Planet Coaster



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

Pub­lisher/devel­oper Fron­tier De­vel­op­ments For­mat PC Ori­gin UK Re­lease 2016

FROM TOP Sam Den­ney, lead artist; John Laws, di­rec­tor of art

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