Behind the scenes #5 – Misconceptions

We get a lot of questions originating from misconceptions. People ask about the cargo system, run into problems because of misplaced signals and wonder why passengers mysteriously disappear during a train ride.

Misunderstanding the game mechanics can often lead to frustration. On the one hand, we are aware of that not everything is perfectly explained in Train Fever and we would like to apologize for that! On the other hand, we saw some amusing comments and remarks made about these mechanics. So here is our humorous approach to clear up some misunderstandings. We present the “Top 10 Train Fever misconceptions list”:

#10 Signals

Traffic on rails is controlled by signals. Worldwide dozens, if not hundreds of different types exist. So it is hardly surprising that the functionality of signals is a comprehensive source for misunderstandings.

Traditional games like Transport Tycoon rely on a simple system, the block signal. Train Fever instead utilizes path and one-way signals to regulate traffic in a more fluent way. Signals are placed on a single side of the track, not on both, and are only valid as seen from the train drivers’ perspective. Once understood, they are very intuitive to use, simply place them were a train should stop and wait!

signalsSignals regulate traffic, but misplacing them can cause traffic jams.

#9 City growth

The city growth in the game is not random nor predefined. It is influenced by the player, even though in an indirect way.

Growth is triggered by providing residents access to as many building as possible in the different zones: Industrial, commercial and leisure. The better the access, the more people will move in, causing the city to build or, depending on the land value, expand homes over time. The industrial zone will eventually run out of available jobs, the commercial zone will have no more free places where people can shop and the leisure zone will lack leisure-time possibilities. If they are at full capacity, they will expand.

Delivering goods to the city grants a bonus on the magnitude of the expansion. Covering a cities’ demand over a longer period accumulates this bonus.

#8 Cargo system

The cargo system is not obvious to everyone and can confuse players. The model resembles the real world, which is demand driven.

Raw materials are only produced when the mine or well has a consumer, respectively a factory, which processes the materials. Further on, this factory only produces cargo when it has a consumer as well and so forth.

The chain has to be complete – starting with the producer of the basic materials right up to the manufacturer of to the finished goods. The last link is the distribution of these goods to the cities.

#7 Station types

Passengers and cargo are very picky about their means of transportation and they both prefer to have their own station type.

Trains on the other hand don´t care about the station type. Passenger trains will stop at cargo terminals and vice versa. The result is one of the most common accidental mistake made by players: Using the wrong station type.

cargo_stationCargo stations are busy hubs for goods – passengers refuse to use them.

#6 Cosmetic elements

A lot of elements in the game, like trees and rocks, are used to give Train Fever a more realistic look, but are purely cosmetic.

Fields however are often attributed to serve a gameplay purpose, but they don´t. The same applies to the different types of bridges: wood, stone and steel. The construction material neither affects the speed of a train nor does it limit the allowed weight of a passing train.

#5 Trains without a path

Trains in Train Fever sometimes need special attention. If not all of their needs are fulfilled, they just won´t budge. What makes things even more complicated: They are not very good in expressing their needs clearly.

The most overlooked need is electricity. If an electric locomotive has a path ahead which is not completely electrified they stay in the depot or station.

#4 Train platforms

Trains in the real world arrive at a predefined platform. Last minute changes, for example due to reasons like delays, can be very confusing and annoying for passengers.

Passengers in the game behave in the same way. They like to line up at a definite platform and wait for their train to arrive. This is the sole reason why trains do not choose an arbitrary (or any free) platform to stop.

#3 Floating cargo

Floating cargo was sighted all over the city! Someone call the Ghostbusters!

Hold on, goods moving as if by magic is no reason to be alarmed. Cargo behaves in a similar manner as people. It will “walk” if that is the most efficient method to reach its destination. Since cargo has no feet, it is delivered by an invisible cart or worker and will float along the sidewalk.

floating_cargoInvisible workers distribute cargo within the city.

#2 The “20 minute rule”

Newcomers to the transportation simulation genre, but also veterans, are often puzzled why cargo or passengers refuse to use a line. Despite of various possible reasons, the “20 minute rule” is the most common cause.

Cargo or passengers must be able to reach the destination within 20 minutes (game time at standard speed) with a certain route, otherwise they will not use it. The considered travel time is the sum of the walking time, the time spend on the ride and the average waiting time at the departure or at changes.

To reduce the travel time, a higher speed but also a higher frequency – putting more vehicles on a line – is important.

#1 Disappearing passengers

A lot has been theorized about mysteriously disappearing passengers. Tragic events like sudden death, murder or kidnapping are very popular presumptions. Some detectives even claim the involvement of a “Daisy Armstrong”.

The solution to this riddle is not so exiting, but still somehow enigmatic. When people’s homes get rebuilt while a city upgrades its buildings, the residents are removed from the game. Where they end up is still a mystery. 😉

Misconceptions can be a source for disappointment. But more than often they result in very amusing situations. We hope that while reading this post you have learned something new about Train Fever. For sure, we left a lot unaddressed. Let us know what you would add to the list!

21 thoughts on “Behind the scenes #5 – Misconceptions

  1. does the cities have a max population limit?? my main city has more than 8000 (don’t remember exactly the number) and it keeps expanding becoming bigger and reaching the near cities! i really like that and actually it would be perfect to have the whole region becoming one huge city in the end!!! 😀 😀
    also, could you tell us some more details on how to get the growth rate you added in a patch work?
    i haven’t found anywhere something to explain how to make the impact of everything or the city population itself bigger.
    please adress this matter in your next post 🙂
    Big fan from greece (and seriously maybe the only, i know no-one else here playing 😛 )

    • I think I can tell you right now:

      The cities do not have limits, neither in population nor size. I would like to see a city covering the whole map! 🙂

      As mentioned in the post, supplying a city with cargo adds a cumulative bonus over time. The “townGrowthFactor”, which can be altered since a build 6181, changes this bonus. For example setting the “townGrowthFactor” twice as high will double the bonus. The cities will not grow faster, but eventually bigger.

      And by the way: It is not surprising that you don´t know anybody else from Greece playing. According to our records only 105 people from Greece own Train Fever.


  2. Hello, I really appreciated this post about misconceptions.

    Although in some cases I think they are due to poor game design choices (e.g. the difficulty of electrifying the whole line or disappearing passengers), in many cases they reflect interesting gameplay decisions once one gets used to them.

    I actually like the demand-driven cargo system, even though I would prefer factories to be more responsive to demand (faster ramp-up) and avoid reverting to 0 production just because one is updating trains or enhancing tracks (even while paused!).

    I also appreciate (but only a little) the 20 minutes limit (even though it may not be realistic for bulk material such as coal/oil/etc.). It gives a little more difficulty and is the only thing that really changes with the passing of time (as faster transportation means layouts could be different). However, It would be really helpful to have some tools to see where the 20 minutes limit ends, ideally via a graphical overlay such as turning green all the places reachable in 20 minutes under the current transportation system from a given place. If that would be too complicated, some simple tool to inform about waiting time and travel time on a line would still be helpful and would not be difficult to implement.

    I must admit I still have difficulty with signals and basically always go due to this for double tracks with single way signals. Even in this case, there is the annoying bug that train sometime reverse for no reason when working on a line (even if paused, and even counter the one was direction).

    Finally, I would take the occasion to cite six wishes (probably not so difficult to implement):
    1) make a year last longer (and give a faster speed multiplyer) so that trains do travel several times per year along the line
    2) change the financial report in a more standard was by separating income (revenues-costs) and money expenditures (and maybe also a balance sheet)
    3) give more variety in forms of maps: ideally a map editor, but otherwise an option to have rectangular maps, coastline, number of cities and factories (I know this last can be set somewhere by changing some value in some file) etc. chooseable from the in game menu.
    4) give the option to replace all vehicles on a line instantly
    5) give the option to electrify/highspeed a whole line or even the whole tracks system
    6) let industries spawn/disappear over time (depending on their usage or the simple passing of time) to give some dynamics

    Thanks urban games for this game (perfectible, but sill interesting) and good wishes for a sequel (which I hope will include some AI)

    • While it sure is no ideal solution, I can help you with the travel time measurement.
      Create a line and assign 1 vehicle/train to it. Frequency / 2 is your Ride Time. Note it down.
      the Travel Time is then your Ride Time (stays constant) + Frequency (changes with # of vehicles/trains on the line).
      On a side note: “The considered travel time is the sum of the time spend on the ride and the average waiting time at the departure or at changes.” Unless it’s an oversight by Tom, this means WALKING TIME DOES NOT COUNT TOWARDS THE TRAVEL TIME!!!

      • Of course, you are absolutely right. This was an oversight, thanks for pointing that out! Walking is part of the travel time. I have updated the post accordingly.


  3. Two quick questions about growth:

    – does the TOTAL population on a map (not the distribution among cities) depend on what the player does ?
    – what are the factors that would increase/decrease it (again on a whole map level, not distribution between cities) ?

    • When a city expands and new people want to move in, the come from „outside of the map“. So yes, the total population is affected by what the player does. The more cities you connect and the more goods you deliver, the more people will live on the map.


  4. I must say all of your points were clearly explained in Train Fever Interactive Guide, except number 4 and 6.

    Anyway, I would like to know why production decreases so fast (from 400 to 0) in seconds and to increase it only 1 unit per month. That is the biggest problem in the game for me right now.

  5. Do you guys plan multiplayer at some point? Iam waiting for that for a long time now. 🙂 Thats a lot of work probably, but comes with a big reward on both player and developer side (money).

  6. I love this game. The fact that you get so much feedback should be a sign that people are: 1. very interested in the product you are working on. 2. Have a lot of hope and faith that you can produce the best train management game. Thank you for your work! Really looking forward to a map editor someday.

  7. I’m not convinced that people have a “misconception” about the 20 minute rule. I think it messes up train service on longer runs. Perhaps a 20 minute time frame on the smallest map, 40 minutes on the midsize map, and 60 minutes on the largest map would work better?

  8. “The most overlooked need is electricity. If an electric locomotive has a path ahead which is not completely electrified they stay in the depot or station.”

    That is why there should an EASY way to electrify all of the track with a single click. Way too often you miss one metre of track at some junction and the trains stop.

    Same goes for high speed rail. I do not want to go throught every pixel of my track when I want to upgrade.

    Also: we are still waiting for proper rail-over-rail crossings

    • Yes, totally agree on that, when it is time to electrify the track I would prefer to do it by a single click for the entire system. Even on hard dificulty, you never actually care about construction costs by that time.

  9. >Misunderstanding the game mechanics can often lead to frustration.

    It is easy to avoid it. There are two buttons for ‘Company finances’ window (in left bottom corner and in left top corner). The one in left bottom corner ‘Company finances’ replace with the ‘Help’ button, which will show ‘Help’ window by demand or automatically popup a window with a helpful info for the player’s current action.

    • Avoiding frustrating experience will help you to get a higher percent of positive reviews on Steam. You are 5 percents to a ‘green zone’, the current ‘orange zone’ is lowering sales, I think.

  10. In the case of a people disappearing from trains, I suggest that passengers should pay the fare before they traveling. As is the case in the real world. As I go by train (or any form of public transport) I have to had a ticket in my pocket that I had paid before. So it would be nice if I see a green when passengers walks into the train. And then I do not care about people jumping out of the windows 😉 because they already paid. 😉
    As for the transport of goods is about. The fee may be paid after the service. But explain me please why the goods are also disappearing from the trains? Isn’t it associated with a 20 minute rule too?

    I play Train Fever over a month. I spent about 150 hours so far. And I’m not bored so far – great game. Right now I focus on the execution of all achievements.
    BTW it was fun to accomplish Mountain Express achievement. I have to build tracks almost to the top of the highest mountain and build the station there that was useful for no one. 450m height it’s a lot. Why there is no given values ​​on the contours of the map? It would be handy if it was.

    The Game has great potential and I hope that the next game you’re working on is a sequel to this title and takes into account most of the requirements presented by the players on the game forums.

    Greetings from Poland.

    Wonder how many polish players play Train Fever 😉

  11. Instead of “Floating Cargo” why not just have a Truck, Horse-Drawn Wagon, or a little guy carrying crates? Would not look as strange. Also, maybe the “20 Minute Rule” should vary according to cargo type. Categorize cargo according to time sensitivity and each category has its own “XX Minute Rule”. Allow certain trains priority over others based on that time sensitivity. Make the categories available where modders can define the category of their custom cargo types, and the game will treat them accordingly. Also, one I keep saying: Add a “shuffle” option to the music player.

  12. All 10 points are perfectly valid and I like them. Except #4 Train platforms. Without dynamic platform selection game seems stiff and not fun to play. Mention about real life is only partially valid. When you travel by train, you usually go to platform station radio or info board tells you and usually not annoeyed about it. (of course you mention “last minute change”, but game time != real time, seconds in game means minutes(hours) in real time)

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