Train Sim World: Developer Diaries

Written by: TrainSim-Steve

In early December 2016, we commenced our Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul Beta with more than 15,000 owners of TS2017: Pioneers Edition qualifying for access. More than 2,000 of you registered on our dedicated forums with around 500 providing us with your thoughts on how we can improve Train Sim World for you.

Following the end of the Beta, we collated and catalogued all the feedback raised and identified the areas that needed to be addressed. We have since been working through this feedback and I’m now here to share with you a recap, and outline on how we are using it.

Before I go into this in greater detail, we advised earlier last year that Train Sim World will only release once it is ready. So with this in mind, we have taken the decision to move the release date into March. I’ll be back with another update at the beginning of March with more news about the release date and pricing.

Well Received

One thing was clear from all the comments and feedback we received was that you were incredibly positive about Train Sim World. Many of you voiced words of support for the new software and spent some time thinking about how this, very early version of the software, might look when we bring more content in the coming years and suggested add-ons that we should make for it.

You also shared with us your thoughts about how the software might be further developed with a range of features that you felt would add to the experience. However, the bulk of the feedback that we were looking for and received was in areas that needed improvement, and here are the key areas we’re now addressing.

Performance

Matt Peddlesden, Senior Producer

Top most on the list of feedback given was those of you who were experiencing performance issues over a variety of different computer configurations. We knew this would be a concern among you as there had been very little done to optimise the Beta. However, the one key benefit to a Beta process such as it was, is that it gave us the opportunity to see how well Train Sim World would work on the variety of platforms out there in the real world and challenge whether our minimum and recommended specifications were appropriate and valid. Matt Peddlesden, Senior Producer for Train Sim World, explains:

“There’s been some surprises with frame rate. Not that some people had some challenges with frame rate, we were expecting that because we’re only part way through the optimisation process, but it did surprisingly well on low-end machines. We had people coming back with 8 or 9-year-old computers that were outside of our advised minimum spec and they were enjoying the game on max settings, though they weren’t getting huge frame rates, and we didn’t think it would work at all. So, that’s been positive to find out that more players could play than we thought possible.”

“Where it didn’t do so well was on the high-end machines. The people who have got nice high-end rigs with top nVidia or AMD graphics cards actually weren’t seeing the kind of performance they should have been expecting and that’s one of the key areas we’ve been looking at.”

A key part of the Beta was about understanding who was experiencing the problems and what kind of hardware were you using to give that result. Fixing the problem, however, we knew would come down to optimisation and Matt explains more about the optimisation process:

“We go through a process called Optimisation and Profiling, where we run the game under a range of different conditions and we see how it does. This highlights the bits of the code that are bad and we take those bits, dig into them and we fix them.”

“We look at how the physics engine is working and see what we can do to make it work more efficiently and be less demanding. There’s elements to the physics which may be running that don’t need to be and we can detect when they don’t need to run and switch them off, saving us lots of CPU cycles.”

“There’s also the graphical side of things and we ask ourselves lots of questions – ‘If you’ve got a thousand wagons in Cumberland Yard, what does that look like, where are the problems with that and how does Unreal scale with those kinds of numbers?’ It’s working out where we need to change how we do things so that we can bring the frame rate up.”

“The Art Team have also been looking at how we create the art and how we’re dealing with materials and textures. Could we make use of smaller textures that do just as well, could we be cleverer with the way we use our textures and share them? And so forth. We’ve already made some big improvements by finding some textures that were significantly larger than they needed to be and have shrunk them down so you don’t see any difference other than the frame rate is better and the computer is doing less work than it needed to do.”

The optimisation process is still very much in progress as I write this but we are all confident the Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul final release will deliver frame rates more akin to what you would expect from your hardware. Ben Laws, Lead Programmer, sums up our activities on addressing performance issues:

Ben Laws, Lead Programmer

“We’ve been focusing on getting the best performance we can from any set of hardware, whether that’s high-end or low-end, with the settings scaling to the system that you have. We want every player, on the lowest to the highest spec, to get the best performance we can get out of it.”

Software Crashes

Very early in the Beta, we started to receive reports that you were experiencing game crashes. This turned out to be a key tech that we had included which managed the physics for the refuelling hoses. Our team were able to look at this during the Beta process and released a patch. Unfortunately, this fix didn’t help some of you overcome the root cause of the issue, which was directly related to a CPU dependency that was hard coded to the tech for the hoses, something our team was unable to overcome. However, a solution has been found since the Beta in removing the tech and implementing an alternative method.

In-Game HUD

In Train Sim World, a new HUD was introduced that was radically different from what you had become accustomed to in Train Simulator. The team were keen to find out how you got along with that change. Many of you provided us with some feedback about how this affected your way of playing. Matt tells us more about this:

“What we found in the feedback was that everyone really liked the new HUD, which was fantastic! However, there were some bits that were missing and we knew they were missing, they just hadn’t gone into the code at the point of the Beta. But what was really great was that everyone picked up on all the bits that we already knew was missing and asked us where they were.”

“The good news is the missing items, things like the next speed limit, the current speed limit and where the next signal is, are all in or are going in at this moment. We’re also going to add an option so that you can see what the state of the next signal is, whether it’s red or green. Some players just want to know this, though it’s not something that you would realistically know, but it’s something that the casual players want to be told because it makes the experience easier and, if they use this option, the rewards they’ll receive will be reduced. You won’t be forced into using this feature either, we’re going to make it so you can turn it off if you want. You can have a more casual experience where you don’t have to pay quite so much attention to what is going on, if that’s what you want to do, or you can turn all these assists off and go completely hardcore.”

Ghosting

Very early into the Beta, you told us about a ‘ghosting’ or ‘blurring effect’ you were seeing while you were playing. This was previously known to be a side-effect of the default anti-aliasing mechanism called Temporal Anti-Aliasing (TAA). TAA works by using data from the previous frame to improve the quality of the next frame, and without using lots of extra processing power, can significantly improve the visual quality of most scenes.

Train Sim World does provide a range of other anti-aliasing options such as FXAA and screen percentage settings that will let you tune the game to suit your taste and our team remains committed to investigating other options for anti-aliasing. I’ll continue to get some updates on this from the team and will report once a solution has been found.

In-Game Cameras

Also in the Train Sim World Beta, a couple of new options for the cameras were introduced and you shared your thoughts on these and Matt goes into more detail:

“In the existing Train Simulator, you have a thing called a boom camera on the number 2 and 3 keys which is where the camera stands out on an invisible pole and you can spin the camera around the focused rail vehicle. We didn’t have that in the Train Sim World Beta. We received a lot of feedback from people who missed that camera so we’ve added it in for the final release.”

There were thoughts about how the camera behaved while you’re sat in the cab too and Matt continues:

“When you’re in the cab and the train is rocking around, you can see the train rocking around if you look at other rail vehicles but you didn’t feel that sense of motion while you’re in the cab, so we’ve now added physics to the camera so as you go over bumps and joints and things, you’ll get a sense that the train is rocking around. It just makes you feel a little bit less attached to the train and looks quite realistic.”

At the time of writing, this feature is still undergoing some further work to refine it but the team is aiming to have this in the final release version.

Finally, there were several comments relating to the camera getting trapped inside rail vehicles which our team also fixed during the Beta with the patch that was released part way through the process.

Sound/Audio Problems

Using Unreal Engine has given an unprecedented level of control over the audio and has allowed our Audio Team to experiment and bring a greater diversity to audio than has ever been possible. The Beta has given you a taste of what is being delivered in this area but some of you were able to provide our team with more detailed feedback about things that weren’t working particularly right. Adam Rose, Senior Audio Technician explains:

Adam Rose, Senior Audio Technician

“Thanks to the Beta, we’ve had a lot of really good feedback and most of that feedback was around things that might be missing, that weren’t loud enough and that sounds were dropping off a bit too quickly as you move further away. This feedback has all been helpful to us and we’ve been addressing these issues. It wasn’t a fully mixed audio experience in the Beta and I think that’s the key thing that we take away from it. We’re in the process of doing the final mix, as this is normally the last thing we do once we’ve got all the sounds in and fixed the problems that have come up.”

“I’d like to thank all the players that have fed back to us, it’s been useful for us to understand more about what our players want in audio. We’ve taken all feedback on-board, fixed the problems and put them into the final mix.”

Braking Physics

Finally, among the main concerns were lots of feedback about how the brakes were working on the trains and that they weren’t quite to your expectations. Ben, explains more about this:

“One of the problems that people were having was that the braking system was too powerful. The underlying physics were correct but the values we put into it were wrong. So, it was quite a simple job to fix it, which was good because it meant that we could see that the physics were working in the right way, it was just that we didn’t input the right values in the first place. The brakes now work more appropriately, we think this is a significant improvement and totally changes the way you drive the trains in that you have to think much further ahead.”

In Closing

So, this is all I have for you for the time being. On behalf of all our teams, I would like to thank you all for your feedback on the Beta. I’ll be back with another update at the start of March where I’ll go into more detail about the release of Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul. In the meantime, I’ve added two more wallpapers for you to adorn your desktops with and don’t forget to look out for Gary Dolzall’s articles over the next few weeks as he delves deeper into the fascinating history of Sand Patch Grade and the featured locomotives

TrainSim-Steve

43 Comments

  • Hi.
    Someone of you, could tell me if it is possible to derail the train or being hit by IA train.
    I would like to understand if it is a full first person experience like if the player is a person.. or is a “floating soul” ☺
    Thanks.

    • Hi Matt, I have already answered the first part of your question here when you asked on 28th February and yes, CSX Heavy Haul is a full first-person experience.

      • Oh, sorry.. I couldn’t find the topic and I tought that something was wrong! Thanks a lot..I’m really excited to play TSW! You realize a dream.
        I hooe to see steam train and 40s-50s era next year ..

        • No problem at all Matt 🙂

  • I do see that you guys were mainly interested in feedback on specific performance issues, but….

    What are the chances of later release for a room scale virtual reality experience?

    The realism level would be, well, unreal.

    • While we do have a passion for Virtual Reality, there are no fixed plans to implement this into Train Sim World at present. If anything changes in this regard, I’ll be sure to make everyone aware here.

  • I have a Steam controller for this Heavy Haul, I gather this controller is ok for the job am I correct

    • You are correct, Train Sim World is fully compatible with the Steam Controller.

  • Good afternoon

    I’ve been following the development of TSW Heavy Haul quite closely BUT never bothered signing up for the beta as well … simply out my 6 year old PC would probably have caught fire trying to start it ( TS2017 was CHOPPY lol )

    Anyways i finished building the new PC last month based around hoping to run CSX Heavy Haul ( and a couple other titles ) VERY VERY smoothly. It looks like I have succeeded in not only building my first PC BUT also making Battlefield 1 run in cocsistant triple digit FPS @ 1440p. I’m hoping TSW will run equally as well.

    Is there anyway to get onto the beta program late ?

    I currently own lots of Train Sim product ( am current up to 2017 )

    – I have LOTS of content creation background in MSTS ( freeware & payware )
    – Lots of beta testing pay wate product MSTS
    – 7 years railroad experience and can really help out / suggest ideas for some of your in game messages which I assume are supposed to be radio calls. Some of the radio protocol could use some tweaking. I realize it’s just a sim BUT if you are looking for realism with this one, some of the T2017 lingo isn’t gonna “fly”.. Not for a North American Class 1 railroad anyways.

    I’m not looking to get on the dev team …. or get anything for free ( heck I’d even pay to be able to help out ) I would like to see this sim replace the very aging MSTS for a lot of people. Sadly I don’t think RS or TS was able to do this.

    MSTS will not make it on to my new PC and I mess around with TS2017 quite a bit BUT I don’t want to invest in editing / reskinning / route creation especially with CSX / TSW hopefully close to release.

    I have lots of time to dedicate to testing presently. Come the beginning of April, Railroad life gets really busy and I’m limited to my gaming time.

    Anyways … let me know if I can be of use

    • The TSW Public Beta has now ended, it ran in early December for a limited period.

  • I Have been away from Train simming for a bunch of years… MSTS was all the rage still when I was last active. Been missing it lately and found you guys keeping train simming alive…. 1st Thanks! 2nd I have been on the fence about purchasing either the latest TS2017 or waiting for TSW. My biggest concern is in regards to expected performance. My current machine I would be using for gaming is a bit unorthodox. It’s a HP Proliant DL380G7 server with pretty high performance processors and disk space however being a 2U server chassis it has very limited number of PCIe slots and simply cannot accommodate a dual slot wide GPU card. The best GPU I have been able to source so far that fits the chassis is a Radeon HD 6570 which is a fairly low performance card by todays standards stuffed in a fairly high performance server chassis. Machine specs are as follows.

    CPU Type [Dual CPU] Intel Xeon X5670 @ 2.93GHz (6 cores per cpu)
    CPU Measured Speed 2.93 GHz
    Motherboard – HP Prolaint DL380 Gen 7
    Memory 48GB
    Video Card Tested Radeon HD 6570
    Hard Drive Tested HP LOGICAL VOLUME (180 GB) (SSD) (OS)
    Secondary hard disk – Fusion-IO ioDrive II PCIe (1.2TB)(SSD)
    Storage hard disk – Seagate ST5000LM000 (5TB) (Storage)

    The machine performance is very respectable other than the 2D/3D video performance due to expansion slot restrictions. I’m concerned the GPU performance just might not be enough to be happy with either version of TS2017\TSW.

    Don’t know if this would be helpful but here is a link to my benchmarks of the machine. http://www.passmark.com/baselines/V9/display.php?id=75919941831

    Is there any type of demo (time crippled is fine) that your potential customers can try out to get an idea if either TS2017 and/or TSW will be workable on their machines. I am looking for a higher end GPU, unfortunately any that have real performance that are affordable are all double wide slot cards and unfortunately would be impossible to install in my platform.

    Really wanting to jump into one of your sims but would obviously prefer the new TSW platform as this appears to be the future of your products vs the TS2017 version.

    Any Advice you can give or if you have a way I can try one or both to get an idea how they would run on my machine it would be awesome!

    Thanks,

    Nick

    • Hi Nick, For TSW, your machine may be limited by the performance of your Radeon HD 6570, so you may experience significantly lower than average frame rates. For TS2017, your machine should give reasonable performance as it meets the minimum standard.

      You may wish to look into GPU Enclosures, often referred to as eGPUs. These allow you to take advantage of a modern gpu without taking up the space inside your pc. There are many reasonable cost options available but you will need to look into Thunderbolt or other high speed technologies such as USB3.1 in order to connect this to your computer – which typically take up the existing slot you use for your HD 6570.

      • Steve,
        Thanks for the advice. It’s actually a great idea to move the card outside of this server chassis. Been looking online and looks like it’s going to cost a bit more to get set up than a machine with the correct slot space, but putting the right eGPU in an outside box has the potential to make this machine into a real monster gaming rig. Now which flavor of TS? I am guessing I may end up with both…

        Nick

  • Any word on whether or not TrainSimWorld will ave built in support for the RailDriver??

  • I cant wait till TSW is out I played the beta on steam and it was so cool! but my frams did drop to like I think Ii was 30 or someing and on almost all my games it is on 60 so I hope that is fixed and when I moved to the other train unit when the train was moveing I was abele to get there but if I tried to get back to the main unit well the front one it just made my player go all the way to the cars like I was inside a car and when I tried to move or jump out it just got me to the next car in the back to then finly I got to the last car and then the train derailed so I hope this is fixed to

  • The Game looks amazing I can’t wait quick question though. Will the game be available on Xbox one? as I remember early in the Development you said it would be for Xbox one

    • I’ll be back with more news on the Xbox One release soon

  • When will train sim would be released ☺

    • I believe your question has already been addressed in the article above.

      • Hello TrainSim-Steve.

        Unfortunately I have been unable to find the answer to the question that was asked – When will it be released… If you would not mind pointing to the section that covers this. – It is clearly Hidden…

        Thanks
        Stuart.

        • Sure Stuart, it’s in the third-paragraph: “So with this in mind, we have taken the decision to move the release date into March. I’ll be back with another update at the beginning of March with more news about the release date and pricing.”

  • TSW looks awesome. Will you be able to undock the hud so as to be able to put it on a secondary moniter?

    • You will not be able to undock the HUD.

  • Will we have an ability, guys, to create and import our own content into TSW when CSX:Heavy Haul will come in March ? Will we build our own assets and routes?

    Or will we receive another kind of “World of subways”, complete and closed for modding. Say just sincerely, please. We need to plan our activity as content creators.

    • I believe your question has already been answered in this previous article under the section “Developer & Player Creation Tools”.

  • Can’t wait for TSW. Although I will probably have to upgrade my System eventually because I do want to play it with Max Settings + high framerate. In the Beta I had to choose between the 2, but could not get both. We’ll see how the optimized final product will perform.

    Couple of Questions:

    1. Has there already been a decision on whether or not Simugraph will be made available for 3rd party devs?

    2. Will TSW be released as a pure “framework” product, without any driveable trains / routes? -> As much as I liked the Beta… North American Heavy Haul is probably my least favorite sort of “scenario” and I have never played any Route of that type more than once or twice before being bored with it^^

    3. Can we expect information on plans for other TSW Routes / trains in the next Dev Diary or is that something that you guys will only really start working on once the game itself is released?

    4. Is there some sort of roadmap for populating TSW with new content and putting the “world” in Train Sim World? 😉 Is the Partner Programme you have in place for TS2017 something you will continue in TSW?

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts morbvs. To answer your questions:

      1. SimuGraph is proprietary to, and part of, the Train Sim World software. It will be impossible to build add-on locomotives without being able to utilise this important component of the software. We are already discussing how third-party developers will be able to utilise this to bring their own add-on content, via our Partner Programme, to Train Sim World.
      2. Train Sim World will not be released as a “Framework” product simply because there would be nothing for you to do without the CSX Heavy Haul experience.
      3. With regard to further information on upcoming content, I do plan on sharing with you the road map for Train Sim World in the not-too-distant future. Whether this forms part of a Dev Diary update or a separate article has yet to be decided.
      4. I think this and question 3 are related to the same thing, with a portion answered in question 1.

  • When Will Train Sim Or This Game Come Out On Xbox?

    • We’ll have more news on the Xbox release soon.

  • So is the release still in February???? And i would like to say you guys are doing an amazing job with this!!!

    • I believe your question is already answered in the article above.

  • I have an Acer laptop with 64 bit operating speed, 7.45GB RAM and 2.50 Processor. I played TSW with the graphics on the lowest setting and had a lot of lag. When the full release comes out will I be able to play the game on a higher setting?

    • As mentioned in the article above, much work is being done on optimisation which will directly affect the performance of the simulator on your pc. Our team are confident you should get performance more akin to what you would expect with your specific configuration.

  • the trees in the first wallpaper looks a bit weird, but other than that it looks 99.9 % like real life. great job btw!

  • I think a lot of us will appreciate your team taking the extra time to refine TSW. Then hopefully take a good break once it is released!
    One question though, will the SD40’s bell be changed in the sound updates? That was one of the biggest sound related complaints.

    • This was among the audio feedback fixes that is mentioned in the article above.

      • Good to know you have that in mind, it also sounds like the lack of dynamic brake sounds was part of the incomplete mix, right?

        • The sounds for the dynamic brakes were there, they just weren’t loud enough for you to hear – again, part of the feedback passed to the Audio Team to address.

  • Will raildriver be compatible with TSW? I cant even imagine the realism of driving an ac4400 with raildriver!

    • Not with the initial release. We’ll be looking to get this in at some point further down the line.

      • Hello
        When will the Raildriver version be released ?

        • I have no details on that right now Xavemma. We do want to do it and get it all up and running but there are lots of things to work out first. I’m sure once we have it all worked out, I’ll get an update out to let you all know.

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