BFTP: Transport Tycoon
I can’t think of a genre more deceptively fun than the management sim. Okay, maybe ‘fun’ isn’t the right word. As dull as they might sound on paper, the likes of Theme Park and Championship Manager can be as addictive as the best RPGs. Based around strategy and grounded in real business practices, the genre continues to provide a very different but equally enthralling type of gratification for players.
There’s one particular one that I still boot up at least once a year, Transport Tycoon. Created for PCs back in the early 1990s by Scottish developer Chris Sawyer, its title pretty much sums up the premise; make as much money as possible through the road, rail, air and sea transport industries.
Though it’s immediately satisfying to set up a few transportation networks to watch vehicles travel from point A to point B, the relatively simple look of the game belies its true depth. Running costs, a constantly changing economy, vehicles, competing transport companies, profit margins and so much more have to be taken into account if you want become a successful transportation mogul.
Its structure is as sandboxy as you can get. Starting a new game randomly generates a unique world (or you can build one to your liking in the world editor mode) containing businesses and towns waiting for someone to transport cargo between them. The only goal is to make as much money as possible by a certain end date and it’s completely up to you how you go about achieving that.
And therein lies its addictive nature. There is always more money to be made, another business opportunity mere minutes away. Over time, new technology becomes available such as monorails (an improved replacement for standard railway lines) as do new vehicles, giving you further incentives to keep playing.
Though there have been several versions of Transport Tycoon released, both official and unofficial, (more on that later) it’s impressive just how fully fledged the original was. Particularly impressive was the sheer amount of the data the game collected and presented to the player, providing spreadsheets, graphs and breakdowns of every financial transaction and goings on in the world. This huge amount of information, delivered through a masterfully slick user interface, allowed attentive players to pinpoint problems and streamline the efficiency of their businesses.
If you ever want to learn about business then TT is a good place to start. Back in the early to mid 1990s it was this and Bullfrog’s Theme Park that taught me what loans, profits, interest and other business concepts were. Being able to see them in practice (albeit virtually) really helped cement them in my young mind. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have a handle on many of them today if it weren’t for these management sims. Who said video games never taught you anything?
After releasing an updated version of the game called Transport Tycoon Deluxe, Chris Sawyer went on to create the immensely successful Rollercoaster Tycoon series, eventually returning to vehicle-based management sims with the spiritual successor to TT called Chris Sawyer’s Locomotion. Unfortunately, the game was a critical bomb and it left many fans disappointed.
Several said fans took it upon themselves to create the next Transport Tycoon. First released in 2004, OpenTTD expands on Transport Tycoon Deluxe whilst optimising it for modern PC, Mac and Linux systems. It was originally a mod, requiring assets from the TTD disc in order to play. However, in 2010 fans completed an ambitious project to replace all of these graphics and sounds with original content, allowing version 1.0.0 to be played independently from TTD, thus making it completely free to play.
If you’re looking to recapture the glory days or have been meaning to try out this titan of management sims I’d thoroughly recommend giving OpenTTD a download. It’s everything the original was and more.