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Trainz Developer Blog

Content creation for Trainz: A New Era

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I have been asked by several content creators recently about what they will need to do to make content for Trainz: A New Era and our new graphics engine, currently codenamed 'E2'. While we have no E2 specific tools or techniques to discuss at the moment, there are things content creators can do when making content for current versions to get the most out of the backwards compatibility that E2 offers with current version content. In particular:

LOD

Make good use of LOD. Look at the posts here for a good description of LOD and how to use it. In particular, note that optimising the lower LOD levels for reduced polycount is a lot more important for performance than optimising the polycount of the highest LODs.

Texturing and Material use

Use the best material you can. If you don't need alphatransparency or masking, that will mean using the .m.tbumpenv material. This provides four separate channels across two texture files - an RGB diffuse, a per-pixel environment reflection strength, a normal map, and a per-pixel specular highlight strength. Make good maps for all of them. In particular, objects with good normal maps will benefit far more from improved lighting conditions than objects which do not have normal maps.

Avoid cardboard cutout objects

Two dimensional mesh planes with pictures of three dimensional objects textured on will look a lot worse in E2 than they do in Trainz now. None of the lighting and shadowing will work properly without real three dimensional objects to work with, and any remaining two dimensional objects will be clearly shown up as two dimensional.

Avoid modelling shortcuts

It is tempting to cut a few corners during asset creation. As an example, maybe you've decided that the inconsistencies with lighting from heavy use of 'double sided' texturing are tolerable versus the extra effort required to work out why some of the small parts on your model export inside-out and to fix them so they export properly. With improved lighting and shadowing from E2 you can expect this kind of problem to become a lot more obvious. You should instead fix the face normals properly in the source mesh file, so the object is not inside out when exported and doesn't need double sided texturing.

Don't push the envelope too hard

The community occasionally surprises us with content that pushes hard at the boundaries of what is possible in Trainz to achieve something that isn't officially supported. Unfortunately, Trainz history shows that some of these assets turn out to be incompatible with future Trainz versions. So as tempting as it is to push the boundaries and try to get the absolute most functionality possible, if your aim is to have as smooth a transition to E2 as possible, you might want to build content with a more conservative feature set, and avoid some of the more advanced community-developed features.

Comments

  1. Lendorf's Avatar
    Hi, a question regarding tunnel- and bridge- splines, specific about their configurations for TS12 V3.7 onwards, hopefully also for T:ANE too. The example files by Rob are very good to learn with and from, how to build these and more important, HOW to configure for TS12 V3.7, once Rob uploaded a tunnel sample file very recently. With a LOD1 as well, to see exactly what needs to be done with LODs.

    As there are really no other examples of such items on the DLS nor any references in the DevWiki, except my recently uploaded new tunnel splines for TS12 V3.7, how is one supposed to know all the "newfangled" way to configure with all the NEW tags now mandatory, if one DOES NOT KNOW these new tags and configurations in the first place?

    Isn't it up to someone on your end to at the very least to tell us content creators who are interested in building new high grade and new scenery and/or spline content, with normal mapping and LODs, how to configure this now from TS12 V3.7 onwards?

    Seeing some of the new tags introduced for TS12 V3.7, which are flagged as faulty if one tries to use these in TS12 V3.3 to V3.6, why haven't any of these new tags been updated yet for the DevWiki? It is SO FRUSTRATING, first of all finding a Max mesh file of a new way of building tunnels (not actually a new way as such) but having changed the names of the mesh parts now used for the tunnel (and I guess) bridge splines too, as I haven't looked at the new bridge yet. From "tunnel start", tunnel end", "initiator" and "terminator" plus some others as it was the old way to now "endcap" and "interior" plus other new tags introduced as well.

    It was taking me a lot of trials to exactly find out how all these new tags fit in, what they do and what to alter in the configurations so all still works correctly etc. Looking at the older CCGs (TRS04), where freely text and example pictures tell and guide a content constructor of how to build a, say, a bogey or such.

    End of rant , thanks to Rob again for providing us with an example file and I hope, in future this will also happen to any new way of building content introduced by you people and thereby for us mere content creators to learn from. After all, not many of us Content Creators are coders or scriptwriters, nor clairvoyants.

    Lennard
  2. pcas1986's Avatar
    For Lennard (and other interested creators)

    There are changes in the pipeline for AssetX to provide additional on screen help and a link to config.txt tag explanations in the TrainzDev WiKi. This will take a little time as the help tags in the supporting XML file have to be updated and verified, and AssetX also needs validation against the scripts, such as TARDIS, that depend on it.

    My part in this is to create the help tags and validate the links. This is slow going. Part of the problem is that there are some tags, such as those you mention, that are unfamiliar to me, or have incomplete or contradictory information on the WiKi. Recently, I have been updating the WiKi explanations to clarify a given tag's purpose. There are some help pages that do not exist and, if appropriate, I will create them. If I get some technical detail wrong then others are welcome to correct. It is a WiKi after all.

    I suggest these changes to AssetX will be very beneficial to those wanting to create an asset for an unfamiliar KIND. It will certainly address some, but not all, issues regarding finding information on the WiKi.