The way we do things

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The way we do things

Post  Jonathan David on Sun 21 May 2017, 6:11 am

I hope this is the appropriate part of the Forum to raise these issues. I am not complaining or saying things should be done a different way but there are a few things about the way MSTS files etc are presented which puzzle me.

1 Couplings
The American and Australian rolling stock developers always use Automatic couplings, the European ones use Chain and we use a mix, supposedly to represent the mix of couplings used in the past on Britain’s railways. However, there are many anomalies, with some stock presented with both, DMUs with chain couplings etc. What I cannot understand is any difference in operation between them. There is certainly no physical difference as the .wag file does not define the visual image. There may (though I have not a clue about this aspect) a difference in the associated sounds used when a train is coupled or uncoupled, though I have not noticed any difference.
Obviously, Kuju thought both types were needed when they developed the original product.
For over a decade I have been changing couplings on all stock to Automatic, with no apparent difference in performance.
This mixing has two deleterious effects. First, in many cases two .wag files are produced where one would do. Secondly, the two types are incompatible.
I fully understand why there are Bar couplings for certain applications. I am surprised that they are not used more in multiple units. Use is not even consistent between locos and tenders.
Is there some subtle distinction I have missed?

2 Vehicle images
It is obviously very useful to have an image of the model in the folder. However, in some cases there are none, and this does not affect operation so they are not required by the software (except possible by a now obsolete French program). But often there is a photo of every variant of the vehicle in the folder, sometimes even to the extent of full and empty versions of vans! I am afraid that I simply delete all these. This stems from the days when memory was precious and eliminating a megabyte of unnecessary files was useful (sometimes 1 Mb from one folder), but it also reduces the number of files for the program to sort through when operating. I reckon I have eliminated something like 50,000 images from rolling stock files over the years. Is there a reason for including all these images and do MSTS users actually find them useful? Presumably it takes time and effort for the stock builders to produce them.

3 Stock supplied with routes
There is a tendency for route writers when packaging stock with routes to give it new folder names, eg the prefix NS for the Potteries Loop route and NWE for North West England. However, in most cases these files are identical to the base versions I already have, leading to massive duplication of the files on by PC. These days memory is not an issue but it presumably slows the computer down, in the same way as the unnecessary images mentioned above. More to the point though it causes extra work when using the Consist Editor as it is necessary to check the folder name as well as the actual vehicle name to ensure that the appropriate version is used. If it were not so much work, I would alter all my activities and consists to use the base versions, but again have I missed something?
Also, I have noticed on occasion that the content of the folders are not actually identical although the Readme has not been altered to reflect this. A good example is many of Ian MacMillan’s wagons which are packaged with the Potteries loop route. The Readmes refer to the versions which can be switched from loaded to empty and vice versa but these are not present in the folders. This does not cause me any problems but it might to others less experienced in using MSTS (if there are any such people!).
Again this also seems to be unnecessary work by the route builders.
Another small point on stock is that I feel it is best if the stock is in separate downloads from the actual route. Sometimes it is, sometimes all the files come together.

4 Cabview and Sound files
The MSTS Check routine has been invaluable in finding hitherto undetected errors in these files. This seems to be more necessary with Windows 10 than it was with XP. Some of these have been mine, when converting stock to common.cab and common.sound, but there are some errors which come up repeatedly, often duplicated from one cab or sound set to another. I am sure many readers of this Forum will be familiar with them.
The most common error seems to be to miss the path from one line of a file, often that for Coal.
Another one is to put a path to a particular default loco for files which are actually in the Global folder; usually this applies to files such as the coupling and uncoupling sounds.
There seem to be some authors who believe that putting “blank” as the file name means that the program ignores the line, rather than looking for a file called blank.
One French stock builder evidently got fed up before he finished as instead of many of the file names he had left “blabla” or something equivalent.
For common.cab and common.sound file paths one needs two dummy folders, eg ..//...//common.sound//5XP//filename. However, it is not uncommon so see one, three or four sets of ..// All three of these versions cause problems.

I am not mentioning any of these topics because I wish to complain. I am incredibly grateful to the many individuals who have and still do produce routes and rolling stock. My PC is bursting at the seams with wonderful virtual trains. But I feel that it might be useful to have a discussion on what have become standard aspects of the Sim but which might just not be the best way of doing things.
Over to the experts.
Jonathan David
PS The single greatest reason why I have never posted any Activity on any site is the coupling issue, as my couplings will probably not be the same as yours.


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Re: The way we do things

Post  dforrest on Sun 21 May 2017, 11:42 am

Jonathan David wrote:
3 Stock supplied with routes
I have noticed on occasion that the content of the folders are not actually identical although the Readme has not been altered to reflect this. A good example is many of Ian MacMillan’s wagons which are packaged with the Potteries loop route. The Readmes refer to the versions which can be switched from loaded to empty and vice versa but these are not present in the folders. This does not cause me any problems but it might to others less experienced in using MSTS (if there are any such people!).
Again this also seems to be unnecessary work by the route builders.


Johnathan, you discussion is very relevancy and hopefully will led to further discussion.

Could you please give details information on the above Potteries Loop issue and I will see that it is corrected.



David
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Re: The way we do things

Post  rufuskins on Sun 21 May 2017, 12:24 pm

Mmmm . .  you have itemised some very interesting points, and as some of them are relevant to many of my own uploads I’ll make a few comments.

1. COUPLINGS
I always included both Chain and Automatic versions – although some of my later ones only used Chain – because across the community  both types were used. Many considered Chain should be used because it was generally more representative of early stock.  Others preferred standard and hence one had to make a decision as to what was offered to the wider community. I could have uploaded all stock as Chain or Automatic and left it to the individual to change them to suit using Route Riter or by hand. However not everyone is happy to carry out such an exercise, and many prefer an item of stock to be used straight out of the box so to speak.

2. VEHICLE IMAGE
I have always included an image for items of stock as nearly all Consist Editors use them when you select an item. I acknowledge that for vans that are noted as both empty and loaded this does lead to duplication and in the future I might avoid this.

3. STOCK SUPPLIED WITH ROUTE
Stock supplied with a route is often amended by both the uploader and downloader and hence using the same name could cause unwanted overwrites. Many routes were developed with supply by UKTS CD/DVD and hence the identifiers such as NWE. Other routes were developed with supply as a specific Mini Route and almost certainly the same potential problem could arise. The other point is that by supplying stock for a route obviated the need for the downloader of that route having to download numerous stock files.

4. CABVIEW and SOUND FILES
Duplication of “errors” are generally caused by the use of existing Cabview and Sound Files, and I suppose that I’ve probably been guilty in this respect. Ged’s Check utility was quite an eye opener when I applied it.


At this stage of MSTS’s life I believe that we have to live with the current situation as regards file naming – it’s too late to consider some sort of standardisation. In addition where different people have uploaded their own versions of the same engine/wagon/carriage it makes sense to adopt a variation in naming. I believe that that we must all do what we believe to be best for ourselves, and I shall continue to upload stock in a format that I hope will generate the most interest.


ALEC - Supporter of MSTS and TSSH!

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Re: The way we do things

Post  ianmacmillan on Sun 21 May 2017, 12:58 pm

1 Couplings

In real life.....
IF ITS GOT BUFFERS ITS CHAIN.

The problem for UK simmers arises from the stock suppied with the original sim.

The Scotsman loco has chain couplings.
The European stock has chain couplings.

The Pendinnis loco has automatic couplings.
The class 50 loco has automatic couplings.
The Japanese and American stock have automatic couplings.

Most model makes use an edited version of the default .eng and .wag files and this has resulted in steam locos having chain couplings and diesel, electric and multi units having Automatic.
The rest of the world have no problem but we in the UK have to live with compatability problems.
Most people prefering steam use chain while more modern traction enthusiasts use automatic.
Fortunately it is easy to change coupling type in Route Riter.
There seems to be no difference between coupling types apart from the sound, indeed many locos use the wrong coupling sound.
The MSTS consist editor does not allow mixed couplings but most other editor do.
Consists written with one type of coupling will work with the other provided the activity using them does not require coupling and uncoupling.


Another problem arises with brake type.
In real life they cannot be mixed unless the vehicle is duel braked or in the unfitted portion of the train.
The only solution is to have .eng or .wag files for each type but only if prototypical..


2. Vehicle images.

In Windows XP you can set the folder to display an image from it's contents.
I found this useful to find a wagon quickly in the trainset folder.
Unfortunately this feature was dropped from later versions of Windows.
For a while I stopped including them but was asked by several people to restore them.
Conbuilder will also display the images in it's editor and is used to make them.
However, it can not follow the aliasing used in the common loads and I therefore include
specially made thumbnails.
These thumbnails are less than 10KB.
The images are not used in the sim so you can delete them if you do not find them useful.


3. Stock supplied with routes.

I prefer route authors not to rename my wagon folders as this prevents them being upgraded later but accept the need to leave out some .wag files or combine different wagons in a single folder to reduce the total file size for download or DVD.
I personally edit the route activities to use the latest versions of my wagons and include additional wagons.
I have uploaded too many wagons to update them all but I usually supply the latest version to route authors. If the file names are the same you should allow them to overwrite your existing wagons.
I have found that the animated load versions of my wagons have not been used in activities and so I move them to a seperate folder in the wagon folder. I do not include them in my latest uploads. Activity writers can have them on request.


4. Cabview and Sound files.

I to get frustrated with the errors in sound and cabview files.
The most common error is to alias the sound files which are in the main sound folder to the default locos sound folder.
I gave up editing there files and instead copied them into the default loco folders.
If a loco is aliased to a default loco, I no longer replace this unless it is the driving loco.
Most locos I have downloaded I have never driven and are only ever used as AI.


"I am not mentioning any of these topics because I wish to complain."

Complain away.
Constructive criticism is alway welcome - at least by me.

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Re: The way we do things

Post  Jonathan David on Sun 21 May 2017, 7:31 pm

Thanks to everyone for taking my comments and queries so well.
Ian has answered my query about loaded/unloaded wagons, though the "Readme"s sometimes say they are still present. I must admit that I have rarely taken advantage of the facility.
Examples in the Potteries Loop route stock are the D102 and D106 mineral wagons. By the way, what is the difference between the standard versions and those with the suffix FV01? It is not obviously from the files or the "Readme"s.
My query about any difference between chain and automatic couplings has been answered as I suspected, namely the use of different associated sound files. Since, as I said, there is no visible difference, the actual visible couplings being defined by the shape and texture files, this seems to be the only difference. If Kuju had just defined one coupling type at the start I wonder if we would ever have got excited about it.
Another query if I may, though. Normally stock has rear and front couplings defined (in that order). However, some stock has just one coupling definition. So unless the couplings are different at each end, as with tender engines, is there any advantage in defining both?
I understand about brakes and agree that it is useful to have the distinctions and necessary to get them right. Provided that the stock builders get the brakes right it forces us to operate realistically. I have however noticed that some stock has very weak brakes - and not the Coal Tank where I understand it would be prototypical!
And also my query about thumbnails has been answered. I have never used Conbuilder or any program which uses them.
And finally a pretty subtle sound file error I came across: a loco constructor who sometimes spells a certain loco designer's name Bullied and sometimes Bulleid.
Again, thanks for all your helpful answers.
Jonathan

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