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20090207

Rock around the block

Entry 1125 posted in: 3. Gamebits


Open TTD When I look at my latest posts it appears to me that I have become a grumpy old man always at war with the world around him. I blame it on television because I’d really rather chase some nude virgins around, frolicking in a poppy field. But even these virgins aren’t anymore what they used to be, cf. Ahmed The Dead Terrorist.

I can’t shout this loud enough from the roofs of Atagong County, the best game in the world is (Open) Transport Tycoon Deluxe. I know you male chauvinist pig readers come here mostly to nookie ArianeB as fast as is humanly possible but you wouldn’t like your kids to play that game, wouldn’t you, you dirty hypocrites? Transport Tycoon is kids-friendly, non-aggressive, non-violent and it has that certain je ne sais quoi that makes games and girls irresistible. In that order, exceptions notwithstanding.

The big problem with the original TT game and its second millennium derivates is that the AI, to put it blindly, sucks, even at the most difficult level. The computer competitors try to make your life difficult in the beginning, but if you just ignore them and build your own transport empire at your own pace you will overhaul them in a period of three years to three decades. After a while the AI is so confused that it will not do anything anymore, it just sits there, scratching its head, eternally contemplating what move to take next. Transport companies will come and go, as the AI refuses to locate the opportunities to build an empire.

Actually the AI helps the human player to become a transport mogul instead of preventing it. As the AI refuses to update, upgrade (or downgrade) during the game you can use that knowledge for your own advantage. Many times I have witnessed that a competitor spends zillions to build a road system from, for instance, an iron ore mine to the nearest steel factory and then puts only one or two trucks to feed the factory, regardless of the fact that his depot has enough freight to use at least a dozen of cars. The competitor makes some money, but could do a lot better by simply increasing its fleet. Only, this never happens.

Once you (the human player) have spot this situation, all it takes is to build a depot next to that of your competitor, his overstock will leak into your depot and your army of trucks brings in loads of money. All this requires is minimal investment as you use the competitor’s roads and bridges. Capitalism can be fun!

Since last month the nightly builds (experimental versions) of Open TTD include an artificial intelligence module that replaces the original, dodgy, one. Everybody is invited to write his (or her) own AI and several versions can compete with each other during the same game.

A very vicious AI experiment is called Rondje Om De Kerk (Dutch for: round around the church), made by a collective circling around Maninthebox. It uses several unethical ways to make money. It uses the aforementioned trick of borrowing roads build by other players to keep investments as low as possible and instead of sending empty trucks back from the offloading point to the loading hub it simply sells these truck at the destination point and buys new ones at the starting point. Apparently it is much more cost effective that way but some humans consider this cheating, as it is not ‘realistic’.

Probably Rondje will not be integrated into the next stable release from OTTD but other programmers have been dissecting the code to see what bits and pieces they can pinch to insert into the first stable version with the improved AI. The future of Open TTD looks brighter than ever.


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Tycooning