Back Home: Updates & Musings...
Posted 25 October 2004 - 06:08 PM
Back home safe and sound. Will be getting caught up on the back-log of various items over the next 2-3 days as I settle back in.
Looks like while I was away, the biggest news to roar through MSTS-dom was the shut down of MLT. Exactly why it has happened is known only to those involved, so it would be untoward of me to speculate in a public setting. It saddens me for those involved, after all, I'm sure MLT was not just a venture Jason en company were pursuing strictly for personal entertainment. Instead, I suspect the funds generated likely paid real bills. Funds that the families of those associated with MLT will sorely miss and need.
How does this impact VSC?
First, I would be untruthful to say that it does not concern me. If the reasons for MLT's demise are the result of business decisions that didn't produce as anticipated, and/or it is a result of a break down between the personel within their structure, then that would be less unsettling than the other option. That option being that sales of new payware content has become so sluggish that it is no longer viable for those needing such generated income to support their domestic economics.
It is commonly known among payware vendors that the most active sales period is the short period right after a new release. From that time on, sales begin to descend. After the initial sales surge, developers hope that sales of the item will stablize at a level that will eventually reward them for their time and financial investment. For a route that was essentially a single person effort, it would be hoped that sales would in the realm of 3-6 sales per day. If the product had a good release-surge, and then the product can continue to produce 3-6 sales per day for another 6 or so months after release, then that would be a (financially) successful product. After that 6 month period, if the product is still selling, it will likely drop to a handful of sales per week or less.
No doubt, the upcoming A&O Sub will be very enlightening to me. No doubt it will help me to understand much more fully whether or not there is still a viable market for MSTS commercial content.
I would be ignoring the facts if I did not accept that the MSTS commercial climate has changed considerably since the release of the North Arkansas. How much it has changed, remains to be seen once the A&O Sub is released.
However, for now (once I get caught up on a few items), it will be full-steam ahead (or Run 8?) on the A&O Sub route to get it released as soon as practical.
Well, I guess that's all for the time being... talk to all of you later!
Posted 25 October 2004 - 07:19 PM
another thing to consider: people generally cut back on personal luxuries in the month or two before the holidays. even those who might intend to buy a product might hold off a bit while shopping for the best deal on the latest and greatest whatever is hot this year, figuring that it can always be gotten later...
Also, with the exception of Danny Beck, the MLT crew has been far less visible in the train-sim community than the vendors on this site. Here it feels more like a place where friends gather to share different aspects of a common interest, and we all contribute in various ways.
I love MLT's products, but as a former small businessman, I have frequently wondered at some of their business decisions. We all make mistakes, and some are obvious only in retrospect, but the key would seem to lie in the fact that at least a few of the parties to the venture plan to continue creating content for MSTS and whatever lies beyond. It would worry me far more if the whole crew voluntarily walked the plank than if they manned the lifeboats to sail another day...
Chin up, amigo...
Posted 26 October 2004 - 05:49 AM
To be honest, many of the commercial routes (and this definitely does not include Rich and Canton) could have come with the original MSTS. Yes, the quality has moved on (but that should be expected given the passage of time) but not sufficiently so as to really set one "long haul" route apart from another.
What you and Rich are showing is that it is possible, in commercial routes, to come up with a level of detail that makes the whole convincing.
Now, I have KHP1, Sandpatch, Bridge, Cascade (I have done my bit for MLT!), Cajon, Canton (+ Suddenly), various European payware routes and an obscure route called St Louis & North Arkansas. All that is left on my hard drive is Cascade (only for the engines! which are great), Cajon (again mainly for the engines/stock, although I run it sometimes), Canton and St.L&NA. To say I have been disappointed by payware routes in general is to put it mildly, and I fear that MLT may have fallen into the trap of producing something that is just "more of the same".
Your route (soon to be routes) and Rich's (payware and freeware) go that step further. They don't just offer mile upon mile of featureless track (with minimal level of individual detail), they stop, look around and ask the question - if I was really at this point in the route, what would I see? Then you and Rich put it in.
I suggest that your level of detail and interest will gradually get a wider audience, when the end users realise what has been missing from the products from larger commercial suppliers.
I am certainly not sure there is a downturn in the market - perhaps just a market getting bored with, as I say above, "more of the same". Lets face it, how many miles of featureless track can anyone put up with driving along - there has to come a time where even the most hardened railroader starts to yawn and think -"is this going to be any different to the last offering"?
Certainly this forum, and All Aboard, is doing its bit to spread the word for you and Rich, and anyone, even just casually browsing the threads, couldn't help but realise that there is something special going on here.
On a personal level, you and Rich have (double handedly) kept my, and probably other users, interest in MSTS going.
Who could resist a route with the sort of atmosphere/detail seen below - and once it is also converted to diesel, there should be a ready made wider audience.
Lets hear it for V Scale and All Aboard - hip, hip, hooray.
As Tim says above - chin up!
Posted 26 October 2004 - 06:54 AM
The same is true with both Andre's and Rich G.'s routes. They have the level of detail that makes them very believable, just look at the trailer homes Rich is working on now, and are meant to be operated, as shown by the increasing number of activities they both come with. With them you feel like you are an engineer, one that has a day's work to do, problems to solve. This sets them apart from the norm and I feel, in the long run will give them the staying power that many of the others lack.
Posted 26 October 2004 - 06:59 AM
I definetly agree.....in fact, sometimes I think microsoft did us a big favor by NOT allowing us to reuse all their original content for a commercial route.....commercial vendors would pick a prototype route, lay the track then populate it mostly with default stuff to keep their costs down and then try to sell it resulting in major stagnation when it comes to improving the quality of commercial routes. Although it sux to have to "reinvent the wheel" for every payware vendor, at least we can be assured that the content will be unique. unfortuanately, this has led to us seeing mostly mountain and desert routes with minimal buildings and urban sprawl and simplistic rail-served industries which is..to me, a big let down when you travel through a hundred miles of repetitious (and sometimes boring) scenery only to deliever your train to a yard or industry that is highly simplified and not very detailed. I like to be "rewarded" by delivering my train to either a highly detailed yard and then taking my engines to a highly detailed servicing facility (with interior detail and nite-lighting) or to a large industry that is not "selectively compressed" but has lots of trackside detail, buildings with larger textures and details such as piping, catwalks, trucks etc.... Unit trains can go to from a detailed mining facility to a power plant complete with rotary dumper for example.........grain can originate or terminate at huge and highly detailed elevator/storage complexes.
Steelmills with detailed interiors, intermodal yards, mines for various minerals such as iron ore, limestone etc.....ore processing complexes, shipyards, powerplants, auto plants, distribution centers with lotsa trucks, cement plants, oil and chemical refineries or storage centers....you name it, there are limitless possiblities for interesting scenery that is actually part of the railroading experience...not just something you pass on your mainline run.
Hell, with all the kewl walthers stuff.....scale model railroading has one up on us virtual Railroaders...this is an area where we should blow them right out of the water!!
Ok, ive had my rant.....
Posted 26 October 2004 - 07:14 AM
Give my train some work to do, like this, instead of just running along through miles and miles of scenery, no matter how well detailed it may be. Railroads are in business to haul products from producers to consumers and that means switching cars at both ends of a run and in between many times as well.
Sorry about that Rod, how is this?
Edited by pnrailway, 26 October 2004 - 08:05 AM.
Posted 26 October 2004 - 07:36 AM
Thanks for the agreement above.
Any chance of compressing your great photos (to say max 800 wide) using Ifranview (or similar). The large photos make it difficult to read the threads as you have to move the screen from side to side.
Posted 26 October 2004 - 09:55 AM
You're right Tim B., it does seem more like a family of enthusiasts that have gathered here rather than a "business-owned forum". Though technically I reckon this is a "business-owned forum", I'm glad it doesn't FEEL like one. At the onset I was hoping I could mix n' mingle among like-minded enthusiasts without having to keep distant and aloof. Guess it's just my "way". That too, however, has to be kept within reason on my part, or I will do more typing (talking/chewing the fat) than working!
As for the detail and routes, it is fun to me to attempt capturing a "railroady" look (as I call it. ) in/around the rails, as well as a "natural" look elsewhere. The biggest challenge to that is the Almighty Object Count.
If you use the KUJU-style approach to object complexity/resolution, then tile count limit is apparently reached around 1200 objects.
However, for resolution clarity I use a lot of 512 textures, and very few LOD's (to avoid issues that TSM has with them)... thus my tiles start getting "fat" somewhere around 800-900, on account of textures much more than polys. Guess with all things there are prices to pay.
Anyway, the challenge to me is to populate a tile in a manner best suited to good viewing without wasting resource. I cut that a little thin in some areas on the North Arkansas, but I wasn't aware of how many people modify their camfig files for such long distance viewing. I'm trying to increase the viewing width on the A&O Sub, but it comes with a resource price... as always! Frankly, the best viewing on any of my routes is with default-type camfig distances, i.e. within reasonable distance to the train.
Still though, even with adding to the tree widths and such, I think the route itself will still be acceptably friendly in regards to mid-machines. I'll know more about the equipment once I start building activities.
Well, out of here for a spell. I'll check in on this thread again later.
Posted 26 October 2004 - 11:08 AM
Thanks for that - love the photo.
I have spent some time looking at the way Rich has done his trees in Canton - he uses a lot of flats for depth, but at a distance from the track that it is difficult to see that they are not individual trees. It is really obvious in the RE, and is very skilfully done.
He seems to use overlapping "forests", that are fairly thin, allowing a gradual build up away from the track.
I could have done with spending some time looking at what he had done before I started on my reforestation,although, rather ironically, some of the best bits were the early ones around Berryville, where I wasn't as slick at placing objects and got fed up with the struggle, then moved on.
I have found the tiles getting dangerously full around 900, but still acceptable up to 1200. Have had real problems with Freeman, which went up to 1600 (the tile had a t shaped section of route and required a lot of work). The problem with this one is that I can't do anything further with it now (wont let me delete, let alone add objects!).
Whatever - keep up the good work - looking forward to the A&O sub.
Posted 26 October 2004 - 12:04 PM
While you have been working very hard on the forests, in several different scenes, and a good job you have been doing at that, both on Andre's route as seen above, and on Rich's too, Andre has been hard at work laying new track for the A&O Subdivision. We caught this photo of his handy work when he took a little break the other day and wasn't around and you can see just how he goes about making his track work look so realistic. Looks like some of your forests in the background too!
Posted 26 October 2004 - 02:06 PM
Posted 26 October 2004 - 02:09 PM
Posted 27 October 2004 - 04:00 AM
Posted 27 October 2004 - 05:32 AM
NOW: MLT and other payware vendors currently have the problem of no alternative to MSTS. Sure, there is TRS2004 and while quite some vendors are now also offering products for this "sim", I don't think that it is viable to serve as alternative to MSTS. TMTS and TATS are both quite a ways off, so we have to stick with what we have.
I see the chance, that when a new sim arises above the horizon, which is also well-supported, that there is a bright future for current vendors, especially if it makes use up state-of-art techniques as DX9 etc.
MSTS for sure was a start in the right direction, but of course M$ was/is not able to serve such a small and DEDICATED market. With the airline industry, it is quite easy to make the proper deals, but my impression is that railroading is more of a niche with dedicated fans with a huge eye for details. Railroads have always been a matter of emotions, feelings and impressions, so a train sim has to feel just "right". I think that is also what makes BVE so attractive that it - while limited - offers the possibility of creating a certain atmosphere through sounds, rocking motion etc...
Posted 27 October 2004 - 06:08 AM
I am not sure what the underlying problems were with MLT (presumably there was, in the end, a cashflow problem), but surely any problem will have arisen from an inability to shift stock.
The question is why;
Was it because there was no market, period, or
because they were trying to sell the wrong products.
There is a market, as can be seen from the UK trainsim sites, and the European ones, so I suspect it is back to what they were offering. Like I say above, how many basically similar long haul routes can the customer base support (and keep supporting with each new one that comes along).
What they failed to do (in my opinion) is to offer something significantly different each time they released a product.
Now, the StL&NA broke new ground, and there is a market in this, particularly as Andre is able to offer something sufficiently different just on the same route (with the A&M Sub). How long Andre would be able to keep going, if all he offered was one 1900's steam route after another for 3 years I couldn't answer, but I suspect that even his quality work would start to become less attractive after a while. Had MLT offered a quality steam route (or early diesel) within their products, then perhaps their position might have been slightly different. Even 3DTrainstuff is offering a genuine steam package for Tehachapi (although I don't know how well this has sold).
What I am really getting at is that the market place is overstocked with very similar long haul routes (and in that you have to include the MSTS offerings). Maybe MLT (as good as their recent engines were - and they are truly fantastic) should have taken a long hard look at the market place, and maybe tried something a bit different.
I might be totally wrong - but Andre (and Rich) are at least selling from a different market stall and stand a good chance of appealing to what might be a reducing market, but one which is also more discerning and expects more of its payware.
Power to Andre and Rich.
Posted 27 October 2004 - 07:54 AM
Rod has brought up some very important points here. It is my feeling that MLT, among others, has taken a very narrow view of the overall market. Of all those out there that have an interest in trains, and the numbers run into the hundreds of thousands, not everyone is interested only in the Class 1 long haul routes. Yes, lines like the Union Pacific, Santa Fe, Southern Pacific, B&O, and others strike a note of interest immediately among many.
Just about all those with an interest in railroads have at least one big road that they are interested in, but, there are also many that have their interests in mainly the Colorado Narrow Gauge lines, or perhaps some line in the mid west in the early 1900's, or even earlier. Then there are those interested in the Appalachian coal roads, or perhaps some obscure short line. Why else would there be so many different historical societies dedicated to one line or another, even to lines most have never even heard of before.
This is what has caused many to go into the branch of the railroad interest hobby known as model railroading. It has given many a chance to recreate, if only in miniature, their favorite railroad, or a small portion thereof. The hobby of model railroading has gone through many cycles of interest peaks and valleys over the years, and I have been a part of that since the mid 50's. Each time it has seemed like the hobby was going to stagnate or even die, but has somehow bounced back to new growth and popularity. With the branch of the hobby that was created by the introduction of Microsoft Train Simulator, it too will go through a number of these growing cycles.
When Microsoft first developed MSTS, I feel it was partially because there were several members of management who were model railroaders. Microsoft, as a corporation even has their own model railroad club within the company as well as a company layout. Now, MSTS has not been very well publicized, and as a result, there are many out there in the railroad interest hobby that don't even know of it's existence and many just sort of stumble across it in a store or on line. With Microsoft no longer supporting it, (possibly because the driving force may no longer be with the company among other reasons), it is very possible that the number of available copies will soon start to diminish and this could have a greater effect on the growth of this branch of the hobby than the closing of MLT or anything else. With the available base from which to draw on longer growing, and MSTS' replacement still many months away, the train Sim "industry" could be in for some lean times for awhile unless it is able to provide a more varied product for it's present and future base than it already has.
Running mainly the long haul routes with some make-up and break-down switching at either end and a few local runs as we see from many of the routes presently available, is about the same as what the Class 1's would like nothing better to have. Pick up cars in yard "A" over here and drop them off in yard "B" several hundred miles away and let a smaller regional or short line handle all the pick-up and delivery at the individual industries. Many of the Class 1's are even taking out as many industrial sidings as possible to cut costs, sort of like cutting off their nose to spite their face, and leaving the generation of the carloads to others.
With many of us, our interest is in more than just watching the trains roll, for that we could have a circle of track on the floor and watch the train chase it's tail for hours on end, and as a result, we have gravitated to routes like those available from both Andre and Rich. Between them we have, or will have within a few months time, a decent sized Regional Railroad in Rich's Ohio Rail, a 1900's steam powered short line in Andre's StL&NA, a growing 50's to 80's short line in Rich's Canton, and then there is the now abuilding A&O Sub. of Andre's and his promised LNE and other's to come, all of which are very welcome changes from the norm. Each of these lines are designed to be both a pleasure to the eye and a challenge to the mind and a learning experience as well, as we go about preforming the many activities that come with them.
Yes, things look sort of bleak right now, but with all that is going on, from just these two individuals, not to mention all the other route developers out there, I think this branch of the hobby has a bright future. We just have to look beyond the present and work towards the future.
Posted 27 October 2004 - 02:22 PM
An interesting point that has been brought up is the association of model railroading with this new hobby of V scale.
When I first entered this V scale hobby a couple years ago, my model railroad mentality immediately thought: "WOW! FREEDOM! (i.e. not limited by room size) I can FINALLY run prototype routes!"
Several more months into V scale, and something slowly begin to dawn on me: This is boring.
It seemed as if 90% of the routes available at the time traveled a lot of miles without much to do or see. OR, when they DID arrives somewhere... the track available was insufficient to use for meaningful switching.
For example, in one commercial product I purchased, a branch off the main went miles and miles through some mighty pretty country... only to end at a location without even the means to run-around the train. Unbelievable. I marveled at how a commercial developer would spend the considerable time to lay all that track, spend even more time putting in some really nice scenery... only to have a totally useless branch line when finished.
Somewhere along that point in time, this truth dawned on me: The challenges faced in model railroading and V scale are totally opposite.
In model railroading, one is forever trying to figure out how to cram in enough mileage in between towns, as well as trying to figure out how to represent long distances on the available benchwork space. We dream of endless vistas.
In V scale, just the opposite is faced: Trying to find a prototype that doesn't have MILES AND MILES of nothing inbetween interest/potential switching points. I have routes on my hard drive that have stretches of three miles or more of open track between SIGNALS, to say nothing of anything to do inbetween those signals. Just think of the "excitement"... you get an "approach" signal aspect... and it's SIX miles before you'll know if there's a meet or not. Wow. How exciting. (Why those routes are still on my hard drive is a personal mystery.) So, I concluded that for the most part, routes are boring.
Reason? Railroading as an entertainment venue is a hard bill to fill. Make no mistake, aside from historically preserving a railroad via this V scale medium, we do this for entertainment. Seeing railroading as entertainment opens an entirely new set of "givens" to work with in V scale.
I determined that for a route to be entertaining, it needs to contain the following:
* Good "purpose".
* Reasonable overall mainline length.
* Good interest points along the way spaced as closely as possible.
* Enough track to get the job of railroading done.
Once this dawned on me, I re-evaluated some of the prototype routes I was considering, becoming VERY selective about the prototypes I looked at for replication. I discarded many before settling on the ones I am pursuing. Both of the prototype routes I have selected (the LNE and CM) are going to be very different and quite fun.
Then there's the A&O Sub. Admittedly it was a sudden urge/thought I had... but once I gave it some thought, I knew I had a very enjoyable concept developing in my mind. I had to do it.
For me, a route really needs to reach an interest point at least every 5 miles. Any more open track than that... and I start getting bored QUICK. The LNE and CM both meet this criterion or more so. The A&O Sub does so because it is a proto-lanced route. That is, I control the elements.
In recap, my conversion from model railroading to V scale has contained a lot of things learned in regards to the nuances of the medium. In addition, I've had to come to understand what is needed for V scale railroading to be realistic, yet entertaining. Hopefully, I've learned enough to keep myself quite entertained with my creations once finished. If you do too... then that's frosting for sure!
Well, enough pontification and philosophying for now!
Posted 27 October 2004 - 03:01 PM
As the latest issues of Model Railroader all have on them, "Dream It! Plan It! Build It!" That is just what Andre is doing!
Posted 27 October 2004 - 07:04 PM
Actually, both hobbies have limitations that might not be as evident to others...some limitations that can require "selective compression" on virtual routes.....
Number or objects per tile....model RR's dont have this problem...its a matter of cost and time for them but they are theoretically not limited to how many trees, figures, trackside details etc.
level of detail on rolling stock and especially scenery objects such as buildings and industries.......while Model RR's have to selectively compress their industries such as steelmills, we vitual modelers have to selectively compress the overall number of polys and consequently the level of detail on a building or industry. For example...The buffalo souther route has several full size steelmills surrounded by other industries but you try to design an acitity using static cons and AI and Boom!!!......msts phone home!!!!!
An HO steelmill will be compressed in overall size but can have limitless detail (both exterior and interior), while I must carfully limit the number of polys on my big industries i model for msts.
Model RR's will compress the size of yard and most msts routes will not, but im thinking that in the future..if might not be a bad idea....do we really need 100 track yard in msts?????.....we certainly can fill it with static cons to a realistic level and expect decent performance or not to phone home? If I were to model the DT&I flatrock yard (behind my house...its CN now), I might certainly consider selectivly compressing the number of yard tracks so i could better model the yard buildings and servicing facilities.
Posted 27 October 2004 - 07:06 PM