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Perception of Gaming in Architecutre and Transport Modelling - Trainz

Transport based modelling has a firm founding in academia, yet it is the games industry that leads the way in terms of visualisation. It is interesting that although working in the field of visualisation the use of game engines is still viewed as a slightly amusing sideline. An example of this is highlighted by the case that when talking to a colleague in architecture, before my talk at IMAGINA in Monaco entitled 'When Games and Architecture Collide', the person in question could barely conceal their mirth at the topic.

In truth you only get peoples attention when you show the output and the realtime visualisation you can achive with software costing less than £20 ($35). See our posts on Game Engines for examples.

If the use of the word 'Game' gets laughter from people inside the industry, let alone fellow academics, our proposal three years ago to the 'Cross Rail' Board to visualise the Cross Rail route through London using a game known as Trainz suffered a similar fate. The following demo of Trainz highlights its potential:

Trainz is a very accomplished piece of software, not only allowing complex transport simulations but also the ability to import 3D models from other packages. As such we had a functioning demo, with fully texture mapped models and a series of UK rolling stock, operating through parts of the City of London.

It would of been a small jump to visualise the proposed Cross Rail route - sadly the word 'game' meant looks of derision from the members sat around the table in the board room. A 3D visualisation of the Cross Rail route would have been a fantastic leap forward in informing the public on both its benefits and its impacts on the environment, sadly if you look at the Cross Rail website there is no such level of sophistication.

If we had used the term 'Agent based Transport Simulation' we would of probably got the go ahead, its all the same work just a change in wording and a sad indication of the way that games based visualisation is perceived...


  1. Anonymous2:17 PM

    so what is a good game engine to use for this. Are there affordable ones that are worth the time. What about programming knowledge? What would one need to add objects to a gaming environment and create some sort of executable?

  2. Yes, sometimes you have to beat business people over the head to get them to recognize most of the best graphics technology is derived from the gaming industry. I can only imagine those in the train transport industry would be horrified by the idea of using gaming technology for their business. Your suggestion of calling it something else would have probably worked better.

    That was a cool video.

  3. Anonymous5:16 PM

    Anon - we have found that the Oblivion Engine is the best to work with. You can view examples via the Game Engines link on the blog and you can order it via the Recommened Reading/Hardware link.

    Frank - we are increasingly have to call things other names - eg we dont mention the word Planning too much but instead use 'urban visualisation'...

  4. Any word on when you guys might put up a process outline or workflow/tutorial on using Oblivion to produce walkthrus? I remember it being mentioned and I've been following this blog ever since.

  5. Anonymous6:09 PM

    Your right we did mention it! Ok I'll make a note to do a post on creating an oblivion object soon as i can - prob next week..


  6. Wow! Awesome. To tell you the truth, I didn't think I'd get a response (no offense...I figured you guys are busy). That'd be great though.

  7. Anonymous2:49 PM

    Don't - and I mean this - ever call it a "game" if you want to be taken seriously. When you do that, most people either think of Pac Man or Mario, or a situation where you're wandering around with a rocket launcher blowing stuff up.

    Trainz is a railway simulation package, or a modelling package if you prefer. Just because it costs less than £20 and can be found in the "games" section of the shop doesn't mean it's any less serious than the more conventional alternatives.