Train Simulator

TS20: Surselva Spectacular

Following the release of Rivet Games’ latest route, the Surselva Line, we took the opportunity to sit down with them again and ask them some more questions!
Hi! How are things going for you, did you have a chance to make any changes, perhaps hire some new faces since out last interview?
Things always change in development, so there’s rarely an uneventful day, and we have now grown to be 20 people, meaning we’ll be able to make more of everyone’s favourite routes and trains!
Gotthardbahn went down really well in the community, are you happy with the results?
It’s been an exciting few months since we launched the Gotthardbahn route - it’s been received fantastically well, and according to the Steam reviews has already become one of the highest rated TS routes released in recent years!
This is your second route, and we are in Switzerland again! Why did you choose the Surselva Line?
Swiss railways are world famous, so we're not short of amazing Swiss routes to make. After Gotthardbahn, a standard gauge route, we wanted to make something for the huge number of metre-gauge fans and so we chose a route that features the very different scenery to anything that has been made before.
For those who know very little about Swiss railways, what’s special about it?
The Surselva line is an iconic 50km route along the Rhine gorge, with some beautiful vistas, and great views of the countless bridges, viaducts and tunnels along the route. At one end there's Reichenau-Tamins station which serves the two small towns, and at the other is Disentis-Mustér, which is one station but with both its German and Romansh names.
What’s new in Surselva Line? (As in architecture, any new assets, anything that’s new!)
A huge amount of work goes into the stations, of which there are 13, as well as the iconic architecture such as the bridges and tunnels. There's more variety in the style of the bridges than usual, for example the beautiful Ruinaulta suspension bridge at Trin, as well as all sorts of unique detail in the textures on the buildings at Ilanz station.
How long did the development take this time?
About four months - but that’s with quite a big team, so it’s actually several man-years worth of effort.
Passenger request stop functionality – how did you implement it?
We were fortunate that Alan Thomson had included this functionality in some of his previous routes and so we were able to re-implement elements of this. It is a very neat features that helps give an authentic Swiss feel to the route.
13 Highly detailed station models – which one is your favourite?
Personally it's Ilanz station because of the amazing murals on the side of the station - they're a tourist attraction in their own right.
What has Gotthardbahn taught you?
The Swiss railway infrastructure brought unexpected challenges not seen in other routes in the UK, Germany and USA. In this Swiss alpine region the track is elevated for most of the route, and the elevation changes along the length of the route presented a very challenging location to be recreated within Train Simulator. We went a bit daft doing 110km on it, but it was our first route as Rivet Games, and also gave some of the newer members of the team a high bar to achieve for their first onset into creating content for Train Simulator.
Did the feedback you received help you shape Surselva Line?
Because other RhB routes have been done, most of the lessons came from them rather than from Gotthardbahn. But we did manage to address many of the suggestions we received for Gotthardbahn; although it's never possible to do it all. However, the more we understand what players do and don't want, the more we can tune our future plans.
Did you go to Switzerland again for a research trip?
Yes, it'd be impossible to do justice to a route without going there in person to capture the details that are important when driving a route in Train Simulator.
Who went this time and for how long?
Two of the team went for a week, which sounds like a holiday, but in order to get between every station, surveying each station, as well as surveying any other recognisable scenery and structures along the route they have to be up at the crack of dawn each day, so by the end of each day they're exhausted and deserving of a couple of Feldschlösschen beers :)
Any interesting stories to tell?
Just their shock at the price of the beer :)
Did you face any new challenges in terms of both research and development compared to Gotthardbahn?
Most of it is around making sure the signalling and request-stops work as expected; they've been done before on previous routes, but with software development, just because something works in one place, there's never any guarantees it works elsewhere. So testing and fixing are just as important – I just hope we caught all the major bugs!
What was the most enjoyable part of developing Surselva Line for you?
Personally it was getting to see the Hinterrhein bridges in Tamins come together; when researching the route the new bridge has been such a big focus for RhB and such a different design to the original bridge that it was really satisfying seeing it become playable in our route.
Any clues about the next route?
Ha, if only we could! All we can say is that we are always listening to what people are asking for, and balancing those against the countless practical development considerations for each potential route. Even the time needed to negotiate a licence from a new rail operator, get access to the cab of the right loco, spend time surveying the route etc. takes months, and that if before we have modelled a thing! So it’s not a fast process, but we’re keen to do as much as we can... so watch this space!
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Train Simulator
5 Nov
TS20: Surselva Spectacular
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