A Small Word About Release Dates
This is quite a heavy post, but it’s something that needs to be said. Another more frequently asked question amongst the BVE community is about release dates. We felt it was time to address the elephant in the room. Grab a cup of tea (or coffee if you prefer) and settle back. This is going to be a long one.
Let’s talk about Train Simulator 2020
While there may be others, it cannot be doubted that TS2020 is the king of train simulators at the moment. Those of us who develop for BVE appreciate that we will never be able to do some of the things our rival can do. However, there are a few things we’d like to mention:
1. Train Simulator is a paid product
A vast majority of those who bring you content for this simulator are paid for their time. We are not. Many of them are full time developers whose entire work day is spent building new routes and trains for you to enjoy. We on the other hand do what we do for free. Due to this, everyone in the BVE Western Region team holds a full time job. This means the time that can be spent on development is limited compared to our TS2020 counterparts.
2. Graphically TS2020 can do more
Yes, there is only so much BVE can do. It’s amazing to see people breathing life into BVE and making content which, at times, rivals its TS2020 counterpart.
Why are we saying this? When people go to the trouble of showcasing our work on YouTube it is sometimes spoilt by people who love to remind us that we aren’t TS2020. While we can all appreciate that the internet is full of opinions, please think before you speak. BVE developers put a lot of their free time and their effort bringing you content free of charge. Show them some respect.
BVE developers put a lot of their free time and their effort bringing you content free of charge.
3. Paid staff give release dates
This one is particularly important. For a game development company to make money, they have to give release dates. They’re earning their living doing this, they are able to work to deadlines. Game development companies have an entire team of people dedicated to planning out when they will be able to release products. These aren’t people who write code, they are called project managers and their entire work day is spent managing timelines. They then have a development team which can easily range up to 40 developers. They have an in house quality control team who spend every day, all day, filling out bug reports on the tiniest minutiae. On top of that most development companies will have a team of people who work in marketing and social media to help promote the release and part you from your hard earned money. Even a small game development company will have at least 30 people on the payroll.
Dovetail Games we are not
We do this in our spare time. We can have a big problem reported, like with the ATO issues on the Central Line, we then need to shift focus of our small team from the release we were working on to fixing that issue. We could put a release out for testing only to discover that it has major issues on Windows 8. This can sometimes result in release dates being put back.
Rather than have to manage the disappointment of the community, we prefer not to give release dates. This is so we can be sure we get things right beforehand. There is also the fact we all have to lead normal lives outside the BVE world. Sometimes those lives are more pressing than our commitments here.
This was just a rumour. It wasn't a date we'd even officially confirmed.
We wouldn’t do that!
Remember back to just before Christmas when a rumour started on the internet that the Jubilee Phase 3 extension was going to be released. We were getting hate mail that we hadn’t released it. There were implications that we were sitting on the route just to annoy the BVE community. A YouTuber even made a video mourning the demise of the route.
This was just a rumour. It wasn’t a date we’d even officially confirmed.
If we get all that aggravation from a rumour we didn’t start imagine what the community would do if we missed a deadline.
Moving on to our content
It has to be said, we previously weren’t able to keep the community updated as we do now. Our new Twitter account has meant we can show everyone what we’re up to as well as reassure that our projects are still ongoing. The addition of our Project Status page means that you can check what we’re working on whenever you feel like it! We’ll cover this a bit more at the end of this post. Release dates to one side for a moment. Now seems a good time to let people in on some of the things that goes on behind the scenes.
What goes on behind the scenes?
Sometimes just to build a simple object takes a lot longer than we’d perhaps like. Newer platforms allow you to use advanced 3D modelling programs to build amazing structures in quick succession. For us who work with BVE this is not so. Great efforts have been made to allow 3D models to be imported. However, this can lead to a drop in performance and further issues when trying to convert. So for us here at BVE Western Region we do things the way BVE’s developers intended!
Have you ever wondered what it takes just to build objects? 3 programs. One is BVE Object Viewer. This allows you to see what your code looks like as a finished result. The second is a good image editing software in order to make textures. We use Adobe Photoshop. Finally, the one that puts this all together is not as advanced as you think… We use Notepad! Yes, all objects in BVE are done by text and as such, Notepad is your best friend. However, you can’t write plugins in C# in Notepad. This is where Visual Studio comes in. More on that later.
Surely you don’t use Notepad for route building as well?
Yes we do. There is a program called Route Viewer that allows you to see what you’re doing. Apart from that, everything is done by text written in Notepad. While this might seem daunting, the results really do speak for themselves.
That was just route building. Putting a train together is a different story altogether which we shan’t be covering this time. As for why we mentioned the process of building content for BVE, there is a reason for this.
Developing for BVE takes time… lots of it
When it comes to route, some locations take almost no time at all to put together. Let’s use some examples. As you travel from Ealing Broadway on our Central Line to White City, you see 5 stations along the way. Ealing Broadway took us over 3 months to produce! West Acton and East Acton on the other hand took only a matter of weeks to make. North Acton featured junctions, but only took a modest amount of time to put together. White City on the other hand took what felt like an eternity to build! As each station has it’s own architecture and character we can’t just use generic objects. You wouldn’t want to drive through 5 stations that all look the same, it’s just not realistic!
As each station has it's own architecture and character we can't just use generic objects.
Our Jubilee Line is another example. Once we had passed Bermondsey, the remaining stations on the extension took almost no time at all to put together. After this, we moved onto the 1970s stations. These required a new template to be built from scratch, but once this was done it was a fairly quick process to build. However, Finchley Road and West Hampstead both took a considerable amount of time to make. That tiny little section is barely a mile long, and yet has double the amount of scenery seen on the previous surface section. Once again though, we wanted to get this right. A lot of our followers appreciate the amount of detail that goes into our content, and we want to maintain this level of quality.
You can’t always get what you want
The Rolling Stones weren’t wrong with that song! There are no doubt many people who have recently read our post about ATO. It may have disappointed a few of you, but it was something that we felt needed to be said. Making content for BVE is a labour of love. We all do it because we enjoy what we do. We have to enjoy that particular thing enough to want to devote our spare time to it.
Occasionally the content we make may not be exactly as you’d like it to be. It may be set in an era you’re not familiar with. It may be before certain technology was installed. It’s almost like the art world. A painting is the vision of the person who painted it. Critics may not like the decisions the artist has made, but they accept it whether they love it or hate it. If it is perfect in technique they won’t dissect the vision. This is no different to our work. Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t change a person’s vision. You can’t force someone to make something that doesn’t interest them – especially if they are doing this for free.
Why don’t you get a Patron account then?
You maybe asking yourself why we don’t set up an account for you to donate to. There are three reasons for this:
We have costs – on a regular basis we have to pay for website hosting, Photoshop, software to monitor the website, Affinity Publisher (for making manuals), our domain name and some social media tools to extend our reach. Not to mention the cost of going to London for research and photographing trips. If we took money off you then it’d mainly be used to cover what we currently pay out of our own pocket. It’d offset our expenses but wouldn’t entitle you to anything.
It would give the community a sense of entitlement – if you give us money naturally you expect something in return. We are no longer able to decide we need a week away from coding for BVE, or even take a holiday because the community has paid for an update. We’d lose the flexibility to change priorities and the freedom to build what interests us. It’s a well known fact that when you are paid to do your hobby it’s no longer considered a hobby. Also there’s the tax side of things, but no one needs to talk about tax. It exists, and that’s bad enough.
BVE is freeware – No developer for BVE has ever charged for their work. The fact it has always been there free of charge is partly why it’s still so popular. For us to start asking for money, goes against the principles of BVE and why it has endured for so long.
Moving swiftly back to social media
People will sometimes contact us and ask for release dates. With what we’ve just talked about, please think before you ask that question. As we now have Twitter at our disposal, we will make a point of keeping everyone updated on there. Originally, we used to rely on the news page on this site. It clearly works as you are reading this on it right now. The problem with it however was firstly, there was no way of telling people of any new posts. It wouldn’t be right to expect people to keep looking at our website daily just in case we’d written something. Even if it is pretty.
This neatly leads me onto the second point about our news page. For it to be worth writing an article from an SEO perspective it has to be at least 300 words long. Sometimes, we just want to show you an exciting screen shot. Trying then to think of 300 words to say about this image is somewhat cumbersome to say the least! Now our new setup allows us to reserve the news section for more in-depth articles about what is going on behind the scenes. Or to set the record straight, a bit like we’re doing now.
How will we know when something is about to be released without a release date?
For those who followed our recent North London Line release, part of this is letting people know that it’s almost ready. We’ll announce something new is coming on the site. Often this includes an exclusive preview given to one of our YouTubers. Our point is quite simple: If we say something is being tested then we’re planning to release shortly. However, since we can’t predict what testing will throw up there could be a wait while we fix bugs before we release. In short, we won’t keep you in the dark about an impending release, but we aren’t going to announce it 18 months ahead of time either.
What about the routes you aren’t talking about?
Here at BVE Western Region, we do love to hear from people. While we may not be able to reveal much about upcoming work, there may be something we’re not talking about. If you see a route that hasn’t been touched for a while, and hasn’t been mentioned on Twitter or news posts, check the Project Status page. We have some rather exciting aspirations for content this year and hope to bring you all along with us on this journey.
OK. Rant over. We’ve got work to do.