The Flare Path: Twitchers and Switchers

By Tim Stone on August 31st, 2012 at 6:01 pm.

It’s always interesting watching a new sim peck its way into the light. This week’s eager egg exiter was Run 8, an indie railroad recreation short on variety but long on verisimilitude. Would the intensely tribal train sim community welcome the hatchling or nudge it from the nest? Installed in the Flare Path hide, a Nikon fieldscope and copy of Bill Oddie’s Bumper Book of Avian Metaphors at my side, I set about finding out.

Aug 25. Early morning.
Train Simulator 2012 (aka RailWorks 3), Trainz Simulator 12, BVE, and Microsoft Train Simulator/OpenRails have a new sibling! Run 8 Studios, an outfit formed by some very experienced MSTS and RW add-on creators, have just released a new high-realism rail sim focussed on the BNSF Mojave Subdivision and the GEVO-hauled freight trains that labour on it.

Aug 25. Morning.
Early reactions in the TrainSim.com forum aren’t especially encouraging. The first few pages of a ‘First Impressions’ thread are sprinkled with complaints about inadequate and inaccessible documentation, illogical key assignments, and underwhelming visuals.

Aug 27. Early morning.
After his first day on the footplate, British train sim veteran Vern ‘Northern Warrior’ Moorhouse shares his thoughts.

 ”I actually think Run 8 has great potential but it has tremendous wrinkles and strikes me as still being a work in progress. This should never have been put out in such a raw state and needed a couple of months extra to tidy things up, put a decent front end on it and write up some decent documentation. It is definitely a product for the hardcore simmer. Anyone coming straight from driving a Class 166 turbo in Railworks is going to be in for a massive shock. The learning curve is almost vertical. Run 8 would benefit from a proper structured tutorial and in addition to Tehachapi maybe they should have included a shorter, flat route where noobs could cut their teeth on basic train handling before attempting to traverse the mountains.”

Aug 27. Morning.
In between the ‘How Do I Start The Train?’ threads, there’s evidence that community regulars are beginning to appreciate and enjoy the deep systems realism, uncompromising physics, and MP. flarrfan2 declares

“Lots of train game lessons to unlearn, I found that out quickly. I have run the 6K’ Q-STOCHI from Bak to Bar, and the fully loaded grain train with DPU from Bar to Bak without any errors. It helps that I know the line well from repeated MSTS practice over the last two months, but the performance of the trains is so much more realistic that the second-biggest task with Run8 (after the three hours it took me to figure out how to start and run a train) is forgetting everything you thought you knew about driving a train from MSTS, RW or any other game out there.”

Aug 27. Evening.
Input from a Union Pacific Engineer casts doubt on the accuracy of Run 8′s dispatcher screen (the signalling interface) and, by implication, its route modelling:

“Not one and I say again NOT ONE siding lengths on the display is correct. Fleta isn’t CTC controlled. The name Allard isn’t used and hasn’t been for at least 30 years. And if the program is suppose to be based on operations since 1983 then Ilmon isn’t a siding but the 2MT to Caliente…. What is really weird is 3DTrainStuff had it right in their MSTS version of Tehachapi released in 2001-2002. Run8 studios is the exact same guys so what happened?”

Aug 28. Afternoon.
Run 8 conversations at British train sim termini are few and far between but one exchange on the www.uktrainsim.com forum produces some potentially useful observations from Liverpudlian Dave Dewhurst.

“There are no scenarios as such, you just spawn a train into the world or pick one, similar to a free roam in RW, as with RW free roam there is no AI and this can make the world feel a bit empty without any background engines. Again if they wanted to attract a wider audience I would expect them to add AI eventually. I’ve yet to try multiplayer as I’m not really into it on a sim but might give it a go on a LAN…

It has been released with 1 engine in a couple of liveries and a few wagons. More will be available in time but the only drawback is that any new content will be solely created by Run8 themselves who dont want to, at the moment, allow 3rd party creations. I think (hope) they will realise this is a mistake in time and then it will truly be a sim to own.”

Aug 28. Evening.
Developer Brad Brown promises more accessible documentation, better scenario descriptions, and improved MP safeguards within 3-5 days. A ‘cool free content update’ in ‘about three weeks’ is also mentioned.

Aug 29. Early morning.
Another Union Pacific engineer enters the debate. This one is deeply impressed.

“Congratulations on one heck of a program! Now although I’m still learning the intricacies of Run 8, anytime I can jump right in and quickly take a train from Barstow to Edwards siding and do so on Hoghead Mode and do so with the feeling that just about everything feels right then you guys must be doing it right!”

Aug 29. Morning.
More food-for-thought from Northern Warrior, this time on the subject of Run 8′s revolutionary multi-role multiplayer:

“I think the MP environment would work better on a shorter more intensively trafficked route, perhaps something like the World Of Subways environment. However when it takes 3 hours to get from Bakersfield to Barstow with a clear run, it is fairly pointless coming on for 45 minutes – of which 20 will probably be sat in various crossing loops staring at red signals while other trains run around you”

Aug 29. Afternoon.
Seagoon, a user on the TrainSim.com message board, reports his Run 8 licence has been revoked and his money refunded due to unacceptable “harrassment and childish antics” on the official forums. Run 8 Studios end their email to the rule-breaker with the phrase “PISS OFF!”. A ripple of shock and disapproval sweeps across the forum concourse. Heads are shaken. Wallets are pushed back into pockets. Is this another small developer intent on torpedoing itself with catastrophic customer service skills?

Aug 30. Early Morning.
An illuminating development in ‘PissOff-gate’. The writer of the offending missive, Run 8′s Brad Brown, provides his side of the story and an apology. The circumstances do seem a little more complicated than Seagoon suggested, but coming on top of a spate of seemingly harsh official forum bans, it’s still hard to shake the feeling that Run 8 Studios need to grow a slightly thicker skin.

Aug 31. Morning.
The official East Coast route suggestion thread grows to seven pages. (Run 8′s expansion plans also include an unnamed steam engine and the Needles Sub). In Southern England, a brassic train simmer ponders whether he can afford to spend $40 on another train sim even if that train sim evidently isn’t just another train sim.

 

Modesty Blaze

My honey-tongued howl complaining about the lack of quality wargames and sims on Steam has single-handedly prompted the introduction of something called Greenlight. There can be no other explanation. It’s not quite the highly-paid consultants position I was angling for, but, hey, c’est la vie. Now all that’s required is a selection of blue-chip War Stuff and Transportiana to champion. Obviously FP has thumbed-up the following…

…but won’t be fully satisfied until he sees the rest of Graviteam’s back catalogue on Greenlight, along with a full-blown feature-length version of Venus Patrol.

 

The Flare Path Foxer

Flare Path sleeps under a quilt embroidered with 112 railway company logos. This morning he awoke to find a woodlouse wandering across that quilt. The armoured ambler’s route took in all of the pictured logos. Name the ten associated countries to win ten FP Flair Points made from military-grade chitin.

Last week’s Foxer featured one of British aviation’s weightiest white elephants. Julhelm correctly identified the Saunders-Roe Princess and SooSiaal realised its Foxer-ification probably had something to do with the 60th anniversary celebrations.

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27 Comments »

  1. Seraphim2150 says:

    Good Old Games has a fully working version of Silent Storm Gold with none of the problems it usually has with modern machines.

    Best money I have spent on that service.

    • Zoso says:

      Thank you! I *loved* Silent Storm when it was released, went looking for it a little while back but couldn’t find it on any of the major download services. Looking forward to trying Sentinels now.

  2. johnki says:

    Wow, Run8 looks really good and comprehensive.

    Just a few questions:

    - Is it really worth $40 when ZDSimulator offers pretty high levels of realism (or appears to at least) AND is only $12?

    - How well does the multiplayer work? Can I play multiplayer all the time if I want? As interesting as ZDSim’s get-togethers are, I don’t like that it seems that its multiplayer is only available on a strict schedule.

    - How do “licenses” work? Does that mean it’s not DRM-free? Two people in the same household could not, in fact, share a copy on two different computers?

    • Tim Stone says:

      I suspect the chances of finding someone who has played both ZDSim and Run 8 are extremely slim, so value for money comparisons are going to be hard to come by. For answers to your others questions I’d consider registering for the Run 8 forum (the only way to access it).

      According to the FAQ:

      *Can I put Run8 on more than one computer?
      Yes, but you will only be able to use it on one computer at a time.

      • johnki says:

        Alright, thanks.

        Currently, I actually do own ZDSimulator after going through hell to get it (apparently the payment providers he uses don’t accept cards outside of a certain area…my American card wouldn’t work and the developer himself actually refused to let me pay him by Paypal). The obvious bullet points for me here would be:

        - Different set of trains.
        - Consistently available multiplayer (if it is, in fact, that way).
        - English version (though you can learn ZDSim if, like me, you don’t speak Russian, it’s a reverse incline if I’ve ever seen one).

        I think I might actually try asking on TrainSim before asking on the Run8 forums. Given that it’s a more generalized forum, I may have better chances of getting results while avoiding obvious bias that usually comes with asking on a company’s on forums.

  3. BAshment says:

    Flare path, the autumn watch of the sim world.

  4. gschmidl says:

    Is there any train sim that’ll let me drive the route from Beijing to Lhasa?

  5. Geen says:

    YAY! Silent Storm was absolutely fantastic, buy it or else.

  6. Wilson says:

    Is C Nederlandse Spoorwegen?

    • Tim Stone says:

      It is. 9 flair points remain.

      • pepper says:

        But the logo in its original colours come out much better, blue and yellow. Its also the colour scheme for all trains traversing the country side. Quite a sight to see and easy to spot from any plane/parachute.

  7. Commander_Zeus says:

    F is from Portugal – Comboios de Portugal. Took a little while of tracking down which holiday of the last 5 years I recognised it from.

  8. Orontes says:

    D is India, G is New Zealand.

  9. Torgen says:

    Question: I’d love to take RR Tycoon 3 or even Railroads! and start in the earliest days and run sandbox mode with AI up to the modern day. Are there any mods for that? Sometimes I’d just like to start a remote railroad and eke out my own little corner, but see the others running and growing and maybe giving me the opportunity to tap into their lines at some point.

  10. Commander_Zeus says:

    And J is from Turkey (crescent and star gave it away). The actual logo has been flipped about the horizontal axis to give the one seen above. So I wonder how many others we’re looking at the wrong way round?

  11. PenfoldPlant says:

    E is Ukrainian.

    • PenfoldPlant says:

      Also, I is the RFFSA of Brazil.

      • PenfoldPlant says:

        And A is Greece’s ΤραινΟΣΕ Α.Ε.

        • PenfoldPlant says:

          Oh, and unless I’m mistaken, H is Hekurudha Shqiptare of Albania.

          • PenfoldPlant says:

            I think that just leaves B, which is Kereta Api of Indonesia.

            *slams pencil down noisily and looks smugly around the classroom*

          • PoLLeNSKi says:

            /looks at the time stamps of all the posts…

            You wasted 40 minutes of your life googling railway company insigniae and are then smug about *knowing* the answers?

            :P

  12. leeder krenon says:

    Run8 seems to be for the Yankees. No interest until I can drive a Class 37 on a miserable day in 1982 from some god forsaken town to another.

  13. Moth Bones says:

    Even if that is true, telling someone to “piss off ” directly after citing ‘childish antics’ as a reason can’t really be described as good practice.

  14. Damn You Socrates says:

    Ageods new game Alea Jacta Est is also on Steam Greenlight – I recommend people vote, for Caesar!

    http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=93111493

  15. Electricfox says:

    So that’s where they disappeared to. I feared that it had become another evolutionary cul-de-sac. Well, it’s a good start, a few creases to be worked out both in and out of the sim it seems but I will probably stick to Railworks for now. Which gets its update this month. Hopefully some performance issues will be fixed by this and we’ll see what we make of this ‘session sharing’ thing that they have put forward. It’s not the multiplayer that some are waiting for, but it’s a step in that direction hopefully.

  16. Viper50BMG says:

    “…along with a full-blown feature-length version of Venus Patrol.”

    This, this, a thousand times this!

  17. Hatonastick says:

    Silent Storm is probably one of the most under-rated tactical turn-based games ever released. I’m a huge Jagged Alliance series (favorite being Jagged Alliance 2) fan, but Silent Storm has almost topped that for me — despite its chronically bad voice-acting and the rather odd setting/story there’s just something about it that makes it fun. Sentinels is quite good too, although quite different in structure.

    Odd that just Silent Storm is coming out on Steam. Both are available already on GoG as Silent Storm Gold, which is both games in one pack. Thus far they seem to run fine on my Windows 7 64-Bit system, although for some odd reason (thought they used the same engine) Sentinels runs at my native desktop resolution while Silent Storm runs at a much lower resolution. If Steam releases both and somehow fixes that issue I might buy it again (third time — already own the originals :)).

    Edit: LOL Well, total comprehension failure on my part. You can tell I just looked at the pictures and saw the link to Silent Storm. Didn’t click this was about Steam Greenlight or whatever it’s called. Apologies all!