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What is Simutrans?

    Simutrans is a game created by a guy named Hansjörg Malthaner.  Currently it is under development by a new team led by a guy named Markus.  You may have heard of a game called "TTD", a transport game where you try to be a tycoon with a deluxe transportation system.  This is an attempt to make that game, only better.  Well, they made that look easy.  The best part is, Simutrans is completely free.  You might occasionally find it in free game packages in magazines, but you should not find it for sale.  New versions can be found on the simutrans forum.
    The game is split between two main sets: The original 64x64 image set and the new 128x128 image set.  There are also several sets based on 64x64 images, and there will soon be 128x128 1800's and American sets.  There is also a new set of hand-drawn graphics that is under development.  Most of my description works with all image sets, but descriptions of vehicles and images are for the 128 set, found at 128.simutrans.com.
    Basically, Simutrans is a game where you are given a world.  You select the type of landscape you want, the number of cities, the number of final destinations (factories in cities), the number of power plants to increase factory production (factories outside cities), and some other options, and then click the start button.  Now you have a brand new world.  You can play by yourself or against one or more computer players.
    The goal is to move people and products.  To get products, you have to start with raw materials like meat, coal, iron ore, sand, and fabrics.  Using trains and trucks, you move those goods to the destinations offered in their information windows.  Once those destinations get all the goods needed, they begin producing their own goods that must be moved somewhere else.  This begins the "industry chain".  An example is coal and sand to a glass factory -> glass and milk to a dairy (easy) or coal and rock to a cement factory -> cement, rock, and sand to a concrete mixer -> concrete to a materials wholesale (complicated).
    You can make and move books, gas, concrete, planks, beer, food, canned food, fertilizer, baked goods, and the raw materials needed for all of these things, with either trains, trucks, or ships.  Ships have some down sides (longer trips going around land) and some up sides (lower infrastructure costs).  Trains can pull large amounts of goods over long distances, but you
have to pay to build and maintain tracks.  Trucks can often use roads already built by the cities, but will also need new roads that will cost money.  Trucks are good for short distances.
    Then there is the people and mail that need to be moved.  Often, these two groups are moved together or using similar transport lines.  Simutrans has a wide range of busses, mail trucks, ships, trains, and trams (trams are brand new to this list, and official versions may not have them included!) to move the folks of Simutrans around.  For moving people inside cities, or between close cities, busses and trams are best.  For moving people around a large continent, there are trains.  For moving people from island to island, ships work best.
    Another great feature is the time-line.  When you start the game, it is 1930.  There is plenty of potential, and some money to start with, but you have to use it wisely!  You start with only a few vehicles that can be used, and they are mostly appropriate to the early 1900's.  There are slow steam trains, trucks, and a few ships.  As you move through time, new and faster vehicles become available, and are announced in small windows.  As they become available, you should replace the older ones.  Not only do they get goods to their destinations faster, there is a speed bonus built into the game.  By the year 2005, there are some high speed trains, large ships, fast busses, larger trucks...and there is still more to come.  There are no major changes like flying saucers or rocket ships (unless you download future.pak from the forum!), but there are some faster ships and trains that make things interesting later on.
    There are airports that you have to build yourself.  How?  First you build a runway that is 5 tiles long.  Then you branch off of the runway with a taxiway.  The taxi area cannot be connected to either end tile of the runway.  Then you can branch the taxiway just like a normal road.  You can build a station on the end tiles of the ground area.  Airport buildings can also be built beside these areas on open ground.  A tower has to be built next to an airport building.  Make sure all of your airport buildings are connected, or you will have two sepearate stops!  There are also special post buildings for airports.  A station or bus stop can be built beside an airport.  There are some large airport buildings that take up multiple tiles, as well.
    For Americans, I have bad news.  Everything is metric in this game.  You have kilowatts instead of horsepower, kilometers and km/h instead of miles and mph.  But that is no problem.  There are plenty of American style vehicles, including an American road, tractor/trailers, and the houses are universal.  An American image set is under development.  The best part is, if you have the thousands of hours, skill, and knowledge, you can build your own image set.  You can also help make images for the official sets.
    For people who understand how it works, the game has even more options.  There are configure files in the "config" directory that can be edited with a simple text editor.  Starting years, use of the time-line, increasing factories, etc. can be changed in those files.  Also, there is a Simutrans version for Linux users.
    I end this by saying that I have not in any way helped with the programing of Simutrans.  I have helped with some of the image work for the 128 set, but the real credit goes to the creator of the game, and the team of people who have made it what it is.  Without them, the game would not exist.  So when you start the game next time, read through the credits and see who is there and what they have done.  And stay tuned, you never know what new features these new guys are going to introduce.  About once a month, Simutrans is a brand new game!

© 2005