The existence of an economy in OpenTTD might seem foreboding, but there isn’t anything to be afraid of here at all. There five simple topics we need to cover for our bit on the OpenTTD economy and they are inflation, recession, loans, share trading, and property maintenance.
Let’s start with inflation, and don’t worry, this won’t be a lecture in economics. Put really simply, in the real world, inflation is a sustained increase in the general level of prices for goods and services and is measured as an annual percentage increase. Similarly, in OpenTTD, there is inflation but it is much, much more simple and only exists for cargo payment rates and costs, both of which are different to each other. The inflation rate for costs is equal to the initial interest rate of the game, as determined by the game difficulty, and the cargo payment inflation is slightly below that by about one percent. Also, inflation is limited to the first one hundred and seventy years of game-play, meaning that after this period there is no more inflation.
Next, a recession is generally a significant decline in activity across the economy, lasting longer than a few months, and unless the economy in OpenTTD is set to steady there is a chance that it may go into a recession at some point. During a recession three changes will happen to the economy: the production of industries will be reduced to half of the normal value, the amount of passengers and mail produced by town houses and headquarters will be reduced to half of the normal value, and no new industries will be built. However, recessions don’t last forever and these shouldn’t cause too many problems, so it’s safe to keep them on for some more interesting events in the OpenTTD world.
Loans are really simple in OpenTTD, merely the act of giving money to a another party in exchange for future repayment of the principal amount along with interest or other finance charges, and they can be taken out by any player. The maximum loan varies during the game and is dependent on the company value of the company that is taking out the loan, however, every player usually starts the game with a loan amount of £100,000 to get them started. Interest is paid monthly to the bank at the current interest rate, which does not deviate from the initial interest rate set at the game start according to the difficulty settings. Do remember, though, that buying out a company, which we will get to next, will pass their loan over to us.
In OpenTTD, share trading allows players to participate in the financial achievements of the other companies whose shares they hold but, like the game’s other economic elements, it’s a simplified version. When those other companies are profitable and their company value is increasing, money can be made by selling the appreciated shares at a profit. The downside is that money can be lost if the companies lose money and their company value decreases and the depreciated shares are sold at a loss. As a result, these shares can be used to make a lot of money, if they are bought at the right time. For example, buying shares in a starting company is very cheap but can be risky, because the company might fail and the investment might be lost. On the other hand, if said company flourishes, the investment may be returned hundredfold or even several thousandfold.
In order to get into share trading to begin with, in single player, once a company that is at least six years old has started selling its shares, they may be bought 25% at a time by paying a quarter of the company’s labelled value. They may then be sold at a later date or 100% of the shares may be bought to take over the company, passing over all of the company’s vehicles and their debt to the new owner. However, for multi-player games, a total of 75% of a player’s company may be bought and no more than that as there is no way to take over a rival company run by a human.
Finally, every company is liable for maintaining their properties and for providing the funds to cover the overheads. The expense of property maintenance is directly proportional to the company’s number of stations, regardless of their size. All this means is that that some degree of restraint needs to be exercised when building stations – only build however many are necessary for the system to run efficiently and effectively.