From January to June of 1999, I produced six completed Maps for Railroad Tycoon II. I wrote a strategy guide on the community forums, one piece of advice at a time, which Chuck Barkman collected for me and hosted at his RT2 fansite. I also wrote a tutorial for mapmaking and another for using the scripting language built in to the editor for creating custom events.
PopTop Software, developer of Railroad Tycoon II, is a small company, led by designer-programmer Phil Steinmeyer. Franz Felsl conducted relations between the company and the fans, and he became my benefactor inside PopTop. Franz liked my work a lot, said that he appreciated my twist on game balance. He thought it would benefit their expansion pack to outsource some map development to me and he floated the idea past Mr. Steinmeyer. Franz told me the notion was considered but did not win approval.
Franz wanted me to continue to produce maps for RT2 and offered me a free copy of the expansion if I would commit to doing that, but I turned him down. I can't blame the guy for trying. I appreciate that he was looking out for me as best he could, but making maps for RT2 was hard work and few could do it well. I might have continued with it -- I had a blockbuster seventh map in the works, a truly grand scenario -- but RT2 ran out of time. In summer of 1999, Descent 3 was released, and Descent was always my passion.
If PopTop had hired me, I'm sure I would have been able to help them. However, it is probably for the best (for me) that they did not, as my entry into the industry would have been as a scenario maker. I could have been happy doing that sort of work, but fate may have had bigger things in store for me.
I moved on to Beta Testing D3edit instead, and Making maps for Descent 3. I got so busy with that, I did not even end up buying the Railroad Tycoon II expansion pack. I know I missed out on good fun there, but I had plenty of fun with Descent 3 instead. Then Diablo II came out in 2000, and so I continued to be too occupied to make time for the RT2 expansion. After that, it was too late to go back, in my mind.
In spring 2001, I heard from Franz again. PopTop wanted to buy all of my maps for inclusion into the Platinum Edition of RT2. Since these were already in the public domain and I had no other way to profit from them, and I knew that fans would enjoy playing them, I went ahead and sold the maps to PopTop. I made them to be played, and that was the best way to get them more play time.
I inquired again with Franz about working for PopTop making maps, and he checked again with Mr. Steinmeyer, but the answer was still no. Their game Tropico had been a big hit for them and they were riding high. Railroad Tycoon III did not do quite as well, though. I'm sure I could have helped them out, gained them a lot more business than it would have cost them to hire me, but so it goes. I still wish them well. Mr. Steinmeyer is a top designer and I'm sure he'll have many more successes to come. Perhaps our paths will cross again some day, and the third time will be the charm.
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