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Subnautica Revisited


Subnautica Floating Island
Subnautica is a truly extraordinary exploration and survival computer game. The artistry that went into it, both technical and other, is quite wonderful, and the sheer amount of work involved in creating its vast world (mostly underwater) staggers my mind.

I first played this game on my PC in 2019, and have just finished playing a newer version of it for the second time.

I have updated my original review of Subnautica, which includes many images of what you wil find in the game - if you are interested, click the picture or go here.


An Introductory Guide to Transport Fever 2


Transport Fever 2 (TF2 for short) is a Swiss-made world-builder and transport simulator of almost infinite variety, apparently a major step up from its predecessor.

Click the image to visit the game's description on Steam.

It's much more than a virtual train set, and you can essentially play with it for ever.

A quiet edge of a German town in 1904, from one of my games

Contents


Main Game Features ~ Getting Started ~ Financial Strategy (Basics) ~ Profitability, Income & Expenditure ~ Line Management (Basics) (+) ~ Towns, Sims & Bus Lines (*) ~ What About Trams? (*) ~ Tram Line Mechanics ~ Streets vs Country Roads (+) ~ Dealing with Road Congestion (+)(*) ~ Vehicle Emissions & Maintenance ~ Industries ~ Managing Production Chains ~ Date & Time, Frequency & Rate ~ Railways ~ Terminals & Platforms ~ Railway Signals & Switches ~ Dealing with Rail Congestion ~ TF2 vs Real World Train Operation ~ Airfields, Airports & Air Traffic Congestion ~ Map Editor ~ What's the Point of Your Headquarters? ~ Performance ~ Mods ~ Useful Links

+ Changes due to the TF2 2021 Summer Update
* Other recent changes (latest 10 Dec 21)

Main Game Features


* Pretty much every locomotive, railway wagon, airplane, ship, bus and lorry developed from 1850 onwards, modelled beautifully, as well as many private vehicles used by people in the game (see here for a full list that begins with American vehicles).

* An infinite variety of beautifully-rendered landscapes and towns, choose or develop your own.

* Develop transport systems that meet the needs of people and industry (the only "game" aspect is not going bankrupt at the beginning, and then making sure you are staying profitable).

* Thousands of people (Sims) are part of the simulation, dressed appropriately for the historical year, going about their daily lives. Your job is to help them get where they want to go to work or shop, and to develop the towns and cities that they might want to live in or visit.

* Towns and people change as the years progress and new vehicles become available, or you can pause history in any particular year

* The big set of tutorials (Campaigns) give you a fascinating insight into the role transport development played from the steam age onwards, in countries all over the world.

* Watch what's going on from above, or else choose "cockpit view" for any vehicle and see what the driver sees, as in my screenshots above and below. It's a great way to enjoy the game. You can also do this for people (Sims) and even flying birds!

Another quiet town outskirt in modern China, from one of my games

Getting Started


If you're interested in playing TF2, you should expect a long and enjoyable learning curve (which I am still on).

My main learning resources were the "Campaign" tutorials (an essential starting place), the many online TF2 guides, and the very helpful TF2 Steam Discussion Forum.

The tutorials and guides taught me a lot about game mechanics, but still left me with a whole lot of questions. This introductory guide tries to answer those questions in one place.

I hope that people will find it useful - if you like it then please rate it here on Steam.

** BTW: When I started writing this guide the Official Game Manual wasn't available, but you should definitely check it out if you haven't already.

Financial Strategy (Basics)


When you are playing the “Campaign” tutorials you don't have to worry much about money.

In the Free Games, however, you start with a loan of $5,000,000 (which you can extend to $10,000,000), which doesn't go very far. So your first question is likely: “What do I invest in first in order to make enough profit to keep going?”

Many answers to that can be found by clicking the Dollar icon to the right (most images in this guide are hyperlinked to useful relevant stuff).

One useful tip: try to find a so-called golden route (great info) for cargo, where one round-trip journey can earn money on as many of its stages as possible.

Another useful tip: when you're not currently using the loan, repay most of it. Saves you paying interest.

My own startup strategy from 1850, FWIW, usually goes something like this:

1. Pick a town that will be easy/profitable to supply with one of the products it needs (see Industries below), but don't actually supply it yet.

2. Develop a first level of public transport within this town (see Towns, Sims & Bus Lines below, and in 1850 consider using horse-drawn streetcars instead of carriages, see What About Trams? below). This is relatively inexpensive and may cause the town to grow slightly, either in population or in demand for products. It may also (but needn't) make a small profit of its own at this stage of development.

3. Supply that town with a product it needs, which will increase its population as well as earning more serious money.

4. Pick another town, not necessarily the closest, and repeat steps 1. to 3.

5. (Optional) Wait patiently for money to come in, repaying the loan that isn't needed at the moment.

6. Connect these two towns with passenger transport (not road transport if possible since this will lead to congestion problems from private transport, as I describe here). This should be profitable now, and may also increase somewhat the profitability of each town's internal transport.

Financial success, however, really depends on knowing the following:

Profitability, Income & Expenditure


Your annual profit, naturally, is the difference between the annual income you get and the annual expenses you have to pay out. “Annual” here relates to a Fiscal Year, your basic accounting period, which is just over 12 minutes of playing time at 1x speed (click the link for more info).

Your only source of income is the sale of tickets, which are how you charge for transporting a unit of freight or a passenger between two points.

The ticket price you charge per unit depends on (at least) two things:

1. The straight-line distance between the start and end points (not the actual distance travelled).

2. The maximum speed of the slowest vehicle on the line.

An implication of 1. is that you may have to decide (say) on a longer route around a mountain, or a tunnel straight through it. As can be seen below, the answer may well be to tunnel straight through. See here also for an interesting discussion.

** Another implication of 1. is for a route where the distance that must be travelled is much longer than the straight-line distance, e.g. a mountain route with long zig-zags or a water route turning sharp corners. Such routes may be profitably subdivided into several straighter lines, e.g. A→B, B→C, C→D, D→E, where the lines are connected by intermediate road/rail stations or harbors.

Note that a line such as B→C can start from a different station than the one at the end of A→B, providing that the two stations are in each other's catchment areas (the areas white-highlighted when you click a station).


The money you earn in this way is shown in two ways:

1. Blue numbers flashing up on your HUD Display whenever a journey reaches its end point.

2. As the annual total for each mode of transport, shown as blue numbers in the Finances tab in your Company Finances sheet.

As in real life, you have several types of regular expenses:

1. The maintenance (running costs) of your vehicles (more on that in Vehicle Emissions & Maintenance below). This is a big item.


** Useful fact: Vehicles waiting for other vehicles to move cost exactly the same to run as vehicles moving normally. Vehicles actually waiting at a terminal (e.g. a train at a platform, or a truck at the front of a Truck Station queue) save 60% of their normal running costs.

2. The maintenance of your roads or tracks, obviously for road or rail transport only, which is higher for tunnel or bridge sections. I have found this to be a relatively tiny item (usually less than 4% of vehicle running costs, see this post).

3. The maintenance of your infrastructure, which (as it says here) comprises your rail stations, road stations, airfields, harbors, bus/tram stops, truck unload stops, depots (including shipyards), signals and waypoints. I have also found this to be a relatively tiny item for ground transportation, not so tiny for water and air, see this post).

An implication of 2. is that if it saves journey time, don't hesitate to build bridges or tunnels or to lay dual tracks.

An implication of 3. for water or air transport is that harbours and airports have less overhead if each is shared by more than one line, or at least has many vehicles using it.

The expenses you pay in this way are shown in two ways:

1. Orange numbers flashing up regularly on your HUD Display, which are for vehicle maintenance (running costs) and infrastructure maintenance. These numbers are flashed up once per “tick”, approximately a “fiscal month” (more on that here).

2. As the annual total for each mode of transport, shown as orange numbers in the Finances tab your Company Finances sheet.

Also as in real life, you have several types of one-off expenses, basically stuff like buying vehicles, laying tracks, building railway stations etc.

One-off expenses are investments that don't affect your long-term profitability, quite the reverse, and so long as you can afford it are almost always both necessary and desirable.

Don't be afraid to take out a big loan, either - the interest payments are quite small in the grand scheme of things!


Line Management (Basics)


You will naturally create Lines for each route that your vehicles will follow, using the Line Manager Tool.

A good tip: name your lines systematically, as you'll eventually have lots of them. You will find good advice here (or click the lightbulb icon).

Most other things in TF2 can also be renamed. It's very useful, for instance, to rename Road Stations with meaningful names, as this can also make Lines connecting with those Stations easier to follow.

A common decision to make is: when picking up cargo or passengers, do I wait, and if so for how long?

At the start of a production chain, or when waiting to deliver cargo to buildings that arrives in batches (e.g. by ship), it might be sensible to wait for a full load before departing. But everywhere else, I suggest your first option to try is not waiting at all (why? see the useful fact above).

It's also worth getting to know about Filters. These let you control how much of a product (if any) you pick up at any point on the Line. I have found them especially useful in two situations:

1. In a ship or plane with multiple compartments, each compartment can carry a separate type of cargo (if it's a type supported by the vehicle).

In a two-compartment ship, for example, limiting the pick-up to 50% of the capacity will ensure that the other compartment remains available for other cargo (or passengers, which are actually also a type of cargo). Otherwise once a compartment gets some cargo, that's the only type of cargo that that compartment will hold.

2. Sometimes a pick-up point is located such that it can actually acquire unwanted cargo from other adjacent points, which can really mess things up. You can filter out this unwanted cargo.

**Tip: you can clear all the ticks in the Load column by clicking the word “Load” in the filter window.

Towns, Sims & Bus Lines


How to Grow Towns (Basics)


The game starts with a selection of towns at some particular period of history (default 1850). The game will add Streets, buildings and population if you help the town to grow, which you do by providing public transport (as described in this section) and by supplying the town with the products that it needs (see Industries below).

You can also add and upgrade Streets yourself (but not buildings). The game will demolish and rebuild buildings automatically to reflect the town's growth and to keep in period as the years go by.

The Life of Sims



When providing passenger transport, it really helps to understand what Sims want to do and how they go about doing it.

Each town has 3 Districts: Residential (where Sims have permanent homes), Commercial (where Sims go to shop) and Industrial (where Sims go to work). These are shown in green, blue and yellow respectively in the game's Land Use Layer (overlay).

Initially Sims do most of their travelling within the town where they live, but as towns are connected and transport improves a Sim may cover the whole Map in their travels.

A Sim's home is in a particular Residence. They may decide at some time to go shop in a Commercial District somewhere (not necessarily in the same town), spend some time there and return.

Another time they may decide to go to work in an Industrial District somewhere (not necessarily in the same town, and not always in the same workplace!), returning eventually to their residence.

Summarising: Sims make only two kinds of journey: Home → Shop → Home or Home → Work → Home.

One implication of this is that twice as many journeys start or end in a building in a Residential District as go to or from a building in either of the other two kinds of District, a fact which influences how passenger transport lines are developed.

And when a town has passenger links to two or more other towns, it gets more interesting.

Say for example that our town has two railway stations going to two other towns:

A Sim arriving at a rail station in our town may be either (a) just passing through, heading to the other rail station, or (b) returning to their Residence in this town, or (c) arriving in this town to shop, or (d) arriving in this town to work. In the case of (c) and (d) their next journey is always to return to wherever their home is, but they will not necessarily take the same route home!

** IMO it's helpful to follow a particular Sim on their long-distance travels, much as you would follow a vehicle. I did this once when investigating some curious behaviour in the China Mega City campaign, and wrote up my results in the Steam Discussion Forum as Some Days in the Life of Willow Smith. The comments before and after this post helped me a great deal, and might help others also.

** Curiously (but usefully), in a town that has not yet had any products delivered to it, Sims will still go shopping or go to work in buildings which have no products for them to buy or work with. The arrival of products in the town has no effect in this regard except to increase the population of Sims. See this discussion.

Bus Line Strategies


There are many approaches to bus routes in Towns - go here (or click the bus icon) to see them.

In order to keep Sims happy, as discussed above, the strategies should all be trying to do several things:

1. Make transit times between external passenger links as short as possible.

2. Connect external passenger links as directly as possible to each of the 3 Districts (Residential being the most important).

3. Carry Sims from the Residential District to the Commercial District and back again.

4. Carry Sims from the Residential District to the Industrial District and back again.

5. Help Sims make long distance journeys by minimising their travel time in this town.

** Doing these things will make towns grow quite rapidly, so whatever strategies you use will have to evolve over time.

A Bus Stop has a Coverage Area, outside which Sims definitely won't use that Bus Stop (but inside which they may still use their car if their whole journey would otherwise take longer).

That being so, my early-game approach usually places a few Bus Stops that cover the whole town, allowing for growth, and then runs bus services both clockwise and anticlockwise between these stops. The service should be frequent enough to attract Sims to use it and not have too many passengers waiting at any stop.

I insert intermediate stops if the ones I have already are spaced more than a few blocks apart, and add some sort of cross-over between two sides of the circle, with at least one stop in the middle.

For large towns, I am also having some success with a variant of this approach, replacing the circular routes with two mirror-image figure-of-eight routes, overlaid approximately on top of each other. The Lines cross straight across the middle, sharing Bus Stops as usual there, and then continue in the lower half in the opposite direction (where, as in the upper half, they do not necessarily share stops with the other line). This is particularly effective if a Bus Stop on the crossover joins up with an external transport link (which it will usually do at a multi-platform Bus Station, to avoid congestion).

** I am constantly trying new strategies. The best tip I can offer is to click a car heading through or to a town, find its destination building, and then work out why the Sim is not using public transport to get there.

However I do it, I end up with what I call my ring route, with some crossover(s) through the middle that will usually serve external transport links.

In a large town there will eventually be quite extensive Residential suburbs and outlying areas of Industrial and Commerical buildings lying outside my ring route.

Rather than modify the circular routes to thread these, I add additional “suburban” or “outskirt” lines, concentrating on the “suburban” routes first. These lines can run at a slower frequency than the ring lines.

The example below adds a suburban extension (blue line) to the circular routes (red and green lines), joining up with it at a couple of points.

These outside services won't make money. But as soon as I start constructing the line I often notice new buildings going up almost immediately, and other town statistics (worth checking on regularly) improving slightly.

Actually, the whole bus service within a town is not really intended to make money - in fact, it should normally make a small loss. Its main purpose is to connect with other Lines running between towns (whether bus, train, ship or aircraft), as long distance travel is more profitable, and helps each town to grow. (Click the lightbulb for the source of this tip.)

Once I realised the truth of this, I stopped worrying about over-optimising town bus routes. I'm happy if (a) they cover the town, (b) don't have overloaded bus stops, (c) connect OK with external transport links and (d) deal with the Congestion issues described below.

What About Trams?



A tram in 1949 Germany being used as an airport link, from one of my games

One of the first questions to come up is: “Are trams better than buses?”, the answer to which depends among other things on what year we are talking about.

Many answers to the question can be found by clicking the above image.

** BTW: Much linked information about trams comes from TF1, but is generally good nonetheless.

It surprised me to learn that trams (horse-drawn streetcars) were available in 1850. The one shown here has a larger capacity than the horse-drawn carriage of the time and moves slightly faster. A very interesting discussion about this, and the development of vehicles generally that are represented in TF2, will be found here.

Later, I wanted to work out whether a particular tram was more cost-effective than a particular bus in 1949 Germany. The cost-effectiveness issue was discussed here, with much useful input from experts.

There was little cost-effectiveness difference between the two options. However, because the tram had a higher capacity it could replace the buses with fewer vehicles, which is an advantage in reducing congestion and emissions. The higher capacity also made it better at shifting large numbers of passengers to and from external transport links.

I don't like the idea of replacing all the buses in a city with electric trams, though. This is partly for aesthetic reasons - I feel that trams are OK in a city centre, but not running around the quiet suburbs.

Horse-drawn streetcars in 1850, on the other hand, seemed a great way to get around!

An interesting real-world model for what seems right to me is the Nice (France) Tramway 2020. Our favourite city had two crossing tram lines, supplemented by buses. It has recently extended one of them (partly underground) from the airport on the west to the commercial dock on the east, removing several bus lines as no longer being necessary.

If you're interested, click the image for a map and good info.

See also this nice example of mixed bus and tram lines in TF2.

Tram Line Mechanics



A combined bus and tram station in 1949 Germany, from one of my games - easy to create, see below

The mechanics of laying tram lines (which you can do from 1850 onwards) are quite straightforward.

You lay tram lines using the Modifications Tool. Doing this in TF2 is quite inexpensive.

Bus stops alongside the tram lines will automatically be converted to bus/tram stops.

You can remove tram lines using the same tool. Click on a section that already has tram lines and they will be removed, at no cost. You might want to do this either to correct a mistake, or e.g. if you used a horse-drawn streetcar right at the beginning of the game and are now intending to return to using normal road vehicles.

You convert a bus/tram station to tram use simply by laying tram lines up to it.

Streets vs Country Roads


The difference is that Streets belong to Towns, and TF2 will automatically add buildings to Streets if the conditions are right.

TF2 will also extend Streets in various directions but again, only if the conditions are right. Streets also have Street lamps and other suitable decorations.

None of this applies to Country Roads (Roads for short).

Sometimes you may want to stop TF2 adding more Streets to existing Streets. The Street Traffic Layer (overlay) shows tiny black (unlocked) “padlock” icons on Streets (and also on Country Roads, see here if you wonder why). You can now use the Tools tab on the Road menu to toggle a black to a white (locked) “padlock” symbol, which makes that section “player owned”. This won't stop buildings being added to it, though.

Using the Tools tab on the Road menu, you can also click an icon on a Junction to add or remove the Traffic Lights there. More on this below.

Dealing with Road Congestion



Problem approaching - click this image for many links on dealing with the problem

From the mid-1920's onwards, Sims increasingly take to using cars for private transport. Unless steps are taken to prevent it, towns will quickly become congested and your important Road vehicles will grind to a halt.

Here is some advice on preventing that (mostly gathered from experts on the Steam Discussion Forum). It falls into two groups:

1. Reducing the amount of car traffic:

Begin by providing good public transport within towns, which will dissuade many Sims from using cars. This is one of the earliest steps to take.

Then provide good public transport between towns.

** Where possible don't have direct Road connections between towns for cargo or passengers, because Sims will also use these for cars. At some point break the connections using rail, ship or air transport.

If it isn't possible, still provide a good passenger rail/ship/air service betwen towns where appropriate, or at least a good inter-town bus or tram service.

2. Easing the flow of traffic through the town or city:

In the mid 1920's, when congestion starts to be a real problem, a new range of Streets and Roads becomes available (more lanes, higher speeds, availability of bus/truck lanes, one-way Streets).

You can upgrade an existing Street/Road using the “magic wand” Upgrade Tool (expensive in Towns, as buildings will automatically be demolished or moved). You can add bus/truck-only lanes using the separate Modifications Tool (relatively inexpensive).

Bus/truck-only lanes are normally provided on 4-lane Streets or Roads. Both buses and trucks will use these lanes.

** Ideally, avoid having trucks follow a Line that includes bus/tram stops, especially where buses/trams make frequent stops.

You can also add bus/truck-only lanes to a 2-lane Street/Road. This will prevent any car traffic from using it, but ONLY if the cars have another route to get where they want to go. Otherwise civil disobedience breaks out!
** Note that this no longer works reliably since the Summer 2021 Update - may be a temporary bug.

Although you can see what's happening quite easily from above, I find it good to climb aboard one of each kind of vehicle and ride “cockpit view” through the town. It's often very instructive (and enjoyable).

Concentrate improvements on where your transport Lines run. Make sure that every Street on a Line is at least Medium grade, as some original Streets are very slow to run on.

Use the Traffic Layer to identify congestion hot spots (although a “cockpit view” ride through town will tell you much of what you want to know).

TF2 used to automatically add Traffic Lights to road and street junctions after a certain date, which often caused more congestion problems than it solved. It no longer does so, except for junctions with 4 or more lanes. You can use the Tools tab on the Road menu to add or remove Traffic Lights where it feels necessary.

If you add a Road Station or a Road Depot to a 4-Lane Street/Road a junction will be created with Traffic Lights that you cannot remove. If those Traffic Lights cause congestion, I know of two ways of resolving this problem with Road Stations:

1. Change just the bit of the 4-lane Street/Road to which the Road Station is connected to 2-lanes. The Traffic Lights will be removed, or you will now be able to remove them yourself.

2. Add the shortest possible section of 2-lane Street/Road heading off the 4-lane Street/Road at right angles. Then add the Road Station to THAT section. You will get Traffic Lights on the junction, but they are now removable.

If a Road Depot is causing this problem, it can be easily relocated!

Vehicle Emissions & Maintenance


You soon find out that various levels of Maintenance affect the running cost of a vehicle, but make a difference to its level of Emissions as time goes by.

Emissions, it turns out, refer (mostly?) to the noise that a vehicle makes, rather than to pollution. That's why an electric tram can have nearly the same emissions as a diesel bus.

With the default Maintenance Level of Normal, the condition of the vehicle will degrade over several years. It will end up looking dilapidated and with higher emissions. “So what?” you wonder, and the answer is: “not really that much”.

What matters is actually noise in Residential Districts, either from vehicles driving through town or aircraft taking off or landing above them, which affects the willingness of citizens to live there. Naturally you will try to minimise routes through Residential Districts, and avoid take-offs and landings over them!

** For me, minimising routes through Residential Districts just means keeping cargo vehicles out. Providing public transport to Residential Districts is vital to keeping Sims happy, greatly outweighing (it seems) any unhappiness they might feel because of bus or tram emissions in their neighbourhood.

You can see the degree of Emissions by using one of the Layers (overlays) in the game.

If, when the vehicle is new, you set the Maintenance Level to High, running costs will increase 25% but the condition of the vehicle will not degrade below the medium point of Mediocre.

If you set the Maintenance Level to Very High at any time the condition of the vehicle will gradually improve to its “as new” level, but running costs will increase 50%.

So is it worth it? Personally I just use the default Normal Maintenance in the early stages of a game, when money is in short supply. The vehicles will be replaced anyway as time goes on. Later on I keep High Maintenance on vehicles going through or near Residential Districts.

** However inter-town buses and trucks delivering cargo into the town need only Normal Maintenance, provided that they unload at the edge of the town with High Maintenance vehicles taking over on resident-affecting internal lines.

Industries



A quarry in operation in one of my games - as always, the developer's attention to detail is awesome

Buildings in the Commercial District of a town require either Tools, Food or Goods to sell.

Buildings in the Industrial District of a town require either Construction Material, Fuel or Machines to support people's work.

All of those items require industries to produce them, so your (profitable) job is to connect a chain of industries to the buildings in a town that need them.

Also, supplying these items attracts citizens and helps the town to grow, which generates more traffic and more requirements and hence more profit.

As shown in my chart below, a simple chain to produce Construction Material starts with a Quarry, whose product must be transported to an Construction Material Factory, whose product must then be delivered to buildings that need them.

Some industries (e.g. the Saw Mill) require two items of the input type in order to produce one item of the output type.

The right-hand edge of the following chart shows end-products that need to be delivered to towns (blue for Commercial Districts, yellow for Industrial Districts).


Chart showing Transport Fever 2 Production Chains with requirements and products of each industry

A chain may involve a mixture of vehicles, usually including Trucks (careful! not all types of Truck carry all types of cargo) but also any other type of suitable cargo vehicle.

The final delivery is usually by Truck to one or more Truck Unload Stops. As with Bus Stops, each Truck Unload Stop has a Coverage Area, within which deliveries to buildings are made automatically. If a significant number of buildings needing those items won't fall within one Coverage Area then another Truck Unload Stop may be needed.

When delivering end-products to two or more Truck Unload Stops, you may find e.g. that the truck's entire contents are delivered at the first stop, with none left for the other stop(s). This is because the capacity of the truck is too small to allow effective dividing of products between different areas of the town on a single journey.

If you wait long enough, you will see deliveries made to the other stop(s). However, I find it more efficient to split the final delivery into several similar lines, each one picking up from its own Terminal within a Truck Station and delivering to a different Truck Unload Stop. The advantage is that the higher-demand route is almost always shorter, and the lower-demand route can be set to run only when required, with fewer trucks (sometimes only one truck).

In a small town, a railway station's own Coverage Area may include all or most of the District wanting an item, in which case the final delivery could be made by train to the railway station, from which delivery to covered buildings is automatic.

Click the above chart for more information on Production Chains.

Managing Production Chains


As with all chains, a supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

You can find out that a town currently has a requirement for (say) 376 tools per time period (actually a “Fiscal Year”, see below). Then ideally every transport link in the chain should be able to carry up to that volume of cargo.

Various factors (such as not enough industries to feed all requirements) may limit this ambition. The important thing is that each link in the chain should be able to carry approximately the same volume, or in TF2-speak have approximately the same Rate (see below), except where two industries feed a single industry, otherwise it's like having a 2 Amp fuse in a 30 Amp circuit!

Different vehicles in the chain have different capacities and move at different speeds, so it's something of a balancing act.

** Most industries can produce 400 products per time period. They don't start off with that capability, though. They don't do anything, in fact, until they have their required inputs (if any) and the transport chain to their next industry or town is complete and in operation. They then gradually ramp up production through four levels as deliveries are made.

The info on the right tells you that the Tools Factory is about to move up to Level 3, where it can produce 300 items per time period. “Shipment” tells you how many products are being delivered at the end of the chain, “Transport” tells you what proportion of the needed transport capacity has been provided, and the “Suppliers” and “Consumers” tabs tell you a lot about how the neighbouring industries or towns in the chain are performing.

Finally, one industry may have capacity to feed more than one town, in which case its output is divided amongst several chains.

Date & Time, Frequency & Rate


In managing production chains, and in much else, you need to know what things like “Rate” and “Fiscal Year” mean. I pestered kind experts about them and posted a mini-guide here (or click the stopwatch icon).

Railways



Entering a passing section on a one-track Line, where the train on the left is waiting - another “Cockpit View” from one of my games

The most enjoyable aspect of TF2 is probably building and operating the railways, and then (for me, anyway) riding them in “Cockpit View”.

Luckily, there are plenty of guides available, many of them videos which are well worth watching (click the image above to see them).

Here are a few things I still found difficult to understand:

Terminals & Platforms


Railway Stations, like Bus Stations and Truck Stations, may (and often do) contain more than one Terminal, which is basically a stopping-point next to a platform. I have added some information about that to my discussion post here.

Adding Cargo Platform(s) to an existing Passenger Station (as distinct from creating a new Cargo Station) is often very useful, but can be confusing. You must do it with the Configure Station tool, and you must use the same tool (not normal track laying) to add track(s) next to the platform(s).

Railway Signals & Switches


Good information on real world railway signalling will be found here.

And a great deal of information about signals and switches in TF2 will be found here (or click any image below).

The basics of train signals are that two signals protect a section (block) of track between them. A train can't pass the first signal until there is no train on the protected block (the end of the earlier train must have passed the second signal). With multiple trains running on a dual-track Line, signals spaced at least as far apart as a train length keep traffic moving safely.

Note that the signal icons are part of TF2's HUD display - a closer view would show the real signals

On a single-track Line with one passing place, however, there must be ONLY two signals, placed at the forward end of each track in the passing place, and nowhere else. Otherwise the single-track blocks will not each be protected.

This is the passing place in a cockpit-view image that was shown above, BTW


Dealing with Rail Congestion



Whenever a train is held up for any significant time, showing “waiting for free path” as here, your profits are being seriously eroded, for reasons discussed in Profitability, Income & Expenditure above.

As usual, click the image to the right for info about how to deal with this problem.

Part of the reason for rail congestion is that TF2 has to unrealistically scale distances w.r.t. the length of trains - in the extreme, a departure and arrival station can be separated by only a few train-lengths!

FWIW, my own approach to this problem is simply to use larger maps (which don't in themselves give rise to run-time performance problmes, I believe) with fewer towns. I can then have more realistic (and more profitable) distances between towns.

I have also learnt that the additional cost of laying dual tracks, building tunnels etc. is always worth it if it saves the costs incurred by held-up trains.

Click the lightbulb for an explanation.

TF2 vs Real World Train Operation


Just a few things that I have become aware of:

1. One-way signals are hardly needed in TF2. On a Line with two tracks, entering a station via a crossover switch, the path the train will take in TF2 is governed by the path established by the Line. TF2 operates points accordingly and no human error is possible.

A mistake (usually establishing your Line or placing signals) may result in TF2 warning you that two trains are “mutually blocked”. Before fixing the problem you might be able to “flip” one of the trains, but more often I have to sell one of the trains first and buy it again later.


The signal shown here will stop a train entering the station if the platform on the train's line is occupied.

Stations have “hidden” signals on outgoing tracks, BTW.

The Line overlay above shows how the train on the green line will enter and leave the station.

2. When a train needs to reverse direction, TF2 just does a “magic flip”. I understand that some purists avoid this with turnarounds, but I'm quite happy to live with it!

3. The scale of a train and platform length compared to the distance travelled between stations has to be considerably exaggerated for the game to be playable. Again (like most people) I'm quite happy to live with that.

Airfields, Airports & Air Traffic Congestion


Air traffic can become congested while planes are on the ground taxiing, or while they are in the air circling because they cannot land immediately.

The former case can be dealt with easily (up to a point) by assigning different Lines to different Terminals.

The latter case will give you a big hit in profits, and also adds unnecessarily to TF2's run-time performance load.

The first and easiest solution to the latter case is to use mods that increase the capacities of aircraft, which IMO are unrealistic in TF2, allowing you to reduce the number of aircraft by at least two-thirds. The ones that I use are listed in the Mods section below.

Airports appear to be a somewhat unsatisfactory part of TF2.

You can construct Airports once large aircraft start to become available in 1952. However, for some strange reason, you cannot add a second runway or taxiway to an Airport until 1980, and there is no way to have more runways than two.

You can find a very useful discussion about Airport problems and solutions here.

Map Editor


I think of this as TF2's World Builder, since IMO its actual name greatly understates what it does.

The “Map” that it creates (and can subsequently edit) is actually the terrain and any initial towns, industries and Road connections that is to be the starting point of one or more future games. In other words, the Map Editor builds the actual world that you (and maybe other people that you may share it with) will start playing on.

Click either image below for a good video tutorial on the Map Editor.

After choosing what climate, area of the world and other things, the first stage is to specify the terrain how you want it, retrying if necessary until the schematic looks good. Then hit the GENERATE button...

...which results in this (the start of my German Map).

The next steps let you generate towns randomly or place them individually, the same with industries, and then connect them with a first network of Country Roads.

There's a lot more to it - I recommend that you play this tutorial video.

When you have finished the Campaign Tutorials, or at least got through several of them, you will want to try a Free Game. This starts with a simplified version of the Map Editor to let you build your world before you play.

Alternatively, you can use the Map Editor to create a “Map” that you like, or select someone else's from the Steam Workshop's vast collection, and start your game using that.

Have fun!

What's the Point of your Headquarters?



It's basically motivational eye candy. It adds nothing functionally, but evolves occasionally (keeping the same footprint on the ground) as your Company Score increases.

These are what my HQ looked like in a recent game with Company Scores of 12, 62 and 104 respectively (if you build one at the very start of a game, it's a hilarious-looking shack!). I don't know at exactly what score they changed. The tall modern building only appears after 1980.

Mods (which prevent achievements) don't appear to have any effect on the appearance of headquarters.

You can build and place one (for free) from the Company Finances window (which pops up from the big $ symbol at the bottom left of the main screen), and relocate it later if you want.

If you forget where you placed it or want to look at it quickly, the little pin icon at the top left of the Company Finances window will locate it.

Performance


You need a good PC and graphics card to get smooth performance with a heavily-populated Map, especially if you make full use of the awesome visual rendering of so much detail.

There is a lot of information about TF2 performance out there, such as you can find here.

If you are interested, you can find a summary of my own performance investigations, together with many useful comments from experts, here.

As someone who started programming real-time systems in 1970, when every line of assembler code mattered, I have to say that the performance that the developers already get out of this game is truly awesome.

Mods


Unsurprisingly, there are very many Mods available for TF2.

For information about TF2 Mods click the spanner icon.

One way of adding Mods to your game is to go to LOAD GAME, and then click the tiny icon SHOW OPTIONS.

You can also add Mods to your Map if you create one with the Map Editor.

I have used only a few Mods so far, mainly the first four of these:

Realistic Passenger Capacities [PLANE] (Nox)

Increases aircraft passenger capacities to a realistic level, e.g. Boeing 757-200 now carries 186 passengers, not 50.

3x capacity cargo plane (AV)

Increases cargo passenger capacities to a realistic level.

Town Building Filter (Level) / No Skyscrapers (VacuumTube)

This very useful Mod limits the height that buildings can reach.

Skyscrapers are natural for big cities, but I don't like them everywhere and find them visually obstructive when optimising town traffic.

Auto.Sig2 (Enzojz)

Automatically creates railway signals spaced at intervals that you specify. Great time saver.

Sandbox (Urban Games)

This allows you to make modifications in-game similar to those available in the Map Editor, but at a cost. For example, you can place new Industries or edit the characteristics of a Town.

As with all Mods, using this one removes the possibility of gaining “Achievements”, but that aspect of the game doesn't matter to me.

What I thought about before using it was whether it was in some way “cheating” and would remove some enjoyment from playing. I eventually reasoned that in the real world Towns would either grow up to support existing Industries, or Industries would be developed to support Towns.

If you start a new game from a Map that you create using the Map Editor, you can take all these considerations into account when you build your Map.


TF2 Offical Game & Modding Manuals
TF2 guides
TF2 Guides on Steam
TF2 Steam Discussions, the most useful place to get help
TF2 basics: date & time, frequency & rate, terminals & platforms
Real-world railway signalling
Discussion on complicated Rate calculations
Profitable bus routes
Hard Mode 1850 Start (example of using golden routes)
Cost-effectivenss of different vehicles - how to assess?
Details and dates of every vehicle purchasable in TF2, beginning with American vehicles
What is “Company Score”?
Creating and editing Maps (video)
Editing Maps (search)

If Michelangelo had created a hand-drawn computer art puzzle game...


Explanation further down... or click either of these screenshots



I don't need to add anything, except to say that this excellent video will help you get started and rescue you from places where your brain simply gives up!

This unique, multi-award-winning game is a real treat.


The Gardens Between: a unique puzzle game of childhood memories and friendship

This Australian production is a chill-out gem, almost worth having for its relaxing, meditative soundtrack alone.

A superior review to this one will be found here, or click any image for many links about the game.

Two best friends llive next door to each other. Sadly, they will be parted tomorrow, when one of them has to move away. They spend their last night together, wishing that they could somehow turn back time...

...and they discover that they can, at least in their imaginations. And that's what the game is about: controlling time.

The friends embark on a magical journey, visiting clusters of (usually three) islands, each island representing a level of the cluster's puzzle.

You can help them, but only by using three buttons: one advances time, one rewinds time, and the third causes something to happen. What you CAN'T do directly is control where the friends walk, which takes some getting used to!

The aim of each puzzle is simple: to reach the top of the island with a lit lantern. The lantern is lit by passing near a flower with a glowing white ball, and is extinguished by passing near a flower with a glowing black ball.

(Later in the game, you will encounter slabs of apparently solid mist. A lit lantern will dispel the mist, which is good if the mist is a barrier, but is bad if the mist forms a bridge that must be walked over!)

As time moves forwards or backwards, some other objects in the game move also, independently of the children. Flowers can open and close and the colour of their glowing ball can change.

Some of these objects are purple “buddy-boxes” in which a lantern can be placed or retrieved (lit or unlit) which follow their own trajectories around the island. If the trajectory of a buddy-box carrying a lantern passes near one of those glowing balls, then the lantern will be lit or extinguished accordingly.

What makes the game interesting is that the boy has special opportunities to stop time for the two friends, but allow time to go forwards or backwards for the other moving objects. Later in the game, when the islands and puzzles become more complicated, this can require some serious lateral thinking in order to make progress.

The path up the hill is inaccessible here - an example of where lateral thinking will be required!

As the game progresses, the islands become larger and more complicated. Some of the puzzles are very tricky indeed, especially when advancing or rewinding time very slowly at critical points allows things to happen that otherwise wouldn't.

My only disappointment with this wonderful little game is that it takes only a few hours to play, which makes it a somewhat expensive for what it is. But any bright children you know will have great fun playing it, too (not to mention other adults).

If you like this...

[FAR Lone Sails - an atmospheric vehicle adventure game]
[Dear Esther - a unique exploration of a Hebridean island]
[Other Places - videos by Andy Kelly exploring the tranquil beauty of game landscapes without violence or stress]
[Non-violent problem-solving adventure games (from my web site)]



This is Lakeview Manor in Skyrim, a residence that I built myself (as have many others) while in the game - a pleasantly satisfying interlude amongst all the mayhem. It's one of many tucked-away places that Rob Dwiar is fond of.

(Skyrim provides a truly vast and varied world to explore, including much beautiful wild scenery.)


This is another of Rob's selections, the Drake Family Residence that you encounter in Libertalia (a place in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, which I haven't played).

Over to Rob for his own words (click any image here to read his article and see many other places):



If you like this...

[“Other Places”: videos of beautiful game landscapes set to music]


An Introductory Guide to Subnautica (Updated May 2022)


Subnautica
This guide tries to ease the new player gently into Subnautica, without spoilers, and provides an easy way in one place to access the most needed information.

A feature of this guide is that it is extensively hyperlinked to external info, including from images. So if you click on an image showing some aspect of the game, you'll be taken straight to info about that aspect.

(If you are looking for a really comprehensive guide to the game, I highly recommend Subnautica: The Grand, Regularly-Updated Tutorial V2.)

What is Subnautica?


Subnautica is a fascinating exploration and survival game that has provided me with well over 180 hours of exploration and discovery, as well as the pleasure of constructing and improving habitats and vehicles. In a way, it's a modern and very different version of the original Minecraft. It also provides, as the magnificent Skyrim does, a truly vast and detailed world to explore, in this case of course mostly underwater. Unlike in Skyrim and many other games, however, you have no lethal weapons (apart from a survival knife), a conscious decision by the developers following Sandy Hook. You will, however, be able to acquire several ways of defending yourself, some of them more ingenious than they first appear. As someone put it very well, you are not the top of the food chain here!

(BTW: If you have already played this game, have you seen the “Making of...” video How Subnautica Succeeded Without Weapons?)

(This is a long post. If you want to skip to my previous post, click the chevrons >> below.)

Contents


Habitats ~ Vehicles ~ Exploring & Navigation ~ Islands ~ Wrecks ~ Going Deeper ~ A Word of Appreciation ~ Bugs ~ Game Console ~ Key Controls

Update (*)


I first played and reviewed this game with the Sep-2018 61056 build for PC. I have recently played it again in February-April 2022 with the Feb-2021 68598 build, and have updated this review to correct some errors and omissions and to reflect some changes that I found in the game. My updates are marked (*).

Habitats


Subnautica

(*) My shallow-water habitat, close to the lifepod in which I landed, built in stages as needed and when I found the resources. Many configurations are possible. Habitats (and their internal power-using modules) can be powered by solar panels where there is sufficient light, or by bioreactors, thermal plants and even nuclear reactors (which aren't necessary as many people including me have found).

(*) Solar panels generate power in proportion to the illumination (and more than one can be used). The connected habitat can store any surplus power for use during dark periods. Bioreactors within a habitat generate energy from organic matter, e.g. fish, and are one reason why you might want to build an alien containment aquarium nearby to breed fish and grow various flora. Thermal plants need to be placed near natural heat sources (there's one near here to experiment with), if necessary using power transmitters to reach the habitat.

The bigger the habitat, the weaker its overall structure (as you may find out the hard way - the realism of a flooding habitat is truly awesome), so learning how to reinforce the structure is a must.

(*) Tip: When you launch a saved game, or when you add a habitat component, pay attention to the small text appearing briefly at the top of the screen, which are the only ways of seeing the current structural integrity (needs to be a positive number or you're in trouble).

Closest in the picture is my first scanner room, which helps find resources and also allows you to explore safely using remote trackable cameras - something very useful indeed towards the end of the game.

Vehicles


Subnautica seaglide
The Seaglide, a nifty hand-held device for improving your swimming speed (I dropped this one on the seabed just in order to photograph it). It doesn't take up much room in your inventory so you can keep it with you at all times. In dangerous swimming situations that you will encounter later, this little guy can save you from predators and/or get you back somewhere safe quickly before your oxygen runs out.

(Like a real diver, you have to carry an oxygen supply with you, which initially doesn't last long, and one of your early objectives is to upgrade your air tanks.)

Before you can build (craft) things you need the blueprints to be in your Personal Data Assistant (PDA), if they aren't there already. Many useful blueprints are already loaded there, in which case you just need to find the resources (early on, often by breaking limestone outcrops and sandstone outcrops). Pre-loaded blueprints will allow you to craft (among other things) another fabricator (which you have in your initial lifepod) and a habitat builder, two items which can each craft other things.

Many blueprints that you need have unfortunately been corrupted in your PDA, so you will need to craft a hand-held scanner and use this to scan fragments of what you want to build (e.g. fragments of a Seaglide) that you find on the sea bed or in wrecks. Depending on the item, you may need to find and scan several fragments of the item before the blueprint is restored to your PDA. You can also find blueprints in data boxes, so you need to hunt for those too.

Tip: Make sure that the scanning action is complete before moving on. Scanning can take about 10 seconds.

(*) If you want to improve something that you already have (e.g. you want to make go-faster swim fins or a better survival knife), then you need to find the blueprints for and construct a modification station, using the habitat builder. You can, however, build a high capacity O2 tank with the normal fabricator (once you have the blueprint).

(*) Tip: Later in the game, I found the swim charge fins to be extremely useful when used with the Seaglide, allowing unlimited swimming explorations without having to keep charging its battery.
Subnautica Seamoth
One of the most useful vehicles in the game is the Seamoth, an agile personal submarine. Even when you have the blueprints and resources, you will have to craft a mobile vehicle bay which is then used to construct the Seamoth.

(*) Tip: In order to deploy the mobile vehicle bay, it isn't enough to simply drop it in the water. You must also have placed it first in one of your quick slots.

Initially the Seamoth will take you as deep as 200m, which allows a great deal of exploration. You can upgrade it in various ways, including extending its maximum depth in stages to 900m. Finding the resources and blueprints to upgrade the Seamoth will require exploration in progressively deeper (and more dangerous) places. Actually fabricating the upgrades requires a moonpool (see below) equipped with a vehicle upgrade console.

Tip: One of the earliest tools you need to craft is the repair tool, which fixes damage to your vehicles and other things. It's worth reading its description carefully, including the bit about radiation.
Subnautica moon pool
This is the moonpool that I eventually added to my shallow-water seabase (as with all the images in this article, click the image for more info).

Either the Seamoth or the P.R.A.W.N. suit (see below) can be docked, automatically recharged and upgraded here, and you can also use it as a swimming entrance to the habitat via its two ladders.

(*) Tip: Later in the game, you may also find a moonpool useful as a stand-alone habitat, since it doesn't need a hatch and has plenty of internal room for storage and other modules (in particular, the vehicle upgrade console which can only be placed in one of these, and a power cell charger).
Subnautica P.R.A.W.N. suit
This is my P.R.A.W.N. suit (aka Prawn suit) fitted with the Drill Arm accessory. Acquiring the blueprints and resources to fabricate one of these and its upgrades took me a long time and visits to some dangerous places.

(*) Initially the P.R.A.W.N. suit will take you as deep as 900m. In order to go deeper, two separate depth upgrades will be required, each adding 400m to the crush depth, in order to reach 1,700m (sufficient for the deepest part of the game).

You can do a vast amount in the game before you need one of these, but it will become absolutely essential below 900m, and very useful before reaching that depth. Among other upgrades, the Jump Jet Upgrade (fabricated from materials found only at considerable depth) will extend both horizontal and vertical mobility considerably. The Drill Arm accessory is essential for mining large resources, e.g. big chunks of magnetite or nickel, and is a useful defence against predators. The Grappling Arm accessory can be fired some distance to get you to some places you couldn't reach otherwise.
Subnautica Cyclops
This is the Cyclops submersible that I eventually managed to build. It's a huge thing that needs to be built in deep-enough water using a mobile vehicle bay. It is powered by six power cells, which will normally need to be recharged by equipment in a habitat.

(*) Initially the Cyclops will take you as deep as 500m. In order to go deeper, three separate depth upgrades will be required, each adding 400m to the crush depth, in order to reach 1,700m (sufficient for the deepest part of the game).

Compared to the Seamoth, it feels quite ponderous and unwieldy to drive. Unlike the Seamoth it has no side thrusters and can't be tilted up or down. For manoeuvring you can only swing it left and right and make it rise and sink, while it remains perfectly horizontal. it has three speeds (top speed not recommended) and comes with an energy-consuming but occasionally life saving "silent running" mode.

Tip: It's much harder to guide the Cyclops through confined spaces than the Seamoth, even using the Cyclops's external cameras. However don't be too worried by the collision proximity warnings - you can bump gently against obstructions and keep moving without damage. Keeping moving will sometimes be important.

Tip: Crafting and installing the Energy Efficiency Upgrade Module should be one of the first things you do with the Cyclops. It triples the engine efficiency but doesn't reduce the overhead of "silent running".

(*) Tip: Beware of using the Sonar Upgrade Module for any length of time. It consumes a huge amount of power when running - if you need to use it, do so as a "quick peek". (I never used this upgrade, preferring where necessary to leave the vehicle and investigate the surroundings by swimming.)

(*) Tip: The method of installing the MK3 depth upgrade in the Cyclops requires you to remove the previous depth upgrade, use it to fabricate the new one using resources found only at considerable depth, and then put it back. Unlike doing this in the Seamoth and P.R.A.W.N. suit, which can be done at depth when they are safely docked in the Cyclops (via the nearby console), removing the existing depth upgrade from the Cyclops below its crush depth for any length of time is kind of fatal. However you do have time to craft the upgrade and install it before any actual damage results, if you don't hang about!

You will eventually need the Cyclops to at least deliver the P.R.A.W.N. suit to deep places (especially to the Lost River and below - be careful of spoilers when following this link).
Subnautica Cyclops
The swimmer entrance opens automatically as you approach.

Further back are large clamshell doors that open automatically when approaching from underneath with the Seamoth or the P.R.A.W.N. suit. You can dock these in the Cyclops in the same way as you do in the moonpool. Unlike the moonpool, a useful Cyclops upgrade will allow docked vehicles to be automatically repaired, as well as automatically recharged (but any electricity usage in the Cyclops naturally drains the Cyclops's own power cells).
Subnautica Cyclops
Looking forward in my Cyclops, which I used as a mobile habitat. Two of my many storage lockers have been placed here, as well as an ordinary aquarium (not the much larger alien containment) for mainly decorative purposes.
Subnautica Cyclops
Looking aft. The hologram here indicates any damage that you need to go outside and repair, and any power-draining pests (found in very deep areas) that you need to go outside and get rid of.

Further aft is the Seamoth/P.R.A.W.N. suit docking area, in a large room that will hold much storage and many other things that you could place inside a seabase habitat, except e.g. a water filtration machine (which would need access through the hull) or an alien containment (too large).

(*) Above the Seamoth/P.R.A.W.N. suit docking area is what appears to be only a status readout panel for the docked vehicle. It does, however, permit you to manage upgrade modules and access any storage on a docked vehicle - but not to exchange the vehicle's power cells.

Exploring & Navigation


OK, time for a little exploring...

Navigation: While being very careful of spoilers, check out the multi-layered Subnautica Interactive Map. Run your cursor around and watch the (x,y) coordinates, which are in metres, in the bottom right hand corner.

When you need to know depth (z coordinate) as well, you will see coordinates as (x,z,y), i.e. with depth as the middle coordinate (contrary to some online information, which may be out of date).

How to find your own coordinates is described here.

It's really useful to know in which direction you're currently pointing while swimming, so an early objective is to craft a compass which will be automatically added to your Head-Up Display (HUD).

(*) Tip: Craft and always take with you several beacons. You can drop them in the water to mark places that you find and want to come back to. After you drop them you can give them an identifying name. Beacons will appear as icons in your HUD. You can use the Beacon Manager in your PDA to select beacons that you want to see and deselect those you don't, and to change their colour in the HUD to make them easier to see or to identify. You can pick up and reuse beacons no longer needed, but they are cheap to craft and I generally left all of mine in place.

Vehicles (like the Seamoth), moonpools and remote cameras deployed from scanner rooms have in-built beacons, as do most other lifepods that you will hear about via your radio. You can also select and deselect the icons from these via your PDA.
Subnautica Kelp Forest
You won't have vehicles to begin with, so your first explorations will naturally be by diving from the surface in relatively shallow areas. You will soon be motivated to build a Seaglide and to upgrade your air tanks!

(*) Tip: One of the most useful tools you can get for diving is the Air Bladder, an easily constructed device that may save your life. It is reusable, has no batteries and will take you up to the surface quickly without using a Seaglide.

Above is one of the Kelp Forest biomes (it's worth following the link and reading fully, if you are not already familiar).

You will occasionally be attacked here by Stalkers, large fish that aren't really that dangerous. They seem to mistake you for bits of (useful) metal salvage that they like playing with, and on which they occasionally break their (useful) teeth. They are similarly attracted to remote camera drones deployed from your scanner room, which may go on unexpected journeys!
Subnautica Grassy Plateau
...and this is one of the Grassy Plateaus biomes. There are many other kinds of biome to explore, and you can find info about them by clicking their area on the Subnautica Interactive Map, again being as careful as you can to avoid spoilers.
Subnautica entering Jellyshroom Cave
Below the biomes seen above lies the large Jellyshroom Cave, best explored with a Seamoth (upgraded so as to be able to reach a depth of 300m). This photo is taken heading straight down into one of the entrances.

Tip: Placing two beacons here, one above and one below this cave entrance, makes re-visiting, navigating and leaving the cave a lot easier!
Subnautica Jellyshroom Cave with scanner room
(*) I found it really useful to place a scanner room here, as the cave is full of useful resources, including plenty of magnetite. Unexpectedly, there's enough bioluminescent light to (barely) power the scanner room with a solar panel - but I found out later that this is a bug in the game, and you can't fabricate a scanner room upgrade with that power. On my second playthrough of the game, I brought solar power down into the cave from solar panels nearer the surface, using power transmitters. There is also plenty of thermal energy in the cave, which can be used if you have the blueprint for the thermal plant.

There is something else interesting to be found down here. It won't be long until you discover clues about what it is.

Reality check: You may find it odd (if very useful) that you can swim freely in water at depths that would crush even a depth-upgraded Seamoth. I think of it as an unadvertised feature of the various hi-tech dive suits that the Alterra Corporation kindly provides for you to wear (one of which I never found out about).

Islands


Subnautica Floating Island
This is the Floating Island, one of the two island biomes. It's a very pleasant and useful place to explore fully. You can locate it on the interactive map, but take a long swim on the surface from your lifepod in a south-westerly direction and you can see a clue as to where it is.

On this island you will find three abandoned seabases built by survivors of the Degasi, mysteriously shot down by something on this planet, which your own ship (the Aurora) was sent to look for when it was similarly shot down.

As usual, scan everything you find, including wild and cultivated plants. You will end up with many useful blueprints and clues to further exploring. Take useful edible plant cuttings, as you can grow them later to survive on - especially one particular plant that satisfies thirst as well as hunger.

If you haven't found one very surprising and obviously different thing, then you aren't finished here yet...

The other island

Early on in the game another rescue ship, the Sunbeam (no link because of spoilers), will radio that it's on its way, and will plan to land at a particular location that you are given. Unfortunately it is shot down before it can land, but one way to find the other island is to get to that location (before the arrival countdown finishes if possible - recommended, but not necessary).

In any case, exploring the other island will provide vital information about what is shooting down approaching ships, and at least some clues as to why it is doing it. The island also has very useful resources, both above and below water.

Wrecks


Subnautica Wreck 1
In early explorations you will soon be finding and scanning wreckage from the Aurora lying on the sea floor. However larger chunks of the Aurora need you to explore their insides, swimming, for which you need something nearby (e.g. a Seamoth) to replenish your air.

A very useful guide to the wrecks will be found here. Because of spoilers, I strongly suggest trying to explore wrecks that you find on your own, before consulting the guide.
Subnautica Wreck 1
Before exploring a wreck (this one is small and relatively easy) it is useful to have aquired at least a flashlight, a laser cutter and a repair tool (and of course the essential scanner).

The laser cutter will cut through doors which have a slightly blackened centre. Some doors are unlocked and will open normally. Some doors have damaged wiring which can be repaired with the repair tool, after which they will open normally.

Eventually you will be able to craft and bring along the multi-purpose and deceptively-named propulsion cannon, which among other things can be used to shift blockages such as crates that aren't too heavy. It's a gravity tool that can fetch remote things to you, which you can either take (e.g. a fish!) or fire in some direction. You can also fire things from it that you have in your inventory. You'll find many ways to use it and reasons to love it.
Subnautica Aurora
By far the largest, most dangerous and most valuable wreck to explore is the crashed Aurora (a picture taken by me when standing on top of my Cyclops!). From here it doesn't look too bad...
Subnautica Aurora
...but up close, at its wrecked front end, it is a very daunting prospect indeed. It's huge, noisy, on fire, and everything is shaking. It's the most awesome and intricate game environment that I have encountered.

(*) I suggest you don't even think of coming here until you have explored at least most of the other bigger wrecks. You'll obviously need a radiation suit, as something in here is leaking radiation (you're going to try to do something about that, right?). A propulsion cannon is apparently not strictly necessary but I wouldn't come here without one - among other things, it's useful for shifting obstructions.

Apart from your other wreck-exploring stuff, bring a few fire extinguishers and rations. You're going to be here a long time, but the good news is that you'll be able to pick up more fire extinguishers, rations and other useful stuff when you finally manage to penetrate inside, so don't take any unnecessary items in your inventory before that.

(*) You will have to swim through many submerged corridors and bewildering spaces filled with various kinds of clutter. The good news is that these areas often have air pockets above them. The bad news is that retracing your steps can sometimes be hard if you don't have a good memory (and a beacon or two might be a handy thing to bring with you).

Naturally you will explore all the rooms and living quarters, but don't miss places that store vehicles or vehicle parts for which you haven't yet been able to scan a blueprint.

(*) There is one cabin that has a door code you won't know yet. You will need to return much later, when you finally receive a radio message giving you that code. The cabin contains something that is part of what you need to finally escape the planet. Tip: Don't waste time looking for the other parts, as there aren't any. What you have found is enough to get you started (once you have all the resources and have fixed the minor problem of being shot down as you try to leave). Note: This is different from an earlier version of the game.

Good luck...

Going Deeper


As you descend to greater depths, you find essential resources and more danger, as well as more of the vital information you need to progress.

You may already have met warpers, a major pest in this ocean (whose purpose is only revealed later). They appear via what looks like a large bubble of air, and if you get near them they can warp you right out of a Seamoth or P.R.A.W.N. suit (but not a Cyclops). You suddenly find yourself swimming, you're not always sure where your vehicle is, and an alarming creature is after you.

People have different ways of dealing with them, but you can actually fend them off just with an upgraded survival knife. My own approach, FWIW, is to exit the vehicle before I get warped out of it (if I can't avoid it and if I see it coming), and use a repulsion cannon to knock the pest into the distance. You might want to make one of those before heading downwards (I created a second propulsion cannon and then upgraded it, since having both types of cannon is useful).

OK... We're about to head off on a first explore of the Lost River (be careful of spoilers in following this link), using a Seamoth in order to get a quick lie of the land, so to speak. It's also easier to get in and out of the four different entrances than it will be later when using a Cyclops.

Before doing this I had to upgrade the Seamoth to its maximum depth capability of 900m. I also took time to find all the entrances to the Lost River and drop beacons to mark them. This turned out to be very helpful for navigation when down in the depths!
Subnautica Lost River
I am entering via the western entrance, which is in an easily-found deep trench in a grassy plateau, to the west of the home lifepod.
Subnautica Lost River
Here is a stretch of the underwater river itself, formed of greenish brine that is deadly to swim in, but contains many useful resources. I came back later with a Cyclops and deployed a P.R.A.W.N suit to collect resources from the brine.
Subnautica Lost River
Descending still lower, passing over one of many "brine falls"...
Subnautica Lost River Bone Field
...and passing through the Bone Fields. The creature whose skeleton this is is thankfully not still around.
Subnautica Lost River Tree Grove
This is the entrance to the Tree Cove. I am watching the depth gauge carefully as I am perilously close to crush depth. The brine is blue here, not green, and is safe to swim in. The area around and behind this tree is a kind of safe haven down here, with no agressive fauna, and is an ideal spot to park a Cyclops. It also has a thermal vent which makes it a good spot to place a scanner room, powered by a thermal plant near the vent.

In the distance beyond here is one entrance to the next level below (but this is as far as I am taking you, as too many spoilers would otherwise result).

Coming in to the Lost River the way I did in the Seamoth is much harder in the Cyclops. Eventually I found that the southern entrance is practically impassable, and personally I would recommend bringing the Cyclops in via the eastern entrance, which I found easiest. Coming in from the east you will pass a huge, derelict alien structure. Entering the top of it will get you set for the next stage of your journey.

All I can say here is that a great experience is waiting for you...


And finally...

A Word of Appreciation


The artistry in this game, both technical and other, is quite wonderful, and the sheer amount of work that has gone into it staggers my mind.

You may remember that when Finding Nemo came out, it was considered a landmark in creating realistic underwater effects. In the audience we probably took it all for granted, not appreciating that every frame of the movie was the result of hours of processing time on powerful computers, not to mention the work by many people in creating the computer models in the first place.

Now this game delivers a wonderfully realistic experience (to which still images can't do justice) in real time on a desktop computer.

You need a good-enough CPU and graphics card to play it properly, of course, and a 64-bit OS. I have an Intel i5 CPU with 8GB of main memory, and a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card, on which the game runs fine.

Thanks also to the legion of fans who have created a vast amount of online information, most of it very useful.

Bugs (*)


There are a few, of course, but far less than (say) in Skyrim. This isn't a definitive list, it only records those that I have encountered.

Some bugs that I encountered in the Sep-2018 61056 PC build (invisible walls within the Aurora, the laser cutter not opening some wreck doors that it should have been able to open, suddenly falling out of the Cyclops apparently in air) were not encountered in the later Feb-2021 68598 build.

Some, however, I also encountered again in the newer build. Fish are still occasionally swimming inside a habitat and the Cyclops (I killed a power-draining lava larva inside the cyclops and it floated to the ceiling). I was also unimpressed to encounter a bone shark (who ignored me) swimming in the air between a teleport exit and a water-air barrier shield.

In the Feb-2021 68598 build that I just played I encountered two bugs I hadn't met before:

1. The P.R.A.W.N. suit sometimes becomes immovable if walking within an alien structure. I could cure this by saving, quitting and reloading, and on one occasion by jumping. This happened repeatedly in one alien structure and was seriously annoying.

2. The habitat fabricator malfunctioned once. You should be able to repeatedly fabricate drinking water from a supply of bladderfish, but I had to close and reenter the fabricator for each bladderfish individually - a trivial problem, fixed by saving, quitting and reloading.

Game Console


Getting past the normal limits of the game is what the console is for. You can find information on it here.

Cheating, for me, spoils the game, but there were times when I used the "day" and "night" commands.

The game has different modes of play, from Creative to Hardcore, the normal one being Survival. There were times when I found eating and replanting tedious, and switched from Survival to Freedom, which allows you to stop eating and drinking in the current game session. The console commands are simply the name of the mode (in lower case). I only selected Freedom mode when inside the Cyclops and had the means of eating and drinking readily to hand; it just drove me crazy having to stop the sub in some critical situation and go to the back room to cut, harvest seeds and replant yet again! In other situations I didn't select Freedom, since it would remove a main feature of the game.

Key Controls


The key controls for the game will be found here. The basic movement controls are the normal W,A,S,D, with spacebar for "up" and "jump" and C for "sink". I used F11 to take the photos you see in this post and then screen-captured and cropped them from the PDA's photo manager.


If you are still reading this, many thanks for your interest! If you want to give me any feedback (most welcome), you can rate my guide and/or leave comments here on Steam.

If you like this, you might also like...

[An Introductory Guide to Transport Fever 2]


Dear Esther

Last month I also spent some time here, on a wild Hebridean island.

Dear Esther is called a computer game, or sometimes a “walking simulator”, only because there isn't another way to categorize it. Your only objective is to explore the island, while the mystery of a past tragedy unfolds - an unlikely source of enjoyment, you might think.

The island itself is a true work of art, a vast environment that has to be experienced through the “game” (including its atmospheric soundtrack) to be appreciated. Among many extraordinary details, the sparse foliage is stirred by the wind that blows constantly (and blows harder as you climb upwards).

You can - and should - explore everywhere that isn't too steep. You can leave the paths (such as they are) and walk across open terrain, or the rocks of a stream bed, or enter water (salt or fresh) and try swimming. A flashing beacon on the highest point of the island, visible from many places, provides some orientation and a kind of goal.

Your exploration will fall into 4 sequential segments, or chapters. You can (and will probably want to) re-enter the exploration at the start of any segment you have been in before, or at the last point that you saved.

My screenshot above is taken close to the end of the second segment. If you are brave enough (you think I'm kidding?) to follow the path that eventually reaches the bottom of the chasm in front of you, you have a chance of entering the third segment - for which I am deliberately not providing screenshots.

The following are some of my screenshots from the last segment:




If you click any of these screenshots then you will find out a lot more about the game. The principal genius behind it is Robert Briscoe (a link worth following if you're interested in the technology).

If you play the game then you may be surprised by the apparent lack of controls or guidance information. If so, you might find this helpful.

And finally, if you haven't met Steam before, it's a good way to buy and share computer games without physical media, much as streamed and downloaded video is gradually replacing DVDs. Having bought this game through Steam, I can download and play games for free from the Steam libraries of my American family, providing that the purchaser isn't playing any of their own games at the same time - but the sharing mechanism (intended originally for families with separate computers) is somewhat tricky and counter-intuitive to set up.

If you like this...

[PC's most relaxing games - PC Gamer]



“Life is an overwhelming whirlwind of stress, responsibility, existential crises, and utility bills. So it’s a good thing we have video games, which are the equivalent of burying your head in the sand and forgetting about what a gruelling, thankless chore simply existing can be.

“When I’m feeling the burden of sentience, these are the games I turn to. They’re all relaxing in their own special way, and the perfect way to unwind after a hard day of doing whatever it is you do to pay the rent.

“So light some scented candles, put on a Brian Eno CD, and slip into a warm bubble bath of pure tranquility. But not too far, ‘cause you might fall asleep and drown, and you’ve got work tomorrow.”


Andy Kelly (aka Ultrabrilliant) in PC Gamer

Andy is probably the finest journalist writing on video games. I have gratefully borrowed his words in my selections below from his article, and added some links. Click any image to see the full article with all 10 of Andy's suggestions.


Space Engine

“This one’s tricky. Flying around Space Engine’s beautiful 1:1 scale recreation of the universe can be remarkably humbling and soothing, but you run the risk of suddenly realising just how small and insignificant you are and having a mild existential breakdown. For the best experience, disable the in-game music and listen to the sci-fi-tinged ambience of ‘Tomorrow's Harvest’ by Boards of Canada.”



Take On Mars

“This slow-paced simulator sees you exploring the surface of the red planet with a variety of rovers and landers. The missions don’t get any more exciting than ‘probe some soil’, but the feeling of being alone on a distant, lonely world is palpable. The howl of the Martian wind as you trundle through the dust creates an evocative atmosphere, and the sedate pace of the rovers makes for a strangely hypnotic experience.”

The perfect companion to reading The Martian by Andy Weir (see my previous post below).



Dear Esther

“The bleak Hebridean island that this short, story-led game takes place on is one of my favourite virtual places to hike through. It evokes the same lonely feeling as Take On Mars, but with a more earthly setting. The world and sound design are hauntingly atmospheric, and the understated music and narration give it a serene, dreamlike feel. Can we have more games set on remote Scottish islands, please?”


... and a couple of the rest (click any image above to see the full set):

Proteus

“This surrealist exploration game marries sound and visuals in a really captivating way. As you wander around a procedurally-generated island, constructed from simple, abstract shapes, the dreamy music reacts to your actions. Then the seasons begin to change, transforming the landscape around you, and your worries slip away. It only takes an hour to finish Proteus, but the world layout is different every time.”


Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments

“This detective adventure is like watching an episode of Poirot or Morse or something. It has that sedate British crime drama vibe about it, and even though most of the cases are about grisly murders, the gorgeous, authentic environments are a pleasure to explore. It’s like being transported to Victorian England. The pace is slow and measured, and none of the puzzles are too taxing. The perfect game for a lazy Sunday.”

If you like this...

[Other Places - videos by Andy Kelly exploring the tranquil beauty of game landscapes without violence or stress]
[Slow TV from Norway]


“Other Places” (1 of 2)

My screenshots below are from one of my favourites of these videos - Skyrim (The Elder Scrolls V). Click any image below to enjoy the landscapes, set to nice music.









You can find all of ultrabrilliant's Other Worlds videos here, and another set of screenshots (urbanscape, for a change) in my previous post below.

If you like this...

[Another post on Skyrim]


“Other Places” (2 of 2)
[continued from Part 1]

My screenshots below are from another of my favourites of these videos - Empire Bay (Mafia II). Click any image below to enjoy the cityscape, set to nice music.








You can find all of ultrabrilliant's Other Worlds videos here, and another set of screenshots (landscape, for a change) in my next post above.

If you like this...

["Underpass"]
[... and try clicking the urbanscape tag above...]


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

My American family is into computer games and music (among other things). They always have something good to show me when I visit, like this...

A scene from the standard Skyrim game (click the image to read a major Wikipedia article, and there's a good review here)


As I understand it, Skyrim has an open architecture, and a whole community (the Skyrim Nexus) is involved in extending and enhancing it - this is an example from Skyrim Visuals and Graphics enhancements, an image that I found here (click the image above for a full-size version)

And then there is the music from Skyrim...


The Mexican singer Malukah (real name Judith de los Santos) has a beautiful voice, and she has made some very popular cover versions of songs from Skyrim (among others) - this one is The Dragonborn Comes (and a video of a Skyrim trailer with the same track wil be found here)


...and here is Malukah singing another Skyrim song, one of my favourites, Tale of the Tongues

You can download many of Malukah's songs as MP3s, including these, free from her web site.




Two of my screenshots from the computer game Syberia

I am no expert on computer games - I don't get much time to play them.

I do, however, enjoy really good adventure games that involve problem solving rather than shooting. The best of these games seem to me to be amazing works of art and technology. Developing these games must be not unlike working on a movie blockbuster such as The Lord of the Rings.

Syberia, created by the Belgian comic artist and video game developer Benoît Sokal, is (as of January 2012) the highest-ranked game in the GamingExcellence adventure game ratings, and having played it over the last month or two I am not at all surprised.

If you are interested, I have reviewed this and some other excellent adventure games here on my web site.