“Shinkansen” is more of a “love letter” to the people (and railways!) of Japan than an actual game, but hopefully it is still at least mildly challenging and entertaining to play…
You are in charge of orchestrating the progressive replacement of the “conventional” railway of a “Fantasy Japan” (each game takes place on a procedurally generated island that bears little topographical resemblance to the real Land of the Rising Sun) with high-speed “bullet train” lines. Your career spans what could be considered Japan’s “golden era”, the 25 years from 1964 (historical introduction of the first Shinkansen) to 1989.
Each map features 16 cities and the inhabitants’ travel pattern is peculiar: in essence, there are commuters between any two cities identified by adjacent numbers, e.g. between “1” and “2”, between “2” and “3” etc. (“16” and “1” are considered adjacent for that purpose). At the beginning of the game, travelers follow the shortest route using the existing (conventional) rail network (grey lines).
By holding the “Z” key while moving the cursor (rounded coloured rectangle) you can connect two cities with a high-speed train line, following any available route between them (you will not be allowed to move the cursor over “forbidden” terrain). It will not replace the existing conventional railway, only run parallel to it. NB: until “Z” is released, the new route is only “in planning”.
The colour of the cursor is specific to the line, of which there can be up to five: red, green, blue, orange and purple. Once the first section of a line has been opened, it can only be “extended” (i.e. any new section must start at a terminus for that line). You can switch between lines by keeping the “X” key down when pressing the left or right arrow key.
Travelers are rational agents (some would call them AI and they’re almost certainly smarter than Sophia ;-) At the beginning of each journey, they compute the cost/benefit ratio of taking the Shinkansen: in the game, the bullet train is 5 times faster than conventional railway. By default, the cost of the ticket is JPY 5,000 per section, which is 5 times more expensive than a normal ticket. Travelers will opt to take the Shinkansen if and only if the travel time to their destination is divided by at least as much as the fare is multiplied. In other words: for the default factor of 5, only travelers whose cities of origin and destination are both serviced by the bullet train will take it.
For every section traveled by one passenger on the Shinkansen, you earn the equivalent of the fare (JPY 5,000 by default). For every section traveled by one passenger on either railway (i.e. including conventional), you must pay JPY 1,000 maintenance and operations fee. In short: if 100% travelers use the bullet train and the ticket price is JPY 5,000, you earn JPY 4,000 per passenger and per section. If fewer passengers choose the Shinkansen, your margin will shrink accordingly.
Opening one new section costs JPY 1,000,000 and you start the game with a JPY 5,000,000 budget. A new line/section can only be opened if you have enough funds available.
The yellow “post-it” note contains all the relevant information needed to play the game and plan your strategy. On the top left is the year (circled, in red). On the top right is the percentage of all ongoing journeys that use the Shinkansen. The other two numbers below are respectively the annual profit/loss (reset at the beginning of each year) and the current treasury, both in thousands of JPY.
The last section at the bottom of the “post-it” note is the current Shinkansen fare (displayed on a white/green background, my best yet pitiful attempt at reproducing an authentic JR ticket!). You change the fare (by JPY 100 increments/decrements) by holding the “X” key down while pressing the up or down arrow key. By making the necessary calculations, you can adjust it down to attract more passengers, but it will of course reduce your margin. The limits are JPY 1,000 (below which you cannot possibly break even) and JPY 5,000 (above which every traveler will choose the conventional railway over the bullet train).
This is a "sandbox" game, so you set your own objective: get 100% travelers on the Shinkansen, reach the 31,999,000 treasury limit as early as possible, use the fewest possible lines to service the whole country…
The number of travelers increases over time (by one unit every year) to reflect Japan’s booming economy. In Jan 1965, one traveler is added to the population commuting between cities “1” and “2”, in Jan 1966, it’s between “2” and “3” and so forth.
P.S. This project took longer to complete than expected and as a result, the code is rather messy... Sincere apologies to my fellow programmers with higher standards!
Addicting game. There is a bug: the cursor lets you draw a diagonal, and it looks correct in preview but breaks after you build the track.
Played until I got 100% in 1974:
Never been a train buff, but I love the Shinkansen and I wish we had an equivalent here in the States, so something about this makes me feel warm and fuzzy anyway. :)
I like the aesthetic. Nice job on the iconography. I don't know why exactly, but I particularly like the rock garden.
I'm going to Japan next week and was very much planning to play the game on the Shinkansen myself... You beat me to it! ;-)
Thanks for the bugs report. I understand the second one and will try to fix it (should be a simple matter of XORing the "X" and "Z" keys), but not the first. I tried to reproduce it but without success... Does it actually draw a diagonal line (it shouldn't)?
Also: well done for getting 100% by 1974! I am amazed that you managed to earn enough money to build all the lines by that year :-)
And thank you both (Felice and triplefox) for the nice comments :-)
BTW, there is one other elusive bug that I am aware of and haven't been able to fix (yet). It's a tricky one as it has to do with the route selection algorithm and doesn't present itself very often. In some cases, when there's no Shinkansen line on the shortest path between origin and destination, some travelers seem to remain "stuck" on the conventional railway lines even when the ticket price is low enough and they should switch to the faster option. I don't think they're intelligent enough to deliberately choose the scenic route, so that can't be right! ;-)
It's annoying for two reasons: 1) it bugs me and 2) when this happens, you cannot reach 100%
Please let me know if you encounter that problem and post a screenshot if you can...
Here is what the diagonal line does during preview, after placing it, it breaks into horizontal lines. making it do this requires hitting both buttons at exactly the same time
Regarding when the passengers make incorrect decisions, I haven't noticed a case where 100% is impossible, but I have noticed that the game balance is currently such that fares less than 5000 simply are not useful: i assume all shinkansen paths must provide a direct, equal-or-shorter-distance connection to the conventional in order to get any passengers, and once it has that, it gets all of them. this part of the gameplay may just be broken
Both bugs have been fixed. I will post the updated version in the next few days (I want to have another go at fixing the third issue I mentioned). Thanks again for reporting them triplefox. Regarding the broken gameplay: yes, the ticket price adjustment feature is not particularly useful. It can occasionally be called upon to reach 100% toward the end of the game, when you realise there is no shortest-path connection between two cities and have run out of lines to add one (rare case). I could of course make the relationship nonlinear to increase the effect of small fare adjustments, but aren't calculations fastidious enough as it is? At worst, you can ignore this option completely and play the game with a fixed 5,000 price (which is what I tend to do if I'm honest ;-) Comments welcome!
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