Take a moment to imagine the future of Trainz...
It's 2017. You open Trainz and log on with your MyTrainz username. You are asked whether you want to Drive or Create and you choose the Create option.
You see a list of routes along with a column showing the number of people currently online. You notice there are 126 people currently editing the LA-San Diego route (although it is 9pm in LA, so that number will drop over the coming hours.).
You decide to take a look at the Route and click the “Load Route” button. The “World Origin” section of the route is loaded and your view stretches for up to 15km in every direction.
Being an Angels fan, you decide to take a look at Angel Stadium, close to your favorite railfanning location of Fullerton. The Find option takes you there quickly and that new part of the route streams in as quickly as your Internet connection allows. The terrain and ground textures appear first, followed by track, then quickly other scenery objects until the whole scene is laid out for you.
You like what you see there, and decide that you’d like to add some more atmosphere around the Stadium. This requires Edit Access so you click on the “Request Edit Access” interface to ask for permission from the Route Owner.
It so happens that the Route Owner is currently online and he immediately sees your request and does a quick “background check” of your online profile. After all, he doesn’t want just anyone updating his life’s work! You see the Chat Window notification highlight to indicate you have a live chat message. It’s the Route Owner asking whether this is a passing interest in editing or whether you are planning to invest some serious time into the project.
You are in windowed mode, so you undock the iTrainz chat window to drag it out of the game world onto your spare screen and discuss your plans with the Route Owner. You explain you’d like to create a simple “GameDay” Layer to provide atmosphere around the Angel Stadium area. You also explain you would like to edit a few ground textures, scenery and spline objects in that area as well (but not track or trackside at this stage). He is more than happy to provide you Edit Access to the “Zone” around the stadium.
With this new access, the familiar Surveyor Tool Tabs now appear and so you quickly get to work. You use the in-game Content Search filter to see if any new passenger assets have been added to the DLS. After finding and downloading some great new assets, you place them around the outside of the stadium. You even find a hotdog vendor asset on the DLS and add a couple of those as well.
The edits you make to the various layers are saved automatically on the Server, just like Google Docs for example, so others viewing the route can see your changes as well. With backup systems in place, even if there is an issue with these changes that needs to be “Undone”, they can be reverted.
Your first multiplayer Surveyor session is now at an end, but you see a very bright future ahead.
Trainz "Next" is the working title for a revolutionary new version of Trainz that will change the landscape of train simming forever. As described in the vision above, this new project will enable the creation of a whole new generation of incredible content for everyone to enjoy, driven by online collaboration between our enormous community of Content Creators and Route and Session Builders.
Trainz "Next" takes the world’s best Railroad World Building tools (“Surveyor”) and turns them into fully fledged “Multiplayer Surveyor” tools that will empower the creation of Routes only ever dreamed of before.
Many thousands of Trainz routes have been created and published on the Trainz Download Station. Tens of thousands more sit on hard drives around the world. Some are masterpieces with thousands of man-hours of work, while others are more modest in size and scope.
Some routes have great trackwork, some have amazingly detailed signalling or catenary and others have awesome texturing or the finest of details. Imagine the results of pooling the skills and resources of dozens, if not hundreds, of Route Builders and Content Creators into a single project, with each person focusing on a specific area or aspect of the route.
Then imagine many of these projects all being developed concurrently and how much more quickly railroad dreams would turn into virtual railroad reality - and how much more time you will have to spend away from your family exploring those routes :)
Users will be able to join forces to enhance the appearance and functionality of their favourite routes and to share in the sense of achievement in creating Routes well beyond the current limitations of time and singular talents.
The end result will be a broader range of higher quality routes for all users to enjoy - even for those who have not participated in the construction phase.
Utilizing the same familiar Surveyor tools as today, multiple users will be able to view and edit a single route simultaneously, with all changes being saved to the N3V servers and mirrored out to all other viewers.
Access to a Route will be via a permission based system controlled by the Route Owner. With permission, users can view or edit the route (or subsets of the route) or certain components of the Route. Owners can also determine whether a given user can export a local copy of the route.
Right now we have begun fleshing out the various backend systems which will form the foundations of the new multiplayer functionality. This includes upgrades to the Trainz route streaming system which have been on the drawing board for a long time and will deliver benefits to both online and offline users.
Later this year we will move into limited testing of the multi-user environment to fine-tune our approach for this new user experience. We expect that most tools will operate identically as now. Exactly how we handle things like Offline Editing, Import/Export, Backups and Revisions, Client and Content Compatibility and Session Editing will be explained as the project progresses.
The scope of the initial development phase will be kept as small as possible to keep the development cycle manageable. This will also depend in part on the level of support the new concept receives from the Community. We certainly look forward to hearing your feedback on this new direction and to expanding the feature set and functionality long into the future.
Along with the new online multiplayer editing feature for Trainz, another significant change for Trainz “Next” will be a new subscription model (for this specific version). There are many benefits to a subscription model over the traditional “pay upfront” system that has been the predominant method of sales for the past 35 years.
With a monthly subscription, users gain access to a new product at a fraction of the price of buying the “full version”. If you aren’t happy with the product, you can quit your subscription at any time. On the other hand, if you like the product and are using it regularly, your monthly subscription are reinvested in developing additional features at a faster rate - thereby increasing your enjoyment even further.
Together the community route building features and the subscription model create a positive feedback loop that drives development of Trainz forward at an accelerated pace.
Q. When will Trainz "Next" be ready for testing?
A. We expect to have “early access” to the initial phase later this year.
Q. When will Trainz "Next" be ready for release?
A. It won't be in 2016, but we do expect testing to get underway this year. We will not be providing further guidance on dates until our preliminary background infrastructure is complete.
Q. I have never used Surveyor - what is in this for me?
A. We don’t expect all users will be immediately attracted to the new online editing, but we do expect in the longer term that all users will benefit from the new content created using these tools.
Q. Can I just view and explore a route rather than edit?
A. Access is granted by the Route Owner. We expect that most Owners will allow people View Access, but this is a personal choice.
Q. I am on a slow Internet connection - how will this affect me?
A. The Route Streaming system we are developing will allow users to download only the immediate surrounds of the area they wish to access. By limiting your movement around the route, you will be limiting your bandwidth requirements and once an area is fully downloaded, editing will be almost identical to the current offline experience.
Q. How much will the subscription be?
A. The subscription will be affordable and packed with value. There will be some special offers when we kick things off to provide an incentive to get started early and assist us in testing the new functionality.
Q. Will I be able to purchase rather than subscribe?
A. The multiplayer surveyor aspect will be based upon a monthly subscription model. Other versions of Trainz will be available for purchase, and other subscription options may be available to provide extra value to subscribers.
Q. Will you be running another Kickstarter project?
A. No. While our previous project was successful in many ways (since without it, Tane would probably not exist), there were also some difficulties encountered along the way. By developing Trainz "Next" at our own pace and not being tied to pre-determined deadlines, we will have more flexibility in setting our goals.
Q. What happened to the remaining Kickstarter stretch goals?
A. The core stretch goals that were funded have been implemented. Improvements to these features is ongoing and the other stretch goals are all still features that are planned for future updates to Trainz - possibly some of these will be included in Trainz "Next".
Q. Will this project result in no further updates for TANE?
A. No, quite the opposite. We will be making regular updates to TANE and also working on other product releases while working on Trainz "Next".
Q. Will I be able to test drive without downloading the entire route?
A. Testing the route in Driver is likely to be part of a future release phase. The current “Drive” functionality would require streaming or downloading of the entire route prior to commencing the driving session (like the current multiplayer). Allowing editing while driving would also open up some interesting conflicts, especially when a piece of track is suddenly deleted from under your train.
Q. Who owns my Route edits?
A. Each Route is owned by a single user. All edits made to that Route by other users are contributed under the understanding that the Route Owner may use the edits in any way that he or she sees fit. Owners may create their own "share" agreement with users, for example.
Q. Can I pass ownership of my Route to someone else?
A. A Route Owner may opt to permanently pass the Ownership to another user.
Q. Will there be any publicly accessible routes?
A. The Kickstarter County route from TANE will be made open to public access to give everyone an opportunity to participate. N3V will still have the Ownership rights to control editing and revisions.