For anyone who remembers gaming in the ‘90s, you’ll probably have fond memories of the Nintendo 64, collecting PC magazines that gave us free game demos and a time when Sega was still a contender in the consoles war. (Just!) Today the highest grossing games seem to be the ones with the highest kill count and the most blood and gore, but 20 years ago a plumber hitting bricks with his head was as badass as we wanted.
Point and click adventures were all the rage with Broken Sword, Grim Fandango and Gabriel Knight all firm favourites. The Sims and Sim City gained a huge fan base and became the catalyst for a variety of simulation games including Caesar, Settlers and of course theme park builders.
RollerCoaster Tycoon was released in 1999 and became an instant success which spawned a series of sequels. RCT2 and RCT3 were both released in the early noughties along with expansions, RCT3D on the Nintedo 3DS in 2012 and RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile on mobile phones in 2014. But the two handheld versions didn’t entirely sate the fans’ need for an updated, full computer release reminiscent of the first three.
In 2014, ten years after RCT3 hit the shelves, Atari announced at Gamescom in Germany they were in the process of making the next in the series. It has taken two years, but we can finally get our hands on RollerCoaster Tycoon World which is currently available to buy in its early access (like Beta) form as they gear up for a full release later this year.
I’ve been playing the game since the day of release and racked up around 50 hours of gameplay. There has been a bit of a backlash on the forums from people pointing out that the game is not as polished or as complete as they’d hoped for but this is not the full release of the game and problems/bugs were bound to pop up. Game creators Nvizzio have already released two updates; the first being just one week after RCTW went on sale. They have promised the game will continue to have regular updates and create the finished product we all want to play.
In response to some of these comments, I started recording a series of videos and tutorials to show what can currently be done.
I also spoke with Todd Shallbetter, the COO of Atari and asked about RCTW in its current state and what we can expect to see in the coming months.
Q. After the success of the first three games, what new content can we expect to see in RollerCoaster Tycoon World?
A. There is a ton of new content you can find right now in RCTW including user-generated content, expansive customization support, powerful 3D building tools, and responsive environments and peeps. User-generated content allows players to create anything they can imagine, import it into the game and share it with the community. Our new track editor gives players the freedom to create what they want including adrenaline-charged rides in a grid-less 3D world. Park attendees (Peeps) have individual likes and dislikes and will search out what they‘re craving for in your park.
Q. The game is currently in early access, what does that actually mean?
A. The game is available in Early Access on Steam. The game has all the features to play and enjoy a fruitful experience, and will benefit from free content updates and features that will be driven by the feedback of the community. It is a complete set of features and we are adding to it. Before playing, users need to download the update from Steam to make sure they play the latest version of the game. We have already announced a roadmap of additional features that will be free including: Piece-by-Piece Custom Built Structures, Tunnels, Dark Rides, Transport Rides, Weather and more.
Q. There have been some negative comments on the forums from people complaining about bugs and problems within the game; how are you responding to the fans?
A. We are reading all the reviews, positive, negative and mixed. We care about this game and as we mentioned previously in our forums, blogs and social media, we are committed to RCTW and will continue to work hard to improve, optimize and polish the game on an ongoing basis. We have a long-term plan with the game; this isn’t a hit and run project, we’re not about to walk away. There is a lot to come, and we have a post-launch plan to introduce new features. We released a comprehensive update on 4/6/16 which significantly improved graphical quality, added more content, further balanced the simulation and fixed a number of bugs. We shared details on what the update included in a recent Dev Blog, and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback on the progress that has been made in just a week since the initial EA launch. We have been responding to fan feedback on the forums, Steam page and social media regularly and will continue to do so.
Q. Will there be a physical release of the game as well as digitally?
A. Yes. In certain countries, physical copies of RCTW were made available on the same day we released the game on Steam. Players can purchase the game at retail, on any website offering the game, or on Steam.
Q. What is User Generated Content and how does it work?
A. User-Generated Content (UGC) allows players to create anything they can imagine and import it into the game. For example, if you want to create a space shuttle and import it into your theme park, now you can! We made UGC simple to use for anyone, no matter your skill level. The process for creating your own content is as easy as five steps. 1) Create your model in any 3D program, 2) Import it into Unity Plug-in, 3) Create your project, 4) Select your project and 5) Import it into the game.
Q. For people who have never used Unity, are any tutorials available?
Q. Currently there are no in-game build tools, when can we expect these?
A. Piece-by-Piece custom built structures is a new feature we will be rolling out this year.
Q. What do you love about the game?
A. There are many things we love about the game of course. UGC is one of my favourite new additions to the RCT franchise because, for the first time, you are able to create items like your own scenery in any 3D editing program that works with Unity. The social media and native sharing features are fun too because you can share all your cool and unique creations with your friends straight from the game.
A game this intricate was always going to take time to perfect and it seems that both Atari and Nvizzio are working hard to finish the game in a way that will satisfy even the toughest of critics. I’m having a lot of fun playing the game and can’t wait to see what the new updates bring.
RCTW has started something of a renaissance in the theme park simulator world. There are three other games also in pre-release and due to come out this year: Planet Coaster, Parkitect and Theme Park Studio. Each has their own, unique take on the genre and I look forward to playing all of them.
It may have taken over a decade, but theme park games are back and looking better than ever. Where they go from here is only bound by the imagination of the developers and what we as consumers want to play. Personally, I would love to see an integration between these games and Virtual Reality so that the player could put on a headset and ride the RollerCoasters they build themselves. With the advent of Steam VR, surely this is something we won’t have to wait too long to experience.
RollerCoaster Tycoon World Early Access is available to buy from Steam and other retailers.