Dovetail Games, developer of TrainSimWorld, on building sims
You probably don’t know it, but train simulators are enormously successful on PC. While you might have played one yourself out of curiosity, there are others who are wildly passionate about them. In the same way Microsoft Flight Simulator attracts people interested in aviation who otherwise don’t play games, train simulators are enjoyed by rail enthusiasts who want to get closer to their hobby. “It’s a relaxing and calming way to spend time,” says Reddit user ‘Canadave’ in a thread discussing why people are so into the genre. “There [are] some vague elements of a spatial puzzle to it,” they add. “You have to plan out your actions and figure out the best way of getting everything where you need it to be.”
“The best part about Train Sim for me is getting to drive trains I’ve seen before,” says ‘mygawd’, while ‘tppiel’ notes: “[It’s] the same reason people play Football Manager, and Arma … you are not a manager/pilot/soldier in real life, but you are interested enough in the role.”
Train Sim World, a new simulator from Dovetail Games, is the latest in a long line of hardcore sims with a focus on realism. PC Gamer writes about simulators more than most outlets, but rarely about the people who actually make them. So I thought this was the perfect opportunity to talk to Dovetail about what it’s like working in such an ultra-specific genre and how you even go about translating driving a train in the real world into a simulation.
“We have around 50 developers working on Train Sim World across all disciplines,” says Darren Potter, executive producer at Dovetail Games. “I started my career in game development as a tester for Electronic Arts. I spent roughly 15 years working with them on Bullfrog, Maxis, and EA Sports titles. Then I transitioned into development, working with SCi Games, Lego Media, and Square Enix, where I worked with Avalanche on Just Cause 3, before joining Dovetail in 2014.”
Potter says making games in a genre like this is enjoyable because he gets to work with a group of people who are incredibly passionate about the subject matter, making games for people who are equally passionate. “I also like the challenge of breaking down something that exists in real life, and then using our collective knowledge to work out how to simulate that within the hardware constraints we work to.”
When it comes to determining how the game’s trains feel when the player gets their hands on the controls, Dovetail uses a system called SimuGraph. “Firstly, the feel must tally with our combined understanding of what it’s
You can drive a train through upstate New York in the Northeast Corridor DLC.