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15th Anniversary - Discover the Future of Trainz (2004)

By Tony_Hilliam, December 08 2016

Welcome to Day 4 of our 15th Anniversary Celebrations

Day 1: Discover  - Trainz - Original Edition

Day 2: Discover Ultimate Trainz Collection

Day 3: Discover Trainz Railroad Simulator 2004

Day 4: Discover the Future of Trainz (2004)

Day 5: ? 

Day 15: ?

The Future of Trainz (as predicted in 2004)

Throughout the long history of Trainz, nothing generates interest (and discussion) more than a post about the future plans. In early 2004 following the release of Trainz Railroad Simulator 2004, then-Auran CEO Greg Lane began a promotion releasing a piece of a puzzle each day on the Auran website. The completed puzzle looked like this:

The puzzle was the lead-up to a momentous announcement which began with the following news post:

The Track Plan for the Future

(Published Feb 9, 2004)
Today marks the 2nd anniversary of the first retail release of Trainz but more importantly it is time to lay out the track plan for the future direction of the whole Trainz franchise. Before we explain our plans, let's look back at some of the highlights of where we've come from. 

Trainz Milestones:

  • Some time in 1995 - Greg Lane has an idea to make a model railroad simulator when PC graphics become good enough
  • November 1999 - Design & Research Phase begins
  • Mar 2000 - Coding and artwork commences
  • Aug 2000 - First Online Community Registration. Vern, Barney, CeeBee and Mr D all joined in the first week
  • November 2001 - 10,000 Registered Members
  • Trainz Community Edition - "model railroading on your PC". First release of Trainz to the online community. Introduced Surveyor, the user friendly world and track building editor, and "drive wherever you like" freedom.
  • December 2001 - Download Station receives first layout - Sagatukett, by Diego Gallina
  • February-Sept 2002 - 16,000 Registered Members
  • Trainz V1.0 - "virtual railroading on your PC". Retail release throughout the world. 
  • July 2002 - 28,000 Registered Members
  • Trainz V1.3 - Service Pack 3 released. A free upgrade which introduced the concept of scripted scenarios, added many new features and the first release of 3rd party content on the Trainz CD. 
  • November 2002 - 37,000 Registered Members
  • Ultimate Trainz Collection. Released online to the world and in retail stores in USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Added new scenarios, loads of new Surveyor and Driver features, and was bundled with the Paint Shed utility and more 3rd party content 
  • November 2003 - 68,000 Registered Members
  • Trainz Railroad Simulator 2004 - "the most complete railroad experience ever created". Introduced steam engines, interactive industries, Rules and Driver Commands. Much of the new content and 5 new routes created by 3rd party contributors. 
  • December 2003 - 74,000 Registered Members

Trainz Railroad Simulator 2004 - present day.

This snapshot of the history of Trainz shows how the product has evolved over time and at each stage we have added features and functionality to broaden the railroad experience. Each product has improved upon the previous version and TRS2004 is the fastest selling Trainz product ever thanks to a wider audience awareness, more concentrated launch schedule and greater retail presence. 

Our immediate plans going forward involve the release of Passenger Pack - Service Pack 2, scheduled for March 2004. SP2 adds interactive passenger stations, driver timetables, improvements to the rules, commodities and commands systems, mini-map display toggle, tweaks to AI and many more features. Taking on board customer feedback, we won't be releasing SP2 until is complete and thoroughly tested, even if this means slight delays. This will be the last free upgrade for TRS2004. 

So, the big question remains, what do we plan to do next? 

Trainz - Down the Track...

Our goal going forward is to continue to expand the product and enhance those areas that we believe will appeal most to our customers. In order to achieve this goal we also are presented with the challenge to generate sufficient revenue along the way to ensure we have an appropriate budget and market appeal for each of the products. The path ahead is therefore a careful balance between design and commercial realities. 

To leverage the solid foundations of TRS2004 and to build upon the platform already laid, the next product we have designed for release will be an "Engineers Edition - Expansion Pack" (EE). 

The aim of EE is to add to the overall realism of the simulation for budding (or retired) engineers. EE will include new prototypical routes, new locos, new cabs and a number of new features focussed on cabs, tracks, and the overall driving experience. The Expansion Pack will require a full version of TRS2004 and will be totally backwards compatible (with TRS). Pricing, full feature sets and release dates will be announced during the year. 

We also plan to release a TRS2004 "Gold Edition" which is effectively a stand-alone version of TRS2004 and EE combined. This product is targeted at new purchasers and will include an upgrade pricing model for owners of older versions of Trainz. We are also examining plans for other expansion packs for TRS2004 along the lines of our original plans for Brachline, Commuter and Network Packs. 

The most important decision we have had to make is what to do looking longer term. The decision we have made is to split the product and follow two diverging paths - one heading down the prototypical route, titled "Railroad Simulator Professional Edition", and the other down the management simulation path, titled "Tranzportation". Greg Lane, Auran CEO and original Trainz visionary, has prepared a detailed article explaining the direction of RSP. You will notice that the word Trainz has been dropped from the title indicating that this product will not be an updated version of Trainz, but rather a totally new project designed from the ground up. 

Tranzportation is aimed more at the casual gamer. Whilst still focussed on railroads, Tranzportation will introduce other elements of freight and passenger transport such as planes, ships and trucks. The gameplay is more about managing transport fleets and expanding your fleets to meet the needs of industry, towns and cities, and not driving vehicles. You will be able to zoom right in to see your reflection in the paint work, and also hop inside the cab or cockpit of the vehicles. We are in discussions with several leading publishers regarding plans for the Tranzportation product and will keep you informed regarding that project as more information comes to hand. 

3rd Party Content

One of the key aspects that has characterized Trainz has been the willingness of 3rd party content creators to donate their time and energies into proving additional content for our recent releases. Without their support, we simply could not afford to continue developing the product line. However, this process has not been without its pitfalls. Having almost 100 people in the 3rd party content group fording development of TRS meant that we were unable to provide each of these people with the level of support they deserved. We also simply couldn't provide sufficient time with a stable code base for the creators to work on, meaning that it was always difficult to meet deadlines. 

Learning from our past experiences, we are making a few changes for the upcoming future releases. We will be appointing a full-time 3rd party liaison officer whose primary role will be to co-ordinate 3rd party content efforts and help them in every way possible. This person will help to hand select several small teams to work on various mini-projects that fit into the overall design of the particular product. Volunteers will be invited to apply for positions on the various teams. We will also ensure that there is ample time in the development cycle for content to be designed, created and tested. 

This collaboration will ensure the highest possible quality of content ever produced for Trainz and will be a highlight of our upcoming products. Full details regarding the formation of the new groups will be published after we release Service Pack 2. 

Trainz Community

We know that we already have a fantastic community and it is currently the fastest growing rail sim community in the world. The future success of Trainz and the other products we have outlined here is very much in your hands. The product is getting better and better, and we have created a new hobby for many thousands of train fans. We know that given the right development budget we can continue to improve and expand our product range to meet the wide range of tastes from all types of train fan. 

The challenge, however, is that our fan base needs to continue to grow, and even accelerate. Each of you, as a member of the Trainz community or as a new reader of this paper, can help to ensure the success of these new products by helping us to grow our customer base today. How? By simply employing the power of "word of mouth" testimonials to help spread the word about your favourite hobby. 

Here are some things you can to help make Trainz even better:

Show the product to your friends to get them hooked:

  • Buy a copy online and give it (or sell it) to your friend
  • Join the Trainz on the Road team (TotR) and earn commission selling Trainz at hobby shows
  • Visit your local hobby store or model railroad club and arrange a demo day.
  • You may already know someone who has a "borrowed" copy of Trainz - ask them to buy it
  • You may have an older version of Trainz - upgrade to the latest version now.
  • Send the new Trainz JigSaw Puzzle to all your friends
  • Create your own fansite and support the other great Trainz community fansites.

With your support, Trainz will continue to grow and evolve for many years to come. 

2004 - The Year That Was!

To finish off this trip down memory lane, here is a summary right from the end of 2004 showing the highlights of the year...

WOW! What a great year 2004 has turned out to be. Lance_Jago, Proby and Cafe joined the team, GardenGnome took a well earned extended leave of absence, and we saw the Content Creation Art Source CD and service packs galore for TRS2004. Let's take a quick look back at the Trainz year of 2004. 

We hope you have enjoyed 2004 as much as we have. We are looking forward to sharing the journey that lies ahead of us in 2005 with you. 

  • TRS2004 Steam Pack - Service Pack 1 released. Added hotkeys for driving steam engines, new steam engine physics, encryption support for scripts.
  • January sees the Trainz community reach in excess of 80,000 members. Greg Lane starts the "18 Days" mystery thread, and the "Driver - Me" utility is released. Driver Me helps you import your own photo into TRS2004 so that you can see yourself in the cab as you thunder along the rails. 
  • The 9th of February is the 2nd anniversary of the retail release of Trainz, Lance_Jago joins the Trainz Team as Helpdesk Coordinator, and Drucifer solves the "18 Days" mystery thread that turns out to be the forerunner to Greg Lane's announcement of The Future of Trainz. 
  • March sees the idea for Deluxe Edition born. It proves to be so successful that currently there are 6 DE's in production, with more to come in 2005. 
  • April is the month to "Come and meet the Brew Crew". It is a huge success, with visitors from 3 states (Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria) and a couple of travelers from overseas (Bribie Island ;)). Service Pack 2: Passenger Pack is released as Auran's first ever public beta, and RobinS leaves the Trainz Team to move on to new projects at Auran. 
  • News breaks in May that Microsoft Train Simulator 2 is officially cancelled. We are saddened by this announcement, contrary to popular belief, and we renew our commitment to continue to improve Trainz. The Content Creation Art Source CD's starts shipping and heralds the arrival of lots of new content to the Download Station. 
  • In June we welcome Proby aboard as Trainz Producer and Trainz welcomes its 100,000th registered member. Quite an achievement if we may say so. 
  • July sees the helpdesk email address targeted to be closed down and replaced with a new web based form system. Cafe, a.k.a. Henk Plaggemars, our Trainz on the Road Coordinator comes in from the cold and finds a permanent desk in the Trainz Team area. 
  • August is for Barney, CeeBee and Mr D to celebrate 4 years activity on the Trainz forums. All 3 joined in the first week it opened back in 2000. SP3 is finalised and prepared for release in September. 
  • September is a special month for Trainz. We celebrate the life of a very special Trainz friend, grahamedgar, who sadly succumbed to cancer on September 13th, 2003. Graham was a huge advocate and worked very closely with the Trainz Team, even though he lived out of state. Vale Graham Edgar. 
  • October belongs to casey38 and his 8000 posts to the Trainz forum over a period of 3 years. It is also the month that Service Pack 4, the final SP for TRS will be released. 
  • November is the 3rd anniversary of the release of Trainz Community Edition, the program that started it all. The new Helpdesk form system is implemented and the new address for Helpdesk is now www.auran.com/helpdesk 
  • December sees registered users top 120,000. (Dec. 2003 - 74,000), the Download Station celebrates receiving its first layout 3 years ago - Sagatukett, by Diego Gallina, and production of Trainz Railroad Simulator 2004: Engineer's Edition is well underway.

Looking back from 2016

It is interesting looking back now. Tranzportation hasn't happened (yet) and Railroad Professional also never eventuated. What has happened is that Trainz has continued to improve and expand with new features, optimisations and free updates created for each release. And just as importantly, our Content Creator community have continued to play an enormous role in Trainz expanding the range of content and improving year upon year.