Archived News

Happy 20th birthday OpenTTD!

If you don’t know me, I’m Owen Rudge, and have been involved in the online Transport Tycoon community for almost 25 years. Exactly 21 years ago, I received an ICQ message (look it up, kids) out of the blue from a guy named Ludvig Strigeus (nicknamed Ludde). “Hello, you probably don’t know me, but I’ve been working on a project to clone TTD for a while.” he said, more or less. He didn’t want to release this to the public yet, and wasn’t entirely sure what he was going to do with it. (He’d been working on it since 30th June 2002, so I guess that is technically the birthday of what would become OpenTTD…) Ludde sent me a copy of what he’d been working on, and it was very exciting indeed. It was a fully functional version of Transport Tycoon Deluxe, written in C. Admittedly incomplete at that time, it was still quite remarkable.

To put things in context, in 2004, the Transport Tycoon community generally enjoyed playing the classic Transport Tycoon Deluxe with the excellent TTDPatch started by Josef Drexler. The original Transport Tycoon games only ran on DOS and Windows 95/98, and TTDPatch allowed us to play on the then-current Windows XP, while adding a huge number of exciting features, such as the ability to use third-party graphics and vehicle sets. TTDPatch was an amazing piece of software, but there were always some fundamental limitations - the map size couldn’t be changed, extra cargo types couldn’t be added, multiplayer was difficult to improve, and so on. So having an almost fully-functional clone of TTD, written in a high-level programming language, suddenly appear out of nowhere got people very excited indeed.

Ludde made more progress with the project over the coming year, and it looks like we even attempted some multiplayer games (not too reliable, especially over my dial-up connection at the time). Eventually, when he was happy with what he had created, he agreed to allow me to release the game as open source. Coincidentally, this happened exactly a year after I’d first spoken to him, on the 6th March 2004. But first, it needed a name. I don’t think I thought very much about it, but decided that “OpenTTD” had a nice ring to it, so registered a SourceForge project, created an OpenTTD forum on TT-Forums, and set it loose. OpenTTD 0.1 was released. You can still download it if you want to see what it was like, though it’s not particularly straightforward to run!

Things really got going after this, and a community started to form with enthusiastic developers fixing bugs, adding in new features, and smoothing off the rough edges. Ludde was, I think, a bit taken aback by how popular it proved, and even rejoined the development effort for a while. A read through the old changelogs reveals just how many features were added over a very short period of time. Quick wins like higher vehicle limits came in very quickly, and support for TTDPatch’s NewGRF format started to be functional just four months later. Large maps, improved multiplayer, better pathfinders, improved TTDPatch compatibility, and of course, ports to a great many different operating systems, such as Mac OS X, BeOS, MorphOS and OS/2. It was a very exciting time to be a TTD fan!

Within six years, ambitious projects to create free replacements for the original TTD graphics, sounds and music sets were complete, and OpenTTD finally had its 1.0 release. And while we may not have the same frantic addition of new features we had in 2004, there have still been massive improvements to the code, with plenty of exciting new features over the years, with major releases every year since 2008. The move to GitHub in 2018 and the release of OpenTTD on Steam in 2021 have also re-energised development efforts, with thousands of people now enjoying playing the game regularly. And development shows no signs of slowing down, with the upcoming OpenTTD 14.0 release including over 40 new features!

When I released Ludde’s work back in 2004, I don’t think I could have anticipated where OpenTTD would be ten years later, let alone twenty. Personally, I would like to say thank you to everyone who has supported OpenTTD development over the past two decades - first to Ludde, who has gone on to be an incredibly successful and influential developer. Of course, there have been many developers who have contributed so much over the years, plus the graphics artists and other content developers who have created a wealth of wonderful add-ons for the game. I’d like to also thank everyone who has donated money to cover server costs, and indeed the dedicated folk who maintain that infrastructure (especially TrueBrain, without whom the OpenTTD project in its current form probably wouldn’t exist). We must also show our appreciation for Chris Sawyer for the amazing game that inspired OpenTTD in the first place. Finally, of course, I’d like to thank you, the players! None of us would be here if people weren’t still playing the game.

Seeing how the first twenty years have gone, I can’t wait to see what the next twenty years have in store. :)