(Open) Transport Tycoon Deluxe



Updated: July 26, 2006


There's a new review of OpenTTD available; please take a look.

Transport Tycoon Deluxe (TTD) was one of the few games that managed to cause me real physical pain. I'm a building freak. I love to build. And there's no game more oriented on building than TTD. And so, I used to spend hours locked in cramped frenzy in front of the monitor, moving the mouse around and building building building. Trains, planes, trucks, ships, you name it. And eventually, one day, I managed to out-cramp myself. It was the first time a computer game got the better of me. Yes, it's so addicting.

What is Transport Tycoon Deluxe all about?

Screenshot 1 small image
The new international airport has 2 runways, 2 helipads and 2 hangars, making it ideal for very large cities

Transport Tycoon is game where a player has to build his/her own transport kingdom. And that's about the only rule.

You start a game as a young and eager entrepreneur (yes, it's an ugly word) with a small loan. You invest your money in transportation infrastructure and services for your world map cities and their industries. The idea is to build well facilitated networks of roads, railroads, airports, and docks that will transport people and goods between cities, in return for revenue that depends on the amount of transported (delivered) goods, the travel time and the distance. As the manager of your firm, you may or may not have to face competition from other AI players, who will vie to defeat you. Sounds boring? Not at all.

The game is simply compelling. At first, your business undertaking will most likely start as a local bus or mail service in one of the smaller towns. You will need to build a garage where buses and trucks will arrive periodically for scheduled services. You will need to build stations for people and goods to board. And then, you will have to assign your vehicles to run between these stations, collecting and dropping passengers and crates of goods.

To maintain a successful and profitable service, you will have to build roads that connects between the stations and make sure a sufficient number of vehicles frequents the stations. Stations will low rating will reduce the overall impression a local authority has about your company, and this may negatively impact their willingness to grant you future building permissions. Although you can always spend money on advertising campaigns, or even try to bribe the officials.

Additionally, your buses or trucks may break down, causing a delay in delivery, reducing your profit. Overcrowded stations may become traffic jams. Your vehicles will often skip past a station in order to perform a scheduled repair at the garage. So far, this is only one service we're talking about.

Screenshot 2 small image
To make your trains run faster uphill, you can boost them with double engine cars

But soon, you will start building more and more services, sometimes by tens per city. Once your company gets going, cities will offer subsidiaries for specific services, like a passenger service or an industry service. Completing these projects in time will generate extra cash. You will soon be building airports and complex railway stations. Your trains will have wagons of all sorts, including grain hoppers, livestock vans and coal trucks. You will have docks. And all your vehicles will demand servicing and replacement after getting old. And then, occasionally, one of your trucks will get in a car accident while crossing the rails, and some of your planes will crash. Your attempts at bribing the local authority will fail, causing you public scandal and shame. Production at farms and in mines will fluctuate. There will be inflation. And let's not forget the competition.

On a map with 10-15 cities and some 50-60 different industries, you will quickly have to manage a network of tens and even hundreds of planes, trains and ships. It will become one big, beautiful mess.

If you're smart, you will soon start earning hard cash. And with time, you will be able to buy your opponents' shares and eventually swallow them into one large Big Brother corporation.

Luckily, the game has difficulty levels. It is possible to compete against multiple AI players or none at all, playing alone, with very benevolent local authorities, high initial loans and no vehicle breakdowns. Thus, the game can suit anyone. You can race in a building frenzy against several "enemies" or you may play leisurely, at your own pace, slowly expanding your empire.

Screenshot 3 small image
OpenTTD innovation: an eight-platform station combining four double rail and four monorail tracks; mixed or very large stations could not be built in the original TTD

The game was released by MicroProse in 1995. It was programmed by the now legendary Chris Sawyer. Although many other Tycoons have followed, none comes even remotely close to the simple, 256-color beauty TTD offers. It has just about the right amount of all ingredients to overcome its inherent downsides (simplicity, graphics). The music is light and entertaining. The gameplay is smooth, simple yet convoluted. There are four worlds to choose from, plus a scenario editor which allows you to build any which setting you like. Normally, the game begins in 1951 and lasts till 2050. However, in custom scenarios, you may start much later, launching directly into the era of modern vehicles.

The game is completely outdated today. Written for DOS, it is very much incompatible with the 32-bit versions of Windows and will not run on Windows 2000 or XP. For several years, I have been unable to enjoy TTD.

Recently, the game has been revived by the open community. OpenTTD is a much improved build-up of the original game. OpenTTD offers a vast number of improvements, which make this old, classic jewel a true diamond.

OpenTTD offers a larger number of vehicles of each type to build. In the original game, you could build up to 75 vehicles of each type, and if you started early in the game (around 1950) and played a big map, there was a good chance you would exhaust your trains and planes quota by the turn of the millennium, which is when the true fun begins with monorail trains and cool, sci-fi aircraft. In OpenTTD, you are virtually unlimited; the only limitation are your own gluttony and the processing power of your computer.

Screenshot 4 small image
Hovercraft are the fastest and most efficient way to transport people over the water

In the old game, once the railway type switched from common double track rail to monorail, you were pretty much stuck with the old infrastructure. If you even as much as deleted a single segment of your network, you were unable to rebuild it and had to scrap an entire line. Today, building all three (actually four) types of railway simultaneously is possible. Moreover, you can adjoin different types of stations into one; for example, a railway station can have 3 double tracks, 2 monorail tracks and 7 maglev track. The air traffic is also improved. There are four types of airfields available, compared to only 2 originally, greatly facilitating the handling of huge backlogs of passengers in big cities, previously an impossible task. You can also build canals for ships passage, allows human multiplayer games, and much much more. Best of all, OpenTTD will run on virtually any operating system, including modern non-DOS Windows.

For true fans like me, this is a moment of glory. The new game still requires some of the original game files to run, though.

How can you be successful in (Open)TTD?

With so many options to choose from, it is virtually impossible to fail in the game. It is about pure pleasure. Just sit down and start building. As nothing more than a very enthusiastic amateur, my advice may sound awkward, but here are my tips for great fun in Transport Tycoon Deluxe:

Create customs maps, with few cities but a large number of industries; set the date to mid 70s or 80s - this is when true technology fun begins, with first diesels and electric railway engines available. Start a game with only one or no AI opponents; this is purely for the sake of aesthetics - the AI players make a mess out of the map, building useless, snaky roads all over the place. Grant yourself a hefty initial loan that will allow you to build instantly.

Once you start the game, build a number of airports in very distant cities and start shuffling people across the map in the jets. They will take some time to get going but will instantly generate huge piles of cash that you will be able to use to build your empire. When building railways, keep the design as simple as possible - no crossing of rails whatsoever - just pure linear single-track routes that connect to large multi-platform stations; this will prevent jams along the way and cause horrible delays in train arrivals, or worse, them getting lost somewhere.Build trains as the primary land transportation rather than road vehicles; trains will be faster and bring in much more money.

Avoid using helicopters for the same reason; they will cause huge queues of passengers at the pads and you will never be able to clear them, regardless of how many helicopters you use. Avoid transporting raw materials by plane; it is a waste of a perfectly good airplane. Make your trains fully load at origin stations, especially if transporting cargo, in order to maximize profit at the destination.

Endword

This is my way of playing Tycoon. It may sound ... cowardly, but I'm an old(ish) man and this is the best way to enjoy yourself. It's train-loads of fun with very little headache. At worse, you will seriously get cramped, because you will notice hours and days drifting past as you build just another train ... and just another train ... and just another plane ...

For more information, you can read about Transport Tycoon Deluxe and OpenTTD at Wikipedia. You can download OpenTTD at SourceForge. And you can read how to install and configure the game in my OpenTTD article under Reviving old games section. Enjoy!

Some more screenshots:

Large-map screenshot 1 thumbnail Large-map screenshot 2 thumbnail Large-map screenshot 3 thumbnail
Large and productive industry complexes require very large stations to supply with raw materials Big cities will have multiple railway stations and sometimes even two international airports Use large trains with grain hoppers and livestock vans to transport goods from your farms to factories


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