For my first look back through time into gaming’s varied history, I will be looking at a game that many over looked. Chris Sawyer’s Transport Tycoon, to be exact. If the name sounds familiar, then you have probably played the more widely known RollerCoaster Tycoon, or his other leading game, Locomotion.
Transport Tycoon was released in 1994 by MicroProse onto the PC, Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn. It sold very well in the States for a short period and did averagely over here. The graphics were good considering what other games were around at the time, and the game-play was very fluid and easy to follow.
The basic principle of the game is to move something from one point, to another using any means necessary. For example, taking coal from the local mine, to the power station (remember, this game was set in the days before we were busy carbon counting) using trucks, trains, ships or planes. The size of the maps were quite large, featuring roughly 40 towns, each with their own surrounding businesses, for you to make money.
The attention to detail in this game was something not really seen before in a video game. The amount of vehicles available was staggering, you unlocked them gradually as time went on though, making you persevere at the game, to keep the profitability of the company high. Worrying about running costs, speeds and capacities weighing up all of the options to get the most out of each vehicle.
When you first start up the game, you can select all of your options, making the game as hard or easy as you’d like it, and choosing if you want any competing AI’s to face up against. When you start the game, you’re given a £100,000 loan, and a map filled with towns and industries, with no roads connecting towns together. You then name your company and manager, choose a face and a colour scheme, but don’t feel too tied into these choices, as they are all changeable later. Then you place your HQ and get to the business of transporting cargo.
The building tools in the game were very easy to use, although road building could end up being a pain, as the corners require “half-tiles”, meaning you’d usually end up with a junction where you don’t want one, making it look messy. Building train tracks is super simple, and the bridges make the game look stunning. Leveling the terrain took some practice, but when you’ve mastered it, it makes building tracks and roads much easier.
When placing stations, or docks, a display would show you what cargo is accepted by this station (what it will allow you to drop off) but not what is dropped off (general rule of thumb, is to look at the surrounding businesses, and if you build it in a town, it will accept passengers). A handy feature of placing stations, is you can turn a catchment grid on, which allows you to see from how far away these goods are accepted, only one tile needs to be touching the industry/town for there to be a link, which can save some unnecessary road building.
The money management system was very good too, it would always pop up at the end of a year, and was accessible from the menu. You could borrow more money, or repay your loan, and could also see how much profit/loss you made in the last year. There was also a selection of graphs to look at your progress over time in different areas, such as profit, total running costs, and income, which could be compared against the AI.
The AI players could have a whole host of restrictions placed on them, such as slowing their construction speed or restricting how long after you they could start up. The AI could be very easy to compete against, creating highly unprofitable routes, or very hard, running rings around your own service.
This brings me to the town councils, these can be accessed by clicking or selecting the town name. A box pops up showing the town’s name and population. You can access the “ratings” option to see your rating and your competitors ratings. These ratings just show you how good you are at moving cargo around, judged by the local population. There is an option to give the town council money to advertise your company, to increase the amount of cargo that waits at your stations, or you can help them redesign the town’s road layout.
This game has given me many enjoyable hours play, over several typical rainy British days, I would highly recommend this game to fans of the SimCity series, and fans of Theme Park. Best of all, you can now get this game for free, here are the download links, and happy transporting!
Transport Tycoon: http://www.abandonia.com/en/games/44/Transport+Tycoon.html
Transport Tycoon Deluxe: Same game, some new features, http://www.abandonia.com/en/games/240/
Open TTD: An opensource remake of Transport Tycoon Deluxe http://www.openttd.org/en/