NIMBY Rails devblog 2022-01

One year ago…

… NIMBY Rails launched in early access! The year has seen 7000 internal builds, more than 100 public ones, and 100K+ lines of code added, changed or deleted. Some features back in January 2021 were barely a hint of what they have become one year later. And despite this there’s still ambitious work to do on some of the most basic game systems, like v1.2 did with tracks, v1.3 with population, and v1.4 is doing with stations and v1.5 will do with lines and timetables.

I believe the year to be a success for such an extra niche game, with the handicap of being an early access game on top of it. It makes enough income to keep me working full time, and so far all the development challenges have been achieved, either by code or by design compromise. I don’t see a reason to change the pace or method of development at this point, so I will continue in 2022 as I did in 2021: focus on one or two major releases ahead of time, aim to release 3 to 4 of them during the year, and don’t rush just for the sake of going of out EA.

Steam Deck review results

I don’t have a Deck devkit, but Valve is internally reviewing games for compatibility, and a few days ago it was time for NIMBY Rails. Here’s the results:

So basically the game is playable with the exception of some missing quality touches due to not supporting the Steam Input APIs. I’m intrigued about how such a mouse heavy UI plays on the Deck, if the pads are enough or it’s just becomes easier to use the touchscreen.

Saves backup

Steam Cloud Saves have been supported from day 1, using the automatic system, which Steam implements by synchronizing the contents of the game saves folder with their online storage. From time to time I receive reports of save corruption, which I have been unable to reproduce in any way, but which appear related to this system. For this reason v1.4 will implement an automatic backup system. All saved games, including autosaves, will be backed up in a “Roaming Profile” folder in your Windows user folder. This folder is the same used for the settings file and it is left out of the configuration of Steam Cloud Saves. Hopefully starting in v1.4 it will be possible to point players to this folder when they encounter the save corruption error.

Curved platforms

Flying pigs have been sighted in a frozen hell, and NIMBY Rails now supports curved platforms.

In v1.4 tracks have an extra flag, “keep straight”. It is enabled by default for platform and depot tracks, and it can be disabled in the track constraints panel. Disabling it enables the platform to be curved like any other pair of track segments.

v1.4 concept of a platforms and stations

If it turns out a platform is now just two track segments which can be bent like any other track, what is a platform? What is the most minimal platform you can build? This is one:

Just your standard 2 segment track piece, nothing more. It has no signals, no visible footprint, no nothing. It just happens to also be a station platform. If you go into the track editor and select one node, an additional hint will be displayed:

So platforms are still using the same system they have used since v1.1 for grouping platforms into stations. A rectangular footprint is associated with the platform track, and touching footprints between platforms groups them into a single station. The difference is that now in v1.4 this footprint is an editor level feature, not a cosmetic one. This completely decouples the concept of what is a platform from what it looks like. And how you make it look like what you want to? With buildings.


And now for the big v1.4 feature. An entirely new base game object has been implemented: buildings. Building is actually not a correct name for this feature, but most of the time it will be used to draw buildings or parts of buildings. Buildings are a new kind of object, a resizable, orientable rectangle you can build anywhere in the world, and pick its texture (and sometimes color) from a listing of textures which can also be expanded with mods. Buildings can also be attached to tracks to keep them parallel to them, or (optionally) to deform them with the curve of track. Who likes island platforms on a double curve?

If you have the patience you can try something larger, like (click to open full image):

And build the ground floor too, why not (v1.4 has togglable depth layers in the map options, and buildings are assigned to depth layers, like tracks):

There’s still a lot of UI and UX to implement for properly editing buildings, and to bring up to quality some parts of the game now broken due to the newfound flexibility of platforms, but I believe this is a very nice addition to the game. While the initial goal is cosmetic, it can also be used for more gameplay relevant features. Something I want to try in the v1.4 timeframe is station footprint expansion based on buildings. A special kind of building will allow to expand a station footprint, invisibly outside of the editor, to reach disconnected platforms.