My openBVE videos and other comments from users and myself can also be found via my YouTube channel.
Blog and Progress Updates
7th April 2010
Updated openBVE developer tools and openBVE v18.104.22.168, upcoming Network West Midlands updates, upcoming Taipei Metro route for openBVE, and server upgradePosted by Anthony Bowden on 7th April 2010 at 6:00 am
openBVE v22.214.171.124 and updated openBVE developer tools
openBVE v126.96.36.199 has been released, which includes a bugfix relating to the Options.UnitOfSpeed command, which could for example, involve an incorrect speed limit being determined when the Route.Limit command is used. Please » download the latest release « if this issue affects you.
Also, when I posted my last blog entry, I forgot to mention that the » openBVE Route Viewer « has been updated. When your route is loaded, you can now simply type in a distance via the main number keys (not the numberpad keys), and hit Enter — the camera will then be moved directly to the location you just entered. This is an immensely useful time-saver.
openBVE Route Viewer screenshot — click to enlarge
Also, when you pass a CSV format route or object file as a command line parameter to either Route Viewer or Object Viewer, the tools will now auto-detect whether the CSV file is a route or an object, and load the appropriate tool automatically. Please see the Tools section within the » Developing for openBVE « pages for more information. For developers who haven’t used the command line for opening routes or objects before, it can be done as follows (obviously replace the path and file names according to your own setup):
Network West Midlands openBVE updates
The » Network West Midlands « (NWM) team have announced some promising updates for the first 2010 release of the route network, which should make some good use of openBVE’s capabilities and features. We can look forward to such delights as random moving traffic on overbridges, moving passing trains similar to what I’ve demonstrated in one of my early YouTube videos, various points of interest, multiple eras, random routing/weather conditions/other features thanks to openBVE’s » $Include directives «, 3D signals, trees and lamp posts similar to those I’ve shown previously, along with the addition of catenary based on my own high detailed Cross-City South OHLE objects throughout the routes, where a very nice job has been done with their implementation. Some excellent new track textures have also been prepared for the route.
openBVE / Network West Midlands screenshots — click to visit the NWM news page
Please visit the » NWM website « for more information and screenshots.
Upcoming Taipei Metro route for openBVE
I noticed some new screenshots of the Taipei Metro Xinbeitou Branch Line, being developed for openBVE by » BVETRT «, and I wanted to mention them as I think they look superb. There’s richly coloured scenery, the detailing of the stations and near-track areas looks fantastic, and the railway infrastructure is very well modelled and convincing. Also take a look at this » YouTube video « of the line as well.
Taipei Metro Xinbeitou Branch Line for openBVE — click to read developer’s blog entry
Lastly, my webhost kindly migrated Railsimroutes to a new, high performance shared server recently, and they also installed the Nginx reverse proxy webserver in conjunction with Apache, which I’ve noticed has increased the responsiveness of the site along with page loading times. The migration went smoothly, but if anyone has had any issues with the site during the last three weeks, please let me know.
15th March 2010
openBVE 2 Renderer Demo released, a new direction for me, some views on openBVE 2, and the release of openBVE v188.8.131.52Posted by Anthony Bowden on 15th March 2010 at 8:00 am
openBVE 2 Renderer Demo released, and a new direction for me
Before I talk about the new openBVE 2 Renderer Demo, I just want to announce that aside from developing my routes, I’m also now working with Michelle as a C# programmer, and I’m actively participating in the development of openBVE 2. So far, apart from various discussions, I’ve worked on adapting openBVE 1’s .X object parser as a loading-stage plugin for the new program. So, while you’re using the program, if you have any problems regarding X format objects created via the BVE Structure Viewer (the output from this tool is what openBVE effectively supports), then you can probably point the finger of blame at me. 😉 Just to remind and reassure readers, I am still developing my routes, and I haven’t abandoned them!
The openBVE 2 Renderer Demo
As many of you will know, openBVE 2 has been in development for some time, and I’m pleased to say that a demo of openBVE 2’s new renderer is now available for download. Unlike it’s predecessor, openBVE 2 is modular — many of the functions which were previously carried out within the program, such as loading and parsing routes or objects, or brake system simulation, is now carried out by plugins instead. This means that openBVE 2 is extensible in a way which openBVE 1 is not. For example, with openBVE 1, adding support for a new 3D object format, would require modification of the core program itself, and a new release. But with openBVE 2’s extensible architecture, support can simply be added via a new plugin, which means the core program need not be modified or recompiled. Clearly, this is a much better design in the long term.
The new renderer demo is intended for advanced users and developers only, and the main purpose of the demo is to test the performance of openBVE 2’s new renderer in comparison with openBVE 1’s, on a variety of computer systems. Indeed, no train simulation features are actually included at this stage, and not all visible features of routes, such as backdrops or animated objects, are accomodated yet.
It would be greatly appreciated if you could download and test the new renderer, and report your experiences; for example, what framerates you see, what viewing distance you find yourself liking to use, and what performance you achieve when equivalent settings are used in both the openBVE 2 Renderer Demo and openBVE 1. Hopefully you’ll find that framerates using openBVE 2’s renderer are far higher.
You can visit the openBVE Renderer Demo page for the download, and please read the information presented there carefully: » http://openbve.trainsimcentral.co.uk/openbve2.html «
Please also consider posting your feedback in » this thread on the openBVE forum «, or send some feedback via e-mail to Michelle. Alternatively, you can leave some feedback in a comment on this blog entry or e-mail me, and I’ll pass your feedback on to Michelle. It would be helpful if you could include certain information, such as the following:
- Your processor model and/or speed (e.g. Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 @ 3GHz, AMD Phenom II X2 545 @ 3.0GHz, etc…)
- Your graphics card model (e.g. NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250, ATI Radeon HD 5670, etc…)
- The amount of RAM you have (e.g. 2GB)
- What operating system you’re using (e.g. Windows 7 64-bit, Ubuntu 9.10 32-bit, etc…)
- The settings within in your settings.cfg file (found in the Binaries subfolder of the openBVE 2 Renderer Demo)
- Your video card driver’s image quality settings (e.g. 16xQ anti-aliasing, 16x anisotropic filtering)
- The framerates you encounter while running the openBVE 2 Renderer Demo, and openBVE 1, with equivalent settings
- Lastly, don’t forget to take into account, the information on the openBVE 2 Renderer Demo download page…
You can find some help regarding identifying your graphics card model on » this page «. Where video driver settings are concerned, you can read » this page «. Windows users can often just press Windows Key + Break to find out CPU model and speed, amount of RAM, and operating system. Michelle is very busy, but if you would like to send some feedback and find yourself unsure as to what to do, then I’d be happy to help you. 🙂
I’m delighted to say that all the routes I’ve tried, benefit greatly from openBVE 2’s new renderer. Not only are framerates higher, but the viewing distance can be increased significantly as well. 🙂 This is also good news for those of you waiting for Watford Junction to Rugby. For example, take the highly detailed Bourne End Junction area, which contains nearly a kilometre of 60mph crossovers between the fast and slow lines, lots of complex overhead line equipment, and plenty of track and lineside detail. With a viewing distance of 3000m (yes, 3 kilometres :)), in openBVE 1, the framerate here is dragged down to a measly » 19 fps « . But with openBVE 2’s renderer, I get an impressive » 155 fps « instead.
Here are some other examples of framerate improvements. For detailed specifications of the computers used in these tests, please » see here «.
Settings in openBVE 1:
Viewing Distance: [3000m]
Resolution: [1920×1200 fullscreen]
Image Quality: [Anti-aliasing: 16xQ, anisotropic filtering: 16x]
Interpolation: [Anisotropic Filtering]
Settings in openBVE 2 Renderer Demo:
Viewing Distance: [3000m]
Resolution: [1920×1200 fullscreen]
Image Quality: [Anti-aliasing: 16xQ, anisotropic filtering: 16x]
All other settings: [Default]
Please note that all framerates were taken with the camera left at it’s initial position and orientation, to produce reliable and consistant results. In openBVE 1, the F3 external camera key was pressed once and left remaining at the start of the route, and the train moved to the end of the route via the Jump to Station menu, to ensure that no external car objects were lowering framerates.
Core 2 Quad Q9650 / GeForce GTX 260 based system:
Athlon64 X2 4200+ / Radeon 2600 Pro based system:
As you can see, on my systems, openBVE 2’s renderer is far superior to openBVE 1’s. Of course over time, more features will be added, and these will use some more of the newly available CPU and GPU resources and reduce peformance a bit. However, for those of you with slow computers, these extra performance reserves could mean that more detailed routes and trains could be usable than would be the case with openBVE 1.
Some more framerate comparisons… openBVE v184.108.40.206 on the left, openBVE 2 Renderer Demo on the right. Remember that we’re interested in the framerate, not the graphical quality, at this early stage! Support for backdrops and smooth transparency will be added to openBVE 2’s renderer in due course. Also note that the viewing distance likely used by many openBVE users is the default 600 metres, but here, the viewing distance is 3000 metres instead.
Community concerns regarding “openBVE 2”
I want to mention briefly the concerns regarding the name “openBVE 2” being changed soon, as architecturally, the new program is entirely different to openBVE 1, let alone BVE Trainsim, and I’ve noted some fears being expressed regarding the name change and widening scope of the project, particularly where add-on compatibility is concerned. However, I think these fears are being blown out of proportion. All openBVE content will still be compatible with the new program, so there’s no need to panic — add-ons aren’t going to suddenly become defunct. If any developers have concerns about this, please feel free to discuss them with either myself or Michelle.
I’ve also noticed people express concerns that openBVE 2 is going to be far more difficult to use and develop add-ons for. From the end-user’s point of view, and with cooperation from add-on developers (like me), it could actually be far easier, because it will be possible to install and uninstall add-ons from within the program itself, via it’s graphical user interface, rather than dealing with archiving utilities, self-extracting archives, different directory structures contained within them depending on which developer packaged them, and so-on. This kind of stuff is not easy for everyone, especially beginners, and it has to be repeated with every add-on. Where add-on creation is concerned, one of the benefits of the modular, plugin-based architecture, is that adding support for new file formats, such as file formats created by 3D modelling applications, becomes easier, not harder. It also means that route building tools, should they be made, can more easily interface with the host program via the new API. Those of us who prefer hand-coding methods, myself included, can still do what we’ve always done as well — it’s all a choice. Of course, with a program capable of rendering a vast world, it does become harder to make add-ons which fully exploit this new potential. Even I’m not exploiting this potential with my add-ons currently, but in future this may be highly desirable (just as I’ve upgraded my routes incrementally in the past), and the ability will be there for anyone who wants it, or who can envisage a use which even we haven’t even thought of yet. Anyway, the modular architecture makes it easier to build content creation tools, or provide support for existing tools and their file formats, which will make the growing possibilities easier to take advantage of. This does however, require some good programmers willing to devote some time to creating such tools, or writing plugins to support existing tools or formats; I recognise this, and I’m sure Michelle does as well. Lets try to be a little more positive about the future.
openBVE v220.127.116.11 released
Lastly, openBVE v18.104.22.168 has also been released. Now is a good time remind ourselves that openBVE is a train simulator first and foremost, and with this latest release, the mass of the train is now affected by boarding passengers, which can slightly affect the performance of the train. A bug has also been fixed in the Jump to Station menu, and the Interior (Look Ahead) camera is now selected by default for 3D cabs (like the » class 323’s 3D cab « for example, or » Roberto Benini’s EM A1 3D cab «). There are various other changes too; please visit the » openBVE homepage « for more. 🙂
28th September 2009
openBVE v1.2.2, working ammeters, X-City South v1.31 bug fixes, minor 323 3D cab update, openBVE route updatesPosted by Anthony Bowden on 28th September 2009 at 6:34 pm
Note: Updated 21:40 BST
openBVE v1.2.2 Released
openBVE v1.2.2 has been released, and this version includes some new variables for developers to use in animated objects or 3D cabs, including new variables for acceleration and motor acceleration; more variables can now be used to query specific cars as well. New subjects covering acceleration and motor acceleration which developers can use in the legacy panel2.cfg file are also provided, and some bug fixes are also included in this release. Please visit the » openBVE homepage « and read the » Changelog « for more details.
One new variable is accelerationMotor. As mentioned on the openBVE forum, this can be used for creating working ammeters. The class 323’s cab doesn’t feature an ammeter, however, anyone wanting to experiment with this might like to consider the following panel.animated code as a *starting point*. You can copy and paste the code below into the 323’s panel.animated file to add a new ammeter needle to the cab and see it in action. Please bear in mind that I’ve not had time to test this in a variety of scenarios though:
|panel.animated code for a simple ammeter (including illuminated needle):
states = 3d_cab\speedometer_needle.csv, 3d_cab\speedometer_needle_dark.csv
statefunction = if[hasPlugin == 1, !pluginstate, 0]
position = -0.43, 2.23, 11.45
rotatexdirection = -1, 0, 0
rotatexfunction = -2.4 + abs[accelerationMotor] * 1.5
rotateyfunction = -1.11
rotatezfunction = -1.57
rotatexdamping = 2, 1
Notes: in the rotatexfunction line, -2.4 determines the needle rotation with no motor acceleration, and 1.5 determines the needle rotation with maximum motor acceleration. You can adjust these two values according to your ammeter gauge design. If you add an ammeter to your own 3D cab, remember that the statefunction line and multiple states (*.csv files in this case) may not be necessary depending on what plugin DLL, if any, you wish to use. When it comes to designing full 3D cabs for the class 86 and 87 electric locomotives for use with Watford Junction to Rugby, I’ll revisit ammeter design in more detail.
Cross-City South v1.31 Bug Fixes and 3D Cab Update
I’ve also fixed a few bugs in the Cross-City South route. There were a few objects (houses, warehouses etc.) which included some surface lighting issues, which have now been fixed. Some class 170 3D objects also contained incorrect ‘Color’ commands resulting in errors being reported when the routes were loaded; these have now been changed to ‘SetColor’, which is correct for CSV format objects. As some of you will know, the Cross-City South also uses some .Sta commands only for signalling approach control purposes, which aren’t meant to be stopped at. However, you would still be penalised if you passed such a station without stopping. Thanks to Paul Sladen, I’ve now corrected these .Sta commands so that you can pass them without being penalised, while preserving the approach controlled signalling functionality.
You can download the full v1.31.03 route package via the Cross-City South download page.
There aren’t any new features included, as all of those improvements are going into the Cross-City South v1.4 project instead, and I’d prefer to hold those improvements back until the v1.4 is ready for release, as the end result will be more enjoyable that way.
Incidentally, the changes to the .Sta commands are as follows (the ArrivalTime and PassAlarm arguments, which are underlined):
Old: .Sta ;;09.4300;;-1;1;;;1;0;;11 New: .Sta ;P;09.4300;0;-1;1;;;1;0;;11
Important Note: Those of you still using BVE 4, will find that the route files now call upon the openBVE version of the unrefurbished class 323 EMU by default (Train\Cl323 Unrefurb_openbve). BVE 4 users can either install the openBVE version of the train, or edit the route files to use the older BVE 4 class 323.
I’ve also updated the 323’s 3D cab so that it makes use of the new hasPlugin variable. If you’re using openBVE v1.2.2 with a non-Windows operating system, then this will allow the cab illumination to work in the absence of the Windows only plugin DLL, which wasn’t the case previously.
I’ve also made some adjustments to the placement of the brake gauge, as it wasn’t quite right before, and now when you pass through a neutral section, the cab lighting should remain unaffected as the UKMUt.dll’s ats30 (pantograph up) is used as well as ats31 (Line Volts) now. The carriage light dimming effect will be retained in the passenger area once the new 323 external objects are released however. I’ve also remembered to remove several superfluous GenerateNormals statements from some objects this time, as they serve no purpose in an openBVE add-on.
Someone also kindly informed me that there may be some further innaccuracies with the cab’s indicators; once I’ve investigated further I’ll address these issues at some point in future. It’s also nice to note that the 3D cab may have been downloaded perhaps as many as 1500 times since it’s release.
» 323_unrefurb_3d_cab_28-09-09.7z « [1.7 MiB — requires openBVE v1.2.2]
I’m not making much progress with my projects at the moment, and I know that some of you may be disappointed that I’ve not yet finished Cross-City South v1.4 despite me saying that it’d be done before now (this is also why I’m usually reluctant to give release dates, and I shouldn’t have done so where this project is concerned). Rest assured, barring any disasters, it will be finished eventually and I’m still in the game, however, sometimes circumstances in the real world prove to be too much of a distraction, and it means that what one wishes to accomplish in the simulated world has to wait for a little while. This won’t last long however, and patience will be rewarded.
The Saijou Line for openBVE was released a few days ago (the author’s » blog « is linked to via my blogroll), and this is an openBVE exclusive route featuring some very nice atmosphere and night lighting. There are a few errors, however the route is well worth giving a try, as it’s a good example of how animated objects and lighting can be used to bring much more life to a route and make it that much more enjoyable. You’ll find a variety of blinking lights, such as car indicator lamps, and the aviation obstruction lights fitted to tall structures (I’ll be modelling the same feature on the cluster of 250m tall VLF radio towers at the Rugby Radio Station on the Watford Junction to Rugby route). Moving cars and buses can also be found on roads, as well as flashing level crossing lights, road based traffic lights which change when the train is approaching, animated water, and moving elevators. You can download the route here: » http://tozai.s77.xrea.com/BVE/Sjyou.html « (the author’s homepage is here: » http://tozai.s77.xrea.com «)
Edit: Another openBVE route recently updated, was the Chashinai Railways network, along with the 9000 Series train; when this train is used with the Misaki Line in particular, in addition to ATC, you can now enjoy simulated TASC (Train Automatic Stopping Controller) and ATO (Atomatic Train Operation) systems which enable fully automated driving, thanks to a new plugin which enables sophisticated safety system simulation. The 9000 series’ panel also includes photorealistic dirt on the windscreen, increasing realism. Visit odakyufan’s website for the updates, and don’t forget to read the Train Operation Manuals before you start: » http://odakyufan.uuuq.com «
20th June 2009
I’ve just upgraded from WordPress v2.7.1 to v2.8. Well, actually I backed up the database contents, deleted the previous WordPress installation and MySQL database, and took the opportunity to start again with a fresh installation and then imported the backed up data. As far as I’m aware everything is working fine, but please let me know if you have any problems.
1st June 2009
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.
24th May 2009
New openBVE release–v22.214.171.124
A new version of openBVE is now available, version 126.96.36.199; head over to the » openBVE homepage « to download the latest stable release. One of the three most noticeable improvements in this version (the other two being time acceleration and the ability to mute sound, more below) concerns the Smooth Transparency feature, which has been dramatically improved. If you’ve enabled this option in openBVE previously, you might have noticed that while the quality of the rendered scenes was much better with Smooth transparency enabled, occasionally, unsightly fringes appeared around some transparent textures, where translucent pixels were rendered. This was problem was also more pronounced on Cross-City South v1.4 due to the frequency with which texture transparency is used in the new scenery. This issue concerning texture transparency and the z-buffer is a complex topic which I gather not all OpenGL developers adequately address, however Michelle has found a way of solving the problem, and while the performance is a little lower than with the previous implementation (especially on routes where a very high number of polygons use texture colour transparency), the visual quality is far better, as the following comparison screenshots demonstrate (along with the new X-City South v1.4 screenshots below).
On the left, we have the » ATS-Sn/P Test route « in openBVE v188.8.131.52; click the thumbnail and note the fringes around the catenary gantry texture. On the right, we have v184.108.40.206–no such issue can be observed, and the end result is superb:
Similarly, here we have the » Chashinai Railway «:
For a detailed explanation about this solution, please see michelle’s » Developer’s Blog «
Other welcome enhancements and changes in v220.127.116.11 include:
- A time acceleration feature (Ctrl+J, switches between x1 and x5 speed);
- The ability to mute the sound (Ctrl+M — now you can listen to music via your media player while in-game, which is quite a lot of fun when used with the time acceleration feature! 🙂 );
- A consistent look is now achieved where fog and background images are concerned, regardless of viewing distance;
- And more… Please see the » changelog « on the openBVE site for details.
If you’re still using openBVE v1.0.3 or 1.0.4, then after updating to the latest release, you’ll also benefit from changes which were introduced with v1.0.5, including amongst other things, a bug fix relating to odd behaviour where unwanted roll was initially applied to the external camera view, enhanced AI driver behaviour where cruising is concerned, and additions to the Doors parameter of the .Sta command.
Cross-City South v1.4 scenery improvements
Firstly, apologies for the lack of project updates recently… Unfortunately I’ve not done quite as much as I’d hoped to in the past month. Nevertheless, I’ve been working on updating the scenery objects for Cross-City South v1.4, and this is proceeding quite well now. It’s proving to be quite time consuming, and the bulk of the work involves replacing a fair number of the previously 2D trees and bushes with more realistic partially 3D versions, allowing the scenery to look good even when the camera is panned to the side, such as when looking out of the windows, while also enabling the camera to be moved a little further away from the train in the external view without the scenery looking unrealistic. Hedgerows have also been improved, not just the trees.
I’m currently adding pretty highly detailed vegetation just to test performance and visual quality, but once I’m finished I’ll likely perform a batch search and replace operation on all the scenery files to reduce the number of surfaces to improve framerates a little. I’m relatively happy with how the scenery is turning out, but I have to say, it’s just a little tedious; I’ll be glad when this task is over and I can get back to the animated objects!
Here are some screenshots to show the progress so far; the scenery, lighting and shading isn’t finalised yet, but the images give a general impression of the end result I want to achieve. The trees and hedges still look a little too repetetive to me–I’ll try and improve upon this if I have time… All screenshots depict the route at 1280×1024 resolution with 8x antialiasing, 16x anisotropic filtering, and with openBVE v18.104.22.168’s smooth transparency enabled. A fast graphics card will likely be needed for higher framerates with the latter feature in use, at least with openBVE 1’s renderer:
I’m also experimenting with mixing both 2D and 3D trees to achieve a balance between visual quality and performance; 3D trees are placed near to the lineside, while 2D trees are placed behind these, and the overall effect looks reasonable to me; I hope you agree. It should work well, provided the player doesn’t move the camera beyond the effective scenery edge boundary which the 2D tree surfaces create–openBVE is still primarily a cab view simulator, after all. Here are some examples of the scenery testing location at Longbridge:
I’ve also added shadows beneath the trees and OHLE masts (another feature brought in from Watford Junction to Rugby), as well as beneath hedgerows to improve the appearance of the scenery. The shadows are simply very low resolution textures, which in the interests of performance, don’t use alpha channels, just ordinary texture transparency. The low resolution of the textures provides the necessary blurring:
Lastly, I’m also updating the pointwork so it’ll be up to the standard of Watford Junction to Rugby:
openBVE Help Guide updated
Just in case anyone hasn’t read through the comments on my last blog entry or otherwise noticed, I updated my openBVE Help and Information Guide recently, to include instructions explaining how openBVE can be installed and used by Ubuntu Linux users, either via the Add/Remove option, or by installing and running the program via Wine (which allows BVE 4 plugin DLL equipped trains to be used in Linux). I update the guide regularly as well, so if you need any assistance with openBVE which isn’t covered elsewhere, please visit the updated guide for more information: openBVE Help and Information.
Incidentally, since I replaced the X-City South executable installer with the .7z archive, downloads have been just as frequent as before, and I’ve had no more requests for help with installing the route than usual (and I don’t get many requests for help usually); indeed someone who was a newcomer to train simulation kindly informed me that they’d managed to install openBVE, BVE4, and Cross-City South with help from the guides I’ve prepared. So I’m assuming that most of you are managing fine with the installation process. 🙂
20th April 2009
I’ve discovered that anyone who has tried to contact me via my older .co.uk e-mail address since the start of April will have been unable to send mail to me. Hopefully if you’ve tried to e-mail me using that address, you’ll have received a Delivery Status Notification e-mail reporting SMTP error 550: “No Such User Here”, and then thought to check my Contact page for my newer e-mail address. But if not, please try to contact me again. I’ve now fixed the problem with the older address–it would seem that at some point, I accidentally deleted the e-mail domain forwarding rule which copies mail sent from the .co.uk domain to the .net domain. Quite how I managed to do this, I know not, but the rule has been reinstated anyway. Oops…
19th April 2009
In what may or may not prove to be a popular move, I’ve replaced my beloved NSIS executable installer within which the Cross-City South route was previously distributed, with a 7-Zip archive instead (and the other Cross-City add-ons have also been repackaged). I’m doing this as a trial to see how users cope with installing the route using a compressed archive manager instead of an installation program. I’m not willing to package the route using the more popular but less effective .zip format, as the resulting filesize is much larger than the .7z equivalent–the Cross-City South .zip version comes to a massive 32 MiB, while the 7-Zip archive comes in at 13.5 MiB, which is a little smaller than the installer it replaces (which figures, as both were compressed using the same LZMA compression method). All archives by default, have either the ‘Railway’ or ‘Train’ folder as the root folder within the archives, so you can always choose the same destination path when extracting the contents, and so there’s little doubt as to which folder the contents are supposed to be extracted to.
Okay, so I’ll miss using NSIS to package my add-ons as it was a very flexible installer creation tool, but more seriously, openBVE is intended as a cross-platform program, and executable (.exe) installers only work natively on Windows and not on other operating systems, which is unfair to non-Windows users wanting to use the route, or indeed those who have their add-ons installed in a non-default location. openBVE’s developer has also stated that add-ons released in installers aren’t considered to be openBVE content at all (and I can’t be happy if X-City isn’t considered to be openBVE content), so one way or another, distribution via compressed archive is the way of the future for openBVE, and I hope you’ll all be able to adjust to this change. If absolutely necessary I may reintroduce the executable installer alongside the .7z archive, but I’d prefer not to if possible.
There are no changes to the route itself (with v1.4 on it’s way, updating the old version isn’t really a good use of my time), however to prepare yourself for Cross-City South v1.4 and other openBVE add-ons in future, you can head over to the » Cross-City South download page « and try out the compressed archive installation method instead. I’ve also added new content to the » openBVE Help and Information « section of the site, which includes a couple of screenshots of what we can all look forward to with openBVE in the near future, along with step-by-step instructions to help with the downloading and installation of the Cross-City South .7z package for use with openBVE, along with recommended settings, and so-on. I’ve also slightly updated the » BVE 4 Help Section «, and you can also view an updated version of the » Cross-City South/Class 323 Tutorial « tailored for openBVE.
Edit: I’ve made a couple of amendments to the openBVE Help page and the Cross-City South download page, as they contained some unclear instructions and mistakes–sorry! I’ll continue to update them if necessary.
If you have problems installing the Cross-City South via the compressed archive method instead, I’d really like to hear about your installation experiences. Please feel free to add comments to this blog entry if you have any problems (no registration required, just click the ‘x Comments’ link below), or e-mail me. If there’s no feedback, I’ll assume you’re all managing just fine. 🙂