another simulator review and walkthrough!

Alex the Historian posted another review of the sim. This one is a bit more like a “walk through” so it’s almost an hour long!

At some point near the beginning he said that the sim gives a window into what the early days of Disneyland was like. You’re exactly right, Alex. That’s what the sim (currently) aims to do. Sure, the park may look sparse, and there are only two engines, but that’s what it was really like!

Enjoy the show!

what about the other engines?

I’m going to dedicate some posts answering frequently asked questions about the sim. Perhaps the most asked question of all time is “what about the other engines?”

I get the demand. It would be cool to try your hand at all the different engines, and not everyone’s favorite engine is either the #1 or #2. But, it’s not so easy a task to bring the other engines into the sim. As you know, the goal of the sim is to be as accurate as possible a digital replica of those steam engines, so just slapping on a different engine skin on the existing engine won’t work.

But, to recreate the other engines, the #3, #4, and #5, requires very close access to the engine in order to record the sound, get photo references, and most importantly watch how the engine behaves under different circumstances. Number 3 and 5 are particularly the most difficult because there’s no cab ride available (except for that one time…) so it’s very challenging to get the necessary observation.

I was very fortunate way back many years ago to have had such access to the engines and the crew. I watched and learn many things but I don’t have that luxury anymore. So, until I can have that kind of access and insight, I’m afraid there just isn’t going to be enough data to rebuild these engines in the sim.

wow…. oops…

So the last post here was in February about an upcoming update. It’s now practically September. Sorry about that! Was it some kind of ground breaking or technologically advanced feature being worked on behind the scene that’s holding up the update?

Not really.

Well, we over here did add one more human being to the family roster this summer. I’ve been busy developing his independence and behavior and that’s taking a lot of time!

Truthfully, other than the OSX version, there really isn’t anything new or exciting that will completely change the sim. If you have the sim now, you’ll hardly notice a difference with the update.

Well, except for a few of my favorite features:

  • Glowing/dimming lamps. The electrical lamps will glow and dim as the generator kicks in when the train is in motion or slows down. It’s pretty!
  • Keyboard control: additional keyboard control has been added to the throttle and the Johnson Bar, if you get tired of moving the mouse around (even though that’s like one of the main “feature” (uhh… goal) of the sim—to show the fatigue from operating the controls all day long!)
  • Dynamic fireman. In the current version if you select “auto firing” your fireman Otto will always do a very good job of holding about 130 psi. In the update, you can select the “experience level” of your fireman from novice to pro. If you select novice, expect to see the pressure gauge swinging and a lot of “hunting” for the pressure. If you select “expert” of course you can expect a rock solid pressure! This can make your pulling experience quite interesting when you have a novice fireman in the left seat.

And that’s about it… not much to it if you’ve been waiting this long. Like I said, you can basically enjoy the sim as it is now and you’re not missing much from this update.

But there is a not-so-secret secret about the sim that’s to be revealed much later also!

…and we’re back!

Hello! Is there anybody here?

Thank you all for making the release of the Steam Simulator such a success. I really hope you are enjoying it. I love reading about what people have learned from the sim. And since you have come back to read this blog, I guess you are still looking for more 🙂

You may have noticed that the functionality of the website was reduced a few days ago. Unfortunately, the website suffered a malware injection attack, but we are now back to being fully operational, which is timely for me to announce an upcoming update to the simulator.

Thanks to everyone that took the time to find these bugs and report them to me. Here’s a list of features and fixes in the upcoming update:

  • macOS version! More info about this closer to the release of the update
  • Keyboard remap – allow for remapping of the keyboard controls
  • Speedometer fix – speedometer works when moving backward
  • FPS lock – add a FPS lock option
  • Crashes – fix a crash when operating some valves with the auto-firing option active

If all goes well, I anticipate finishing the update in about 2 to 3 months. Of course, you’ll be the first to know when it is available if you check this blog regularly.

See ya, and high ball!

new video! a trip around the park

It’s about time to feature the EP Ripley in its own video preview!

Here, we take a quick trip in the EP Ripley around Disneyland in 1955, much like what Walt probably did before the park officially opened. We’ll be departing from the roundhouse, stopping at Main Street Station, then continuing through Frontierland and around the back side of Rivers of America.

Get your overalls and gloves ready, because it will be your turn at the throttle very soon!

last few details…

One of the last few details behind the scene is one of the “surprises” I mentioned a few updates ago. It’s a small detail that helps give life to the Disneyland scenery but it’s actually pretty big physically… the Mark Twain River Boat!

Also a steam powered vehicle, you’ll see it glide along the river as a long time companion to the railroad, and you’ll hear its very distinctive whistle through out the park from time to time.

The Mark Twain is also quite a sight at night!

In addition to the whistle, in the sim the Mark Twain also features animated stern wheel with water splash effect and steam exhausts. It was quite enjoyable just watching it cruising the river while I was taking these preview pictures 🙂

quick update… almost time to countdown!

This is going to be a quick update, not a lot of words but there are pictures! And this is the update I waited to make for a long time because I’m happy to finally show the preview of the Disneyland layout, as it was in 1955!

Can you believe that there are less than two months to release?! I can’t! I’m actually quite a bit behind schedule, but working late nights trying to catch up. There are a few more surprises in the sim that I’m saving. I hope it makes it into release in December. At this point it’s really up in the air if it’ll be in the sim. As usual, “more on this later”.

Two questions I get asked the most right now is “how much” and “what computer do I need”, so I’ll address this real quick. As you can see, I’m still waaaay deep in development mode and finalizing the price and computer requirement is still something I will need to devote more time to. But I’ve had in-depth discussion with people I trust about the price. It’s a delicate issue, and I hope that once it’s finalized you’ll find it fair. As for the computer, for now “anything relatively modern” will work. That means x64, dedicated graphics card capable of dx11 (say Nvidia GTX).

Okay, let’s get on with the pictures, straight from the sim.

This layout, I hope, is representative of Disneyland park in 1955, at least to the portions that are relevant to the railroad. Back then, the park was quite sparse and some part of it was very much still a construction site. So, in the sim, you’ll see this accordingly.

Let’s start with the roundhouse. It is a simple shed structure housing two tracks. Here are the two engines finishing their prep in a late summer morning.

Note the orange grove in the background, behind the chainlink fence. This was the rural Anaheim in 1955, quite different from today. Notice also numerous lumber and construction debris scattered throughout the backstage area. The yellow fuel pump, exactly as you’d find at a gas station in 1955, services the engine (tender).

The main visual centerpiece of the railroad, though, is the Main Street Station. In the sim, it is rendered at it appeared in 1955. The surrounding main gate sits nearby.

Details, details, details! From the cornice, to the working clock tower, which displays the sim’s time! But there is also some simplification in the model for the sake of performance. Hopefully the balance between detail and performance is right.

Notice also a portion of Main Street USA behind the station. Yep, it’s all there.

Here’s a stretch of Rivers of America. It was quite spare from any vegetation in 1955!

This section of the tracks passes by the desert/wagon scene. (I forget the name of it now). It’s right after the Rivers of America and before Fantasyland. See also that slight left curve up ahead? Yes, DRR had a left curve since its opening! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise that the DRR “never had a left turn until now” 🙂

Here’s the transition between the desert and Fantasyland. The castle peaks above the trees. Casey Jr is just on the right side of the tracks.

Here’s the turn into Main Street Station. Not much to say about this image; you’ll get to be at the throttle and pull the train into this station soon 🙂

It has taken waaaay longer to get this scenery to this stage than I anticipated. Every building had to be made from scratch. I tried to be faithful, down to even the size, type, and placement of trees. All of this to make sure that it feels right. All of these details of course include the building lights.

I think they look their best at dusk. Don’t you?

I hope you’re ready… the park will be opening soon!

waiting in the shed

I know there hasn’t been any updates lately since the announcement of the release date, but I assure that there is a lot going on behind the scene and many late late nights (check out this update’s posting time… and this is a weeknight 😮 ).

Speaking of behind the scene, here’s a really really quick look at where the engines live behind the scene at the real and original park: the original 1955 roundhouse. It’s really not much more than a light-frame metal shed. In the simulator, the roundhouse will be “furnished” with various pieces of equipment scattered about, giving it a “live in” feeling. Note also that there are only two tracks… because there were only two trains!

I love this picture of the engine waiting in the roundhouse shed, slightly basking in the late morning sun. It looks so peaceful with the back drop of orange grove behind. But this peaceful engine will soon be roaring with fire and steam, all ready for us to take her out.

And also in 1955, DL was very much still a construction site. So, expect to see construction materials scattered through out, too.

Sitting in the cab, waiting to steam up. You can see the tunnel that takes the train under the berm and into the park. But, you’ll have to wait a little bit longer before we preview the park itself 🙂