Transportation is a part of life that many people take for granted. People around the world get up in the morning and then take the bus or train, or drive their cars into work.
But just how much effort must go into how those roads and tracks are laid out? How hard is it to balance the revenue created from those transportation systems, against the cost of maintaining and running them?
Imagine a land where there are towns, cities, attractions and places people would love to visit, all separated by vast land of forest, rivers and mountains. Imagine that it's your job to strategically connect those towns and people in a way that most efficiently transfers goods and people across the land.
That is the scenario Simutrans
, a fun, open-source transportation simulation game where you become the top transportation mogul of the land.
Creating Transportation Systems
Simutrans is a lot like the well-known simulation game known as SimCity, except the entire focus of SimuTrans is transportation alone.
Similar to other simulation games like Transport Tycoon, Zoo Tycoon or Roller Coaster Tycoon, you must develop an impressive system that not only attracts paying customers, but also one that you can afford to maintain and grow over time.
Installing and Starting Simutrans
Simutrans has a two-step installation. First you'll need to download the latest version of the Executable for Windows, Linux or Mac. Then, you'll need to install one of the many "Paks" available on the same download page.
These Pak files include land, buildings and other add-ins with specific themes like Japan, German, and even "Comic". Thanks to the many available Paks, the game will really never become boring - there's always something new to try. When you run the software, you'll have a list of about 27 current languages to choose from.
Configure Game Settings
The next step is to create a new game. Choose the map that you want to start with, the number of cities and tourist attractions that will already be present on the map, and you can also set up the landscape by clicking the "Landscape settings" button.
Click on "Start Game", and you're in a live simulation where time is passing and the cities and villages on the map are filled with citizens going about their daily business.
The top menu bar is filled with all of the tool utility buttons like landscape, train, tram, airplane and other building tools you'll need to use to build your transportation system.
Starting a New Game
You can navigate through the map by using the keyboard arrow keys to move around the map, and using the mouse scroll button to zoom in and out (or you can use the zoom menu buttons).
When you're ready to get started, you can start laying down roads, train tracks and other parts of your transportation networks. But click on the "money" button often to make sure that your balance is healthy.
The learning curve is a little bit steep with this game as well, although not terrible. For example, you'll need to figure out that stations need to be placed on the tracks, and that depot stations need to be placed at the end of a transportation network.
Starting Your Transportation Network
There are other nuances that you just have to learn by playing around with the game.
You may also notice that the graphics are not exactly the cutting edge of modern day gaming graphics, as you can see when you really start zooming in to the areas where you're building.
Game Graphics are Adequate
With that said, they aren't terrible. The graphics are a bit better than the earliest SimCity games, but would never compete with the latest versions that are out today.
However, the game is still enjoyable, and the addictive quality of game play far surpasses whatever is lacking in the graphics department.
Keep in mind that the real goal of this game isn't to build as much track or road as possible. It is to build a sustainable and profitable transportation system. So build smaller ones first, and get into the Line Management window as quickly as possible.
Building Lines of Transportation
This is where you actually build and monitor transportation routes. This is similar to building a schedule (see below), but this screen is where you'll monitor the activity loads of your simulated travel systems.
Once you build a depot at the end of a communication line - such as a car garage or a train depot - double clicking on that building will give you the option to buy vehicles.
For example, in this window I can build my train car by car, and then click on "schedule" to assign its route based on the train stations I've created on the map.
When you click on the "Schedule" button, your mouse icon will turn into a "HALT" sign. You need to move around your map and click this sign onto each of the stops that you want your bus, train or other transport vehicle to stop and pick up or drop off passengers.
Scheduling Routes or "Lines" of Transportation
Although it can take some learning and experimentation, there is nothing that can quite express the joy of launching your very first transportation system - such as watching the first puffs of smoke as your new locomotive emerges from the train depot for the first time.
The Joy of Launching a New Line
Tests are sometimes easy, and others are sometimes much more elaborate, depending what region of the world you are studying. For example, some of the tests on U.S. Cities include a fair number of dots on the map for students to identify.
It is very easy to get wrapped up in the design aspect of this game - laying down road and track at a pace that gets you close to your dream transportation empire as quickly as possible.
The problem with moving too fast is that you'll drain all of your resources, and the larger the system, the higher the maintenance cost - and an early bankruptcy.
Don't Go Bankrupt!
So give Simutrans a try, and see if you have the patience, dedication and drive to build a profitable and thriving simulated transportation network.
Just be warned, Simutrans is extremely addictive, and many hours will pass before you realize that you've just spent half a day playing in your virtual world of transportation.