Railroad Tycoon 3 Impressions

We sat down with PopTop Software at E3 2003 for a look at the developer's upcoming strategy sequel.


We visited with PopTop Software's Frans Felsi for a demonstration of Railroad Tycoon 3, the next game in the developer's railway-themed strategy series. According to Felsi, the developer went into the game's development with not only the goal of implementing features that the series' fans have requested, but also the goal of appealing to new players.

For starters, Felsi demonstrated the game's new 3D engine, whose new features (such as day-night cycles and particle effects for smoke) were intended to appeal to new users. However, the 3D engine will also provide experienced players with more options. For instance, the sequel will feature both bridges and tunnels as part of its 3D landscape, and the game's level editor will let you easily click and drag terrain to form valleys, hills, and even mountains, around which you'll be able to build tracks, stations, and towns. The new engine has also let PopTop's designers model more-realistic versions of famous railways around the world. As a result, many routes may be somewhat smaller than they were in the previous games, but as Felsi explained, this is a much more realistic treatment of the railroad industry, especially in its earlier days, when rerouting trains off their tracks was often exceedingly difficult, if not completely impossible.

As a trade-off for this seemingly limiting realism, Railroad Tycoon will offer considerably more detail in its areas, all of which will be modeled to scale. The sequel's improved interface will make laying track for your trains much easier, though you may have more difficulty choosing from the game's whopping selection trains (more than 40 in all), which will be able carry cargo from about 40 different industries, including toys, plastics, and passengers. If you're a beginner, or if you simply don't care to sift through the contents of every single one of your boxcars, you'll be able to use the sequel's new "auto-manage" button, which will automatically consider your train's geographical destinations (and what sort of commodities will be most in demand in these areas) and then proceed to automatically load up your train. However, veteran Railroad Tycoon players will most likely want to carefully manage each aspect of their trains and their cargo, including the new passenger appeal rating, which will let you build sumptuous dining and sleeping cars for your guests. As Felsi explained, Railroad Tycoon II players often competed in matches to see who could ship the most cargo the fastest, using the cheapest, fastest, and often the ugliest, trains around--the new passenger appeal rating will let you beat out your friends by building an expensive luxury liner rather than simply hauling the most cargo, if you prefer. Railroad Tycoon 3 will be released later this year.

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