Train Simulator – Interview with Simon Saunston

Train Simulator – Interview with Simon Saunston

Regular readers of the site will know that I am a big fan of Euro Truck Simulator 2 which surely ranks alongside Farming Simulator and Train Simulator as one of the hits of the simulation game genre. With the new Train Simulator title coming out later this month, the 26th to be exact, I thought it was the ideal time to find out more. My hunt led me to Simon Saunston of developers RailSimulator.com. Simon is brand manager at the company and was perfectly placed to answer my questions about what to expect in the new game, resolve my concerns over the amount of DLC with his titles and more. Hit the break and enter the world of trains.

ChrisTrain Simulator 2014 is out very soon, what is it about the series that makes you keep making games and what excites you about the new one?

Simon – We keep making games because the Train Simulator community keeps asking us to! The advances we have made with Train Simulator 2014 are all about improving accessibility for newcomers and enhancing the experience for current players. We’re adding improved tutorials, a new and rewarding career mode, new creative tools and an ever more realistic driving environment. TS2014 offers an improved feature set for experienced players while opening up the franchise to a much broader audience.

Chris – I do believe that owners of TS2012 got a free upgrade to 2013, will a similar deal be occurring for 2014 and why have you taken this approach with your games?

Simon – Owners of TS2013, and in fact any previous version back to the original RailWorks from 2009, will be upgraded to TS2014 technology via a free Steam download when TS2014 launches on September 26th. For our product this approach makes total sense, because we are developing a growing and evolving world inhabited by a strong and engaged community. Each year when we upgrade the core software, we begin with a huge community of users already on board.

TS2014 screen2 UK

Chris – I’m currently an outsider looking in as the Train Simulator franchise. What has often put me off is the massive amount of DLC on offer and the fear that I will be missing out on loads of great parts of the game if I don’t get them. Do you think it is a bit off-putting to newcomers having so much DLC?

Simon – DLC for Train Simulator is all about choice, rather than completion. For people with even a casual interest in trains, there is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’. It’s like choosing model trains in a shop: every player has different tastes in terms of the kind of trains they want to drive and where they want to drive them. Our DLC catalogue means that whether you’re into German high speed or American steam or anything in between, you can select the DLC that best allows you to tailor your user experience to your taste.

Chris – Does your approach to DLC pay off; are fans of the series regularly picking up new stuff?

Simon – We are very pleased with the uptake of DLC. The key is listening to our consumers, and focusing on creating the routes and trains they ask for. We have a community of strongly engaged and committed players who talk to us every day of the week about how we should be developing our DLC products, and I think we’re taking some great steps forward in terms of accuracy and playability. We also have a growing rank of external developers in various countries that create content and sell it through our Steam store.

Chris – I look at the PC gaming scene and I see titles like Train Simulator along with Farming Simulator and Euro Truck Simulator slowly gaining greater recognition and appreciation from the more mainstream gaming media and fans. Is this something you’re noticing, and why do you think it is happening?

Simon – I think it’s great that simulation titles are growing in popularity. Simulation as a genre seems to be more popular than ever before, and I think there several factors involved. Firstly, there are companies like RailSimulator.com who are committed to developing engaging, high-quality simulations and raising the profile of the genre. Then there are great PC download retailers like Steam, who have made PC gaming much more accessible to a wider audience around the globe. Also, I think people enjoy a change of pace from what are seen as more mainstream gaming styles – the triple-A titles we are all familiar with are wonderful, but not everybody wants that experience all the time.

TS2014 screen3 DE

Chris – On Steam you have Big Picture, the Workshop and DLC all available and supported. How important are these features to growing the franchise?

Simon – Steam’s ever-growing suite of apps enables us to develop functionality aimed at broader audiences. With Big Picture, Train Simulator can be enjoyed by a casual audience which appreciates the living room or TV screen gaming experience. Workshop and Marketplace appeal to another set of players – those who thrive on building and creating add-ons and assignments, and who are keen to share their knowledge and creativity across the whole community. With TS2014, for the first time players will be able to share their own complete routes, built using the toolset included, and share them on Steam Workshop. That’s very cool, whether you’re a builder, or a player looking for extra free routes!

Chris – With Big Picture mode you support use of a control pad in the game, has the really opened up the accessibility of the title?

Simon – Control pad support has proved a hit with both newcomers and longstanding Train Simulator players. It’s a different style of driving, and for some people it’s easier to learn the controls that way than to memorise the keyboard controls. We do offer an on-screen control HUD with click & drag controls too, but most people I’ve spoken to find the control pad so convenient and intuitive, and it works across all the menus too.

Chris – Where do you see the Train Simulator series going in future? Could we see an online world or even console development?

Simon – I can’t say too much at this stage, but we have some very exciting developments in the pipeline. We are very much guided by the players and what they want from the product, so I would certainly not rule out either of those possibilities. But all I will say for sure is that everybody should keep an eye on the Train Simulator series, because we have barely scratched the surface in terms of what can be done.

Chris – Any last words of advice for any Train Simulator newcomers before they get the 2014 edition?

Simon – If you have an interest in trains, whether you’re a casual observer or a dedicated fan, TS2014 has something for you to enjoy. You can learn to drive a variety of trains on fantastic routes in different countries, create routes of your own and share them on Steam Workshop, and add DLC to build your dream collection. Check out Engine Driver, our new community website coming on September 26th, which is made for train and train simulation fans everywhere and boasts everything from beginner tutorials to in-depth creator articles. And play the new tutorials – they have been made just for you!

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