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A Complete History of Transport Tycoon

Updated on August 3, 2013

A record of the history of a great PC transport business simulation game.

Transport Tycoon is a 1994 PC DOS business simulation game created by Chris Sawyer later ported to the Sony Playstation, Sega Saturn (Japan only) and Apple Macintosh (Japan only). The game sees the player in control of a transport company operating any combination of planes, trains trucks and ships transporting passengers and a variety of freight.

The game is presented with an isometric 2d viewpoint which was common in the 1990s before the widespead use of 3d graphics accelerator cards. This viewpoint contributes to the ease of learning to play the game.

Chris Sawyer began writing games in 1983

Having created his own games for 8 bit computer systems in the 1980s, Chris began work porting Amiga games to the PC in 1988. One of the last of these was David Braben's Frontier - the first sequel of Elite, released a year before Transport Tycoon in 1993.

Factoid: advertising hoardings in Frontier's space ports announced "Coming soon... Chris Sawyer's Transport Game"!

What happened to Transport Tycoon 2?

A year after the release of Transport Tycoon, an add-on pack was launched which added a World Editor and a graphics pack allowing you to build transport networks on Mars. In the same year Chris Sawyer released Transport Tycoon Deluxe which featured three new graphics packs and many improvements over the original game. This game was ported to Windows 95 by Joe Booth of Fish(UK).

Following the release of Transport Tycoon Deluxe, Sawyer began work on a true sequel but quickly became interested in rollercoasters - a distraction which led to him reworking the Transport Tycoon 2 code to run rollercoasters instead of trains. It would be nearly a decade before he returned to the transport genre.

The legal status of Transport Tycoon

Ken Taylor wrote about his experience trying to establish the true owner of Transport Tycoon in the October 2005 issue of Virtual Railroader. He set about this with the intention of selling legal copies of the Windows version of the game for download.

He found that the original publisher, Microprose, has changed hands several times eventually ending up in the hands of Atari. However, the Microprose software library at some point became the property of Firaxis. When he contacted Firaxis he was informed they had a complete list of the games they owned the rights to and Transport Tycoon was not among them. Chris Sawyer has stated that he does not own Transport Tycoon. Finally, Ken contacted an Atari executive in charge of older games who stated that he did not know which old games they owned and that he felt it not worth his time to find out.

Ken's conclusion: Transport Tycoon is "about as close to abandonware as you could hope to find".

It was revealed in the lead up to the IOS release of Transport Tycoon that 31x Ltd - acompany in Chris Sawyer's control - bought the rights to the name Transport Tycoon in 2010. It has not been made clear who owns the original PC game.

Credits for Transport Tycoon

Game Design and Development

Chris Sawyer

UK Publisher - DOS

Microprose (Taken over by Hasbro, then by Infogrammes and finally by Atari)

UK Publisher - Sony Playstation Port

Ocean Software (Taken over by Infogrammes UK which also owns Atari)

Japan Publisher - Mac Port

Itochu

Japan Publiser - Sega Saturn Port

Imagineer

Japan Publiser - Sony Playstation Port

Itochu

What the Critics Said

High Score - 5/5

Coming Soon Magazine - 94/100

PC Games (Germany) - 86/100

Privat Computer PC - 4/5

Commercial Success

In 2005 Chris Sawyer started court proceedings against Atari claiming they had wrongfully withheld 4.8 million dollars of royalties. Details released revealed that he had been paid 30 million dollars in royalties for the Transport Tycoon and Rollercoaster Tycoon series'. The case was settled out of court in early 2008.

The Transport Tycoon Legacy

After Transport Tycoon Deluxe It would be nearly a decade before Chris Sawyer made a return to the transport game genre. This opened the way for a whole series of moderately successful games like Industry Giant, Traffic Giant and Transport Giant - all from Jowood.

A german developer programmed a 3d version called 3DTT - this was released by Ubisoft as Trains & Trucks Tycoon in what seemed an incomplete state. There has since been a court battle between the developer and publisher which appears to be ongoing.

In 1997 another german developer began work on a free transport game called Simutrans. He retired from the project and handed it over for continued development to an internation team of volunteers.

Josef Drexler began work on a program called TTD Patch, which modifies the code of Transport Tycoon Deluxe as it runs, in 1999. The program was intended to correct bugs in the game but soon new features were added including making the game compatible with modern versions of Windows and the introduction of a facility to create and use new graphics, vehicles and industries.

In 2004 Transport Tycoon Deluxe was reverse engineered, creating new code in the C language from programs's executable file. This code was used to create OpenTTD - an open source clone of Transport Tycoon. Until the release of version 1.0 in April 2010, the game was distributed without graphics or sound files so players had to get hold of the Windows 95 game (a used version, or from a download site) before they could play. As with TTD Patch, there are many new features added as well as bugs fixed. The game now allows for up to 255 players to play competitively, or cooperatively, over the internet. An important aspect of the open source status of OpenTTD is that it can be, and has been, ported to virtually any computing platform. Versions are now available not only for Windows, Linux and OSX, but also for Pocket PC devices, Symbian powered mobile phones and the Sony PSP(modification of the hardware may be necessary).

In February 2011 a new transport game Cities in Motion was released by Finnish developer Colossal Order. This game is focussed on public transport within cities and does this very well with deep game play and beautiful 3D graphics. The game has proven very successful and it can be hoped Colossal Order will continue to release games in this genre.

The "Spiritual Successor" to Transport Tycoon

It was in 2004 that Chris Sawyer released his own "spiritual successor" to Transport Tycoon - Chris Sawyer's Locomotion. The game world was still displayed in a 2d isometric style but with richer graphics and more animation. The game was widely criticised for having poor artificial intelligence and showing too little improvement since Transport Tycoon Deluxe.

Atari's support for this game wasn't what it might have been either. They were slow about updating the game to correct problems and made it clear they did not welcome modifications by the community.

Transport Tycoon for IOS and Android

In July 2013 it was announced Transport Tycoon would be released before the end of the year on IOS and Android devices. Initially there was very little information available beyond the fact Chris Sawyer has bought the name through a company he named 31x Ltd in 2010 and had agreed for mobile developer Origin8 to remake the original game for IOS and Android. He had intended to focus solely on the business side of the development but found himself drawn into working closely with the team - helping with design and debugging.

Screenshots were released at the end of July which revealed a graphical style similar to Chris Sawyer's Locomotion. These images gave no clue as to how the interface will be adapted to touch screen devices.

Video of Transport Tycoon

The following video shows the introductory screens and gameplay of the original Transport Tycoon, which looked remarkably good for a game which could run on a 486SX.

Great Tycoon Games on Amazon

Reader Feedback - Please let me know your thoughts about the article and, particularly, any corrections needed.

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      hellodoly 5 years ago

      thanx mate for this article.. it helped me alot on a project at school transport marfa bucuresti transport moloz

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      dannystaple 6 years ago

      I am a huge fan of Simutrans and OpenTTD - both successors to the Transport Tycoon legacy (and have a couple of lenses on them). I love train games, and also enjoy tinkering with the train setups in Simcity 4 Deluxe. Anyway - a great lens. Thanks for sharing!

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      The future of Transport Tycoon looks exciting with the OpenTTD project coming along, it looks a worthy successor to the original and I can't wait to sink large amounts of time into the finished product!!

      Great article Rob, my questions about this great game all answered :thumbsup:

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      So sad so sad best game I've ever played 2 date!!!