I've always been reluctant to play Transport Tycoon. It seemed needlessly complicated. Beyond that, I would have rather grown the cities themselves than focus on roads and train tracks. Of course, I wasn't "getting it". The activity of building transport networks is extremely fun! Or so it seems, as the genre refuses to go away.
Well, with very little prior experience (my mistake), I took a look at Simutrans, one of the free games out there.
Simutrans certainly looks like the ugly brother of Transport Tycoon Deluxe. Every model, from tree to Oil Rig, has an sharped up grainy appearance, which make close-up and zoomed out views, both look like someone has accidentally dropped a box of pixels everywhere. Luckily, you can download alternate graphics packs from the Simutrans website. The quality varies wildly, but there's a good chance that you might find a set that suits your eyes (I've used pak96.comic for this photo session).
I'm focusing on graphics and models too much. But that's because it was all I got to experience while I tried to figure out how to play this game. Luckily, due to me having played a bit of TTD some years back, I certainly come understand the concept. You generate a map with cities, a bit of industry, and an entire array of geographical features for you to carve and drill through.
Building the actual network of roads and rails is not very difficult. You'll find the necessary tools in their respective menus. You might struggle a bit if the terrain is too uneven. You can change the terrain level of map nodes by paying some cash. However, Placing artificially raised land is a more elegant and often, a more feasible option.
So you trimmed the forest, put some gravel, and drew a line between two points. Now what? That's what I struggled with for several hours before I managed to establish the most basic transport system ever: A single bus line. That even after viewing a couple of YouTube videos and studying a fan-made rulebook. However, in the end, it was pure luck combined with my prior familiarity with TTD that did the job. All vehicles come out of depots. Although I could see the depot button I could not, for the love of the World Wide Web, construct it. At least for a while, because after a flurry of aimlessly clicking around, I finally solved it. You see, rail depots must be placed on free land, while road depots can only be put on road tiles. Who thought of this?
Next up I had to make some money, so I bought the cheapest bus around and, after placing two nice bus stations in a couple of strategic positions, I set up a route and sent the bus on its way. I then left to get a snack. When I got back, I was surprised to see that the line was losing money big time. No one was riding my bus. But why?! I've connected the solar power plant with the town that it said it's employees come from. I mean, I had some previous attempts that were arguably badly thought out, but I simply could not understand what I did wrong this time.
You know, I'm a patient sort of guy. I don't mind complexity at all. In fact, I prefer it instead of mindless action, but Simutrans seems to be a very exclusive game. There are no fair tutorials, no well thought out guides, and no intelligent videos to learn from. I'm sure I would eventually get the hang of playing Simutrans if put enough time into it, but I'd rather do other things. Besides, Open TTD is just as free and much more accessible than this pretentious piece of... software. So take it as you will, but Simutrans got me thoroughly frustrated.