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A Beta Tester's Report


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#1 rgarber

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Posted 12 March 2004 - 09:59 PM

This is one very nicely done route. Andre's route has some very interesting trackwork. There's twist and turns everywhere and every hundred feet or so it seems. Yet, it has a superbly realistic feel to it. Then there are so many bridges and different aesthetic appeals to it, you never stop looking around. And then there's the vegetation. The pics I had to compress to keep the color and richness of the vegetation. But it is incredibly realistic looking. Even the distant mountains blend in with the vegetation that gives those mountains in the distance the feeling they are a part of the scenery.

Unfortunately I do not know my way about Andre's route very well and I wasn't able to come across a town quickly enough to get some good town pictures but I have been through them previously and they are as interesting and well done as what you see here. There's every reason to be excited by what will be a neat addition to anybody's route library.

The route package comes with several repainted engines with both interiors and non-default sounds (free and available separetly), activities, and the route itself is 33 miles with a number of towns and plenty of switching.

And while Andre may have gone payware just keep in mind that payware compels a developer to strive to beat the competition. With the push towards photorealistic textures and even better looking routes, it's a win-win situation for those who desire the graphics in MSTS to look as good as they can. And with photorealistic graphics, MSTS looks as good as anything else on the market. For me personally, I don't want to keep running graphics that date back a few years ago when I see sims like FS2004 and contemporary games are pushing the envelope of realism. Take a look at the newest X-plane site and see if you can tell if that pic is real or not. I don't have the link, sorry. But my point is if I can get routes and engines to look that good, why would I want otherwise?

Pics follow: smile.gif

Rich Garber

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#2 rgarber

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Posted 12 March 2004 - 10:01 PM

Here's the next pic. Andre uses neat aesthetics to keep the route interesting.

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#3 rgarber

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Posted 12 March 2004 - 10:05 PM

There are a ton of bridges on Andre's route. There are bridges on this route I've only seen in the history books. And that's what's neat about this route. You get a nice feel for what it must have been like to run a route back in the early days of steam. I'll try and get a town pic or two up in a bit.

Rich Garber

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#4 laming

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Posted 13 March 2004 - 12:26 AM

Thank you for your kind and generous comments, Rich. Given your skills (one need look no further than All Aboard's forum to evidence that), I certainly esteem your input.

My personal schedule is going to demand time from RE/AE and the North Arkansas for the next week or so, but when those obligations are attended to, I need to re-roll my sleeves up and get this route polished and released.

Andre Ming

#5 rgarber

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Posted 13 March 2004 - 06:09 AM

The question was asked, when will the St. Louis and Arkansas be out? It should be out soon. Can't really say anything definetely because his schedule is so unpredictable. He moves pretty quickly though and you'll see that what he's done for the St. Louis and Arkansas is excellent but it's hard to capture that excellence on film (so to speak.).

Okay, so what was I talking about when I wrote about what he does being hard to capture on film? When I was a musician, we used to describe some bands as having 'stuff.' The only way to describe stuff was when you listened to the band, you knew these guys were good. Technically, we're talking enharmonics, intonation, phrasing, and a natural musicality, etc. The difficulty in doing a period route like Andre has done is you have very little today to represent what it was like back then. Recreating that in color whereas the only medium available back then was black and white photography is a logistical nightmare. But when you drive this route, you feel as though he's caught the period. Everything comes together like a band with 'stuff.' Specifically, what I'm talking about is for one, the trackwork is very smooth. The grades are always changing, the track is twisting all the time, curved bridges and on grades to boot (two things I avoid like the plague) and all of it done extremely well. The towns are laid out nicely. I wasn't there back in the early 1900's but I have seen plenty of pictures and Andre's towns capture the looks of those pictures. You get the sense you are there, looking through a portal of time for what it could've been like to be railroading back then. The engines are also tuned for that period. Andre is very adamant about this. It creates the sense of being in a world that make sense. The speeds are low in places on the route. Once you start driving the engines, you'll know why. I personally like routes where the different aspects of it fit together like what Andre has done with the St. Louis and Arkansas.

Andre also brings prototypical experience to his route as well. He at one time was a real railroader and he can drive you nuts on how much of a stickler he is to the prototype. Fortunately he also has a firm grasp on the limitations of this sim and computers and he compensates and accentuates where possible to deliver a very computer friendly route. For many of us who like railroading of all different types, having Andre's route will be a nice addition to our library allowing us a wonderful diversity.

Here's a couple more pictures for review.

Rich Garber

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#6 rgarber

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Posted 13 March 2004 - 06:12 AM

This picture is a close-up of one of Andre's models. Texturing is flawless. Modeling is good. The only thing missing is one of those old style butter churnstyles or whatever their called, right? wink.gif

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#7 rgarber

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Posted 13 March 2004 - 08:13 PM

So let's go on to the third and last installment of my review of Andre's St. Louis & North Arkansas route.

In this last installment I want to cover a just a little bit about the author, Andre Ming. Andre unlike most of us payware guys, doesn't have much in the way of experience with software development. Andre truly has come up from the ranks of user to developer within a short time though. He's quite knowledgeable of prototype operations having been a real railroader. You easily sense this while driving the St. Louis & NA. From the train-order based activities to the engines and and industry setup, the St.L & NA gives you a pleasant feeling of what once was.

Following is some pictures from the town of Seligman. Just looking at the first picture you can see the town has great depth and character. The modeling again is quite well done and the different building shapes give a nice variety to the view. I stepped down from the engine to get a better shot of further down the street (see the second picture) and look how the town composition gives you the feeling of being there back in the old west. And this is when MSTS shines. When you have the right combination of great modeling, research and inovation like the St. Louis and North Arkansas has, it's even possible to make something long gone come alive again.

Great routes lend themselves to great pictures and the third picture is just another indicator why Andre has a great route here. Looking at the picture the trackwork is complex and interesting. But even beyond that you have more track in the background heading off to just around the bend to somewhere. What Andre did here is take a prototypical route and enhance it with just enough extras to keep the interest going. I've noted alot of industries for switching which will lend itself to many activities.

I'd truly love to stick around and talk more about this route but I'm just curious enough to see what's around that bend. So take care and keep your eyes open for what will be a great addition to your library, the St. Louis and North Arkansas by Andre Ming. You can learn more about his route at 3dtrains forums. Look for the V-Scale forum.

Rich Garber

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#8 rgarber

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Posted 13 March 2004 - 08:14 PM

Here's the second picture just a few feet forward from the steamer.

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#9 rgarber

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Posted 13 March 2004 - 08:15 PM

And here's my last picture for my review of the beta St. Louis & NA. Hope to see you in Seligman! wink.gif

Rich Garber

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#10 zhivago47

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Posted 13 March 2004 - 09:52 PM

Well coming from you Rich, who I think is the best route builder there is, this is a great compliment and I think a deserved one. From what I have seen of the route, it looks outstanding. And like you say, it is very difficult to capture the feel of something from back then when you were not really a part of it.
Andre has certainly come a long way in a short time and you can tell by his responses to questions and his descriptions of the route itself that he cares about making it right. This is what makes Rich Garber's routes so great. He cares about his routes, he knows the people who live in the towns he creates. he knows the industries and the engines. This can be said for Andre as well, there is no doubt in my mind. If Rich is the king of route building, which I believe then Andre is certainly a Prince.
I love steam but that makes no difference because I would get this route whether I did or not because I know it is going to be a great one. And though I am far from rich, I will purchase it because I need to. This will be a must route, a classic route up there with the Ohio Route and now Canton and some of the other great routes.
Thank you for you report Rich, it was very well written, as always, and just shows your commitment to quality whether yours or someone else's. I think we will get our money's worth on this route. I know I will. We need more people like these two, as well as Marc and Chip and all the people here at 3dtrains. They make this game the fantastic game that it is, because they care. Sure, they make a few bucks, but look at the time and effort they put into it. If you put that against what they are really making, it is a pittance against their efforts and time.
I am awaiting eagerly for this route as well as awaiting eagerly for the update to the Canton route and to the Interstate of 3dtrains. These will be great routes. No doubt in my mind.

Thank you Rich, you are more than a gentleman for your glowing report on the route. And as I trust you as the builder and person I have come to know, I will trust you on this report. But I really knew this already. Andre is a person who is always helpful and cares, for the people, for the routes and for MSTS . And you can't beat that combination.

Thank you Andre and will be eagerly awaiting this routes release as well as any upcoming release you do.

Tim

#11 Acela2020

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Posted 15 March 2004 - 06:17 PM

wow, i have to agree that those bridge designs are amazing cool.gif Andre, what prgram did u use to design those bridges?

#12 laming

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Posted 15 March 2004 - 06:44 PM

The sections used on curves/gradients are part of my modular bridge kit I designed/built using TSM.

The kit mainly consists of standard lengthed center and end sections in graduated heights, mixed/matched as needed. Once the kit was finished, I could essentially build/assemble any trestle needed in RE.

I are smart.

biggrin.gif

erdnA

#13 zhivago47

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 12:58 AM

QUOTE
I are smart.


No doubt about it erdnA!!!! smile.gif wink.gif

#14 96th_Malice

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Posted 17 March 2004 - 11:37 AM

WOW !!

Very nice looking for sure

Later

#15 cell0518

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Posted 12 June 2004 - 09:53 AM

Looks Cool. I may have to pick it up sometime. smile.gif