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Gaming Youth Tycoon by Pete Written on 16th March 2006

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Build up your empire from a meager starting pot...
Why can't people just either make darn tootin' good sequels or leave stuff alone? It's because of the simple fact that they can't that the games market of today is filled with cheap copies of great titles, adding a little more playability here and there at the expense of originality.

The bit that gets me is that people have to be buying this crap in order for it to continue. Maybe today's gamers have finally given up hope of seeing another proper (as in not uber-realistic, trainspotter type realism,but good old fashioned fun) Railroad Tycoon or Transport Tycoon, or maybe it's just that games like these are now so old that today's gamers just don't know they ever existed...who knows? In fact, let's start right there with the original Tycoons.

One of the first games that I remember playing that really gripped me was the original Railroad Tycoon by Sid Meier. Now I wasn't your stereotypical kid who thought train sets were the best thing since sliced bread. True enough, I only owned one due to the fact that it was made out of lego and was good for smashing up other lego models that happened to be crossing the track at the time (ladies, it's a man thing)...this was a game that blatantly wasn't just another "build anywhere as long as you keep between East and West coast USA...I could actually buld in my home country of England. Heck, I could even put a station on the edge of Chester (denoted by a small clump of villages on the RRT map) just up the road from where I live! It was nice to finally see a game that wasn't either based in the US or had strong US overtones - the old death and destruction, or at least some maiming.

You could build, expand, borrow money, outwit your competitors and even crash your trains - truly a game that captured the imagination of both the constructive and destructive youngsters out there, whilst all the while giving you a sound knowledge of basic geography on each map you played on. There was just something cool about seeing the money roll in at the end of every two years that kept me hooked til the end of my hundred years as president of my railroad.

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A quiet little mountain town... somewhere abroad.
Then came Chris Sawyer, and the amazing isometric Transport Tycoon - expanding upon the simplistic railroad beginnings and adding air, road and water transport, a slower rate of play (and thus a longer game), more game years to play with, some nifty new graphics and above all some really catchy tunes! Really, this was the mutt's nuts and everyone loved it, so much so that, as with Railroad Tycoon before it, they released a Deluxe version with more modes of play, more maps, different economies and more trains, planes, boats and trucks. It was a real "boys and their toys" game and most people loved it.

So what went wrong? What insidious plot was happening behind the scenes? What happened when Meier and Sawyer went on to do other things and Microprose (publisher of both titles) diminished into non-existence?

I'll tell you what was much like the theme of a certain recently released sci-fi movie but twice as scary as Yoda and his mini-saber...The Clones Attacked!!

They came slowly at first, edging onto the scene with slightly different titles so as not to tread on sacred legal toes with other games and titles. We had more railroad games with nifty graphics, authentic sounds and all-too-realistic economies. What's the trouble here? We DON'T WANT realism. The whole point was that the originals were fun to play, not requiring you to know every single last detail as though you'd been camping 24/7 at your local train station noting down names, numbers and distinguishing features of sexy engines like some anoraks do!

Replacing the original groovy and catchy tunes was the next big mistake, and the cheesy "poop-poop" noises the steam engines used to make with the authentic bells and whistles of the real-life thing. The final straw was making the colours look 100% true to life...what could be worse? Oh look, the 10:27 has arrived at Paddington's black and grey and today is a nice overcast day and...oh look, it's raining too. Lovely.

For god's sake man! 16 colours is fine, 256 is still fine, but 16 million plus? That's just asking for trouble!!

But it didn't stop there did it? There were other's that tried to clone the success of Transport Tycoon and TT Deluxe - the ultimate blasphemy in my opinion, as you can't improve on a game that's still just as playable (and popular I might add) today as when it first came out. These clone titles were destined to lay on dusty shelves, forgotten by all until they got thrown in a bargain bin.

Evidently there was some panic behind the scenes as after an initial spurt of releases, sales dwindled somewhat and the $uits that run the show wondered what to do next to try and revive a true gaming genre - the "Tycoons". We now have things like Pizza Tycoon, Tycoon City and I wouldn't be surprised if there was a Beauty Salon Tycoon.

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Industries - smelly, smokey and profitable!
So what have we got to look forward to? Not a lot you might think? Well I'm happy to prove you wrong on that front!

A small band of developers have been hard at work extending Transport Tycoon beyond it's original programming, allowing more station types, vehicles, map sets and, the ultimate improvement, adding reliable multiplayer!

If you want a nostalgia trip, a new experience with an old game or even want to lend a hand, check out TT and pay special attention to TTD Patch and OpenTTD. Heck, for those PDA owners out there, you can now have it portable HERE as well!

This is one case of old games coming back from the dead in style, so forget the slew of new and ever-more-boring Tycoons, relive the originals as I do on an annual basis!


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