Train Sim World
MeshTools & Train Sim World
As part of preparing the roll out of the editor for the community, we wanted to start getting some feedback from someone independent - see what questions they asked and generally see how they got on with it. I’m delighted to say that Ed Fisk from MeshTools was a willing volunteer having just completed a project for Train Simulator and that’s when the fun really began!
As well as being an independent 3rd party developer working on many highly regarded projects such as the 3F Jinty and Super D, Ed is also a developer that we’ve worked with a lot in the past on Train Simulator where he has helped put together various aspects of Dovetail Games releases. This kind of working relationship is called 2nd Party, and it’s as a 2nd Party developer that Ed has been using the TSW Tools.
Ed, perhaps we can get started by just recapping some of the Second-Party Train Simulator projects that you’ve worked with us on and how you’ve been working with us on Train Sim World?
The majority of projects I’ve worked on for DTG have been setting up locos which usually involve doing the scripting, all the effects, physics and setting up the controls. Occasionally I also get to do the audio as well. The very first second-party project I worked on was doing the setup of the Robinson O4 and Thompson B1 at about the same time as Memories of Maerdy was being prepared for release. After that it was a bit more of a gap with the next one being the setup of Blue Peter, followed by setup and audio for the DB BR 86, and a couple of other steam loco packs.
More recently I had a hand in some more exciting and different locos and units which somewhat took me away from my comfort zone of steam, the first one being the Class 42, the first big diesel I’ve ever worked on. I've also had a hand in setup, audio, scenarios, etc. in various forms on the MLV, Virgin Trains Class 47, APT-P, Woodhead locos (the Class 08, Class 76 and Class 506), Class 390 and finally, the Class 444/450 for the PDL rework.
For my first project in TSW, I had the honour of doing the setup and audio for the BR Class 45/1 featured in Northern Trans-Pennine, this was certainly a new experience and the learning curve meant I was on the project for quite some time. This was very shortly thereafter followed by the BR Class 33, which certainly went a lot more smoothly.
Above: Some examples of Train Simulator add-ons that were developed with assistance from Ed Fisk from MeshTools, ranging from electric (DC and AC), to diesel-hydraulic, even battery powered!
What reservations did you have about the Train Sim World internals and were there any concerns about how they would align with the capabilities of Train Simulator? How are those reservations now that you’ve completed a couple of projects?
I have to admit I did initially have reservations that I might not be able to do certain things like I did in TS19 that I would have likely done with LUA, things like adhesion modelling. For the most part SimuGraph® has by far exceeded my expectations, it was certainly exciting to wire up the loco and find out it behaved exactly like I had hoped it would.
You largely went into your first project without any real knowledge of what to expect, what were your biggest surprises or highlights in discovering what you could do with the tools and with Train Sim World in general?
Well as I mentioned above, I was seriously surprised and impressed when I wired up the 45 motors for the first time and they behaved exactly as I expected. SimuGraph overall seriously impressed me and continues to do so, the Wizards of the Engineering Team led by Ben Laws have worked wonders.
Your first project was clearly a great learning exercise trying to figure out the tools and how all the new systems worked, what would you say the biggest challenges were?
SimuGraph personally didn’t provide me with any issues, it worked basically exactly like I expected, probably the biggest challenges I had was learning how to work with Unreal blueprints. Due to my very limited background in proper coding and having never even touched Unreal before I am still learning how best to work with blueprints but I’m slowly getting better at it, mostly through a lot of help from the patient efforts of the loco setup and engineering teams at Dovetail.
Coming right after the first project, you started on the Class 33, which will actually be the first one in peoples hands. How has this one been in comparison?
The Class 33 project has been by far a much smoother experience now I know my way around Unreal, for example the animation blueprints (I should probably explain that the locomotive animations are now for the most part done during loco setup and controlled with blueprints, whereas before it was typically done by the artist in Max) took me about a third of the time it did first time around.
Due to the relative mechanical similarities between the 45 and 33 I was also able to bring a lot of blueprints and setup across from the 45 and features such as the BR AWS, DSD and brake timings developed for the 45 (which took quite some time to do first time around) were brought directly across saving even more time. Overall the setup for the 33 took approximately half of the time the 45 did. If an identical loco setup were to be made for TS19, it probably works out at around the same time taken to produce if not a bit quicker as you don’t naturally have to write much in the way of code which is where the majority of the time goes. The base level of detail in TSW is however quite a bit higher compared with TS19 so naturally it probably would overall take longer than a bare bones TS1 loco.
Above: The Class 45/1 and Class 33 in Train Sim World, the first TSW add-ons to be developed with assistance from a 2nd party.
What are the top couple of points you’d like to get across to developers looking at starting to use the TSW editor?
I think probably best before even contemplating starting a project is to familiarise yourself with Unreal, especially blueprints if you aren’t familiar with them. For SimuGraph it is probably best to have a play around and learn what each of the components do. For making a loco, you really will have to learn in much greater detail exactly how locos work internally as there are no real shortcuts like in TS19 physics, TSW simulates locos to a much higher level of detail than the norm in TS1 and the system expects realistic values to be input. For example, setting up the braking system on locos, you do now need to know how the brake system on the loco is physically constructed in reality and then with all the associated valves, pipes, etc. implement into SimuGraph.
One definite thing to do is familiarise yourself with how the various blueprint files work and their functions. Have a play about with them and learn the new layout compared with TS19, it definitely saves a lot of time when you know your way about.
In terms of planning, it is probably best to start off simple, and probably not start with some super complex locomotive - a wagon is probably a good starting place to get you familiar with the basics.
While you’ve been working on these two locomotives, are you also thinking about what kind of loco’s we could potentially see from you as a 3rd party project, and what factors are shaping your thoughts on that?
Since doing my very first diesel last year, I’ve really come to like diesels now (I used to really not like them), so when I do get around to working on a 3rd party loco in TSW, it will inevitably be a classic diesel of some descript, quite which one remains to be seen but it will probably be for either Northern Trans-Pennine or West Somerset Railway.
Looking at each of the 33 and 45, what are your favourite bits of each locomotive? What are the standout features you’ve implemented either because of the way they’re done or the actual feature itself?
The recent new motor type (series wound DC motors) first introduced on the WSR 47/09 and more recently the Class 66 and Class 43 have made a big impact on how the locos feel in TSW, they give the loco a much more realistic weighty feel (plus it also helps to have motor performance characteristics like the real thing!). These naturally have been implemented on the 45/33 so hopefully the two locos perform as close to reality which I can get.
To me though, the standout feature of the two locos have to be the braking characteristics, making a loco go is very easy, getting one to stop again and stop where you wanted and meant to is an entirely different kettle of fish. For these two locos I wanted to make the braking characteristics about as good as I could get so now the loco brake timings (for goods and passenger have been implemented fully), and much more importantly the locos have for the first time brake characteristic curves of cast iron brake blocks, where the brakes have a very distinctive bite at low speeds, and fade quite noticeably at higher speeds. The two changes definitely give the trains a much more weighty feel and can make the driving experience quite a bit more interesting in my opinion and certainly a bit more of a challenge.
Lastly, what’s been your favourite part of the process with the two locos and what has been the most challenging?
I think my favourite part of the whole process of making the loco, was when everything slotted together, there's something really quite magical when the loco comes to life exactly how you wanted it to. The most challenging thing…. Probably learning and using blueprints for the first time? TSW and Unreal is quite a bit different from what I’ve been doing the past 8 or so years, but certainly it has been quite rewarding experience nonetheless.
Thanks for taking your time out to talk to us Ed, I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say we really appreciate it!
You can get your hands on the Class 45 as part of the Northern Trans-Pennine route, available now, and the Class 33 Loco Add-On which is available for the West Somerset Railway, and you can take Ed’s work out for a spin yourself. Be sure to let us know what you think of them! Don’t forget MeshTools also have a fantastic line-up of add-ons available for Train Simulator such as the amazing Super D and the two stunning Maerdy routes!
Train Sim World
MeshTools & Train Sim World