Jack Franklin

OnTrack devlog 1

If you were to look at my Steam library you would see that most of my games are strategy and logistics based (think Factorio) but with a healthy dose of transport methods and networks (think Transport Fever 2 and OpenTTD).

I've always wanted a very specific, niche game focusing on building passenger networks that simulate how passengers travel - something I have never quite been satisifed with in OpenTTD, Transport Fever 2, and other games that I've played. I like the logistical challenge of moving cargo around, but it didn't interest me as much as the idea of moving people across a map. So, I decided to build it...

Meet OnTrack

For over two years I have been working on an in-browser, web technology based game all about running train networks and optimising them for passenger satisfaction and financial revenue. It's far from complete, but also at the point where it sort of looks like a game, and a couple of people have been able to spend some hours on it. There is no end state, and a lot of work needs to go into the longevity of the game, but this is what it looks like...

remember, this is far from finished, or even polished :)

In future posts, I will dive more into each of the systems the game has to provide a (hopefully!) challenging and enjoyable experience for players. In this post I'll give you a very quick overview.

First, you start a new game. Here you have a few options, but you're mainly rerolling until you get a start you're happy with:

Starting a new game

Once you have a new game, you are taken into the main UI and the game map:

A new blank map

The goal here is to begin to connect towns with track, at which point you can run routes and trains on them. At the start of the game you are given some nudges with a contract - the completion of which earns you a reward:

The contracts view

This contract is usually a hint at where to start, because you have limited time to do so...

The engineering window

In most logistics games at any point you can pause the game, make changes, and then start it up. You can avoid a huge issue by pausing and editing your track or your orders before it goes awry. I wanted to avoid that in OnTrack, which is why each night during the engineering window users are given a limit on how many changes they can make. Once that window is done, trains run during the day and you cannot alter anything!

During the first night, your best bet is to use your changes (in the very first window of the game you get more, to enable you to get started) to connect towns with track:

Placing track

Once track is placed, you can then create a route. When creating a route you set its schedule, train size and more:

Placing track

But it's important not to run empty trains! These will cost you money and not make any revenue. To avoid this, you can click on each town to view where and when passengers want to travel:

Town demand

And once you run trains, you will see them going along the track:

Town demand

Making money

But ultimately, like any game, the goal of OnTrack is to make sure your company is successful, and one axis to judge any company on is its revenue. In OnTrack you can break down your ins and outs and see where you are making (or losing) money. First the daily summary will give you a high level overview (each of these parts will be explored in future blog posts):

Town demand

Before you can use the financial view to get a more detailed look at the ins and outs:

Town demand

The plans for OnTrack and this blog

I do not pretend to think that OnTrack will ever be a roaring success, but I genuinely have always wanted a game like this for years and I think for a niche audience this could be an enjoyable experience.

Right now I'm focusing on fleshing out the required features that would allow me to call this game properly playable (with rough edges). The game is entirely browser based and currently that's how it's built and played. Long term once I hit a "v1" I'd liek to package it up - either with Electron, Tauri or some other wrapper around web technologies.

As for this blog, I hope to blog semi-regularly with updates as I build out certain features, or explore systems that I'm implementing.