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MSTS Notes

MSTS NOTES



Before You Buy


Before you run out and buy MSTS TrainSim, here are the minimum system requirements from MicroSoft.

1. Multimedia PC with a PII 266 equivalent or higher processor with a 4MB 3D video hardware acceleration or better.
2. Microsoft Win 95, 98, ME or 2000 operating system (Does not support NT).
3. 32MB of RAM for Win 96, 98, ME; 64MB for Win 2000.
4. 500MB of available HD space for minium install.
5. Approximately 1.8 GB for full install.
6. DirectX 7.0a API or later.
7. DirectX 7.0a or later compatible 4 MB video card capable of 800 X 600 resolution in 32K colors. (Note, need 1024 X 768 to run the Activity Editor.)
8. DirectX 7.0a or later compatible sound card with speakers or headphones.
9. 4X or better CD-ROM drive.
10. Mouse.
11. Super VGA, 16-bit color monitor or better supporting 800 X 600 resolution. (Note, need 1024 X 768 to run the Activity Editor.)

What they mean is "It may or may not run with the above." It may not even run on a new computer. What does all this mean you ask?? The following was found out during the first three months. Here is the minimum requirements to get any kind of satisfaction with MSTS.

1. Multimedia PC with a PII 500 equivalent or higher processor with a 8MB 3D video hardware acceleration or better.
2. Microsoft Win 95, 98, ME or 2000 operating system (Does not support NT). Watch out for ME. There have been problems.
3. 128MB of RAM for Win 96, 98, ME; 192MB for Win 2000. Ram is cheap.
4. Forget minimum install.
5. Approximately 3GB for full install. If you don't have that much, buy a new HD or a new computer.
6. DirectX 7.0a API or later. 8.0 is better. There has been problems with 8.1.
7. DirectX 7.0a or later compatible 8MB video card capable of 800 X 600 resolution in 32K colors. (Note, need 1024 X 768 to run the Activity Editor.) As you notice, it says card. If you have intragrated video, buy a new computer. MSTS almost always does not work without a card.
8. DirectX 7.0a or later compatible sound card with speakers or headphones.
9. 4X or better CD-ROM drive. Should have 20X or better.
10. Mouse.
11. Super VGA, 16-bit color monitor or better supporting 800 X 600 resolution. (Note, need 1024 X 768 to run the Activity Editor.)

What I mean by the above is MSTS will run fair with the above. Microsoft says you do not need a Gamers setup to run it. They lie. To run it to the max you need the latest top end gamer.

If you have to buy memory, buy a 256 stick. If you have to buy a video card, buy an NVidia chipped APG 4X 32MB or better. MSTS loves LOVES memory and good video cards.


Video Cards


Before you buy MSTS, make sure you have the latest drivers. If you just bought a computer or new video card you DO NOT have the latest ones. I bought my card last April, CT6971, 32MB DDR, and the CD was two updates behind on a card that was new to the market. What driver do I have and how do I find out.

Right click on My Computer.
Click Propertys.
Click Device Manager
Click + on Display Adapters.
Click on the Adapter (highlite).
Click Properties. This will give you the manufacture and name of card.
Click Driver
Click Driver File Details. This will give you the chip provider (NVidia) and the file # of the driver. (Mine is 4.12.01.2750.)

Now go to the manufactures web site and click on Support/Drivers and find the latest one. It will have the largest number. Download and install. PLEASE READ ANY INSTRUCTIONS TO THE LETTER. After installation, you may have to reset your video. How do I do that you ask??
Click Start
Click Settings.
Click Control Panel.
Double click Display.
Click Settings.
Set the settings.

Best if you reboot after this. I run True Color (32 bit) 800 by 600 pixels. For driver help, go to Drivers.com

Next check "Hardware Acceleration"
Right-click on "My Computer"
Select "Properties" from menu
Select "Performance" tab
Select "Graphics" button
** now check that the hardware acceleration slider is set to "FULL"

If you need a new card, here is what I recommend. Creative Labs 3D Blaster Annihilator Pro AGP 4x 32 MB. Yes, I know there are better ones but the CT has the best software handsdown. The MSRP is $245.00 (8/02) but can be found on the street for $75.00+. I paid $165.00 for mine on 04/01.


Sound Cards


I run a 16 bit card, low end. It seems to work OK. In the realm of sound it is called, "How much do you want to spend??". I would rather spend money on graphics.

I got this one from Ted Curphey, funnelfan@icehouse.net. This works wonders for MSTS. The name of it is DX applet.

Quote:
"Microsoft left debug mode on in 8 and 8a for Direct sound. That is eating up cpu cycles like mad, not to mention software/hardware conflicts that it can create. Well I hope this helps some people. This will cure many alements. Extract to Windows/System then go to Control Panel click on the Dx applet go to the Direct sound tab and slide the debug slider all the way to the left <<<<< to disable debug mode. It will work w/ 8.1 but I believe debug is off w/ that version. Microsoft, remember to check."
End of quote.


Sybex


This is a little overview of the book. Should you buy it?? Depends on what you plan on doing with the game. It is laid out like a For Dummies book. There are 304 pages, 11 chapters and an appendix.

Chapters:

1, Basic train operating skills.
2-7, The six different routes.
8, The activity editor: Events.
9, The activity editor: Services.
10, The route editor.
11, The geometery extractor.
Appendix, Official & unofficial web sites.


If the only thing you are going to do is run the routes, you may not want to buy it. If you are going to change things around, it is a must buy.


Installation


So, you have made the plunge. If you are married, you better have a good lawyer. If you work, you better have an understanding boss. OK, lets get down to proper installation. The reason I say this is because MSTS is a large program in its first release and has bugs. I assume you have read the above and corrected any problems. Open the package and make sure there are two seperate CD's. Don't laugh. Been there, done that with a map program. Didn't install very good. If you have a system maintainance program like Norton Utilities or another one, run it. Next run a ScanDisk. Next run Disk Defragmenter. While this is running, head for the sink and wash both CD's with mild dish soap. SAY WHAT??? When they press a CD, they some times leave a thin coating on the CD. Will make for a bad install. Just use your fingers with the soap and dry. By now the defrag should be done. This gives you a large block on your HD to play with. OK, time to reboot. The HD is happy and Windows is happy. Now close all open windows in your tray at the bottom. All done. NO YOU ARE NOT!! Keyboard time. press Ctrl, Alt and Delete keys at the same time. This will bring up the Close Program Window. Click on and delete all programs EXCEPT Explorer and Systray. Now you can install MSTS. The above is called a safe and clean install. Piece of cake ;^).


Add-Ons


Here we start with the wonderfull world of the add-on. Your only limit to them is HD space. Before you even start, there are a couple of things to do. Make up a folder in the place you use to hold downloads. I usually download to My Documents. Just name this folder MSTS. Why do this you ask?? Well, if you are like me, once you start with the add-ons there is never an end to it. You can get lost real fast. Next, make a folder for every download you do. There are some of them you have to do work to the files in them. One thing to learn now is one word. Do not forget it. If you do, it will be reload time for MSTS. That word is BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP. Almost all problems with MSTS and add-ons is the lack of doing a backup. Just go to the MSTS section and copy the file you want to change with an add-on. Paste that file in the folder with the add-on and put an additional letter or number at the front of the file name. DO NOT MAKE CHANGES TO THIS FILE. This is your backup ;^).

Now for your first add-on. Here is a warning. Not all add-ons will work. Some of the early ones had fatal flaws in them. Activities that worked were few and far between. If you get anything that will not work, flush and forget about it. It will usually be a bad one. Even the early good ones had fixes after fixes. Another note. If you have to open a file with the picture of MS Windows, only open it in Wordpad. Do not open it in NotePad. Remember to READ all instructions that come with an add-on.

Here is the best place to get them.

Train-Sim.com
Train-Sim Member Login


While you are at Train-Sim, you might as well download ConBuilder or get it here. ConBuilder, the latest version. A very good utility.

Must Haves


The first and most important one is a fix for a MSTS bug. On Train-Sim.com, click on Utilities and find the following file: tsunpack.zip. If there are two of them, use the latest. This is a fix for installing add-on activities. Make sure you read the instructions.

The next one is to stop the long wait getting into MSTS to have fun. Here is how to get rid of it. NOTE!! This routine requires the use of the program REGEDIT. If you are not comfortable using REGEDIT, then don't. (Or at least make a backup first.) There is that funny word again called BACKUP ;^).
Click Start
Click Find
Files or Folders
Type in regedit
Double click on Regedit.exe
Locate the following key path:
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Microsoft Games\Train Simulator\1.0\HWRenderer]
Set value of 'Showlogo' (near the botton of the list)from '1'to '0'. When you are done, make sure there are eight (8) zeros.
Before : "ShowLogo"=dword:00000001
After :   "ShowLogo"=dword:00000000


Next on the list is just for show. As you have noticed, MSTS does not have very good skys. Well, there is an add-on for that, It is called Sky! Conductor 2. You can get it from Train-Sim.com in the utilities section. Make sure you get the latest version. The first one had a lot of bugs in it. The file name is skycond2.zip. The drawback is the size of it, 20+MB. BroadBand time. If you have Java Runtime already installed, don't use the one that comes with it.

One more good one. Found this after having MSTS for about a month. Was looking around on the MSTS #1 disc and found this goodie, Techdocs.exe which is a zip file. It contains 28 MS Word docs that are not in the Sybex book or the regular help files. All of your how-to guides and conversion guides for the editors and tools are in here. VERY INTERESTING info. Now you say, "I don't have MS Word." No problem. Just go to the following link that has all of the MS readers for the big price of $0.00.

Microsoft Office Converters and Viewers


Activities


First a word of warning!! Make sure you know what you are doing before you change anything. One wrong move and you must reinstall. There is a lot of info in the Sybex book, on disc #1 of MSTS and on the MS MSTS site. There are all kinds of activities and tools on Train-Sim.com. As a note, a lot of the early ones had problems. Just start out with the newest ones and go from there. If Rob E. had anything to do with it, it is good. FunnelFan is another good one.


Routes


So you want to design your own route?? If you are not a Software Engineer, I will look you in the eye and tell you, don't even start. It takes hours and you can loose it all with the wrong key stroke. Even doing everything right, Windows will get to you. It is becoming easier everyday to do it with new software coming out all the time.


Skins, Locos & Cars


To do skins you need good graphics software. Unless you want to buy Adobe for around $500.00 you next best bet is Jasc® Paint Shop Pro® 7 for around $100.00 MSRP. To design cars and locos of your own, move the decimal point one notch to the right and replace the 1 with a 4, $4000.00 to start. This is wire frame 3D stuff. There might be some new stuff out now. Check around.




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