Chasing Truck Fever Part 3: Spend Less, Earn More

This is part of a series in Transport Fever to chase down the ‘Truck Fever’ achievement. Detailed first in Part 1, including a little setup on Calvin and Asher, who will be used as sort of a light story telling element alongside the game.

Setting up had been expensive. It was true you had to spend money to make money, but even Calvin began to realise that leaving not much more than a fart in the wind of their starting funds for operating expenses was perhaps… not entirely wise.

He had no interest in drawing down another loan, trading on his father’s name, but had allowed Asher to draw up the documents even so. It provided the fellow with a little peace of mind, so was worth the irritation. The hope was that in a few months the document could be ripped up.

And for a while, things were good. There was a celebratory round of drinks held as the loan contracts were torn and sent sprinkling out onto the street like confetti.

But perhaps this celebration was premature. As the wagons they owned aged, and horses died and needed replacing at ever increasing rates — the operating costs began to soar, while the income remained steady given the decision to hold off on capital expenses while a financial buffer was built.

It became clear to Calvin and Asher that it would be necessary to start a programme of work to replace the current fleet just to maintain position. After a quick discussion with the local banking office — there was some good news at least. They were prepared to tolerate a small degree of running in the red for operating expenses. Nothing could be purchased mind you without a positive balance, but there was a gentleman’s agreement in place not to come in pursuit of their assets for slight dips.

But otherwise, from there began a series of frustrations and pain. After a flurry of initial replacements — which did drop operating costs for a time — a significant advancement in how these cargo wagons are put together released to market. They could hold more AND travel faster. They required a larger horse team and so cost more to operate, but the speed and cargo increase more than made up for this expense.

Except… It didn’t. The problem was in sharing the road with the older wagons. There was no room to safely pass with the heavy stream of traffic in both directions. And so they were more often that not stuck riding at the heals of a slower traveler.

Asher tried hard to keep his worries to himself, but wore an unconscious frown more often than not. Calvin spent most nights in the bar nursing a drink. They both knew what they had to do, but struggled to put it to words.

Without additional capital, sure, they could keep this business going — but growth…? It seems they had failed at both aspects of the current plan. They were spending just as much if not more to keep the fleet up to date and running smoothly, and not earning more in turn.

Calvin downed his now mostly warm beer in a single chug and got up to leave. He wasn’t happy, per se, but at least with the decision made he could feel more resolute. Tomorrow he and Asher would take another loan and expand their area of control with all modern technology. Ideally on the power of his own name. But he had decided he would draw in his father’s if necessary.

Chasing Truck Fever Part 2: Permit to Roll

This is part of a series in Transport Fever to chase down the ‘Truck Fever’ achievement. Detailed first in Part 1, including a little setup on Calvin and Asher, who will be used as sort of a light story telling element alongside the game.

Calvin blew out an exasperated breath, stepping out from the bureaucratic prison that was the permit office. The sun rode much higher in the sky than it had when he entered that morning. Midday at least. So not years of his life lost after all. Just several hours. Asher emerged next and blew a near identical sigh. “I’m not entirely sure, Sir, whether our ordeal at sea or our ordeal in there,” Asher said with a nod back toward the ornate wooden doors, “was worse.”

A slight pause in Calvin’s step was the only sign, but Asher caught it. He opened his mouth to apologise but Calvin turned first, and with a tight smile said, “The sea. Definitely the sea. As odious as being in there was, I at least knew we would leave alive.” Calvin’s smile grew broader and a little more genuine, “I was pretty sure, at least.”

The pair walked back through the streets of Long Beach to where they had setup shop. A small office above the general goods store. Apparently Long Beach was a big town so far as this frontier land, but it was hard to avoid drawing comparisons to back home. There were almost no horse drawn carts. Porters at best had hand-wagons. Armed with the sheath of papers obtained from the permit office and a modest capital investment from Calvin’s father — it was time to get to work, building a logistics network the likes of this country had never seen.

Probably worth noting…

Time in Transport Fever is a little… odd. It’s not uncommon by any means for the genre, but time runs significantly faster than the actual distances traveled would indicate. From a story perspective, I’ll probably consider ~10 years game time to be ~1 year of passed time for the characters… Somehow. We’ll see how it goes. ;)

It was time to order construction of a vehicle depot and a few freight stations. However this didn’t completely go without incident. Asher thought it best to spend minimally and construct the passenger depot at the edge of town, with stagecoach stops in the town to cart people back and forth.

Calvin wanted to place the passenger depot in the town centre. Become part of the hustle and bustle. Sure it meant paying through the nose to take over a couple of properties, but one day that would pay back.

The conversation grew heated, but ultimately Calvin won. They called it a compromise through placing the freight depots on the edge of town in uncontested land. But the passenger depots were placed right in the middle, and Calvin wore the smile.

Then it was a matter of getting the oil line up and running. Something like this:

With the infrastructure in place and the plans drawn up for the routes. There was just one thing left to put in place.

Lots and lots of horses — pulling a variety of passenger carriages and freight wagons.

The company bank account at the end of the (game 10) year period was a meagre $17.5k, down from their starting pool of $1.2m.

It seemed to paint a poor picture. It certainly worried Asher to no end to not to have a healthier amount left over for operating expenses. Capital expenditure was all good and well, but one poor year or unexpected need for replacements could destroy them.

Calvin understood he was driving them close to the wire, but there was still demand taking far too long to fill. The balance sheets with capital expenditure removed were positive and that was good enough for him. He was beyond loathe to admit it, but in the back Calvin’s mind was always the knowledge that he could trade on his father’s name for a significant degree of local investment in the way of loans if it really came to it.

He would rather walk backwards, barefoot over coals than to do so. But it was an option. Still, it was clearly weighing on his friend. … Huh. Friend. The thought still took him by surprise at times. Asher was currently looking down at the maps in their office with the frown that had become his constant companion.

“Look Asher,” Calvin started, “We’ll slow down our rate of purchase of more horse teams. Build a bit of a buffer in our books again. But soon after,” he paused with a gleam entering his eye, “We should look to extend our reach to another town.”

Chasing Truck Fever Part 1: Planning

So uh… Here’s something I didn’t know until it was too late. Out of curiosity about what the later game technology looks like, I started a custom game in the year 2000. As the achievements started rolling in for various ‘not going bankrupt milestones’ over the years, I realised the mistake.

Unfortunately, the achievement I had been planning on aiming for (Penny Pincher) also streamed by with an automatic completion. Honestly, I felt a wee bit cheated! No doubt, it was my mistake. But I had assumed (incorrectly) that part of the achievement requirements would be not to have started in, or after, the year you had to reach for it.

Not to worry though, I scanned through the achievements yet to be earned and found the following interesting one:

I did a bit of research and despite the name, in addition to Trucks you’re allowed to use boats, trams and even air if you get that far. Just not trains.

You’re also required to have 50 million in the bank all at one time, it’s not enough to have simply earnt 50 million over time without trains.

So this will be the first goal I strive for! :)

Setting Up and Surveying the Land

I set the map to use a USA base for its generation. World size is Huge, in a 1:2 ratio of width:length, terrain type is Hilly (there is another achievement I may want to go for after finishing up with Truck Fever). The year is 1850 and the difficulty is Hard.

Might need to click through for detail.

I found a near perfect starting location. Long Beach — the centre town shown on the river bank, between the blue lines (my planned primary trucking line) — is, by 1850 standards, a monster. It has a population of almost 250 before I’ve even done anything.

First order of business will be to setup passenger services between Long Beach and the two neighbour cities. Gilbert on the left, and Green Bay on the right.

Following the purple lines I traced out, there are three more towns. Muuuch smaller than Long Beach. But could still be given the chance to grow with a passenger transit service if I can afford to set them up.

Then the green line. My plan when putting this together was to create a river shipping line from the crude oil source to the refinery, then returning with the fuel to then truck to the nearby cities with preference going to Long Beach’s development first.

I’m beginning to second guess this idea though. On the return ship with the processed fuel, the ship lines would not be directly paid. They are expensive to run and I’d still need cargo wagons to distribute. If I need them anyway, then I might just skip the ships entirely.

We’ll see. When (if) I get into a comfortable money position I might simply test it out and pull up stakes quickly if it isn’t looking like a profitable move.

The area presents other long term opportunities, even just with what’s in view of the screenshot! I can see Coal and Iron readily available for metal beams, I can use the refined oil product to create plastics and then bring these together for consumer goods.

Finding the Story’s Voice

I’ve been thinking a bit about how I want to tell this story, too.

The main idea I keep coming back to is a pair of fellows, fresh imports from Britain. One, a son of a successful Transport Tycoon. The other his manservant and advisor.

When I was going for Penny Pincher (and I still might pretend for the game’s sake I haven’t achieved it), I had thought the story to be that the father had loaned the initial ~$1.2m in capital and said no more. Failure was not an option.

Succeed or watch the inheritance go to his younger brother.

The son would be essentially a good fellow, but given to flights of fancy and ego projects if left unchecked. His name is… Calvin Carter. (Thank-you British Name Generator.)

Calvin and his manservant — Asher Morris is his name — have been together since Calvin was a young child. They are of a similar age, but have never been what you would call close. Until the journey over by ship. The seas were beyond rough. Passengers were lost.

Whether it is sheer survival of a shared experience, or that they each remind the other of a home now left far beyond, they bonded beyond class. Calvin respects Asher’s opinion and will generally at least listen.

The rest we’ll have to discover as we go. :)