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Post feature RSS Introducing Railroad Dispatcher

Welcome to Railroad Dispatcher - an enjoyably-paced web-based game that puts you in the role of a busy train dispatcher, moving trains into and out of your corridor. Here is an overview of my influences, an animation of a few minutes of gameplay and a list of the next few things I am going to add to the game.

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Three Trains

I'd like to introduce you to a game I've been repeatedly working on and throwing away, on and off again, for about a year now. The concept is to take the role of a Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) dispatcher for a railroad, routing trains into and out of your busy corridor.

For those of you unfamiliar with CTC, here is an image of a typical CTC panel:

Active Union Switch and Signal CTC machine at Amtrak's THORN Tower.
Credit: Sturmovik at Wikipedia

Now, of course there are already games like these on the market, including some fine ones. I'm not talking about the quick, puzzle-solving kind of dispatch games, but the kind that more resemble their real-life counterparts. In particular I am referring to games like SimSig (Simsig.co.uk).

Screenshot of the Exeter version of Simsig
Credit: Jezhotwells at Wikipedia

This is a fine simulation but I've been trying to think of a way to make a game like this a little lighter on the realism, but without giving up the thought processes involved in working CTC.

Here are my requirements:
1. I like a lot of railroad history, so I want to use the old style CTC control panel which only shows block occupancy. I don't want a screen that shows me everything I need to know about the trains in play.

2. I want to see all of the tracks under my control on screen at the same time.

3. I don't want to make the game an exact replica of real life operations. For example, I wanted teletype reports for important information to get delivered to the player. I don't really care if it fits the time period or not nor if that kind of information would be sent via teletype. I just want the game to feel a certain way.

Collision

4. I want there to be a lot of things to do and control, even if they aren't prototypical. This is why the model board has slot and teletype controls, and soon, grade crossing controls.

So I feel that I am finally on the way to accomplishing that. Here is an animation of a few minutes of gameplay. You will see the following:

1. An eastbound freight from Santa Fe requests a slot on its way to Boston.
2. The start of the route is set and the slot is granted.
3. A westbound freight from Cleveland requests a slot on its way to Phoenix.
4. The start of the route is set and the slot is granted.
5. The westbound is routed onto the siding at Elgin so the eastbound can continue down the main.
6. I finally get the freight out of St. Louis rolling towards Baltimore.

Gameplay Demo

Two things to note: I sized my screen lower than what I've been testing at to keep the animation file size low. This is making the text on the control panel a little fuzzy. I'll address the sizing issue shortly. Also, since this is a GIF, there are no sounds in the animation. When I get a real video up you will hear them. Currently there are:

1. A bell chime announcing trains that need a slot.
2. The control panel switches emit a clicking sound.
3. The control panel command buttons emit a push button sound.
4. Not present in the animation are the teletype messages. New messages emit a paper ripping sound when viewed.

On the short list of todos are:
1. Clearing collisions from the track.
2. Showing times on the timetable.

Timetable

3. Ordering trains to reverse direction if necessary.
4. Pause game.

I've taken influences from both American and English railroad operations and I think it's starting to take shape nicely. I'd appreciate any feedback you may have.

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