldn't throw for the route. That was the last time I built an activity. mad.gif Probably just tried to do too much without enough knowledge or time to experiment.

I think I just figured out a topic for another thread.........

#20 stresstool

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Posted 13 December 2006 - 11:29 AM

QUOTE(atsf37l @ Dec 13 2006, 9:39 AM) View Post

[...]My goal is to create an activity with cuts of cars appropriately placed at the various industries on a route with no specific work orders requiring the pick up and set out of cars. The activity would have the ability to plug in a local freight consist of my choice and just go out and work the various spurs, making up the pick up - set out decisions as you proceed from one end of the line to the other.[...]


I direct your attention to Steve Davis's Activity Generator which does just that (well, it constructs a work order for you). That is, once you've built up a template which is an art all in itself. See Activity Generator. It works great, I highly recommend it.

I understand Train Store can do something similar to what you want (populate explore mode with wagons), but I've never tried that.