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View Full Version : Can a non-artistic person create a decent route?



1611mac
December 5th, 2018, 09:10 PM
As a new Trainzer watching video's on route creation I ask (somewhat rhetorically)... must you be an artist to create visually pleasing & realistic routes? It seems like there is so much "artistic vision" required.

Again... question is somewhat rhetorical. But comments welcome.

Robert3a0
December 5th, 2018, 09:33 PM
No you don't need to be particularly artistic, but you do need to be observant. By that I mean you should look at scenery for its different colours and shapes. Also, download other people's work and analyse what they have done - look for their detail. That will help you develop techniques of your own.

Regards
Bob

obirek
December 5th, 2018, 10:03 PM
I'm sorry, but I cannot agree with Bob. My answer to your question is negative.

I've been creating many routes in Trainz since about 2006, but they all look ugly, unrealistic, embarrassing comparing to the routes available in DLS. No matter how much time I spent studying, disassembling finest examples, reading tutorials and spending even more time doing my own - they all look bad. I believe, while you don't have to be Picasso, you must poses certain degree of artistic ability, or to have a T(rainz)-gene. I guess I don't have it, I'm limited, this is why in my case the answer is definitely: No.

ktain.ny
December 5th, 2018, 10:14 PM
That's just not true man.

You may just be bad at building routes, not everyone who isn't artistic can't design routes. That seems like a personal problem. It's really a matter of using the right assets and practicing enough. But if you simply aren't good at something then no amount of practice is going to help you dude.

1611mac
December 5th, 2018, 10:20 PM
Let me say this... I don't particularly enjoy "art" but... watching someone create a route is like watching those old Bob Ross painting shows on PBS. Something is put down that seems like nothing... but by the end it was such a necessary thing to do for realism. But ugly splotches of dark spots in the beginning are, in the end, washed out "holes" in the bank of a beautiful river.... etc etc.. Seems like it would take an artistic eye to do this.

Bill69
December 5th, 2018, 10:36 PM
You can also use photos for individual items that you intend to have in a route. For distant scenery you can take a picture of it then section and resize the picture. You can even use a photo to reskin an existing item.
There are quite a few photo realistic items on the DLS

Cheers,
Bill69

JCitron
December 5th, 2018, 10:43 PM
I agree with Bob, and no I am no artist in the visual sense. I'm a Classically trained pianist, but that's different than a photographer or a painter. So in a short answer: Yes you can do it. Download routes that you hold your interest. There are some that are going to be better than others, but you'll find something that strikes your fancy.

After exploring around the route, take it apart. Look at how the author put down the roads, the textures, and how he placed the buildings and trees and poke around sampling the content with the get asset tool in the scenery items to figure out what was used. Pull this route apart with plans of taking it down to its barest elements. When done with this strip down to the basics, go about creating modifying stuff.

There are some questions that will go through your head.

How would you do something better?

Right off the bat nearly 15 years ago this month, I did that with a few routes, and found I never liked floating tracks and roads. Gawd do they annoy me just as they did back then.

How about the trees? Are they those billboard things that look like plastic sheets with trees printed on them? Try looking through your trees, or download others from someone else, or try Speed Trees, or do the opposite.

How about textures? Some people don't mix up the textures and they don't vary the scale so the textures look like carpet squares. Try playing with that too.

You see by the time you've done this, you may have gotten some good tips. In the end I found myself following the best builders in their day back in December 2003 and early 2004. I learned a lot from these guys and how they did things. If you do what I did, you'll start to emulate them in their style - add in a blank baseboard and continue adding to a route you like in the same style as the original. It's tough at first, but it gets easier.

When starting your own project, set a theme and stick to it, and by all means start small. Yes. That small project, which should be considered a throw away to practice and learn on your own, will be the starter set. Once you've got things started, work on a larger project, or plan on adding to this and continuing. I still have my original route in both it's original form and a much later, much, much better update which has grown into an empire. This is a common theme amongst us Trainzers. We will build a route that will take a lifetime. Seriously unlike other programs, this one has roots that stick around. Imagine I can still load up something started in December 2003!

But anyway. Practice, practice, and practice. And one more thing be observant of how things go together. As you go driving about, look at intersections, and landscapes, and look at these with a "How can I make this in Trainz?" point of view. As you get more and more into route building, you'll start looking at roads, highway overpasses, industries, paths, power lines, and all that nifty stuff in real life, and think about which assets you'd use to create them in Trainz. Seriously it does that to you.

When you get bored or stuck, take a break and look at train books, and videos. YouTube can be very inspirational especially those cab-ride videos, which are really, really interesting.

And finally above all, have fun. Seriously this is what this is supposed to be all about.

martinvk
December 5th, 2018, 11:08 PM
The old saying, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is just as applicable to route creation.

Beyond finding the "right" objects, and with the vast choice Trainz offers that is not an easy task, I find the biggest challenge is to make things look right. If it was real, would it grow there or would someone build it there? Without gravity, it is easy to assemble objects that would never work in real life. Long unsupported bridge spans which would collapse from their own weight. Impossibly long cantilevers, etc.

But in the end, you have to like the result. If others like it too, so much the better but consider that a bonus. And like John said, have fun. If you're not enjoying it, why are you doing it?

philskene
December 6th, 2018, 01:54 AM
No. I don't think you need to be artistic. I do think you need imagination and the ability to visualise what you think the final product will look like. Some knowledge about how real railroads operate might also help.

wilts747
December 6th, 2018, 05:57 AM
Your worst critic will always be yourself or perhaps your children should you have any. As with most things start small perhaps a model railroad on a few baseboards, a short branch line, or a marshalling yard, it doesn't have to go anywhere or be complicated. As others have said there are many examples or route building on the likes of YouTube etc. Few of us are ever satisfied with what we build always trying to squeeze that last little bit of realism out of our creations but likewise thats half the attraction and frustration of Trainz for many of us. Peter

leksie
December 6th, 2018, 06:17 AM
Hi ,
I started in the beginning to sort out all the assets , first the build-in items you like .
Then the DLS , you like a item , download it and give the item a letter in front .
Search for , house - hause - building- industry - stations - trees - shops- lights ...............
Get familiar with it .
It's a lÚt of work before but it helps.

1611mac
December 6th, 2018, 07:52 AM
-snip-
Right off the bat nearly 15 years ago this month, I did that with a few routes, and found I never liked floating tracks and roads. Gawd do they annoy me just as they did back then.


Thanks for the detailed post. Could you please describe further for me a "floating track and road?" After some searching it appears these are tracks and roads that "float" above the terrain? Why does that happen?

1611mac
December 6th, 2018, 07:55 AM
Thanks everyone for all the wonderful answers and the time spent helping. Very much appreciated.

martinvk
December 6th, 2018, 09:06 AM
When a track is placed on a perfectly flat and uniform surface, the lower edge can just touch that surface and everything looks fine. If the ground has any undulations, gaps can appear unless the track designer anticipated this and added some underground parts to fill the gaps. The same happens with many buildings that don't have a built-in foundation, gaps appear on uneven ground.

As for floating roads, that is sometimes a solution to the problem of vehicles not touching the pavement as they travel along the road. (in the spirit of don't raise the bridge, lower the river), the solution was to raise the road and not lower the vehicles. Roads are often 2D planes without any depth. There is a limit to how close the road plane can be to the ground until there are display issues. If they don't cast any shadows, it might not be obvious. What should have been added are shoulders with edges low enough to cover any potential gaps, even if the ground underneath is not uniform in height.

In both cases, road and track, substituting for others that do have underground extensions might be one solution but it might not be possible. If it is only apparent in a few locations, perhaps some fill could be placed in the offending gaps.

1611mac
December 6th, 2018, 09:09 AM
Thanks very much.. I've studied some forum screenshots and I think I've seen "floating" items. Now to fire up some Routes....

JCitron
December 6th, 2018, 09:22 AM
Thanks for the detailed post. Could you please describe further for me a "floating track and road?" After some searching it appears these are tracks and roads that "float" above the terrain? Why does that happen?

This is an issue mainly with older types of tracks, but the problem still exists in some cases due to how the alpha channel is implemented on these assets. This causes a space under the tracks. In other cases, the ballast on the older assets is nothing more than a strip of printed paper, well not really, but that's what it looks like! This causes the tracks to move across the landscape like a piece of paper tape placed down on the surface. There are places where the ground doesn't quite fit underneath because the resolution of the ground is higher than that with the track. As I said, this is and was an issue with the older assets.

With roads it's a combination of things. First there's that alpha-channel issue where like the tracks if you are to level the terrain underneath, it pulls the ground away from the spline! The more you smooth and tamp, the more the ground goes away. People resorted to sinking the roads by about -0.2 meters, which was the offset between the open space and the surface.

To add insult to injury Auran, then the original developer of the Trainz program, oh so many years ago now going on 20 years actually, did some incorrect things and set the roads too high at 3 to 4 meters off the surface. To add insult to injury, the developers then corrected the car traffic so that the cars would be set to ride on the surface of the roads rather than in them. Then Auran at the time, in another update fixed the roads by lowering them, but forgot about the cars. This caused floating vehicles, which you will never see now, such as the famous built-in A-Team white van that always showed up at rail crossings just as you were about to take a screenshot.

Then finally in TRS2009/TS2010, Madeline Usher, aka Maddy25 came up with her YARN roads. These set the standard for roads that had some thickness to them. This fixed the floating road issue, more or less, and compensated for the floating cars (Carz). These road series was expanded on by Streadway and others as they created variants of the same series with the Yarnish roads. This wasn't without it's issues either during this transition time, there were times when the new Carz, now a different class than the original vehicle class, and not a track object (more about this), where they got their wheels buried again as people fixed the height of the original assets. Yes, it got a bit complicated. With TS12 HF4 (Build 61388) and up including T:ANE and TRS19, vehicles are now track objects, and roads are no longer classified as splines separate from tracks. They are in fact a kind track. With this now, the vehicles no longer float.

But getting back to the track and roads floating. With some newer assets, this is still an issue which route developers seriously need to look at and watch for. There will be places where you can't help it due to how the splines bend versus the tighter bends of the terrain, but those really are the exception, and the diligent use of retaining walls, wall splines and other assets can fill in this space nicely. The problem is some route builders don't seem to pay attention to that, and that always bothered me even in the beginning. Today it's worse with the shadows because it's more obvious that there is a space underneath.

1611mac
December 6th, 2018, 09:29 AM
Great explanation.... and enlightening... thanks so much!

ajrf
December 6th, 2018, 09:30 AM
Not necessarrily, as long as you can put all the needed objects in order to make a good-looking route.

neville_hill
December 6th, 2018, 04:46 PM
I don't think it's helpful to refer to 'art,' 'artistic vision' or a 'non-artistic person.' In terms of labels, route design is just as much a 'science.' The idea that art and science are different is a relatively recent one, and these days does more harm than good. I've always found the 'artistic' and 'scientific' processes to be just two descriptions of the same thing - a design or problem-solving process. So that is how to approach route building: as just a classic case of the design process....

1611mac
December 6th, 2018, 05:04 PM
Call me "non-artistic" any day (in the traditional sense)... that's OK. I can't draw a paper bag let alone draw myself out of a paper bag. The advent of the computer helped though. Instead of drawing a crooked stick man on paper I advanced to holding down the Shift Key when "drawing" and I started drawing straight stick people. :)

Dinorius_Redundicus
December 6th, 2018, 06:22 PM
Two things guaranteed to make a layout look non-artistic or unrealistic are;

- ground areas with no texture applied, just bare grid. Don't do that.

- ground textures that have a very obvious repeated/tiled look. Things that help to combat this; rotate textures as they are applied, vary their scale, blend a number of textures, choose textures that are somewhat amorphous (unless you are deliberately wanting to depict structured features like rockfaces etc).

clam1952
December 6th, 2018, 07:48 PM
Two things guaranteed to make a layout look non-artistic or unrealistic are;

- ground areas with no texture applied, just bare grid. Don't do that.

- ground textures that have a very obvious repeated/tiled look. Things that help to combat this; rotate textures as they are applied, vary their scale, blend a number of textures, choose textures that are somewhat amorphous (unless you are deliberately wanting to depict structured features like rockfaces etc).

To add my pet hate, totally unrealistic use of the terrain tools to create pointy spike mountains.

JCitron
December 6th, 2018, 09:09 PM
To add my pet hate, totally unrealistic use of the terrain tools to create pointy spike mountains.

Yeah and those things too. Looking at my earliest creation recently, I had some terribly steep mountains and some real "spiffy" track laying too that I thought was the bees' knees back then along with some carpet-textures too before I learned about the texture rotation using the [ , ] keys. :hehe:

kin3
December 7th, 2018, 10:29 AM
that's what an artist does.