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What do you like about MSTS?


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#1 rgarber

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 07:02 AM

Every once in awhile I get a hankering to talk instead of just build. It occurs to me that if someone coming across my posts will see plenty of pictures of scenery, but no trains. But when I look at most other pictures of MSTS, I see mostly trains.

From my perspective I like both and I'm sure you do too. Why I don't include trains is typically because at the time of my picture taking, I don't have the right trains to put on the route to compliment the picture. And as a route builder, I download very few trains or have them running because I only infrequently run the sim.

Someone could conclude that the highlight of MSTS for me is the scenery then. That would be incorrect but I do place a very strong emphasis on scenery. Since I do consider myself a model railroader, my perspective on viewing a route is the same as a model railroader. I want to see the background look as strong as the foreground. In other terms, the scenery becomes the stage upon which the trains perform.

An example of this would be the time I saw the stage musical Annie out in San Diego. The performers were not of the original cast, but the props were. The props and performance were so convincing that when we left the theatre we were expecting to see snow on the ground in 70 degree weather.

When I view my routes, I want the detail while I'm driving the engine to be as interesting as the engine. So I spend alot of time bringing the scenery up to the same level as a decently done engine. The gotchas (as Andre Ming would say) could be too much detail and the frame rates buckle. That's true so alot of detail is left off the buildings that I would like to add because ultimately a route is about the engines and rollingstock running about the route.

These days, most of my time is spent in the modeling and texture programs and not in the sim. It's very entertaining to build structures. One of my favorite aspects is going out with the camera and taking pictures for textures. I do get a few eyebrows raised when someone sees me taking a picture of a telephone pole or trash dumpster. What's funny is seeing somebody slow down to avoid getting their car in my picture if I happen to be shooting a building across the street. They think this because they see the camera poised to take a picture when really I'm just waiting for their car to pass by. rolleyes.gif

So this is why you see many building pictures with but mostly without trains. My goal is to create a realistic looking route as much as possible and with reasonable frame rates when it's done.

Rich Garber

#2 kevarc

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 09:48 AM

Yes.

There are routes out there that are very well done, but (yes, there is always a but), when I run a train in the Pacific Northwest or the Caorlina's, I expect tress and other scenery items. Seeing miles and niles of nothing gets boring very fast.

The trains are the main focus of what this is about, but without a realistic setting, it is a waste of time.

#3 BLW_1946

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 10:33 AM

well, the reason I'm so fond of Ohio Rail and Canton is because the track configurations and the scenery makes sense. Routes with long sections of straight, flat track don't last very long here. neither do routes with spaghetti bowl trackwork, or 'cities' comprised of crappy default buildings. I guess that's because railfan photography is my main avocation. the best model train only looks good to my eye if it's in an interesting and realistic setting...

i also love switching activities, and Ohio Rail and Canton are the best switching routes out there...

Thanks again and again, Rich...

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#4 moose49

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 05:10 PM

cool.gif


The scenery is very important and yours is some off the best. I prefer mountains and canyons so just as above the long flat straight ones don't last long here. Hope that some talented person comes up with better trees foliage etc. than is available now.

#5 vainte1

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Posted 16 February 2004 - 05:13 AM

It is the extras you add to your routes that really make them stand out, and make the activities my main focus in MSTS.

Ohio rail is great example of a route that gives you a 'sense of purpose'. You can print out highly detailed descriptions of the activities that are told almost in the form of a story, to help you get familiar with the various industries and adding to a sense of reality. The option to print out labelled schematics of the sidings for all main towns are also a huge help. It all combines to make the route seem real.

Looking forward to Barkley.

#6 zhivago47

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Posted 17 February 2004 - 05:06 AM

Well I have to agree with all of you. Running trains is only as good as the activity and the scenery and trackage. Rich excels in just about all three. Kevin excels in activities and the rest excel in similar areas as well as engine creation.
The reason Rich's routes excel, and by the way I run Ohio Route pretty much exclusively, is because of what he puts into them. They are interesting to run, they are an activity writers joy, they have great scenery and they work. They are 100 percent complete before you get them.
Now, Rich and I are good friends but that isn't why I like the routes he does. It is his commitment to excellence that stands him above most of the crowd, including the payware crowd. There are other good routes, don't get me wrong, there are other good route creators, but if I download one of Rich's routes I know I am not going to be disappointed.
His commitment to all things in his route, and his commitment to detail is what makes him unique in my opinion.
Now that I have given him another swelled head, Rich, when am I going to see version 11 of the Ohio Route, or am I going to have to get the Interstate from Marc and call that good? smile.gif And you know why I say that don't you. It is in my neck of the woods and a route I have been looking for for a long time. But, I will run both because it basically connects to your Ohio route in a way, especially if I can get version 11. Know what I mean? hehehe!

You know I am teasing you Rich......don't you? You're great buddy, you really are. This is what I like about MSTS. The people here, or most of them. The Marc Nelsons, the Bob Browns, the LHW's., the Tim Baldwins, the, oh hell I like everyone. That is what I like about MSTS. That is why I am here. The people. The people, The people.'

Dang, I had to add this or I will not feel right. I almost forgot one of my best friend's, who I just enjoy and who has helped me out a lot since I first came to MSTS, and that is Kevin Arcenaux. I hope the heck I spelled your last name correctly Kevin. I should know it well, as I have them in my family tree, but sometimes my brain doesn't function the way I want it to. Anyway, I didn't want to end this without acknowledging his friendship and all of his help. One other person too who has helped me a great deal, and many of you here may not know him, but that is Kip Crawford, who has the fictional PRRR line and now does some work with 3dTrainstuff. These two as well as Rich have helped me tremendously and I will forever be in their debts.

Thanks to you all. That is what I like about MSTS!

Tim

#7 rgarber

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Posted 17 February 2004 - 06:00 AM

Thanks guys for all the nice things you've all said. blush.gif

Heya Tim!

That's a good point you bring out there and often overlooked in the discussion of MSTS. In model railroading if you ever watch the Allen Keller videos of great layouts they all come out at some point in the video and say that the comraderie is one of the best things about model railroading. That's true here in MSTS too. I've been fortunate because of the routes I did that I get alot of emails from all over. Starting with East Metro the deluge of email was almost overwhelming. In fact, I cited many times on the forums when the subject of why the routes got moved to avsim was in a large part to slow down the amount of email coming in. My thinking was if I could slow down the pace of the downloads it would also pace out the emails.

Now don't get me wrong when I say this. The emails coming in are rarely complaints. Back in the early days with the more complicated installations (like with Number 11) everyone was having a bad time of it. But since East Metro the emails are typically very positive. The point of this to get back on subject is how we often overlook how complimentary the community is. With my big band christian music over at soundclick.com (search on Living Waters Jazz if you want to hear) I have about 6000 downloads. At MP3.com before it folded and started changing, the number of downloads was pretty good too. But, to this date I've only had a handful of emails about it. Maybe it's that bad. sad.gif I don't know but it's not hard to undersatnd why I prefer to do the train stuff now more so than the music. A pat on the back is a big help when your struggling with developing something for MSTS. And it is... always a struggle! rolleyes.gif

It's amazing what has come out of the train community when you consider how poorly the sim is supported by its makers. What Steve Davis is doing is simply amazing. I can't say what he's up to now but check out Skylinecomputing.com and see if he says anything about Activity Master. Here's a guy who truly works in stealth mode. It won't be long before he releases it too. I'm not sure if it's payware or freeware though. From what I gather and trust me, you guys are gonna love this, it allows you to switch out rolling stock in an activity with rollingstock you have on your hard drive. And from what I seen of the program, it even does it automatically. I probably said too much already and I don't know if I was suppose to or not but keep an ear out for this program. I'm already asking Marc if he'll include Steve Davis's products as a forum here at 3dtrains.com.

Rich Garber

#8 zhivago47

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Posted 17 February 2004 - 02:48 PM

Wow Rich, that would be a great program to have. Hey, Kevin. That would be very very nice. And even if it is payware, I will get it. I trust your judgement Rich.
There has been so many strides forward since I have been away that when I look towards MSTS2, if it ever comes out, what can they do that hasn't already been done. I say it is time for MSTS3, we have version 2 already from the people here. These guys are just amazing. That is what stands this game far above any others, only avsim rivals it.
Comeraderie and the willingness to try anything to make the game better has served us all well and we damn well ought to thank these people everyday for the time they have spent making the game as good as it is. I know I do. I may sound like a broken record at times but I truly appreciate all of you people for all that you have contributed and feel bad that I haven't been able to help in that cause. I am just not talented I guess, but hey, I love to create new train liveries, so that is my thing.

Anyway, getting off subject. MSTS is the community for me. I spend more time in the forums than I do playing the game. Why? Because I just love the people here. Being a disabled vet with nothing but time on my hands sort of necessitates this kind of thing, but it keeps me sane, it keeps me going, it makes me forget my illness and gives me friends to talk and write to. So, if I come off as a little over active in my thanks and my praise, I apologize but you guys just can't imagine what life without MSTS for me would be like. I spent a year and nearly a half without it and almost went crazy. Spent most of my days in bed, unable to even enjoy this computer. Boy it is so good to be up and about again. It is great therapy.

So this is why it is important to me, this game, this rather poorly put together game that now shines so bright because of people like you and Marc and Brad and Kip and Kevin and Danny, and everyone at MLT and V-Scale and Sacramento Works, and, I could go on and on. Oh how I love this place. You guys are keeping me alive, literally. And I thank you for that, from the bottom of my heart.

Ok, enough, I can tell I haven't slept in 24 hours. Oh well, who cares? I'll sleep sometime, when I need it. Right now, I am awake and ready to take on the world.

Rich, thanks. You are what I love about MSTS. wink.gif

Tim

#9 stationmaster

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Posted 17 February 2004 - 04:18 PM

Rich,
No surprise, but like you, I spend many more hours building than running. The most fun I've had was building Sweethaven.

Things I like when actually running MSTS?

- Looking at a scene in a prototype based route and recognizing it (Hey - I know that place! I was there in 19xx)!
- Pulling into a siding for a meet just as the AI train appears around the bend.
- A perfect stop at a short platform
- Hitting F4 and getting a perfect run-by spot
- Dropping off the last car

#10 trainfan36

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Posted 17 February 2004 - 06:16 PM

Hi everyone,

This is my first post on the forum here.

What I like about MSTS is what has been said prior, the community, I am amazed at how everyone seems to share what knowledge they have on this piece of software and truly care so much.

As far as Richard is concerned, he is the main reason I am still enjoying MSTS.
The East Metro was and is one my all time favorites, It holds a special place with me that proved what could be done on this sim from design layout to the amazing and useful manuals that were straightforward and easy to read.

From Ohio Rail to Canton, my jaw gets lower and lower with each of his route releases, from the details to the little extras, mp3's for Msts, whoda thought....not mention the atmosphere that is created, Richard is truly a skilled artisian.

Then came along Steve Davis.

Steve is to MSTS utilities as Richard is to MSTS Routes, Switchlist Generator is an amazing program that ends the repetitive activity syndrome.............and just when you thought is was safe to venture out again, now comes along Activity Master.............as a beta tester for this, whether it is released as shareware or payware this is one of the "Best" utilities you will ever own for this sim, the ease of use and the end result of using it to change consists on any activity down to individual pieces of rolling stock is amazing, Steve is a very very talented individual to fill the gap with what should have been done in MSTS's inception .

This piece of software will bring so much life back into MSTS and when used with Switch List generator will give a one two combo punch that will knock out any competing simulator.

Sorry if I said to much Steve, but this product was so long over due and to see it and use it I am forever grateful to you for creating such a easy to use interface and results I only dreamed of many years ago when I first bought Msts.

So to Richard, Steve and many others thanks for making this a most enjoyable hobby !!!

DM

#11 sgdavis

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Posted 17 February 2004 - 08:44 PM

blush.gif

I don't think I deserve all those accolades, but with such a great lead in I can't resist stepping in to respond! It's really flattering to be mentioned in the same post along with people like Rich Garber and Marc Nelson, and to get such a positive, unsolicited comment from one of my beta testers!! Rich truly is an artist, he's even designed a logo for Skyline Computing that I'm going to begin using.

I'll try and get some information on Activity Master up on the Skyline Computing web site (www.skylinecomputing.com) in the next day or so.

I didn't want to get too much of a buzz going on this utility until it had been thoroughly tested. I didn't want to release something that had a lot of problems! However thanks to the hard work of my beta testing team, this may be ready for release sooner than I'd thought ... possibly, by this weekend.

The unsung heroes in this process are the people like Dan/trainfan36, who have fought their way through my initial efforts, along with installation problems, run-time errors, and all the other bugs that accompany a new release, to help me craft a program that actually works on more machines than just mine! They've worked hard, sent me numerous files, comments, and critiques, and stepped through my many instructions as I tried to isolate and work around problems.

Although I'm not an outspoken member of the MSTS community, I too love the people who share my passion for railroading and simming. Our family is what makes this sim what it is!

Thanks!

--Steve

#12 BLW_1946

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Posted 17 February 2004 - 10:48 PM

I think a sense of 'community' and an atmosphere of mutual respect is what sets this forum apart from that 'other place' (although we all do frequent that establishment as well...) Thanks to Marc and everyone here for creating a forum that befits the high quality of the products produced by the various participants...

Cheers!

Tim

#13 rgarber

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Posted 18 February 2004 - 07:54 AM

Oops! I made a goof here. Let me explain, and this is the first paragraph from my original post...

Every once in awhile I get a hankering to talk instead of just build. It occurs to me that if someone coming across my posts will see plenty of pictures of scenery, but no trains. But when I look at most other pictures of MSTS, I see mostly trains.

Where I wrote 'I see mostly trains', I hope nobody took that to mean I was criticising other routes. The context that I meant that in was in reference that I usually put up a picture with just a building, or a landscape of something I've done lately, and rarely does it include an engine or freight cars.

It all goes back to the days when I was working on Build 11 of Ohio Rail in the Barnesville area. Scott Riley had suggested that maybe I include the Watt Cart & Wheel complex that has since closed but he had a few pictures and part of it was now standing as a converted art facility (or something). Well, I initially wasn't too keen on the idea with miles and miles to go of mountainous scenery to do, but what the heck. Scott's right, I need to include this mill if for just an additional place to switch what amounted to be twenty or so miles of continous running. But at the time, there's nothing even close to the looks of the Watt complex in the default or 3rd party building stuff so I set out to create them myself. So I began building and building and there's still more building to do and I kept building until I couldn't build any more because I didn't have good enough references to build anything else. I kept everything within real world measurements and because all the buildings were close, while a sizeable space was used up, I still had to move on towards Wheeling. But looking at my replica of Barnesville made me dissatisfied because this lil' ole mill is there now and there needs to be a big enough town to justify it being there. So more buildings are needed and while creating those too, I kept moving towards Wheeling.

But every time I came back to place something in Barnesville and the Watt complex something affected me differently about the sim than it had before. I wanted to look at the scenery.

The point I'm getting at, which was not the point of the original post I might add, is suddenly the scenery took on a whole different perspective than anything I had done or seen previously as this one area of Barnesville shaped up. Rather than ignoring the scenery, I am now found myself purposely looking at it. This is really what spawned Canton. Soon I began wanting to see what the impact of a route built with better textured objects and in scale would look like. Rather than one place on a route looking good, how about a whole route? It wasn't too long after that, that MS encouraged me along to give this a try. MS you ask? Yep, the MSTS2 announcement put a halt to Build 11 and so I began coming up with new ideas for a new route.

This is off track but that announcement back in ... uh... 2003 of October or November, really changed things alot for some of us. It sure did for me. There's a whole thread discussion in itself now that I think about it. So I better get off this tangent quick. blush.gif

Anyway, to get back to my original post, the gist of my blabbering was really just an explanation of why you don't see usually engines/rollingstock in my Barkley pictures. Scenery coupled with engines/rollingstock makes for what I like about MSTS. Add in some buddies like Tim pointed out, and a love for railroading and that's I guess the reason why MSTS has lasted on my hard drive longer than any other sim or game I've ever owned. I think we're going on 3 years now, ain't we? smile.gif

Rich Garber

#14 BLW_1946

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Posted 18 February 2004 - 10:14 AM

Well, back when I used to do a lot of active railfanning, I took my share of roster shots and 3/4 wedge shots, but my favorite photos were ones with a sense of place, usually small town America rather than urban clutter - naturally scenic locations and buildings with character used as backdrops for the passing trains. Both Canton and Ohio Rail posess that kind of character, and I'm sure that Barkley, Andre's North Arkansas, and Marc's Interstate Route will as well...

Sample photo below...

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#15 zhivago47

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Posted 18 February 2004 - 12:13 PM

You got it Tim. That one picture says a thousand things to me and I am sure Rich too. Look at that scene. Recreating that one area alone is worth a hundred big cities. This is America. That's what Rich is talking about and everyone else here. You can't put a price on it. I hope, and have no doubt that Marc's Interstate Route will have this kind of thing in it, because having been to that area many times because of my love for this area and it's people, the rural settings and buildings and yes, squalor are what makes this area so great. Sure, the people are poor and they worked their butts off in the local coal mines, and died too young, but these people lived. These people lived the life that sets them apart from urban America. They are our backbone, if you would. People like Rich and Andre and Marc are creating that kind of thing and boy it is going to be so great to drive my train through these areas and just look at the sights and hopefully sounds of the backbone of this country. It ain't pretty, but it is real.

It's good to meet you Steve. Didn't even know you existed until Rich mentioned what you were doing the other day. And of course if Rich has praise for you, then you must be doing something right. I now have your website address so will be moseying on over there to look at what you are doing. It sounds like something that everyone will want to have. Good luck and nice to meet another talented individual of the MSTS community. Man, we have a lot of them too. Isn't this great? I think so. And the fact that they are all congregating here on Marc's site says a lot about Marc as well. He recognizes talent and is not afraid to share the limelight with it either. Boy, that says a lot about his character. Let's face it folks, this is the place to be now, and from what I have heard, there will be a lot more good people moving over here as well. What a different atmosphere here. It's so refreshing.

Rich, thanks for opening up this conversation in your area. I think it was needed. The question was a great one, and I find it fascinating that almost to a person, the answer is the people here. The community. That is what is great about this game. Yeah, you are right, close to three years, still on version one, but that has long disappeared behind the genius of the people here. The game is nothing like it was. And with this kind of enthusiasm and talent, personally, I don't even care if there is a version two. I mean that too. I love this game just the way it is and the way it will be with the likes of people like you and Steve, and Marc and the people who have created all of the fine add ons we now have. You just can't beat it. This is something Trainz is going to have a very tough time duplicating. And this is no slam on them. I wish them success but it will be hard to duplicate what has been and will be accomplished in this sim.

You know, my daughter (I live with her and her family, and bless her for saving my life and allowing me to be a part of it) asked me one time what was so fascinating about trains. And you know, I tried to explain it to her, but she just didn't get it. Well, it is more than the trains. It is the beauty of the scenery, the back country areas of America that are rarely seen, it is the people here and so many other things.

Ok, I have gone on long enough. Rich and I have one thing in common besides the love for the game and that is we like to ramble on a lot. I do apologize for that but you know what. A million words can't touch that one picture that Tim just posted. Even in Black and White it says it all. That is what I love about this game and the community.

You all have a good day. And thanks for making mine brighter.

Tim

#16 BLW_1946

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Posted 18 February 2004 - 12:53 PM

Another great thing about this community - I've never encountered so many other 'Tims' in one place in my entire life... smile.gif

the earlier photo was in Alden NY about 25 miles east of Buffalo along the ex-Erie Southern Tier route. The one below was taken about 10 miles further east in the village of Attica NY (yes, that Attica...)

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#17 yellowdog

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Posted 18 February 2004 - 01:59 PM

First off, I have a few comments/questions about Activity Master.

1) Is this program significantly different from Conbuilder? (I almost hate to ask that question b/c I feel like it cheapens the work that someone has done, but I think it's a vaild question and must be asked.) It seems like the only thing Conbuilder has difficulty with is replacing wagons in loose consists.

2) I read through the *.pdf and am wondering if there is a way to display stats about the consist in order to reduce the amount of errors that swapping rolling-stock creates. I.E. can Activity Master have a readout that says something like--"Consist is X ft long and weighs X tons"? If not, not only will loose consists be a headache, but imagine running an activity which requires two trains to pass, but both trains exceed the limits of the siding they're supposed to pass in. Or, if someone replaces, say 3 GP9s for 3 AC44s and expects to pull 100 cars of loaded coal, they will be surprised when they hit the sim. Some of this is a "no brainer," and some of it would be impossible (esp when replacing rolling stock that doesn't exist on the harddrive, i.e. giving Activity Master nothing to compare to) but it would be handy to have the info up front. I haven't used Conbuilder in a while, but I believe it has this function (someone correct me if I'm wrong).

3) Will there be some sort of visual interface where we can see the cars we're picking from, similar to how Conbuilder and the AE work? This may have been covered in the *.pdf--I didn't get that far.

4)Ah, rats--there was something else, but I don't remember what it was. Maybe it will come back to me.

Anyway, looks like an interesting program and I hope it performs well. Thanks for your offering!

As for the original question--what do I like about MSTS? I think it is the opportunity to step back in time and regain a part (whatever part you want) of railroad history that no longer exists. For me, it's CSX in the early 1990s. I know this can be done with model railroading, but (truthfully) I suck at that and it's way too expensive and space consuming for me anyway. MSTS is frustrating as anything I've worked with and I had to take about 9 months off, but (amazingly) it drew me back for the reasons I described above. I've been bit hard by the train bug and this seems like the only antidote for me (as well as a source of more poison). Another thing, which has already been mentioned, is the people I met and missed. I had some good times on the forums and through e-mail while working with this sim (it's hard to call it "playing") and I met some incredibly talented people. I missed that, too. Glad you guys are still around! smile.gif

#18 sgdavis

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Posted 18 February 2004 - 08:26 PM

QUOTE(yellowdog @ Feb 18 2004, 01:59 PM)
First off, I have a few comments/questions about Activity Master. 

1) Is this program significantly different from Conbuilder? It seems like the only thing Conbuilder has difficulty with is replacing wagons in loose consists. 

2) I read through the *.pdf and am wondering if there is a way to display stats about the consist in order to reduce the amount of errors that swapping rolling-stock creates.  I.E. can Activity Master have a readout that says something like--"Consist is X ft long and weighs X tons"?  If not, not only will loose consists be a headache, but imagine running an activity which requires two trains to pass, but both trains exceed the limits of the siding they're supposed to pass in.  Or, if someone replaces, say 3 GP9s for 3 AC44s and expects to pull 100 cars of loaded coal, they will be surprised when they hit the sim.  Some of this is a "no brainer," and some of it would be impossible (esp when replacing rolling stock that doesn't exist on the harddrive, i.e. giving Activity Master nothing to compare to) but it would be handy to have the info up front.  I haven't used Conbuilder in a while, but I believe it has this function (someone correct me if I'm wrong).

3) Will there be some sort of visual interface where we can see the cars we're picking from, similar to how Conbuilder and the AE work?  This may have been covered in the *.pdf--I didn't get that far. 


Yellowdog:

Great questions. Thanks for asking! I'll try my best to answer.

>First off, I have a few comments/questions about Activity Master.
>1) Is this program significantly different from Conbuilder?

I have ConBuilder and it's a GREAT program. There certainly are some similarities. To me it's a different type of program. It's targeted more towards spicing up activities, and enabling users to run any activity they've downloaded, with just a few mouse clicks. ConBuilder allows you to really get "under the hood" and manipulate each and every car (wagon or engine to be exact) in a consist to get just what you want. But this can be time consuming and tedious for some.

I have written, and posted (mostly on train-sim) a lot of free activities. But there's always a trade off. If I do my best to make the activity as authentic as possible and include a lot of rolling stock that's likely to be found in the area, as I did with my original activities for Enocell's Newark & New Jersey Railroading route, then I'd get a lot of complaints about all the downloads that were needed. I'd tell folks, "Hey, if you don't want to do the downloads, you can go into ConBuilder and change out the rolling stock you don't have, for stuff you DO have". Usually people didn't want to go to the trouble of doing this, especially if there were a lot of AI trains. Also as you mentioned you can't change out loose consists using ConBuilder, so you were back to either the MSTS Activity Editor, which some folks loathe, or, editing the Activity text files.

When I wrote SwitchList Generator I tried to include the MINIMUM of extra rolling stock with the templates, so the maximum number of people could use and enjoy those templates. So for Ohio Rail I only used the Ohio Rail rolling stock pack. For Canton I likewise used all the Canton rolling stock. Then I had some folks complain, too many Canton boxcars, couldn't there be more variety? SwitchList Generator gave folks the chance to experience a route in a manner more similar to the way a real railroader would experience it: running the same route day after day, but with different work to do. Cool, but not quite realistic enough. Because in the "real world" the rail cars would have different looks, and be from different roads, just about every day. And all the passing trains wouldn't have the same cars and engines every day either. How to make MSTS activities replayable, endlessly, with variety and realism? I was struggling with this, and tried using a global search and replace on the .act files with a text editor, it was too hard, I made mistakes, the activity wouldn't load. So, I came up with a utility that would take any activity or SwitchList Generator template, and repopulate it with rolling stock, in seconds, with the press of a single button. Activities usually still work because only rolling stock actually on your drive is used, and the cars are replaced with the same number of cars.


>2) I read through the *.pdf and am wondering if there is a way to display stats about the consist in order >to reduce the amount of errors that swapping rolling-stock creates. I.E. can Activity Master have a readout >that says something like--"Consist is X ft long and weighs X tons"?

Activity Master isn't really "consist-based", like ConBuilder, it's rolling-stock based. It's true that with Activity Master, as with any other utility that modifies activities, even the MSTS Activity Editor, you COULD make changes that may cause an activity to become unplayable. So far that hasn't happened in our testing. If it does, Activity Master has a "restore activity" button that gets the activity back to it's original state, including all the consists.

Instead of having a readout on consist tonnage and length, Activity Master gives the length of each car (piece of rolling stock). So you can (and should) replace 50' box cars w/ other 50' box cars, etc. It would take a lot of cumulative errors though to get a train with the same number of cars to not fit in a siding. Still I suppose it could happen. As for tonnage, when you're dealing with AI trains, MSTS doesn't really care about this once a consist has been set up. When creating a consist initially in the Activity Editor, it's true, MSTS DOES take into account the trailing load and the engine HP. It then sets up some variables in the consist and service files such as "MaxVelocity ( 33.08096 0.76283 )" Once that's set, as long as it isn't modified, the consist will perform the same regardless of what you substitute. You could replace four dash 9's with a single Alco RS1 (using Activity Master, NOT using the Microsoft Activity Editor!) and the train would perform the same.

The loose consists are trickier because they have to fit in the sidings they're "parked" in. Some sidings are tight, others have plenty of room. But since Activity Master gives the length of each car, if you replace all cars with cars of equal or less length, you won't have any problems. If you DON'T do this, and you replace some 40' box cars in a small spur in Canton with an equal number of 80' cars, then you'll likely start MSTS and see "Activity Begins with Objects In Collision, Which is Prohibited." Then either go back to the original, or change it. Since Activity Master works by assigning a particular substitute, or list of viable substitutes, for each TYPE OF CAR, it's still easier to do this than it would be to manually go into the activity editor and change the loose consists manually. Because, even if there are 200 spurs with cars on them, if there are only 20 different types of cars used in the activity (a typical number ... if you are working with an activity that uses all default rolling stock, the number will be even less), then you only need to set up which cars can be used to replace those 20 cars ... you DON'T need to worry about what is in each spur. So you select the potential replacements for each of the 20, or, just those cars you'd like to replace (you can always leave some as is), and when you push the "Replace" button, the original activity is backed up, and all those cars chosen are replaced with one of the allowable possible replacements you've chosen.

One place you CAN get into trouble: changing the Player consist. Because of this Activity Master has a facility that allows you to MANUALLY choose the driveable engines. Because, unlike the situation described above for AI trains, MSTS DOES take into account the horsepower to weight ratio of the PLAYER train, and adjusts it even as cars are picked up and dropped off (as you know from driving these trains!) So, you should exercise a little judgment and either NOT replace the player driveable locomotives, or, replace with similar type engines or similar horsepower. Since you can see the original engines, and pick each engine you want, this shouldn't be too tough. If you have a 100 car coal drag as you describe, and repalce 3 AC44's with 3 GP9's, you're right, you won't be able to get far.

>3) Will there be some sort of visual interface where we can see the cars we're picking from, similar to how >Conbuilder and the AE work? This may have been covered in the *.pdf--I didn't get that far.

I'm sorry, but no. It works by car names and descriptions. I would like to add that but I don't have the ability to read the .ace files. ConBuilder generally uses icons rather than actual pictures of the rolling stock. Still, remember you'll be replacing possibly 100 cars at once. So scrolling through a lot of individual pictures could be tedious.

When matching to rolling stock you don't have, Activity Master has a fairly good database it uses to make sensible matches. Also, you can usually tell by the name what the original car was. Of course, sometimes this will have to be trial and error.

I think the beta testers have had pretty good results from the program. I'm still getting reports in and making tweaks. I have to admit, when this first worked it was a thrill for me: I took one of my original freeware activities, the "Harvest Grain Train" (which I've written for both the Default Marias Pass route and Marias 3.1, and ran the utility on it. It originally had only one type of car: the default US2GrainCar. I replaced them all, with the press of a button, with a virtual rainbow of grain cars, from roads all over the US, like you'd see on most real grain drags. All the grain cars in the player train, as well as all those to be picked up in sidings, were changed. It looked beautiful! I don't have a "before" picture, but here's an "after" one to give you an idea (I also changed locomotives from the default dash 9's to what yo see in the picture). I opted not to touch any of the other car types (you have that flexibility in Activity Master).

Finally, THANK YOU for taking the time to download and look at the preliminary manual, and, I appreciate your thoughtful and intelligent comments. I'll try and make this utility better, comments like yours help me to do this!

Happy Railroading,

Steve Davis
sgdavis@vigoris.net

Activity Master Web Site

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#19 trainfan36

trainfan36

    Railfan

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Posted 18 February 2004 - 10:18 PM

Also regarding Activity Master,

You have the option of creating your own classification of car types, for example I have several Boeing cars that I feel do not belong in a basic category such as "flatcar". so I set all the different Boeing versions to "BNG" , you can also create groups of rolling stock containing specific pieces such as from one particular road name but all diiferent types of cars.

The program is quite ingenious, I changed a default Cajon Pass intermodal activity from having Gp-20's and an older container car to a modern BNSF/TTX stack train being pulled by an SD-70 and was awed struck at the outcome of the different stack cars that replaced the same "plain" container car in the original activity, I really should have took some pics because I can't do it any justice just describing it.

The program is great, con-builder is also great but more for making new consists then actually replacing the cars in a specific activity already made, and like Steve said you can now do realistic operations by doing an activity over and over with completely new rolling stock each time..........

Realism factor is increased 10 fold, adds a whole lot of flavor to what was once was a mundane task.......

#20 yellowdog

yellowdog

    Just a grease spot on the L&N

  • Beta Tester
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Posted 19 February 2004 - 05:21 AM

Excellent reply, Steve! Thanks for the clarification! One note--Conbuilder doesn't read ace files to show what the rolling stock looks like. It uses .jpg files. You have to make a screen shot of the particular piece of equipment, then save it as a .jpg with the same name as the .eng file. Then Conbuilder can read/display it.

I remembered what my 4) question was!

4) One of the things that drives me nuts is trying to get some of the intermodal spine and well cars sets to match up correctly. I love the way they look, but invariably I'll put them in an order that wouldn't work in the real world, i.e. one side won't have wheels, or something. Apparently this doesn't create problems for MSTS because the sim will still run, but it really screws up my pictures!! smile.gif Will Activity Master eliminate this problem? Will it be able to tell which order the cars are supposed to go? Thanks again!