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.
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.