Exclusive "Kickstarter" Beta Test Begins!
Hooray... the T:ANE Beta has arrived!
We've already reached 37,000 logins to the beta test site with 1,189 users completing over 32,000 tasks and submitting 1,410 bug reports - and that's just Alpha and Pre-beta testing statistics!
Now we're ready for the next phase and we'll be hitting full throttle for the rest of the year to ensure we identify, prioritize and squash those pesky bugs and provide a smooth, stable product for all our fans to enjoy.
What a Journey!
It's 10 months since our Kickstarter campaign closed, and we've come a long, long way since then.
Back in 2013, we had a half finished game engine, 12 years of experience developing the Trainz Simulator franchise, and a plan to make our best ever version with Trainz: A New Era. With the support of 1,791 backers on Kickstarter and a successful crowd-funding campaign behind us, we were ready to begin the task of completing the engine, porting across all the core TS12 systems and creating the key new features that would help make T:ANE our best ever release.
We wrote design docs for the new systems, got feedback from our Pioneer Council and Trainz Enthusiast groups and created technical docs for the programmers to implement. We added some new people to the team and then began developing the new systems such as procedural junctions and the Test Track physics tools.
Many of the existing game systems were ported directly over into T:ANE, and other systems needed a lot more work to be implemented such as the water system. The current water implementation is fairly basic, with work scheduled on new water "shaders" that will add animation, movement and much more realistic water effects.
The engine work also continued with multi-threading and 64 bit support added and by June, shadows were included. Then we moved onto per-pixel lighting (giving the more 3D look below) and nice looking shadows (shown further down the page) and soon there will be nice post-processing effects to make scenes look even better and more realistic!
Now that the core infrastructure is in place, the engine will continue developing and improving with new shaders and new effects for a long time to come.
And the result of all this work has led us to our Exclusive Beta test which we released yesterday - congratulations to the whole Trainz Team for getting this far, but remember...
Beta Isn't Final
The Beta milestone is simply a waypoint along the development path. It generally means the product is "content and feature complete" and while we're not quite at that stage yet, we felt it was important to get a build to our core fans so they can participate in the testing and help us identify the remaining issues that need to be fixed. We know that some systems are still not 100% complete, but we are very close to delivering the final pieces (such as the animated blades for our procedural junctions).
We have been in development for over a year, and we still have around four months further refinement, bug fixing and polishing to go. So in effect, we're really "3/4 complete" with the final 1/4 being the time that all the eye candy and optimisations are implemented.
We're confident that the final product will be a vast improvement upon the beta release and the testers who have been with us since Alpha can attest to how far we've come in the past four months.
It is worth stressing again that anyone participating in the beta should EXPECT bugs. Don't be surprised or disappointed by them! That's what beta testing is all about. This isn't a pre-release marketing build, but rather an in-development product that is getting better every day (except for the days when something breaks and we go backwards :-)
Also, if you have been involved in earlier testing, make sure you come back and check out the progress we've made, and if you haven't visited us yet, come pay us a visit on the beta test site and enjoy the ride with us towards the finish line.
Now that we've reached Beta, we're also very close to releasing the first in-development screenshots. There's a sneak peek above at a shot from Healesville, and we couldn't resist slipping out one more shot. We'd love to point out all the flaws that are still visible, but we're sure others will do that for us :p.
For those who haven't spotted the lighting on the billboard trees on the hill and the missing branches on the pine trees, instead just admire the shadows from the trees across the terrain and train ;)
Last but not least, we are pleased to let everyone know that we're putting the finishing touches to many of the other rewards that people selected. The Beta build includes many of the custom avatars, rolling stock, trainsets and buildings (with more to come and more work to be done on some of the included content). The wallpapers will be delivered (digitally) shortly so keep an eye out for the email that will provide you the link.
Thanks for joining us again on this Kickstarter update and we look forward to seeing many more of you becoming involved in the testing as we get nearer to completion.