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Entry 810 posted in: 3. Gamebits

I once met this young guy, bright, slightly nerdy computer chap, who liked to travel to Jamaica in order to inhale some of the local herbs and drink a few gallons of rum. But his finest hour came when he discovered Thailand and its abundance of sweet smelling Rosies.

After each visit he came home loaded with original Thai movies, music and software. One of these packages contained a fine selection of DOS computer games: Links 386 Pro (the best golf simulator of the mid Nineties, later bought by Microsoft), Sim City 2000, Twinsen’s Little Big Adventure (remind me to dedicate a post in the near future to this incredible adventure) and something that I would almost like to call the best game ever. It involved trains, planes and automobiles and its main purpose was to transport people, mail, coal, iron ore, cattle and grain from one place to another (and making money out of it).

Sounds simple? It wasn’t always.

Building railroads was its most rewarding feature. Since 1995 I have lost lost countless hours of my unfruitful life just watching the avant-garde interactive ballet of trains and semaphores.

Its name: Transport Tycoon.

I just called Transport Tycoon almost the best game ever. That is because a year later, that must have been 1995, Chris Sawyer released Transport Tycoon Deluxe or TTD (sometimes TTDL). The most interesting improvement of the game was a new set of semaphores enabling a greater control on the train tracks.

TTD migrated with every computer that I owned. It was playable under DOS (obviously), Win 3.11, Win95, Win98 (and ME), but when I finally purchased me an XP machine one of the biggest counterpoints of that operating system was that Transport Tycoon Deluxe refused to run on it.

Lucky for me there were a bunch of TTD enthusiasts who found that it was about time to make this game playable under XP as well. TTDPatch not only made the game XP compatible, it also gave the players from the third Millennium the change to pimp up the game (originally TTDPatch had been created by Josef Drexler to solve a few bugs). Nowadays over 160 new features can be switched on (or off): new graphics, new vehicles, new industries, new signals and so on and so on… As the readme file says…

Now you'll be able to own 240 trains, 240 road vehicles, 240 planes and 240 ships, and altogether up to 40,000 vehicles. Also you can have larger stations, with up to 7 platforms, each with a length of up to 7 squares, or even mammoth trains with up to 126 carriages.
New Signals: Pre-signals offer a new way to guide your trains and allow very small, yet efficient stations.
New Graphics: TTDPatch enables new vehicles with new and exciting graphics, and supports making even more vehicles with a new add-on mechanism.
Other conveniences, including refittable train engines, mixed stations with different types of trains, selectable station goods, more useful "full load" option, the ability to use realistic acceleration on mountains, or turn off the effects of curves and mountains entirely, and much, much more.

TTDPatch soon grew into a very slick little GUI, with Windows style wizards, checkboxes and switches (no need anymore to manually alter some code somewhere on a initialization file) and has the ability to upgrade and download new graphic files on the fly. It also has the very neat possibility to downgrade back to the previous fail-safe version if something goes wrong.

With TTDPatch still being very active a new project saw the light of day: OpenTTD. This open source project still uses the graphic files of the original game but has released its own executable. OpenTTD tries to incorporate the best of TTD and the TTDPatch although the two projects have diverged a bit the last couple of years. OpenTTD runs on about 20 different operating systems, including Linux and Vista, and multiplayer abilities (using LAN or Internet) have been fully integrated.

Some features of the TTDPatch are not implemented in OpenTTD and vice versa but it seems that the battle of the Transport Tycoon cloning devices is slowly tilting in favour of OpenTTD. Not so long ago a developer from the first project announced that he was changing sides and if my opinion can be of any service here, I also have made the switch from Patch to Open a couple of months ago.

Transport Tycoon has entered the 21st century and it is probably still going to be around for a while. Strangely enough the only person who is unwilling to see that is the original author of the game, Chris Sawyer, who writes on his FAQ:

Neither the DOS version nor the Win95 version will run under Windows 2000 or XP. The changes required for Transport Tycoon Deluxe Win95 to run under Windows 2000/XP are probably minimal, but it's unlikely it will ever be updated unless the time and costs can be justified by potential sales and the willingness of the publisher to market an updated version.

Apparently he has never heard of OpenTTD or of TTDPatch but he will have my eternal blessings for making the greatest game on Earth - ever.

And then there is still the story to tell of my geeky friend who lend me his copy of Transport Tycoon. He finally decided to move to Thailand, married a Hard Rock Café waitress and they got a son. After a couple of years his computer shop started to become a business but before he could grow into the Thai equivalent of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates his vintage Volkswagen was crushed into a million pieces by a passing truck. As a matter of fact, so was he...

If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Much Ado (the sequel)