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WindWalkr
June 7th, 2015, 08:51 AM
Hi all,

Thanks for signing on to the trainzdev forum. Now that we've got a broadly representative group of people here, I'd like to discuss a few possibilities and get your input.

I think we all know that communication between N3V and our content creators has room for improvement. There are only so many simultaneous conversations that any given N3V employee can be involved in before the amount of "noise" outweighs the benefits that can be had through direct communication. This doesn't mean that we don't want to hear from you. Far from it. Instead, we need a better way of filtering out the most important messages and making sure that they reach the right people within the company. Historically, we've dropped the ball a number of times, and I would like to fix that going forward.

I'm hoping that this group can form the seeds of a new approach to communication. As I've already mentioned, I'd like everyone here to act as a "voice for the community" rather than just speaking for yourself. N3V is going to be devoting more time with this forum specifically, but in return, we expect that you will assist and represent the wider trainz community.

There are obvious cases for this forum with relation to technical discussion, investigating bugs, and improving documentation. What might be less obvious, but is equally important, is in managing content creation as a whole. There are a lot of amazing creators, some of whom are part of our core community, some of whom are part of our language sub-communities, and some who are in other communities. Some specialise in route creation, session building, locomotive or in-cab modelling, scripting, or config file optimisation. In a lot of cases, these people aren't necessarily in contact with each other, so many great opportunities are missed.

What I propose is that N3V hands stewardship of the content creation community over to this group. To be clear, we don't expect that this group includes every one of our content creators (not by a long shot), and we have separate forums for general content creation discussion. Instead, we hope that you, as a more tech-savvy/experienced group, can stand between N3V and the broader community in terms of the technical aspects of content creation, act as coordinators for the content creation community and communicate the key issues to the development team.

Here are just some examples of what I have in mind (with more to follow):



Stewardship of the DLS content and the repair process, to ensure that the DLS remains a first-class source of Trainz content. This might include the ability to flag content as requiring repair (the automatic tools can't catch everything) or assisting us with the process of vetting and uploading content from older Trainz editions to the DLS. In cases where key assets are missing from the DLS, it may mean some kind of capability of providing a work-alike surrogate.




Sourcing content for new editions of Trainz, and coordinating multiple individual content creators to assist in the creation, modernisation, or polish of routes and sessions. This might include sponsoring specific in-development routes as being a worthwhile addition to the Trainz family, and working with the content creator (who in some cases may not be a forum regular, or who may not speak fluent English) to ensure that they have the necessary agreements and resources to allow this to happen.




Early access and testing of content to ensure that the content creator has valuable sources of direct feedback throughout the development process. One of the big problems we have had in the past is that our beta test process naturally starts fairly late in the product release cycle, where content creators don't have sufficient time to respond fully to community feedback.



I'm not currently proposing any particular structure for any of the above. Rather I am throwing the ideas out to you to see what you think, whether you like the basic direction, and how you think we should proceed.

Please let me know your thoughts,

chris

clam1952
June 7th, 2015, 10:00 AM
All sounds good and very positive to me.
Stewardship of the DLS, that is what quite a few people have been clamouring for in some form or other.
DLS Repair situation needs looking at, was looking at the incredibly large amount of stuff that seems to be just sitting there with not a lot happening, partly I feel to the bad vibes given off on the forum for the relatively few "repairs" that caused problems, that's a whole new topic though.

andi06
June 7th, 2015, 02:31 PM
Item 1 is likely to be an extremely popular idea.

Item 2: I think that one of the main issues in developing content for new versions will be managing conflicts in time scales. It can take a very long time between establishing a problem or requirement and getting the solution into the game. This may well be nobody's fault but it's difficult to maintain the momentum of any project, commercial or hobby, when it is interrupted to wait for input from the other side - I'm not sure what if anything you could do about this. As for routes I would have thought that it would be entirely unrealistic to have anything more than a quick overhaul to a route ready in time for release of a new version.

Item 3: This is self evident. Taking procedural track as an example you could easily have released sufficient clues to get development under way a very long time before you did (even if this had been hedged with a 'this might change' warning) - you would certainly have received better / earlier bug reports and it might also have been possible for non-Auran samples to be available at or shortly after the date of issue.

VinnyBarb
June 7th, 2015, 05:15 PM
I agree with all of these proposals as they are.

Item 1, I think will be an excellent idea. After all, some or most of these items are likely to be older assets, which might mean a completely overhaul to error free these, when creating a brand new asset instead of this same asset might be a much better solution.

Item 2, specific for me is important when/if creating new content for any new version of Trainz/TANE some time before release of such. A content creator wanting to participate needs all relevant information possible at the time of how he/she will be creating new content. Also understanding at the same time, when developers are creating a new version of Trainz, they themselves might not yet know completely what it necessary to do so to create something new.

Item 3, Yes we know what happened with these new features introduced by the developers with hardly any or even no information being available for these. As well as andy06 above says for some test objects created In House to be available to examine and learn from such. After all, this might mean new tags and new configurations we would not yet know about. I sincerely hope this is a lesson for the developers of "how not" to do this in future as we all will benefit by knowing what needs to be known when trying to create new content for a new version of Trainz/TANE.

My opinion

VinnyBarb

narrowgauge
June 7th, 2015, 08:48 PM
Chris,

I agree on all your points. May I suggest the following as another bullet point.

I'm not sure how to put this.

Currently you are answering queries from here and the open forum, quite often on the same subject.

We need a process that will funnel all these from the forum to you via Trainzdev so that you can answer all in one post, and in the process filter out the 'me too' static.

I suggest that a certain amount of discipline is applied to the forum. Threads are started for specific problem areas, related problems are posted there and your reply is posted there. Posters outside this system are instructed to repost in the relevant forum. Current members assume the responsibility of doing this redirection. Trainzdev members can start a new problem thread but will be expected be the re-directors.

This may seem rather draconian but I think it warrants consideration.

Peter

pcas1986
June 7th, 2015, 10:59 PM
My thoughts:

Regarding this forum. I get the impression that Chris would rather concentrate his time and effort on this forum and leave the Content Creation Forum to us to answer queries. That already occurs to some extent. AFAIK, participation in this forum is very confined and therefore, being rather focussed on outcomes, I expect that the TrainzDev forum will be largely self regulated.

Regarding the DLS:
I'm not sure how we will act as "stewards" for the DLS. That implies some regulatory action that sounds as if might have special powers wrt to the DLS. Or is it some committee system that determines if an asset is eligible for inclusion in the DLS? I'm not sure that will work. The idea needs to be fleshed out.

There are numerous assets on the DLS that do not have LOD and, without access to the source, there is no reasonable chance of updating them to TANE LOD standards. Support for TS12 builds is currently planned to cease in Sep 2016 and therefore it will not be possible to upload non LOD assets to the DLS unless there is some "backdoor". That's probably not a good idea. Perhaps we need a discussion on how the DLS might exist in 3-5 years time.

Point 2. I've sometimes wondered if there might be a special place, perhaps in the forums, where regular users can put up ideas for asset creation. Creators, of any persuasion, can then opt to make the asset, give some time for completion and request assistance, if needed. For example, someone might want to build an asset that requires a script but the original builder doesn't know about programming. I've done that a few times although not all those assets made it to the DLS which a bit annoying.

Point 3. Not much I can add here that hasn't been said already but I think it a good idea. Creators do need access to the information that allows them to create new or updated content that will be ready on release day.

WindWalkr
June 8th, 2015, 01:20 AM
Regarding this forum. I get the impression that Chris would rather concentrate his time and effort on this forum and leave the Content Creation Forum to us to answer queries. That already occurs to some extent. AFAIK, participation in this forum is very confined and therefore, being rather focussed on outcomes, I expect that the TrainzDev forum will be largely self regulated.

This, to a large degree. Nothing's set in stone, we'll have to adjust things until all sides are happy, but I do think that the whole process will work a lot better with you guys acting as filters- answering the easy questions, or understanding and condensing the more difficult questions for discussion in this forum. To some extent this already happens, but by separating the forums like this we'll hopefully make it a little bit more formal and provide you with the resources you need.



I'm not sure how we will act as "stewards" for the DLS. That implies some regulatory action that sounds as if might have special powers wrt to the DLS. Or is it some committee system that determines if an asset is eligible for inclusion in the DLS? I'm not sure that will work. The idea needs to be fleshed out.

Yes to the former, no to the latter. We don't want to vet every asset going on the DLS, but we will obviously need some form of "special powers" or (at the very least) some mechanism whereby you can raise issues for N3V to address (ie. a list of content which needs to be manually flagged for repair; a list of content which really should be removed, content which should be uploaded bypassing the normal username or other checks, etc.)

Certain powers are easy to implement and harder to abuse; these could be assigned directly (either to the group as a whole, or more likely, to a smaller subset of this group who are designated to control that aspect of things.) Mechanisms which are time consuming for us to expose, or likely to cause big problems if abused, we'd possibly keep internal but take recommendations from this community.

I don't think it makes sense to give out "special powers" to the entire group- it's probably better off for the group to select a smaller number of individuals who will oversee the process. The group can discuss any concerns and these people are responsible for implementing any resolutions?

chris

Kevin16c
June 8th, 2015, 01:31 AM
Sounds like quite a fair proposal to me mate.

WindWalkr
June 8th, 2015, 02:27 AM
I think that one of the main issues in developing content for new versions will be managing conflicts in time scales. It can take a very long time between establishing a problem or requirement and getting the solution into the game.

I'm not clear on what you're saying here. Who is taking the "very long time" in this example? How long is a long time?



As for routes I would have thought that it would be entirely unrealistic to have anything more than a quick overhaul to a route ready in time for release of a new version.

Yes and no.

We're obviously not in the business of creating entirely new routes between the release of one product, and the release of the next. Hobbyist route creation is a slow process, especially where larger routes are concerned.

"A quick overhaul" is probably an unfair underrepresentation of the effort that goes into making a route release-ready, however. A significant amount of polish, testing, management, etc. goes into getting these projects ready for release, and all involved parties (internal content creation, external content creation, internal testing, external testing, overall content management) work hard to get everything complete on time. Typically N3V takes responsibility for any final changes because the test-and-fix cycle becomes too rapid to include external parties. This would be nice to avoid if possible- but that obviously means getting to an acceptable level of completion and polish much earlier than we've historically achieved.



The kind of thing I'm thinking of; just speculation at this point:

* N3V defines a timeframe and a broad overview of what is required. This will inevitably be fairly aggressive, to allow time for polish, etc.
* This group considers the routes which are currently in development which can be readied within that timeframe. This might include reaching out to other developers, other communities, language forums, etc. This would include N3V announcing a call for content, and directing interested parties to post on a specific forum thread in the content creation forums.
* The group discusses the various projects, what can be done to assist them, whether they're likely to be complete in the timeframe, whether they're up to the desired standards or can be brought up to the desired standards.
* Likely projects are selected with discussion between N3V, this group, and the owners of each project.
* This group works with the content creators to ensure that they have the support of the Trainz community and that any problems which need N3V attention are raised in a timely fashion.
* N3V provides regular test builds to this group, some subset of this group, or some external test group as required.
* This group ensures that the creators are aware of any route/session feedback, and that N3V is aware of any technical concerns.
* Repeat until we're all happy (well, as happy as we can be in the timeframes that a commercial product allows..)

Basically, I want you to feel that this is your baby. Not everyone in this group needs to be part of the same effort, since we're talking about the group serving several functions. I don't expect that membership in this group will be a fixed thing anyway- people are free to leave if it's all too much, and we'll need to have some mechanism in place to bring in new members as the need arises. There are certain things that we can't leave open to a group consensus, because we're a company and we have commercial obligations, but within that framework I would like to see us as responsive as possible to community needs.

Keep the feedback coming,

chris

andi06
June 8th, 2015, 04:50 AM
I'm not clear on what you're saying here. Who is taking the "very long time" in this example? How long is a long time?
Simply that your interests and those of the third party developer don't necessarily coincide.

Let's say that a third party project requires the facility to turn an asset upside down and everyone agrees that this should be added to the game. There is an unavoidable delay while new builds are made available which will be influenced on your side by your own work flow considerations (either 'we can do it tommorow' or 'its a lot of work' or 'its a piece of cake but we're not working on that area right now')

From the third party point of view progress comes to a dead stop while waiting for the new facility to be added. If the wait is too long the third party may feel - 'Do I want to stay committed to this or should I move on to something else.'

All of this is unavoidable but at the end of the day you need some confidence that the third party will come up with the goods and the third party will need some confidence that you will provide the support and not pull out due to some change in direction.

WindWalkr
June 8th, 2015, 06:19 AM
Simply that your interests and those of the third party developer don't necessarily coincide.

Let's say that a third party project requires the facility to turn an asset upside down and everyone agrees that this should be added to the game. There is an unavoidable delay while new builds are made available which will be influenced on your side by your own work flow considerations (either 'we can do it tommorow' or 'its a lot of work' or 'its a piece of cake but we're not working on that area right now')

Fair comment. I'll answer that by stating that we inevitably ask external content creators to work to the game's current capabilities. As you note, it's pointless to work toward future capabilities which may or may not exist in a given timeframe.

There are definitely exceptions when it comes to collaborative work on a given technology (you rely on us for the tech, we rely on you to implement it) but that's typically much smaller-scale than route building.

chris

pcas1986
June 8th, 2015, 08:02 PM
The following comments were sent to me by an active member of the Trainz community. I'm passing them on verbatim.

With respect to DLS content, and the repair process, my suggestion is to work towards dividing the DLS in two (or more) segments. One part will work as the current one does, without much change. Another one would serve the same purpose, but would contain "juried" content. This content would be assets of exceptional quality, as judged by suitable and appropriate processes. One set of processes might be member nomination. It could also be automated to a degree, by measuring the number of downloads of a particular asset. The foregoing are intended as examples, there are undoubtedly other ways that content could be qualified. I would note that the DLC payware content is something of a step in this direction.

I wonder if there would be any value to a "parts exchange" for assets. If a content creator is modeling a modern standard US house, door and window sizes are relatively standard. After I have made a particular type of entrance door, it would be a benefit to the community to make the door available to other creators, and save them the time and energy of creating another substantially similar to it. This would be an extension of the reuse of parts that JR and RRMODS sometimes use in car and locomotive bogies and couplers to other types of assets.

I think there needs to be a mechanism to make the Trains Dev subforum very slightly more accessible to members of the wider community. One way to do this would be to create a mechanism by which questions in the current "Content Creators Support" subforum could be nominated for consideration on the Content Creation forum. Perhaps this could be by means of an button in the footer, adding "submit to Content Creation", along with the current "blog this post", the report icon, &c.

WindWalkr
June 8th, 2015, 08:33 PM
With respect to DLS content, and the repair process, my suggestion is to work towards dividing the DLS in two (or more) segments. One part will work as the current one does, without much change. Another one would serve the same purpose, but would contain "juried" content. This content would be assets of exceptional quality, as judged by suitable and appropriate processes. One set of processes might be member nomination.

An interesting concept, and I'm pretty sure I've heard / discussed this before. I'm certainly not completely against this concept, but it has difficulties- for example, an otherwise-amazing route might make use of a particular item of content that is by itself deemed "not good enough" - do you include the "bad" content onto the "good" list, or do you exclude the "good" route. Obviously the ideal is to fix the route, but that's time consuming to organise and not necessarily always practical. A lot of work involved in this path.



I wonder if there would be any value to a "parts exchange" for assets. If a content creator is modeling a modern standard US house, door and window sizes are relatively standard. After I have made a particular type of entrance door, it would be a benefit to the community to make the door available to other creators, and save them the time and energy of creating another substantially similar to it.

At the moment, we don't allow upload of Max files (etc) to the DLS, because they have no in-game use. We could possibly re-evaluate this policy?



I think there needs to be a mechanism to make the Trains Dev subforum very slightly more accessible to members of the wider community. One way to do this would be to create a mechanism by which questions in the current "Content Creators Support" subforum could be nominated for consideration on the Content Creation forum. Perhaps this could be by means of an button in the footer, adding "submit to Content Creation", along with the current "blog this post", the report icon, &c.

It's deliberately not, and I think that this is something where the trainzdev community members need to work out their own path forward. I'd like to see you guys helping the community, making yourself available to some extent, and bringing this kind of discussion on-forum where you can't simply answer it yourselves. Whether that is by simply starting a thread saying "hey guys, reply here if you'd like to discuss anything" or whether it is something more structured- that's up to you. What I don't want it to turn into is a simple case where every single thing posted on the main forums gets copied here- again, I need you to act as filters so that this forum is reserved for things that really need to be discussed in detail. Feedback and questions from outside should come in your own words, not as a simple copy and paste (I don't quite mean this literally, but rather.. you should understand, have an opinion and be ready to discuss the post yourself; there's no point in simply forwarding something and adding nothing meaningful.)

chris

pcas1986
June 9th, 2015, 12:34 AM
... Feedback and questions from outside should come in your own words, not as a simple copy and paste (I don't quite mean this literally, but rather.. you should understand, have an opinion and be ready to discuss the post yourself; there's no point in simply forwarding something and adding nothing meaningful.)

chris

OK. I did consider that but thought that a "copy and paste" was best in this instance since I really didn't have much to add. The last point was one I was unsure about since those who want to express an opinion or idea can easily PM members or send e-mails. In this case I got an e-mail since the originator and I often discuss issues of common interest.

WindWalkr
June 9th, 2015, 01:54 AM
Yeah, this absolutely wasn't targeted at you specifically, just don't want to get into the scenario where everybody feels obligated to simply copy everything from the main forum- that would kind of defeat the purpose of having this smaller forum.

chris

-Basti-
June 9th, 2015, 03:09 AM
Some Time ago, I suggested a kind of retirement-procedure for content, that does not look very good anymore (e.g. poor textures).
Outdated content could be flagged as such and would not be listed by default on DLS results, but CM is still be able to find and download it, if its a dependency of another asset.
Maybe there could be a filter or checkbox "Show outdated content?"...

whitepass
June 9th, 2015, 07:37 AM
I know I have some old content that I will never update and would like some way to give it to someone else to update(some I do not even have the Gmax files for), some way to transfer a KUID.