As soon as we got the team together, he recalls, we went to visit one of the premier theme parks in the UK at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. This wasnt a random choice: Chris Sawyer, the guy who originally created RollerCoaster Tycoon, reckons it has the best mix of different types of rides squeezed into a small place, which was perfect for our research.
Watts adds: We are also fortunate to know John Wardley who, as well as being a real life rollercoaster designer extraordinaire, is full of insights into both ride design and the business aspects of theme parks. Youll find many of Wardleys thoughts scattered throughout the RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 manual.
Thus began the process of building a game that challenges both your ability to design thrilling rides and your skill at managing such a complex operation. To address the former, Watts team made the game 3D for the first time, enabling you to view your park from any angle and zoom in all the way to ground level or zoom out to take in the sights from a birds-eye-view.
[RollerCoaster Tycoon 3] really offers both the classic play to beat the objective and toybox aspect of gaming.- Jonny Watts, senior producer
In addition, the Coaster Cam lets you experience any ride in your park from the point-of-view of a peep, which is how Frontier refers to your customers. My favorite ride is the observation tower, reveals Watts. Although its about as un-extreme as you can get, I just love watching my parks from such a superb vantage point its beautiful.
And when you enter the appropriate code found in our Tips, Tricks and Cheats section, you can also see your park through the eyes of any peep. Another cheat code, named for a famous movie director, gives you access to an in-game camera editor for creating your own theme park videos. Its been used to great effect by amazingly talented and dedicated fans to produce some beautiful and hilarious movies, says Watts.
Meet the Peeps
Those of you who enjoy people watching will also get a kick out the peeps who inhabit the game. While the peeps in previous RollerCoaster Tycoon games were what Watts calls a homogenous fluid that passed through the park, these peeps offer not only unique features and fashion sense but also independent thoughts that you can read to glean insight into your park management skills. You can also create your own peeps and customize groups of them.
Watts adds: We wanted to ramp up the entertainment factor from several perspectives for example, you can see peeps telling jokes, having a kiss and a cuddle, taking pictures with the lens cap on, and so forth, along with kids throwing tantrums.
As well as the joy of individual peep watching, graphically there is also a particular beauty to be had from the presence of such large numbers and their large-scale behavior I think its the first real-sized crowd in a game.
He notes that hes seen up to 26,000 peeps enjoying themselves in a park at the same time, although typically you can expect somewhere between several hundred and a couple thousand visitors during one gameplay session.
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Other changes in RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 include five types of theme parks generic, spooky, sci-fi, western and adventure; photo spots where peeps can snap shots that appear in your Pictures folder; day and night cycles with dynamic lighting; and Fireworks MixMaster, which lets you design your own pyrotechnic displays, accompanied by selections from your iTunes library. In addition, Sandbox mode lets you build the theme park of your dreams with an unlimited amount of funds.
My favorite ride is the observation tower. Although its about as un-extreme as you can get, I just love watching my parks from such a superb vantage point its beautiful.- Jonny Watts
The Best of Both Worlds
Of course, the peeps dont exist simply for entertainment value their reactions to your park tell you whats working and what isnt. Given that you control everything from the price of food and drinks, to how many employees you have on staff, to how much you want to spend on advertising and R&D, youll need to experiment to figure out the mix that keeps peeps happy without putting your operation in the red.
The amount of minutiae under your control also becomes readily apparent when building rollercoasters, which form the main attractions for your theme park but must be designed with a delicate balance in mind. Give peeps too many stomach-churning steep drops and they wont want to ride again; skimp on the thrills and theyll feel the same way. Either result means less revenue for you.
When park management becomes stressful, though, take Watts advice and explore what he calls the games mischievous sense of humor. There are some pretty funny results if you only have one toilet open and hike the price up, he explains, or decide to send peeps to their doom by deleting a section of coaster track just before a car full of screaming peeps hurtles round the bend.
Not that John Wardley would recommend such moves, of course, but they highlight why Watts thinks the RollerCoaster Tycoon series has been so successful: It really offers both the classic play to beat the objective and toybox aspect of gaming, he says.