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Offline Flemmbrav

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Desining a Pakset for Steam
« on: October 14, 2020, 04:52:42 PM »
Ahoi!
The recent updates to Simutrans-Steam bring a new wave of attention to our game.
Unlike the current userbase, Steam users are used to a higher level of aesthetics and intuitivity.
Shipping Simutrans with a streamlined, simple and better looking Pakset can be a huge step forward pleasing this audience.

Scope of this thread is the design of a Pakset to be shipped with Simutrans-Steam by default.
For further context, please read https://forum.simutrans.com/index.php/topic,20405



Goals of the project are so far:

The basic idea behind this is to dumb down pak192.comic in a way that (almost) every pakset could simply use the dat files with their own images to create some kind of savegame compatibility for the first saves people create in Simutrans.
This process includes the idea of having no specificly local objects in there at all.
In plus, the objects are named by their use instead of their reference.

I've been talking with Freahk a bit and we kind of agreed on the following objects being optimal, obviously WIP and waiting for input:

Trains:
Locos:
80kph Steam Engine 1860
120kph Steam Express 1940
140kph Electric 1940
140kph Diesel 1980
200kph Electric 1980
Coaches:
80kph "Train" 1860
140kph "Express" 1940
200kph "IC" 1980
Post:
120kph 1860
EMU with front - middle - back each
120kph  "Suburban" 1980
250kph "HSR" 2010
DMU:
80kph "Railbus" 1950
120kph "Regional" 2000
Wood:
60kph 1860
100kph 1970
Bulk:
60kph 1860
100kph 1970
Piece Goods:
80kph 1860
120kph 1970

Busses:
50kph "Bus" 1920
80kph "Regional Bus" 1960
Trucks:
50kph Bulk 1930
50kph Wood 1930
50kph Piece Goods 1920
70kph Piece Goods 1960
40kph Postal Car 1900
70kph 1950


Ships:
25kph Bulk 1860
20kph Wood 1860
30kph Piece Goods 1860
30kph Ferry 1860 with Post


Infrastructure:
Track 140kph "Track"
Track 250kph "High Speed Track"
Electrification 250kph "Over Head Wire"
Plattform
Plattform with roof
Plattform with hall
Standard signal
Choose signal
End of choose signal
Station building 1x2
Depot

Road 80kph "Road"
Roadstop
Choose field
Depot

Harbour
Depot


Industries:
We have following industries:
mine 2x2
powerplant 4x4
toy factory 2x2
factory 2x2
department store 3x3
farm 2x2 with fields
market 2x2

Coal (Bulk) from a mine to powerplant
Lumber (Wood) from a forest to a factory
Books (Piece Goods) from the factory to a department store
Food (Piece Goods) from a farm to the department store
Ore ( Bulk) from a mine to a toy factory
Toys (Piece Goods) from a toy factory to the department store
Food (Piece Goods) from a farm to a market

I'll create the stuff mentioned above in this repository:
https://github.com/Flemmbrav/Pak.Basic

I'd love to have feedback on all of this!
« Last Edit: October 14, 2020, 06:29:11 PM by Flemmbrav »

Online makie

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2020, 07:13:35 PM »
I don't believe that such a simplified game will bring us more or new players.

Promoting our game is not easy.

There are people who like to play model trains or are interested in transport simulations. But first they have to find us, or get information about Simutrans.

May be, a good working Simutrans on Steam, running without crash's, is a good first step. 

Quote
The basic idea behind this is to dumb down pak192.comic in a way that (almost) every pakset could simply use the dat files with their own images to create some kind of savegame compatibility for the first saves people create in Simutrans.
This process includes the idea of having no specificly local objects in there at all.
In plus, the objects are named by their use instead of their reference.
Mixing paks, switching from one to another with "savegame compatibility". This is a lot of work, if this should work smooth and it is very maintenance-intensive

Online Freahk

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2020, 07:49:23 PM »
As long as all objects are the same except from their graphics, savegame compatibility is not a problem.

Offline Isaac Eiland-Hall

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2020, 10:45:38 PM »
I think this is an excellent idea and plan.

And as far as driving people to Simutrans - I think the idea is more not to run them away with complexity and what are perceived by some to be outdated graphics. We know Simutrans has a steep learning curve for many. A simplified pak would probably help retain new players who otherwise might poke at the game and give up quickly.

And while there is no immediate and direct benefit to more players, some of those players will get interested in programming and paks and more folks helping if always great. :)

Offline Andarix

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2020, 11:00:08 PM »
As long as all objects are the same except from their graphics, savegame compatibility is not a problem.

It's not that simple after all.

The smallest and easiest set I know is pak64.classic.

Online Freahk

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2020, 02:38:41 AM »
It's not that simple after all.
Could you elaborate the issue? At least with vehicles there is no problem at all, maybe I have missed something?

Offline prissi

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2020, 05:05:49 AM »
Well, the cost might be different ...

But I think two electric locomotives are too little. At least four steam eniges, four diesel and four electric, or there will be less engines than in OpenTTD. Also all ships from 1860? Same also four different busses.

And I am not sure if there should be an addon with a little more signals since those are menioned in the help files.

And I am missing briges and tunnels ...

I would not include mail transport, this is most difficult.

Abouit industry chains: I can understand the toy factory, but why ore? I though there were once a color mine (or was than pak96.comic). That would fit a toy factory much better. Also for one more complex chain, which not two inputs for toy factory, like color (bulk) and wood.

Offline Asdfe

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2020, 04:16:07 PM »
I think instead of creating a simplified pak we should instead focus on polishing and balancing an existing pak. I think trying to put out a "dumbed down" version of the game to draw people in is a mistake. Simutrans' complexity is its draw. If people want something simpler they'll play OpenTTD or some commercially released transport game (which Steam has several of) because they have a more polished product. The default packs have some warts and show their age. We can improve on them but I think a simplified pak is the wrong way to do it.

Offline Yona-TYT

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2020, 06:33:02 PM »
This means that I must port the tutorial scenario for the pak192.comic as well.  :o

Online Freahk

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2020, 08:50:36 PM »
Fine, I want to reply to this too.
I am not sure if such a very minimal pakset with virtually not timeline really is the way to go, but if it is, then I think the vehicle selection is fine.

In my opinion, a little more timelining would be a good thing and does not violate the principles of a very easy pakset to begin with. It does not confuse players pretty much when a new vehicle gets introduced and a few years later another one is discontinued. There just shoudn't be too many vehicles available at the same time.
We might want to offer 3-4 generations of convoys:
- medium speed pasenger train, electric and non-electric variant
- express passenger train, depending on the generation steam, electric or diesel
- cargo train, electric and non-electric variant
- commuter or rapid transit train, electric.

Depending on the era, these might be loco hauled trains, which then can share engines with cargo, or multiple units.

Two-block signals and long-block signals (I assume you refer to these) were not included, because many new players confuse these with combined stop and distant signals, which work completely different. Still I see the point in why we might want to add these. This is really arguable and I'd like to see more opinions about this.

Bridges and tunnels are indeed missing, these were simply forgotten.

Mail might or might not be included. I am not exactly sure about this point. It's a key feature of simutrans and imho really not complicated.

The idea is not specifically related to pak192.comic, though. The idea was to define a small set of objects that any pakset can implement in a savegame compatible way.
The point of differing costs cannot happen per-definition. An object that is exactly the same, except from the images cannot differ in costs, otherwise it had to define different costs, which conflicts to the above.

Offline Andarix

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2020, 09:07:46 PM »
As for the compatibility of saved games, have a look here in the German forum

in 2016
https://www.simutrans-forum.de/mybb/showthread.php?tid=8536

It was a blank map.



Offline Vladki

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2020, 11:00:26 PM »
Wouldn't the standard pak (pak64), be good "minimalistic/beginner" pak?   AFAIK it does not have too many vehicles, but they change slightly during the timeline, and has all features of the game.

Offline BaskB1981

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2020, 11:59:32 PM »
Long time *Lurker* and Simutrans Steam player, came here from the "dark" side (OTTD) a few years back.

Been hoping for years the game would gain traction on Steam but alas its never happened, perhaps due to newer flavours of the genre etc.

Above idea of Pak64.... while great for gameplay.... GFX are a MAJOR let down there and really shows the age of Simutrans, not something modern gamers (remember the audience here, not all of them are nostalgia people like us) really want to be seeing. The newer paksets 192+ help alleviate some of the issues but come with own issues, maintenance costs etc. This is why a simplified pakset to an extent would be ideal, best graphics you can (for the modern era and based on the coding limitations) and gameplay most can pick up and play.

Once you sucked them in, Modding is then where the hardcore players turn too (Simutrans forum etc) and keeps the game fresh and alive possibly helps attract new people to help the game stay alive, Skyrim, Terraira all see success here via the modders.


« Last Edit: October 16, 2020, 10:52:07 AM by BaskB1981 »

Offline prissi

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2020, 01:10:09 AM »
I think for timeline, I would just set ticks_per_month to a shorter value and use the old three days a month display to avoid flickering day night circles.

I think a little more of a timeline for vehicles might be nice too, so to have the depot pages not almost empty.

Offline Flemmbrav

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2020, 06:42:24 PM »
Thanks a lot for the feedback on this;
I'll try to get a running protoype as soon as possible, so we don't have to speculate about "how it feels to play it".

I'll try to answer all the points made in this, please excuse me not using proper quotes.


> There's not enough in the Pakset
> I think a little more of a timeline for vehicles might be nice too, so to have the depot pages not almost empty.

Keep in mind that the scope of this pakset is not to bring the full Simutrans experience to Steam users, but rather providing a proper looking Pakset that's easy to get the basics done with.
Imagine a Pakset that is made for tutorials for beginners.

Having a set of easy to understand, straight forward looking and globally replaceable objects helps in that regard.
Simutrans really brings a lot of stuff.
A heavily reduced set like this does not do the game justice.
BUT it helps to understand the game.
And it helps us making the game understandable.
Doing translations for like 15 buildings, 5 ways, 10 way objects and 20 vehicles really does not take that long.
Adopting these to a different graphics style doesn't either.
Nor does replacing them with local objects. Doing a started pak that is dutch themed would require 45 objects. Maybe someone would try that?
In plus, you could bring your first savegames to your new looked out pakset you choose after understanding the very basics.

I think it's best to take a look at a running prototype to see wheree diversity took too many hits.
Adding more stuff later seems easier to me than cutting it down later, that's why we went with the very most basic that's there.


> This is pak192.comic related

It is in the way that using pak192.comic graphics is the the most convienent way to create a new set for me.
I know the license and I can edit them just fine.
I already have an automatic nightly generation on github.
In plus they're more appealing than pak64 graphics.

Pak192.comic has some design decissions not many are aware of.
We have very high monthly costs and almost no costs/tile, a narrowgauge-tram, lots of very complex chains and intesting goods - containers, rolls, valuables...
In plus the game is balanced around the pay_for_total_distance=2 and no_routing_over_overcrowded.
I'd say that pak192.comic is one of the least beginner friendly Paksets of Simutrans standard.
Economics aren't that easy either.


> Why not use pak64.classic as starter set?

Pak64.classic does not come with a license.
I can't just try to remove unnecessary parts nor adopt it to modern Simutrans versions.
In plus, graphics look a bit outdated, the reason why this whole thing came up.


> Why not use pak64.classic as base for a starter set with comic graphics?

I thought of porting pak192.comic graphics to one of the pak64.X dat-sets before.
Basic issues that occure are differences in lengths, the industry chains in use as well as the amount of steam engines and ships.
While the latter 2 are things we need in the main pakset as well, the first two seemed like big bummers to me.

In this new approach I tried to stick with industry that's available in almost every pakset.
In plus, changing the lengths of 10 vehicles is a doable thing, changing lengths of 100 is a real piece of a work.


> Where is the benefit of trying to make it simple for us?

There's none, this will be a Pakset made for beginners.
Idea is also not to keep them playing this.
It's more a Pakset for the first steps into the game.

Let me quote Freahk here: "The idea was to define a small set of objects that any pakset can implement in a savegame compatible way.".
It's more about bringing a standard of objects that will be used in early tutorials and can be loaded into every currently developed pakset.
This does not mean they have to be replaced by vehicles of the exact same values.

Regardless of that, I'd love to see a multi player map with different paksets in use on different clients.


> Dumbing down does not suit Simutrans

No it does not, but it helps people to get used to the basics of the game.
It's a hard game to understand.
Most people don't even get to build their first train line without looking it up or quitting the game.
We don't need tons of stuff to irritate new players on their first steps.
We need to provide them a Pakset that's straight forward, with a map that gives good examples and ideas.
And ideally lots of translations.


> Why don't you just make pak192.comic more beginner friendly?
> This seems so much work, why not making it easier by just forking pak192.comic?

Take a look at the answer about pak192.comic I gave above.
In plus, there weent an insane amount of thoughts and work in getting pak192.comic somewhat user friendly at all.
There's just too much stuff to keep track of.
Dumbing it down to something that actually would be beginner friendly would take lots of time and a whitelist for objects.
At that point it's less work to just do it by scratch.

Doing it by scratch also means that doing a proper documentation is more easy.

Forking pak192.comic also brings a swapped narrowgauge / track.
I'd rather provide a very basic experience for beginners.


> This means that I must port the tutorial scenario for the pak192.comic as well.  :o

Not true at all. You have to do that since quite a while!
But this pakset will not feel like pak192.comic at all.
So you gotta do two i guess :P


> Bridges and Tunnels

Good point, I'll add one each for road and track.


> I think for timeline, I would just set ticks_per_month to a shorter value and use the old three days a month display to avoid flickering day night circles.

Agree!



Offline Vladki

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #15 on: October 16, 2020, 09:51:01 PM »
The idea was to define a small set of objects that any pakset can implement in a savegame compatible way.
This can be done easily by aliasing the generic objects via compat.tab


Offline Isaac Eiland-Hall

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #16 on: October 16, 2020, 10:05:37 PM »
I think a playable demonstration is an excellent idea for the first step - to allow everyone to get hands-on what it would feel like.

I am also of the opinion that this project in general is an amazing idea. Simutrans already has a very steep learning curve, so getting players to understand the basics of the concept of passengers/goods having specific destinations; the concepts of placing stops and setting up a convoi - or line; it takes a while to understand these things.

A few years ago, I decided to play with OTTD a bit. The graphics didn't run me off, because they were a bit outdated but at least cute; but I had no clue how to make money and how things worked. I set up a bus route and a train, and I should have gone looking for a tutorial, but I didn't bother - I abandoned it and came back to Simutrans.

Many people probably try Simutrans and don't continue because it doesn't hold their hand, and there's a LOT to understand. Road traffic is one thing, but with trains, unless you have a single train on a track, you have to deal with signals and such. It's delightfully complex, but to a beginner, extremely difficult.

I can also remember - as I love city builder type games, I bought Banished on Steam a few years ago. I started to play it and didn't understand how to make things work. I mean, I followed the demo, but I still somehow just didn't grok how you play that game - what to set up, how to assign workers, etc. But then I read some more things a few months or so ago and gave it another shot and I somehow understood it so much better. I wasn't immediately GOOD at it, but at least I understood how to keep things going - for a while. :)

I think having a pakset without too many options will help - and a tutorial showing them how to create a train to move cargo, and setting up a rudimentary bus system - perhaps a large city with 3-4 busses, and then a bus route taking passengers from the big city to a few small cities that maybe aren't big enough to have their own busses; and maybe one medium city that has one city-busline that doesn't itself maybe make too much money, but you make money because it collects passengers to send to all the other cities.... Or I don't know, maybe one of those city lines is a tram.

Just some process that gets them up to speed on how Simutrans works.

So a simple pakset + tutorial sounds like a brilliant idea to me.

Offline prissi

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #17 on: October 16, 2020, 11:37:23 PM »
The most complain people had about OpenTTD (and TTD) was the lack of vehicles over the years. And they had at least 16 engines and 2 DMU, with a much faster timeline, so you saw them all in 2 hours.

I think the amount of vehicles in the openTTD pakset is really the bare minimum. Less feels strange. Especially there should be a slow strong diesel you can multihead and a faster one that can only lead, so you have a choice for transport.

I think routing over overcrowded must be allowed for a beginners set. Same pay_for_distance=0. JIT=1 is ok though, I think.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2020, 12:28:20 PM by prissi »

Offline Ranran

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #18 on: October 17, 2020, 01:50:01 AM »
Many paksets do not have demo.sve, but I think demo.sve will help beginners. I think the well-made demo.sve is also fun to watch.

Offline sdog

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #19 on: October 18, 2020, 09:01:11 PM »
And as far as driving people to Simutrans - I think the idea is more not to run them away with complexity and what are perceived by some to be outdated graphics.

Lets be upfront about the graphics. It's not dated, it's pixel art. This ought to be mention that clearly on the store page. The screenshots should also emphasise it. Presently they are all zoomed out.

Unfortunately we cannot have concept art highlighting it since steam permits only in game screenshots. (That's one of the reasons for splash screens in games. That way they get their concept art to the steam store page, reviews, and so on.)
 
Nonetheless, the simplified pakset is a fantastic idea. Pak128 comic is an ideal starting point.

If that starter set doesn't have enough content to make it interesting for a long time, that's perfect. One really has to avoid the situation of pak128 where the rail menu has scores and scores of similar icons. New users will not know how to start. If there aren't all elevated ways and speed restrictions one could wish for, fine. Let's just have one that works. Remeber, this is for steam, not for the general website. Entirely different type of players, less patient or less experienced with games.

There is one big issue though: How do you get players to know there is more content, and they are just in the play school? That they need to get a pakset as free DLC. Can we get an overlay before starting or write it thick-fat into the Preloader?
Quote
Learning mode active! Install free DLC for full game experience.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2020, 09:17:42 PM by sdog »

Offline Roboron

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #20 on: October 18, 2020, 11:59:46 PM »
First, thank you Flemmbrav to take the lead on this. This is a very much needed project imho, which can potentially attract a new generation of players. I'm very excited!

May be, a good working Simutrans on Steam, running without crash's, is a good first step. 

I'm on it, it's not easy, players on Steam doesn't have much patience to fill bug reports :-(

I think instead of creating a simplified pak we should instead focus on polishing and balancing an existing pak.

Balancing big paksets (like the existing ones) it's a tremendous task, I would say, nearly impossible. On the other hand, having a pakset with just the basic things to learn how to play will be much easier to balance, and so it will provide a better first impression of the game.

This means that I must port the tutorial scenario for the pak192.comic as well. 

You should focus first on polishing the existing scenario, there's so much that can be improved there. The development of the new starter pakset will take a while anyway.

In my opinion, a little more timelining would be a good thing and does not violate the principles of a very easy pakset to begin with.

I agree with this, and I'm all for including a timeline. But a limited timeline with only 2 generations, that's enough for the player to learn the timeline mechanic and the consequences of it (outdated vehicles which need to be renovated, etc). Then he can move on to another pakset to enjoy greater timelines.

Unfortunately we cannot have concept art highlighting it since steam permits only in game screenshots.

The Steam Store page also allows for videos (we have one made years ago), which don't need to be gameplay. Every game also have an "artwork" section on the community, but in Simutrans's case not much is present https://steamcommunity.com/app/434520/images/

If that starter set doesn't have enough content to make it interesting for a long time, that's perfect. One really has to avoid the situation of pak128 where the rail menu has scores and scores of similar icons.

YES. Today I've been testing my translation (more like a correction) of Yona's pak128 tutorial. When you open the Train Tool, you see like dozens of icons, most of them identical, but I can see a new player being confused by this very easily. "Why so many options? I just want to build a track". The same is true for vehicles - this is specially bad, because the script requires you to buy one specific bus. However, when the player opens the windows he is greated with like a dozen of buses (remember: only buses) and most of them have a similar name so the player DO get confused (hell, I did, no need to be a new player for that). That's a mess! A starter pak with reduced vehicles will improve this experience so much.

There is one big issue though: How do you get players to know there is more content, and they are just in the play school? That they need to get a pakset as free DLC. Can we get an overlay before starting or write it thick-fat into the Preloader?

This is a pretty good concern. I think a simple and quick solution would be to ship two paksets by default - for example "pak192.starter" and "pak192.comic" (maybe renamed to "pak192.expert" or something like that to be more descriptive) - so the player knows that there's a pakset for beginners but also more complete, complex paksets, without even having to install a DLC, but in Simutrans pakset selection.

Preloader can't be modified, it would need to be written from scratch, I would prefer to get rid of it.

Offline prissi

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #21 on: October 19, 2020, 12:19:58 AM »
Maybe just rename to "1st Start Tutorial". This way it should always appear on top. It would be easy to integrate a button at the buttom (check for further graphics sets) that starts the installer on non-steam and downloads from SF or wherelse respecive launches a dedicated stream pak installer (maybe this can reuse the NSIS code?).

Offline Vladki

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Re: Desining a Pakset for Steam
« Reply #22 on: October 19, 2020, 08:17:31 AM »
Hi, take this a a brainstorm idea. How about a compat.tab file for a scenario. If present it would not only provide conversion from object names used in scenario to object names used in pakset, but also it will be a list of available objects. All other (unlisted) objects of a pakset would be hidden while playing that scenario.