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Wednesday, 20 February 2019

How To: Keep Hellfire up to Date

This might seem to be a strange topic for a blog post, but the steadily increasing security of Windows systems can cause problems when trying to update Hellfire.

Because the updating process needs to copy files into your Program Files(x86) folder, you need to give your computer explicit permission to do so.  Because of this, automatic updating of Hellfire can sometimes fail, and has been one of the main causes of erratic behaviour and random error messages in the past.  Indeed, many people have opted to turn off automatic updating in favour of just downloading the full install every time there is an update.

Starting with Hellfire V3.6.1, there is a completely new updating mechanism, which displays its progress to you, and will also let you know if there is a problem trying to update.

Firstly,  ensure you have updated to at least Hellfire V3.6.0.  This will require downloading a full install, once auto updates are turned back on, versions prior to V3.6.0 may not correctly update using the auto update mechanism.

Next, make sure you have auto updates turned on (it is turned on by default, but please consider re-enabling this if you have it turned off, unless you experience issues with anti virus programs complaining).

To ensure auto updates are enabled, select Game Settings from the opening screen and select the Updates tab.  Make sure the Check for updates Automatically on Startup option is ticked.


Close the screen and Hellfire will check for updates.  If there is an update available, you will see a message at the top right of the opening screen.


Click on the message to launch the updater.

Click Yes to start the update.  The updater will wait for Hellfire to completely shut down (this can take a few seconds after Hellfire disappears from view) before it prompts to download the update.


Once the update has finished downloading, the updater will prompt you to close it.


Hellfire has now been updated and you can start it as per usual.

Sometimes the updater cannot access a file it wants to update.  If this happens, the updater will stop and display a message saying it is waiting to unlock a file.  You may also see a Windows error message detailing a 'Permission Denied' error.


In either of the above situations, close the updater using the red cross at the top right of the window (or click Close on the 'Permission Denied' window) and restart Hellfire.  Try to run the update again by clicking on the update message - it should run successfully this time.  If you don't have any luck after retrying a few times, let me know (I've tried running this many times and if it doesn't run the first time, it almost always works the second time).





Wednesday, 2 August 2017

How To: Get to Kensington Olympia for those elusive Class 25s on Motorail Services

For those of you not familiar with the London Transport system, you may have resorted to getting to Kensington Olympia by Taxi or Bus, as there does not seem to be a way of getting there by rail (unless you opt for the morning service from Clapham Junction - in itself a possibility for some extremely rare Class 09 haulage!)

The nearest tube station is High Street, Kensington.  This is almost a mile away along Kensington High Street.

To get to Kensington Olympia at any time of the day (when the Clapham Shuttle, or "Kenny Belle" is not a realistic option) simply take the tube to High Street, Kensington from any London Terminus, and walk from there.

For more details surrounding the curious Clapham Junction - Kensington Olympia service at the time, I suggest reading A Beeching Epilogue: The Curious Case of the Clapham Junction Ghost Train

Now there is no excuse (apart from the amount of points required) not to bag those Cricklewood Class 25s!

Friday, 10 March 2017

How To: Add New Locos to Your Needs List

Hellfire Version 3.3.8 includes three Inverness Class 08s which will not appear as required in your needs list unless you manually add them.

If you are not maintaining a career file, then adding the Class 08's is pretty straightforward; simply open up your needs list in your favorite text editor (such as Notepad) and add the following locos to the bottom of your list:

08568
08620
08738

Then save your changes and your needs list is ready to roll.

For those of you running careers, the procedure is a little more involved.

Create a new text file containing the above 3 locos (each loco must be on a new line) and save it somewhere handy.  Alternatively, I have created a file you can use here: http://www.railrover.co.uk/forum/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=875.0;attach=649

Start up Hellfire, and begin a game as normal.  When you get to the screen where you select your career file, select it, and then select Browse For Needs List. Note that you can do this even when you have selected a Career File.


Browse to the text file containing the new locos, and confirm that the path to the file is displayed in the box for Required Locos or Needs List File Name.

Select Start the Game and you should be presented with the following dialog box...


Answer Yes to the above question, and you should get the following...


Make sure you answer Yes to this second question, and the three new Class 08s will appear as required on your needs list.  Note that this differs from the previous post on editing Needs Lists.



Saturday, 4 March 2017

How To: Use your own Images in Hellfire

The locomotive images supplied with Hellfire are, lets face it, pretty average.

They date back to when the game was first released, and Internet bandwidth was much less than it is now.  In order to save on file size, the images were black and white, and saved at a fairly low resolution (by today's standards).

I had been receiving requests to permit people to substitute their own images in the game, and this is now a possibility in Hellfire 3.

There are two ways of doing this.

The first way - best for handling small numbers of images - is to use the Image Manager built into Hellfire.  This allows you to select images to use in place of the generic locomotive class pictures, and also to use an image for individual locomotives.  The Image Manager is accessed from the Game Settings on the opening screen.


Select the Custom Images tab, and click Image Manager.


Select either Loco Types, or Locos from the left-hand list, then select the actual Loco Type or Loco from the middle list for which you use your own image.  Then simply drag and drop the file from a Windows folder, or your Desktop, into the blank space on the right-hand side.  The image should appear in the space.  Repeat as necessary.  When you have finished - click Save to save your image choices.  If you need to, you can click Undo to reset the images back to the point you last saved them.

The second option is best when you want to install a large number of images.  The images need to be named correctly, using just the loco number, so for example, if you want to use an image for 03162, your image must be called 03162.bmp/jpg/gif etc.

Using Windows Explorer, navigate to your My Documents folder and create a new sub folder called HellfireImages (if it doesn't already exist) and simply copy your images into there.  This technique does involve a lot of file renaming if you are using a collection of files you have sourced yourself, or you can take advantage of Ian Banks-Jones hard work and download a complete set of named, colour adjusted and cropped images.  Simply decompress and copy the images into HellfireImages to give yourself a complete set of loco images.  A link to the latest version of the images can be found in the forum at http://www.railrover.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=673.0.  Owing to restrictions on copyright, I cannot distribute these images as part of the game, but they are allowed for your own personal use.

I hope you find this useful, and you enjoy Hellfire with your own images.


Saturday, 25 February 2017

How To: Edit your Needs List

I received a request this week for some advice on how to remove a loco from a Needs List.  It transpires that the loco in question, 13002, had been scooped a while back, but for some reason was still showing as required in the person's needs list.

Anyway, here is how to do it:

If you are running a career, you need to start a game with that career file, and at the end of the game you can save your Needs List.




If you are not running a career, you should already have your needs list available as a text file.

You can use Notepad to edit the file and simply remove the offending loco from the list.

Start a new game, and at the point where you load up your career file, you can also import your edited needs list.

Firstly - select your career file as usual.

Then click Browse for Needs List and select the edited Needs List text file.


Note that the file name will appear in the box where you would normally enter the percentage required locos (if you are not running a career).

Start the game, and respond to the following prompts as below:


Say YES to the prompt asking if you want to merge or replace your needs list.


OK, so this one might seem a little cryptic, but for these purposes, you need to answer NO, so that the newly imported Needs List will completely replace the existing one.

You should now find that the loco you removed from the Needs List text file will no longer be shown as required in your career.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

How it all started - Scottish Rover and Western Rover


I bought a copy of QuickBasic, which allowed you to compile BASIC programs into native program files, and used it to create some basic railway games (for my own amusement) including a text-based driving game from Carlisle to Glasgow Central (you could try different locos on various passenger and freight consists and the screen output included a graphical representation of the gradient profile - better than what Simudrive had to offer!)

My next PC was a 386 machine, with a colour monitor.  I upgraded my development software to Visual Basic 3.0, which allowed you to create Windows applications.  I re-wrote my train driving game to make use of the Simudrive route and motive power files, and added a visual representation of the driving controls of the various locomotives.  I also created a Windows version of Rail Rover, using the same data files as Alan Baylis's DOS version.  I also worked on a project to model Preston Station in a basic signalling simulator.  None of these early efforts were released, and were purely for personal use.

As I was living in Scotland at the time, I became a volunteer at my local preserved railway, and I statrted building a collection of Working Timetables with purchases from their shop.  Armed with a full set of Scottish Timetables for 1984, I set to work building "Scottish Rover", my first fully-fledged haulage bashing simulator.  My development machine had been updated to a 486 and the Internet was now available on a 56k dialup modem.

Once Scottish Rover had been released, I managed to get hold of a set of Western Region Timetables for 1981, and also a set of locomotive diagrams for the Western Region.  With these tools (as well as copies of "Locomotive Hauled Travel 1981" and the British Rail Passenger Timetable for 1981, I started the long task of building what turned into "Hellfire" as we know it.

It would be several years of work before the entire country would be completed, but I decided to start down at one end, and work slowly upwards.  Western Rover was released, initially covering Cornwall and Devon, but eventually growing into the whole Western Region, then up to Birmingham, North Wales and eventually covering the entire network.

Almost like painting the Forth Bridge, shortly after completing the initial sweep of the whole country, I made plans to rewrite the game (partly to ensure it would remain future proof, and partly to harness newer technologies) and make it more data-driven (meaning the actual program would be totally separate from the data files - so it is now possible to run Hellfire for any timetable - all we need is the raw data to build it).

Although this might read like it has been a solo effort getting Hellfire to where it is today, there are countless numbers of people who have helped (and continue to do so) along the way.  From those who have sourced, lent and donated Timetables, Traffic Notices and other official paperwork, to those who have spent time testing and bug reporting, to those who have provided financial support by purchasing the games through the years, without you all it would not have been possible to get Hellfire to its current status.  There is still a lot of work to do, and I hope you continue to enjoy Hellfire in the future.

I'll keep posting to this blog, providing trivia and other nuggets of gen every now and again.

Cheers

Mike

Saturday, 11 February 2017

How it all Started - the Early Games

Around 1984 I created my first Bashing Simulator as a board game that involved chasing Class 40's for haulage around a map of Northern England.  Simply called "The Bashing Game" it made an appearance on a couple of railtours, but the sheer size of the game board (made up of about 20 sheets of laminated A4 paper spread out on a table) did make it somewhat unwieldy.  Players would take turns throwing a dice, and moving their counter along the rail routes on the board.  At the same time, they would also move a Class 40-hauled 'train' on a route determined by card selection.  Players had to position themselves at a station due to be called at by the train, in order to board the train and score points.  There were other features (such as 'railtour' cards) which added some variety to the game.

My first encounter with the world of computer programming was when I undertook a week of work experience at a computer shop in Preston town centre.  It sold the Commodore PET, meaning I could start to teach myself BASIC, the programming language that shipped with these machines.

It was Commodore the released the very successful C16 and C64 machines, which although they were aimed at the fledgeling computer gaming market, were also shipped with BASIC.  The first railway computer games were also being developed, and I dived into the source code for RTC Penzance to see how it all worked.  You can still play this game today on a PC thanks to a free emulator.

I bought my first PC in about 1989; an Amstrad 2086 D.  (The link shows the 2086-S, which was the single drive version of mine - the 'D' stood for 'Dual' as it had 2 3.5 inch floppy disk drives).  Hard Drives were way beyond my budget at that time, but you could run Windows V2 using the two drives.  Not that I ever really bothered with Windows at that time - I was happy just tapping around in DOS, the command line operating system that shipped with PCs in those days. I remember buying my first hard disk drive for that machine, which weighed in at a whopping 20Mb, for 100 Quid - quite an investment in 1989 prices.  Nowadays (2017), you can buy a 2Tb drive for less than that, which is about 50,000 times bigger.

Around that time, a Class 25 bashing acquaintance, Alan Baylis, developed a game called "Rail Rover", which ran on DOS PCs, and was probably the first computer bashing game.  It was based on roughly the same area as "The Bashing Game", but this creation included the 1980 Summer Saturday timetable, and psuedo-ramdom loco allocations.  If any of you have ever played this game, you will see where many of the features of the modern "Hellfire" came from.  I still have V6.03 of this game on a 3.5 floppy, but have no idea if it even runs, as I haven't owned a PC with a floppy disk drive for many years!

To be continued...