The engine balancing update

Dear railways friends,

Today, I would like to tell you about the changes we have made to the engine balancing with the current update.

Engine types

First though, I’ll reveal which engine types there are and when you can benefit by using each type.

Type 1: The Sprinter

e.g. Lynx

The Sprinter is characterised by high acceleration and speed values, while the tractive force leaves much to be desired. This type is particularly strong when waiting times are short. It is suitable for both long and short distances. The ideal engine for profit drivers!
Hint: This engine type should be serviced early on, as it reaches its maximum speed most of the time.

Type 2: The Traction Monster

e.g. Elephant

As the name suggests, this engine type possesses an enormous tractive force, while the other attributes are rather less developed. The Traction Monster is particularly suitable for schedules with high waiting times and short distances. Players who deliver to cities should use this engine for short distances or supply deliveries. During the endgame, this type can also be worthwhile in cases of extremely long waiting times and longer distances.
Hint: Don’t underestimate the greater demand for waggons here.

Type 3: The Long Haul Engine

e.g. Panther

This type scores with a very high top speed, but acceleration is rather slow. The tractive force is average at best. This engine is best suited for long distances, where it can make full use of its high speed. It becomes interesting especially during the later eras, or for transports from warehouses in the USA scenario.
Hint: When used on short distance hauls, servicing this engine type can be delayed slightly, since top speed is only ever reached for a short period of time.

Type 4: The Short Haul Engine

e.g. Rhinoceros

The Short Haul Engine accelerates quickly, so its rather low top speed is reached very fast. Its tractive force is better than that of Sprinters, all in all however rather average. This engine should be used for short distances with low to medium waiting times. It is particularly beneficial at the start of the game and for short distance deliveries.

Type 5: the Long Runner

e.g. Leviathan

The Long Runner runs and runs and runs. Its high reliability creates continuous income and its owner can skip one or the other service. This engine is ideal for casual players who can log in only once a day.

Type 6: the All-rounder

e.g. Mole

Players who change their schedules regularly should rely on the All-rounder. It scores good marks on all distances, without achieving a top score on any particular route. All its attributes are a good average.


Additionally, there are all kinds of hybrids of the engine types.

With the introduction of the tech tree some time ago, we also redesigned engine balancing. We made a mistake back then. We assumed an average waiting time of two minutes. However, since players increasingly made arrangements with each other in regards to investments, so that nearly everyone was benefiting from the 50% waiting time bonus (or at least the 25% friendship bonus), our calculations no longer worked and engines with high acceleration (such as Lynx) dominated the game.

With the current changes, we have responded to this development and improved the engines that were too weak in comparison. In most cases, we did not change the engine type. For example, the Elephant is still slow, but can now haul two additional waggons. In cases where there is a waiting time of one minute and a distance of four tracks, it can now compete with the Lynx. Should the waiting time increase or the distance be shorter, the Elephant beats the Lynx. For those delivering to cities, the Elephant has become the obvious choice.


Wishing you loads of fun with the game,

All changes in the overview

Engine Property Change Property Change
Bat Speed + 10 km/h
Black bear Tractive force + 1 waggon
Boar Speed + 10 km/h Acceleration + 2
Elephant Tractive force + 2 waggons
Odin Reliability + 30%
Herakles Reliability + 30% Speed + 5 km/h
Apollo Reliability + 10% Speed + 5 km/h
Neptune Tractive force + 1 waggon
Unicorn Reliability + 10% Speed + 5 km/h
Satyr Acceleration + 1
Leviathan Speed + 20 km/h
Ogre Reliability + 10% Speed + 10 km/h
Lernaean Hydra Tractive force + 7 waggons



  1. Given that waggons price grows from high to enormous with Era progression, I somehow doubt that this change will help Traction Monsters much, especially late at the game. Sure Hydra has impressive traction force now, but it takes more than a day for Electronics cars to pay for themselves on Olympus or Lindworm (leaving servicing cost out of the equation), but for Hydra it’ll take twice as long. You just won’t make enough money to keep up.

  2. I must note that these changes did helped some of the mid-game engines, e.g. Leviathan and Satyr are quite a viable alternatives for Basilisk that used to be the only reasonable supplementary engine in E5, Apollo is no longer piece of rusty junk it used to be, even Neptune is not so crippled. Thanks for

    But Panther, for example, was not affected by the change and I can’t imagine anybody sane to choose it over the Lynx. I mean, Lynx beats it even on 10 sections distance, why bother?

  3. Really good summary but at the end of the day it becomes impractical to change trains every time your RG changes. So is there a best in era train?

    • Raidon, there shouldn’t be, and it is great. I am glad that devs are shifting from the “you must accomplish” paradigm to “you must choose right one”. And, hoping this blog is not only informative but two-ways, I will post my thoughts about engine balancing in my next post.

  4. I played mostly on ru servers, where online and players competition are relatively high. So I will be talking from ru servers scope, about the people I watch there. I will have in mind USA map. Some people prefer one engines, some others, and some engines aren’t used at all, and it was always interesting for me, why.
    I would like the devs to keep in mind that engine balance is not something like “this engine is good @2 sections distance, and this one is @6 sections. Let’s let players sort them out”. I’d like them to remember that it is more complicated and connected to many factors, from era and map pattern to player strategies and types. And engines should be viewed like part of this complex system – sometimes tweaks must be done in another place, not in engine stats. Analyzing the system as a whole can give faster and more precise results than playing with numbers in trial and error. I will not talk about the particular numbers intentionally, but about the ideas only. Instead of saying “this engine should have 2 points of acceleration more” I would like to say “the scenario of usage for this engine is not realistic”.
    If the players can optimize things to reach the maximum performance, they will. Questions like “which engine is the best for era?” proves that, always benefiting from the 50% waiting time proves that. Before talking about engines balance, we must first pay attention to how these engines will be used: who will use them, when, and why.

  5. People who lay the tracks
    There are people who visit the game often, and who cannot be online all the time. There are also pro players and casual people who don’t care much. This is simple, but there are less obvious considerations, like strategies and goals of players:
    1) Hunters: these are hunting for prestige and money only, in order to take first lines in personal rankings. They don’t really care about one particular city and easily travel from one to another. Most often they are the most competent players that can develop rapidly, know how to calculate costs vs. profits and to farm effectively. They will not mind changing the engine often, if that engine can give additional benefits, and usually can afford that.
    2) Regular city Dwellers: these are the people who form the constantly living associations of a city. They dwell one city constantly, or moving to nearest bigger one just once, and work on resources that surround the city. They are not that rich because they are working for the city but not for the most lucrative routes. They are either average players that don’t care much about personal ratings, or have bad online.
    3) Supplementary city Dwellers: these guys either come from another city and have only partial rail coverage in the target city (so they cannot haul from the nearest industry), or they are smart players which do not want to jump into the messy route where all the city is already, and are looking for alternative sources considering waiting times (but their goal is still city prosperity, not personal).
    So, the combination of player skill, possibilities for online and personal goals are things that counts for the first question “Who?”. And, using the classification above, to be effective I generally would choose:
    – Sprinter or All-rounder, if I was the Hunter type;
    – Traction Monster for new resources, which all the city will be overloading for some time, and ShortHauler or LongHauler for later resources, depending on the distance to industry – if I was a Regular city dweller.
    – LongHauler, if I was the Supplementary city dweller.

    – LongRunner or reliable All-rounder, if I had bad online.
    LongRunner type looks a little outsided comparing with the above 5 engine types, it is tied to online only. Online matters much in the game currently. If I have bad online, players with good online will outrun me, so I can not be a Hunter with bad online, no matter how good my strategy is. LongRunners are not the choice for Hunters.
    Traction Monsters are not a good choice for Hunters either. Instead of jumping into the pile to haul from loaded industries, there are other useful options for the Hunter usually.
    Routes, which are lucrative for LongHaulers but not for some other types of engines at the same time are rare in practice. Thus, LongHaulers are not an option for Hunters. They will serve effectively only for a short duration while the route stays lucrative, and then they must be switched to some other engine. Cost of switching finishes them finally.
    There is some ratio of Hunters : Regular Dwellers : Supplementary Dwellers. And the need for different kinds of engines is dictated by this ratio.

  6. Trains on schedule
    There are 3 main characteristics of routes: length, waiting time, nature of stops. There are 3 main characteristics of engines: acceleration, top speed and tractive force. (4th one, Reliability, as we now know is useful for offline people, and is also a measure of player effectiveness in using the route with a right engine – thanks to repair costs. But this one has nothing to do with the route characteristics.) Engine characteristics are designed to match route characteristics, and route characteristics are tied to industries.
    Let’s look at the resources I may encounter during the game.
    In Eras 1-2, once the server is filled enough, all the resources will be mostly overloaded. All the resources are close to the city and to each other, so I will never encounter the need for LongHauler. But I will need Traction Monsters desperately. And even more I will need them once more and more people will obtain them too, loading the industries further and further. If I am a Hunter, other choices appear after the simplest resources will pass away, if I am a Dweller, no choice for me.
    In Era 3 routes get longer and industries start to vary in waiting times. Here engine choices become interesting, but people move to bigger cities for some reason (due to another game balance issue I might talk about some day). Traction monsters are still the kings, well, they will be all the time, because there will always be new resources with large numbers of people there, numeric growth of engine power will add in as well. And Morpheus come into play, with a totally new gameplay feature – improved usability.
    In golden Eras 4-5 future megacities start to grow, industries are diversified and engines are rich in variety. There is place for almost any kind of engine. Low need for LongHaulers is more a habit and a strategy lack issue than a game balance one. It is compensated by even more powerful engines generally, though. The distance to industries generally increase, and noone seem to use industry feeding for more than one step. That’s why the need for ShortHaulers (or engines that can handle large number of stops) shrinks. At the same time engines grew much in power, so industry overload and TMs need are still high.
    Era 6 is a pre-final stage. Everyone thinks about the Final only, growing their cities desperately, farming prestige thoroughly. The need for good engine balance is sharp as never before, because everyone will want to ride the King of the Era in Grand Finale. The need for particular type of engines is strictly dictated by Final rules, and all engine balance issues grow from these rules and players’ strategy in Final (which has some serious troubles).
    Some cities are more suitable for ShortHaulers and some for LongHaulers naturally, compare the San Diego and Dallas on USA map, for example. There are short late game resources sometimes. There are great distances between feeder and feeded industries sometimes.
    So the need for different kinds of engines is dictated by practical limitations of era progress and map geography, as well as by global result of players’ strategy. This illustrates our second question “When?” (and “Where?”)

  7. Why bother?
    Players tend to optimize, no one will use an engine if there are better options available. If the given engine, designed to be optimal here, delivers less than some other casual engine, no one will use this “optimal” one.
    Our 6 types of engines suits route characteristics differently. Traction monster deals with waiting times, but other engines outrun them in other cases (or at least they should). LongHauler is great for long tracks but can hardly handle stops. And so on. So, when I pick the engine, I am considering: “this one is good for this, descent for that, but totally breaks on the third.” And I decide if it fits my needs or not. Game is interesting while I tear my mind with this question. Obvious choices like “this one is always better, and I must reach it ASAP” are not interesting.
    Both route and engine characteristics are interconnected, which adds to the difficulty of balance. Assuming that not one hauler but many people are hauling the same route, waiting time characteristic is connected to route length characteristic. Industry twice as far will be half loaded by the same number of people. But same train will deliver half the load per time here (same for money/prestige). When calculating the right number of wagons, devs must shift top speed in pair.
    High top speed + low acceleration engine (typical LongHauler) on a too short route never reaches its top speed. If the practically possible length for the route in current era never allows train to accelerate to full, it’s top speed is effectively cut, and “practically” here is same as “effective enough AND best option available”. Even if the train reaches it’s top speed, it must go at top speed long enough to compensate for long acceleration time. Making balance perfect, devs must adjust top speed in addition to acceleration, and top speed is already connected to number of wagons… And all this is connected to era and map. Poor devs, I know you have hard times.
    But devs have powerful tools, like collecting and analyzing the statistics. And if statistics says that some engine is not used, it is not good and brings the question “Why keep engine in the tech tree?” If statistics shows everyone is using only one engine mostly, game becomes boring; engine is out of balance and must be fixed.
    After considering all previous stuff, devs can look for the reasons of engine unpopularity in another place. There is cost vs. benefit ratio, which is good for some engines and bad for another. There is also additional cost of switching engines, paid both in money (for engine and upgrades), and in Research Points.
    For example, why should I bother acquiring engine if:
    – I will be using my new engines only for a short period of time and then will have to throw it away because of much more powerful next one? Duration of service issue.
    – My new engines will be only slightly better than my current ones, both for my currently used routes and alternative ones? It will pay out for its cost for too long. Or, new available engine is cheap, but useless, compared to another possible alternatives of the time? I just do not need it at all – Underpowered/overcosted issue.
    – My new engines will work good only for their intended use, and will be totally crappy on alternative routes I cannot avoid? Overspecialization issue.
    – My old engines are much more convenient to use and maintain, despite their worse stats compared to new ones? Usability issue.
    Besides engines with too low reliability that require maintenance too often, the last one is about engines that take several slots in engine house – Morpheus, Poseidon, Centaur, Olympus. They are really convenient for players without the Plus, instead of changing the route 22 times, player can do that only 5 times. These engines must have slightly worse stats to pay out for additional convenience (and they have, mostly). Engines one step higher must be significantly better.
    The LongRunners should not be better than specialized engines in on order to fit their role. But I think players even with bad online will prefer engines with better stats, if the reliability is not extremely low. There is sitters in game, after all.
    “Why?” is our third question.

  8. And my story would not be full without game examples.
    Donkey & Falcon. Falcon is a top killer for Era 1. It shines in both speed and acceleration and outperforms all other engines most of the time – it is not an all-rounder, it is rather both ShortHauler and LongHauler 2-in-1. Donkey should be good at overloaded industries, but Falcon is so powerful that it outruns Donkey by speed on track even there, despite the overload wait. Only on some rare industries Donkey is better, but going for Donkey only for those is not worth it. Additionally, 62 RP total for Donkey (23 of which are “useless” side upgrades) seem to cost more than 57 RP total for Falcon (+39 for Donkey pass-through). So the Donkey is overcosted in RP, if to keep in mind Mole and Screw coupling.
    Bat, Unicorn, Ogre, to a certain degree, Apollo – first engines of eras, and Pegasus. They are mostly treated as useless, inevitable evil by players, with the intention to pass them through as soon as possible. People rarely obtain full upgrades for them. These are underpowered, with low duration of service, and are often substituted by Couplings. Neptune, though it is good at one particular usage scenario, is easier to pass through and get something more universal instead.
    Panther & Phoenix. Typical LongHaulers by their stats, they seem to have similar usage scenarios. But they are not. There are no Supplementary Dwellers yet in Era 2-3, and Panther can only be interesting for Hunters limited by rail coverage. But Supplementary Dwellers are the main users of Phoenixes.
    Panther outperforms it’s brothers only on 5+ sections, short ranged industries actual for Era 2 (and 3 too) are not practically applicable for this engine. At the same time industries are far enough and waiting times of actual industries drop fast as they level up, it strengthens other engines positions.
    Panther’s tractive force of 5 is same or lower than of the competitors’. There is no use to haul ~2,5-3 effective loads twice as far if one can get a Lynx and haul 3,5-4 effective loads from nearest industries. And Panther is really bad on any other kinds of routes except long direct ones.
    Warehouses introduced on USA map promised to become a place for Panther finally. But natural waiting time on Warehouses are 30 seconds more than on industries, low tractive force breaks the profit for Panther too soon. Here is the possibility for devs to improve Panther indirectly, by changing Warehouse waiting time, but it may break other aspects of the game.
    Panther suffers from almost any drawback I mentioned before, so I will not be surprised if it is the most unused engine in game.
    Phoenix is more in line with its contemporaries by tractive force, but still suffers much from low acceleration. It outperforms it’s brothers only on 10+ sections, and the need for that appears very rarely. Even one stop in the middle breaks Phoenix’s efficiency. So, overspecialization and geography kills the Phoenix mostly.
    Bear & Elephant. Two Tractive Monster brothers, demanded by their time. Elephant is better than almost any other engine in almost any scenario, with both high and low waiting times. Only Lynx can outperform Elephant sometimes. So Elephant is overpowered. But Bear is a decent Tractive Monster too, and switching Bears to Elephants can cost too much relatively.
    Most Era 3 engines, except Heracles. All these engines look similar in stats and performance. In addition, they look similar as their predecessors from Era 2. They fit routes of their time well, but progressing from one to another is not significant enough – they suffer much from duration of service issue. Players are also given the option to stay with Elephants, which brings underpower/overcost issue.
    Heracles and Horus have such a combination of stats that it is hard to imagine a good scenario for them, where they will not be outperformed by some other engines. Though I like Horus model very much, I had a hard time to find practical routes for Horus to impress me, especially with its RP cost.
    Thor and Satyr are the engines perfectly fit for their time and scenarios. They perform great at their intended routes, and are not totally useless if player choose to use them on unintended ones. And their costs seem to be good for me too.
    And, last but most interesting one, Hydra. Hydras are outstanding when used right, and aren’t good if used wrong. But overspecialization is not their main issue, overcosting is. Hydras, due to their specialization, are required by Regular Dwellers. Regular Dwellers work on the city prosperity in all eras, not on the most lucrative routes. They are not as rich as some other players, and usually they just cannot afford all the wagons Hydras require. Most likely Hydras will be substituted by a good all-rounder because of that.

  9. Sorry for the wall of text, and thank you if you read it :)

  10. About engine types and upgrades
    Tricky devs want to convince us there are 6 types of engines and even more of them in various hybrids. But this is not a natural number. There are actually only two and a half types of engines.
    Engine power is measured in MaxSpeed*Number of Wagons. Theoretically, 20-wagon 50 km/h engine is as effective as 10-wagon 100km/h one, no matter the distance.
    Due to the simple rule “Twice as far, half as much” there are only two natural types of engines: ShortHaulers and LongHaulers. LongHaulers must be twice as powerful as ShortHaulers to be a viable choice. And we have acceleration characteristic to cut effective MaxSpeed, to spoil this excess power and to disallow players to abuse LongHaulers on short routes. Actually, a strongly marked LongHauler can serve as an effective short range TracMonster if it’s number of wagons is enough, despite the bad acceleration – so we must be careful with number of wagons as well. Of course, “long” and “short” terms must correspond the current era and geography.
    TracMonsters come into mind when players ask themselves a question: “how many more people will be hauling from the same industry as me?” If there are not much such people, the need for TracMonsters never appears. Again, the farther the resource, the less wagons TracMonster may have. Here we come to an interesting conclusion: noone denies us to have LongHaul TracMonsters, and ShortHaul ones.
    All-Rounders are already hybrids: LongHauler+ShortHauler+some wagons. Sprinters are nothing more than better All-Rounders with less wagons. And LongRunners are worse All-Rounders with better reliability.
    There are 5 tiers of engines for era in average (6 for Era1, 4 for Era6, 5 for all others to be precise). Usually there is transitive mechanics between tiers: Tier4 is better than Tier 3, which is better than Tier 2, and the starting Tier1 engine is the worst. These tiers, in combination with engine upgrades, are designed to give me, as a player, the feeling of progression. But instead they often give me the feeling of annoyance. There are often useless engines, or too expensive ones, or “skip-it-for-another” once.
    There are 6 engine models for an era. But there are another actual engines players ride: the “zero-star” without upgrades, the “pass-through” configuration – those temporary engines whose upgrades follow the solid lines, and “full star” ones. Zero-star configuration appears when engine is good enough compared to a previous one, worthy to buy before upgrading it further first. “Pass-through” appears when it is too long to reach the target engine, which hides beyond the solid lines. And only “full star” configuration is the phenomenon players use gladly and continuously.
    Noone researches the “skip-it” engines to the max. There is no use to spoil RP to follow the dotted lines – unless some side upgrades are really cheap and worthy to get short-duration benefit. Or unless a lab just gives too much.
    Let’s look at the upgrades. For Black Bear, “Goose Neck” and “Sleeve Buffer”, for example, are these two +20% reliability upgrades really better than one +40%? I must log in several times instead of one to put in RP into slots. I must click twice instead of once to buy and apply the upgrade onto an engine. And I must repeat this for each and every of my 2-25 engines. Is this really good usability? Do I really must fill in all the RP into all the upgrades into last tier engine to get a coupling?
    Why not change the transitive mechanics into a non-transitive one? Why not use the tech tree and engine upgrades as a source of strategic decisions for players? For example, let there be only three tiers, which correspond to class-hybrid system.
    Let the first tier be the LongRunner. People who use this class, usually have bad online. They will miss to distribute their RP relatively often, their RP will be lost due to the Lab storage cap. Comparing to other players, they will have the least RP quantity at the same Lab level. LongRunner will also become a good choice for smart people that do not invest into Lab, those players whose strategy is thinking and getting profit from organizational efforts, not simply trying to get “best engine for the era” no matter the cost.
    Solid lines for LongRunners must go through +Reliability upgrades. This will leave the players with the choice: do they need side upgrades to make their LongRunner more specialized now, and in which fields; or are they ready to invest more into lab and get more specialized engines later. This way the LongRunners may become attractive both for Hunters and for Dwellers.
    Let the second tier be the specialized engines. Players who need specialized engines are organized and divide their labor to be effective. (Creating conditions for players to organize in such a way these engines become demanded is another difficult game balance issue. Do you really think I will put any effort into negotiations and dividing labor? Do you really think I will agree to lose my money and prestige for someone else’s sake? I doubt it, if I have easier options. I’d better make myself an alt). LongHaulers and ShortHaulers come to this tear, and TracMonsters (which may be both “long” and “short” as we now know) may fit intermediate positions also into this tier.
    Specialization comes at a cost. You cannot be good in some other place beside the intended one, using specialized engine. Solid lines for specialized engines must go through upgrades that contradict engine specialization. This will help inexperienced players, who bought this engine accidently, to painlessly skip it, still being more or less effective without paying the huge switching cost. For example, for LongHauler solid line must go via +Acceleration upgrade, for ShortHauler solid line must go via +Speed upgrade.
    Dotted lines must improve engine specialization even more, leaving the player with the choice whether he wants to invest more into additional effectiveness in specialization, or, for example, keep the engine in next era and go for coupling.
    Let the third tier be All-rounders and Usability Kings. Players who want All-rounders are those who change routes often. They are either rich and effective Hunters, or numerous and unorganized Dwellers (if they were organized, they would not change routes so much). For Hunters, All-rounders allow to lose a little in specialization but to pay less: go for more expensive engine instead of paying the switching cost once or twice. All-rounders are the answer for Dwellers that seek “best engine for the era”. You wanted the best? It’s expensive, you know. (But organized Dwellers on specialized engines must still beat the numerous unorganized ones).
    Let the coupling be the separate line with increased cost in tier 3. Instead of pushing the last and best engine to the max, let any engine lead to the coupling.
    Engine switching cost may be tuned by making engines more expensive and upgrades more cheap.

  11. I have to say I was offended by your characterization of city dwellers as “average players.” There is more than one dimension to this game. Building a city with building prestige is challenging and often frustrating. I believe a player who puts the city first yet still ranks highly might, in fact, be a more skilled player than one who ranks highly yet is out for themselves at every moment.

    • DrBoo, you should not be offended. I meant that mostly average players form the basis of this group of people. It is actually the most numerous group of people, so the most average players are here. But I did not mean everyone is. There are really skilled players between them, which know how things work. And both building city and personal prestige is definitely more difficult than just caring for yourself only, I agree, this is a state of balance now as I see.
      But the main thing I wanted to make you to pay attention to – there are different people, and there are purposes why different people use different engines. I did not mean to harm anyone.

Comments are closed.

© 2018 Rail Nation Blog

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑