Train Sim World

Rush Hour - Creating Immersion

Find out more about updates to immersion coming with Rush Hour this Summer...

Alongside the release of Rush Hour we are working on an update to Train Sim World 2 that will be released for all players. Part of that includes improvements to the immersion experience. We sat down with Senior Producer Matt Peddlesden to find out more about this and what you can look forward to this Summer.

What does immersion mean for Train Sim World 2?

Matt: In Train Sim World 2 we brought a significant amount of immersion improvements in. We aimed to improve features and functions that take you out of the experience of driving a train and make you feel like you are driving a game.
Things such as pop-up menus give you a lot of power and flexibility on the controller but they are completely immersion-breaking, and trying to work out how we can arrange other menus such as the pause screen has been a key focus for us.
We want to help you work out what information you need right now without having to go hunting for it.
That range of improvements we made last year has been popular, but we have also received a lot of really good feedback that we have listened to and used to try and improve further.

What have you changed for immersion?

Matt: The first big thing is control improvements.
Before anyone panics, we have not touched everything that you already know and love about the immersion controls.
We aren’t changing anything you already know how to use and if you don’t want to learn how to use the new functions, it won’t change the way you play.
What we have done is add shift keys, without changing the functionality that is already there. This gives us is 2 new functions, operation shift, and camera shift.
Operation shift, which on the Xbox controller is when you hold down the X key and on PlayStation the square key. While that button is pressed down, other buttons on the controller now do different things.
You can operate AFB, you can issue a PZB release or PZB override, you can do sanding and you can access the second horn, yes, you can now access both the high tone and the low tone!
Camera shift works when you hold down the right joystick. You can now zoom from any camera view using the left joystick to move in and out. That works in all of the external cameras.
You’ve got the ability to cycle all of the internal cab cameras and all of the external cameras as well. You no longer need a keyboard to get to the static camera, you can now watch the trains go by.
This means you spend less time thinking about how to do certain things and which buttons you need to be pressing and you gain muscle memory and just do them without thinking.
Even though you are in your living room or bedroom or your own space, and you are looking at a screen, you will naturally become immersed in what you are doing.
Difficulty getting information and difficulty getting access to the information you want all remind you that you are stepped out and playing a game. By making these parts of the experience intuitive, natural, and easy to access, you will feel much more immersed. Giving you the freedom to focus on looking out of the window of the train and on what you are doing, instead of focusing on what button you need to be pressing next.
As well as the controller, the pause screen has had a lot of work. This is to help players at various levels get the information they require.
The overview tab now has a gradient profile of the track ahead, showing you where the tunnels are and showing you where the gradients are. It’s a slightly exaggerated gradient profile so you can clearly see those gradients instead of it being largely flat with subtle variations.
You can now see the gradient profiles coming up from about 10 kilometers ahead of you and you can see where your next objective is.
Above that, you will have the speed graph which will tell you the upcoming speed limits for the next 10 kilometers. The idea is these two graphs vertically align with each other.
Something which has been asked for is more visibility ahead of the line letting you know what the upcoming speed limits are. Rather than put it on the screen all the time, which is easy in terms of playing the game what we want is for users to push the pause button.
See your gradient profiles, upcoming speed restrictions, remind yourself where you are and what’s coming up, unpause the game and you’re now back in and immersed. You still have the HUD in the bottom right corner telling you what’s going on right now and anytime you need the information again you can pause the game again.

Why did you decide to put this information in the pause menu?

Matt: If we put too much information on the screen, and we are already very close to that now. We are very nearly at the point where you could put the blinds down on the train and not see out of the window and still complete the objectives because there is so much information already on the screen.
We didn’t want to add to that, with the pause screen showing you upcoming speed limits you could remove some information off the run screen now if you felt like it. You could take some of that information away, the more bits of the HUD you are able to take away, the more immersed you become. You will feel more like a train driver as opposed to a game player.
This will also help users transition into more challenging gameplay, should they want to. It will give players the option of learning the routes in a more realistic way because you will see the patterns of where the speed limits are and where they relate to gradients. You will understand that a speed limit goes up when a gradient goes down and when you feel the train go down, you will learn that’s the time you can speed up. You will begin to build route knowledge because you can visually see what’s going on.
On the Pause screen, as well as the overview tab we have added a control guide, we’ve got more variations on the controller now thanks to the shift buttons and a bit more complexity there. For new players in particular, finding out what a specific button does was awkward to find before. It’s now just a couple of clicks away to go and find out.
We’ve also added a HUD guide, this will explain broadly what the various areas of the HUD refer to. We are trying to give more information for new and returning players about some of these more basic functions, it’s also a good reminder particularly as we add new functions for everyone to learn.

What is TrackIR and how has it been implemented in Train Sim World 2?

Matt: TrackIR is 3 inferred lights that attach to your headsets with an inferred webcam that looks for the patterns of these lights. What it does is use these patterns to work out where your head is at all times.
We have added new TrackIR into the game, and this implementation means that your viewpoint in the game follows where your head is.
If you don’t know TrackIR you are probably thinking, “if I turn my head left, I’m no longer looking at the screen and that’s no good.” What TrackIR does is magnify the response in the game so you only have to move your head slightly to get a large rotation in the game.
It doesn’t mean you have to keep your head perfectly still the whole time either, you need to make a conscious decision to get it to move.
This isn’t something for everybody, but you do get used to it. Most people who use TrackIR however do fall in love with it.

You have made some accessibility improvements? What has been updated?

One of the things we’ve heard since last year's changes is that that some elements of HUD were too small, like distance to the next objective and the times in the corner.
We have increased the size of those to make them more clear and more visible.
The cursor in the center of the screen now goes away when you are not moving the camera. This is something that can be toggled to off, the default will be set to on as you really don’t need the dot when you aren’t moving.
We can now cycle how bright the center is for console users. For users who are hard of sight, this was something that we used to have set to full brightness, and for Train Sim World 2 we changed it to half brightness to get it out of the way a bit. What this has done is make the game harder to play for people who have sight difficulties, so that was the wrong move.
We have changed it so users can select what brightness they want now, the default will remain at half brightness for those who don’t want to change it.
We were also made aware that the dot can still be a bit on the small side if your eyesight is particularly bad. We have created a new cursor for the middle that looks like a big donut, this is known as the “large cursor”, and it will also disappear after a prolonged period where the camera isn’t moving.
These changes were directly made because of players explaining the challenges they faced while playing, we really want the community to continue sharing feedback if they experience accessibility issues, so we can continue to improve and make further changes that allow everyone to enjoy our game.
Join Matt, Sam, and JD on Railfan TV this Thursday 22nd July, they will be showing off some of the features covered in this article. Watch live on Twitch or YouTube at 19:00 UTC.
Screenshots and images displayed in this article may depict content that is still in development. The licensed brands may not have been approved by their respective owner and some artwork may still be pending approval.
Train Sim World
Rush Hour - Creating Immersion