Objective criticisms of Railsim

General discussion about Rail Simulator that doesn't really fit in to any specific category. A good place to start if you're not sure what category it should fit in to as well.

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Lad491
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Re: Objective criticisms of Railsim

Post by Lad491 »

what is your view of what makes a timetabled scenario
Well im not interested in being able to plot an entire timetable for a section of line with all services passing and the opportunity to swap services etc. I'd be happy if I can have a service from A to B with intermediate stops, where there is a fixed arrival and departure time at each stop (one that doesnt move depending on how you drive like now), with the abililty to have services running in the opposite direction, and ahead and behind the player service.

For me a timetabled scenario is very simply a service you drive to a set timetable. In fact, just like activities in Msts :)
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Re: Objective criticisms of Railsim

Post by jamespetts »

Lad491 wrote:
what is your view of what makes a timetabled scenario
Well im not interested in being able to plot an entire timetable for a section of line with all services passing and the opportunity to swap services etc. I'd be happy if I can have a service from A to B with intermediate stops, where there is a fixed arrival and departure time at each stop (one that doesnt move depending on how you drive like now), with the abililty to have services running in the opposite direction, and ahead and behind the player service.

For me a timetabled scenario is very simply a service you drive to a set timetable. In fact, just like activities in Msts :)
Ahh - there's a potential cause for confusion there, since the official definition of a "timetabled scenario" is as I described. To avoid confusion, I suggest that you refer to the above as a "standard scenario with timetables". I know that different rail enthusiasts are interested in different things, and not all are as keen on timetabled scenarios as others (although there are a very large number who do want timetabled scenarios in the sense described in the pre-release publicity and in the sense for which there exist "timetabled scenario markers"), but we should at least be clear as to what we mean when we talk of "timetabled scenarios" :-)
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Re: Objective criticisms of Railsim

Post by RSAdam »

Having read through james post, and admitting that I had seen this communication from him to Derek previously, but been to busy to fully take in the findings, I am just not sure how to respond – There’s no quick answer.

I will be attending the Flight & Train Simulation show in Birmingham on November 17th and will be more than happy to discuss these issues in person.

In an attempt to summarise an answer, here are some pointers:
• We accept that there has been a lack of early documentation on signalling which has lead the community to misjudge Rail Simulator, when clearly so little is known and understood about how things work under the hood.
• We admit that some important signalling operations were not included in the default routes, this is not because we did not know about them it was a choice, just because something isn’t present, don’t assume it is not achievable.
• It would also appear that we mis-judged how much of the basics we needed to implement and how much should be left for the community to play around and come up with. After all we wanted a simulation that will grow, not just by us at RSDL but by you guys too.
• There is wide spread confusion over which systems govern what operations in Rail Simulator, which again is not due to the software, but due to the lack of time that the community has had to understand just how things work. Thus more time, interaction with the development team, and documentation about these systems when they are released will resolve most of the problems people are concerned about.

Since release of Rail Simulator we have had meetings in person with people from this forum who were concerned about the state of signalling, and every one of them has been pleasantly surprised about the state of things once the full picture could be realised and understood. We only wish more people would give us the benefit of the doubt as we simply could not cope with getting everyone of you down to Guildford to chat with us personally.
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Re: Objective criticisms of Railsim

Post by jamespetts »

Adam,

thank you very much for replying - it is appreciated. I know that you are all no doubt very busy at present.
RSAdam wrote: In an attempt to summarise an answer, here are some pointers:
• We accept that there has been a lack of early documentation on signalling which has lead the community to misjudge Rail Simulator, when clearly so little is known and understood about how things work under the hood.
• We admit that some important signalling operations were not included in the default routes, this is not because we did not know about them it was a choice, just because something isn’t present, don’t assume it is not achievable.
People can only judge Rail Simulator on the information that they have available to them at the time of making the judgment: if a feature is neither implemented in the default content, nor documented, nor accessible until later downloads become available, people can hardly be blamed for coming to the conclusion that there is no such feature available. If it turns out that the important features are present in the signalling API after all, just waiting to be uncovered by documentation, then that will be very good news indeed. However, if that is so, it would have saved a great deal of anxiety from the community (and bad PR for you) if more information about just what one will be able to achieve with the developer tools was made available at the time of release of Rail Simulator itself.
• It would also appear that we mis-judged how much of the basics we needed to implement and how much should be left for the community to play around and come up with. After all we wanted a simulation that will grow, not just by us at RSDL but by you guys too.
One thing that is still not clear is why, if the features are already present in the signalling API for vital functions such as direct, rather than deduced, detection of the presence of trains in track sections (track circuits) and route locking/interlocking, those were not included in the default routes. Indeed, this is one of the principal reasons why people have come to the conclusion that such features do not exist: if they did, it makes no sense at all not to implement them in the default signal scripts and have them available on the default routes. If the features are implemented properly, it should be much easier to design the signalling with those features than without them, so the natural conclusion to draw from that is either that the features are not present, or, if they are, they are so badly designed that they are so difficult to implement that it actually takes significantly less time to set up the kludged system present in the default routes than to do it properly, which would be almost as bad.

Of course, another possibility is that the signal scripts and routes were made before the critical features were implemented, such that there was not time to upgrade them in time for release, and no doubt there are other possibilities, too, that are beyond my ability to guess at. If that is the case, then it would be a great pity for the default routes to be stuck with such second rate signalling when they are so good in other respects: indeed, many of the features included in the routes themselves (the intricately set up destination/platform/siding markers, portals, the sheds and fuelling points) cannot have anything near full advantage taken of them unless and until the signalling is upgraded.
• There is wide spread confusion over which systems govern what operations in Rail Simulator, which again is not due to the software, but due to the lack of time that the community has had to understand just how things work. Thus more time, interaction with the development team, and documentation about these systems when they are released will resolve most of the problems people are concerned about.
I certainly hope so. However, one concern that that point raises in itself is the possibility that certain vital aspects of signalling are designed to be worked, not through the signalling system itself, but by scenario scripting. There is no point in writing in detail about how truly awful that this would be without knowing that that is how things will be done, so I shall not write more until I see the developer tools to-morrow. I very much hope that I will not have to write any more on this subject.
Since release of Rail Simulator we have had meetings in person with people from this forum who were concerned about the state of signalling, and every one of them has been pleasantly surprised about the state of things once the full picture could be realised and understood. We only wish more people would give us the benefit of the doubt as we simply could not cope with getting everyone of you down to Guildford to chat with us personally.
I certainly appreciate that that would be impractical! However, wouldn't it be much easier for everybody if far more information about how the signalling (and other) system(s) worked was available officially from the start? Surely that'd take far less time than telling lots of people individually? It seems to have been an error either on RSDL's part (or EA's part, if it forced this to occur) not to release more detailed information about the workings of Rail Simulator earlier in the process.

As to giving the benefit of the doubt, whilst it would be wrong to make final conclusions (whether adverse or positive) in cases of doubt, wherever there is cause for doubt there is equally cause for concern, which concerns are presently being ventilated in respect of signalling because that is the area about which there is most doubt.

Compare signalling, for instance, to 3d modelling. In respect of the latter, we have no way of importing any models, and we will not get any way of importing models with the development tools, either. However, although some people have expressed their frustration about this, we know that this is not a real problem for the long-term, because we know specifically that there is a plugin for 3dCanvas in the works presently, and that serious consideration is also being given to developing one for Blender, too. Indeed, there have been very detailed discussions with Derek about precisely what 3d modelling programs might or might not be supported, why the 3d Studio Max exporter will not be in the developer tools, and so forth.

In respect of signalling and operations, conversely, there has been very little information on what will be possible with the developer tools in respect of both signalling and pathing: just as with model exporting, we know that there are presently no timetabled scenarios, and no possibility of making timetabled scenarios with the first release of the developer tools, but we do not have any information on why they are not included, what further steps are needed to "activate" the feature, whether any work is being done or planned to make them available, any idea as to the time-scale within which they will be made available, or, indeed, whether they will ever be made available. It is from that lack of information that doubt accumulates, and from that doubt comes concern that the more adverse of the range of possibilities within the spectrum of doubt is true - after all, what possible reason would there be not to give us good news as soon as possible?

As Shakespeare once titled a play, all's well that ends well: if, with the release of the developer tools, or shortly thereafter, it becomes apparent that all of the important issues regarding signalling and operations are solved (and solved in a way that does not create more serious problems), and that timetabled scenarios are or will be within a reasonable time-scale eminently possible to create, then the troubles of the first month of Rail Simulator's life will soon be forgotten, and the forums will be teaming with discussions about the creation of content or railway practice or documenting the wonderful things that one can do with the product, rather than concerns and criticisms about the implementation or absence of crucial features. I very much look forward to the release of the developer tools to-morrow, and very much hope that, with them, and their associated documentation, is cause for happiness, not cause for further concern.
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peterdore
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Re: Objective criticisms of Railsim

Post by peterdore »

Oh Dear oh dear! we aint a happy lot are we
OK do you remember when MTS came out? it was . ! :-? Yeah sure for its time it was a basic good sim..but still ..

Now after the modders on this site started making routes track textures new signals that looked like signals
and new sounds... sounds for going over points signal box bells etc etc etc...oh and what about the crossing gates!!!!
and what happend the modders fixed them and lo and behold they looked good!!
Rolling stock we got a huge set of that...Locos of all shapes sizes colours numbers you name it they did it
Activities I and many others spent hours no days making them for you lot what I am saying is
give it a chance, let us modders sort things out and in a few months time you wont recognise KRS.
As for MTS2 I will wait and see, you will need Vista! and everyone knows how slow Vista is compared to XP, oh and dont forget the new Operating system which will replace Vista in two years time (cos they realise what a mistake Vista was)
And what about MTS2 if games are anything to go by they ALL have bugs at first all of them! go check the patches for Flight sim- Rome total war- Halo etc etc

My God Microsoft themselves keep bringing out patches for there bug ridden operating systems :o

Keep the faith

Pete Doré
Last edited by peterdore on Sun Nov 11, 2007 1:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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jamespetts
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Re: Objective criticisms of Railsim

Post by jamespetts »

Pete,

the problem is that MSTS never had realistic signalling or operations, and could not be modified so as to have it, either: it was never possible to set up a whole network of realistically operating trains any of which one could drive. That is why I hardly ever used MSTS. Similarly, the signalling/operational shortcomings in Trainz lead me to avoid that product entirely. There is a limit to what can be improved by the community, especially as far as the all-important operational features are concerned.
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Christopher125
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Re: Objective criticisms of Railsim

Post by Christopher125 »

Its been asked why features were possible but not implemented - the answer im sure is a simple one; lack of time/money (arguably the same thing). This applies to why it wasnt in the documentation either. They had to get the game out, it had already missed one release date anyway and its things like this which arent obvious to the general user were not completely finished.

Cut them some slack, they could have delayed the release to get the signalling correct but at the expense of putting the whole future of the product at risk...

Chris 8)
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Re: Objective criticisms of Railsim

Post by ratsarrse »

Publishers, when they see an essentially complete and working product, tend to start applying pressure to get the product released. There is always a tension between developers that want to perfect every idea they have and the money men who need a return on their investment. Games development is an expensive process after all.

It's inevitable that some features and aspects that were part of the original design spec don't make it in. The beauty of continued development after release is that some cash can be rolling in while you hammer out some of those bits that didn't meet the deadline. It's a gamble though, for sure. The limited scenarios out of the box without the ability to jump in and start making your own was a pretty big omission from my point of view; others have different concerns. It's tempting to suggest that a November 12th release date would have been a better option. The DVDs would have already been pressed and packaged, but the more advanced tools and documentation available as a download from day one of release would have gone a long way to quelling the reaction to the various omissions. The month-long wait hasn't exactly been a PR coup, as we have seen.

There are a number of things that I'd hoped would be a bit better, but we do potentially have a pretty solid platform for future endeavours. The included routes and models offer quite a bit of scope for the average user once we get the ability to make our own scenarios, so that should secure some replayability in the medium term. The S&DJR in particular offers some real challenges and a sense of achievement when you successfully reach your destination. The long-term depends on the extent to which 3rd party folk create new content for the sim. Early opinion has been so divided that this is far from clear, and of course there is the MSTS2 grail out there waiting to be discovered at some point in the future. Time will tell.
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jamespetts
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Re: Objective criticisms of Railsim

Post by jamespetts »

ratsarrse wrote:It's inevitable that some features and aspects that were part of the original design spec don't make it in. The beauty of continued development after release is that some cash can be rolling in while you hammer out some of those bits that didn't meet the deadline.
It's rather more serious when the advertising claims are manifestly inconsistent with the product as delivered, perhaps being based on the product as originally designed.
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Re: Objective criticisms of Railsim

Post by RSAdam »

James, while I read and note all of your comments and look forward to further feedback throughout the continued development of Rail Simulator, there is one comment that consistently gets used as fuel behind current frustrations:

"Why wasnt more documentation included at release"

There is NOTHING we can do to rectify the level of documentation that came out at the same time as Rail Simulator. Its in the past and can NEVER be changed. What came out is what we were required by contracts to provide.

What we ARE doing hence forth and thanks to feedback from this and other communities is provide more detailed, more explanitory documents going forward. We ALWAYS planned to provide this documentation, but feedback from the community has allowed us to further refine their presentation and detail.

So we WERE going to provide detailed documentation all along.
We ARE providing more documentation as often as we can.
We WILL provide further documentation over the course of continued development.
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Post by AndiS »

Normally, I am not too much into repetitions, but this time, I can't get enough of it. :lol:
:angel:
I must be one of the frustrated ones, and I do thank you for your clear statement.
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jamespetts
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Re: Objective criticisms of Railsim

Post by jamespetts »

RSAdam wrote:James, while I read and note all of your comments and look forward to further feedback throughout the continued development of Rail Simulator, there is one comment that consistently gets used as fuel behind current frustrations:

"Why wasnt more documentation included at release"

There is NOTHING we can do to rectify the level of documentation that came out at the same time as Rail Simulator. Its in the past and can NEVER be changed. What came out is what we were required by contracts to provide.

What we ARE doing hence forth and thanks to feedback from this and other communities is provide more detailed, more explanitory documents going forward. We ALWAYS planned to provide this documentation, but feedback from the community has allowed us to further refine their presentation and detail.

So we WERE going to provide detailed documentation all along.
We ARE providing more documentation as often as we can.
We WILL provide further documentation over the course of continued development.
I am very glad to hear of your commitment to producing further documentation - that is, as AndiS indicated, most welcome :-)

As to not having documentation available on release, firstly, the circumstances in which you, as the developer, rather than the publisher, find yourselves are often difficult, and I can well understand that you would have been pressured to release a product without having had time to release full documentation. It may well be that the matter was taken out of your hands. If that is so, then fault lies not with you, but with the publisher, which evidently does not have a proper appreciation of the importance of documentation, even from the perspective of its own self-interest in producing a game that will sell well and receive good press. As far as the consumer is concerned, however, whether the fault lies with the developer or the publisher is of rather less relevance than well-meaning but frustrated developers might like: the abstract set of all those individuals and organisations that worked together to bring the software in question to their local computer games shop or favourite online reseller can, for many purposes, be treated as one, and criticised as a unit, without the need to apportion blame between the different subunits. Just as, for example, somebody who takes a car to a garage and has in many respects a poor job done: it does not really matter to the person who owns the car that Fred is a very good mechanic, and worked on the bits on which he was tasked to work very well and did a good job, and that it was John who made a mess of things: the person in question will be quite justified in not taking her or his car to that garage again (perhaps unless Fred promises to fix all the problems that John has caused for free, which, to be fair, is what it seems that you're doing with the post-release documentation, but, until that is all done, one can do no more than reserve judgment on the topic).

Another point to make about the documentation is simply that, without documentation, doubts inevitably accumulate, which might be entirely dispelled when full information is available. Whilst it might very well be the case that you (the developer/Fred) cannot be blamed for the fact that the documentation is not yet available, the consumers can equally not be blamed for harbouring and expressing those doubts in its absence.
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Post by AndiS »

I found two interesting things.

1) If you click on the smaller blue cube under the big one in the middle left window, it brings up an object filter. The problem is, you do not realise it if the right-hand window is not pinned, to be permanently displayed, because there the filter is shown. Unfortunately, currently all objects are classed as "Kuju" and "Rail Simulator". If you replace the latter by e.g., semaphore wooden post, semaphore latice post, 3-aspect colour light, .... then the list of objects would look much nicer. It is just a pity that everyone must do it for himself, because there was no time to do it once at Kuju before the release.

But in the light of this, my comment of the person who wrote the selection box need to be redirected to the person who invented the very useful category "Rail Simulator" and put everything there. Let's just hope that we can have 4, not 2 categories, the window would be long enough.

2) In an attempt to create a 1:9 switch, I rotated a piece of straight track. I found that it rotates only in fixed steps. Later I read in the PDF manual that you can use keys G and F for finer rotation. Too bad that the angle is not shown, neither we you rotate (in the line at the bottom), nor in the properties panel.
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Re: Objective criticisms of Railsim

Post by jamespetts »

From having looked at the signalling documentation provided with the developer tools, it is now quite clear that there is no function for direct detection of track occupancy (track circuits), and no function that can simulate route locking/interlocking. Indeed, there is no interaction between the signalling scripts and the pathing engine at all.

The signalling in the default routes is as good as it is ever going to get with the current API, bar a few features such as flashing junction lights. Nothing in the developer tools documentation mitigates to any extent my original criticisms of the extremely seriously flawed signalling system that is impossible to fix by rescripting alone, which, as already stated, makes simulation of all bar the most dismally basic of railway operations virtually impossible for fear of multitudinous collisions: signals cannot detect something as basic as the uncoupling of a train and only part of the train leaving the section, for instance. It defies reason why the signalling system was designed this way in the first place, when it must have been overwhelmingly obvious right from the very start that it was incapable of permitting anything like realistic railway operations.

All this is an even greater pity than it would otherwise be because, having spent a brief time this evening looking into timetabling/pathing, the system for doing that looks, from my initial glance at least, to be very sophisticated, intelligent and easy to use: far more intelligent than I had thought possible. I was particularly impressed, for example, when setting up a light engine to go from a yard to a fuelling point between which there was no direct route that it found an appropriate place to reverse, and that work orders of different sorts were easily scheduled by moving the icons on top of the consist around in different orders. That is a very sleek and user-friendly way of doing it. The system of automatically stipulating the arrival times is also very sophisticated indeed, and has the potential to take a great deal of painfully hard work away from users, although, unless I've missed something, it doesn't seem to be possible to make manual edits of the departure times to add recovery time, or to take account of the fact that, for example, another train is scheduled to cross the path of the train in question, meaning that it will be stopped at a red signal for a time. That aside, however, if the pathing engine was that well done, then why on earth was it not possible to extend the same quality of design to signalling?
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Re: Objective criticisms of Railsim

Post by Lad491 »

Also in the scenario section there is a section on timetabled scenarios which is not the same as the description james quoted. Their definition of a timetabled scenario is the same as mine i believe, the ability to drive a train to a timetable, not set up a whole network operation.
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