Train Sim World 4
Train Sim World Roadmap (part 2) – 11th August 2022
Seconds out, round two! This is part 2 of the first Train Sim World Roadmap to feature Train Sim World 3, coming September 6th.
If you missed yesterday’s Part 1, featuring detail on the routes included within Train Sim World 3 (as well as other bits you expect to find on a regular Roadmap), then check it out here – and if you haven’t watched it already, our announce video contains a whole wealth of information about the new game.
Today, we’ll be talking about the brand-new features coming to Train Sim World 3, and getting an insight from the teams who developed them. Shall we get started?
Train Sim World 3 – Features
There’s a lot to unpack, with various new features making their way into Train Sim World 3, so we’ve asked the team to tell you a little bit about things we think you’re going to enjoy. To make navigation easier, these are split into sections, so you can explore what you’re interested in.
- Dynamic Weather
- Updated Lighting
- Visual effects
- Training Center
We’ll go into much more detail with all of these (and showcase them) in upcoming articles, videos, and live streams, but consider your appetites suitably whetted with these.
Whilst Dynamic Weather has technically been a part of scenarios since Train Sim World 2’s launch, Train Sim World 3 brings this into the world of Timetable Mode, allowing you the opportunity to have a different experience every time you drive. Keep on your toes – as the next shower is only a matter of time away!
Once you become familiar with a route it can sometimes start to feel a little too routine when undertaking timetabled services. We have always sought to vary the experience a route offers through scenarios where adverse weather conditions can create additional challenges, but again once you'd played that scenario you knew when the weather would change.
Changes in weather while you're operating your service have long been requested by the community and we agree that the addition of dynamic weather patterns will remove the sense of the routine service. While we still offer the fixed weather option for those who have preferred conditions in which to drive the addition of dynamic weather should greatly aid the sense of immersion you already get from Train Sim World.
Obviously we are still trying to be as realistic as possible. It is highly unlikely you'll go from broad sunshine on a July afternoon to a blizzard, but it is plausible for cloud cover to start to build before a few drops of rain to occur. Similarly, if setting off in the middle of torrential rain it's now possible the line starts to dry over time. The entire purpose of this addition is to give you more to react to.
If this kind of challenge appeals to you, you'll now select the month in which you're operating your service and be treated to weather you will need to adapt to. For more favourable conditions, the summer is your friend. To increase the challenge try the dead of winter and watch the skies!
The sky fills half the screen most of the time you’re operating trains in the sim, so it’s been something we’ve tried to improve as much as possible since even the original launch of Train Sim World. Whilst new skyboxes have helped with immersion in recent times, we wanted to do something altogether more impressive for Train Sim World 3. Enter: volumetric skies.
When we upgraded to Unreal Engine 4.26 last year, this brought with it the opportunity to use its new Volumetric sky system. This brings true 3D clouds to the skies rather than the 2D textures that we’ve historically used. As we investigated the possibilities, we become more and more excited at what could be achieved. It fast became one of the priorities for Train Sim World 3.
The Technical Art team spent a lot of time rebuilding the whole sky environment to bring in the UE4 Cloud system. They then had to undertake a lot of additional work making in-depth core UE4 game engine changes to fix a number of display issues, as well as optimising how the system works so that we could bring the whole system to Gen8 platforms as well.
As well as the clouds themselves, part of this project worked on was how to bring them to life by casting shadows on the ground. We felt it would create a more varied experience as well as add more immersion to the journey if you saw the clouds not only in the sky, but casting shadows on the ground as well. Previously the environment would simply dim the entire ambient light based on the state of the cloud, now, as you drive, you’ll go through light and shadow depending on the state of the sky above you, which makes a tremendous difference!
To make reflections and general ambient light match a constantly evolving scene (the time of day is changing, the skies are moving, your train is moving etc) we had a system in place previously which periodically would capture the scene to power things like ambient light and reflections. While this meant that the general scene always kept up it did result in some sudden transitions if the difference was a lot compared to the previous capture, and this was why you’d suddenly see the scene get darker or lighter periodically. We’ve updated how this works using a Real Time skylight capture system in UE4 now and this allows the updates to happen far more regularly, keeping the differences much smoother, avoiding sudden and jarring transitions. It also means those lovely clouds in the skies should match up much more closely with what you see in the reflections in windows.
With new weather and new skies, it was only natural that we try to tackle an area which we know you’ve been providing us with a lot of feedback on recently: lighting.
This is no easy task, and we hope that as we’re able to show you more of Train Sim World 3 gameplay, you’ll recognise the vast difference this makes to playing the game.
Alongside the clouds, the team also wanted to make a big upgrade to the lighting system in Train Sim World. Previously the system had been built around a more visual, ‘this looks good’ approach, literally configuring lights based on their visual look until things seem right.
This obviously came with challenges: the sheer amount of things that can impact light, consistency, subjectivity. That doesn’t even consider that, when approaching problems, the underlying issue could be one of a number of different things – while you can apply a number of fixes to correct it in the scene you’re looking at, you can then find it doesn’t look ideal in other lighting conditions. This approach has been a challenge for the whole team to deal with and was one of the main reasons that the Technical Artists wanted to address it.
It's been by far one of the biggest challenges for Train Sim World 3, and has involved completely scrapping the entire lighting system and starting from scratch. Doing so has enabled the team to build a new system that uses a realistic ‘Physically Based Lighting’ (PBL) system.
A comparison between lighting in Train Sim World 2 (above) and Train Sim World 3 (below) at St Pancras Station #1.
We have been able to take real world data for how bright various light bulbs are, how bright a station should be, and then match that within the game with realistic Lux (luminosity) intensity values for the sun, train headlights and platform lights. We then combine these together to make something which we think is a huge improvement.
The result is brighter brights, darker shadows, better contrast and colours that really pop. It’s also allowed Unreal’s “Eye Adaptation” feature, which simulates the iris opening and closing in light and dark, to really work much better. You’ll find your eyes adjusting to the dark in tunnels so you can see better, and then a light flare will hit you when bright sunlight fills your screen as you exit the tunnel - with your eyes re-adjusting again moments later. This is perhaps best illustrated during our Announce stream here
Eye Adaptation in action
This too has required extensive work modifying the core behaviours in Unreal, as the light level inside some trains is somewhat darker than the scorching sun outside on some routes. This means that the standard eye adaptation brightens the scene to cope with the darker cab interior, and completely blooms out the outside view from the cab. We’ve been able to apply some new behaviour to Eye Adaptation to cope with this situation now, so it will give you the best effect depending on what you’re trying to look at now. We’re really pleased with the end result.
As part of doing the work with Eye Adaptation, we identified an issue where it would get stuck and need the player to look at a bright or dark area for a moment to trigger it to reset, and the solution for this was ultimately to be found in the Unreal Engine 5 codebase, so we brought that fix forwards into Train Sim World 3 as well.
Comparison between Train Sim World 2 (Above) and Train Sim World 3 (below) lighting at St. Pancras Station #2
The last major challenge with the new lighting system was considering Train Sim World Compatible Add-on Collection (previous Preserved Collection), which have all their in-cab screens, the train lights and so forth, all tuned for the old lighting system. It’s a non-trivial task to upgrade routes and trains to the new system – but we know players will still want to bring their TSW3 trains onto their TSW2 routes and TSW2 trains on to their TSW3 routes so we had to come up with a solution. So, whilst TSW Compatible content will not receive the new PBL lighting system, the new system will now detect various types of light and automatically adjust them to fit the lighting system they’re running in. While this will not always result in the perfect lights it will mean that the entire collection is cross-compatible on day 1.
The Training Center
All-new to Train Sim World 3, the Training Center is your one-stop-shop for exploring the world of Trains, with the freedom to test and try out all your trains before you take them onto their respective routes.
Think of it as a bonus ‘free roam’ route, which we can’t wait to see how you interact with and explore. We asked Adam and the Preservation Crew to tell us more.
WHAT IS THE TRAINING CENTER?
Built from scratch, this new route is specifically designed to teach the operation of trains and enjoyment of Train Sim World. It provides a serene place to explore at your own pace, both on and off trains.
- Found all over the site are various benches and seats, all of which are interactive allowing you to sit back and simply enjoy the view.
- Nature Reserve
- Take a walk throughout the environment and make discoveries of all kinds.
- Access All
- Built to accommodate all types and sizes of trains, using the Scenario Planner what will you test?
- Mapped Out
- The collectible map is not just an additional object but a guide to help orientation and exploration.
- New Heights
- Not only are seats interactive but ladders are, too!
- Well Spotted
- We love taking screenshots of trains, so the world has been designed to make trains as photogenic as possible.
- Located at Central Square, the Training Center building is open to all from far and wide. Beautifully crafted, hi tech and modern.
WHY DO WE NEED A TRAINING CENTER?
The Training Center is designed to absorb much of the tutorial gameplay going forward. Any long-standing enthusiasts of the TSW franchise will know that learning how to operate and interact with the world has become a little repetitive due to the fact any route could be the first experience for a new player.
By combining all those requirements into one place we are able to reduce that repetition significantly. Some training will however continue to take place on individual routes that feature unique operations.
A lot of focus has been given to on-foot exploration and interaction. Trains play a huge part but the world is bigger than you might think and so we’ve put particular emphasis on this aspect of Train Sim World.
HOW WAS THE ROUTE DEVELOPED?
Having evaluated many proving grounds around the world we settled on the Wegberg-Wildenwrath Test and Validation Centre as a great provider for a lot of the project goals. To start with the track was laid, and then following many conceptual ideas and discussions the artists began simultaneously developing the central depot buildings and the wider site environment.
While the Preservation Crew have much experience from working on the many existing TSW routes and their varied environments, the specification for the Training Center stipulated that it should not be a direct copy of the real-world location, so it required the team to reinvent areas to better provide the environment we wanted.
The route also gave the team a chance to expand on technology developed during other projects that you may have seen such as the rats running around under New York, the signal box over the tracks at Finnentrop and the fireworks display above…. Oh wait, some of our projects haven’t been released yet!
WHY SHOULD YOU BE EXCITED?
The Training Center is our first ever ‘free roam’ route for the Train Sim World franchise. While there are some areas closed off due to on-going or future development, a vast majority of the route including all the trackage is completely open to be explored. It even has ‘Off the Rails’ mode permanently enabled!
The long switching lines and rail yards rail yards found along the middle of the site connect the small tram testing area with the medium sized ‘metro Loop’ that is great for practicing those quick start stop operations of commuter lines. Further out is the main line loop built to allow up to 300km/h operation for capable rolling stock.
While we have very strict rules about discussing desires, dreams and aspirations, the Training Center for TSW3 has been designed with expansion very much in mind and though nothing is confirmed yet, the Preservation Crew look forward very much to working on projects and ideas currently proposed for future expansion.
Immersion is nothing without Audio, and we’ve made a special effort within Train Sim World 3 to ensure you’ll all have a great experience – using some help from friends and partners within the TSW community! We spoke to Adam, our Senior Audio Designer, to talk about why TSW3 will be a treat for your ears.
The world of audio in any video game is just as important as the visuals. Without it you don’t have a video game. Now that’s quite an opening statement, we know, but if you really think about it then you know it’s true. Here at Dovetail Games, we are always trying to ensure that we deliver the best audio experience we can. That’s why Train Sim World 3 has been a monumental effort by the Audio team to try and level up the audio experience for players.
First off, we’ll start with the routes themselves and the improvements and upgrades we have made there.
For Kassel - Würzburg we have been very lucky to have the expert experience of Maik Goltz do the ICE1 audio for us. He has already been involved in the setup and simulation of this particular loco too, so it was a great fit. On the rest of the route we have integrated the same spoken word alerter system into the TRAXX locos that can be found in ICE3 and ICE1 as well addressing a few bugs from previous versions.
Below is what we call a Spectrograph, which visually shows the audio journey players will experience when they’re playing the game. Below is a Spectrograph for the ICE1.
Spectograph image for ICE1
A - This is the sound of the door alarms playing and doors closing. The line at the end of those alarms is the door slamming shut.
B - This is the start of the fans spooling up. You can clearly see how they pitch up over time to a steady speed and that is why the sound becomes a steady line.
C - This is where the train begins to move, and the traction motors can be heard. They are the brighter lines and as speed increases so does the pitch of the motors. A secondary tone comes in too, halfway between C and D.
D - This is where the fans start to spool down and as the ICE1 reaches it's set AFB speed. As it then speeds up again the fans spool up again and return to their steady speed.
Southeastern Highspeed has probably had one of the bigger upgrades as we have upgraded the Class 375 audio to match the same audio that was introduced into the Class 377 for the Brighton Mainline DLC, made improvements to the Class 395 audio, and replaced the Class 66 audio completely thanks to the help or Armstrong Powerhouse (AP). Again, with the help of AP we have also updated the wagon sounds for the UK freight wagons so this now distinguishes them from other freight wagon sounds. It could have been so easy to just leave the locos as they were and spend time elsewhere, but we believed it was important, and so made as many improvements as we could.
Cajon Pass introduced a brand-new locomotive to the mix, in the form of a ES44C4, and this required a new sound set. We were very fortunate to have recordings of an ES44 prime mover, so we were able to get those in and make sure we had a good footing for this GEVO locomotive. The other important element was the horn, and as always we were able to rely on our US locomotive horn collector/enthusiast Jim Millisky to provide a recording of the K5HLL needed for the BNSF ES44C4.
As always, we have had plenty of support from our Discord beta community who have provided advice, resources, and pointers when we’ve needed it – thanks, folks!
Other new features we’ve had to add audio to are the passenger umbrellas. So, as you walk past passengers with umbrellas up, you’ll hear rain falling on the umbrella. A small detail, but something that might just catch your attention as you walk past. It’s little details that can make a scene feel real.
And finally, there’s one area that has had a facelift not only visually but also audibly. And that’s the UI. It’s got a whole new background track that has been created by a member of the Dovetail Community team, Benjamin Symons. It incorporates some subtle musical elements while keeping the focus on ambience and weather to really go with the changing weather in Train Sim World 3. And not only have we changed the background track we have changed the UI sounds to give them a new fresh feel.
So, this is the world of audio in Train Sim World 3 and we’re incredibly proud of what the team have been able to produce over the last few months. Now it’s over to you, the players to enjoy the experience we have created for you.
Visual FX - Snow and kick-up effects
In Train Sim World 2 the world looked great if it was either no snow, or full of snow, but there was clearly room for improvement with variable snow. One of the key challenges was that snow applied to different parts of the game at different rates and with different effects, so you’d see an unbalanced scene.
For Train Sim World 3 we have come up with a completely new system for managing how snow is applied, called a “Weather Mixer Material Function”. Every material in the game now uses this and ensures that snow is applied evenly and consistently throughout everything you see in the world, with the end result being much nicer view as the world gets whiter when snow continues to fall.
We also wanted to give the snow a little more impact on the world itself and using a technique called Vertex Displacement we have made it so that as snow falls, it doesn’t just go white, but actually looks like snow is piling a bit as well. You’ll see the sleepers disappear in heavy snow, for example.
Within Train Sim World 3, we’ve strived to add in lots of touches to improve your gameplay experience. That’s no different with how we’ve approached our NPCs (Non-Playable Characters). We asked our Senior Character Artist, Jansen, to tell us (and show us!) a little bit about what we’ve done to create a more realistic set of characters within TSW3.
After reviewing the current state of characters in TSW2, we decided on 3 key areas that we wanted to focus on to improve within Train Sim World 3.
- Skin Tone
For Skin Tone we wanted to make sure that every character had consistency between each other, to make them feel like they all belonged to the same world. We wanted to make sure that the skin tone was as accurate and realistic as possible.
When looking at hair, we wanted to use what we had learnt on other projects to improve the materials and modelling, in order to make something that looked closer to real hair. We felt this was important to help add that extra layer of immersion and realism into the characters.
We started from scratch, and used a more modern card placement approach to layer cards in a way that we could get depth and focus on the silhouette. We also started using hair caps to help us fill any gaps, and to help blend the hairlines into the scalp. This approach then led us to creating a new material which behaves more accurately to how real-life hair does. Where hair has multiple specular highlights, one being a representation of the colour of the lights and the other a mix of hair colour and light colour.
Materials was another important one, after reviewing all of the clothing items currently in the game, we decided it was important to try and improve all of the clothing textures and materials, trying to achieve more realistic material reads was important, and is going to help add a lot of variety to characters that will be seen populating the game – as you can see from the images!
Features included in Train Sim World Compatible Add-ons within TSW3
We can confirm that, of these new features, Dynamic Weather will be available for Train Sim World Compatible content (previously ‘Preserved Collection’). The remaining Features listed above will only be available within Train Sim World 3 content on launch.
Whew! And so endeth the first Roadmap of the Train Sim World 3 era. Go and grab a cuppa, you’ve earned it after all that! We hope you’re as excited as we are to see these new features in action – and don’t worry, we have a lot still to come. If you’d like to find out more about Train Sim World 3, you can check out our website.
Please join us tonight on YouTube and Twitch (Thursday, August 11th), where we’ll discuss the above with Matt and JD at 19:00 UTC (good luck, guys – it’s going to be a long one!). If you have any questions, please add them to this thread, where we’ll answer as many as we can in a stream next Tuesday. Keep an eye out for Railfan TV’s schedule next week for details!
Train Sim World 4
Train Sim World Roadmap (part 2) – 11th August 2022