An Open Letter to N3V


Alco Spoken Here
To N3V and all who may be concerned,

I would like to start by stating that I have enjoyed the Trainz series for most of my life. As an avid railfan and model railroader, Trainz has tugged at my creative side in a way yet unmatched by any other game. Over the years I have been delighted to see how the game has improved and changed, and although in the past I may have been too vocal about some points, I have always generally supported the direction the company has taken, especially given the means with which they have had to develop the franchise. I understand that N3V faces unique challenges, with the Trainz franchise falling within a fairly niche corner of a small segment of the gaming industry. However, it seems to me that the recent pivot in business model has left us at a crossroads regarding the future of the Trainz franchise. Having gauged a variety of opinions, and weighed my own, I feel that it is necessary to at least voice some of the more widespread concerns with the current situation, and potentially leave it to the N3V staff to answer some of the more common pressing questions that have been raised lately. While I do not own Trainz 22, I have been exposed to it in depth and have had the pleasure of being walked through a lot of its improvements in detail. I will preface this by saying that Surveyor 2 looks FANTASTIC and is exactly the improvement Trainz has been needing for a while. However, the way it is being sold by N3V via the Trainz Plus subscription is very concerning.

The current model being trialed with the release of Trainz 22 seems troubling, to say the least. The current subscription model requires the user to pay a yearly fee to access all new features rolled out with the latest release of the game, a price tag at minimum of $70 per year. The base game of TS22 is, in essence, a "content release," meaning the base game has changed very little from the previous version, with the included content being the main differentiating factor. To access the main features of this version of the game, mainly being surveyor 2.0, you must maintain your subscription year on year or you will lose access.

This poses several issues at surface level. The primary one is compatibility - it seems likely that with the new changes between base and Trainz Plus versions of the game, differences in build number may potentially prevent the sharing of routes from the Plus version to the base game. How this will affect other content in the future remains to be seen, but even isolating the issue of sharing routes is a fairly substantial issue, given the improvement with Trainz Plus is Surveyor 2.0. So now (almost certainly unintentionally), N3V has even further diminished the usefulness of the base TS22 without the Plus subscription. If base users can't enjoy routes created by Plus members, then there is less reason for a fence sitting potential customer to upgrade from 19 to 22, especially if they are not interested in the improved surveyor system.

Another issue arises if a user ends their subscription. Theoretically, when the user's subscription ends, they will be locked out of content they have created due to Trainz Plus having a higher build number than the base game. This means that if a user decides to terminate their subscription, they must wait until the next round of updates to the base version of Trainz 22, which N3V has confirmed will happen at a slower rate than Plus builds (to be expected with a service that promises more regular updates and tweaks/features). Depending on the cycle of development, creators may have to wait MONTHS until they can access routes created in TS22 Plus if they either decide they do not want, or can not afford to maintain a Trainz Plus subscription.

The base game of Trainz 22 seems to, in essence, be Trainz 19 with few, if any changes. As previously stated, the main offering is content-based, and while routes like Moffat look great, the game itself seems to have changed very little. Although future changes to the base game may be promised, I believe we have very little evidence to suggest that any real changes will happen. TS12 and T:ANE received no major additions after launch aside from fixes (which are always appreciated, but that's beside the point), and TS19 was seemingly only granted MPS as a trial for its implementation in Trainz 22.

If Trainz 22 were to receive some improvements over the base version of Trainz 19 (aside from Surveyor 2) that were promised as far back as T:ANE, such as improved weather, an improved skybox, or even implementation of things like three way switches and diamonds, I would feel differently. But minor environmental tweaks and completely messing up the error system do not seem to be the major improvements to the sim that push me to spend $70 on a new game. Previous versions of the game were different enough at their core that they were a marked improvement over the previous version: TS12 had an improved sound system, T:ANE added a TON of new features including improved environments, track mechanics, and other changes. TS19 added PBR textures and further improved the environment. TS22 seems to bring nothing new to the table without paying a yearly subscription.

Personally, I look at these sort of things from a cost/benefit perspective - is the cost of Trainz 22 and the subscription every year worth the improved surveyor mechanic? Especially taking into account the compatibility issues I honestly feel that the implementation makes the upgrade more trouble than it is worth, especially when accounting for the hassle of transitioning to the new game, dealing with the game's teething troubles (which every game has, not faulting N3V for this), and fixing the assets that the new error system has broken.

The shift to a subscription model in and of itself is worrying to me. Subscription based models are widely accepted as an extremely predatory business practice in the gaming industry, and even though several other companies have adopted them successfully, it does not mean that N3V should. This company has always been community, creator, and customer driven, and N3V has always been supportive of and reasonable with its users. A change away from this would not only harm something that makes the company so great, but would also further divide a community that already seems to resist upgrading to a new game.

If the core issue is financial, and if the move to a subscription is out of necessity, then I wish the company would be more transparent. I would almost rather donate money to support the company than see a move towards a predatory system that under-delivers and overcharges. There are other ways to generate cashflow, and I have full confidence that the community as a whole will be willing to work out a solution with the company to generate the support necessary to improve the stability of the company and the franchise. If the core issue is adopting a model that other companies have used to great success, I have more than a few moral issues with the decision-making and direction that the gaming industry has taken, and those would certainly not differ in this case. Either way, if N3V feels that this system is successful, I have a feeling it will be here to stay, and that is bad for all users of this sim.

With that said, I hope this letter is taken with the best intent in mind. I look forward to tackling these issues as a community, and coming to a resolution that benefits both the end user and N3V, and further improves the Trainz franchise as a whole. This is by far the best train simulator on the market, and the community is one of the strongest. Let's prevent N3V and Trainz from making the same mistakes as other, much less highly regarded companies, and move together towards a much brighter future.

All the best,

Appendix 1: Another side concern regarding 22 and Trainz Plus that I have is the compatibility of packaged and payware versions of assets that exist in some form as freeware. In my experience, a large number of route builders have been forced to deal with infuriating situations where users have all of the dependencies for a route, but because one or the other does not possess the "payware" or "packaged" version of a dependency, the route refuses to load it. Adding another tier to Trainz with another level of content further complicates this issue, and reduces the utility of assets included in the subscription. I've floated a suggestion of allowing the game to use a lower version of a scenery asset on routes in order to bypass this issue in the past, but I would be interested to hear what N3V's opinion is of this problem. This isn't directly related to the above letter, but it's tangentially related so I figure I would also raise it here as well.

Appendix 2: Another point I would like to make is that even when changes seem to be made, the documentation and instructions on how to properly use those changes ranges from spotty to nonexistent, and as H222 said, to say the wiki is incomplete is an understatement. It seems to me that the lack of documentation is a huge factor in holding these new game versions back, as the changes to base functions are relatively useless if users need to figure out how to properly use them on their own.

Appendix 3: The scrapbook tool in Surveyor 2 is a fantastic utility that is incredibly useful, but one major issue I can foresee in its implementation is that people can steal whole scenes or sections of routes for use in their own projects without permission. Does N3V have a strategy to combat this drawback?
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Agree with most Barno
TRS22 really needs something special/new in the BASE game not plus, to make it worth the price tag
during beta testing I posted list after list, and see not much result, specially not taking Interfaces serious hurts this game (and its future)

Then the error checking
Today I installed a nice new route from Ricciardo in TRS22, 32 items were marked wrong, that were ok in all TRS19 versions
main reason, enforcing a 500 poly limit. Redownloading from DLS did not help.
I studied some of the now marked "faulty" a 1500 poly, well made asset now faulty, while a 200k poly, 5 LOD with 40mb textures is ok???
really, the faulty item is better for this game than the over the top item !
TRS22 makes over 30k items on the DLS broken, no way a 4 person CRG can fix this ever.

Remember every faulty item, hurts this game and the user experience, no matter when or who made it
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I must agree, I do not even believe the base game is worth that price of 70 to be fully honest with you as the routes are not very good compared to what they are modeled on. When I bought TANE 7 years ago, I grew accustomed to it’s short comings and was happy to see it’s stabilization over service packs. Base game TANE I can say was improved upon. I know that N3V cares, I know they appreciate all of us. However after 19 and the beginning of the subscription thing I was turned off. I used to stick with TANE solely because I couldn’t store three versions of Trainz, but since upgrading hard drives, I haven’t yet simply out of the fact it seems to be more and more based in financial model. Sure people are gonna pay for 22’s fees, but for how long? When will 70 dollars a year (which is equivalent to a full year’s subscription of trains magazine with 12 issues a year and access to infinite resources online mind you) become too much for this community to support and the finances brought in from 22 fall face first. I would have bought 22, if the new features were included along with the same promises that were discussed that should have came with TANE. Though many of us disagree on a myriad of topics, for big issues such as this we must come together.
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Well said. I've had absolutely no interest in upgrading to 22 simply due to it not bringing anything to the table with exception of another subscription service for some addition that seems rather minor, especially for a game that can't simulate dynamic braking or really better physics.
Agreed, TS22 needs something new, and something interesting (other than MPS or Surveyor 2). If the features were to remain the same, they should at least make the subscription fee be lowered instead of being around $70. With the lack of features, I simply had no interest in getting the game unless something truly new comes along.
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I personally don’t mind paying a subscription. I already do for rent, bills, Spotify, Netflix, car rego and the like, and I easily get more hours of enjoyment out of Trainz than any of those things.

What I do take an issue with is N3V releasing 22 as a fluff edition. Sure, I have it through Gold membership, but I really don’t like that they focussed on content rather than features. Updated skies and sounds is my number one priority. I’m not sure why they haven’t been addressed, people have been crying out for good weather and better skies for years, and I really don’t see how adding changes to the sound engine to allow for more features is that difficult (granted, I know little about programming but adding the ability to start/shutdown engines surely can’t be an entire engine rework) . Instead, we got content: which has for 20 years pretty much the community’s job, and now N3V have monetised said job we used to do for free. It is absolutely some of the best content I’ve seen, but it has always been “our” job. Give us features, we give ourselves the routes and content.

One other small gripe I have is that the half the locos on the loading screen haven’t been in 22 from day one. Let’s just hope they get added as a free add-on for 22 owners, since they were used quite heavily as promotional material for 22. If I were a British fan and I then had to pay for the British locos on the cover I’d be quite frustrated.

Well said. I've had absolutely no interest in upgrading to 22 simply due to it not bringing anything to the table with exception of another subscription service for some addition that seems rather minor, especially for a game that can't simulate dynamic braking or really better physics.

The game absolutely does simulate dynamic braking. It just doesn’t do the sounds that well on a lot of locomotives - try Hotbox’s new 90 classes, they have dyno grids, fans and sounds. It should be one of those things available in the base game that creator’s don’t have to script though.

As for the physics - I’ve never had an issue with diesel and electric trains when the especs are correct. They feel and pull the same as I feel they should as someone with some rail experience. I’ve done several load tests of trains on the same grades/places as the Victorian railways and they’ve performed much the same in game as they did in said load tests.

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When will 70 dollars a year (which is equivalent to a full year’s subscription of trains magazine with 12 issues a year and access to infinite resources online mind you)

This argument actually makes Trainz+ sound like a better deal. A magazine, Vs a game I could literally spend a thousand hours on a year without ever getting bored if I had the time. Trainz+ sounds fantastic when you frame it like that.
Very well stated Sir. I am unsure what the best solution for both N3V and it's customers is but I agree. Let us keep the communications open to work to something that everyone likes.
I agree with this as well, the system that currently exists makes it significantly harder for people to make and release content and it is that content that separates Trainz from its competitors.
Thank you for saying this, jacksonbarno. I've often felt I was alone with my views of the subscription and trs22. I absolutely agree and stand with you on this.
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As somebody who has actually subscribed to trainz plus, tested 22, and yes, even dabbled in surveyor 2.0, I say both 22 and S2.0 leave a lot to be desired.
I dabbled into 22 during it's earlier phases (And now current release build on my laptop) and there were no physical changes to the game at all, other than the addition of layerFX's. Those could have been easily implemented into 19 and should have been in the first place. The content of 22 is a little bit nicer, but at the end of the day, the majority of the content that is in 22, I already had installed and was using in 19.
22's release is perhaps the most disappointed I've been in a Trainz release. There were great things promised moving forward that I think simply weren't delivered on, and I mean, I will still be dabbling with those features as they come, but I will not be fully moving into 22, until a good reason can be physically proven for me to take the risk, and hours of time it'd take to move all the content over. I don't care what anybody says, trainz physics needs somewhat of a boost, as well as the skybox needing major updates. While the physics now are really good, this is a train simulation program, and there is a lot of technology that is simply left out of the simulation, such as the full ability to truly start up, or shut down locomotives. Leave locomotives isolated in a consists, or fence your DPU's of a heavy drag freight.

Moving on to S2.0, some of the concepts are very useful later on. I think the UI however is very clunky, and difficult to work with. If I wanted ancient graphics paired with a clunky UI to never start let alone finish a project, I'd be playing with DTG and Railworks. One of the big key players here, is the S1.0 while perhaps not the most up to standard system, is not clunky, and is very easy to at least navigate and understand the tools. I think that there could be some way that we could at least have an interface that is easier to understand and navigate, with the features that we want to see. My hope is that with time, it will all get improved, and we are moving into the future, but looking at TRS2022, I feel like I'm playing TRS19 with slightly more content. Maybe the next release, you should focus on you know, actually making an update to the core game, and not giving me the same content I had installed in 2019 and was already using.
I am a Gold subscriber. I also have Trainz 22+. Yeah it is a good unit. What is a Gold subscriber?

RJ Artim
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I am also a gold member but I will not be taking it up again. I find Tane far more useable for what I require and find T22 over the top in many ways. I have been with Trainz since way back Trainz classics and TS2004 but this will be my last crack at this. There are many things now that seem so silly to me and over complicated so muc so that I dont even know how to add an engine to a route in ts19/22 and cannot be bothered now to find out. The fun seems to have gone out of it. Yes the graphics are far better and look pretty but the file sizes for everythignare now huge and require far too much disc space. And if you have ts19/22 both installed you have duplicate copies esentially of so many assets and all need updating etc it just becomes a chore. I cannot now just set a train off on a massive layout and say drive and see how far it can go. Maybe I am just getting old and grumpy at 66 but its not for me from here on in. Why buy a new car when you are quite happy with what you have got so I have ts2022 and had it on test drive but it doesnt suit the way i like to run trainz. It seems quite a few of us for various reasons feel the same and igf this thread is anything to go by a lot of custom will be lost.
I honestly feel like doing a content focused release with the actual notable new features being hidden behind a subscription paywall kind of misses the point of the whole game. The one thing that the Trainz series has consistently had over its competitors was it ridiculously simple content creation and incredibly flexible sandbox world builder, which allows even people that have absolutely no experience in content creation to easily learn and create something wonderful. Hell, some of our most prolific content creators have been older retirees that just wanted to make something, and now you just about can't find a worthwhile route that doesn't use their stuff somewhere on it. The world of Trainz and the community that goes with it has always been one of creation, and even those that are just here to run around with trains and not build stuff benefit from the massive content creation community that has sprouted up around this game. So, for one of the biggest changes to Trainz's content creation system in recent memory to be completely separate from the base game, hidden behind a subscription service, while the only new things in the base game are some new content and some optimization improvements, frankly it just feels backwards.

As it stands, I don't think Trainz 2022 justifies its existence. The base game and new content within could frankly become a service pack and DLC to Trainz 2019 without anyone seeing or feeling any real difference. The one big thing that is certifiably different from the previous game currently doesn't come with the base game, and that has to change to make this version worth it. As I said a moment ago, it's backwards, the new features for doing what the game does best are an add-on while new content is in the base product, and I think that should be the other way around. Don't get me wrong, I get that the game has to have new content eventually, because when new people come in, that's the first thing they see and interact with, and retaining those new players and getting them to become part of the community is vital to keeping Trainz going. However, I would consider that I can't think of a single veteran trainz user that comes back to the game over and over and buys the new versions because of the content that comes with the game. Food for thought.

Sean (Southern1581)
I feel like TRS22 would've suited so much better with the business model of the other main train simulation franchise - free minor feature upgrades and content sold seperately.
It does indeed feel a bit on the lame side compared to previous major releases whats in it for new features. The new Surveyor is a major thing, if that was part of TRS22 from the start it could have been a selling point, but its not. So on the feature side TRS22 feels more like another TRS19 Platinum Edition.

My feeling is that most existing users are more interested in features over content for a major release to produce content themselfes because imitating some features that are in the base code of other train simulators for years using scripting can be quite cumbersome.

But perhaps we've all got it wrong and TRS22 was never truly aimed at the existing community but is more an attempt to attract new users who are more interested in included content where lets be honest, most of the starter content in TRS19 apart from the Rocky Mountains route and JR rolling stock isn't gonna impress anyone. Sebino Lake looked cool too but all rolling stock for it is made to 2006 standards.
Good choice of words. I do agree that N3V's current direction with Trainz seems a bit ridiculous. Paying $70 for a game with little to no changes and only an improved surveyor mode seems somewhat far-fetched. I've been with the Trainz series since the early-mid 2010s with the mobile versions, I had a lot of fun with the mobile versions and still do with the PC versions to this day.
I agree with everything that jacksonbarno has said in his post. While I do not own TRS2022 and have no plans to switch to 22 anytime soon, I can agree that the direction N3V is taking with Trainz at the moment is a bit weird. I really don't think the base game of TRS22 is really worth $70 as it really doesn't offer anything new with the exception of MPS in the base game and Surveyor 2.0 as part of the membership deals. Other than that, it honestly just seems like a renamed TRS2019. I truly feel that 22 really needs something new and interesting enough to really make it worth the base game price of $70 along with the subscription fees.