Transport Tycoon
Posted at 19:03 on 13th October 2013 - permalink

For the past few months my team at AppyNation has been working with publishers 31X (Chris Sawyer’s company) and developers Origin8 Technologies to help bring Transport Tycoon to iOS and Android.

Transport Tycoon is one of my favourite games of all time, and one that has always seemed like an obvious fit for mobile (particularly tablet) platforms, so it’s been a huge honour and privilege to work on this project.

In spite of some early compatibility teething problems, the game has been well received so far, with a Metacritic score of 81% at the time of writing.

Taking the game to Eurogamer Expo further bolstered our confidence that there was a lot of pent-up demand for the game – more than a few show-goers would hear the familiar music first, boggle at the screen for a bit and then emphatically tell us that they would definitely be buying the game on day one. Which was nice.

The game is not a direct port of any previous Transport Tycoon game. Sawyer’s PC games were written in x86 assembly language, so development of this new version of the game required a team that could make sense of this and re-implement the simulation in a more portable (although less efficient) language.

The game uses a lot of graphical assets from Chris Sawyer’s 2004 game Locomotion, leading some to assume that it was a direct port of that game. It would be more accurate to describe the game as a synthesis of elements from all of Sawyer’s Tycoon games – the core gameplay of Transport Tycoon, the simulation detail of Locomotion and some of the later user interface improvements from Rollercoaster Tycoon.

The game has suffered a bit in some quarters from the perception that it doesn’t have a sandbox mode. While this is technically correct (there’s currently no way to randomly generate maps from within the game itself), it’s not as big of a deal as it’s being made out.

In the original Transport Tycoon (as with Sim City), the pre-set scenarios were seen as a poor relation to the randomly generated option. Players didn’t want to have undue restrictions placed on their playing style, and didn’t want to have to adhere to a fixed goal, the completion of which would effectively end the game.

In Transport Tycoon (2013), the ‘scenarios’ are much more like huge, crafted open-ended maps. The game doesn’t place restrictions on the player (except in a few cases), and the player is free to carry on playing after the scenario goal is reached (or failed), or they can opt to ignore the scenario goal altogether. That said, I do acknowledge that a random map generator would extend the life and challenge of the game – the option to switch off AI competitors would be welcomed by some players as well.

As with all mobile games (even self-contained premium ones), the launch is only the beginning. Chris and the developers have some more improvements planned down the road. We hope that everyone who puts down their $6.99 USD gets hours of entertainment out of the game, and that Transport Tycoon makes a small contribution (along with other sophisticated mobile games such as the recent XCOM port) to changing the still all-too-widespread perception of mobile games as limited to being disposable or casual fare.

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