By Alfred Barten
Falling rain splatters the windshield of LT 1995 train on the Northern District Edgeware-Morden via Bank route for BVE4. The operable wipers keep the windshield clear. Route and train are by Steve Green and others; available from Trainsimcentral.co.uk .
BOSO VIEW EXPRESS (BVE) TRAIN SIMULATOR was the first train simulator I got seriously involved with back in 2001. Despite the subsequent arrival of the big heavyweight commercial simulators – MSTS, Trainz, and now KRS – BVE continues to have a dedicated band of followers. Some members of this worldwide following have taken the simulator to new heights with sophisticated signaling and realistic cabs with driver safety systems that function like the real thing. Given the excellent train dynamics built into BVE, it seems to me that these new wizards have shown BVE capable of being used in serious driver training.
BVE was first created in 1995 by Takashi Kojima (aka Mackoy), at the time a 14-year-old Japanese student. By late 2000/early 2001, when it was first discovered here in the West, BVE version 2 had just been released and the program had begun its gradual migration from a train driving game of skill, measured in points which were tallied at game's end, to a surprisingly realistic simulation now at version 4.
It's been several years since BVE4 was released and over a year since I spent much time with it (not because I don't like it, but rather because of my heavy involvement demonstrating and creating routes and writing articles for Trainz). Recently I decided to go back and see how things were progressing, if at all. I'm happy to report that things ARE progressing, though largely through the efforts of third-party players. Among the developments are a utility that allows you to set any screen resolution and proportion (previous limits were 1024 x 768 with a 1.33 width-to-height ratio), a patch for Vista, and a brand new version (openBVE - by another developer. Demo versions of openBVE are now available and a full release is expected later this year. Like BVE, openBVE is freeware. It offers new features and the potential for porting to other platforms, such as Mac and Linux.
Let’s have a closer look at these new developments.
When I switched to laptops because of my on-the-road demonstrations, I ran into two problems with BVE. The first was that my big game laptop was capable of 1920 x 1200 resolution – way beyond the 640 x 480 of BVE2 and the 1024 x 768 of BVE4. The second problem was that both versions were limited to the traditional 1.33 width to height ratio. My new laptop has a 1.6 width to height ratio. The aspect ratio and limited resolution forced me to run BVE in window mode, and a small window at that.
The new resolution changer, available as separate programs for BVE2 and for BVE4, solves both problems beautifully. The BVE2 version is a little more complicated to use because it must deal with the three-panel layout of the BVE2 game window. You are given the opportunity to modify the layout, but the results vary according to the train you are using. You will want to do some experimentation with the many variables.
BVE2 version has four tabs of choices/settings.
BVE4 version is simpler because BVE4 screen does not have panes the way BVE2 does.
You can get the Resolution Changers here.
Neither version of BVE can officially work with Windows Vista. Fortunately, Neil (aka ukneilw) has discovered the reason is several DLLs that are included with Windows XP have been omitted from Windows Vista. If you have XP you can copy the DLLs over (a little more complicated than that). If not, I have packaged them for you on my Downloads page or you can probably get them from Microsoft. In any case, I recommend following the instructions provided by Neil in his post at the Trainsim Central website forum.
While Mackoy does not appear to be making further changes to his BVE (he could surprise us), there is development going on in the form of openBVE by michelle. You can read more about and download openBVE here. So far we have a beta version with the next major beta update expected in early July. A final release is expected later this year (or possibly later, since no date has been provided).
openBVE cab view from LT 1995, BVE2 version. Route and train are by Steve Green and others; available from Trainsimcentral.co.uk.
Essentially, openBVE is an all-new program using new code to run existing BVE routes and trains. What’s generating the most enthusiasm is openBVE is open source and offers new features, including out-of-cab viewing, reverse running and animated objects. Of course, these features will place new burdens on scenery, since most objects in BVE are designed with the realization that they will only be viewed from the cab of a moving train. Thus most scenery is much like a series of stage sets. Out-of-cab viewing will force object builders to consider all sides of buildings.
Open source suggests future compatibility with other platforms such as Macintosh and Linux. However, this is not mentioned at the openBVE website, so for the moment it is only speculation and wishful thinking on my part. Here’s a post on the openBVE forum from someone who got it to work on Linux using Wine.
Users of the British routes and trains for BVE4 will at first be frustrated by the step-by-step procedures required to start up a train and get it to leave the station. They may then be frustrated by the sudden loss of power and application of brakes due to the train's safety systems. This is all part of the realistic train driving that some of our UK friends have developed for BVE4. Their work is indeed impressive. All we need now is to hook the PC up to a real cab mockup for an amazing true-to-life simulation.
If you plan on driving these UK BVE4 trains, be sure to download and read the "Driver Guide BVE4 Class 158: Online notes" here.
Newcomers to BVE
If you are new to BVE, I recommend visiting Steve Green’s Trainsim Central website to begin. Here you will find all the information you need to get started, high quality routes and trains to download, and links to other valuable resources.
If you haven’t tried BVE, you’re in for a treat.
Article and screen shots ©2008 Alfred Barten. All rights reserved.
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