Author Topic: Reduced forum activity in recent years  (Read 11206 times)

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Offline jamespetts

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Reduced forum activity in recent years
« on: October 17, 2015, 11:01:08 AM »
Looking at the statistics confirms that there has been a markedly reduced amount of activity on these forums in the last two years compared to previous years. Looking at the month of September, for example, last month saw 31 new topics and 342 new posts compared to 72 new topics and 713 new posts in September 2014, 176 new topics and 1963 new posts in September 2013 and 126 new topics and 1620 new posts in September 2012.

Has anyone an idea for the reason for this apparent decline and whether the reduced forum activity represents reduced interest in Simutrans in general?
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Offline Ters

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2015, 11:27:52 AM »
Compared to last year, there has been much less activity from most of the development team, which is also very evident in the SVN logs. There are currently no big projects underway, like double-height, lakes, removal of the Encircling Sea, JIT2, etc., which generated some discussion previous years.

The big question is whether the activity has dropped on the boards for normal players as well.

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2015, 11:34:31 AM »
Ahh, yes, that is a good point. I wonder how one would go about measuring that?

I am interested in trying to create more interest in Simutrans in the long-term, starting with the series of videos that I am making about the new signalling features in Experimental. Once Experimental is better balanced, it will be easier to promote to a larger audience, but, without more development help, it will take a long time to get to that state, which is rather circular. This does not apply directly to Standard, of course, which is much more mature than Experimental, but I do notice a paucity of good quality Youtube videos on Simutrans.
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Offline DrSuperGood

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2015, 06:18:22 PM »
There are no multiplayer servers and the fact the server listing server has gone down does not help.

Currently I think Simutrans lacks strong management as the people who control it have not stated where they want to go for next releases. They brought it through double height but then stopped after that was released. Since then it has been a random mash of third party developed patches (my JIT2 system), bug fixes (eg cyclic interchange recursion crash) and seemingly random patches (eg random changes to IP core and fonts or my MSVC2015 patches).

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2015, 07:38:25 PM »
I suppose that managing a project such as Simutrans is not the easiest of things, especially for those who already have busy lives. Have you any ideas of projects that would be worthwhile implementing?
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Offline Antonin

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2015, 08:08:14 PM »
...The big question is whether the activity has dropped on the boards for normal players as well.

My forum activity comes and goes, but I continue to play Simutrans and enjoy it very, very much.

I don't know what upgrades are being planned, but I seem to remember that one complaint about pak Britain was that it is not well balanced in terms of costs and revenue.

Offline Ters

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2015, 09:51:49 PM »
Currently I think Simutrans lacks strong management as the people who control it have not stated where they want to go for next releases. They brought it through double height but then stopped after that was released. Since then it has been a random mash of third party developed patches (my JIT2 system), bug fixes (eg cyclic interchange recursion crash) and seemingly random patches (eg random changes to IP core and fonts or my MSVC2015 patches).

A strong manager will in any case likely find himself alone. (Which actually kind of happened not too long ago, though there were other issues involved.) I haven't gotten the impression that people are sitting around waiting for someone to tell them what to do. In the sense that they are waiting for something, they are waiting for something they themselves want done differently. Double-heights wasn't much different from JIT2 in that regard, from what I could see from the outside, except that it did have a higher degree of other developers, and eventually pak set authors, joining in once the ball was rolling. That everyone has different visions for Simutrans applies to developers as well, and we seem to have reached the end of what we can all agree upon, which is probably why Simutrans forked twice in the last few years.

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2015, 10:09:38 PM »
My long-term aim is to balance Pak128.Britain-Experimental very thoroughly, but there are a number of balance critical features that must be implemented in the (Experimental) code first which have been a long time in coming and require some considerable work and co-ordination. I am not quite sure what the position is with balancing Standard; Standard can be difficult to balance realistically, and I think that the attempt to balance Pak128.Britain (Standard) was given up a while ago, although it may yet be revived.
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Offline Pestr

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2015, 06:11:49 AM »
May be because, that not so much releases? And other exelent games was released, like Cities: Skylines for example.
I'm a perfectionist. I like Simutrans 112.3 and Experimental, but 120.x is not good for me, this version need some polishing.

Offline Ters

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2015, 08:35:35 AM »
I suggested a release this summer, since there had been some bug fixes during the spring and no new big changes to destabilize things. But nobody had the time (or know-how) to do a release before people started doing big changes to the code again.

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2015, 09:19:56 PM »
If there are no major projects afoot, there is much to be said for bug fixing, improving the user interface, expanding paksets, working on documentation and publicising Simutrans.
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Offline Ters

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2015, 05:33:04 AM »
If there are no major projects afoot, there is much to be said for bug fixing, improving the user interface, expanding paksets, working on documentation and publicising Simutrans.

I don't know of any bugs in the core game. There are some glitches, but they are caused by fundamental issues in the design. Improving the user interface would be a major project. Plus, the motivation driving Simutrans contributors seem to be that one want something for oneself. If people can manage without changes to the user interface, pak sets and documentation, they won't do anything.

I don't think this is uncommon for non-profit amateur projects. It also applies to some more professional open source projects. Even Wikipedia suffers from problems motivating contributors these days, especially the ones for less common languages. Larger projects like Linux keep going because there is money involved. Businesses use them, so they pay people to contribute.

Offline DrSuperGood

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2015, 05:58:08 AM »
I still think having the server listing servers working would help a little bit. Some love to pak64 (the easy to use and fun pakset used by most servers) would also help.

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2015, 10:27:15 AM »
Interesting - I dream of a time when Experimental and Pak128.Britain-Ex is sufficiently complete in its core balance that I can work on pakset expansion, documentation, publicity and the like, with a few non-essential features and refinements here and there.

The absence of the server listing is definitely a significant problem, although that antedates the decline that I document above.
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Offline Antonin

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2015, 09:18:35 PM »
My long-term aim is to balance Pak128.Britain-Experimental very thoroughly...

Is Pak128.Britain-Experimental playable by the average person, or is it purely experimental?  I have never played an experimental version of Simutrans.

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2015, 09:23:06 PM »
It is intended to be playable by the average person if you mean by that phrase somebody who is not a software developer or familiar with the inner workings. It is at this stage somewhat experimental in the sense that it is not fully balanced, although I have been working on that slowly, but there is much more to do. The long term plan is to rename it to something like "Simutrans-Extended" once a reasonable game play balance is achieved.

Edit: To clarify, I was referring to Simutrans-Experimental in general, not the pakset in particular, but the pakset (Pak128.Britain-Ex) is the version of Pak128.Britain that goes with Simutrans-Experimental.
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Offline maanlicht

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #16 on: October 20, 2015, 09:30:50 AM »
I am a devoted fan & player of simutrans and have been for many years now. I visit the forums on average 2 or 3 times each week, mainly to keep abreast of develpoments and get ideas on how to help my gameplay. I have never been a vocal contributor to hardly any topics in the forum, I just plod on with the game LOL.

One thing I will say is that altho I use Linux I am really a newbie linuxer, having been a Windows user all my computer life - I went over to linux cos I loath the way Windows works and Linux gives me some sort of control over the way I use the computer.

I wish I could help you guys in someway but my skills are very limited - I am still getting to grips with the game, Simutrans, easy to play but hard to master ( you never stop learning)

Reading your topic has given me a gentle push to start asking for help in the forums, so thank you for your thread James and all who replied.

Hats off to you all for keeping the flame burning for Simutrans - kudos to all involved.

Offline kierongreen

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #17 on: October 20, 2015, 07:49:54 PM »
I've a fair bit going on in real life at the moment which keeps me from contributing to Simutrans much at the moment. As Ters indicates though - there's not many obvious avenues to go down in terms of improvements to Simutrans. Projects I think about involve adding features, but the question is are they really needed, and will they really add much to the game? It's easy to go down the route of Simutrans Experimental where you just make things more and more complicated in an aim to get closer to real life (and Experimental has carved out that niche), but that doesn't necessarily make gameplay better overall.

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #18 on: October 20, 2015, 09:45:05 PM »
One substantial way of improving Simutrans-Standard might well be to improve the documentation: make video tutorials, up to date step by step guides, indeed, even add an in-game tutorial mode. One worthwhile new feature that wouldn't add much complexity is the separation of tunnel graphics and way graphics that was discussed previously. That is all dependant on developer time, of course, and that is often limited, but, developer time permitting, there should never be a shortage of worthwhile things to do.
 
If any developers have spare time and are wondering how to fill it, assistance on Simutrans-Experimental would be much appreciated, as there are plenty of projects there that could do with lots of work.

Of course, it may be that the developers, having reached that happy nirvana of having no outstanding projects, and a mature game, would rather spend their time playing their creation than working further, which would be quite understandable.
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Online isidoro

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #19 on: October 20, 2015, 11:36:30 PM »
[...]
As Ters indicates though - there's not many obvious avenues to go down in terms of improvements to Simutrans. Projects I think about involve adding features, but the question is are they really needed, and will they really add much to the game?
[...]

I can't resist the word play: I disagree, but in my opinion, avenues are one of those obvious avenues to go down in terms of improvements to Simutrans.

That includes two-lane one-way roads where all lanes are fully used, not to mention the possibility to have 4-lane, 6 lane, etc. one way roads...

Offline Ters

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2015, 05:04:17 AM »
I can't resist the word play: I disagree, but in my opinion, avenues are one of those obvious avenues to go down in terms of improvements to Simutrans.

That includes two-lane one-way roads where all lanes are fully used, not to mention the possibility to have 4-lane, 6 lane, etc. one way roads...

At least one person has tried to get that working, but no one has completed anything. It's clearly a major undertaking that requires a lot of time on ones hands.

Offline DrSuperGood

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #21 on: October 21, 2015, 05:56:54 AM »
If one could compact 4 lanes into a single tile then roads might just become usable.

I personally thing consistency improvements on elevated ways and bridges would be a good idea. Additionally some pak64 balance improvements since it seems to be one of the most popular paksets used.

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #22 on: October 21, 2015, 01:56:14 PM »
If one could compact 4 lanes into a single tile then roads might just become usable.

I have more issues with the length, than the width. One tile is simulated as a city block or more, but vehicles move as if a tile is just 10-20 meters.

Offline dannyman

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #23 on: November 16, 2015, 09:52:27 PM »
I think there have been some nice gaming options to explore, of late.  The new Cities: Skylines and Train Fever come to mind.

I sort of lost interest in Simutrans-Exp due to bugs in the last release version I tried to play, and then trying to surf the current development effort was not worthwhile.  Might be worth putting in a little effort on a "stable" branch of Exp, cherry pick bugfixes.  I've gotten pretty comfortable with github at my day job so this is the sort of hobby I might conceivably take up.

Another concern for me is the graphics.  I can deal with isometrics in a 3D gaming world, sure.  But I recently got a 4K monitor .. now I have to squint at pak128 on full zoom.  If I were more clever I'd look into hacking in a highdpi scaling factor (just double the pixels...) ... the other thing I noticed, on Linux 64-bit with SDL, is the UI is sluggish.  I can play Train Fever or Cities Skylines or even World of Tanks in a Windows VM on this system but even a beginning game of Simutrans-Standard on default settings felt like wading through Jello while squinting.  Maybe the compiled version I pulled off the forum was not compiled with optimal settings ... I might look into that.

I know a lot of the pak gfx come through Blender ... back to the 4k issue ... I wonder if it miht be worthwhile to try and simply scale a pak128 into a pak256 or even a pak512 ... chunky pixels, and turn up the size of the in-game font ... might make things more playable on a high-DPI display, then if anyone wanted to port their graphics renderings to a high-res pakset ... that would come after I see if I can tune the performance of Linux-compiled Simutrans.

The other thing, while I'm blathering, is I'd love to see some stuff ported over to Standard ... passenger route selection, and the concept of passengers walking from station to station, so that they could cross between player networks without the need to create public stops.  That and convoy upgrades ... I find Exp very interesting but of all the effort there it is the more natural and intuitive behavior of passengers navigating across the terrain that I find most gratifying.  (Also, the ability to set a service frequency at a stop ...)

Anyway, thanks again to all those who help build and enjoy playing the game. :)

Offline kierongreen

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #24 on: November 16, 2015, 10:26:24 PM »
The slow graphics would only be marginally helped by larger paks. The slowdown is mainly down to shear pixel pushing. Fortunately this is an area where multi threading helps immensely. Are you using builds with support for more than one core?

Experimental back ports are not a simple matter, both due to the gameplay philosophy behind the Experimental and differences in the code base.

Offline DrSuperGood

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #25 on: November 17, 2015, 12:23:31 AM »
Quote
The other thing, while I'm blathering, is I'd love to see some stuff ported over to Standard ... passenger route selection, and the concept of passengers walking from station to station, so that they could cross between player networks without the need to create public stops.  That and convoy upgrades ... I find Exp very interesting but of all the effort there it is the more natural and intuitive behavior of passengers navigating across the terrain that I find most gratifying.  (Also, the ability to set a service frequency at a stop ...)
I am sure that raises the resource requirements immensely and in the last release of experimental it was very buggy (although apparently that has improved in nightlies).

The walking mechanics is something that maybe should be looked into. Especially since I recently revised the logging of passengers it had me thinking of what if really short walk journeys automatically happened. Additionally the path finder might assume that passenger stations in range of each other walk. Mail and other goods could also share such a mechanics, representing a transfer service offered by your stations for the goods, possibly with some financial penalty or even bonus.

Offline Ters

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #26 on: November 17, 2015, 06:32:13 AM »
The other thing, while I'm blathering, is I'd love to see some stuff ported over to Standard ... passenger route selection, and the concept of passengers walking from station to station, so that they could cross between player networks without the need to create public stops.  That and convoy upgrades ... I find Exp very interesting but of all the effort there it is the more natural and intuitive behavior of passengers navigating across the terrain that I find most gratifying.  (Also, the ability to set a service frequency at a stop ...)

The whole point of why Experimental was forked out is because these things are unwanted in Standard. This is partly based in philosophy, and partly based in the vastly higher system requirements, both of which may alienate existing players.

Offline prissi

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #27 on: November 17, 2015, 03:57:47 PM »
Actually, I am working on that. SDL (as well as GDI) allows you to scale the bitmap on the fly, which would also scale all windows and everything (which may want anyway on a 4K display, as buttons will become tiny too). Windows 10 even does this automatically, and applications must switch this off manually. That would save a lot of CPU time, since the scaling of bitmaps is done by the hardware.

Another option would be independent copying of landscape and GUI. That way you could scale the landscape by OS functions (fast high quality zoom in using shaders), and the dialogues independently. That would make most sense for zooming factors above 2.

The display routines have several options to reduce CPU demand. If they cannot cope, they will switch to multithreading and then even allow for some more clipping errors before giving up. If you reached that point, then there are simply too many pixels.

Offline dannyman

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #28 on: November 17, 2015, 05:43:09 PM »
Prissi-- I would be happy to test drive those features for you.

Yesterday I was actually experimenting with a larger font, using the "larger" theme ... that could look very nice, but would take a bit of effort to get working: some dialogs worked better than others.  If you can get scaling to work with minimal effort that's probably plenty, but I might dig at the font thing a bit more as an opportunity to learn the UI. :)

-d

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #29 on: November 17, 2015, 10:44:13 PM »
There is a 50% unfinished work to use freetype fonts, as a first effort into scaling. Scaling the whole display is very easy, you would just have to translate mouse buttons in simsys and scale the GDI when displaying. If global scaling is really in demand, it could be added in a weekend or so.

Offline dannyman

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #30 on: November 20, 2015, 12:37:22 AM »
I think I have adjusted to the tiny tiny pixels now.  Performance feels less sluggish with pak128.Britain versus pak192.Comic, but is totes playable.

If you were to hack in global scaling, I would put "arrange to get prissi beer next chance I visit Germany" on my bucket list, but honestly that's already on my bucket list ... along with a visit to Miniatur Wunderland.

(And of course I visited Hamburg once and my pictures are all of the train station: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2002/10/03/hamburg/)

-danny

Offline DrSuperGood

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #31 on: November 20, 2015, 02:25:45 AM »
It would be really nice if new versions being released could be advertised. Specifically there was no post here for the release of 120-1-1.

Offline dekema2

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #32 on: November 23, 2015, 03:22:35 AM »
As a user who plays Simutrans once in a blue moon and comes here every few months, I am attracted to games like Cities: Skylines because of the development support. Then again, I don't even have that game because I believe in Simutrans and I don't play games very often.


As someone who has friends who play SimCity and Cities: Skylines, they never heard of Simutrans upon me asking. By creating a new version of Simutrans that counters SimCity and Cities: Skylines by focusing on rail, sea, roads and transit instead of buildings, leaving them up to mods, I think Simutrans can really succeed against these games.

For example, I think Simutrans can implement things like real intersections such as the parclo or stack interchanges.

No matter what happens, I will always continue to play Simutrans :).


Offline dekema2

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #33 on: November 23, 2015, 03:49:13 AM »
I think there have been some nice gaming options to explore, of late.  The new Cities: Skylines and Train Fever come to mind.

I sort of lost interest in Simutrans-Exp due to bugs in the last release version I tried to play, and then trying to surf the current development effort was not worthwhile.  Might be worth putting in a little effort on a "stable" branch of Exp, cherry pick bugfixes.  I've gotten pretty comfortable with github at my day job so this is the sort of hobby I might conceivably take up.

Another concern for me is the graphics.  I can deal with isometrics in a 3D gaming world, sure.  But I recently got a 4K monitor .. now I have to squint at pak128 on full zoom.  If I were more clever I'd look into hacking in a highdpi scaling factor (just double the pixels...) ... the other thing I noticed, on Linux 64-bit with SDL, is the UI is sluggish.  I can play Train Fever or Cities Skylines or even World of Tanks in a Windows VM on this system but even a beginning game of Simutrans-Standard on default settings felt like wading through Jello while squinting.  Maybe the compiled version I pulled off the forum was not compiled with optimal settings ... I might look into that.

I know a lot of the pak gfx come through Blender ... back to the 4k issue ... I wonder if it miht be worthwhile to try and simply scale a pak128 into a pak256 or even a pak512 ... chunky pixels, and turn up the size of the in-game font ... might make things more playable on a high-DPI display, then if anyone wanted to port their graphics renderings to a high-res pakset ... that would come after I see if I can tune the performance of Linux-compiled Simutrans.

The other thing, while I'm blathering, is I'd love to see some stuff ported over to Standard ... passenger route selection, and the concept of passengers walking from station to station, so that they could cross between player networks without the need to create public stops.  That and convoy upgrades ... I find Exp very interesting but of all the effort there it is the more natural and intuitive behavior of passengers navigating across the terrain that I find most gratifying.  (Also, the ability to set a service frequency at a stop ...)

Anyway, thanks again to all those who help build and enjoy playing the game. :)

I agree. There is nothing wrong with the basic mechanics of Simutrans to me, it's really the UI and the graphics that feel suck in 2000.

I think Simutrans just needs a polishing to bring it into 2016.

Online isidoro

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #34 on: November 23, 2015, 11:08:21 PM »
I think that Simutrans has an advantage over the SimCity saga and Cities:skylines: the simulation is deeper.  The latter are better of course regarding graphics.

Once you dominate the games, SimCity and Cities:skylines soon become boring.  Popular games are, by definition, easy games.  A game that needs time to master isn't popular, but once you do master it, it is much more fun than an easy game.

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #35 on: November 24, 2015, 01:08:25 AM »
I have only just noticed some of the recent discussion here. I note with interest Prissi's work on making things work better with 4k monitors, which is a very worthwhile thing, as Simutrans (especially Experimental, with its higher computational load) works well in the desktop arena, and desktops are very much heading towards 4k (and possibly even 8k) as being quite common.

The graphics are indeed old-fashioned, but the relatively low-fi graphics allows for much greater quantity of output (and therefore simulation depth) than beautiful, detailed 3d graphics; Cities: Skylines looks beautiful, but there is only one type of 'bus.  Train Fever is more interesting: it is totally modern in graphics, but much more limited, from what I understand (I do not have a copy) than Simutrans in terms of scale, I think in part because of its modernity. There is a great advantage in working with older code in Simutrans in that it was optimised for much slower computers: we can therefore have games on a huge scale with lots more simulation depth than is possible with more modern code and graphics. (The UI could possibly be updated somewhat, but this is likely to be a major job and one that it would be tricky to port to Experimental, although, as noted, the improvements to allow Simutrans to work better in 4k would be important to port).

On gameplay: I agree with Isidoro that the gameplay in Simutrans is deeper than Cities:Skylines (although I have a copy of the latter and enjoy playing it). Skylines does not have any sense of progressing through time, for example, and simulates a wider range of things in a smaller geographical area in a more limited way. One thing that Skylines does particularly well, however (at least by comparison to other games), is road traffic simulation, which is one thing that I find particularly enjoyable about the game. Rail transport simulation is very greatly lacking, and air and water transport simulation are extremely rudimentary (airports and docks being treated as utilities rather than transport nodes).

As to Experimental features, it is a conscious decision not to have released a stable version for a while because I wish to get the core balance features implemented first. Releases take a huge amount of time and effort, which time and effort would better be spent on improving the balance critical features first. Given that, without the pakset being fully cost balanced, Simutrans-Experimental is really only half a game, given that balancing is a gargantuan task, given that balancing before implementing major balance-critical features is futile and given that my time is extremely limited by comparison to the amount of time needed to achieve what needs to be achieved, this course of action rather recommends itself quite strongly. What is needed more than anything else to get Experimental into a state where it is reasonably stable and playable is people to work on the core balance features in the code. With just me working on it, I am afraid that it is likely to be years. (The fact that I spent most of last year not working on Simutrans owing to moving house has not helped much either).

I at least have the great advantage now that there are several people who are compiling from source and playing the development version, reporting bugs as they go, which makes tracking down problems much easier and more efficient than waiting until after a release.
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Offline Sarlock

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #36 on: November 24, 2015, 05:08:59 AM »
The massive map sizes permitted in Simutrans is its greatest appeal to me.  The recent SimCity incarnations have been very visually appealing and have many nice attributes, but lack the large map size that appeals to many simulation/world recreation enthusiasts.  Even SimCity 4 had significant map limitations that impeded with large world simulations.

I feel that Simutrans is perfectly situated to be the platform of choice for many of these enthusiasts.  It has a wonderful, robust and well tested transport simulation system, can support very large maps and is very customizable.

Its real limitation graphically is the difficulty with which a new "modder" can create new graphics to add to the game.  In SimCity 4, with the BAT, this is a fairly simple process and a new user can learn the basics fairly quickly.  In order to create high quality 3D type graphics for Simutrans, however, one has to learn a 3D application like Blender, which takes years to master, then undertake a fairly lengthy conversion process from Blender to PNG files, create the DAT file and port it to Simutrans.

If there is an area to focus, I would focus my energy here.  We would attract hordes of modders wanting to create their simutations/world recreations in Simutrans and this would bring us many skilled and capable artists and programmers.

Adding alpha channel support would be a wonderful feature in the future, but as I have demonstrated with my work, even without an alpha channel the graphics can look pretty amazing using a detailed 3D model in an editor like Blender.

I will continue my work and see what else can be accomplished, but one man can only do so much in his spare time :)
Current projects: Pak128 Trees, blender graphics

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #37 on: November 24, 2015, 10:50:29 AM »
A few people working together (Zeno, I believe, and The Hood, with a small amount of work from me to refine it slightly) have produced (some time ago now) automatic rendering scripts for Blender that significantly reduce the amount of time that it takes to get graphics into the game, especially when combined with ImageMasker (for 1x1 tile graphics, including all vehicles and ways) and Tile Cutter (for larger graphics, such as larger buildings).

One does not really need to master Blender for producing Simutrans graphics, as a basic knowledge will suffice to produce the low-fi graphics that will suffice for the 128x128px .png files used (perhaps slightly more proficiency might be needed for good graphics at a 192px tile size). Blender is not too difficult to get to know - certainly much easier than learning to code.

However, the most difficult bit is actually making all the various graphics consistent with one another (despite taking great pains to ensure graphical consistency in Pak128.Britain, it turns out that many vehicles have to be re-scaled because they were on many inconsistent scales, which process is taking a long time).
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Offline Sarlock

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #38 on: November 24, 2015, 03:38:58 PM »
It took me about two years to get fairly proficient at Blender, even though I am still a long ways off.  Then again, I am not young anymore and don't have much free time to learn this stuff, so the learning curve is much steeper and longer.  It doesn't take long to create low-fi graphics, but it takes much longer to create detailed models.

I've tried using the scripts before but didn't have much success.  I'll have to try them again and see if I can make them work for me.

Being able to push a button in Blender and have it use some preset parameters and directly put it in to a PAK file for Simutrans would be huge.  I've tried to learn some Python, but again, I am not young anymore and I don't have the free time  ;)
Current projects: Pak128 Trees, blender graphics

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #39 on: November 24, 2015, 05:08:00 PM »
The workflow is not quite as fast as "make a .pak of this", not least because you also need a .dat file. The workflow (for 1x1 objects) is:

(1) make the model from a template with the lighting/rotation already set up;
(2) run the export script (a button in Blender if the addon is installed, along with some settings such as how many rotations, whether a vehicle or not and the name of the file);
(3) import into ImageMasker* to consolidate all into a single image;
(4) import into the GIMP to set the background colour to the correct transparent colour (use fill tool with tolerance of 0 on the black pixels) then save;
(5) create the .dat file from an existing template, modifying the filenames from one to another using a search/replace function; and
(6) recompile the pakset fully using an automated script for doing so with one command.

Because of the ability to do lots of steps (3) and (4) all in one go very quickly, it is easier to produce a decent number of graphics at once in steps (1) and (2), process a large number together in (3) and (4), complete (5) all at the same time, and then run (6) once.

* ImageMasker was actually intended for a sligthly differnet workflow involving using anti-aliasing with a background and special mask images, but it is not used this way in Pak128.Britain. Using the proper workflow for this adds steps, but can reduce the appearance of fading to black around the edges of objects.
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Offline sdog

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #40 on: November 24, 2015, 10:41:52 PM »
I agree. There is nothing wrong with the basic mechanics of Simutrans to me, it's really the UI and the graphics that feel suck in 2000.

I think Simutrans just needs a polishing to bring it into 2016.
The graphics style of the simutrans world, i.e, the paksets are fully in trend at the moment. Look at all the indie game smash hits of late, which embrace the pixelated look. However, these also have very modern and very well thought out UIs -- no wonder being designed now and by full-time devs. These UIs might at times look old, but are modern in the sense of efficiency and reduction on the relevant, and most imporantly by not being hand-knit but using the full tool kit adoptable game engines offer.

The basic mechanics of Simutrans however, is not very much at home in these days. The trend went towards more limited interactions that still generate a rich complexity. Sandbox games are notoriously difficult to maintain. Games like FTL or Don't Starve have very skillfully implemented game mechanisms to reduce the complexity (in the sense of orders of freedom of a player) quietly. The latest simcity tried also to curb complexity (not very skillfully though). Cities Skylines or Europa Universalis are exceptions.

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #41 on: November 25, 2015, 01:09:17 AM »
I like to think of Simutrans (perhaps especially as Experimental) as another one of those exceptions, for the perhaps niche group of people who like seriously realistic and economically accurate transport simulation games.
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Offline Ters

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #42 on: November 25, 2015, 06:58:10 AM »
I find the simplicity of the economic model in Simutrans more bothersome than the graphics. But as I've written many times before, the Simutrans community is widely diverse. Some play it like a businessman, some play it as a model railroad. These two extremes pull Simutrans in opposite directions. Then there are those that want Simusociety, which is sort of orthogonal to this.

Offline sdog

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #43 on: November 26, 2015, 02:08:27 AM »
I find the simplicity of the economic model in Simutrans more bothersome than the graphics. But as I've written many times before, the Simutrans community is widely diverse. Some play it like a businessman, some play it as a model railroad. These two extremes pull Simutrans in opposite directions. Then there are those that want Simusociety, which is sort of orthogonal to this.
Well, a lot of orthogonal vectors span a nice vector space.

More seriously, without a nice model-railroad packaging, it would be too serious to draw many people. Likewise if it were a pure simulation, being gamy at times is not a bad thing for a game. A simulation of some aspects of society make compellingly complex problems, that relate to real life.

I don't tink the absence is related as much to the nature of simutrans or it being out of fashion, it is much more a typical demographic problem. As an immature project it was easier to draw very commited people. These stop playing or being interested after a random time. As more developed game it is easier to engage to players, however, it is also more difficult to get very dedicated players, as here the project has to compete with younger less developed projects.

Offline sdog

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #44 on: November 30, 2015, 07:40:55 PM »
This thread stopped at trying to analyse why the forum is less active. Do we have also ways to get it more active?

What comes to mind first, as a short-term and immediate measure is to increase activity on our social media platforms.

I'm doing things only from time to time on our plus site, which is mostly dormant because of that.

People like screenshots, and andz is keeping up the screenshot contests, which is very helpful. But that is not all, I see more interest in new developments. There are often new impressive buildings. Lately mostly from Sarlock and the pak comic team.

I'm afraid that I've lost overview of what is currently being worked on the development side of simutrans. Would someone who is following that write a few words on an interesting topic? Preferably someone who isn't a dev who would waste valuable development time, but one of the many devotees, commenters, or 'lurkers'?

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #45 on: November 30, 2015, 07:42:22 PM »
Interestingly, the forum statistics show that this month is the second best this year, after January.
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Offline sdog

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #46 on: November 30, 2015, 08:28:37 PM »
Interestingly, the forum statistics show that this month is the second best this year, after January.
Perhaps because the new version was released this month.

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #47 on: November 30, 2015, 08:29:23 PM »
Perhaps indeed, although I have noticed an increase in discussions relating to Experimental, too, for which there has not been a new release, so perhaps not that alone.
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Offline sdog

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #48 on: November 30, 2015, 09:38:32 PM »
Perhaps indeed, although I have noticed an increase in discussions relating to Experimental, too, for which there has not been a new release, so perhaps not that alone.
That correlates strongly with the increased presence of experimental's lead developer, who until recently occupied busy with creating a house-sized time-machine for his famous tea parties. :-)

Offline AP

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #49 on: December 06, 2015, 12:40:24 PM »
That correlates strongly with the increased presence of experimental's lead developer, who until recently occupied busy with creating a house-sized time-machine for his famous tea parties. :-)

From a purely personal perspective - I play simutrans experimental & pak-gb - there are major known balancing issues with experimental, whilst these were being investigated / addressed there was a lot of playtesting going on, but things definitely went quiet (as might be expected) once that process slowed down. Once the balancing is done (and the new features incorporated), hopefully it should be viable for long-term play.

Once you've got used to the extra features / benefits of experimental, it's hard to go back to standard.

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #50 on: December 06, 2015, 01:10:01 PM »
From a purely personal perspective - I play simutrans experimental & pak-gb - there are major known balancing issues with experimental, whilst these were being investigated / addressed there was a lot of playtesting going on, but things definitely went quiet (as might be expected) once that process slowed down. Once the balancing is done (and the new features incorporated), hopefully it should be viable for long-term play.

Once you've got used to the extra features / benefits of experimental, it's hard to go back to standard.

Out of interest, what do you see as the main outstanding balance issues in Experimental?
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Offline AP

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #51 on: December 06, 2015, 02:21:24 PM »
Out of interest, what do you see as the main outstanding balance issues in Experimental?

The biggest issue I see is "Unpredictable Economic Returns".  In experimental, whilst there is a lot more sophistication/intelligence evident in the simulation, it is genuinely hard to make a profit. There are a lot of complex ways to spend money, many ways to spend it badly, and few ways to reliably get it: e.g.
  • Some industry chains inexplicably offer better returns than others.
  • Industries with issues of unproductive months due to amount of stock in transit.
  • Issues with distances between industries (why deliver milk to the dairy next door when you can sell the same milk for dramatically greater profit on the next continent)
  • Pre-rail, one must have shipyards everywhere because of the way restrictions (sea vs river0, yet they each cost a fair bit of maintenance. Ditto with stables if you don't start with free intercity roads on the map.
  • Cost per unit of storage is not equal across all units (notably staging inn).
For longer games other issues come into play
  • Excessive urban sprawl (server game became near 100% urban)
  • Inefficiency at removing obsolete infrastructure (can take as long to unbuild as to build -totally soul destroying!)
  • Compounding Success - Compound interest on capital - server games (players who do stumble upon a successful industrial model reap huge cumulative rewards - rather than losing some to dividend payments they get compound interest, which lets them adopt increasingly inefficient practices which exclude newer players, rather than becoming burdened by their inefficiency)

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #52 on: December 06, 2015, 02:36:14 PM »
Thank you - that is useful. To give some idea of the progress on these elements:

(1) revenues per type of goods per unit of distance should be more or less balanced; can you give examples of where, if anywhere, this does not appear to be the case?;
(2) I think that there were bugs in 11.x that are now fixed that were the cause of this;
(3) I have done some work to address this in the development build by limiting the distance between industries (this can be set per industry in the pakset);
(4) if I remember correctly, I greatly reduced the maintenance for shipyards (for the unreleased development version) a while back after your earlier comments on this (or possibly someone else's - I cannot remember whose now);
(5) this will need to be looked at when the pakset is fully balanced, although I may have made some adjustments (I cannot immediately recall);
(6) I plan to rework the entire town growth model fairly soon, but, in the meantime, the town growth rates can be adjusted in simuconf.tab;
(7) can you explain this in a little more detail?;
(8) I am just removing the facility to pay credit interest now.
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Offline The Hood

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #53 on: December 06, 2015, 02:48:15 PM »
An interesting discussion, especially as I've not been around on here myself much of late. Increased responsibility at work means less time for simutrans amongst other things. But another factor is there do seem to be fewer people contributing. With the pak128.Britain project I find it harder to motivate myself to contribute when I'm the only person drawing new stuff. The aspirational graphics list is very long and it feels it will take forever to do. Downloads on sourceforge are relatively constant though, especially considering no updates this year. I guess people are playing but just not wanting to get involved.

Regarding balancing, that was next on my hit list for the set (rather than new graphics) but no promises on a timescale!

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #54 on: December 06, 2015, 03:24:38 PM »
I have been focussing on coding lately, although I have been producing new and updated graphics: see the new signal graphics that I have produced (compatible with Standard) and the gradual re-scaling of early railway vehicles. I am also planning on adding some L&TSR locomotives and carriages at some point, and looking at adding some additional 'buses over Christmas, although consideration will first have to be given to re-scaling all road vehicles to match the trams, trains and boats, and "all road vehicles" unfortunately will include all buildings with parked cars, so careful consideration as to how best to do this will have to be given before proceeding (preferably with some co-ordination with the Standard pakset developers).
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Offline sdog

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #55 on: December 14, 2015, 11:30:23 PM »
I've posted the last screenshot contest (SMBC) images on the g+ site. Overall this increased the page views by more than 200% to about 3.5k. There is still interest in Simutrans on social media, when we make ourselves heard.

We are missing videos however. Perhaps we could host a video contest in the pattern of the SMBC? Or perhaps animated screenshots, vine like animated gifs?

(I am mostly ignorant of videos. I find it bothersome to click them, when i can gain the same information in a fraction of the time. I fear however, that I am not really representative for social media users. Thus I'm not really the right person to start these.)

Offline colonyan

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #56 on: April 19, 2016, 03:55:27 AM »
To be honest I have been almost never neither playing nor visiting forum for 2 whole years. But since few days ago, Simutrans is thing again. Mainly thanks to pak.nippon being constantly worked on. It kept me checking back once in a few month.

Cities:skyline was very fine game but it felt little too artificial on how city develop. I never was able to get into train fever due to UI, monotone map.

I have vague new pak project idea which I will start really humble and hopefully get it rolling as a hobby project.
I'd like to exploit many dat file and config files to make something new for standard version using 64 size. I had some project but it never lasted from different reasons like vision for goal.

For instance new idea have things to do with...
- Maximum interaction between passenger and industry chains. Full use of factory boost.
- Minimum type of freight cargo/vehicle type and maximum item type.
- Minimum vehicle type number.
- Industry chain as the dominant growth. Focus on Industry and Passenger.
- Minimalistic freight counting. 1 wagon carry's 1 unit load. 1 passenger group per 1 car.  Abstraction to core.
- No mail and No power
- No Com and Ind city building. Only residential city building.
- Very wide but shallow industry chain.
- Wide variation of final product consumer building and mix of freights intake. Generalization as a commercial district.
- No age progress. Start from modern-present.
- All new graphics. Streamlining production. Efficiency!

Ok. Having said that it makes me more constrained to show progress in near future. Let's get things rolling...

Offline prissi

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #57 on: May 07, 2016, 09:53:25 PM »
YOu can make a city with com only, but only res or only ind will not work. Com counts as both, so only com will work.

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #58 on: June 11, 2016, 08:53:55 PM »
Since the Steam launch, I note that May 2016 had the highest number of new members in any one month since March 2013.
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Offline DrSuperGood

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #59 on: June 11, 2016, 09:37:40 PM »
Quote
I note that May 2016 had the highest number of new members in any one month since March 2013.
Of which A lot of them were asking about something related to steam? Still I guess more people is better in some way but I just wish development was still as active as it was 1-2 years ago for the standard branch.

Offline AP

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #60 on: June 19, 2016, 03:56:56 PM »
Just re-reading this thread - realised I never answered James' question:
Thank you - that is useful.
(7) can you explain this in a little more detail?;
It was regarding "Inefficiency at removing obsolete infrastructure ".

What I meant was, suppose you have engineered a canal route through challenging terrain, but now want to replace it with a railway, re-using the earthworks and routes through town centres etc. Getting all the boats "home" is time consuming. You can't over-write canal with railway, so there is a slow delete-and-replace game. In urban context the city may jump in with buildings or roads whilst you do this. On server games, other players might.

In another context, suppose your previously profitable empire is suddently losing money hand over fist. You can't fix it without vast amounts of game time which you probably can't deploy quickly enough (especially in a server game). You want to consolidate your position - ideally "sell/delete everything instantly" and rebuild a more profitable network. But the tools to do that don't exist. You either wait for it to sink or start a new company and lose all your hard earned cash - neither ideal.

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #61 on: June 19, 2016, 04:21:15 PM »
Just re-reading this thread - realised I never answered James' question:It was regarding "Inefficiency at removing obsolete infrastructure ".

What I meant was, suppose you have engineered a canal route through challenging terrain, but now want to replace it with a railway, re-using the earthworks and routes through town centres etc. Getting all the boats "home" is time consuming. You can't over-write canal with railway, so there is a slow delete-and-replace game. In urban context the city may jump in with buildings or roads whilst you do this. On server games, other players might.

In another context, suppose your previously profitable empire is suddently losing money hand over fist. You can't fix it without vast amounts of game time which you probably can't deploy quickly enough (especially in a server game). You want to consolidate your position - ideally "sell/delete everything instantly" and rebuild a more profitable network. But the tools to do that don't exist. You either wait for it to sink or start a new company and lose all your hard earned cash - neither ideal.


Thank you for your feedback. None of these things are different from Standard in their implementation, so these difficulties will apply equally to Standard. I can see the merit, in theory, of a tool to replace one type of way with another (although that would take a lot of effort to implement to deal with the complex consequences of this in lots of small ways).

As to selling or deleting everything instantly, are you sure that this is a good idea as a feature? I can only imagine the consequences of accidental use of such a feature. It cannot be often that such a thing be merited, surely? Would it suffice to have an option manually to liquidate a company, rather than to have to wait for it to be liquidated automatically? This might be a workable idea and not too hard to implement.
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Offline AP

Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #62 on: June 19, 2016, 04:54:54 PM »
As to selling or deleting everything instantly, are you sure that this is a good idea as a feature? I can only imagine the consequences of accidental use of such a feature. It cannot be often that such a thing be merited, surely? Would it suffice to have an option manually to liquidate a company, rather than to have to wait for it to be liquidated automatically? This might be a workable idea and not too hard to implement.
On single player games it's fairly irrelevant, but on  several server games I've got to the point of "oh crap" when I've realised I've made an unholy mess of the thing. Sometimes we struggle on, sometimes it's just not worth it.  Manually liquidate would be fine, so long as the player keeps the liquidity i.e the cash they made, to plough into another enterprise. Otherwise players "walk away" which is not the desired outcome I'm sure.

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Re: Reduced forum activity in recent years
« Reply #63 on: June 19, 2016, 05:03:32 PM »
On single player games it's fairly irrelevant, but on  several server games I've got to the point of "oh crap" when I've realised I've made an unholy mess of the thing. Sometimes we struggle on, sometimes it's just not worth it.  Manually liquidate would be fine, so long as the player keeps the liquidity i.e the cash they made, to plough into another enterprise. Otherwise players "walk away" which is not the desired outcome I'm sure.

Keeping the cash after a manual liquidation would require a fundamental change in the way that liquidation works. I do plan to change the company management features at some point to allow, e.g., mergers, but the idea of a solvent liquidation (which is what this would be simulating: similar to a members' voluntary winding-up in UK company law) is quite different from what we have at present.

Edit: I have added reference to solvent liquidation in the coding projects thread. This should probably only be possible where a player's net wealth is greater than zero.
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