Transport Tycoon and Locomotion - Review


Loading up Transport Tycoon to get some screenshots brought back a wave of nostalgia. This was truly one of the great classic all time games. It all started with the original Transport Tycoon in 1994 which ran in MS-DOS and came on floppy disc! Although a number of transport style strategy games were already doing the rounds, Transport Tycoon revolutionised the genre with its clean graphics and the ability to set up an intricate, inter-dependent network of road vehicles, boats, planes and of course...trains. In some ways it was also the first virtual model railway, once underway the economy was fairly easy to manage and presented a glorious sandbox in which to play trains. There were a few bugs, the signalling system did not support uni-directional working which effectively limited the number of trains you could run on a line and the AI wasn't always that bright. Road vehicles would frequently get stuck on level crossings and ignite in a fireball when hit by a train. 1995 saw Chris Sawyer release a "Deluxe" version (which became known as TTDLX) which came on CD and included different terrain sets and scenarios, though the Toyland ones are perhaps best forgotten. There were a number of improvements including the ability to signal rail lines for one direction only, eliminating most of the lock ups. TTDLX was much less of a sandbox and at least in the beginning of a scenario much more careful management of the finances was required. TTDLX also shipped with a scenario editor allowing users to create their own worlds.

TTDLX was still a native DOS application which meant as Windows became the predominant operating system, the programme was less and less compatible. In general terms, the last Windows version to offer reasonable native DOS support was Win 98 SE. At about the same time CS seemed to lose interest in transport strategy to focus on rollercoasters and theme parks.

Screenshot from Open TTD version of Transport Tycoon

Screenshot from Open TTD version of Transport Tycoon

This led to several intrepid individuals in the TT community rebuilding the code into new homebrew versions that ran under Windows and added many new features. There are two main versions - OpenTTD and TTDPatch. TTDPatch updates the original executable with a number of enhancements while OpenTTD is a revision of the actual source code. Although it appears the developer and publisher of Transport Tycoon have passively accepted these versions being made available, there is a question mark over the legitimacy and intellectual copyright of decompiling and redistributing someone else's payware code. In order to produce the screenshots I had to use Open TTD but that should not necessarily be taken that this site condones the use of hacked software. For those not willing to tread such murky waters there were expressions of delight when in 2004, Chris Sawyer announced he had developed a successor to Transport Tycoon, which brings us on to...


At the time of release I recall going quite a bit overboard about Locomotion and my old Trainsim UK site awarded it a ratig of something like 94%. In the cold light of reason and with the passage of time that was probably a bit over the top, but my initial judgement was swayed by the return of an old friend.

There were certainly a host of new features to play with. The construction of tram routes was supported as was the requirement to properly electrify routes with third rail or overhead wires. There were narrow gauge rails and the construction techniques were modified to use those from Rollercoaster Tycoon.

Some new sounds introduced for the trains in particular added to the realism. It was also possible to "double-head" trains with more than one locomotive, to haul longer trains or minimise the effect of a breakdown. However after extended gameplay more than a few flaws were revealed. The first was in the graphics. These were essentially the same grid based isometric viewpoint used 10 years earlier in TTDLX. Railroad Tycoon had already been out for a year with its superior graphics engine and other non transport specific strategy titles had overtaken this type of presentation. Playing scenarios with multiple AI competition the map quickly became a mess with interwoven bridges, stations and elevated sections making it hard to build a realistic network. There were some significant bugs, notably in the pathfinding for both trains and road vehicles. Despite an unbroken line of route to the destination trains would turn round short, while road vehicles would often go round in little lost circles. While Transport Tycoon required vehicles to periodically revisit a depot for maintenance and could be replaced after a reasonable amount of use, this was not the case in Locomotion. Vehicles or consists were simply placed on the map and deteriorated as the game progressed, often in a fraction of the time the real world equivalent would. Locomotion and Transport Tycoon shared the Achilles Heel of many of their peers, that the whole thing runs in an abstract time. It is not possible to construct realistic timetables or rolling stock cycles (diagrams). Although raw materials and goods have specific destinations, in both games passengers simply board the next vehicle out and alight at the following stop, the game does not generate unique flows and demand requiring passengers to change vehicles and/or modes of transport.

Official Atari Locomotion Screenshot

Official Atari Locomotion Screenshot


Nevertheless and despite the various quirks, Transport Tycoon and Locomotion remain enjoyable and entertaining transport strategy titles. The games spawned a number of imitators... SimuTrans, Trains and Trucks Tycoon and the Transport Giant & Traffic Giant series from JoWood all borrowed if not indeed copied the ideas Chris Sawyer laid down with Transport Tycoon. Transport Tycoon even made to the consoles with a (very) cut down version appearing for the Playstation 1. This even included a mouse to avoid using the gamepad during play. Not that many copies were released so I would imagine any in circulation today would be quite collectible.

You will need to do some research and Googling to set up with Transport Tycoon.

Locomotion was distributed by Atari and although a search still brings it up on the US site, no longer seems in general circulation. Secondhand sources such as Ebay or Amazon Marketplace are probably your best bet.

Transport Tycoon Forum (best source of further information)

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(This page created 20/09/07 and last updated 20/09/07)