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Offline jamespetts

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Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« on: February 08, 2009, 07:20:09 PM »
The opensource games 'blog, FreeGamer has recently reviewed Simutrans as part of a general review of opensource simulation games: see here, alongside similar games such as OpenTTD. The reviewer was somewhat critical of the UI, but stated that he found Simutrans to have more depth than OpenTTD. Notably, Simutrans was given quite a long review, and was only second on a list of about eight different opensource simulation games.

It is encouraging to see the game getting such prominent publicity - perhaps there should be some thought given as to how to deal with some of the issues raised by the reviewer, both in terms of UI design and documentation?
« Last Edit: February 08, 2009, 08:25:28 PM by jamespetts »
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Offline sojo

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2009, 08:06:50 PM »
Your first link have a mistake.

Edit: pak96.comic is not playable? No traindepot?  ???
« Last Edit: February 08, 2009, 08:16:31 PM by sojo »
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Offline jamespetts

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2009, 08:25:51 PM »
Sojo,

fixed. As to Pak96.Comic, perhaps he selected an early starting era? That does highlight the need for documentation, though.
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Offline sojo

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2009, 09:10:38 PM »
Thats possible. Yes, I should write a documentation. But better in german. ;) Anybody must translate it. :D
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Offline gauthier

Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2009, 09:15:24 PM »
I don't know the guy who have written this sh** but he should learn before saying it's unclear and many glitches ...
"unplayable" ... I haven't understood how I did but in the savegame I'm playing, I made 100.000.000.000 benefits in 6 years ! (starting with 20.000.000.000).

Offline vilvoh

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2009, 10:01:53 PM »
I read it few days ago, but I didn't dare to comment anything because, well, one of the main complains is about the music, that as we all know it's not a priority. Indeed, I can't remember almost any free game with good music unless it's important for gameplay, that's not Simutrans case.

I wouldn't worry too much about this,as some of the things can be fixed, i.e. text overflow in menus and messages. It's a matter of translation eficiency. People usually don't care about string lenght, and sometimes it doesn't fit well in the space that is available.

IMHO, Simutrans seems to be the "winner" in that review, but sometimes is good to have an external point of view, more or less neutral, objective and not involved in the project, to point out weak areas we usually don't notice.

As I see it, the last sentence is a reasonable constructive critic and futhermore a good point to follow:
Quote
It just lacks the polish that OpenTTD has, and lacks a good tutorial and an intuitive user interface.

He simply says: The game is really cool but you make it more stable and create better documentation!

P.S: At least, he used the latest release (101) because there're other websites that still use 0.84 and 99.17..  :-[

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Offline jamespetts

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2009, 10:14:39 PM »
Perhaps we could come up with a GUI/documentation to-do list so that developers can pick items one by one to help to make Simutrans more polished?
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Offline vilvoh

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2009, 10:23:20 PM »
sure, why not...anyway, he doesn't mention the Starter Guide anywhere in the review, and that's the main and most important guide for newbies in Simutrans. So, imho documentation area is well covered with it.

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Offline gerw

Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2009, 10:38:29 PM »
But do new players find the starter guide? I think there's provided enough documentation for simutrans. Even the in game help is very mighty - but I didn't used it, too. In my opinion, there's not too few information for new users, but they didn't find them.

Maybe we could add a small banner to the starting screen of simutrans, with informations where documantation can be found.

Offline sojo

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2009, 10:41:19 PM »
I think, the starterguide should be near the download at sourceforge. So you can download both.
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Offline vilvoh

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2009, 10:43:08 PM »
There's already a banner in forum's frontpage, the problem is that it's dinamic...On the other hand, people usually don't like to read so they don't use the in-game help, which should be the first help source. A possible solution may be to make a static banner only for documentation.

good catch, Sojo!! I support it.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2009, 11:22:00 AM by vilvoh »

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Offline jamespetts

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2009, 10:49:02 PM »
Perhaps the starter guide should always be bundled with every Simutrans download? And maybe an in-game tutorial, too?
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Offline vilvoh

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2009, 10:58:55 PM »
The SG is about 8 MB so... :-\

The in-game tutorial it's not a bad idea. It may be displayed in a new window when you start a new game.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2009, 11:23:18 AM by vilvoh »

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Offline jamespetts

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2009, 11:01:56 PM »
If the starter guide in PDF is so big, perhaps it ought be in HTML instead so that it can easily be bundled?
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Offline VS

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2009, 11:04:15 PM »
Quote
****
Real world lesson: You never want to alienate the press :-[

That said, the outcome of review seems to me rather logical. It states that the game has a lot of depth, and we (professionals on the subject) can see that the reviewer has problems immediately at the start of learning curve. And since he can not have time to learn how to play Simutrans to write a nice review, he writes a less nice review. But still nice! We could get some horror like "just says install pakset and crashes, 0%".

As jamespetts and vilvoh mentioned, we should take a look at that review - not as professionals who can say what it got wrong and dismiss it - but rather as professionals who can use it as a unique insight into what beginners face and analyse what the problems were.

We already have listed: probably not read reference guide. That is a bit poor, considering that it is rather well hidden. As soon as the new site from Igor goes live, we have an official homepage where we can put it a big link to it.

I am also at loss why "pak96.comic had no depot". But it says something... what?



The main problem with starter guide is images. There is lots of graphical material showing directly on screenshots how to do something.

EDIT: problem meaning - what makes it so big.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2009, 11:19:44 AM by VS »

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Offline lukesleftleg

Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #15 on: February 08, 2009, 11:12:26 PM »
Hmm, now no promises here, but I'm going to have a word with my HCI (Human Computer Interaction) tutor tomorrow.
There's a blog on his site where he says he's looking for a project to get involved in, and I was going to mention Simutrans to him this week.

Simutrans might not be what he's looking for, but I'll see if I can't get him interested.
  

Offline jamespetts

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2009, 11:21:37 PM »
Luke'sleftleg,

no harm in trying!
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Offline IgorEliezer

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #17 on: February 09, 2009, 05:19:48 AM »
Quote
Although the website lists version 0.99.17 as stable, the forum lists 101.0 as the stable download and is more recent so I went with that.
http://freegamer.blogspot.com/2009/02/simulate-this-city-building-tycoon-game.html

He simply says: The game is really cool but you make it more stable and create better documentation!

P.S: At least, he used the latest release (101) because there're other websites that still use 0.84 and 99.17..  :-[

If this is a problem, an updated Simutrans site is ready to be used and accessed:

http://www.simutrans.com (beta at http://pt.simutrans.com/newsite/)

Just need to be hosted correctly in new server, not in Isaac's server as it is now >_>. There, it's easily to find v101, manuals and tutorials. In index page, there's a button-link pointing rightly to the wiki and to the project page at SourceForge.

Simutrans doesn't need more manuals, but update and EXTEND the existing ones, i.e. wiki and docs. Wiki.simutrans.com needs more didactic and illustrated texts. Docs (SRM) is an impressive e-book site but just needs to be more publicity and EASY access.



Off-topic: I'm away from Simutrans Community for some days (1 or 2 days) until I post something solid. But, any emergency doesn't fear to e-mail me or try to find me in IRC.

I know there are some pending things to be solved... but please wait as I've waited.

Offline Dwachs

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #18 on: February 09, 2009, 06:21:55 AM »
I think the biggest obstacle for the blogger was that he was used to TTD and then tried Simutrans. In TTD the building of tracks is essentially different (one can put all 6 possible directions independently on a tile). So when you try to do a quick build, you obtain something different then what you expected. When I first tried Simutrans (after playing OpenTTD) I was quickly frustrated and did not touch Simutrans for some months.

To the music: Imho  Wesnoth has a nice ingame music. But this game is another genre (strategy) with deep developed fantasy world.
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Offline Fabio

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #19 on: February 09, 2009, 08:29:19 AM »
What i think Simutrans misses the most is a full bundle, also big (e.g. 40 MB, today many people have fast connection, the others can do as now), including exe, paks (i would say all 64, 96, 128, since you can choose the one you want to play with), starter guide and an installer (which puts also links on the desktop and start menu for both program and guide, or even for each packset and for the guide).
This would be newbie-friendly enough.

Another think i don't quite like is the wide use of such commands as CTRL+click and SHIFT+click, e.g. for parallel tracks and for tunnel entrances, and keybord shortcuts to access many views, e.g. U for underground mode.
I propose a new message type (on by default as a self closing window, switcheable off by experienced users) every time you select a tool with a brief guide on its usage (e.g. "this builds a tunnel. click on a slope to build a straight tunnel or CTRL+click on a slope to build only the entrance"). Also visualization switches should have a menu entry.

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #20 on: February 09, 2009, 08:35:47 AM »
In addition to Fabios comment, an extended help to error messages would be nice ... I mean something, which explains "what is going wrong" and "what you can improve".
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Offline vilvoh

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #21 on: February 09, 2009, 08:48:54 AM »
That's a matter of translation. Sometimes people don't translate error messages in a clear way, but literally. Furthermore, some error messages are common to similar problems, and each one has its own way to solve it, therefore the second part would be difficult to carry out..

In reference to Fabio's all-in-one mega installation, I would say that would be a Simutrans for dummies installation.. :D

The main problem of documentation, as VS pointed out some posts ago, is that It contains a lot of big screenshots, on average one or two per page. This is good because sometimes an image is better than a thousand words, but the main disadvantage is the space it occupies. Other games have a html version, as jamespetts said, of all documentation with just plain text. Let's wait for Ormac's opinion (Master of Documentation)

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Offline Fabio

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #22 on: February 09, 2009, 09:01:54 AM »
I would say that would be a Simutrans for dummies installation.. :D

Well, we could call it Simutrans for dummies installation project ;)
I think it would be worthy, as opposed to the present time Simutrans for geeks installation. Every who occasional player who finds simutrans (maybe in a free games package CDs, or online) should get a fast start to get caught by the game spending only 3-5 minutes to make it run, without looking for files to download and so on. A couple of well developed savegames should be bundled too, as a tutorial for strategy and as a way to quickly show all simutrans potential. THis would be great for game reviewers as well. We want people focusing on the game not on how to install it and run it, PLAYERS (as opposed to community members) are usually lazy, let's not forget about it...

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #23 on: February 09, 2009, 09:13:06 AM »
We probably shouldn't call it "Simutrans for dummies", as it is usually time, not intelligence, that people are lacking that dissuade them from downloading things in pieces and putting them together. Really, the all-in-one installation (both as an .exe for windows, and as a .deb/.rpm for Linux) should be the normal installation, the separate downloads being available for advanced users. It can be easy to forget sometimes that all of this seems easy to us because (and only because) we are highly familiar with the game.
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Offline vilvoh

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #24 on: February 09, 2009, 09:14:26 AM »
Sounds really interesting, Fabio. You got my support. Perhaps we should continue this discussion in a new topic. Anyway, there's another problem with this all-in-one installer.Sometime ago, Prissi expressed his disagree against this way of installation, and imho if we want to suceed, the SFD installer should be included in sourceforge. So first of all we should try to convince him.



« Last Edit: June 29, 2009, 10:37:31 PM by vilvoh »

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Offline freegamer

Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #25 on: February 09, 2009, 10:26:41 AM »
So.........

Glad you guys are mostly objectively taking the review on.  Yes, I admit I am used to TTD-style gameplay thus had to try to adjust somewhat to Simutrans.

I access Simutrans documentation from this website:
http://simutrans.sourceforge.net/

Not sure where the wiki or starter guide get linked to from there.  I admit, I could have used Google, but bear in mind I was on fullscreen on a laptop for the most part and didn't want to keep jumping out to a web browser.

Regarding the train depot on pak96.comic; I'd like to know where in the attached image is the icon for the train depot.  Perhaps I'm blind?  I see no train depot option in any of the dialogs.

Offline freegamer

Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #26 on: February 09, 2009, 10:29:45 AM »
Another suggestion might be a UI for downloading alternative pak files so that pak maintainers can just upload the latest version and players can avoid the confusion that seems to occur with having so many places to go.

I see now that the Simutrans Manual link goes the Wiki.  (As a typical player I don't like to read manuals unless I'm really looking to find out the details of a game that I like.  That might sound weak, but it is true.)

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #27 on: February 09, 2009, 10:33:31 AM »
There's already a UI for that. It's called Simusetup (windows only)

P.S: Please, try not to double-post. Edit your last comment instead... ;)
« Last Edit: February 09, 2009, 10:57:33 AM by vilvoh »

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Offline freegamer

Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #28 on: February 09, 2009, 10:51:39 AM »
#1 That is Windows only.  I'm on Linux.
#2 It should really be a feature of the official game, not an add-on.  Who downloads add-ons before they actually play the original game?

Offline vilvoh

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #29 on: February 09, 2009, 11:10:21 AM »
Opss!! my fault. I forgot about Linux, although I'm a linux user too.. :)

Btw, when you talk about pak files, you really mean paksets (pak64, pak128, pak96) don't you? So what you are suggesting is a pakset updater embedded in the game, aren't you?

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Offline jamespetts

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #30 on: February 09, 2009, 11:48:50 AM »
Freegamer,

ahh, the reason that you are missing a rail depot is that you are in 1850. Pak96.Comic is not fully playable before sometime in the middle of the 20th century, I think. If that is not in the documentation somewhere, it should be.

Generally: Freegamer does make good points. People do not generally read a separate manual to get to learn the basics, and many players will give up early if the game is not designed to be able to be understood, at least at a basic level, without having to read a separate manual. That is not because most people who play games are stupid - it is because people play games for enjoyment, and enjoyment is often undermined by having to do a great deal of work before the enjoyment can be unleashed. Whilst some might retort that the enjoyment that one gets from Simutrans far outweighs the work needed to read the manuals (and, indeed, it does), that does not help new players get into the game, because they will, generally, be highly reluctant to invest time and effort into something until they already know that it's fun for them. Reading other people tell them that it's fun won't suffice, since what is fun for other people might not be fun for them - people will generally want to experience the fun before they are prepared to do work to unleash the more advanced features.

There are two ways of achieving this: either make the game and interface so simple that it is obvious to all how it is played without having to read a manual, or make a tutorial. Since most of the fun with Simutrans comes from its depth, the first method alone cannot suffice, since it can never be made simple enough, so a tutorial of some form or other would be highly desirable. Most commercial sim/strategy games have tutorials for that very reason. That is not to say, however, that there are not one or two areas of the GUI that could not be refined to make it more obvious what things do.

The download position is a little more complicated, since there are a number of different paksets and a number of different revisions of each pakset, which are all updated asynchronously. It would indeed be possible to write cross-platform software to synchronise all of them, and have that built into Simutrans, but it would take a great deal of coder time, which is presently a limited resource. At least in the interim, a more straightforward solution needs to be considered. One possibility is this: make, for each platform, an installer for Simutrans with at least one pakset (that means, for Windows, an .exe, for Linux, a deb and an rpm). Then, for each pakset that is not included in the base installation, give it its own installer (.exe, deb, rpm, etc.), using the default directories. Make the pakset selection screen at the beginning of Simutrans a little more user-friendly (at present, it looks almost as if it is an error message - but I prefer to select with the GUI than have one fixed pakset in simuconf.tab).

The number of new users alone that that could help to bring and retain for Simutrans might well be very great indeed. (The track drawing issue is, I suspect, far harder to deal with given the present architecture for Simutrans, but it is, at least, not too bad when one gets used to it; this could be addressed in a tutorial). The more new users that are retained, the greater the number of potential contributors to the project, so improving these initial steps might well lead to a rather helpful positive feedback cycle. Perhaps the existing code for scenarios could be extended to create, in effect, a tutorial scenario? If the code for scenarios enabled arbitrary dialogue boxes to pop up when certain specific conditions are met, then that might well suffice for a tutorial.
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Offline VS

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #31 on: February 09, 2009, 12:01:35 PM »
Download places are very varied, too. That is one of the obstacles for a download manager. Maybe if all paksets were concentrated on Sourceforge, it could work. (Do they have some API for this kind of thing?)

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #32 on: February 09, 2009, 12:37:02 PM »
We plan to bundle at least pak64 with the executable. And there is also F1 will will bring a quite extensive help window onto the screen. ALso simutrans has very little commands compared to openTTD, which uses shift-control nowaday extensively and has even a bubble help hidden in the system.

Actually, I found OpenTTD unplayable, when you got to simutrans. Especially starting trains after giving them orders is nearly impossible wihtout manual for new users ...

Offline sojo

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Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #33 on: February 09, 2009, 12:41:37 PM »
Hi freegame. Thank you for testing pak96.comic. jamespetts is right. Pak96.comic should not really start befor 1950.

But I have set the startyear to 1980. So you should not get some problems.

[offtopic]For pak96.comic it give no addons. All is in the Pakset[/offtopic]
"English is a easy language. But not for me." ;) sojo

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Offline freegamer

Re: Simutrans reviewed in Freegamer
« Reply #34 on: February 09, 2009, 01:08:40 PM »
Freegamer,

ahh, the reason that you are missing a rail depot is that you are in 1850. Pak96.Comic is not fully playable before sometime in the middle of the 20th century, I think. If that is not in the documentation somewhere, it should be.
I think you'll agree that my approach to trying pak96.comic will be the standard new player approach...  Load Simutrans, select the pak, and start the game with default options.  That it puts the player in 1850 is not really my fault - is it?  I suspect I'm not the first person to encounter this obstacle and think "maybe not playable" about pak96.comic because of it.

Quote from: prissi
Actually, I found OpenTTD unplayable, when you got to simutrans. Especially starting trains after giving them orders is nearly impossible wihtout manual for new users ...
OpenTTD has more players, don't look for its weaknesses but look at its strengths as that is what draws people to it.  Great job developing Simutrans over the last few years, btw.  You and Hajo have pioneered a great game (with a bit of help of course :)).