Trainz 2004 Impressions

We take an up-close look at Auran's next train game.


Publisher Oteeva recently dropped by our office to show us Trainz Railroad Simulator 2004, the next game in Auran's Trainz series. Trainz 2004 is a simulator that lets you drive a variety of trains; you can choose from more than 50 locomotives with more than 100 rail cars. The 2004 edition doesn't seem to add anything revolutionary to the series, but it does add features in several areas that dramatically improve the game.

The game uses particle effects to show steam and smoke.
The game uses particle effects to show steam and smoke.

First of all, there are subtle but noticeable changes in the graphics. Besides model and environment enhancements with DirectX 9 effects, other additions to the game include new animations that make the world much more realistic. For example, steam locomotives now emit steam with animated particle effects that disperse in the air. Coal engines now have a worker who shovels coal into the furnace as you control the train from a first-person view. A free-look camera system has also been implemented so you can now freely scan the entire map.

Second, scenarios can feature certain objectives. For example, you can stop at a coal mine, load up on coal, and drop it off at a power plant. These aren't just menial tasks with no results; these industries have effects on the map because they work even if you don't. Coal piles will build up if you don't regularly carry coal away from them. Power plants will run out of coal if they aren't supplied, and if this happens, building lights around your train tracks will be knocked out.

Fortunately the game adds AI drivers to help you out with your tasks. They will automatically obey traffic signals and speed limits so you don't have to worry about holding their hands. They are useful because you can give them detailed orders. For instance, if you are attempting to make a go of it in the coal industry, you can have a computer-controlled driver make a delivery for you. You can also set your commands to loop repeatedly so that this driver constantly supplies the power plant. The orders are simple to queue and manage, and you can add more-complex scripts to their behavior too.

The surveyor builder is a powerful tool that helps you create your own world.
The surveyor builder is a powerful tool that helps you create your own world.

And scripting is just one of many ways in which you can tweak the game. Part of Trainz's success has come from user-created content, so Auran plans to continue to support its fans in this regard. You can create your own scripting rules using the game's own scripting tools, for instance. You can even create your own industries. You will also have access to the surveyor, a world-builder tool that's easy to use but very powerful. As we saw, maps can be built in a matter of minutes using these tools, complete with mountains, rivers, terrain, buildings, and tracks.

All of these additions keep the core gameplay intact except for one addition: the DCC control mode. This new mode lets you drive the train much like a scale-model train, using a speed control similar to a model train's transformer. Trainz Railroad Simulator 2004 is 90 percent complete, and it is expected to ship in October.

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