State of the Onion: A history and future of my NewGRFs.

In the beginning was…

I started creating NewGRFs for TTDPatch in April 2005. At first I created “add-ons”, much like I had been for Auran Trainz and Locomotion before the banality of those games pushed me back to TTD. I made some buses, a few train vehicles, and a bridge.

Starting with UKRS v3 in January 2006, I began making “sets”, NewGRFs which completely replaced an aspect of TTD gameplay. With Av8, first released in October 2006, I also began working with TTDPatch (and later OpenTTD) developers to add new features to the game. Av8 has expanded over the last six years to include, at last count, 65 aircraft; UKRS was joined by NARS, and the overhauled versions of those sets are some of the most popular NewGRFs for OpenTTD.

This is the history. So, what’s wrong with this picture?

Av8 has included, for a little under a year, an aircraft called the YAMC YS-11. I have never built one playing an actual game. I doubt many of you have ever built one either. It’s simply superfluous to TTD gameplay, as are most of the vehicles in Av8, UKRS and NARS. While they all have their niche in the real world, TTD gameplay is so open and flexible that, usually, near enough is good enough. Most people playing a game with UKRS2 or NARS2 – myself included – won’t build more than a dozen different locomotives and, usually, the same dozen each time.

Now sure, “survey” sets like the Japan Set and World Airliners have their place – people like to play with vehicles they know from the real world – but I can’t help but feel that my NewGRFs are starting to miss what made TTD fun. Do brakevans in UKRS2 add anything other than menu clicks? Does having four locomotives with near-identical stats in NARS2 add anything other than unloved cruft in the buy menu?

With gamescripts adding new horizons to the gameplay potential of OpenTTD, I think the time has come for a re-focusing of my NewGRFs. Therefore, I announce that the next updates for UKRS2, UKRS2+ and Av8 will be the last. As of March 2013, these NewGRFs will no longer be maintained or updated.

So, whither my NewGRFs? What is in store for the future?

Firstly, a few things are not changing. Variable running costs, custom sound effects and (sorry!) aircraft range are among the features which either add to, or have no effect on, gameplay. While my NewGRFs will be simpler and smaller, they’ll still have the same attention to detail and polish – hopefully more!

My next three projects, in no particular order, are:

GECKO Economic Industries

Formerly TaI, formerly PBI, formerly UKRSI, the latest incarnation of my industry set replaces TTD’s clunky production mechanics with a fluid, natural “AI’, and features enhanced interaction between industries, towns and players.

GECKO adds a few new industries – a gasworks as a pre-20th century power station equivalent, a fertiliser plant, and the brick chain from UKRSI – but the overall industry scheme remains more like default TTD than a complete replacement such as FIRS or ECS.

10CC

victoriasprite

10CC is a set of gameplay-oriented train NewGRFs.  The core NewGRF contains the wagons and four fictional 21st-century monorail and maglev locomotives.  Additional NewGRFs contain rail locomotives, with each featuring ten 20th-century locomotives from a particular country or region.  10CC UK and 10CC USA are the successor NewGRFs to UKRS2 and NARS2, respectively.

The country NewGRFs are all balanced against each other and more than one can be used at a time.  Parameters will allow each player in multiplayer to be limited to locomotives from a particular country.

Av9

Av9 is the successor NewGRF to Av8, with a leaner, more gameplay-oriented vehicle list.

So, what do you think?  I know I can’t please everyone, but am I barking up the right tree?  Please leave a comment here, or on the forums.

15 thoughts on “State of the Onion: A history and future of my NewGRFs.

  1. All I can say that your newGRFs and efforts are great, but I also really like the thought process of your article!
    Especially because I see a similar gameplay view on “useless” /unused engines.

    If you want a hint from my experience, it is great to draw/write down a table, which trains do you actually have available – and eventually writing the reasons why/when/how their usage differs.

    http://dev.openttdcoop.org/projects/nuts/wiki

    It is called a wiki but it basically is the thought process that I have followed for my train set. Obviously it is absolutely purely based on gameplay where I believe you will not like all the features like flexible train stats, but it shows some general ideas which might be useful for you.
    After all, I am trying to make as many options as possible – powerful trains, trains with high tractive effort, trains using short curves, trains being effective when longer/shorter, trains with shorter loading times, and last but not least unique trains which players want to use because they look special, not because of their stats … but they usually include some special usage too.

    Hope it helps!
    You know where to find me eventually :)
    V453000

  2. Since the discovery of OTTD (after years of oblivion since the last game of the TTD) I’ve looked for newgrfs that could make the game more interesting by allowing “choices”. And I must confess I found them both in UKRS and NARS. I also appreciated “early” (mid XIX century) possibilities. And since them I never started a game without Pikka content.

    So I just post this to say “Thank You” and “Can’t wait for 32bpp Pikka sets”.

    Regarding the Vision for 10CC and AV9 I perfectly agree. No need for tons of items, but “to each its own” (long rail frequent trips, long rail rare trips, short range frequent, short and rare….)

    Beside this, more than “country localization” I would suggest thinking about Maker’s List (e.g. do you relly want to dump Boeing for Airbus? this will make costs different in the future, for instance +30% on Boeing and -10% on Airbus).

    When placing orders for big industrial corporations, a deep part of the supply discussion is linked to what is called “maker’s list”. You have commercial agreements for reduced price when standardizing to a supplier and this could be interesting also in OTTD.

    Of course this should not get complicated, but it could allow for a change of mind than nationalization may not allow.

    Sorry for the long post and thanks again for Your Ideas and Graphics.
    A.

    • The idea of having costs change when you switch companies seems like a logical idea. Not just deals, but think about say, the cost of maintence? If you stick with one company, like Boeing, or Ilyushin, then switch over to Bombardier or Airbus, then not only will the deals change, but the cost of parts, because then you’re going to have to buy a whole new set of spare parts for your new fleet, plus maintence personal that are trained and can train your guys to work on the new companies air craft.

  3. I like the idea of GECKO, being the successor of PBI, and including industries like a gas works and bricks. It would be nice how ever, if it came with a parameter to enable or disable stock piling, and maybe another parameter to disable gradual production (so that cargo is processed immediately like in the default TTD industries)

    As for discontinuing support for UKRS2 and NARS2, it would be nice if they at least get fixes here and there to keep them working with newer stuff, unless theres going to be successors to those grfs (aside from 10CC). I prefer variety, and use a variety of locomotives depending on whats needed. For example, I’ll use a Alco S-2 for local or industrial lines, and use a EMD F7 in a A-B-A configuration to pull a heavy iron ore train.

    Perhaps there could be a successor grf to NARS2 and URKS2 that add’s the same variety of locomotives the real world has, but perhaps have a Basic, Advanced, and Expert\All setting for the selection for locomotives and wagons. Basic would enable only useful locomotives through out the era’s, perhaps one or two from each company, and wagons would just be simplistic (say, TTD style? or perhaps pre 1970 are smaller lower speed\capacity wagons, and post 1970 are bigger, faster, higher capacity wagons). The Advanced setting would allow for most locomotives and wagons (aside from lesser used vehicles and experimental\prototypical designs). The Expert\ALL setting would include everything and anything from the real world, including prototypical vehicles that made it onto the rails but never gained popularity to become a success.

    If downsizing is a result of being overburdened with work on GRF’s or life, then perhaps its time to reach out to the community for more help, theres quite a few people out there that seem to do a good job at matching your style pikka.

    Anyways good Job with your past works, I still play with UKRS v1 and NARS just because I can, I kinda miss playing with them (I have fond memories of playing with them in the older OpenTTD’s as well as on my Modded PSP and while at School 😛 )

  4. I’ll have to agree with Nekomaster. I’m in love with your NARS2.03 set! Say, when do you think that the first versions of the 10cc UK and USA .grfs are coming out?

  5. I just saw this announcement after being upset with the lack of options for gameplay-oriented vehicle sets for OpenTTD. While I love the general idea behind this, I’d like to see similar undertakings for other vehicle types.

    I personally find that the FISH ships set similarly features a lot of cruft and does little to actually improve the general problems with ship-based gameplay. If you’re like me and want to be able to navigate the logistical concerns of island clusters, there really isn’t a ship set that allows for this kind of gameplay because of how unprofitable it is. At present, ships are really only good for hauling obscene amounts of cargo that isn’t time-sensitive, and unless you already have an established trade route (and therefore don’t need another) you won’t have enough cargo to warrant using ships. I suspect that much could be done to improve ships as a whole, and a combination of lowering ship running costs and increasing airplane running costs could do a lot to relieve the imbalance between air vs. ocean freight in-game.

    As another incarnation of the cruft problem, road vehicle sets like eGRVTS feature a lot of vehicles, but the only reason why so many of those vehicles get used is because of cargo type limitations. Road vehicles with a variety of gameplay-oriented designs would be more useful by comparison. As an example, transportation routes with “last mile” feeder systems tend to have inflated end-to-end running costs because of the greater number of vehicles needed. The feeder segments would be greatly improved by using specialized road vehicles that sacrifice max speed (which isn’t needed as much for short-distance feeder use) for much lower running costs. Similar specializations could exist for time-sensitive cargo trucks (very fast max speed and good acceleration, higher running costs) and high-capacity semi-trailers (higher max speed, slow acceleration; best for long “highway” use)

    • Especially since I’m now doing 32bpp graphics, I do intend to do sets for all vehicle types eventually. It’s just a matter of time. :)

  6. To be honest, the 10cc set doesn’t quite sound like my cup of tea… I’m more of a “realistic, build lots of different locos, use them all in the right place” kind of guy.

    That said, I can completely see the place in the world for the 10cc set as a gameplay-oriented RENEWAL set – where the UKRS originally started out, for example: replacing the basic trains with something functional and “gamey”

    TTD can be a lot more realistic, but there’s nothing to say it has to be. Sets like the Dutch and DB sets are great examples of going for a wide spread of realism-oriented trains, and I think there’s a huge gap for familiar, but game-focused trains. Especially now that people can add to them if they wish to.

    I might stick with the realism stuff – but I hope my kids start out with the 10cc, or some equivalent.

    • > I hope my kids start out with the 10cc, or some equivalent.

      Is a good point. OpenTTD is a lot more complex these days than TTD ever was, and making it more accessible to new or younger players isn’t a bad goal. This post is a little out-of-date in the way it describes 10cc – I’m no longer doing “regional” sets or basing vehicles on real prototypes. It’s entirely fictional and gameplay-oriented now – I’ll leave realism to the more comprehensive sets, like the Dutch or DB sets you mentioned.

      Incidentally, another reason why I’m keeping these sets small is file size! With 32bpp/ez graphics, a single vehicle can easily add several megabytes to the finished grf, so including a lot of vehicles which will be rarely used is something I’m trying to avoid.

  7. I’ve read your post a few months ago and decided now to comment it. Strange.
    Okay, first of all, i have always used every single locomotive of NARS in my games.

    I’ve played the original TT at the end of the 90ies and lost interest in it. I regained my interest as i discovered, that there exists a version with more features (Patch) and even OpenSource (OTTD) and, as most important detail, with several graphic sets full of the Trains of the world.
    I began to play huge maps, building realistic networks, watched documentations about the PRR or the DB while i was not playing, drove with my wife to some train museums in western germany, came back home and played on. I even listened to Dire Straits while i was playing. Smelled like the right kind of music for this whole trainthing.
    And that’s the point which is a little bit underestimated in this whole gameplay-oriented story.
    You are no musician just because you hit a drum, and not every noise in perfect rhythm is music. Sure, i respect these openttdcoop freaks with their whole network thing, and sure, there are many, many people who play OTTD just only for the fun of the game mechanics.
    But hey, in my opinion, we don’t need something like candycrush on rails.

    OTTD is about trains, and the fascination of trains, and, damn, these whole trainthing. That’s the FUN in it. Thats the whole inspiring little_boy_railway_tech_logistics_fun_thing.
    Nobody played toyland. Even not if it would have been perfectly gameplay oriented balanced. At least, not the majority.
    I understand your thoughts and of course, i have to respect your decision. But i can’t follow your conclusion. I don’t even understand what do you mean with fun, because it is not the fun i’ve described above.

    Please, don’t take my comment offensive. English is foreign language for me as you have surely already noticed.
    I just want to express that your decision is such a sad loss for players like me, because you are/were on of the few guys around, who build really fascinating sets, well drawn and full of content.
    Most of the other sets around are rubbish, not well drawn, often even unfinished.

    I guarantee you, I’ll play with NARS2 until i’m finished with TTD.
    Thank you for the good work.

  8. I think you are on the right path with gaming simplicity, but on the wrong path with vehicle names and realism factors of those vehicles. You need to keep the gameplay orientation factor. 10cc should be a drastically cut-down vehicle list of UKRS and NARS originality, containing the Planet 4-2-0 and the American 4-4-0, but not the Long Boiler or the Grasshopper. And av9, yeah, you messed up there. The vehicle list is pitiful, excluding the 747 and the A300 (or vehicles similar to said vehicles) might not have been a good choice. In fact, that might shift the tone FAR AWAY FROM AIRCRAFT ENTIRELY. So, your 10cc set isn’t bad, but far from perfect, and av9 needs to be changed in its entirety.

  9. im a big fan of NARS2 and Av8 (i always play with it, and really happy with the realism features on NARS, like engine sound, realistic model ), looking forward for 10cc USA and Av9

  10. I always choose the aircraft by comparing with other aircraft, and thats why I always use the YAMC YS-11, for short regional routes, AS replacement for the DC-3/Vickers Viscount vor the Lockheed Konstellation (1. Gen).

    I really like this aircraft. Cheap, Fast and low running costs with good reliablility.

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