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Review: Activity Analyser 2.11
Developer: eTo Software
Reviewed By Matthew and Peter Peddlesden
Date: 18 Jan 2002


Like many people we have always feared downloading and installing activities, hearing of nightmares of failed installations, missing stock and people having to either spend hours getting it working or just and re-installing their Train Simulator.

Yet activities form one of the most fun aspects of the game - they give you purpose beyond just exploring the route and they allow you to take part in a semi-prototypical operation using someone elses expertise in that route - they set up good consists, they set up alternative AI traffic - all you have to do is drive the train! You get to see more of your stock running than just the bit you're driving and you actually have something to do (which some of us require to get full enjoyment out of it :) ).

With the Activity Editor supplied with Train Sim allowing people to create their own activities and share them easily, the scene is almost set for loads of these activities to be made available - this last hurdle leaves us with a serious problem!

Along comes a utility that's been bubbling along for quite a while, gradually getting better and better until recently someone pointed me in its direction - I will never look back.

This is the MUST HAVE Utility for anyone using activities.

Consider: You've just downloaded and installed that stunning route that everyone is talking about. You download some activities for it. Now try and run the activities and MSTS falls about laughing because half the consists (Locos and associated rolling stock) are missing. Now spend a couple of hours (or more) trying to work out what is actually missing.

NOT ANY MORE!!

After you install the activities you run "Activity Analyser". This opens up with a two pane window. The upper pane contains a list of ALL the ROUTES curently installed, the lower pane contains a list of all the ACTIVITIES for a selected route. In the upper pane you select the route you are working with; in the lower pane you select the activity you wish to check and then Click on the ANALYSIS button.

This then creates a new two pane listing window with the upper pane listing ALL the locomotives required for the Activity and the lower pane listing ALL the rolling stock required for the Activity. Any locomotives or Rolling Stock missing from the activity are highlighted in PINK and a button on the bottom right of the window (also in PINK) will if you click on it, produce a complete listing of ALL the missing stock.

Now comes the really clever bit and you have two options:-

Option 1: Click on Replace and it will bring up a list of all the locos OR rolling stock on your system and you can manually select to replace required stock with stock already on your system. Useful if the activity requires the Central Trains 170 and you only have the Anglia 170. Not everyone wants to install every Deltic that Mark Shipman made, or every variation on the Class 47 - thanks to this you no longer need to.

Note: If you select Replace, it will only make the replacement in the current Activity being analysed and NOT in ALL the activities for the selected route.

Option 2: Click on Automatic Replace and it will search your MSTS directory structure for the missing stock that may be in a different folder. If you have selected 'Yes for all, without any questions' it will automatically substitute missing models found in other directories. Eg. If the loco required D9017 is found in the MSDeltic directory rather than the D9017 directory it will make the change of folder in ALL your activities for ALL your routes, not just the current selected route/activity. It is a not uncommon practice for many people to install trains in to different directories to make it easier for them to be found - but if the person making the activity does this, MSTS will expect to find that stock in their directory name, this option will obliterate that problem completely.

You are advised to make backup copies of your activities before running the Activity Analyser. The program does however make running backups with the file extension .ORG and once you have tested and proven the activity after making changes you can safely delete these .ORG files.

I performed a couple of tests, first I downloaded an activity and ran the analyser. It reported on numerous missing items. I clicked Automatic Replace and a couple of those items were located for me. I then popped in to UKTrainsim and took the 'filename' that was reported and typed it straight into the 'Wagon ID' field in the Search screen. The files were located, I downloaded and installed them and voila, we're done - Activity Analyser now reports everything is found and sure enough the activity runs great. Total time to get activity working, a few minutes at most.

The next test was the "stubborn" test. I decided I wasn't going to install any new stock for the second activity. It asked for a couple of Mark 1 coaches, 55007 and a 47 plus a couple of wagons that I didn't have. I hit replace on the Mark 1's and chose suitable ones from my own stock. I then hit replace on the 55 and chose 55017 instead. Next I changed the 47 for the original blue one that Tim Booth released and finally I changed the wagons for some that I had that were similar. Activity Analyser then reported all stock was present and correct and sure enough it ran great when I tested it.

To prove the automatic replacement facility I renamed the D9003 directory to MSDeleticD9003 and the analyser located it and made the necessary changes.

My one disappointment with the program (and this is particularly important for newbie MSTS people) is that if locos or rolling stock are found missing and you don't have a suitable replacement, it doesn't make any suggestions as to where you might be able to download the missing files from. Even a simple list of URL's to popular Train Simulation web sites would be of great advantage here.

We have been in touch with the author of Activity Analyser as we were planning on developing a program very similar to this (prior to us finding out about it), we have supplied all of the suggestions and ideas that we were going to implement and Ernst has been extremely receptive to the ideas - I would anticipate a future version will go some way to fixing our (minor) issue with it.

Activity Analyser is shareware. While not registered, it will only show you the first two routes that it finds but offers full functionality across those routes. Once you have registered for $10 it opens its use to all routes installed on your system.

For $10 this program will save hours of grief and is worth every cent. We cannot recommend this program enough if you use activities - and if the only reason you don't is because of the nightmare stories you hear then we're here to say that the nightmare is over :)

Our Score:

95%



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