What is OpenTTD today?

OpenTTD is a fully open-sourced reimplementation of TTD, written in C++, boasting improved gameplay and many new features.

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What is OpenTTD today?

Post by SimYouLater »

So I'd like to ask about an old conversation...

Bullies were mentioned. Where are they now? I don't recognize any of the names. Yes, if you haven't seen me before, you can consider me new to OpenTTD, most of what I know of "the patch" and the early days of OpenTTD was from research of old and otherwise, and as for Simuscape, I think I signed up at around the same time I got into OpenTTD (a year? two?) and completely forgot about it, including my original account (it's basically gone forever).

Which is my entire point. This isn't 2014, it's 2017. Times have changed... again. Let's assume there were bullies for the sake of this first question. Either they got banned at last and didn't come back, or they changed their usernames to get back in but lost any and all pull in the community as a result, because the names mentioned there (once again I won't list them to avoid a flame war) are not names I see now.

Don't bother answering that first question, though, this isn't about that. This is about the present and future...

Simutrans? It's on Steam, but I can't get it to work from there.

OpenTTD? A lot of it has gone into project-specific forums, or is the work of one person like SilverSurferZzZ ("Noun"Cars), Michael Blunck (wow, he goes way back in this thing, doesn't he?), GuilhermJK ("Early Mod Pack" modified Town Sets for early starts)... I haven't sprited since doing webcomics in the mid-2000's so I'm worthless at it, but I've done a couple of things.

I went into OpenTTD and, looking at old posts (prior even to 2014), had ideas of helping some project in some way (none were active that I could help with, though at the time I was thinking of research for projects). Then I tried organizing them (that went poorly). Then I even went the distance and learned NML. Now... looking at it, it seems like OpenTTD's been gutted and brought back to life by sheer willpower of a handful (Owen Rudge, Michael Blunck, maybe a couple others) that stuck around for over 20 years, a few newcomers who have some promise (excluding myself, I'm having doubts) and two small but highly-active projects... Dutch Stations (Additions (Part 2)) and the Auz"Noun" sets. Reddit? They don't do NewGRF development on /r/OpenTTD. Simuscape is either dead or even more secluded than it looks.

Believe me, I want to see this community come back to those apparently awesome years that I missed. These 2D graphics you love? They're the only alternative to the "ALL 3D" system that needs expensive Gaming Rigs and skill with Blender (which I fail hard at) if not a pricey commercial 3D-modelling program (which I cannot afford and have no use for) to make custom assets for. That 3D system which Cities Skylines has proven can work better in every way than Sim City 4.

That 3D system which Transport Fever now uses and Mashinky aims to reproduce the "TTD feel" with. Games that support unlimited mods (even Skylines screwed that up in the way it loads them, Transport Fever does it well). Games that look better and are more adaptable, but are not easy to customize.

So what does that old thread mean now? Today. August of 2017. Not three years ago. Because right now I am unsure if working on anything else for OpenTTD is even worth it; I have a more important project in motion (writing), and although I can make room for OpenTTD easily, if this community is not going to expand, if even Patch Packs and dedicated coder-spriters cannot make it progress further, then I will move on to the competitors. The ones that you pay through the nose for.
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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by kamnet »

I'll be honest, that old thread over there is absolutely meaningless. It was the culmination of what was really nothing more than a couple of tiffs nearly a decade ago. The "bullies", as they were termed, was nothing more than people who held some strong opinions. Those people either settled their issues or decided to go away. It's old drama.

In my opinion, OpenTTD wasn't gutted. Yes, many people who got started are no longer involved. That happens in many enthusiast communities. But we have new people coming in all the time, and OpenTTD's popularity hasn't waned. The game itself continues to slowly evolve with features, new sprite artists come along and have put a considerable amount of time into creating new wonders to feast your eyes upon, and the amount of coding and programming that's been developed has pushed this game far beyond its original boundaries.

I've been following OpenTTD since version 0.6.0 was published, and before that I was somewhat cognizant of TTDPatch. Never once have I ever thought to myself, "This is it - OpenTTD is facing its demise!" Just the opposite. What IS unfortunate is that a lot of other OpenTTD communities have not been sustainable. Simuscape, TTD Russia, TT-MS and Tycoonez have all either seen significant declines or disappeared altogether. But then you have /r/openttd and TELK which have emerged and you're seeing new influxes of players and developers. There's no shortage of OpenTTD "lets play" and tutorial videos on YouTube, Twitch and other video networks.


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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by Redirect Left »

I feel OpenTTD has stagnated, lots of stuff people love never gets put in the main trunk for X or Y thing.
It demotivates me personally learning stuff needed to do things, as I know full well it won't realistically ever end up in there no matter its popularity and all the effort and hardwork will be wasted, probably demotivates others too.
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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by JGR »

Trunk stagnation doesn't seem like a problem to me.
There are plenty of forks/patches/etc. where more novel features can be played and/or developed.
As it is open source, starting your own fork is easy and people will play it and/or contribute if they like it enough.
That said, beginner to intermediate players are unlikely to care about the more advanced features available in non-trunk versions.
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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by Redirect Left »

JGR wrote: As it is open source, starting your own fork is easy and people will play it and/or contribute if they like it enough.
Yeah, for me that isn't an option worth considering. No matter how good your edits are, it won't be seen by easily any more than 20-40% of the players. Certainly not enough for me to dedicate serious time to doing any coding for.
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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by NekoMaster »

Issue with patching/modifying the code to add new features is that not everyone has the hardware or knowledge to do it. Even though I know how to do some NLM stuff and deal with most computer things, I still cannot get stuff like Visual stupid working to patch and build OPenTTD stuff. Other may be turned off by the complexity and not try at all.

I think most of the patches that come out are decent enough that they ought to get tested more and included into the nightlies or even trunk. Two patches I can think of that I never have issues with are the Daylength patches and infrastructure sharing. The latter really brings co-op game play to OpenTTD where people don't have to work against each other but can instead work together or at least compete fairly (like how railroads in north america still compete for contracts and clients but still allow other railroads to run on their tracks if they pay for it)
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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by Pyoro »

It certainly doesn't look dead to me. I'd rather say that lately (last 2-3 years) more stuff has been done than maybe around 2010 or so.

Yes, sure, some people wander off to do other things and maybe at some point trunk will more or less stay the way it is at, but would that even be so bad right now? Much stuff got done, some more is available via patches. The game is in good shape, no reason to stop playing even if nothing else changes ^^

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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by Alberth »

Redirect Left wrote:
JGR wrote: As it is open source, starting your own fork is easy and people will play it and/or contribute if they like it enough.
Yeah, for me that isn't an option worth considering. No matter how good your edits are, it won't be seen by easily any more than 20-40% of the players. Certainly not enough for me to dedicate serious time to doing any coding for.
I think that applies in general.

If the reward is people using your things, most open source development is bad, you won't last. Either there are not enough users, or the time between releases of your new things becomes too long. The amount of effort becomes too large compared to the amount of satisfaction that you get.

Many if not all contributors are here because of self-development and/or being in a community. That works with much smaller audiences.
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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by V453000 :) »

I'm honestly not interested in digging up the past especially when it comes to people related to Simuscape, just let them rot...

However I feel interested in answering your last sentences.

Is it worth it? Is the community alive enough to invest time into it?

Whether the community is dying we don't have to argue about, the reduce of activity is visible in all areas I believe. Maybe a little bit less in the competitive servers, but still...

I personally still sink a big portion of my free time (I don't have much of that anymore, but that makes the portion even bigger) into trying to work on graphics for OpenTTD. In my specific position this might sound extra weird as I work for Factorio where I can do basically exactly the same thing for money, so why bother with OpenTTD?

Not only I get a lot of experience from all the WTF issues OpenTTD has, I get to design 3D software / postproduction systems of gigantic scale (BRIX currently replaces about 5000 sprites I think). Just changing the topic a little bit from the everyday Factorio "routine" (take this word very lightly, every day in Factorio is a ride full of surprises) lets me do more experimenting. This is for many reasons, for example Factorio already has some art style and we can't do just anything now, we have some workflow so we can't just change it to anything, etc.

In my own project here, I can really go nuts and try totally new and different things for me. Re-render everything with different style? Sure! Migrate to a different 3D program? Sure! Completely recolour a big part of the game? No problem! Rework a whole big part of the pipeline just to get a better and more usable system? Yeah.

And that's things that I have really learned to appreciate over the years, because almost every single time I come to utilize the gained knowledge eventually, sooner or later. Short list just to give an example:

#openttdcoop taught me to communicate with people and propagate my ideas to people who don't really need to care about them.
#openttdcoop taught me how to organize people and make them all build something everybody enjoys together.
#openttdcoop taught me how to teach people and explain problems to them, make documentation and learning sources as wiki or blog articles.
#openttdcoop taught me better english simply because I talk to people on IRC every day and I have written very lengthy articles about complex stuff, trying to explain it as simply as possible (often times I failed but that's fine)
#openttdcoop taught me to view the game from a totally different viewpoint, seeing many details in the gameplay.
NUTS made me learn pixel art by studying the original art of TTD,
NUTS made me learn basics about how to work with hg,
NUTS made me learn how to code almost any train feature in NML,
NUTS made me learn how to explain complex issues to people better than I knew before,
NUTS made me learn that if I want to do something, I always have to rely on myself, and myself only. If someone else helps me, that's a big bonus, but not without the first part.
YETI made me improve in general usage of 3DS MAX I was using at work at that point, being a part of projects at work, I was always doing just something, but never the whole picture. Going through every step in YETI gave me a lot more experience with the workflow and let me propose many improvements that we applied to our approaches even at work where we had established methods for years.
YETI made me realize that even if something is very technically advanced and gameplay-oriented, does not mean everyone will use it.
YETI made me realize that making art in 3D is not so simple.
YETI taught me that 32bpp in OpenTTD isn't a lost cause and a bad feature, but needs extreme care to be done right, and visual incompatibility with 8bpp is a big problem.
RAWR made me get much better in making giant 3D and postproduction pipelines.
RAWR made me realize that clean workflow is worth so much, because when you hit a wall in your workflow which is very hard to remove, it can make you abandon a project and just start again if you feel brave enough. (is one of the reasons why I started BRIX)
BRIX taught me that replacing all game sprites is much harder than just making a single NewGRF, because suddenly you have the ability to completely define new style, and that's damn hard.
BRIX taught me that color theory matters so much on the large scale, and using it carefully is critically important. I even started buying art books just to read more about it.
BRIX and RAWR taught me that when I am making something in my free time for a long time (talking hundreds to thousand-ish of hours), all boiling down to a 0.0.1 release, it is at least advisable to focus on making things good instead of doing "somewhat everything". I did this with RAWR, everything was kind of there, but all of it was majorly unfinished and I wasn't confident about it. When I released 0.0.1, I was thinking I will fix everything eventually (stuff like rail tiles no tiling perfectly, the overlays in junctions to working greatly, x1 zoom being very meh), but the problems in pipeline and having to redo literally everything, while adding stuff like bridges, was simply too much to chew. At some point I would have to rework even the postproduction pipeline which is just an insane task. When I released BRIX 0.0.1 in a state where I was quite convinced it's reasonable. It wasn't perfect because at that time I really couldn't find much time so I had to do many compromises and release at least something, but since I have kept this mindset "do it properly, now" with each of the segments (rails, landscape, ...), it was a lot better because I know I don't have to touch rails or bridges for example ... and doing just the maglev tracks took over 2 weeks of more than 8 hours a day. You have the first sketch done in a day, working version in 3 days, but the rest of time you are finding issues and problems which are super vital to fix if it has to be solid. Now the situation with BRIX wasn't great either, in fact I am quite embarassed with 0.0.1 today which motivates me further to fix it. :D Thanks to the solid base I have built for myself, it doesn't just collapse on my head like RAWR did.

Every single thing I mentioned above is in some way reflected in my knowledge I use every day in one way or another.

Above all, OpenTTD as a whole made me learn patience and appreciation of long-term side-project effort that will eventually make me really proud. And having something to present "I have worked on this" when you talk to your friends, relatives or whoever else, is just great, be it the most insane rail network screenshots, graphics, train set, anything.

I don't think this necessarily explains why specifically OpenTTD, I bet you can apply almost the same thing for doing stuff for anything else, then it just comes down to the final point: I still really love OpenTTD, even if I haven't really played in years and I kind of acknowledge that I never will play it again, even though in the back of my mind I will probably always carry the nostalgic dream of playing the way the first time I did when I was a kind, and later at the insane level I did back in my #openttdcoop years. The best I can do now is attempt to give someone else a similar feeling, and through new life in graphics I believe I can eventually drag in a few people. (note, I don't plan to make OpenTTD the most popular game ever :) if a handful of people appreciate my work, that's enough because I get my own benefits from it as I said above)

Just my random thoughts that came to my mind. This is why I don't plan to completely abandon OpenTTD anytime soon, even if finding time to do things becomes increasingly difficult.

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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by Toffo »

I think this is a great thread. Thanks for bringing it up. I think you bring up two points - the "bullies" one I don't think is worth going into here, because it takes away from your other, more pertinent point.

Take the following as the rambling of a casual observer who reads the forum more than he plays the game, and (while he has experience in other projects) does not know a thing about organising a software development project. I have thought long and hard about these words because I'm conscious that this is people's spare-time project, and none of this is meant as personal criticism for anyone involved - that is not my intention.
andythenorth wrote:OpenTTD is dying, and has been since at least 2008.
I think trunk is dying, which is different.

There is plenty of stuff happening in OTTD, but it's mostly happening outside of trunk. The intention is not to put down the devs (what they have done and continue to do is amazing) but from an outside perspective, the patches and add-ons are where you'll find the passion, responsiveness and creative spark.
Redirect Left wrote:
JGR wrote:
Redirect Left wrote:I feel OpenTTD has stagnated, lots of stuff people love never gets put in the main trunk for X or Y thing.
It demotivates me personally learning stuff needed to do things, as I know full well it won't realistically ever end up in there no matter its popularity and all the effort and hardwork will be wasted, probably demotivates others too.
As it is open source, starting your own fork is easy and people will play it and/or contribute if they like it enough.
Yeah, for me that isn't an option worth considering. No matter how good your edits are, it won't be seen by easily any more than 20-40% of the players. Certainly not enough for me to dedicate serious time to doing any coding for.
Redirect Left hit the nail on the head. People I think have mostly given up on writing for trunk because it's just too hard to get stuff approved. Approval goes hand in hand with appreciation, and for a lot of people if they don't feel appreciated, they won't bother. Let me take the chance again to say how much I appreciate what the devs/Owen/everyone else involved do to keep this project running.

Seeing things like this play out make me sad because not bothering to announce a new version on the website (and then cutting down someone who points that out) reflects an ambivalence that runs deep. A response of, "Oh, you're right, we'll put an announcement up now, thanks for pointing it out," reflects for me a much more healthy state of affairs. General negativity in the leadership of a project will always catch up with you, it's just a matter of time. Respect for people (even those who don't contribute) and restraint are key.

It's a shame, because if it were possible to work together rather than fork things out, I think there are enough skilled and passionate people out there to kick start OTTD again.

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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by andythenorth »

Toffo wrote:Seeing things like this play out make me sad because not bothering to announce a new version on the website (and then cutting down someone who points that out) reflects an ambivalence that runs deep.
Where's the cutting down? :shock: I don't see any.

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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by pelya »

andythenorth wrote:
Toffo wrote:Seeing things like this play out make me sad because not bothering to announce a new version on the website (and then cutting down someone who points that out) reflects an ambivalence that runs deep.
Where's the cutting down? :shock: I don't see any.
Oh, don't worry, they'll update the frontpage next April :roll: I know that a new version is released when Android users start complaining that they cannot connect to online servers, so it's not a big issue :wink:

I'd like stuff like daylength patch merged into trunk, people regularly request that in Android version, but I cannot add that because that will break network protocol, and I don't want to release some crazy mix of patches like JGR's patch pack as a separate app, because I have my own Android-specific crazy mix of patches to apply on top of trunk.

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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by Pyoro »

Daylength has issues, though. Undeniable ones. It's just not trunk-ready. Maybe the JGR version has fixed them, I genuinely don't know, but the old-style version while fun to play with is just not bug-free.

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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by Redirect Left »

Alberth wrote:
Redirect Left wrote:
JGR wrote: As it is open source, starting your own fork is easy and people will play it and/or contribute if they like it enough.
Yeah, for me that isn't an option worth considering. No matter how good your edits are, it won't be seen by easily any more than 20-40% of the players. Certainly not enough for me to dedicate serious time to doing any coding for.
I think that applies in general.

If the reward is people using your things, most open source development is bad, you won't last. Either there are not enough users, or the time between releases of your new things becomes too long.
All of my work is updated mostly daily, as soon as something is reported, unless i'm away from the computer for long period. The largest example is the script on my gameserver for San Andreas: Multiplayer, which gets multiple updates daily often. (revision log is here, for example). I literally do bugger all with my days and if involved with something, it gets updated frequently unless i'm out of ideas and zero bugs get reported.

Also the frontpage for openttd.org is often updated poorly, and doesn't exaggerate on something beyond "here is a link, click it". Different users seem to post different stuff, perhaps find one with enough time to post meaningful updates to the front page instead of splitting between different users who have entirely different approaches.
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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by andythenorth »

Redirect Left wrote:Also the frontpage for openttd.org is often updated poorly, and doesn't exaggerate on something beyond "here is a link, click it". Different users seem to post different stuff, perhaps find one with enough time to post meaningful updates to the front page instead of splitting between different users who have entirely different approaches.
Would you be a good candidate for that?

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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by Redirect Left »

andythenorth wrote: Would you be a good candidate for that?
I'm not attached to development so i'd be slow to know releases, otherwise I am quite good at expressing small details in larger ones and general grammar, I'd be more than up for it if required though.

I just feel that when a new release is made, exaggerate some of the better bits that people have asked for or would like to know, instead of going "here is the download link, and the changelog" - engage with the players and readers more. I know I for one feel that when that sort of message is made, it looks like more of a "oh snap, I've yet to do that!" and super quickly did it, rather than serious effort. Nice to look like the devs are fully engaged and enthusiastic with all parts.

Maybe i'm just one of those guys that reads too much into things though, I did do a lengthy study of body & text language and the implied meaning of words and expressions therein for a lengthy essay at college!
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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by Toffo »

andythenorth wrote:
Toffo wrote:Seeing things like this play out make me sad because not bothering to announce a new version on the website (and then cutting down someone who points that out) reflects an ambivalence that runs deep.
Where's the cutting down? :shock: I don't see any.
Andy, here:
planetmaker wrote:Do you have a suggestion for the text of the announcement? :)
When I say "cut down," I don't mean personal slander, I mean the perception of a lack of appreciation for a user's suggestion. If someone reports an oversight, either deliberate or accidental, in a project I'm running, I thank them for their feedback, address their concerns and address the issue. A terse "do it yourself" or "what do you suggest?" is not how I'd play it, because it's my project and hence my responsibility, not theirs. Maybe I just have a different perspective.
Redirect Left wrote:Nice to look like the devs are fully engaged and enthusiastic with all parts.
Agreed. The details matter. And same as Redirect Left, I have no involvement in the development process but would have no issue writing the front page announcements. Anyway, don't want to pull the discussion further away on a tangent.

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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by Alberth »

There was a long discussion on IRC last evening, I didn't follow it all, but what I got out of it is the following.

[ As people unfortunately attach all kinds of conclusions to anything I write due to my label "OpenTTD developer" here,
| I have to add a disclaimer, that I speak only for myself, and not "the devs" or so (a commonly imagined entity that doesn't
| exist in my experience). I am only stating my opinion, where the biggest difference between (most of) you and me is that
| someone was stupid enough to give me commit access to the OpenTTD repository many years ago. ]

What everybody wants from OpenTTD is to be a reliable, long-living, stable program. A second thing that we want is backwards compatibility, it can read files that are more than a decade old, all your old savegames still work today. To a developer, that means the program must be maintainable and robustly built. You want the fundamentally proper solution to a problem, since that is the best way to ensure stability and reliability.

There is another thing that we want, namely we want the program to be extendible. If someone finds a proper solution to daylength eg, it should be added. This also points to fundamentally correct solutions, since these capture the core mechanism well, and are most likely to be a stable foundation to build on in the future.


OpenTTD has developed over 10+ years, and a great many things were added. This always starts with the simple things being done first. This is natural, nobody had a big (yet realistic) vision 10 years ago that we would want daylength, or infra-structure sharing, or a new map-array today. During those 10 years, the developers aged, and their life changed (ie they got out of college, and got a full-time job). The effect of this is that
- There are no small extensions left any more
- The amount of stuff around the program has grown (servers, build farm, wiki, bananas, announcements, news, social media, NML)
- The number of developers decreased from ~10 to ~1 (and I count for around 0.1 at most)

- For emphasis, there is ~1 developer, doing everything in his spare time only.

No wonder things get slow, or announcements fall off the todo-list. I agree it looks sloppy, but with so many things to do, and so little man-power, what would you expect?


The topic here is the new features that seem to stick around in patches forever. It is true we are not well organised in reviewing patches. The biggest problem with almost all of them however, is that they're, frankly, duct-tape and ply-wood. Patches like signals on bridges extend on a barely existing foundation, to the point that it's about to collapse under its own weight. It's fine for prototyping, but not a robust solution that will be extendible into the next decade to whatever we invent in 10 years from now.
Authors of most patches are interested in the feature and only in the feature today. In particular, they have no interest in building a robust solution that is future proof. So when our review comment says "great feature, but we need a solid foundation under it", people simply disappear, once they realize that "solid foundation" means a year or more work before you get to the point of adding the feature.

So to me, reviewing patches is useless. They don't follow trivial requirements like coding standards, and when something looks interesting enough, the solution is always the wrong approach (which is fair enough, I do that too, and need several iterations before I understand the correct solution).
If a comment about coding standards doesn't scare the patch author away, then asking for a proper solution is a sure kill in my experience.


It may look like a bad policy, and we should accept less finished patches. This happened in the past. To get an idea of what happens then, sketch for yourself how you would want to start a new game. Which choices do you need to make, in what order? What information do you need? where can you find that information? Then look at how it is implemented. Does the navigation between the different windows make sense, is it logical? It's not even close, was my conclusion.
As another example, does autorenew versus autoreplace make sense to you as it exists today? Is this how you'd want to have it? Is it logical how groups interact with it? I think not, and groups are totally useless to me.

I gave two examples that are much interface oriented, because they are easy to understand for many users. Nobody ever designed these feature from a global vision, from a user point of view. So you get little corners and hooks all throughout the program that absolutely make no sense if you look at it from the outside. Right now, the "small extensions" are not small anymore, and make no sense at all. If you want to move forward to the next decade, this stuff has to be taken out and rewritten properly.

So yes, you can add todays gimmicks in duct-tape and ply-wood, but you will pay with much more blood sweat and tears in a few years from now, as you realize it's a complete mess, and re-organizing it basically means taking everything out, and rewrite it from scratch, thus throwing away years of work, while spending even more years of work to fix the thing and get a solid foundation for the next features.
This is why adding most patches as they are now is a very bad idea.


A final problem is that the pool of developers seems to have dried up. People capable of developing OpenTTD further prefer to do other things instead.


So this is what I make of todays state of OpenTTD. It's not you against us or so, development is just increasingly more complicated with a decreasing amount of man-power, and an increasing diversity of wishes and desires.

The 1,000,000 dollar question is, how do we turn around the tide??
Unfortunately, I don't have the answer.
Being a retired OpenTTD developer does not mean I know what I am doing.

Yisc
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Re: What is OpenTTD today?

Post by Yisc »

I am mainly a reader on this forum, but this time I want to say thank you to Alberth for this very good answer.
OpenTTD isn't the only game with fast progress in the early years and then going more slowly over time.
There are several projects I am following and they all have the same pattern.
Sometimes speed kicks in again when some new blood comes in, but in other cases the project more or less dies.
Let's hope this won't be the case for OpenTDD (as we all love the game), but if it would happen in the end, all credits to what all the devs have done for it over the years.

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