Last week we announced that we start to write a regular blog series and talk about various topics. We want to begin with the most important part of Train Fever: The community and how they contribute to the game. Train Fever and its development profit in a lot of ways from its players. On the one hand, we get a lot of feedback and suggestions on how to improve the game (the subject which we will discuss with the next blog post). On the other hand, and this is the topic which we focus on today, thanks to modding players can directly modify and add content to the game.
Realizing that not everybody knows about mods and modding, what it means and what it can do, we would like to briefly talk about its meaning and history:
Despite the definition of modding being diverse, related to video games it is commonly referred to as “modifying (a video game) by changing its behavior or content and also adding to it or even making a completely new game based upon another one”. An important part of modding is that it is not done by the developers of the game but by the players, so called modders.
The history of modding goes way back to the 1980s and has a rich history with a lot of prominent games, in the early years mostly within the first person shooter genre. They did not only allow for modding but actively supported it by making it easy for players to access core parts of the game.
In the genre of transport simulations well known representatives are games like Locomotion, Railroad Tycoon 3 or Cities in Motion, where countless bits of new content were created by players since the release, and these classics still have active modding communities today.
Non-commercial games created as open source like OpenTTD and Simutrans are special cases of modding, where not only everybody can add content to the game but even further, due to the nature of open source, obtain and change the source code.
There are a lot of benefits to modding: Mods allow the community to create new content for a game which everybody can enjoy, keeping it alive for a long time. Players can change the game to their needs from making it a complete sandbox to ramping up the difficulty, add their own buildings and vehicles as well as change how the game looks. Players like to actively contribute and add to a game not only by playing it, but by creating content.
Allowing players to add to the game and at the same time offer payed DLCs can contradict each other. Traditional game development prefers to generate more profit by selling bits of content as DLC. On the other hand extending the games life spawn by allowing everybody to add to the game can be more favourable for the developer in the long run, so we decided not to charge for any additional content we create.
With that in mind, when the development of Train Fever started back in 2012, making the game easy for people to modify became one of the primary goals.
We tried to make as many parts of the game as open as possible for the players to modify, but there are still limitations and not everything in the game can be modded. Exposed game functionalities can have critical impacts on the game´s behavior, allowing mods in the worst case to make the game impossible to play or break certain aspects of the game logic.
There is also a tradeoff between simplicity and powerfulness. Interfaces for mods should be generic enough to allow for extensive modding but easy enough for everybody to use. Therefore a lot of thought went into planning what functions should be made accessible in which way.
Train Fever primarily uses the Lua (Portuguese for “Moon”) scripting language. The decision to go with Lua was based on the fact that Lua is a free, fast and powerful, yet simple tool, and is one of the leading scripting languages used in making games. Lua is easy to learn and understand due to its solid reference material and needs nothing more than a text editor to edit scripts.
As early as in the closed beta we saw the first mods being made for the game, introducing new vehicles and even new industries, like the Cargo Mod from one of our beta testers Gwinda. Since then hundreds of great pieces of new content have been created.
Since the release, beside many stunningly designed trains, trucks, buses, trams, stations and depots, we have seen modders creating mods that utilized functions of the game in an unforeseen and creative way, like the broad selection of decorative items using waypoints and the invisible locomotives to help make Train Fever feel even more realistic. On top of that, a lot of new textures, shaders and various script mods change the way Train Fever looks and feels.
The community also helped building the free USA DLC, and a total conversion to bring Train Fever into a nordic setting is currently in the making by some dedicated Train Fever fans and players.
Despite getting a mod into the game is as easy as downloading scripts and models, and putting the files into the right place, it can take some practice to get used to. But also here help is right around the corner in the form of Mod Managers, also made by people from the community, making it possible to install and activate mods by the matter of a few simple mouse clicks.
We hope this post aroused your interest in modding Train Fever and if you are already using or even creating mods, let us know in the comments what your favorite one is! Even though we pointed out some examples, we could not decide on a single one.
Next time we will talk about the various and extensive feedback we get, in which way we handle it and how we decide what we implement into the game. If you have any comments or even suggestions what we should write about, we will be happy to read your comments!