Train Sim worth an install?

QuarterToThree Message Boards: Free for all: Train Sim worth an install?
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey on Saturday, June 23, 2001 - 09:21 am:

OK, MS Train Sim showed up in the mail this week. MS showed me this at E3, and I had to admit the visuals were cool, but I just didn't get the gameplay. Nothing to shoot, nothing to race against, it just didn't push my competitive buttons.

So, has anyone spent any time with this? Is there some gameplay aspects that I'm missing?

Jeff


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Tom Ohle on Saturday, June 23, 2001 - 11:38 am:

I wrote up my review at GC for this about a week ago:
http://www.gamersclick.com/features/reviews/pc/trainsim.shtml

Basically, I gave it four stars because I had to look at it objectively. The gameplay really didn't appeal to me, but I can really see how other people would like it. If you like trains, give it a shot. If you liked MS Flight Simulator, give it a shot.

Basically, you have to be interested in the subject matter. I think you should at least install it and give it a try. Who knows, you might like it.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bruce Geryk on Saturday, June 23, 2001 - 07:08 pm:

"Basically, I gave it four stars because I had to look at it objectively. The gameplay really didn't appeal to me, but I can really see how other people would like it."

No offense, but this kind of thing just makes me despair at the state of game reviewing.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Saturday, June 23, 2001 - 07:16 pm:

Don't you just lay tracks or something and then make your train go? It's not even much of a game, is it? Isn't it really just a computer version of a model railroad set?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Saturday, June 23, 2001 - 08:01 pm:

>>The gameplay really didn't appeal to me, but I can really see how other people would like it.

Thus spoke someone who's lost all credibility as a reviewer. Really, how can you honestly say you can see how other people would like it?

You only know how one person feels about a game, and rumor has it it's you. You can only do it from your perspective; if the game doesn't appeal to you, the review should either be from that perspective or someone else should write it.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bruce Geryk on Saturday, June 23, 2001 - 08:18 pm:

"You only know how one person feels about a game, and rumor has it it's you."

Exactly. The problem is, I see so few reviews that actually convey how the reviewer feels about the game. Instead, it's a list of features and a conclusion that "if you like this type of game, you'll like [game being reviewed], otherwise, you won't." Well, no kidding, eh?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Sean Tudor on Saturday, June 23, 2001 - 08:32 pm:


Quote:

No offense, but this kind of thing just makes me despair at the state of game reviewing.



Bloody hell give Tom a break. I have read his review at GamersClick and I thought it was a good honest appraisal of MS Train Simulator. If there is one thing worse than a bad reviewer it's a cranky reviewer. Take a chill pill guys. (Ok feel free to flame me now).

Changing subject. As for MSTS I am really looking forward to it. I am one of these people that loves to ride in the front carriage to watch how the driver operates the train controls. I was in Japan for a month during February this year and I have become a train fanatic.

Watching the Japanese train system operate to the second is an amazing experience.

Cheers,
Sean.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Saturday, June 23, 2001 - 09:45 pm:

"The problem is, I see so few reviews that actually convey how the reviewer feels about the game."

To just go with personal feelings is to get reviews like PC Gamer's review of The Corporate Machine where the reviewer downgraded the game because of the music. Hey, why not? For that reviewer the music made the game an unpleasant experience. 58%! How can anyone find fault with that?

A less extreme version of this would be someone reviewing a model railroad sim game and giving it a low score because that person doesn't like railroad games. Both reviews are faulty in their approach. They reveal the reviewer's personal taste and little else.

Besides, Tom's review is pretty clear.

"With this title, you will absolutely have to be interested in the subject matter to actually enjoy it. If you don't think conducting a train would be enjoyable, stay away from Train Simulator." - Gamersclick

That's a clear statement of his feelings, isn't it?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 01:25 am:

Yeah,

Tom's saying that train driving, as a concept, isn't appealing to Tom.

Not that MS's Train Driving model was something he couldn't criticize.

I'm not much for hunting, but I reviewed almost every hunting game since the first one... Since I respect hunting (to a degree) I was able to find the few that hunters would like, and a few others that non-hunters would like better. My personal dislike for the 'sport' didn't enter into my evaluation, my understanding of the 'sport' did.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Dave Long on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 01:38 am:

Mark, all that tells me is what I already knew, you conduct a train and I have to like trains to want to do this. That's quickly discernable from the title. =)

--Dave


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 10:07 am:

Sure I quoted one line from the entire review. If you want to know more, read the review.

What his line does tell me is that you need to be something of an enthusiast to enjoy the game. The game doesn't break out of that box the way that Half-Life, for example, could be argued to be good enough to appeal to non-shooter fans.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 12:54 pm:

>>I have read his review at GamersClick and I thought it was a good honest appraisal of MS Train Simulator.

How is it honest? I don't recall a section about how the gameplay is unappealing, which is what he said above.

>>As for MSTS I am really looking forward to it. I am one of these people that loves to ride in the front carriage to watch how the driver operates the train controls. I was in Japan for a month during February this year and I have become a train fanatic.

Then you're the exact market for the game, and the type of person who should be REVIEWING the game as you're more likely to find the concept appealing, and hence you're a better judge of the actual quality of the simulation. And this review is totally useless to you because it's attempting to guess whether or not you will like as opposed to presenting the opinion of someone who may or may not share your passion for trains.

People used to complain about Quake fans reviewing, say, flight sims and criticizing them for being too complex or not having enough action, but if they praise it does that let them off the hook? This particular review (and those sim reviews from Quake players) would be valuable if it stated that the gameplay is unappealing and gave explicit examples why. If those issues do not bother the reader, they can dismiss the review outright. And if the reader says, "Yeah, I can see how I wouldn't like that," they can take a pass. Instead, it attempts to channel the opinions of train enthusiasts everywhere and predict their enjoyment, which is risky and usually wrong.

Too many reviews are seemingly designed to placate everyone. They perfectly balance the criticism and the praise, they never go out on the extremes, and more problematically they never show passion for or against a game. Yeah, most games aren't worthy of strong feelings either way, but c'mon... don't worry about offending readers. If you hate something, say you hate it. And more importantly, if you truly love a game say it! (The latter takes considerably more courage than the former, which is a sad state of affairs...)

Say what you will about the merit of Tom Chick's Deus Ex review, at least he had the cojones to say, "Hey, this game really bugged me, here's exactly why, and I don't care what everyone else thinks of my opinion on it." Few writers are willing to do this, and that's too bad. I'd say the majority are written exactly like this one, thinking of a target market which may or may not include the writer.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Dave Long on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 01:04 pm:

I had a post typed up very similar to what Steve says and I left it at the short one above. All those criticisms he levels at Tom's review are exactly the problems that MOST reviews share.

I read the whole review, Mark. I just didn't want to skewer Tom in a public forum like Steve just did. I'm sure Bruce held back too. I know for a fact that Tom's review did nothing to help me determine whether or not I'd like the game. As far as I know, if I like trains (which I do), I might enjoy it. But then, I knew that already because it's called MICROSOFT TRAIN SIMULATOR. Tom didn't tell me anything in the review about how good the game was at simulating the experience of conducting a train.

--Dave


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 01:35 pm:

"Then you're the exact market for the game, and the type of person who should be REVIEWING the game as you're more likely to find the concept appealing, and hence you're a better judge of the actual quality of the simulation."

Who should review the game for someone like me who isn't all that interested in trains? Maybe the game is so good that even someone like me will like it, but how will I know that if a train enthusiast reviews it? Same with most flight sims. Why not have a non-simmer review it, since after all, most gamers these days seem to be non-simmers. Make someone play and review the game who otherwise wouldn't, and if they like the game, I might be interested in trying it.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 02:04 pm:

"Tom didn't tell me anything in the review about how good the game was at simulating the experience of conducting a train."

Except he wrote:

"If you don't think conducting a train would be enjoyable, stay away from Train Simulator. It takes conducting a virtual train to the max."

And:

"For less experienced conductors, Microsoft has included various realism options that you can toggle to make the experience a little less intimidating. If you really don't feel like concentrating on your speed, the track and the amount of coal being shoveled into your engine at the same time, you don't have to. Let some virtual coal guy do the dirty work. If you don't feel like controlling each of the three sets of brakes the train has, you can just switch them off and focus on a single set."

And:

"In all, you can cover up to 600 miles of land. The landscapes realistically portray their real-life counterparts, which must have been a daunting task for the development team-it seems like every tree was meticulously placed, every bend in the track was carefully laid out, and every building was precisely placed."

And:

"Along with the beautifully rendered landscapes, the design team created near-perfect replica models of the different trains-2 steam locomotives, 3 diesel locomotives, and 4 electric trains. Each is modeled after a real-life train-everything from the body to the control panels is portrayed pretty accurately."

It's a 750 word review. You can't expect too many details with that kind of word count. Besides, who has reviewed this train sim who has actual experience conducting a real train? We don't demand that our flight sim reviewers be familar with flying real-life P-41s. There's not even a backlog of train conducting sims that we can point to and say, "If you haven't played these, don't review MS Train Sim."

Nowhere on the box does it say, "This game is designed to be played by railroad enthusiasts who already have a knowledge of how trains work and what it's like to conduct a train." There's nothing wrong with Tom reviewing a game that Microsoft hopes has mass market appeal and nothing wrong with him speculating in the review that train enthusiasts will like the game.

I agree with Bruce's original concern that reviewers shouldn't review games with the intent of guessing how others will feel about the game, but it's not an either-or, binary proposal. Reviewers need to try to weigh their personal feelings against some more objective standards, nebulous as those are, including trying to imagine how others might enjoy or not enjoy the game. That's just one factor among many that should be weighed when assessing a game.

One final example. If I don't care for multiplayer and I review a shooter that has a single-player and multiplayer component, and the single-player game is good but the multiplayer is dull, how should I assess that? It doesn't bother me in the least that the multiplayer sucks. So should I ignore that and go ahead and give the game a good score, or should I factor that in and downgrade my score? After all, I don't really know what anyone else thinks, right? All I have to go by is my personal experience.

Yet we all know that to not downgrade the game a bit for faulty multiplayer would be wrong. So why should we downgrade a perfectly fine train sim just because train sims aren't our thing? And when you say, "How does he know it's a good train sim?" I'll just answer, "How does any reviewer who hasn't actually been a conductor know it's a good simulation?"

Just to balance things out, if Tom really didn't enjoy the game he should have made that evident and he should have lowered the score a bit. Some simulations may be realistic yet boring - imagine a farming sim where you manually steer a tractor up and down the fields for three hours to seed the crops. You can't give a game high marks for realism without lowering the score for the fun factor.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 03:25 pm:

>>Who should review the game for someone like me who isn't all that interested in trains?

Such a review would have value to a person like you if done by someone not interested in the topic, but c'mon... if you're not interested in trains, you'd suddenly BE interested if you read a review that said you MIGHT like it?

Didn't we all agree that reviews had little influence on buyers?

>>Maybe the game is so good that even someone like me will like it, but how will I know that if a train enthusiast reviews it?

Reviews aren't absolute statements of fact either way, but matching a reviewer who at least fits somewhat, when possible, in the game's target market is more fair to both readers and the people that make the game. If you're going to give multiple reviews, go for approaches from both the hardcore, casual, fans, non-fans... but if you're going to give one opinion, best to be as fair as possible.

Would you want someone reviewing your work on this website be familiar with games and game sites? Sure, someone who's never played a game could provide some valuable criticism, but if they said, "It's impenetrable to anyone who isn't an expert in gaming," what would you say to that? "Well duh." And if someone who isn't interested in simulating trains reviews Microsoft Train Simulator and says, "Simulating trains is boring," wouldn't you give it the same response?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 03:40 pm:

>>Except he wrote:

Those examples are mostly descriptive and could be gathered from any preview of the game.

>>Besides, who has reviewed this train sim who has actual experience conducting a real train?

Oh, here we go again. Yeah, and I've never flown a dragon, or driven an IndyCar, or blah blah blah.

>>There's nothing wrong with Tom reviewing a game that Microsoft hopes has mass market appeal and nothing wrong with him speculating in the review that train enthusiasts will like the game.

Nope, there is nothing wrong with a review done from this perspective. The problem in this case is that he says here he finds the gameplay unappealing but his review omits this rather critical bit of information.

>>Reviewers need to try to weigh their personal feelings against some more objective standards, nebulous as those are, including trying to imagine how others might enjoy or not enjoy the game. That's just one factor among many that should be weighed when assessing a game.

Remind me not to use you as a reviewer. Guessing how others might enjoy a game is a waste of time. You're not reviewing the marketability of a game, you're not reviewing how others will view it. You sign your name at the end of the review and ultimately it's only how you react to things. That's the only honest and objective assessment you can make. Everything else is purely speculative and guesswork, and it has no real place in a review.

I'm not saying I've never done this before, but I've actually started editing out statements like, "People that like shooters will like this game."

>>If I don't care for multiplayer and I review a shooter that has a single-player and multiplayer component, and the single-player game is good but the multiplayer is dull, how should I assess that?

That's simple. You mention it in the text and don't ding it in the final score.

>>Yet we all know that to not downgrade the game a bit for faulty multiplayer would be wrong.

Why? Beyond mentioning dull multiplayer in the text, if the single-player game is SO good it makes it irrelevant, stick your neck out. Say multiplayer is irrelevant in the case of this game; if a reader feels otherwise, they can dismiss your overall assessment.

Take No One Lives Forever. That game could have shipped without multiplayer and it still would have been brilliant. Its multiplayer was mediocre, but that didn't make it a 3-star game.

>>So why should we downgrade a perfectly fine train sim just because train sims aren't our thing?

Um, because you don't sign your reviews, "All Gamers." They're signed "Mark Asher." If you factor in other opinions, take your name off.

>>"How does any reviewer who hasn't actually been a conductor know it's a good simulation?"

Blah blah, how can you judge StarCraft, how can you judge Baldur's Gate, blah blah.

>>Some simulations may be realistic yet boring -

That's still an opinion, not a statement of absolute fact. A farmer may think riding around on a virtual tractor is the most thrilling experience imaginable. And if the reviewer doesn't feel that way and says, "But driving the tractor is boring, and since 90% of the game is doing that, it's a 1 star game", the farmer that find tractor driving thrilling can dismiss the overall score and say, "But I like driving a tractor, so I will like this game."

Sheesh, this is all very simple. If your articles express your honest opinion, you've done your job as a reviewer. The reader can look at what you've said, the positives and negatives, and decide whether your praise or criticisms matter to them.

But if you're guessing how you think others might feel, you're doing your readers a disservice.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Supertanker on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 04:27 pm:

"Oh, here we go again. Yeah, and I've never flown a dragon, or driven an IndyCar, or blah blah blah."

"Blah blah, how can you judge StarCraft, how can you judge Baldur's Gate, blah blah."

Apples and oranges. If the writer is assessing the accuracy of a simulation, then real-life experience with the simulated object is relevant to draw upon (though not necessary to write a review). The examples you cite are mostly just symbolic games, not simulations, so "reality" is irrelevant. If the review is of "Battleship" then judging its gunnery model is not necessary. If the review is of "Destroyer Command" then I think that evaluation is necessary, and real-life experience is needed.

You also need to evaluate what is being compared. BG is a sort of D&D simulator, so the relevant real-life experience is that of playing and DMing games of D&D, not of actually embarking on a dungeon crawl & casting spells. If I am interested in how much like D&D the game is, I want opinions from experienced DMs regarding BG's adherence to the D&D systems, not from alleged wizards about the accuracy of the spellcasting model.

That said, I agree with your point about reviews just being an honest opinion. If the review is of a simulation, and the writer has experience with the simulated item, I would weigh that review differently. I also believe accuracy in a simulation can be tedious (Falcon 4 comes to mind), so I want gamers opinions, too.

This reminds me of the flamewars when people tried to post about TIE Fighter in c.s.i.p.g.flight-sim.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bruce Geryk on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 04:32 pm:

Like Dave, I agree with pretty much everything Steve has written here, so I'll limit myself to this one comment.

[Mark]: "To just go with personal feelings is to get reviews like PC Gamer's review of The Corporate Machine where the reviewer downgraded the game because of the music. Hey, why not? For that reviewer the music made the game an unpleasant experience. 58%! How can anyone find fault with that?"

The answer is that if Barry Brenesal had simply explained why, it would have been a lot harder to find fault with that particular criticism. Heck, I'd love to read a review of why a reviewer thought the music in the Corporate Machine ruined the game. Maybe he likes to role-play a CEO but the doodle-oodle-oodle tunes totally wreck it for him. Or maybe the music is a looping version of the Horst Wessel Lied that you can't turn off. The point is, if a game's music really bothered you, you should be able to explain why, just as you should be able to explain what's wrong with any other aspect of the game. If you just say, "the music sucked," then of course it will sound foolish. But so will any similar gameplay comment on which you don't elaborate.

It's the difference between saying "Deus Ex sucks because it is unrealistic" and giving it a low score, and saying "I found Deus Ex repeatedly subverted my suspension of disbelief for these specific reasons, and as a result I couldn't enjoy the game."

In any case, this shouldn't be taken as further criticism of Tom Ohle's review. It's just my thoughts on what you and Steve have been discussing.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 05:39 pm:

I'll just jump in here briefly to point out something this thread has been making me think about.

Bruce Geryk's WWII Online review. (I'm not sure I agree with the 5.8 score... but I'm not arguing that right now.) The review itself is fabulous. From lines where he describes in detail the gear system of tanks and the three click rifle firing routine... (sounds bad to me), the 15 minute walk an infantry man must endure (sounds awful), the crashes (sounds worse) to his rather elegant passage about viewing a stirring "Us/Them" dogfight from the ground (a part of the game which made me want to buy the game despite all the problems).

Most reviews of games that are potentially good, but flawed at release, tend to be namby-pamby or unbalanced. I think this review is a good example of balance.

Plus it probably helps that Bruce really was a WWII infantry man fighting Nazis.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By TomChick on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 06:02 pm:

Without jabbing at Tom Ohle (I didn't see the review, since I don't give two hoots about a train riding game), count me in with Steve, Dave, and Bruce.

Rule of thumb for me: if you can read it on the box or in the manual, it doesn't belong in the review. A good reviewer should have a lot of interesting things to say without:

1. stating the obvious ("if you don't like flight sims, you won't like Flight Sim Wacky Smackers" [not a real game [as far as I know]])

2. spending too much time *describing incidentals (i.e. backstory, mechanics, lists of unit)

3. second-guessing what other people will think and trying to gauge the wider reaction to the game

I've argued with Stefan many times about whether a review can be objective and I'll say again: it can't. A review is an entirely subjective bit of opinion that should be informed and entertaining.

The most common sin, however, is when the reviewer doesn't play or understand the game at hand, which is exactly what Barry Brenesal did with Corporate Machine and why he had to grasp at straws like "the music" to have something, *anything*, to say about a game he obviously didn't play, much less understand.

Uhh, I forgot what we were talking about...

-Tom


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 06:05 pm:

>>The examples you cite are mostly just symbolic games, not simulations, so "reality" is irrelevant.

Yes and no. No game is every truly an accurate representation, so all they can really hope to attain is "plausible realism," that is everything works as you'd expect it to, whether it's an F-15, a NASCAR stock car, or the AI of an orc.

>>If the review is of "Destroyer Command" then I think that evaluation is necessary, and real-life experience is needed.

I don't know about necessary, as that starts to get into the whole issue of whether a reviewer needs to be an expert on the subject in order to ofer a valuable and informed overall opinion. I may just dig strategy games or sims and have no concept of the "realism" in Destroyer Command, but my review may be entirely valid if that's made clear and other elements of the game are thoroughly evaluated (i.e. something like game balance is an issue that exists outside of realism). Now if I were reviewing the game from this perspective, I probably shouldn't be judging the realism of the simulation, and if that's your primary interest in the game my review may not suit your tastes. But I shouldn't go on about the realism because I think people will find it realistic...

>>If I am interested in how much like D&D the game is, I want opinions from experienced DMs regarding BG's adherence to the D&D systems, not from alleged wizards about the accuracy of the spellcasting model.

Now you may be getting a little far into personalized reviews, those tailored toward your specific interests.

>>This reminds me of the flamewars when people tried to post about TIE Fighter in c.s.i.p.g.flight-sim.

I hear Y-Wings can take out an X-Wing. But only if Bub is the pilot or something.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 06:08 pm:

"If the writer is assessing the accuracy of a simulation, then real-life experience with the simulated object is relevant to draw upon (though not necessary to write a review)."

But, ironically, just having real life experience isn't always enough to provide the proper perspective for a review. Examples: we've all seen a real life race car driver and real life fighter pilot quoted on how much they liked certain racing and flight sims. The problem is that these were relatively poor sims. Were they lying or paid off? Nah, (well, they were likely compensated,) it's just that a WWII fighter jock may think WWII fighters is incredible because he has no experience with any other flight sim, the racer who thinks NASCAR Heat is the cat's meow probably never tried GPL or NASCAR 4.

That said, I do agree that the one thing that would probably most improve game writing these days is articulate passion.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By TomChick on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 06:09 pm:

"I hear Y-Wings can take out an X-Wing. But only if Bub is the pilot or something."

You also have to let him get a free shot at you during the head-on pass. It's kind of like convincing your little sister to play air hockey: "C'mon, I'll let you have a ten point head start..."

-Tom


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 06:18 pm:

"2. spending too much time *describing incidentals (i.e. backstory, mechanics, lists of unit)"

That's part of the experience of the game though. Don't tell me that readers have read previews and should know that already. How do I know that? It's important to mention that you can pause and give orders in a real-time game. It's just part of the game mechanics, but a reviewer is remiss to not mention things like this. Same with an inability to remap keys in a FPS. The readers who play these games want to know about the game mechanics to some extent.

Of course a lot depends on the length of a review. In shorter reviews you don't have a lot of time to spend on game mechanics. In longer ones, you do.

"3. second-guessing what other people will think and trying to gauge the wider reaction to the game"

Then reviewers who don't care for multiplayer shouldn't ever mark down a single-player game with multiplayer options for poor multiplayer performance, because to do so would be "second-guessing" that others might find that important.

Why is it such a sin for a reviewer to say, "Hey, even though the lack of good implementation of this feature isn't a big deal to me, my experience as a gamer tells me that it will be a problem for others?"


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mike Latinovich (Mike) on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 06:42 pm:

asking whether or not this product sucks would just make all you reviewer types to go off into reviewer la-la land, so i'm not gonna do it.

there's a reason why i don't read reviews: none of them are by me! all of your opinions are different than mine. :P

is there a downloadable demo available, so i can judge for myself?

- mike - somewhere in east-central illinois -


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 06:55 pm:

"Such a review would have value to a person like you if done by someone not interested in the topic, but c'mon... if you're not interested in trains, you'd suddenly BE interested if you read a review that said you MIGHT like it?"

I'd be much more interested in it if I read a review written by someone who wasn't a railroad enthusiast who enjoyed the game. Then if that reviewer liked it, I might like it too. I suspect that most of your readers fall into this category. How many railroad sim fans read CG?

There are merits to each type of reviewer. I just don't see why only train enthusiasts should review a train sim game. In fact it seems like a silly requirement, given that the audience (gamers) probably for the most part aren't interested in trains. Heck, why even review the game at all?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Sean Tudor on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 07:55 pm:

I personally think if you are going to review a train simulation you would want to list the specifications in your review. You would want to know that Train Simulator contains six routes totalling 528 miles of track and that the shortest is 53 miles and the longest is 152 miles.

You would want to know there are two steam locomotives, four electric locomotives, and three diesel locomotives. You would also want to know that you have to raise the pantograph to the overhead powerlines. These things matter to a train enthusiast.

Considering the short length of Tom's review I still think he did a fair job. He raised most of the important points. If there is one thing I would fault him on it is that the review was too short. Make it longer, have the spec list, and the opinion list. Basically flesh it out.

As for Bruce's WWII Online review I thought he also did a good job. I applaud him on reviewing what is basically one of buggiest games ever to be released in recent memory. I certainly wouldn't have persevered reviewing it.

By comparison MS Train Simulator is a polished, relatively bug-free simulation, which meticulously recreates its chosen subject. I just hope it gets the market attention it deserves. There are many train enthusiasts out there.

Maybe Bruce should try his hand at reviewing MS Train Simulator. I will be sure to read over it with a very critical eye.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 08:40 pm:

STEVE: "I hear Y-Wings can take out an X-Wing. But only if Bub is the pilot or something."

TOM (chick): You also have to let him get a free shot at you during the head-on pass.

BUB: Oh come now. You don't have to let him get a "free shot" at all ... that's also where the "not missing during the opening run" skill comes in handy.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 09:13 pm:

>Too many reviews ...perfectly balance the criticism and the praise, they never go out on the extremes, and more problematically they never show passion for or against a game.

Really? I agree that too many reviews are bland, and that many reviewers don't adequately explain their opinions, but I'd say too many reviews go out of their way to "drool" over a feature or to exaggerate its deficiencies for humourous effect.

>Yeah, most games aren't worthy of strong feelings either way,

Exactly. Which is why inappropriately strong praise or misdirected criticism makes too many reviews read like they were written by fanboys.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 09:30 pm:

>I've argued with Stefan many times about whether a review can be objective and I'll say again: it can't. A review is an entirely subjective bit of opinion that should be informed and entertaining.

You're misstating our previous discussions, as I certainly don't disagree with what you, Steve, Bruce, etc. are stating in this thread. A review is obviously subjective, as is any analysis or opinion.

But that doesn't mean that a review is always "correct", because it's "just a subjective opinion". The subjectivity of a review isn't an absolution from criticism. Reviews can be badly reasoned, based upon inaccurate background information or just illogical -- in each case, such reviews would be objectively "wrong", even though they're based upon subjective opinions.

Our past discussions on this point were just over whether a review, itself, could be evaluated as objectively "correct" or "wrong". If someone wrote a review stating that CC: Tiberian Sun featured (a) the most original gameplay ever, (b) the best 3D graphics, and (c) proof that there'll never be a good turn-based strategy game again....that reviewer would have blown the review (each one of those conclusions is objectively "wrong", for different reasons), even though he/she was just expressing his/her subjective opinions.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Tom Ohle on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 09:57 pm:

"You only know how one person feels about a game, and rumor has it it's you. You can only do it from your perspective; if the game doesn't appeal to you, the review should either be from that perspective or someone else should write it. "

sorry... been out of town for a day. Anyway, I misspoke. I did enjoy it. I enjoyed it to about a 3.5/5 rating, but gave it the extra half point because I can see how it would be a lot better to someone who's really interested in trains.
I gotta learn to keep my mouth shut in these threads... or at least try and think of every possible way someone could take what I said.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Tom Ohle on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 10:15 pm:

Again... screwed up. Mark, find a way to put in a message editor ;)
Anyway, here's my rebuttal to all the me-bashing.

Basically, I just want to expand on my previous statement. I did enjoy the game, but reviews I do for GC are probably a bit different than ones I'd do for other publications. Some pubs just base the entire score on how much the reviewer enjoyed the game. Others just go on technical merits. We try and mix the two (we have ratings for fun and tech assets), and the final four-star rating is a combination of the two. Like I said in the previous post, I enjoyed the game to about a 3.5 star level. I really loved the realism of the game, and I actually enjoyed doing short routes.
The game looks absolutely awesome, which is why it got the 5 for technical assets.

Running a website with daily updates by yourself (well, other than a couple awesome writers, of course :) isn't always the easiest thing to do. I wish I had the time to do 1500-word reviews where I could describe every single aspect of a game. The fact of the matter is, though, that I simply don't have that sort of time on my hands. Hopefully in the near future I'll have time to write a solid 1500-word article every two days.

I appreciate all the constructive criticism from Steve and Bruce, though. I totally understand where you guys are coming from. However, if you had read the review, you'd realize that I DID share my opinions about the game... The only place where I stated that I looked at it entirely from an objective point of view was in my original post. I realize now that that was a mistake.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Tom Ohle on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 10:30 pm:

And Jeff, to answer your initial question (incase my review and the thoughts of others haven't cleared anything up for you), I think you should install it if MS sent you a copy. Give it a try. However, if you're thinking about going out and buying it... well, think some more. The fact of the matter is that the game is basically the same thing over and over again. There's not much more to it than just driving the train. Sure, you can learn how to conduct each of the different trains (coal engines are pretty damn tough if you have all the realism options on), but that's basically it. The track editor adds a lot to the game, but probably isn't enough to get you to buy it if you don't like the idea of the regular game.

Hope that helps a bit.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Sunday, June 24, 2001 - 11:58 pm:

>>It's important to mention that you can pause and give orders in a real-time game. It's just part of the game mechanics, but a reviewer is remiss to not mention things like this. Same with an inability to remap keys in a FPS. The readers who play these games want to know about the game mechanics to some extent.

All of the things should be done in the context of evaluation, not just listed. If they're issues worth mentioning, they should be mentioned. And if they're not, you can still mention them and explicitly explain why it's not an issue with this particular game.

>>Of course a lot depends on the length of a review. In shorter reviews you don't have a lot of time to spend on game mechanics. In longer ones, you do.

I disagree. Shorter reviews just focus on the important parts and dispense with all the "I'm a clever guy" bits. The things you mentioned above could be covered in two sentences:

"The game is incredibly fast-paced, but that isn't an issue because you can issue orders while the game is paused. Unfortunately you can't re-map the keys, and the default layout is highly illogical..." blah blah blah.

>>Then reviewers who don't care for multiplayer shouldn't ever mark down a single-player game with multiplayer options for poor multiplayer performance, because to do so would be "second-guessing" that others might find that important.

If you don't care for multiplayer how can you judge it at all, positive or negative?

The importance of multiplayer is consistently overstated by a highly vocal online minority, so merely mentioning its existence, and whether it works, is generally enough for some percentage of readers.

>>Why is it such a sin for a reviewer to say, "Hey, even though the lack of good implementation of this feature isn't a big deal to me, my experience as a gamer tells me that it will be a problem for others?"

Because you can't speak for other gamers? Because that review is a reflection of your opinion and not your attempts to channel those of others?

Obviously there are issues you know will be an issue for some gamers, and if you think they're important they should be mentioned. However, if they're not an issue for you, tell the reader why they're not an issue and maybe, just maybe, it won't be an issue for them either after you've brilliantly made your case.

But what we're really talking about is evaluation, not mentioning. Something like, "I really dislike this but I know those wacky kids are going to love it" so you praise the feature.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 12:04 am:

>>However, if you had read the review, you'd realize that I DID share my opinions about the game...

Well, I don't think anyone has any problem with the review per se, or even doing it from the perspective of someone not 100% into trains or train simulations. It was merely the comment here about not finding it appealing that didn't match the review itself...

I suspect a lot of people do this, try to match the review with a perceived audience as opposed to presenting a strong opinion. I'd argue that's how we ended up with scads of uniformly positive Black & White reviews; everyone expected everyone else to love the game, and initial public opinion was uniformly positive. I'd be curious how many of those original reviews are either still playing the game or would like to re-do their reviews...


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 12:24 am:

"I'd argue that's how we ended up with scads of uniformly positive Black & White reviews; everyone expected everyone else to love the game, and initial public opinion was uniformly positive."

Yeah, I'm still getting angry emails about my mostly negative Black & White column. And that was Daily Radar thing (still online but not exactly high-profile)...

Perhaps the link is still make rounds with the Black & White fansites (which might account for why most comments have been in support of the game on this later date).

I have to admit that my first impression was universally positive for Black & White, but then the intro movie ended.

"I'd be curious how many of those original reviews are either still playing the game or would like to re-do their reviews..."

I'd be curious too, but I've spoken with some of the more mainstream of them (I'm not naming names but one is known for his Newsweek and Playboy game reviewing gigs) and I found that the love was still there and the negative responses some of us had are not understood and attributed to "over-criticism".

I've also gotten the impression from non-game editors (who cover games for mainstream pubs) that B&W is already considered a classic.

We'll see what happens when Award time rolls around.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 12:53 am:

If curious as to why previous message so spotty... the answer: Bushmills.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By mtkafka (Mtkafka) on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 03:07 am:

Isnt MS Train Sim essentially a novelty game? I mean in that it doesn't really provide gameplay? It sounds moreso like the equivalent of a fishtank for your pewter except its trains and you can watch the scenery go by. faster or slower... it sounds like a lo fi stress-less game. I actually like the concept, does it give the sense of travelling large distances in the train? Is there anything besides the engineers viewpoint.. can you be a passenger? and is there a mystery like the Orient Express? harhar

Anyway thats what i want to know in a REVIEW of MS Train Sim.. still haven't read Tom's review, but whats the big deal if he says Train enhusiasts might like it, if he knows its not of interest to him? Would you rather have a guy saying, "This sucks its just trains... 1 star." or, "Although Im not particualrly interested in the genre of train simming, im sure those who get off on TRains might actually enjoy this one... KUDOS TO MICROSOFT!

Bah, its just games yeesh.. I already know what i like... only the unknown games, do i read reveiws/previews... and like Asher said... some reviews I DO read primarily for the bullet points. Game reviews shouldn't neccesarily be like movie reviews (being subjective). Really its just... is it fun? why or why not? from that, most gamers (which is the audience of these reviews primarily) should then be smart enough to decide on there own when given enough facts of a game. i actually base alot of borderline purchases from usenet... becuase there isnt any pretext of editing and writing for value... its all just pure opinion. there is a need though for critical opinion of games, though they really dont have to be reviews of games imo... these should be objective and reflect upon games in general not a specific game... im all lost now.

I actually am kind of interested in MS train sim, and i dont even like trains! Maybe i'll go read a couple reviews now.

my 2 cents what have you

etc


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By mtkafka (Mtkafka) on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 03:18 am:

"I'd be curious how many of those original reviews are either still playing the game or would like to re-do their reviews... "

But so what if they aren't playing B&W anymore... if you really think about it, the average "gamer" these days probably doesnt spend more than a month on a game... Even an excellent game like NOLF, I never spent more than a few weeks on ... and that doesnt mean it isn't a good game. i think in the case of Black and White reviewers praised the originality of it... and i actually like the game because of the originality... i didn't mind the bugs or the lack of "strategic gameplay". it was well worth it when you compare it to the billions of clones we see these days. and hey, maybe these reviewers really did like it and didnt buy the hype...

etc


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Dave Long on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 09:42 am:

In the CGW with the Counter Strike cover (last issue) there's a blurb somewhere about Black & White and how it's fun for a week and then blah. I think it's on the Top 20 page. So I don't even think the people at the mag consider their review by Charles Ardai to be the "truth".

I do know for a fact that I have not agreed with any of Ardai's reviews. So if he says a game is great, I'll be very skeptical and vice versa. In fact, I probably won't read his reviews at all since his tastes seem so far removed from my own.

--Dave


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 10:09 am:


Quote:

Really its just... is it fun? why or why not?




Now, enter Tom Chick...You just pressed his "on" button...
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By TimElhajj on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 12:00 pm:

Under the guise of opinion, people can (and do) go too far in their reviews.

I've seen games literaly taken apart for "failings" that I considered merely annoying. Things that are either standard fare for the genre or relitively small issues considering the scope of the game.

I believe this happens for the following reasons: a) the reviewer is trying to show how clever she is by knocking a game (it's much easier to be funny--and thus more entertaining--when you mock something) b) the reviewer is trying to be outspoken by giving a contrary opinion or c)


Have to cut out for work. Will finish this thought later.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 01:09 pm:

Tim,
A big part of the job is making the review "a good read". That is to say, entertaining. So things might get punched up, or exaggerated for effect. A good writer knows how to keep it entertaining and brisk. A good critic knows where the limits are and how to keep it fair. A good reviewer knows how to do both.

What readers who hate reviewers fail to understand is that reading a review isn't supposed to be a passive exercise. You've got to read it, think about it, contrast it with your own opinion, and then make a decision. As has been said before, I think, the best reviewers in out there are those whom you can disagree with, yet, at the same time, don't consider "wrong".

If anyone out there is doing your B) example... being contrarian for the sake of being "cool" or different, then they don't belong in the business. Credibility may be our coin (cause dollars sure aren't) but honesty is the freaking point of it all.

What I can't stand are readers who get pissed off just because they don't agree with the reviewer.

My mother-in-law ranted and railed recently against all those "mean" people who hate that "wonderful" Pearl Harbor... She reminded me of Usenet.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Spam on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 03:55 pm:

>I agree that too many reviews are bland, and that many reviewers don't adequately explain
>their opinions, but I'd say too many reviews go out of their way to "drool" over a feature or to
>exaggerate its deficiencies for humourous effect.

and

>I've seen games literaly taken apart for "failings" that I considered merely
>annoying. Things that are either standard fare for the genre or relitively small issues
>considering the scope of the game.

Butbutbut! Am I wrong to say that too much objectivity does no one any good? Least of all me! I want to follow the someone's notes who cares enough about the game to drool or be disgusted. And wants to pick nits. I'll be the judge of whether the sentiment matters for me or not.


>I personally think if you are going to review a train simulation you would want to list the
>specifications in your review. [snip route lengths]

A reviewer who really likes train sims (imho) has different motivation for inclding this info. It's not so difficult to spot the difference. Er, guess I'll spare you my little rant about those B&W reviews.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 04:23 pm:

(Mark)
"Who should review the game for someone like me who isn't all that interested in trains?"

The same person that should review Tomb Raider for people that aren't at all interested in action movies. If you know that you have no interest in trains, then what do you need a review for? And why not go a step further--who is going to review it for the people that don't like games?

(SuperTanker)
"So should I ignore that and go ahead and give the game a good score, or should I factor that in and downgrade my score?"

There is a binary decision at work here, but it's not one that the author should have to make. The real decision is whether or not the author is a good choice to review the game in question. If you don't like multiplayer gaming, I wouldn't give you the Tribes 2 review. I would never review a sports game, because I find even the best of them to be dull and tedious.

Because ultimately you are correct--as a reviewer, you should express how you feel about the game. No opinion is objective; why try to tailor your opinion to an audience that you don't relate to? But if your opinion is, in a nutshell, "I don't like this type of game," then should you really be reviewing it at all?

(Jeff Lackey)
"If the writer is assessing the accuracy of a simulation, then real-life experience with the simulated object is relevant to draw upon"

This is why I try to leave any mention of "accuracy" out of my sim reviews. You aren't reviewing the game's suitability as a training aid; you're reviewing its suitability as a piece of entertainment software.

(Mark Asher)
"That's part of the experience of the game though. Don't tell me that readers have read previews and should know that already."

He did say "too much time" describing incidentals. Obviously SOME description is necessary in any review, simply so that the reader knows what you are talking about. However, I always try to put any descriptive text into some sort of evaluative context. Why tell the reader that you can pause and give orders if you aren't also going to tell them whether you think that's a good or bad thing (and why)? Reviews that read like feature lists aren't particularly useful to anyone.

(Mark)
"Why is it such a sin for a reviewer to say, "Hey, even though the lack of good implementation of this feature isn't a big deal to me, my experience as a gamer tells me that it will be a problem for others?"

Because you are stating the obvious. The reader knows whether or not that's a problem for them, so just say how you feel about it and leave it at that. They don't need you to tell them that they might disagree.

(Mark)
"There are merits to each type of reviewer. I just don't see why only train enthusiasts should review a train sim game."

Nobody is saying that they should (although, as I said, I'd question the utility of a review written by someone that was predisposed to DISlike the subject matter). But by the same token, why should the review pretend to be a train enthusiast (or to know what train enthusiasts want in a train sim) at all? That's just asking for trouble.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By TomChick on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 05:23 pm:

Lots of good issues being raised here. This is the sort of discussion where we're really fortunate to have so many people in the business participating.

To continue the sort of desultory nature of the discussion...

(Ben Sones)
"This is why I try to leave any mention of "accuracy" out of my sim reviews. You aren't reviewing the game's suitability as a training aid; you're reviewing its suitability as a piece of entertainment software."

While this is a fair point, in some instances, you're doing a disservice to the source material. While it may not be important whether the stall parameters of a P-51 are off by 10 knots, there *are* issues of realism that are important in a sim.

One example: the flight model in Red Baron 2 was deliberately simplified to be more forgiving to casual players and, I felt, betrayed a lot of the charm of the planes being modeled. Red Baron 2 had a great campaign and was doubtless entertaining to lots of folks, but a review should mention that it almost completely disregarded the foibles and dynamics of WWI aircraft. Unless a sim is just using an airplane as a skin, discussions of accuracy are important, within reasonable limits.

That said, we certainly don't need guys like csipg.flight-sims' Richard Ordway reviewing flight sims for Real People.

(Stefan)
"You're misstating our previous discussions, as I certainly don't disagree with what you, Steve, Bruce, etc. are stating in this thread. A review is obviously subjective, as is any analysis or opinion. But that doesn't mean that a review is always "correct", because it's "just a subjective opinion"."

You're *absotlutely* correct and I fully agree. I think I was just taking a random potshot at you, a sort of drive-by, if you will. Actually, IIRC, our disagreements are more over the 1-10 rating system. We'll have to open that can of worms next time it comes up.

-Tom


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 05:36 pm:

(Jeff Lackey)
"If the writer is assessing the accuracy of a simulation, then real-life experience with the simulated object is relevant to draw upon"

(Ben)
"This is why I try to leave any mention of "accuracy" out of my sim reviews. You aren't reviewing the game's suitability as a training aid; you're reviewing its suitability as a piece of entertainment software."

Actually, I didn't make the comment attributed to me, and stated that real life experience may not be sufficient for a good review. However, just to argue every side because I'm in that kind of mood, some comments relating to a sim's fidelity are certainly pertinent in a review of a hard core sim (not that we have a lot of THOSE to worry about these days.) Not anal rententive "This sim is simply an attempt by lazy corporations to steal your money, a fact made obvious by the fact that the screws in the APG-66 radar system are Phillips headed, when anyone over the age of 6 knows the APG-66 radar screws are flat head..." But certainly note if a sim marketed as a hard core simulation is instead arcade-like in the experience that it delivers.

While it doesn't relate to the train sim in question due to the unique nature of the product, I'm convinced that a strong familiarity with the genre is one of the most important factors in writing a good review. There's an aspect of relativity (insert time warping or Einstein joke here) to evaluating a game. It's not everything, but it's important. Was Mean 18 a terrific simulation of the sport of golf? Not even close, it was a 5 star game because 1. it was well designed and well executed and (apologies to Tom) fun; and 2. It was by far the best golf game at the time. Same game today would be a 1 star game.

Of course, if a game is the best in it's genre, and it still sucks, it doesn't get a good review because its the best of a bad litter.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 05:49 pm:

BEN: "I'd question the utility of a review written by someone that was predisposed to DISlike the subject matter"

Yes! This is what I was getting at with my (gasp) Hunting simulation example. It really isn't important that the reviewer BE a hunter, but it is fairly important that the reviewer respect hunting and hunters in general. It is improper to review the games and dislike hunting.

Same goes for Train Sim. I'm not a train fan, but I've known a lot of train fanatics and I've got enough casual interest, and respect, in the hobby to have done justice to a Train Sim review (had I been assigned one). Sounds like Tom Ohle did too.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Anonymous on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 07:05 pm:

Conan:
"And if you do not listen, then to hell with you."

Interesting discussion guys. Its nice to see you all so passionate about the ethics of reviews.

-Rob


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By TimElhajj on Tuesday, June 26, 2001 - 03:27 am:

Argh. This is the soonest I could get back and now I'm finding it hard to articulate my argument.

I hear you, Bub, when you say a good writer can put together the right amounts of criticism and entertainment. Thatís the goal. And I have enjoyed well some reviews that I haven't particularly agreed with.

What I don't like is when the reviewer and her opinion become more important then the game she's reviewing. You can have a coherent, logically argued opinion that just feels wrong because itís all puffed up.

I don't believe that people choose a contrary opinion just to be "cool." More like they're just too damn jaded or something... what else do you call it when little foibles get elevated to unprecedented heights? Honestly I have no idea why this happens, but it's not much better than the poorly written, poorly researched, logically incorrect dreck that weíre all familiar with.

I have more patience for movie reviewers who adopt that jaded, seen it all approach. Some of Ďem can really get me rolling with the way they mock the movies they review. Maybe itís because movies are cheaper and require less of a time investment. I dunno.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By TimElhajj on Tuesday, June 26, 2001 - 03:47 am:

Also, can I just say that the only stuff I play is sims and, while I'm mildly interested in Train Sim, I would be loath to review it. It's just like those damn civillian air sims: boring!

What can you really say about it. No explosions, no train wrecks, no people to cream with your train. Pffft. What is the point?

As far as gameplay, very similar to MSFS. I've always imagined that people (forgive me Steve! ;) liked MSFS because they could actually learn to become a pilot. Train sim doesn't even have that, though, so I have no idea what the allure is.

How did MSFS get such long legs anyhow?

Surprisingly it takes very few keys to actually operate a train. Even in realistic mode.

A couple of weeks back there was an item in the news about a pilotless frieght train chuging through a city somewhere in the Mid West. The conductor had a stroke. Someone finally had to jump onboard to stop the train.

This, gentlemen, is the only reason to purchase Train Simulator. Very similar to the MSFS fantasy where the stewerdress comes back into coach 30k and asks if anyone can fly a plane becasue both the pilot and his first mate have keeled over from food posioning.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By mtkafka (Mtkafka) on Tuesday, June 26, 2001 - 08:23 am:

sorta off subject on an off subject thread... but I think Microsoft should be commended for making a game like this! Who else who have thunk MS would make a Train Sim game of all things. Now if the game had a virtual train set, design your own train station and watch it run mode, that would be a seller for me. The draw of the train hobbyist i think is akin to like building models or flying RC planes... they represent real life, but without all the hassles. Look at all these sims games selling well, theres the voyeur aspect as well.. wanting to see how things are done, an education as well as stress relief imo. Instead of watching a train set, you can sit in a virtual train watching the scenery... this concept seems dull but i think ppl are drawn to it.

also sorta offtopic again.. one of my coworkers noted he LIKED the hunting games because theres a stress relief from just waiting for the deer to appear... he didn't have to worry about monsters killing him. sheesh... Deer Hunter... russian roulette...Robert Deniro, i ramble

etc


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Tuesday, June 26, 2001 - 10:35 am:

>>While this is a fair point, in some instances, you're doing a disservice to the source material.

I don't review flight sims but do enjoy racing sims, and I've taken to using a sort of cheese-out term when discussing car models, "plausible physics." In a sense, it's admitting I don't really know with any certainty how realistic it is but that the vehicle performs how I think it should, based on either personal experience, published numbers (i.e. lap times), whatever.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Tuesday, June 26, 2001 - 10:56 am:

"While this is a fair point, in some instances, you're doing a disservice to the source material."

Yes, however...

"One example: the flight model in Red Baron 2 was deliberately simplified to be more forgiving to casual players and, I felt, betrayed a lot of the charm of the planes being modeled."

At this point it becomes a gameplay issue, and that is something that you SHOULD comment on. Having never even riden in a helicopter, I have absolutely no idea how accurate the ground effect physics in Longbow 2 are. But I do know that they make the aircraft more interesting (and more challenging) to fly, and I can comment on how that affects the gameplay.

Steve and I have discussed this on numerous occasions, and I think we mostly agree on this point: in any simulation, plausibility is more important than accuracy. Every simulation is at best an approximation, and ultimately how realistic the sim feels is more important than how realistic the sim actually is.

One thing that bothers me about some hardcore driving sims is that they are actually a lot less forgiving than the real thing, because in a game you lack all of the tactile feedback that you have in real life. In real life, I can FEEL when my car begins to oversteer. In a game, I have to listen for audio cues, and those are unprecise at best. In this instance it would be better for the sim to ease up on the real world physics a bit, to compensate for the other shortcomings that you have to deal with.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Dave Long on Tuesday, June 26, 2001 - 12:33 pm:


Quote:

In real life, I can FEEL when my car begins to oversteer. In a game, I have to listen for audio cues, and those are unprecise at best.


Force feedback my friend. Since I got it, I can never go back when it comes to racing sims. I'd guess that aircraft sims would benefit equally well with good FF effects. You'll know well when you're about to lose it with a FF wheel as your control.

Unfortunately, a lot of people aren't willing to buck up for the addition to their experience. It's probably the single best peripheral I've ever bought for the PC. ACT Labs makes a great one and you can even get an adapter for the Dreamcast for 20 extra clams though the FF effects don't work on the DC.

--Dave
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Tuesday, June 26, 2001 - 12:33 pm:

>One thing that bothers me about some hardcore driving sims is that they are actually a lot less forgiving than the real thing, because in a game you lack all of the tactile feedback that you have in real life. In real life, I can FEEL when my car begins to oversteer. In a game, I have to listen for audio cues, and those are unprecise at best

That's an interesting point, and I certainly agree with it. It reminds me of an argument I had years ago with some flight sim jockeys, who were complaining about the existence of any kind of HUD tracking system in a WW2 sim, on the grounds that it was unrealistic.

Of course that's true, but it's also true that a sim on a monitor can't give you the situational awareness that you'd actually get when in a plane, because you lack peripheral vision and have a limited view, and the graphics (especially back when I had the argument) gave you a less distinct view of the planes at long distance. The best option in that case, I suppose, was for the game to just allow you to turn the HUD tracking off, to satisfy both types of purchasers.

Man, that reminds me how bummed I am at the death of joystick games.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Tuesday, June 26, 2001 - 02:26 pm:

I have a friend who is a pilot (stop me if you've heard this one...). He doesn't like realistic flight sims. As he bluntly put it: "You fly with your entire body, mostly your ass, that can't be simulated in my house."

I like to pull that out when I hear realism being bandied back and forth.

That said I completely agree with Steve and Ben's plausibility/accuracy argument. Accuracy might appeal to people who actually fly planes or race cars (or as my example above shows, maybe not) but plausibility should satisfy everyone.

Because...
As proud as Grand Prix Legends masters are of their skill (and they are proud, aren't they?) they are NOT masters of driving cigar shaped death-roadsters. They are masters of the extremely difficult Grand Prix Legends computer racing game.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By TimElhajj on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 12:16 am:

True enough about realism and the limits of the PC. However, one man's plausible is another man's flight sim from Novalogic.

For example, there is a certain satisfaction that only comes from managing an accurate representation of the workload involved with completing a successful bombing run or downing an enemy target using real world tactics. When you can apply tried and true real world tactics and be successful in the game, thatís a good simulation. It doesnít even have to extend to combatólanding on a pitching deck is one example.

I'm kinda new to racing sims, but I would not like GPL as much as I do (and I'm far far far from being a master) if the physics were dumbed down. Not to say that I'm happy with every design decision. I would love it if the Nascar4 UI slider to slow down the AI were present. But give the cars more grip? Would that make it less realistic, but more plausible sim? I don't think so.

It seems like it would just make it easier for a novice and thatís a completely different argument.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Dave Long on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 10:07 am:


Quote:

It seems like it would just make it easier for a novice and thatís a completely different argument.


...which comes back to the argument that all games are not for everybody.

It's interesting to me that many gamers are determined to play games in all genres and then complain about how they don't meet their expectations. Most of the time, that's because their expectations relate to a totally different genre or type of gameplay not represented. They have preferences but don't know how to relate that to their game buys. This thread is an example of how some people seem to want every game to have "breakout appeal" but then get flustered when someone tells them it doesn't. Not many games need it, period.

In our search for the elusive all-encompassing game, we've all been looking past the enjoyment to be had from very focused, very intelligent designs. Instead, we want every game to conform to the same interface standards, story-telling conventions and genre locations. This is, IMO, what's holding back many games from success. Focus is the key and not the hope of reaching zillions of people with a generic design.

RollerCoaster Tycoon is a perfect example of a focus on a particular topic with a near-perfect design. Building theme parks and rides isn't going to be everyone's bag, but the incredible insight into how to make that entertaining (and the research done to make it so) allowed Chris Sawyer to create a product that anyone can enjoy. But what most companies (and many gamers) see is a game about rollercoasters must be a hot idea...

--Dave
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 11:49 am:

"Force feedback my friend."

Yeah, I know. I have it. Still not the same, although it does help. I remember seeing some hardware guys developing a device like a headset that magnetically manipulated the metal particles in your inner ear to produce the sensation of motion... now THAT might actually be helpful in a driving game (depending on how accurately you could control the sensation).

"It reminds me of an argument I had years ago with some flight sim jockeys, who were complaining about the existence of any kind of HUD tracking system in a WW2 sim, on the grounds that it was unrealistic."

I will absolutely use this sort of "cheat" in a sim, because you're right. In real life you have a near-180 degree field of view, in a game it's closer to 90 degrees (maybe a bit less).

I remember one solution to this problem that I really liked: F-22 ADF had a "wide angle" view mode that gave you a really wide (albeit somewhat distorted near the edge of the screen) view. It was fantastic, except for the fact that the MFDs and cockpit instruments shrank down and became unreadable. Still, I think I played that game in 640x480--at higher resolutions something like that just might be feasible.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 01:14 pm:

The other thing that you hear WWII flying vets talk about is how rarely they had their plane enter a spin or other departure. They relate that there was enough tactile and aural feedback to let an experienced flyer know how close he was to the edge. This is probably another case in which absolute slavery to flight physics may result in a less than realistic experience: program in the perfect flight model and conditions under which a given plane departs, and due to a lack of realistic physical input a virtual flyer will constantly be fluttering out of the sky.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Tim Elhajj on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 02:59 pm:

"...enough tactile and aural feedback to let an experienced flyer know how close he was to the edge."

Good point. Not to mention that it would be *physically* difficult to yank and bank in a real warbird at high speed.

This is something that FF just doesn't deal with well at all.

Imagine you're in a real P-51, grabbing a full sized joystick and using both hands and all your strength to pull out of a +300mph dive. Now imagine doing the same thing with a stubby little joystick sitting on your desk. Heh. None of us really get physically exerted pulling our joysticks. The closest you get is the TM F22 stiff inputs, but this is on the level of writst strain, not even close to exhaustion.

In fact, FF has much bigger impact for driving than it does for flight. Within flight, there is a bigger impact for prop then jet. With FF in a fly-by-wire jet sim, it's mostly just there as candy, like lens flare is for your eyes. I have yet to find a good implementation (read: useful) of FF in a flight sim. I would prefer it let me know I'm close to stall without otherwise impacting my ability to handle the plane. Sounds doable, but I haven't found it yet.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Tim Elhajj on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 03:02 pm:

"None of us really get physically exerted pulling our joysticks"

Unless something better comes along, this gets my vote for best quote taken out of context for June 27, 2001.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bruce Geryk on Thursday, June 28, 2001 - 12:36 pm:

"I remember seeing some hardware guys developing a device like a headset that magnetically manipulated the metal particles in your inner ear to produce the sensation of motion"

Ben, do you recall who this was or have any reference for this? Because motion detection by the inner ear has nothing to do with metal particles. I'm curious as to what these guys could possibly be talking about.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Thursday, June 28, 2001 - 03:31 pm:

Yeah, I was speaking from memory, and misspoke (heavy metals poisoning is actually the cause of certain inner ear disorders that this technology has formerly been used to help treat... kind of a stretch, but hey--I saw this thing, like, three or four years ago).

The product (which is apparently still in the works) is called MotionWare. It uses electrodes to stimulate your vestibular system to produce the sensation of motion...

http://www.virtual-motion.com/MotionWare/index.html


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bruce Geryk on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 12:51 am:

Thanks for the link, Ben -- very interesting. This thing looks like it simply applies a mild current that stimulates the vestibular nerve and relies on the game itself to provide visual cues.

Vestibular stimulation is actually used in the treatment of sensory integration dysfunction (such as that found in autistic children and those suffering from ADD) although that is often simply mechanical stimulation like rocking or swinging. Electrical stimulation has been used to relieve post-operative nausea and vomiting, as well as for balance disorders. For this reason, I find this statement on the web page a bit disingenuous: "More powerful forms of this technology have been used in medicine for years." Sure -- for therapeutic reasons. This isn't therapy -- it's entertainment. At least they acknowledge that "readjustment afterwards is not necessarily immediate." That's a side-effect of direct vestibular stimulation: you may suffer from disorientation for some time afterward. I'm not sure I'd want to try this, but maybe it'll be the next best thing to buying your own jet fighter and flying it.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 11:18 am:

Interesting side note--I wonder whether they'll need to get FDA approval to sell this thing. I'd wager that they will.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 12:33 pm:

Great,for full reality they need to attach a vial of syrup of ipecac, then you can throw up after a few high-G maneuvers. Oh yeah, plug in the Smell-o-vision device to complete the illusion...


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 02:31 pm:

You gotta admit, though, that being able to actually FEEL the sense of motion in a game--particularly in a flight or driving sim--would be pretty cool.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jason Levine on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 02:41 pm:

"Great,for full reality they need to attach a vial of syrup of ipecac, then you can throw up after a few high-G maneuvers."

But how are they going simulate the G forces themselves? Sell a bunch of lead weights that you can apply to various parts of your body? Hmmm... Remember a few years back some outfit sold a game chair/desk combo outfit that looked like a fighter plane cockpit? Maybe for the ultimate rich kid sim experience somebody will sell a centrifuge equipped with a gaming rig inside of it. =)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Gordon Berg on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 05:17 pm:

After I threw up - repeatedly - while dogfighting a real plane, I have no desire to relive that experience (made for some nice photos in CGW though). And after pulling 5 G's and not being able to move the next day, I think I'll pass on that as well.

You people are nuts.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 06:52 pm:

Sadly, I don't save back issues...
what kind of plane was that again Gordon? And how did you arrange it? I'm lining up some gigs for Osh Kosh this year, I'd love to throw up repeatedly too.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 08:46 pm:

"After I threw up - repeatedly - while dogfighting a real plane, I have no desire to relive that experience (made for some nice photos in CGW though). And after pulling 5 G's and not being able to move the next day, I think I'll pass on that as well."

LOL! I was thinking about you, Gordo, when I posted that.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By David E. Hunt (Davidcpa) on Friday, June 29, 2001 - 08:56 pm:

Some of us do keep back issues. From the February 2000 CGW, go to:

www.cris.com/~grognard/aircombat

to relive Mr. Berg's flight experience.

and I quote, "Oh yeah. I filled three barf bags while in flight, and one on the ride back to the hotel."

Game journalists will do anything their craft.

-DavidCPA


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Tuesday, July 3, 2001 - 05:03 pm:

I flew in an open cockpit fabric biplane once, and the pilot pulled what I thought HAD to be close to the plane's limit of 6 Gs. In reality, it was more like 2.5, which leads me to believe that 6 Gs is something I'm better off not experiencing.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Sean Tudor on Tuesday, July 3, 2001 - 08:48 pm:

There is a new Train Sim review at SimHQ
http://www.simhq.com/simhq3/sims/reviews/msts/

It is not that much different to Tom Ohle's review. I'd be interested to hear the professional reviewers opinions here.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By TimElhajj on Wednesday, July 4, 2001 - 01:55 am:

Untill one of the professionals chip in, I'll just add my two cents.

It fails for the same reasons that flight sim fails: it's just too damn cerebral to be much fun.

There is some amount of skill involved with piloting a steam engine. I say it's the equivlant to landing in FS. But the other trains are too simple to be very challenging, so it becomes sort of a learn how to read RR sinage and signals game. Woo, woo! Look at me ma, I'm a train conductor.

It would have been better if they could have spiced it up with more life like accidents, where building and train cars take actual damage.

On the other hand, it's no great stretch for me to see FS fans going crazy over this game. I predict you're going to see tons of user made tracks within a year. Next you'll see it appearing in software bundles for new computers being sold by all the major vendors. After that it's going to start appearing regularly on the top 20 selling game lists. Finally fifteen years from now MS'll add passengers.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Wednesday, July 4, 2001 - 09:47 am:

Well, my non-professional two cents:

I thought the review was pretty bland. And way too long to not be more interesting. I lost interest quickly. Honestly, I felt like I was reading the back of the box, but it just kept going on.

Either Ohle's was more interesting, or it was just shorter, so it didn't have to hold my attention as long, because I didn't feel the same way reading his.


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