If you're coming here from http://www.openttd.org OpenTTD or otherwise have experience with Transport Tycoon, don't be fooled by how much Simutrans looks like TTD. It's a very, very bad idea to play Simutrans as if it was TTD — you'll only end up frustrated.
Table of contents
- Main Differences
- Getting Started
- Do's and Don'ts
Main differences include:
- Passengers and mail have destinations. These are chosen randomly every time passengers/mail are 'generated'. If you don't provide a connection (directly or via hubs) for them, they just won't appear at your station/stop.
- All cargo has a destination. If the factory you're at doesn't sell to the supermarket that's your destination, you won't be given anything to transport. Look at industry information to see which sells to which. Also, many industry types need to be supplied with several types of material before they start producing, and they also have limited production/consumption rates, and limited input and output storage space.
- It's *hard* to make money in this game. You will NOT have the 'what, me worry about money?' situations like you do many times in TTD.
- Building: Stations and airports are built tile-by-tile (except that extension buildings can cover many tiles). Depots and stations/stops have to be built on existing track/road. Stations/stops have to be enabled specifically to use any of the three base types: passengers, mail and cargo. You may have to add some station extension building, or choose a matching stations/stop building (the menu icon for a given building includes none, one or several little images for the base freight types that it enables).
- There are no lost vehicles, vehicle breakdowns, accidents, disasters, black helicopters, UFOs or economy crashes in Simutrans. After you have set up a well-designed network, it should continue to run flawlessly (except that your vehicles may get stuck in heavy traffic, caused by city cars, or AI players flooding the streets with too many trucks). As cities grow and new factories are added, you - at least - may want to adjust the transport capacity.
- The roads are "typed" by speed. Be aware that there are cars that travel slower than the speed you'll want to travel at. You can use the 80 km/h signs to help this along, but don't lock your own vehicles out!
I recommend visiting the Simutrans homepage and downloading SimuSetup and SimuStarter. SimuSetup will download the game and the PAK files that you need. I play PAK128 because I have a small but high-res monitor... Pak-64 just makes me squint.
When you first get started, you'll be tempted to play with the trains and trams. If you want to experiment without being able to go bankrupt, just turn on freeplay mode. If you want to play a 'real' game, I suggest building a big bus line first and then using trains to link your cities. The bus line is good because it'll give you a feel for exactly how Simutrans is different. Your mission at first is to keep your costs as low as possible while you try to break even on a month-to-month basis.
You have two costs to take into consideration: The operating costs of your vehicles (e.g. buses), which are compensated by fares, and the cost of maintaining the infrastructure (rails/roads/canals, the stations that collect your passengers, etc.).
Step by step:
- Find the biggest city on the map. (The minimap is the 2nd button from left.)
- Open the road menu.
- Build a road depot somewhere in your city.
- Build several stations, using the lowercase (v) key to watch your catchments. Try and build stations close to monuments, public schools, churches, and other 'high passenger count' items. Avoid overlapping catchment areas.
- Open your depot window by clicking on the depot.
- Click 'New Line'
- Click on stations that make up a line or a loop. If you use a line, when you reach the end, click 'Replicate Backwards'
- Buy a 'Cruiser Mini' — this is a good starting bus because of it's low operating cost and high speed.
- Click 'Apply Line' to apply the line to the bus.
- Repeat as many times as necessary.
- Watch your Stations list and your Vehicles list. Having people waiting at stations isn't bad, having 'orange' stations -is- bad.
- Expand to other cities. Expanding your lines will have a ripple effect and will increase your ridership exponentially throughout your network because people will start working their way from distant cities to reach the new stops.
Cities will only grow if almost all of them are connected, but you should start with serving denser areas (city centers) and tourist attractions.
Do's and Don'ts
Here's a few quick things to make sure you do and don't; these may be very different from TTD.
Don't hub and spoke
This game doesn't churn out enough passengers early in the game for you to be using a hub and spoke design pattern Spoke-hub_distribution_paradigm, or even point-to-point connections like they are useful in TTD. You'll need to work in lines with multiple stops in order to make enough money to break even, and bus lines need to be connected to back-bone or inter-city lines run by long-distance buses, trains, airplanes or ferries.
Watch your Finances
Observe the finances menu carefully. You have two maintenance costs — the cost of gas, etc. for the buses themselves (which is their 'operation cost' and is in parentheses next to their profit and loss in the vehicle window), and the Maintenance cost of your stations, roads, and other hardware. Stations cost $32 per station per month no matter how large the station is; I build stations that handle mail ('large station') for the extra $1200 because it's $800 to tack a mailbox on a station later.
Costs of vehicles are calculated by the tiles they pass. If they don't move at all (if they are stuck, or in a depot), they don't cost anything (except from slowly losing their resale value).
If you don't use the -freeplay switch, you may even need to start with some simple industry chain (pak64: coal or oil to a power station of the matching type), to get some reliable and continuous revenue, in order to fund the construction of the passenger network, or to serve more complicated industry chains.
Don't build roads if you can avoid it.
Roads will cost you per month in maintenance. Make sure you use the CTRL key when clicking for roads because the default 'autopathing' "feature" will annoy the hell out of you if you're used to TTD's road and rail tools.
Parking areas can expand your bus catchment
If you need that extra little oomph (catchment area extension) to get to that 100 passenger value structure, just add a parking area in the next tile from your bus station. Unfortunately, they may cost as much as an entire station. But you can have buses stop at the parking area instead of the station itself.
Don't haul mail until late game
It's not worth hauling a small town's mail; mail trucks are expensive to buy and operate.
But transporting mail supports the cities' growth (which also triggers factory creation), therefore mail should be transported at last, at least for the denser areas. For this, add single mail wagons to longer trains on backbone routes, until you get sufficient coverage and interconnection. (With pak128, it's possible to attach a mail trailer to certain buses. With pak64, a stage coach may be inexpensive enough to transport mail in the early years.)
Cars have a tendency to get hung up
As an added incentive to cover an entire city, people stop driving so much. This is great, because the people in this game are complete idiots and stall their cars in intersections constantly. :-P You need to keep an eye on all of your buses constantly to keep this from happening. If you see a previously profitable bus's income dropping like a brick, it's probably a key that this has happened.
Use the 'r' tool to remove the cars, but be careful you don't delete the street too.
Don't use too many buses on a line; Use bigger buses
Don't use too many buses on a line because they'll eventually 'bunch up' and some of them won't make a profit, and they will worsen the traffic situation. Use larger buses, but watch that you're still profitable. To avoid the "bunch up" effect, using different lines (with different, but intersecting routes) to serve a given area is useful.
What vehicles to use?
If you play with timeline switched on, you may not have much choice for vehicles, especially in the early years (pak64 up to 1960). You need to carefully compare the vehicles' cost per distance (they can differ by magnitudes), and buy only the capacity that is actually required. Once more capacity is needed, you can choose to replace (and sell or reuse) the older vehicles, or to increase their number. Higher speed may only pay off for certain freight types (e.g. passengers, mail) - newer vehicles with higher speed will increase the Mediawiki speed bonus on top of your revenue.
pak128: I start out with the Cruiser Mini and the Asahi Bus. The asahi's slow, but cheap enough to operate that you should break even; be aware that it can't go past 80km/h speed limit signs though...