September 1st marks the start of some very big, exciting and slightly scary changes for Fastline Simulation.

We always value our followers and customers and try to be as honest and transparent as possible at all times. With this in mind we'd like to share and explain the changes that are ahead, how they may affect you and the reasons behind the decisions that have been made, rather than them being some form of surprise and fuel to speculation.

Fastline Simulation: Change here for The Future

Background

Fastline Simulation was formed just over eight years ago in a period when there was great excitement in the train simming world. At this time Microsoft Train Simulator (MSTS) had established itself in the hearts of many, there were burgeoning community and commercial enterprises springing up coupled to a sense of excitement with Rail Simulator about to be released and MSTS 2 just over the horizon.

The reasons for forming Fastline were two-fold. Firstly as part of an established development team for commercial MSTS expansions I had become dissatisfied with the way that the income was distributed between traditional publisher and developer and as such wanted to create a new service that could redress that balance. Secondly I had recently married my wife and we were expecting our first child and I was looking for a way for us to live in the same county once baby arrived and hopefully have more family time compared to my current career.

Noble plans I hear you say and to be honest business wise things worked out pretty well for the first year or so! However, I kept getting offers of work that were too hard to turn down and still found myself working away from my wife and son.

What was more stunning was the rapid move away from media to download delivery of expansions and the relative ease that anyone could do this - effectively removing the need for a publisher as such unless you wanted to avoid the admin side of selling a product. Alongside this we started developing and publishing our own expansions for RailWorks/Train Simulator and distributing them ourselves as I continued juggling work, family and Fastline. Things carried on like this until the present.

Having just had a couple of very challenging years in my day job I was starting to feel a little worn round the edges and ready for a change/rest and this has been the impetus for the changes that are now afoot. I'm not sure if the rest is going to happen in the next few months but hopefully the sections below will explain a little more about what you can expect and why.

Challenges

Given that I was looking for a change and to finally start living with my wife and son it seemed an ideal time to give Fastline the full attention it deserved and to see if it could provide the income to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. However, there were a few challenges that looked as though they could scupper the dream:

  • Sales were not great enough at the present time for the plan to be financially viable, although full time development would increase the release rate and income.
  • Piracy is an ever present problem and chasing down and reporting was feeling like herding cats at times!
  • There is a huge number of train simmers out there who we're not reaching as they don't use community websites etc.
  • Some people are unsure about using third party content downloaded from the internet (unofficial content).
  • Some potential customers won't use/purchase from 'unknown' websites.

Moving to Marketplace

After some consideration of the challenges to making Fastline a viable, family supporting enterprise the logical solution seemed to be to join with Dovetail Games as a part of the Partner Program and move to distributing our future expansions via Marketplace.

The positives that we saw from this included:

  • Access to the whole Train Simulator user base through integration of Marketplace in the Simulator itself.
  • Content becomes trusted and official.
  • Protection of content to limit piracy via DRM systems.
  • We get to bounce ideas off the nice people at Dovetail Games and boy have we been bouncing!
  • Content becomes Workshop compatible and can therefore be used in scenarios shared via Valve/Steam.
  • Customers no longer have to worry about losing downloads and reinstalling after hard drive failures as it will download automatically when they re-install Train Simulator from Steam.

Changes

Before the changes, here's what's not changing:

  • Our existing expansions will still be available from this website and we'll still be offering the same support we always have.
  • We will continue to push the boundaries of detail and features in all our expansions.
  • We will always help when we can, communicate all that we can and involve you as much as we can.
  • All of our existing rolling stock team are continuing doing what they do.

However, future expansions will change subtly:

  • Contents of each expansion will be more focussed and may feature slightly less variation than has previously been included.
  • There will be no bundled scenarios. However, we do plan to create scenarios and share them via Steam Workshop though these are likely to not be available immediately after the release of an expansion.

What, when, where?

The changes that we're announcing today are more of an internal change to the way that we work and should only affect you in respect to where and how you purchase our expansions. What we can say is that we have a contract in place to supply a number of expansions in the coming months to be distributed via Marketplace and the first two have already been submitted for acceptance.

With this in mind we will still announce products when they are released via the website and other channels. We will continue to update progress through the blog and there will be changes to the way the 'Under Development' and 'Expansions' parts of the website are used.

As we have never been in the habit of promising a release date this will not change and we will announce the release of an expansion when we are informed it has gone live in Marketplace.

Keeping informed

Things are going to moving much faster in the coming months than they have before so it may be wise to start following one of our social media accounts using the buttons towards the bottom of the screen to see everything that is going on.

Subscribing to our mailing list is probably the best way to find out about expansion announcements right there in your inbox.

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