BVEStation's Exclusive Interview
with OpenBVE Head Developer, michelle.

Hello BVEStation Visitors and Members, I recently conducted an Exclusive interview with the head developer of OpenBVE, michelle. After hearing the heated debate going around in the forums about OpenBVE, I figured I should conduct an interview with michelle to hopefully clear some things up with misconceptions or myths that everyone thinks about OpenBVE. So here it is.

ipaclansite:
We all know who you are but remind us again who you are.
michelle:
I am the developer of openBVE, and also of the Resolution Changers for BVE Trainsim.
ipaclansite:
What motivated you to develop the resolution changer program, why didn't you just jump straight into OpenBVE, or create a patch for BVE to work on modern systems?
michelle:
In early Summer 2007, I needed to replace my old CRT monitor and decided to buy a widescreen LCD in its place. With the poor support for aspect ratio control on then's graphics drivers, and with BVE Trainsim's support for only limited 4:3 resolutions, I suddenly was unable to play BVE Trainsim any longer. Somewhere in August 2007, I decided to try patching the EXE file to allow for different resolutions, and it worked without much effort. This solved my immediate problems, which is all I needed at that time.
ipaclansite:
Why did you decide to develop OpenBVE?
michelle:
In late 2007 / early 2008, everyone, including me, was of the impression that mackoy had essentially abandoned BVE Trainsim, which seemed reasonable given his more than 10 year involvement. The idea that a program everyone liked would never be taken beyond its capabilities was not very appealing to me. Many people asked for opposing traffic, for example, or for support for diesel engines - any of which was and would have never been possible with BVE Trainsim.

In April 2008, I played with the thought of developing my own simulator in order to continue what I believed mackoy had abandoned. There were other motivations besides the above, including better visual quality, a surround sound model, 3D cabs, and just whatever the community asked for. I decided to just start developing and see if this would be feasible to continue in short term. Given that I created some sort of a playable route viewer in just four days, I knew that I could do it with constant effort. This is where my commitment to openBVE began.
OpenBVEimg
ipaclansite:
Do you think OpenBVE is taking the glory of BVE?
michelle:
I am not quite sure what "glory" is, to be honest. There are surely people who praise mackoy for what he has created, and many people are likely satisfied with what that just currently is. Keep in mind though that I started working on openBVE under the assumption that there was no active work from mackoy's part, so I assumed in good faith that at some point, openBVE would in fact replace BVE Trainsim altogether. Given that "Next BVE Trainsim" is now under works, this assumption is unlikely to hold any longer.
ipaclansite:
Some people have complained that the feel of OpenBVE is much different compared to the original BVE what do you have to say to this?
michelle:
I think that we need to compare openBVE to BVE 1/2, and to BVE 4 separately. In BVE 1/2, the display resolution is constrained to 640x480, of which only 480x200 (BVE 1) or 480x440 (BVE 2) are actually used for the 3D scenery. By today's standards, this is very tiny, and combined with the unfiltered texturing, it is quite an unattractive pixely mess. By then's standards, it surely helped the performance to limit the resolution of the 3D output. I like to assume that the layout of BVE 1/2 with the large panes on the side and at the bottom are a consequence of that. Obviously, they are unrealistic, but they are likely what some people would consider to be the "feel" of BVE 1/2.

I also like to assume that BVE Trainsim was always the kind of simulator which thrived to increase simulational realism - compared to commercial games, which just try to be attractive to casual gamers by being easily accessible and inherently unrealistic. As such, it does not surprise me that in BVE 4, those unrealistic interface elements have vanished in favor of a more realistic experience. Now, openBVE is quite comparable to BVE 4. You might not even notice a major difference except for improved visuals. The "feel" of openBVE is thus quite similar to BVE 4, while it is just as alien to a BVE 2 user as BVE 4 is to that user.
36th
36th Street Render in OpenBVE
ipaclansite:
Many developers feel they must comply to these new features of OpenBVE, what do you have to say to them?
michelle:
I have never asked anyone to make use of any of openBVE's features, and have definitely not forced anyone. Whoever likes to stick to BVE Trainsim should do so.
ipaclansite:
Although working with BVE 2 routes, Many believe OpenBVE is leaned toward BVE 4 routes, especially with trains and everything. Is this true?
michelle:
As far as the interface is concerned, openBVE is intended to be as simply as possible, just as BVE 4. However, openBVE actually supports quite more of the BVE Trainsim series than BVE 2 and BVE 4 combined. For example, in BVE 2, there are built-in train safety systems, namely ATS and ATC. In BVE 4, they have nearly vanished, making it impossible to play certain routes and trains. There are many features, not just these safety systems, that were dropped in BVE 4. What many people do not realize is that likewise, some features in BVE 2 have been dropped that were once present in BVE 1. openBVE supports all of them.
ipaclansite:
Nobody has done anything major with the source code yet, do you in the future plan to make it easier for other developers to modify and work with the source code or document it heavily?
michelle:
Well, when I started working on openBVE, I had quite a structured source code that was easy to work with, with most of its capabilities derived from the documentation on BVE Trainsim. Over the time, I needed to adapt virtually all parts of the program to emulate undocumented quirks of BVE Trainsim somehow to make existing routes and trains work as intended. Eventually, rewrites and adaptions in all places made the source code quite an unorganized mess, and at some point in time, I simply stopped caring. After all, I still seem to get along with it, but I doubt that it looks very attractive to anyone else. As I am already rewriting everything for openBVE 2, I am also taking the chance to structure the code in a better way, with XML annotations present in all places.

However, another reason why working with the source code might not be feasible is that it would be quite unreasonable for some developer to introduce, say, a vacuum brake system, and then distribute a unique executable along with their add-ons. I have come to realize that future extensibility relies on a more modular design that allows people to produce add-ons in the form of code without having to change the whole source code. To stick to the example, someone who wants to create a vacuum brake would only need to produce a plugin which provides the desired functionality, and then distribute that plugin. It would also allow commonly used plugins to be distributed along with openBVE.
ipaclansite:
What is your opinion on the upcoming BVE 5?
michelle:
Given the limited transparency of where it is heading, I can only give an impression of the things that I have explicitly seen so far. From my point of view, mackoy created BVE 5 as a result of a change in Microsoft's DirectX that made BVE 1/2/4 incapable of running on Windows Vista. His primary goal thus seems to recreate BVE 4 - but, as he is already on to a rewrite, he introduces some changes along with it. These changes seem quite minor to me.

Surely, there is a completely new route format and completely new train formats, but their overall capability seems quite comparable to BVE 4. For example, in RW/CSV routes, you have fixed 25m blocks, which is a restriction to track geometry. In BVE 5's new format, there is some sort of a 1m block system with more flexible commands to make objects repeat on desired intervals. Quite honestly, you can do much the same with openBVE's RW/CSV formats, which allow to change the block length.

Actually new concepts, however, such as working opposing traffic, or even traffic on the same rail as the player's one, seem not to be present. As far as trains are concerned, the new formats are not descriptive, so I cannot tell, for example, if the ammeter, which is present in the cab is just a visual gimmick, or if VVVF motors are actually simulated internally on an electric level. So far, my impression is that there is quite little change after all.
ipaclansite:
What is your main focus for OpenBVE in the future? Adding the new planned features, or increasing compatibility with per se classic routes?
michelle:
There is enough compatibility with BVE Trainsim. I know that there is no 100% perfect reproduction, but this was never my intention anyway. I never intended to make a clone of BVE Trainsim (which seems to be a prevailing misconception), just a program that could use most of its content in a similar fashion, and then taking new directions. This goal of reasonable compatibility is long achieved, to a much higher degree than initially anticipated. I have not used BVE Trainsim for almost a year, and still, I use a wide variety of content originally written for BVE Trainsim without any problem.

In the future, openBVE will be radically redesigned. You might not even want to call it that any longer. The core program will essentially be a platform to create any train, car, airplane or ship simulator on top of it. This is because every part of it, including the power systems, the brake systems, the physics model, and all route, object and train format parsers will be external components. As such, the actual simulation does not occur in the main program itself, but in its plugins. This will allow people to easier contribute to openBVE. For example, someone might want to use some 3D modelling software, but the file formats this software exports are not built-in to openBVE. By writing a plugin, support would be possible, as would be support for a diesel engine or a vacuum brake.

Besides that, I will be continuing to improve the realism of existing components. The above-mentioned power and brake systems are not unlikely to receive my personal attention, and I cannot rule out support for new route or train formats, either. Eventually, realism of all subsystems should improve to industry solutions, and support for whole networks with many working rails and trains on them (e.g. opposing traffic), are the primary goals.
ipaclansite:
Finally many people wish to remain loyal to the original BVE series, is there anything you would like to say to them?
michelle:
It is not my intention to force anyone to use or develop for openBVE. I see why for some people, the existing BVE Trainsim is all they need, so why should they not be entitled to continue using it?
ipaclansite:
I thank you very much for your time, and I wish the best for the future of development.
For more information visit http://openbve.trainsimcentral.co.uk/

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