OpenTTD 1.2.0 and the most recent version of av8 have introduced a new property for aircraft in Transport Tycoon; range. Range is implemented in a relatively simple way: it limits the maximum distance between airports in an aircraft’s orders. An “out of range” order will result in the plane refusing to move from its hangar or loading pad.
OpenTTD 1.2.0 also introduces monthly infrastructure maintenance costs, including very high (default) costs for owning airports. Both of these new features are attempts at addressing the perceived imbalance of aircraft in OpenTTD. Aircraft carry large numbers of passengers, very fast, across very long distances with no need for rails or roads to be built in between, and are seen as “money printing machines”. Many multiplayer games ban them altogether.
High infrastructure maintenance costs are not a very good solution, in my opinion, and av8 includes a parameter to reduce them. The specific problem with the air game is that building two airports a long way apart and spamming large aircraft between them invariably earns a lot of money, but infrastructure maintenance costs penalises all aircraft use equally; airports a long way apart cost the same to operate as airports close together, and airports used by one aircraft cost the same as airports used by fifty. The net effect is that previously marginally profitable small aircraft on short routes are no longer viable, while the “money printing” long distance routes are only trivially affected. The air game becomes even less balanced and interesting than it was before.
Range, on the other hand, is a worthwhile addition to the air game, although – if implemented “realistically” – it does nothing to address the problem of spamming large aircraft over long distances, as the largest aircraft tend to also have the longest range. What range does add is a more realistic simulation of the early period of aviation, where aircraft are usable in short hops only. It means as aircraft develop and ranges increase, players will put some thought into redesigning their networks to make use of the greater range, whereas previously the only differentiation between aircraft was capacity and speed, and slow planes were simply replaced with faster and larger ones.
I’ve had a few requests on the forum for a parameter to disable the range property, but on consideration I’ve decided not to do that. The range property is interesting and adds at least a little depth to the gameplay. Allowing players to disable the range of planes makes no more sense to me than allowing them to disable the horsepower of trains or the speed of ships. You’ll all just have to get used to it.
I’ll leave you with one last thought about aircraft balancing. If you, the players and developers of OpenTTD, don’t like how a particular mechanic plays, stop playing with it. We should not be putting our efforts into balancing super-jumbos flying from corner to corner of a 2048* map, because that gameplay isn’t interesting. Instead, we should try and make smaller aircraft, shorter routes and smaller maps more interesting to players.