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Blog and Progress Updates
The innovative Chashinai Railway, RSR-UK route randomisation, hi-res Watford Junction to Rugby screenshots, and server upgradesPosted by Anthony Bowden on 1st June 2009 at 11:40 pm
The innovtive Chashinai Railway, randomisation and new development techniques for openBVE
Some of you may remember the Chashinai Railway network which was released way back in 2004, but soon after publication it was withdrawn, after controversy surrounding permissions where certain files were concerned. The fictional Japanese route network has now been significantly updated and is available again, and is now designed exclusively for » openBVE «. The route’s developer, Jens (Odakyufan), has devised some innovative new techniques which take advantage of openBVE’s capabilities, and together they introduce some exciting new possiblities for developers and users, including for example — even within a single route file — randomised time of day selection, randomly selected choice of train and service to drive, determining the probability of certain end results occuring, and more. Using if conditions and casing, it’s possible, for example, to choose which platform or siding is departed from or entered at random, provided code for each of these routing options has been written, specially prepared and added within the route file.
This is clever stuff, which presents all kinds of new possibilities for openBVE developers. Visit » Odakyufan’s website « to download the Chashinai Railway network which includes all the required trains (you need the latest openBVE v1.0.6 release), and take a look at the » development techniques and tips section « to see how randomisation and conditional pre-processing can be applied by developers creating routes for openBVE, along with ideas for improving the handling of tunnel object lighting, cab brightness and time of day. Incidentally, Jens also hopes to model a section of the well known Odakyu Odawara Line starting from Tokyo’s busy Shinjuku station, which should be fascinating due to the railway infrastructure, proximity between the line and the surrounding city and it’s roads and numerous buildings, and the object density to be depicted in such scenes.
Some atmospheric » Chashinai Railway « screenshots:
Incidentally, the situation surrounding the Chashinai Railway presents some issues to consider. It’s a route that was built using a large number of other author’s objects, and was originally made just for personal use — publishing the route wasn’t originally intended, so it’s author didn’t keep track of where each file came from. However, over time, the project evolved into something which was worth publishing, and this creative endeavour was shared with the community. The route was also notable as being one of very few Japanese styled lines developed by a European author (the only other I can recall right now, being Viktor’s fictional » BVE Garden Line «). Unfortunately, because Jens hadn’t kept track of the origin of the many files used, determining the authors of all these files at a later stage became problematic, so some work was uncredited, and not all permissions saught. Upon it’s release, some developers objected to this. Back then, the Western (English speaking) BVE community as it seems to me, was more like a microcosm of the worst aspects of international relations and ideological conflict than an ideal community at times, and soon after it’s release, despite conflicts with developers being resolved, the Chashinai Railway was withdrawn, presumably because of all the controversy it caused, and I guess Jens was put off from releasing anything into the community again for several years. Having seen the innovation, intelligence and artistic excellence which he’s now shared with us some years later–as a community–I think we’re rather lucky that he wasn’t driven away permanently by the awful, polarised atmosphere which used to dominate the community in the past (and I’m certainly not blameless where this state of affairs was concerned either); if he had left for good, then people in another field might be enjoying the fruits of his creativity instead of us, or indeed nobody else at all would be enjoying the results, and we would all be the poorer for it.
Edit: I was going to discuss the community, my own changed attitudes towards copyright, and the role the BVE Developer Guidelines play as a part of this blog entry, and talk about whether for the good of the community in the future, they should be revised or whether they’re even needed any more. However, this entry is primarily about innovation and development techniques, so I’ll save the extended discussion until later.
Randomisation in RSR-UK Routes
Having seen what Jens has achieved, I’m experimenting with these new innovations on my own routes as well. With Watford Junction to Rugby for example, I’m able to use the random pathing feature of » BRR « to create short alternative paths between, for example, Watford Junction and the crossovers to the north of the station, or between Hemel Hempstead and Bourne End Junction. This is the tricky part as it involves carefully setting up the .Rail related commands (or even inserting temporary crossovers) to ensure alternative paths can be selected and generated, followed by replacing .Turn commands with .Curve commands in BRR’s temporary route file output. Then, by referring to the casing technique example which Jens has provided, I can easily add all the $Sub() preprocessing commands to these code fragments via a couple of simple search and replace operations, and then copy and paste these sections into the WJ-R route file making any tweaks necessary, and add the condition and randomisation code, to allow openBVE to randomly choose whether the player starts on the fast or slow lines, or switches between them for short sections en-route. Currently this isn’t practical for longer sections of the Watford Junction to Rugby route; not really because it’s too difficult, but rather because it increases loading times too much due to the sheer number of commands I’ve used in the WJ-R route file, which takes too long to be parsed. I can also randomise the time of day chosen, along with the service and traction, and the optional display of a multitude of objects within the route. The location and types of passing trains shown can all be randomised, along with appropriate sounds, and so-on. All within a single route file and program. 🙂 The » example code « for achieving some of these things may appear complex at first, but actually it’s not so bad once you’ve tried it–naturally something like Watford to Rugby is much harder to work with as it’s so complex, so if you try it with your own route, it shouldn’t be as difficult. I’ll continue to experiment with this as my projects develop… More to come in future.
In the meantime, it occurs to me that I don’t think I’ve ever uploaded many, if any, high resolution images of Watford Junction to Rugby before, so here are a selection showing the aforementioned junctions, and a couple of others (please forgive the mixture of pre 1990s and post 2000 infrastructure at Watford…). This is still very much a work in progress, and neither the lighting or shading is refined yet. The scenery quality has fallen behind that of X-City South v1.4 in some respects now, and 2D trees are still in use at the moment as so much detailed 3D geometry has been applied to the railway infrastructure itself; with openBVE 2’s graphics engine, perhaps more will be possible though…
Lastly, apologies if some of you were unable to access the site for a little while yesterday; my webhost was performing a scheduled hardware upgrade of the server where Rail Sim Routes UK is hosted. I’ve been very happy with the performance and speed of the server since I moved the site to the new host last November, with no problems reported to me, as far as I’m aware. However, it should perform even better and with greater reliability now after this upgrade, which I gather consists of a step up from a single to a dual Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor configuration along with a doubling of the quantity of RAM to 8GB. In the unlikely event that anyone tried to e-mail me while the server was briefly offline (sometime between 23:00 and midnight on 31st May), any messages should have still reached me, however if you think there might have been a problem, please try again just in case.