Quality of DLCs
Coming from a Flight Simulator background - and just been on Just Flight and diverted to here - any add on aircraft are always of much better quality that the default aircraft provided.
Does the same apply to DLCs for TSW & TS2019, both of which I have. So far I am only getting to grips with both train simulators so haven't bought any trains or routes yet.
Late reply, but this comes to a matter of opinion. I do not have any of the Just Trains or Armstrong Powerhouse products as yet, though have heard some say good things about both while they simultaneously say DTG is not putting enough effort into their locos trying to push as many into the bin as possible (the old 150/2, for instance, was acquired by Armstrong, summarily destroyed, and rebuilt such that Workshop scenarios no longer work with it because it's a new item, while the 150-1 that is needed for a now removed scenario pack for the also removed South Wales Coastal has also received complaints about sound quality; the complaint is DTG is recycling old sounds). Many believe Armstrong fixes those issues, but at times the fixes render workshop content useless.
So it depends on what you're looking for; if the sounds and realism matter more than scenarios and, particularly, you plan to make your own scenarios, you may want the third-party items (in the case of Armstrong make sure you have the base Steam item first where it's noted to be necessary); if being able to play scenarios without hundreds of dollars of DLC matters more, then do what I started off doing and grab all the cheap routes and locos at huge Steam sales and play those for six months, then that might whet your appetite for the packs as you acquire more and more content used by the packs. If you want a lot of people to be able to play your creations, limit the time played (I have heard 90 minutes is a good maximum) and limit the DLC used to broaden your audience, but note that purists will say it's not realistic in many cases. You have to strike that right balance to get the appropriate audience.
The good news on the Armstrong side is the cost of items provided seems to be much less in cost than what you'll find on Steam (and even on Just Trains, as I see a couple hundred things within this site), but very often you'll find they use Steam assets in a lot of their scenarios. Their new Class 86 pack is a great example of this, requiring around $500 USD or more of DLC to play three scenarios, and much of that is on Armstrong's site alone. Bear in mind that a lot of their pre-made content can't be played "out of the box" and you'll be fine. Just get what packs you need for your scenarios and make them, and someday the scenarios will be available (or download TS-Tools and swap in what you have, your choice).
Thanks for the reply, very informative. Am I correct to infer that Armstrong products are not sold on Steam of Just Trains? I've never heard of Armstrong before. You say they are cheaper than buying on Steam, however you then say that their class 86 pack will require $500 (around €480 in my money) to play three scenarios - is that a typo? To put that in context for me the maximum I'd pay for an add-on aircraft in Flight Simulator X would be around €40 - €50 and only for a high quality aircraft, and unlike train simulation I can use add-on aircraft anywhere in the world. I have noticed that there are sales with big discounts on Steam on a weekly basis so I'm never going to pay full price for any DLC from Steam, unless it's something I really want and hasn't been on a sale for a long time.
Your reply has been very helpful so I'll check out Armstrong now.
I can't really speak for Armstrong Powerhouse. We don't sell their products.
What I would say about "$500 to play three scenarios" is that most add-on content providers for train sim will include scenarios. However, given the huge range of add-ons available and the possibility to combine different routes and locomotives, there is a demand for scenarios that will work in different combinations.
So, for example, if I build a locomotive that can run on, say, ten different routes and I include 10 scenarios - 5 using default content and 5 for other routes, I am not stipulating that to use my loco you need to buy those additional 5 routes. Likewise, for owners of a very popular route, I am not going to restrict them to having to write their own scenarios if they want to use my loco.
Speaking purely for Just Trains, we always aim to ensure some scenarios will work with purely default content - although this is rendered difficult by Railworks/DTG changing successive build content of TS so that late adopters don't always have the same range of default content.
Anyway, as I say, I don't speak for AP, but the idea that you need to buy additional content just to play scenarios isn't usually the case. Certainly, if you buy, for example, our S8 train, you will need a third rail line to use it, but that's the case in the real world as well :-)
Right, I don't mean to say that content creators like Just Trains or Armstrong Powerhouse are out to make you spend the most money possible. I did inquire about this with Armstrong and they noted that they only try to create scenarios that are realistic and don't do anything that is not. While this is commendable, I still wish they minimized the amount of DLC required for their packs as you will not find a current locomotive, multiple unit, or otherwise on their site that does not require other AP products to play scenarios. The only things I found not requiring other products for full usage of the contents were the track pack (which has no scenarios) and the various extra rolling stock that are not themselves drivwable, but attached.
So for me, since I don't plan to create scenarios, I can look at it at the angle that I have to spend a ton of money to play three scenarios, since even cases where only one or two items are used will result in needing a lot of Steam DLC and even some Just Trains DLC. While it's true that you only have to do it the one time, many people don't drop money on an entire catalog at once; some don't even have the hard drive space to get every single product (I'm under 100 GB available myself, need to clean up my computer a bit, but Steam alone would probably need about 2 TB by now for everything).
I am not saying that Armstrong items are poor quality, but it sounds like, similar to me, you look to get things at good deals. I do not know if Armstrong has regular sales and if they lower the prices a substantial margin when they do, but you might be advised to stay on Steam for now if you're looking for less expensive items since the Armstrong stuff will often require content from Steam anyway. Since Steam content never relies on Just Trains or Armstrong products, you know everything there is self-contained, and except for rare cases you just need a loco for a route or a few trains for a scenario pack (the GWR Pannier Tank Pack, which needs Falmouth, West Somerset, Riviera, and the J94 Maerdy to fully enjoy; the ScotRail Class 68 Loco uses Edinburgh-Glasgow, but is in turn needed for London Marylebone - Aylesbury Route, which also needs the Network SouthEast Class 121 DMU, which in turn has scenarios for Great Western Main Line), many products bought on Steam just need one item and there's USUALLY no chain like third-party situations can often get into - and again, Just Trains has a few as well, but not really that bad. If you ARE interested in Armstrong products, which can sometimes be as high as 25 pounds (the conversion isn't as good as you think, and American to Canadian basically adds 25% right now, which is ridiculous), then look at the packs that are of interest and perhaps try to focus on those needing only two, three, or four extra Armstong and JT packs as those are the first ones you'll be able to access. I think I saw JT 153 and a 200-series loco in the requirements for a couple, as well, so those can be found right here (the 153 is definitely one I'm considering due to heavy use even in JT scenarios, let alone elsewhere).
Just think of each item as a new game, not as DLC. And you can always look up TS-Tools if there is just too much in a scenario and you want to change out rolling stock. You may want to be careful though as you can actually make scenarios unplayable if you don't know what you're doing; I only plan to use it for workshop scenarios I'll never be able to play anyway (thanks BNSF) to attempt to make them playable, say by substituting a UP SD38-2 over the BNSF one.
This really isn't the place to discuss the pros and cons of Armstrong products. Especially if, as you have said, you don't actually own any. This would better off in a general forum unrelated to one of their competitors. That's only fair - then those with experience of using their products would have some opportunity to voice an opinion.