When I was a kid, my favourite game was RollerCoaster Tycoon. It still holds a special place in my heart, and I play it from time to time despite a game from the Windows 98 era having an issue or two on my PC. Why does my nostalgia matter? Well, on the 22nd of March, nearly twelve years after the launch of RCT3, the early alpha for Planet Coaster has launched. I’d like to thank YouTuber UnstableVoltage for the pictures in this article, all came from his let’s play of the alpha.
Though not part of the RollerCoaster Tycoon series, Planet Coaster is being developed by Frontier Developments, the team behind RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 and Elite: Dangerous. Though the game is still a little bit bare at the moment (it is an early alpha, after all), most of the stuff you would expect from a modern sim game is there. Guests are no longer single entities, instead many enter your park as groups of family and friends, and move throughout your park accordingly. Rides can be viewed from pre-set camera angles as they go along, or entered directly by the player to get a bit of the action. Many different rides can be built, and although roller coasters are a bit hidden at the moment (their performance currently isn’t up the the developers’ standards), they can still be accessed for players who want to produce the biggest attractions theme parks have.
Like most modern simulation games, Planet Coaster is spline-based, rather than grid-based. This means that shops, stalls, and rides can be rotated a full 360°, rather than just four cardinal directions. Footpaths and queue lines follow the same model, with the ability to be placed freely at precise angles, or to “snap” to larger, pre-set angles that the player can more easily control. Scenery too, is no longer confined to pre-built structures. Want to design a water fountain? You can do it, and then save if to re-use in a later game, or share with the world. Saving ride blueprints has been around for a while, but it’s a nice touch to see designing and saving move to other aspects of sim games.
On the subject of shops and stalls, they too have gotten an overhaul for a modern game. No longer do you just have “Burger Bar 1” and “Information Kiosk 3”. Instead, players will be able to win over large franchises to come to the park and sell their wares. The generic shops will be the only things available at the start of the game of course, no franchise is going to want to set up at some scrub’s theme park. But as the game goes on and the park gains notoriety, the franchises will start to come out of the proverbial corn field. This offers a few distinct advantages to park creators. Franchises are, of course, popular, and guests will choose what they know. In addition, different franchises have different quality standards, just like in real life. This means that while your generic Burger Bar may just have a limp patty on a soggy bun, the world-famous Happy Hamburgers (I’m making these names up) sells premium burgers at a higher price, and a greater profit.
The Planet Coaster early alpha currently has free build only, so you can build whatever you want without having to worry about money. While there are some bugs, and a lot of things are missing, the game still feels pretty full, especially for a game in version 0.1. It looks excellent as well, and features dynamic colour and lighting. The alpha can currently be purchased from Frontier’s store for $74.99/£49.99/€67.99, and the full game can be pre-ordered for the discounted price of $29.99/£19.99/€26.99. Frontier Developments plans to launch the completed Planet Coaster in Q4 of 2016.
Are you a fan of simulation games? Do you think you’ll pick up Planet Coaster?
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