Summary: JCal sits down with Firaxis to talk about their upcoming spiritual successor to Railroad Tycoon.
FiringSquad: First, why did Firaxis want to return to the railroad game genre for its next game?
Dan Magaha: It was really serendipitous – a couple of things just came together like pieces of a puzzle! Sid was in Germany a few years ago for a press tour and he got to visit this model train museum called “Minitur Wunderland”, which is the largest HO-scale model train layout in the world. And it reminded him of how much fun he had making Railroad Tycoon (which he made in 1990). Around that same time, we began a new business relationship with 2K Games and eventually were purchased and became part of their corporate family - and they just happened to own the license for Railroad Tycoon. Sid created a really fun prototype of Railroads!, the folks at 2K loved it and the rest is history.
FiringSquad: Why didn't the game use the Railroad Tycoon title as the first game in the series was indeed created by Sid Meier?
Dan Magaha: We wanted to be clear that Sid Meier’s Railroads! would not be Railroad Tycoon 4, rather it is Sid’s re-imagination of the game he originally created in 1990. The versions of Railroad Tycoon that have been released since the original have been created by other development teams…Sid and Firaxis have not been involved in those games. So, it made sense to call this game something else.
FiringSquad: How hard was it to create a new game for a genre that has been done quite well by many other developers?
Dan Magaha: There certainly have been some great games in this genre since Sid created the original. We were excited to return to the roots of the classic title, focus on all the things we think made it great, and update the gameplay, visuals, and overall game experience with all the things we can do today that couldn’t be done 20 years ago. In particular, we’re really returning to the core of what made the original RRT so special, and that’s the trains. They are really the star of this game.
FiringSquad: How do the trains themselves evolve over time as the player creates his empire?
Dan Magaha: Each scenario will have a different selection of trains that are consistent with their history. So the US and UK trains are largely classic steam engines, but will offer a nice selection of diesels and electrics, and even the classic “bullet” train, later in the game. Germany, however, has lots of electrics and diesels throughout. The majority of the trains are classic steam locomotives because those to us symbolize the romantic era of railroading.
Dan Magaha: There are lots of industries inside the cities and resources for those industries in the outlying countryside. Some of the outlying resources are Cattle Ranches, Coal Mines, Gold Mines, Grain Elevators, Lumber Mills, Oil Wells, Sheep Farms, Dairy Farms, Swine Farms, Fisheries, and Vineyards. They supply materials to industries in the city like the Auto Factory, Food Plant, Furniture Plant, Newspaper Plant, Paper Mill, Power Plant, Refinery, Stockyard, Steel Mill, Stockyard, Textile Mill, War Factory, Chemical Plant, Hospital, Cannery, Winery, Brewery, and Fromagerie.
FiringSquad: What sort of challenges will the player have to face in building their railroad empire?
Dan Magaha: Corporate warfare for one! Every player in the game has some of their own stock when the game starts. You can freely buy and sell shares of your own stock or that of your opponent. When all of the stock for a given player is owned, there is a buyout price that is determined from the current stock price and how many shares you own of that company. If you pay that amount, you have completed a hostile takeover and you will now control all of that player’s assets. The AI will attempt to buy you out as well but that is currently the default option and can be turned off as players wish.
FiringSquad: How much customization will there be in the game in terms of train and railroad design?
Dan Magaha: Players have complete control over the appearance of their engines in the game. We refer to this unofficially as “pimp my train”. You can adjust the color and paint schemes of your fleet or individual engines and you can add logos, either historical or ones you create yourself, to the engines as well. The design of your Railroad is completely customizable in terms of where you take the track, whether you have bridges and tunnels, where you place your stations, what supplies and goods you choose to haul etc.
FiringSquad: What other features do you think are important in the game?
Dan Magaha: Multiplayer! Up to 4 players can compete in LAN or Internet games, and the multiplayer games are all “last man standing”, so you have to “buy out” your competitors to win the game. You can do all the things you do in the single-player game mode, but in MP games they are especially interesting because human players can utilize strategies AI players just can’t. For example, throughout the game you will have “auctions” you can bid on against other players. In multiplayer games we have seen a strategy where one player will try to drive the price of an auction way up to force another player to pay a lot to buy something they want, and meanwhile the other player will then swoop in and buy stock in that player, knowing they don’t have any free cash to spend to do anything about it.
Dan Magaha: Our goal was to create a colorful, bright, clean, and beautiful world for Railroads!. We’ve merged the best parts of real-world and model railroading to create the look and feel for the game. The world is loaded with lots of cool elements challenging players with interesting choices and fun decisions to make.
FiringSquad: Are there any plans to release a demo of the game and if so what will it contain?
Dan Magaha: Yes. We’ll have a demo ready to go when the game hits store shelves. It will be an abbreviated version of the full game featuring one scenario, several different trains and a few industries. Just enough to get a feel for the game and leave folks wanting more?
FiringSquad: What is the current status of the game's progress and when will it be released?
Dan Magaha: The game is in manufacturing as we speak and will ship to the US and Canada on October 16th and to Europe on October 27th.
FiringSquad: Finally is there anything else you wish to say about Sid Meier's Railroads?
Dan Magaha: Sid Meier’s Railroads! will also offer a “Train Table Mode” in which players can build the virtual model railroad layout of their dreams. In this mode there is no competitive aspect to the game…just the pure joy of designing and building a model Railroad…without making a mess in your basement!
|© Copyright 2003 FS Media, Inc.|