Updated: May 31, 2021
It's been a few years since I wrote about OpenTTD in any great detail. But something magical happened a few weeks back. OpenTTD is now available through Steam, which makes it accessible to a huge number of gamers who might not necessarily discover it otherwise. But then, if you're a hardcore tycoonist, and at least 9,000 years old, then Transport Tycoon Deluxe is an inseparable part of your life and soul.
The Steam announcement dropped me into my train-building mood, and I started playing it again. But standard OpenTTD doesn't look amazing on 2K and 4K monitors. So I went back to yet another something I've written about many years ago - 32bit high-def graphics for this lovely game. And I decided to revisit the topic, and see if I can get OpenTTD to look great in 2021. Hence, this article.
The answer? Absolutely!
Using high-definition graphics in modern OpenTTD is super-easy. Click on Check Online Content in the main menu, and search for zbase and/or abase. These two are high-def graphics packages for the game. Abase is a fork of zbase, offering slightly more refined graphics and a few extras. Both these graphics set haven't been developed much lately, which makes for an interesting experience. We shall see.
Once I had the packs installed, I was a bit confused. I opened NewGRF Settings, but there was nothing listed there. Then, I figured that "basic" graphics sets are auto-added, and that the only thing you need to do is open the Game Options menu and select the desired set from the drop-down menu under Base graphics set. And that's it. I started with Zbase and then moved on to Abase.
I didn't take too many screenshots here, mostly because the interface looked a bit ... unrefined. I figured that this is probably the less complete set. All in all, it looks all right. You get decent graphics, and when you zoom in, the quality and the detail are pretty reasonable.
Now, here I started having super-fun! Boy does this look good! Smooth, elegant, just lovely. The game maps look great. The vehicles, the roads and train tracks, the planes, all of it. Just fabulous. Also, the interface is clean, tidy. You have the option to increase both the interface and font size in the game (regardless of the graphics set), which helps with usability on HD screens. Abase accommodated just fine. While I think the controls should be even bigger, you can play just fine, without any problems. Very cool.
And then ... it gets even better. I grabbed my old game saves from 2006-2008, and OpenTTD loaded them without any issues whatsoever. Perfect. I had multi-billion dollar industries up and running. Tons of planes, trains, mazes of rails and bridges. I had trains lugging multi-cargo, I could build new factories and whatnot, all of it. You get messages on subsidiaries, profit and loss, industry capacity increase, lost ships, everything. The music is quirky, the sounds effects so retro-MIDI mid-90s. So, so good.
Happy camper me. With the modern world of technology spiraling into low-IQ Dystopia, projects like OpenTTD and its community are rare nuggets of sanity and fun. It's amazing, maybe even humbling to see how much talent and passion people can invest in something as seemingly innocent as a game.
The two base graphics packs, zbase and abase, definitely allow people with big screen to enjoy the game to the fullest. That said, I think abase is more advanced and refined. I don't know if it's going to be continued by its original maker or any successor, but one thing is sure. Twenty seven long, sweet years later, OpenTTD remains the king of tycoon gaming.