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Thread: What makes RCTW great, and what makes it fail - The longest thing you've read on here

  1. #1

    Post What makes RCTW great, and what makes it fail - The longest thing you've read on here

    Hi,

    First of all, thanks for opening my thread. This is going to be a long one, and to start of, I would like to introduce myself:

    My name is McWaffel, I'm an IT student a in Germany and currently working as a systems administrator. I design* games as a hobby and got good feedback from all sorts of people about them.

    *game design as in concept and balance of a game, rather than graphics (although I did that too).

    Roller coaster tycoon has always been a great passion of mine. I've played all three games thoroughly and therefor see myself qualified enough to comment on them as well as capture the essence of the franchise and let that influence my ideas and imaginations for the new game.

    At this point you're probably thinking "what the hell is this guy talking about!?"
    We need to go way back to the first game, to really understand what I'm trying to say here:

    The first game was very pure and simple. It was extremely well balanced, focused and straight forward. Even though all the guests looked the same, it really didn't take away from the game at all. Yes, obviously this only works in a sprite-based world, with limited camera control, but the peeps were somehow yet still very "alive", if you know what I mean. The same goes with the surrounding world. The whole game as a package was incredibly satisfying to watch, play and experience as a whole, because of fine details like the consistency of the graphics, sounds and "physics". We call this, the atmosphere of the game. And boy did the first game have an atmosphere!

    What exactly made this game a satisfying package, you might ask. It's not that simple, but to try to understand, here are some examples:
    The mood of the game is consistent. It always feels welcoming, yet challenging but not demanding. This is due to a well thought through set of pre rendered sprites, that all fell like they belong in this pixel world, the merry go round music, that sounds like it was written for that game, even though they're all classical songs, the consistency of the sound effects, starting from the clicking on menu buttons, over the rumbling of the coasters, to the flushing of the toilet stalls. Again: they all sound like they belong to this pixel world. And of course: the balance of the game. This is probably the most important aspect of the game! An example: the cost of a roller coaster, compared with the amount of customers it will attract to the park was very cleverly implemented. It really didn't matter that much to achieve the scenario objectives, because making money, investing money (yes, I'm deliberately saying investing (think about it)) and entertaining your guests alone was so satisfying, that there was no need for completing the scenario in order to have fun. The only reason for completion was to make progress within the game (e.g. unlocking new maps to play on).

    The second game, is pretty much exactly like the first (which is why I'll keep it short here), except for some nice additions and a few really terrible design decisions. All the new rides and shops and AI improvements were great, for starters. Except for having unlocked all the levels right at the beginning of the game. This takes away the sense of making progress. Before, the reason for completing objectives was to unlock new, mysterious maps with new, exciting challenges to take on, as you get more skillful. Now, there's no point in completing the levels, except for the sake of having completed the levels, which is not really all that satisfying. As for the levels themselves, they weren't really that challenging, compared to the first game. Except for these two flaws, it's a pretty awesome game!

    Okay so far so good. From now on it gets a little hairy, but stick with me here! Roller coaster tycoon 3, is not a bad game - but it's not great either. I think we all know that. Yes, the step into the 3D world was the right thing to do, and the technology behind it was incredible (I'll get into detail in a minute). But unlike the two first games, this game had no atmosphere and no soul. And the worst about it, it's simply not fun. Don't get me wrong, it's not boring at all, it's just not fun in the same way the other two were. It feels really emotionally bland and dull. "But why, McWaffel? Stop hating!" You might say now, but let me make my point first, and maybe you'll agree, maybe not.

    I've been playing RCT3 (again) for the past week, to get a feel of what RCTW can become. And what we can learn from the second sequel of the franchise.
    When RCT3 came out in - I believe - 2004, my expectations were off the scale (maybe that's why I have such a problem with it? I don't know..). I bought the game the second it launched and although I had some fun with it, it wasn't really RCT anymore. What was wrong? Was it the graphics? The sounds/music? The balance of the game?
    It was a bit of all three. If you've been following this post since the beginning, you remember how I talked about things "feeling like they belong" to somewhere. In RCT3 that wasn't the case. Let's start from the bottom and work our way up:

    The technology behind the game was incredible! It was amazing to see an engine being able to handle so many moving, and animated polygons at the same time, in such a beautiful way. The graphics were decent but somehow always seemed broken. Adding "night time" was a really cool addition, except for the problem that the technology wasn't ready. The lighting in the game was - not good. It looked like the game was trying to look realistic but failed at doing so. The game looked pretty good at day though. The music in the game was - for the most part - rather unspectacular, uninspiring and boring. There were a few great tracks, like "flat head four" or "prairie rider" (If I remember the names correctly). Those were awesome and added lots of atmosphere to the rides. The sound effects in the game weren't any good either. As for the older games, the sound effects - even though were extremely simple - felt like they belonged to that world. In RCT3 they sounded like they tried to be realistic, but were produced without love and care, like in the older games. Most noticeable is the direct comparison of rollercoaster sounds in the old games (change in pitch with speed) and RCT3 (no change, same sound looped continuously). Again, these are just some examples. There's a LOT more to it, so much in fact, you could write a book about it.
    Let's now turn our attention to the guests, now called peeps. Back in the old games, the peeps were all genderless, same-looking sprites that yet somehow had a funny walk and were entertaining to watch wandering around your park. In the new games, the addition of different aged guests, groups, couples and so on was really cool. It gave the game a feel of diversity. The guests didn't feel authentic though. They had no aura, no emotion to them. You just simply didn't care about them. They seemed a bit too comic for the world around them, yet the world was not comic enough to fit them in. The atmosphere of the game seemed to be lost somewhere between realism and comic. For some reason the same problem reoccurs for the rides. They too, didn't feel authentic. I loved how the different themes were designed and thought trough, but maybe there were just too many. The new ride entrances looked a bit weird, compared to the ticket houses from the old games, but were still nicely designed with the different themes the game offered, and that was really cool.
    Lastly I want to talk about the balance in RCT3. This is a difficult part. For the most part, the game was balanced quite well. Ticket prices vs. investment costs seemed fair, although roller coasters seemed not to bring in the money that they would cost you. Also, in RCT3 peeps seemed to stay in your park forever, which became apparent when ever you had a pay-per-entry park. Because the game has a cap of how many peeps can visit the park at once, and barely leave at all, your park is destined for bankruptcy. In the old games however, people would frequently leave the park, and if you didn't build any new rides for a few months, your park rating would drop and the amount of guests in your park would drop too. This doesn't seem to happen in RCT3, as I left the park running on high speed for a year of in-game time (to get money to pay off the loan) and didn't build any new rides. My park rating was almost unaffected and my peep-count was pretty constant. I didn't like that. It made the game too easy, yet I wasn't earning enough money to be able to pump out new rides every few months. Could that be why it was balanced that way? I don't know. Now to something that I didn't really think about much before the third game - micro management. While in the old games, you were able to set the prices for rides, entrance fees and stall usage, in the third game you were given the same freedom. Plus more. And that brings me to my next issue. Although the addition of more drink, food and non-food items per stall was higher (e.g. 100g Burger, 200g Burger...) it was rather annoying to set the price for every item. Mostly, because the buttons were tiny. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

    to be continued...

  2. #2
    PART 2:

    For every ride, you'd have the same standard colors: Blue, Yellow and Red that defined the paint of the rides. While it's really cool to be able to change a bunch of colors on the rides, it was really annoying to do it three times, for each, the track, the trains and the waiting line path. And again, the buttons were tiny and made everything overly annoying to use. Although you don't actually have to change any colors, since it only affects the visuals and not the game, as a perfectionist like me, you'd spend a considerable amount of time picking colors. And this leeds to yet another issue:
    You're so busy doing all these little micro-management things, that it distracts from the actual game, the enjoyment of building rides, scenery and coasters and watching your peeps enjoy them, and see your theme park getting bigger and earning money. Another thing I'd put into this category is the addition of VIP's. Although the idea is nice, it doesn't add to the experience of RCT. Instead, it's yet another micro-management thing you have to consider, since it's rather easy to fulfill your VIP's wishes. All you really do is set a few waypoints and wait for the VIP to arrive and leave again.
    The last feature I want to talk about in this part, is the "ride the coasters" feature. When the game was announced, I was hyped to build coasters and ride them, but was quickly fed up doing so. It doesn't add value to the game, and is rather a nice gimmick you use a few times before you get bored of it. Why? Because RCT is a simulation, not a toy. And RCT3 - unfortunately - tried to be a toy, rather than the economic simulation it should have been.


    But enough of the things that didn't go so well in RCT3, now more of the positive things: What I loved about RCT3 the most, are the scenarios. They are simply brilliant! There's no way to say it. The scenarios in RCT3 are by MILES the best ones in the entire series (so far, I hope). The use of scenery and the love to detail on some maps is pretty impressive. I especially loved the palace and the deserted desert town. They did look very authentic and had brilliant atmosphere. As in the first part of game series, you start of pretty easy with a rather small, flat park and quickly build up to more challenging landscapes. This is exactly what makes RCT3 - in fact also RCT1 - great. The diversity and excitement of unlocking new, awesome to look at scenarios, that invite the player to pause the game and have a look around. This is exactly what kept me playing the game so much. The scenarios and their scenery. This then seems to be an important aspect in the feel of the game.




    And finally... RCTW.
    If you've followed the text until here, I'm proud of you. I hope you see my point. Now, I'll try to focus what we've learned to far and try to reflect it onto RCTW.


    As we know, the atmosphere of the game has to be consistent. This means that graphics, sounds, music, physics and balance all have to feel like they belong to this virtual world. As I looked at the latest screenshot of RCTW (the one with the coaster station and curved paths) I was really impressed with the graphics. Although - again - there are hints that - again - we're trying to adapt the look of realism and cartoon mixed together which didn't work out so well in RCT3. This mix CAN go well, if done right. Again, all the elements in the game must fit well together. There has to be one continuous line to follow.
    The simulation aspect of the game was neglected in RCT3 and must by all means be revived in RCTW. This is more important than being able to ride a coaster. But simulation doesn't necessarily mean it has to by hyper realistic. RCT1 was not realistic, yet the simulation was very convincing. Concluded: more simulation, less toy-box.
    The developers must focus less on adding new features, but more on making existing features fair and fun. We don't REALLY need beveled wheels for coasters, if things like the buttons for changing ticket prices are hideously small (as an example). I'm sure the dev's working on this game are pro's and they know what they're doing - but pro's are humans too and they too can loose focus of what's important, once the imaginations get flowing and ideas come out the head like a fountain - I know that feeling just too well


    Make the peeps lovable again. The old games had these adorably (almost clumsy) looking pixel people walking around. They were very fun to look at. Bring back this "fun to look at". One good example from the 3D world, is the park inspector. He's the only character in RCT3 with charisma and aura. He's very well done. Looks very authentic and funny. This is what we need more - not more inspectors - more interesting, charismatic peeps.


    The curved paths give me headaches. They only work if you can place food stalls, scenery objects and other things along side them, and not only if the paths are straight. Otherwise this feature again adds nothing to the game's value.


    Remember that awesome scenarios are important! Make all sorts of different terrains to build on. Flat ones, tall ones, deep ones, hilly ones, mountainous, islands - What ever you can come up with - the possibilities are endless! Get inspired by the parks from RCT1 and 3. We need more of that.


    Take these key elements that I've pointed out, and check if you have them. You have the power to make this the best part of the series - yes it is possible! I know, Mattlab: Time is of the essence, because you have a deadline and your supervisors want you to be done on time. Make clear to them that in gaming your priorities shouldn't be money, they should be the art. Game design, programming, graphics and sound design are all arts. You're all artists and you shouldn't make money a priority at all. I know this is a silly thing to say, but that's really what games should be. We waited 10+ years for a sequel, and I think we could wait another year or two, if the game needs it. Rome wasn't built in a day either.


    Also I absolutely love how you integrate the community so much in the process - this is really time consuming and I'm delighted that you take the time to make this happen.


    There are millions of things I could continue to suggest for the new game, but that would literally take days or weeks to write. This alone took me a good 3 or 4 hours


    If you agree with what I'm talking about here or have additional comments/ideas please feel free to share them and discuss this extra-long post. But please be considerate, that this is only my opinion. Everyone has their own.


    Thanks for reading!


    Best regards,
    McWaffel

  3. #3
    Awesome post!!!! One thing I would love to see in RCTW is to drop the cartoonish style and go complete realism. For your comments on the music....I feel like it was actually pretty good.

  4. #4
    Super Member magicart87's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by McWaffel View Post
    PART 2:

    For every ride, you'd have the same standard colors: Blue, Yellow and Red that defined the paint of the rides. While it's really cool to be able to change a bunch of colors on the rides, it was really annoying to do it three times, for each, the track, the trains and the waiting line path. And again, the buttons were tiny and made everything overly annoying to use. Although you don't actually have to change any colors, since it only affects the visuals and not the game, as a perfectionist like me, you'd spend a considerable amount of time picking colors. And this leeds to yet another issue:
    You're so busy doing all these little micro-management things, that it distracts from the actual game, the enjoyment of building rides, scenery and coasters and watching your peeps enjoy them, and see your theme park getting bigger and earning money. Another thing I'd put into this category is the addition of VIP's. Although the idea is nice, it doesn't add to the experience of RCT. Instead, it's yet another micro-management thing you have to consider, since it's rather easy to fulfill your VIP's wishes. All you really do is set a few waypoints and wait for the VIP to arrive and leave again.
    The last feature I want to talk about in this part, is the "ride the coasters" feature. When the game was announced, I was hyped to build coasters and ride them, but was quickly fed up doing so. It doesn't add value to the game, and is rather a nice gimmick you use a few times before you get bored of it. Why? Because RCT is a simulation, not a toy. And RCT3 - unfortunately - tried to be a toy, rather than the economic simulation it should have been.


    But enough of the things that didn't go so well in RCT3, now more of the positive things: What I loved about RCT3 the most, are the scenarios. They are simply brilliant! There's no way to say it. The scenarios in RCT3 are by MILES the best ones in the entire series (so far, I hope). The use of scenery and the love to detail on some maps is pretty impressive. I especially loved the palace and the deserted desert town. They did look very authentic and had brilliant atmosphere. As in the first part of game series, you start of pretty easy with a rather small, flat park and quickly build up to more challenging landscapes. This is exactly what makes RCT3 - in fact also RCT1 - great. The diversity and excitement of unlocking new, awesome to look at scenarios, that invite the player to pause the game and have a look around. This is exactly what kept me playing the game so much. The scenarios and their scenery. This then seems to be an important aspect in the feel of the game.




    And finally... RCTW.
    If you've followed the text until here, I'm proud of you. I hope you see my point. Now, I'll try to focus what we've learned to far and try to reflect it onto RCTW.


    As we know, the atmosphere of the game has to be consistent. This means that graphics, sounds, music, physics and balance all have to feel like they belong to this virtual world. As I looked at the latest screenshot of RCTW (the one with the coaster station and curved paths) I was really impressed with the graphics. Although - again - there are hints that - again - we're trying to adapt the look of realism and cartoon mixed together which didn't work out so well in RCT3. This mix CAN go well, if done right. Again, all the elements in the game must fit well together. There has to be one continuous line to follow.
    The simulation aspect of the game was neglected in RCT3 and must by all means be revived in RCTW. This is more important than being able to ride a coaster. But simulation doesn't necessarily mean it has to by hyper realistic. RCT1 was not realistic, yet the simulation was very convincing. Concluded: more simulation, less toy-box.
    The developers must focus less on adding new features, but more on making existing features fair and fun. We don't REALLY need beveled wheels for coasters, if things like the buttons for changing ticket prices are hideously small (as an example). I'm sure the dev's working on this game are pro's and they know what they're doing - but pro's are humans too and they too can loose focus of what's important, once the imaginations get flowing and ideas come out the head like a fountain - I know that feeling just too well


    Make the peeps lovable again. The old games had these adorably (almost clumsy) looking pixel people walking around. They were very fun to look at. Bring back this "fun to look at". One good example from the 3D world, is the park inspector. He's the only character in RCT3 with charisma and aura. He's very well done. Looks very authentic and funny. This is what we need more - not more inspectors - more interesting, charismatic peeps.


    The curved paths give me headaches. They only work if you can place food stalls, scenery objects and other things along side them, and not only if the paths are straight. Otherwise this feature again adds nothing to the game's value.


    Remember that awesome scenarios are important! Make all sorts of different terrains to build on. Flat ones, tall ones, deep ones, hilly ones, mountainous, islands - What ever you can come up with - the possibilities are endless! Get inspired by the parks from RCT1 and 3. We need more of that.


    Take these key elements that I've pointed out, and check if you have them. You have the power to make this the best part of the series - yes it is possible! I know, Mattlab: Time is of the essence, because you have a deadline and your supervisors want you to be done on time. Make clear to them that in gaming your priorities shouldn't be money, they should be the art. Game design, programming, graphics and sound design are all arts. You're all artists and you shouldn't make money a priority at all. I know this is a silly thing to say, but that's really what games should be. We waited 10+ years for a sequel, and I think we could wait another year or two, if the game needs it. Rome wasn't built in a day either.


    Also I absolutely love how you integrate the community so much in the process - this is really time consuming and I'm delighted that you take the time to make this happen.


    There are millions of things I could continue to suggest for the new game, but that would literally take days or weeks to write. This alone took me a good 3 or 4 hours


    If you agree with what I'm talking about here or have additional comments/ideas please feel free to share them and discuss this extra-long post. But please be considerate, that this is only my opinion. Everyone has their own.


    Thanks for reading!


    Best regards,
    McWaffel
    ↑ This! ↑

    In all seriousness; that "novel" above sums up most of my concerns for RCTW. Detail where there shouldn't be, Lack of detail where there should be, Lost RCT Charm and Character. Art Direction is my biggest pet-peeve with this game, as is. Consistency and a clear visual identity is still to be determined. There's a lack of love and fun to be had in those screenshots. It's all very sterile, IMO. I should mention that gameplay is equally important to me! I hope the developers explore, in depth what made each game in the franchise fun to play and what didn't quite live up to the original game's wonderment. I look forward to being both surprised and excited by this franchise again. It's clear to me, at least from what we've been shown, that the overall tone of this game has a clear departure from it's pinnacle predecessor. I remain hopeful that the games I played -- and this game will still share similarities. "RCT World" is after all a RollerCoaster Tycoon game...
    Last edited by magicart87; 07-13-2015 at 08:28 PM.

  5. #5
    It all just really depends how the game is executed. I really hope they can pull of simulation and theme park realism at the same time and still keep the charm. It's possible, look at Cities Skylines. It's the perfect example of how a simulation game should look in 2015.

  6. #6
    Passive Peep JayB_Yolo's Avatar
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    You are right on the fact that RCT3 was cartoonistic and less realistic. I hope that the game focus more on realism. Themes could be a part of future updates as it will keep the hype going on. Even till now I have seen no proof of our ideas being implemented in game(except curved paths and stations but they were expected anyways). I hope that soon we will be able to see some ingame footage rather than just screenshots.
    (and one more thing,is it true that colledges in Germany are free for foreign students? )

  7. #7
    First of all, thanks for the feedback guys. I'm impressed that some people took the time to read my "novel"

    Quote Originally Posted by magicart87 View Post
    [...]
    Detail where there shouldn't be, Lack of detail where there should be, Lost RCT Charm and Character. [...] Consistency and a clear visual identity is still to be determined. There's a lack of love and fun to be had in those screenshots. It's all very sterile, IMO. I should mention that gameplay is equally important to me! I hope the developers explore, in depth what made each game in the franchise fun to play and what didn't quite live up to the original game's wonderment. I look forward to being both surprised and excited by this franchise again. It's clear to me, at least from what we've been shown, that the overall tone of this game has a clear departure from it's pinnacle predecessor. I remain hopeful that the games I played -- and this game will still share similarities. "RCT World" is after all a RollerCoaster Tycoon game...
    Couldn't have said it better myself. There's so little information at the moment, that it's really hard to make out anything about the new game. One screenshot is not nearly enough to see if they are going in the right direction with the game. It can give away lots of small hints though.

    Quote Originally Posted by JayB_Yolo View Post
    [...]
    (and one more thing,is it true that colledges in Germany are free for foreign students? )
    Yes, they are.

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