Train Sim World Studio Update – Your Questions Answered
Last month when we caught up with Matt we found out more about the upcoming Train Sim World Editor Tools. We asked you to share any specific questions you had with us to address and we received lots of questions. So, this month, I would like to focus on giving you the answers!
Will we be able to make changes to Dovetail routes?
This one is really tricky to answer at the moment. It speaks to the core of the challenge of making the TSW Editor a reality for you and is probably best explained by going through how content works in Unreal Engine 4.
When you make your own content in the Editor you are creating source assets. These contain everything needed to make them work such as the x/y locations of nodes on graphs, the colours of nodes and many other things.
When you want to actually run the game you don’t need lots of this data so one of the steps you undertake to produce content to release is called cooking. One of the tasks cooking does is to strip out all the unnecessary data, anything that is not needed to run the game is removed. This improves load times, improves frame rates and reduces the memory usage of the content.
As a player of the game looking to make content, you have the version of the game shipped via Steam which uses cooked content in .pak files, so when you get the Editor, you’re going to have to work with this cooked data.
Here’s the challenge: Unreal Engine 4 Editor Tools is designed to only use source data and, by default, has no ability to do anything with cooked data, it cannot load it at all.
Making the Unreal Editor support cooked assets is a complex task and requires each individual type of asset to be carefully reviewed in the internal coding of the Unreal Editor to see if the cooked version contains enough data to still be viable to at least view, if not also edit. We then have to put together the changes to the Unreal Editor to make it happen.
We’re making huge progress and lots of things are working but, at the moment, it is not possible to make changes to a route and then save them. Equally, it’s not possible to clone a cooked route because that just copies the same data you can’t access.
We definitely hear you and recognise this is something that you want to do, however, at this point in time, I have to say that it won’t be possible to edit Dovetail or other cooked routes, for the above reason, at launch.
Will we be able to use the ‘Play in Editor’ functions of the Unreal Editor to test our content?
Yes, we’ve spent some time getting this functionality working well, so you can make and test your content all from within the Unreal Editor, without having to keep swapping between the Editor and the game. The team are making great strides with the tools all the time.
Will we be able to run any Dovetail trains in our routes?
Yes, you will be able to use any Dovetail rail vehicles in your own scenarios on any of your routes as long as it’s content you already own of course.
Will we be able to use objects from Dovetail routes to create our own routes?
So far this is looking like a yes. In all our tests this is working but we’re not 100% through the testing cycle yet so I’m going to give this one a cautious yes. It’s certainly something we are working toward.
Will we be able to use third-party objects and trains in our routes?
You can import new assets, such as trains, rolling stock and other 3D objects, into the Editor without any problem and then make use of them in your route, yes.
Will the Editor be able to use a Google Earth/Maps overlay?
Yes, we have integrated the Google Maps overlay in to the UE4 Editor as well as adding KML marker and Open Street Map data importing. The latter will import a section of Open Street Map data such as rivers, roads, etc. as a set of markers overlaid on the world and can be a huge help in seeing where everything needs to be.
Fig.1. Easily import Open Street Map data as markers to help you see where everything goes.
Will the Editor have any form of Source Control, allowing multiple people to work on a project at the same time?
Unreal Engine 4 comes with support for Source Control built-in and they have instructions on their site covering integration with Perforce and Subversion, plus there are other sites that describe how to use it with Git. If you want to use a system that isn’t directly supported, it should work simply by using the tools for that system alongside the Editor, so you should find something that works for you.
Multiple concurrent working requires a team to be great at communication. Routes are made up of tiles and essentially the rule is that only one person can make changes to a tile at a time, but multiple tiles can each be worked on by different people without any issues.
Our team of route builders work by mapping out a route to a tile map, and then assigning groups of tiles to specific individuals which have a border of a tile or two between them to ensure there’s no overlap. Developers can then work away in their own sections and the route rapidly progresses as they commit their changes to the source control. Once those sections are done, the joins are then assigned to developers to work on and they will each complete the gaps between the original groups of tiles. This process works well and prevents anyone from accidentally stepping on someone else's work, while allowing multiple developers to contribute to the route at the same time.
Fig.2. Track laying is familiar to TS2019, but with lots more settings and help!
Will we be able to include the service mode timetables in our scenarios?
Service mode timetables and scenarios are two separate things. Scenarios do actually include their own timetable to control the player and AI trains, so you’ll definitely be able to do that, but if the question is whether you can make new service timetables (as in the 24-hour gameplay option) then the answer is only partially yes. The tool will certainly let you make them and playtest them in the Editor itself, and for your own routes you can set it up 100%. However, for Dovetail routes there is no user interface option in the game currently to allow you to pick an alternative service mode timetable. So, whilst you can make one, you can’t select it in the game yet.
Can we build our own locos/rolling stock in the Editor or do we need an external 3D modelling program?
You will need a 3D modelling tool such as Blender (which is free), Autodesk Maya or 3ds Max to create 3D models for any purpose such as scenery or rail vehicles. Once the 3D model is created, you may want to use other external tools (separately available from their own sites) such as Allegorithmic’s Substance Designer to create advanced materials (though this is not necessary) and then once it’s all imported in to the TSW Editor you can then begin the process of setting it up to make it into the rail vehicle or scenic item that you are intending.
How will the Editor be delivered to us?
We will deliver the Editor to you via the Epic Games Launcher when it becomes available. Go to https://www.unrealengine.com/download and download the launcher. Create an account and you’ll see on the Modding tab there are already a host of other UE4 Editor kits for other games, ours will be added to that list when it is ready. We’ll post an update once the Editor Tools are available.
Will there be Steam Workshop integration?
Yes, whilst you can choose to distribute freeware packages directly via the .pak file, if you wish (perhaps via other community sites), our preferred method of distribution for freeware will be via Steam Workshop, which will be integrated in to the Editor.
What types of files can we share via Steam Workshop?
We’re still working through the technical and legal logistics of this aspect, so I don’t have a final answer for you on this one. We’ll let you know when we’re ready.
Are there any tools Dovetail uses that have been locked out of the public version?
We use a couple of licensed tools, such as SpeedTree and SimplyGon which cannot be distributed for obvious legal reasons, but these are equally not that essential. The integrations remain within the Editor so if you obtain your own license to either of these tools, then they will become available for you to use.
Other than the above, all other features will be available to you as we want you to be able to create anything that we can. Working with cooked data is going to impose some limitations on what you can or can’t do to our content but, when you’re making all new content for yourself, you’ll have access to the full toolset.
Fig.3. Scenery placement is simple, including using content from add-ons, in this case from the Great Western Express route.
Will you be providing tutorials/documentation?
Absolutely, a combination of documentation on how to get going producing various types of content as well as video tutorials and hopefully some Twitch live stream sessions as well. At the time of launch, the documentation set will be small, but we’ll be growing that in line with the questions that come in to help get you the documentation that you want as soon as possible. Don’t forget that UE4 already has a great wealth of documentation available for its own features which will help you a lot too.
For the initial Open Beta launch, while the Editor should be fully functional, we will be concentrating our efforts on providing tutorials, documentation and examples in the areas of Scenario Creation, Re-Paint Creation and Route Creation, which I know are probably the top three areas people are most interested in starting content creation. We will be listening for your questions though and aim to answer them as we go.
Fig.4. Super-elevation is achieved by picking up the track and twisting it.
That’s all we have for you now but, we’ll hopefully be back again soon with another Studio Update. Please keep your feedback coming in on our dedicated forums and let us know if you have any more questions you would like answered in one of these Studio Updates.
See you soon!