‘Detroit’: The Auto Simulation Game I Want to Play

Photo by John LloydSome game genres only exist as desktop games, board games, or mobile games, and not as multiplayer games. Even with the best artificially intelligent player, though, there’s something special about playing against human opponents.

One such genre is business games, typically simulations where you can run an airline or a transport company, as in Transport Tycoon Deluxe, or TTD. There are two open source versions: openTTD and Simutrans. OpenTTD has a multiplayer mode for up to 255 players, but Simutrans is only available on the desktop.

The one I’d really like to see is a multiplayer version of a 1990s era PC game called Detroit. This is a simulation where you manage an automobile manufacturer, starting in 1908 and going on for 100 years. Game play includes designing new cars, testing them, then manufacturing and selling them and making enough profit to keep running and growing the business. It was a little bit buggy, but a great game all the same.

How It Should Play Today

For a game designer, the period of play is recent history and very well documented. Today, Numerous automobile inventions that we take for granted  all appeared during the last hundred years. Not just seat belts, flashing indicators, windscreen wipers  or engine management units, but new types of engines such as the Wankel Rotary. Automobiles changed enormously from the humble Model T Ford to Google’s self driving cars and the game should encompass that.

Game play includes deciding when to introduce these innovations. Do you spend a fortune developing them and licensing them to rivals? How much do you spend on marketing, offering dealer incentives or even setting up your own dealer chains?

As with most new business sectors, there were dozens of small manufacturers at the start. But failures, mergers and takeovers within 20 years shrank it down and now only a handful are left. So, the game should let you buy up other automobile manufacturers.

Add in two world wars and a few smaller conflicts to stimulate demand, but make it easy to play and above all enjoyable. At heart it’s still a business simulation so you have to take control of the finances, build or expand factories for manufacturing, set staffing levels and decide how much to spend on research and marketing, and set the prices of vehicles. Then there’s dealing with domestic and overseas markets, manufacturing and sales, maybe even issuing dividends or arranging credit lines to pay for expansion.

If you want to develop that game, you’ve got a beta tester just waiting for your invite. Just don’t keep me waiting too long!

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Comments

  1. BY sdog says:

    Simutrans has a multplayer mode since version 1.10, released in 2011. You can get the latest version here: http://forum.simutrans.com/index.php?topic=9587.0

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