First Impressions (10 hours)

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    First of all, I apologise for adding yet another thread on this subject, and probably repeating a lot of things as well, but there are so many things being said and discussed, that I felt making a new thread to structurally give my impressions would be the easiest for all of us.

    First of all, let me tell you a few things to sketch a context. I have put almost ten hours into this game already. The reason I am playing this game is because I know how easy it is to get lost in games like OpenTTD, and loved to see a more modern game in the same genre.

    So, with that all done, let me just address a few points.

    General impression
    To me it is fairly obvious that this game is not finishes. I can definitely see the game there, but it misses a few weeks of polishing and optimising. I do understand that – especially when publishers and retail are involved – a release date is a strict deadline, but that doesn’t change the fact that the game does not feel finished. Sadly, I am not active on all platforms, so I am unable to tell if the dev team already has made some statements on whether they are pursuing to “finish” this game and/or actively update this game. I really hope we will be hearing more of the team soon.

    I definitely think the modding support is an important element of what will keep this game alive over the years, though there are certain things that I think are so embedded into the core of the game, that those have to be fixed by the developers themselves. I am not an expert on modding however, so who knows what is possible.

    Track laying
    I heard several people complaining about the track laying being wonky. Yes, it is, but it is also to be expected from the amount of freedom you get in return. Something I sincerely miss is the ability to cross tracks – but that has been said before. I can also find myself in being able to plan/lay several sections of tracks at once, as it has occured on more than one occasion that I had to destroy the last few bits and start over – leaving some ugly terrain as well. The fact that destroying track actually costs money again, instead of reimbursing part of the cost – which is not unusual in this kind of games – also makes planning longer pieces of track a bit frustrating at times. All in all, I find it bearable, though improvements can be made and a feature I would personally like to see is that the landscape around tracks snaps back in place if the track that changed it gets deleted.

    A final remark I have is the frustration of adding signals, catenary or switches to existing tracks with running trains on it. Especially catenary sometimes is added to very long sections, for which it is almost impossible to get it empty of trains. For signals and switches this is less of a problem, but it can still be a bit frustrating to wait for the track to clear to start making changes. Adding an option to split tracks at any point in two segments would help in some cases (at least it makes deleting parts easier), but I would also try to find a way to make trains no longer block adding catenary, because it does not influence the train immediately (of course, electric trains should still block the removal of catenary).

    Oh and please, please, I beg you to allow us building roads on top of tracks, but I thought that was something that would be taken care of.

    One of the things I enjoy most about OpenTTD is solving signalling issues. I used to make more and more complicated stations and setups, and then tried to solve the signalling on that. I loved how I had several types of signals available, and I also loved how I could improve the throughput of tracks by using some smart signalling.

    The fact that Train Fever only has path signals is somewhat disappointing. Especially as I would guess that block, pre, and exit signals are relatively easy to implement once you get path signals to work.

    Apart from the fact that I had some weird situations happening, I do not have anything else to comment on signals themselves, but I do think it is important to have more control over the platform selection. Train Fever does not have timetables nor is it very likely to have transport hubs with more than a few lines going through, but right now there is so little to a station: for each terminating line you need a single platform, for each line passing through you need two. It is not possible to have a setup where you have a single track railroad that ends in a two platform station, where a train is ready to depart as soon as another train arrives (right now you have to do this by adding a passing loop directly in front of the station), or a setup where a third platform is added that can be used as backup platform for the lines passing through the station.

    Running costs
    From my experience the train running costs ramp up too quickly. I had a very succesful train line running between three towns (A-B-C). It was my main money maker, which allowed me to expand to other areas. After my second generation of trains reached their lifetime, it was time to build a new set of trains. That is when the problems started, even with reducing the number of trains on the line, I had to struggle to keep the line profitable due to the large running costs of the newer locomotives. This effect was visible on all of my train lines. I had been trying to make a few train lines connecting towns a bit further away, but these immediately turned into a huge money sink. I had to close down a lot of lines, but I already lost my whole cash stack and had a debt of 5M at the time I was able to turn the tide around. Only when the Red Arrow came out – which has very low maintenance costs – I was able to really become profitable again.

    During this period, it was the road transport that kept me from running into even higher debts, but even there it is difficult to deal with the increase in running costs, but also in speed of vehicles. All in all I think the jump in road vehicles is doable to overcome, but in railroads the jump in costs would have meant bankruptcy if it weren’t for the cheap loans.

    Savegame format
    I had to delete one or two other games to prevent my harddisk from completely filling up with Train Fever savegames. I have some ideas that might reduce the size a lot, but as I would be going in some semi-technical things, I will make another thread for that.

    I have been playing this game on a laptop with a relatively small resolution (1440×900). In general this is completely acceptable, but the lines interface takes up about two thirds of my screen. Add to that a few vehicle windows, a depot window and the interface on the right, and there is hardly anything I can see anymore. I would love for a more compact line overview and maybe a more userfriendly UI experience in general.
    I do find that the most used elements are very accessible, and practically everything is within two or three clicks, which means you can get very efficient in that aspect.

    Sadly there isn’t much I can say about this. In general the games runs alright (on high settings), but after about fifty years, a lot of stuff is going on and there are more regular freezes, caused by both the game and the regular savegames. I definitely hope we will see some improvements here.

    Some more small suggestions

    • A catenary overlay: when enabled it shows all track that is electrified in (bright) green and all the other track in (bright) red. This should make it a lot easier to find those tiny pieces of track you missed when electrifying a track.
    • A travelling overlay: I think it would be interesting to get a better overview over the flow of the people. Right now you can check the residential, work, commercial and leisure location of every individual, but there is now way to see in one glimpse where people in general go shopping.

    Final remarks
    Of course I am focusing on the points that can be improved right now, but I hope I have also expressed my thoughts on how this improvements can be mode, to hopefully direct the developers into polishing this game. There are probably many other things I could touch, but this post has already turned into quite the essay (sorry devs =/) and addresses my main concerns. Despite the shortcomings, I am sure that I will still spend a good few hours in this games, and I predict that once the modding community picks up the basics, we will see more and more interesting mods popping up, turning this game into so much more than a developer team could ever do on its own.


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