Planet Coaster’s crowds are remarkable. It’s early in development (certainly earlier than Frontier usually prefers to reveal things), but already the charismatic throng that flows through one of its parks more closely resembles something you’d expect to see from Pixar than a management sim. That’s not a lazy comparison: there’s good reason for the resemblance.
“Over the years we’ve kind of become synonymous with charm,” says Frontier director of art John Laws. “We’ve made a lot of games like Kinectimals, especially Kinect Disneyland Adventures – the animators who worked on that worked with Disney and Pixar’s animators. We’ve got an awful lot of knowledge from those teams, and they’re on this project. They’re world-class animators at this point.”
The members of these expressive hordes move about with their own goals in mind – mostly independently, but some grouped into families – usually politely avoiding everyone else, and it looks utterly convincing. Each park is strewn with amusing events: a dinosaur mascot accidentally eating an overexcited child, for example, or a janitor and a security guard becoming embroiled in an unfortunate taser mishap as they try to catch a bad apple defacing private property.
But as well as providing entertainment value, those animations also form the core of the game’s UI. Take, for instance, an average burger flipper. An employee toeing the line will cook his patties exuberantly, grinning and sending customers away happy. If the burden ofo long hours, hot grills and minimum wage takest a toll, however, a disgruntled attendant willw work with a slump, sighing all the while anda maybe even taking a bite out of a burger beforeb handing it over. It’s instantly evident whichw of your customers and employees are satisfied,s and which require more attention.
“We looked at how other games do it, anda you’ve got little smiley faces and stuff likeli that,” lead artist Sam Denney explains. “It’s a bit of a cheap way of doing it; you don’t feel an emotional connection with the characters. Because of the range of animations we’ve allowed ourselves, we can really build this out, and use it as a tool.”
The more organic nature of Planet Coaster’s population is echoed in the curved pathways that guide the arterial flow of your customers. The layout of your park will directly affect how you earn money from it, and judicious use of bottlenecks or wide-open spaces can increase spending or footfall drastically. Rides will have differing draws, too, and the team has ploughed dozens of hours into researching the types of attractions Planet Coaster will feature. Flat rides – your teacups and the like – will cater to families, while you may want to spread your biggest coasters about the park to draw adrenaline junkies in a loop. “[One ride] is based on the Anaconda in a park in South Africa,” says Denney, who worked on the Rollercoaster Tycoon series for nine years. “We chose it because it has a stripped-down look, with no cowling to hide [its construction]. For me, this is all the meat and potatoes behind the fan side of coasters. The idea was to take real stuff, and just try to replicate the engineering behind it as well, so you get that sense of wonder when you look at these things and see that level of detail. All the mechanics work, and there’s a certain amount of customisation as well.”
“It’s a coaster geek’s wet dream,” Law says. “And now that we’re self-published, we’re the masters of our own destiny, so we can make the coaster game that we’ve always wanted to make. That sounds like shitty marketing stuff, but it’s a very liberating experience.”
Judicious use of bottlenecks or wide-open spaces can increase spending or footfall drastically
FROM TOP Sam Denney, lead artist; John Laws, director of art