Happy New Year! Can you believe that it’s been one year ago already since the last major video preview back in 2016?
I thought the sim looked pretty good then, but since then, there’s still plenty of subtle rendering and lighting improvements. Also, most of the development has been in the underlying codes.
Here are some of the new features and improvements completed since the January 2016 video, made a year ago:
- Cab controls have been changed to pushing/pull your mouse, rather than using the scrollwheel. This allows for certain controls to “feel” lighter or heavier. Using the sim really feels much more realistic when you’re “turning” valves or “pull” the throttle.
- Steam in the cylinders now exhausts with each “chuff”, and is replenished proportional to whatever throttle amount you have, so the pressure in the cylinder is not constant.
- Pressure gauges are not “exactly” accurate like a “computer”. They error by up to 1% or 1.5%, per the manufacturer’s specification.
- Lubrication in the steam chest can “wash off” if you pull the water into the cylinders. When the cylinders are flooded, the pistons move sluggishly, if at all!
- The water glass can be clogged from sediments, and you’ll see all the proper signs of it.
- Added a bunch of engine customization options like gauge face type, metal or wood running boards, arm rests, etc.
- Better (more realistic) sky and clouds, lighting, and overall rendering qualities.
- Expanded the ranch test tracks.
- More realistic smoke and steam effects.
- Better camera shakes and controls.
- More realistic air compressor behavior.
- Added limited hot keys.
- Water in the boiler now expands realistically when it’s heated.
- A ton of miscellaneous fixes and improvements that just makes everything “feel right”. This is only “one” item on the list but it’s actually the biggest item of all, because every system, components, and physics of the sim got fine tuned at some point in the last year. This really makes the sim come together.
All this tweaking and fine tuning is paying off. Steve DeGaetano is one of the expert tester, and so far he feels “right at home” with the sim. Here are some of the things he had to say:
I have been playing with a couple versions of it over the past few days. It is mind-boggling to me how accurate to firing and operating a real steam locomotive this is. You basically have to do *everything* the way you would on a real oil-burning engine. You have to hook up an air compressor if the engine is cold, in order for the blower and atomizer to work. All appropriate valves must be opened. The fire door has to be opened in order to throw in a lit piece of waste, which will go out in about 10 seconds unless you apply atomizer and oil. As the boiler heats, the water in the sight glass goes up: Why? Because water expands when heated!
For me, the experience of firing this engine and running it is exactly as I would expect from the real thing–I felt quite at home, knowing that when I made an adjustment, say, to the fire, I’d see that adjustment reflected on the steam pressure gauge. When I added water with the injector, the pressure invariably goes down in proportion–you’re adding cold water to the boiler and cooling it off, so the pressure goes down.
I can say that this is as close as you can come to actually operating the real thing. The thought has crossed my mind that Disney themselves might be able to use this as a training tool. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to fire and run a real DRR-style steam engine, this will be as close as you will be able to get unless you get a job on the DRR.
You can read his full write up of the experience here. I will admit that I was quite anxious when I was sending the sim out to testing, but so far I feel reassured by the feedback that this will be *the* steam sim (even a couple of DRR engineers like it!). Of course, there are bugs, and I’m getting them fixed and patched up everyday. Some of the bugs they found are very interesting, and I’m certainly learning even more about the engine from them.
Having sent the sim out for testing, and it being a new year, was a good opportunity to make another preview video! I always wanted to do one without narration—just let the sim sounds speak for themselves so you can get the full immersion of being around these engines. Well, here it is! It is also the perfect accompaniment while reading Steve’s write up! Enjoy!