Trainz/Download Station

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DLS Overview[edit]

The Download Station—or more commonly the DLS (DLS Web Link)—is N3V Game's public repository[note 1]) of 3rd-party custom Trainz assets created and shared by other Trainzers ('Content Creators') in the world wide community, and was instituted in the Trainz 1.3Trainz UTC era (versions v1.3–v1.5), very early in the history of Trainz releases (2000—2003, when it took on much of it's current form and function) and during which, it's library of assets swelled from a few hundred assets well into the thousands. The number of assets available for download in July 2013 numbers over 2,500 routes and 270,000 assets overall, but varies by the trainz-build version of the users Trainz installation (older Trainz can access less, and are blocked from more recent higher trainz-build number assets for the newer may use technologies unknown to the older). Then again there are assets which are functional duplicates of previous versions, dutifully updated using the Trainz KUID and KUID2 system of version tracking and management, and those cut the count down since they obsolete prior releases. Similarly, assets with entries in the obsolete-tables similarly diminish the total count of assets, but whatever the ever changing usable total may be (more are added daily), no one can say there is a poor selection of alternative assets!

Foundation on 3rd Party sourcing[edit]

It is said that Trainz would not exist without the Download Station and the communities willingness from the earliest pre-Beta Test days to share content. Any registered Trainz user may upload their home-built content and/or download content made by others using the cloud based facility. Most of such content is quite good, but alas, there have been many items uploaded by novice content creators which fail the sniff test as well. Now days any budding content creator prematurely uploading an experimental asset that lacks professional qualities is likely to hear about it in vociferous and discouraging ways! They'll also likely receive coaching and help in upgrading it to acceptable standards, unless they're an offputting and abrasive personality—who's content will be shunned until they mature a bit and adapt to accept constructive criticisms gracefully. Overall, content creators are beloved, so support and encouragement and help will be found on the forums—so the harsh words of a few trolls, should be given the attention they deserve. Ignore them.

In recent years policy on uploading has been belatedly changed to vett and pre-error-check uploaded content in an attempt to weed out assets made to older technology standards, ensure only legal tag names (key words) and newer data types and data structures are incorporated, and an asset is complete as well as has all dependencies on the DLS. Some of that vetting (the forcing of new uploads to the latest trainz-build is both unnecessary and unwise, but the N3V reputation for stubbornness is well deserved, so getting them to provide a path for 'functionally just fixing' an older asset so it works with all releases seems less likely than a snowball's chances to make it out of hell.

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The later circumstance is probably an unresolvable problem, as only the asset creator may upload an asset or update it, and many for philosophical reasons choose to not lend their efforts to be freely shared on the DLS.

Their programmer's created the compatibility issues, but won't own the responsibility for them by auto-translating during pre-processing when necessary—a particularly unprofessional attitude in the staff supporting a data base product. Historically, over 90% of software programming involves such compatibility programming, but since it's 'boring code maintenance' N3Vs programmer's have gotten away with it by citing their small size and numbers.

De-Trainzing[edit]

Others content creators have left Trainz or digital trains modeling for various reasons (including passing-away, or those 'going over to the darkside' —now modeling for a competitor product) and others don't feel an obligation to perpetually update assets they authored a decade or more ago. It must be understood, Auran was already a successful mid-size game company when it undertook Trainz' development in 1998, but by 2006 they were almost totally focused on the expensive development of a MMORPG based game that totally flopped, and left Auran in bankruptcy proceedings selling off pieces, laying off nearly every employee and badly needing rescue cash from N3V Games. That event was tramatic and spawn many fan-sites in order to protect the Trainz community from the loss of the DLS and forums. After six weeks, the servers came back on line, but to this day, many an long-time Trainzer content creator hedges his bets with fan-site hosted content that takes it's time wending it's way onto the DLS. N3V's policies continue to tick people off even today, so politics and preference enter the motivations.

Hence even when a creator now wants to upload assets he once hosted personally on a fan site, he'd have to update them just to patch the missing asset a route has called for. Many of these, especially the older retirees who fueled Trainz early explosive growth in asset wealth have no real interest in a newer Trainz release, nor mounting the learning curves of converting things to the newer technologies since incorporating updates on the DLS to advance older (still working digital) models to the minimum trainz-build level now demanded by N3V requires expending $$resources to comply. While often friendly to users making enquiries, those folks have put Trainz into a past chapter of their lives.

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New User Tip Missing assets with an updated form. Assets meeting this condition is also a source of confusion in operating CM, for a missing asset might have a more updated kuid on the DLS and Content Manager will flag the obsolete asset as a missing dependency—a check by author will show the updated version (a kuid2 or another replacement kuid with an obsolete-table while CM is just looking at the initial kuid, a minor bug, but as true for CMP as for CMP-3.x!). Once downloaded, the replacement/upgraded asset can then fill in the dependency association tracking correctly and the dependent asset then can be used.

  • Since once locally downloaded, the condition is cured by the presence of the local updated version, the first step in fixing faults should be to check for an updated version of the asset! Once that is obtained, the version with the error can be safely deleted, or archived.

Those missing assets[edit]

There are many long time Trainzer's who disdain downloading older routes, because it may require fault fixing. Then their are others who disdain newer routes for containing missing assets. In the end, where's their sensible room to complain, you are paying nothing or a pittance for a digital model that took upto 8 man-months to draft, texture and test.

For the missing assets, there are over 400 other Trainz asset sources (index and search engine) on the web hosting downloadable assets and various nationalistic/linguistic camps — plus two broad, major, and diametrically opposed philosophies fueling their continuance:

A) One camp, knowing the time and effort it takes to make a digital model feels they should receive some monetary compensation for their time, so charge a bit to download same. The extreme end of this group is sites which offer only or at least, almost all, payware.

B) Others, feeling the assets should be free and no money-grubbing capitalists should benefit from having their asset in payware (which includes routes released by N3V as part of a release, and some reason as well the revenue stream created for N3V/Auran by the DLS First Class Ticket costs)


C) Lastly, and to a lesser extent are sites resenting English as the mandatory language for asset names and descriptions, so host in Spanish, German, Russian, or other such languages since translation is time consuming and costly.

Essentially, since technically all content is intellectual property eligible for copy-write under international law, all groups are within their rights, and begrudging a person who wants paid for their time is absurd. The Auran/N3V DLS upload release agreement essentially asks up-loaders to waive those rights, allowing N3V to use any DLS asset as it sees fit. Since many content creators opposed to payware also feel N3V's use of an item in a route released in a new Trainz version is also payware and deserved monetary compensation, said believers often host their own content on a fan-site. Similarly, use of an asset from a payware site means those folks want paid. N3V on the other hand, selects routes secretly from a group submitted voluntarily from the user community, and given the expense of hosting the forums and DLS servers, customer services, et. al. aren't about to pay anyone much of anything, except partners whom they have contracted with for DLC, payware hosted by N3V at the Simulator Central web-store.

The unresolvability of the problem is that before dependency checking on uploading (a recent development in the overall time frame), many, perhaps even most, routes and sessions used such proprietary assets, because they are frequently superior or special in some way.}}

Early in the TS2009 era, the N3V Games instituted a controversial policy of only accepting content 'made to' or 'upgraded to' currently supported releases of the software, concurrent with a policy implemented to limit their customer support to such Trainz_Life-Cycle_Policy supported versions. This policy is still causing resentment among many an old-time Trainzer. It also effectively enslaves a content creator by demanding ongoing maintenance and upgrades for some favor he did for someone else years ago!

Content on the Download Station had historically shown significant rates of errors or missing dependencies. This is being addressed via the Download Station Cleanup initiative, albeit slowly as the program is now nearly five years old.

In point of fact, many so-called faults or errors in the majority (i.e. scenery assets) have trivial data model evolution caused faults resulting from unwise technical choices based in lazy and inconsiderate programming standards by a small group of young programmers lacking experience in large project politics.
The damning point of fact is the programmer's chose a path easy for them with insufficient consideration of the impact on the ten's of thousands in the customer base. As a pointed and common example, assets which worked fine in pre-TS2009 releases suddenly weren't able to find their own mesh tables despite being located in the same sub-folders that were part of the earlier (actually earliest) Trainz data model standards, when a few more lines of code could have 'handled the error' automatically using excerpts of proven TRS2006 software, when instead the programmer's chose to force a mesh-table or texture.txt file down users throats. Before v2.0 (TRS2004-SP0) Trainz didn't know about mesh-tables. Hence good programming assumptions would have handled such older constructs the same old way as the TRS series of releases.

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Fact: V1-3 and V1-5 assets usually fail because they assume a more modern structure in the config.txt whilst any considerate programming staff with two or more brain cells would have just written a routine to translate the old style to the new more desired model (from the programmer's point of view) instead of creating a ongoing cancerous issue.
A second example is the unecessary elimination of older legal keywords instead of just ignoring the line, N3Vs programmers generate errors if updating the asset beyond version trainz-build 2.6.

Notes[edit]

References[edit]