Playing Trains

I’ve just finished watching the latest of Robert Scoble’s Photowalking videos with Thomas Hawk. This time Scoble reveals himself as a bit of a train buff, as they go around the California State Railroad Museum. Thomas has some great close up shots up on his own blog. Maybe someone should take Scoble up to our own National Railway Museum next time he is in the UK.

Anyway, it was strangely appropriate, as whilst watching that, I was going through the rather tedious process of rebuilding my Microsoft Train Simulator install following my switch to Vista. Unfortunately the package is one of the many that have hiccups with the new security model under Vista, although setting the application to run as an administrator has thus far seemed to solve most problems.

What takes the time though, is replacing all the add-on’s I had installed. In total, my previous install had almost 4gb of various trainsets from around the world, including quite a few British add-ons from Making Tracks, and a couple of US outline add-ons too.

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It has to be said, that the electronic train-set has come a long way since the first one appeared on the market back in 1985. Southern Belle simulated the London to Brighton line, thanks to wire-frame graphics of key landmarks on the route. Although there were various activities, essentially you were limited to that one route.

Microsoft Train Simulator gives you a potentially infinite world in which to play, thanks to the pretty open architecture. So whilst the original release included routes from the USA, Japan, Austria and the UK, a pretty impressive add-on industry has grown up.

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The game engine is not surprisingly much more powerful, allowing you to produce quite atmospheric views, a far cry from the old wireframe graphics back in 1985.

However, the game wasn’t quite the success that was hoped for in 2001, so it looked like that would be it. However, Kuju, the company behind the original release has been working on a successor, Rail Simulator, and now it seems that Microsoft themselves are going to do a sequel using the graphics engine from Flight Simulator X.

Anyway, back to the current choice, Microsoft Train Simulator. The real annoyance with the reinstall, is how tedious it is having to install all the individual extensions, especially those that don’t query the OS about the install folder (on Vista 64 the game ends up in ‘Program Files (x86)’…) – worse still are those which don’t have an installer at all, and you’re left copying and replacing game files all over the place. Hopefully the sequels will handle the expansion market a bit better and give some foolproof way for third-parties to extend the game… It will also be interesting to see whether the spiritual successor (Rail Simulator), or the official Microsoft offering grab the market.

One thought on “Playing Trains”

  1. My Dad loved Southern Belle on the Spectrum, and my sister got MS Train Simulator for him a few years ago (actually I think it was a freebie from work!) I think we’ll have to get him a new computer (or he’ll have to get one for himself) for either of the new games though – I don’t think a 1.5GHz P4 (built five years ago) will cut it any more.

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