The basics of RollerCoaster Tycoon World are the same as they ever were. As the owner and manager of a fledgling amusement park, you’re tasked with attracting customers with increasingly thrilling rides, yummy food venues and various forms of entertainment. Meanwhile, there’s staff to be hired, a park to clean up and maintenance to be done, all while working within a budget.
What’s new are more intuitive ways to build. I was pleased to hear that the developers drew inspiration from the excellent Cities: Skylines, which allows for curved paths and more freeform design (though the classic grid can also be turned on). Pieces of scenery snap automatically to the most logical place, like the edge of a walkway, so you won’t waste time aligning those hedges juuuuust right.
That’s not all that’s new, of course. While coasters can still be assembled piece by piece in painstaking precision, there’s now a spline-based mode that allows for quicker building of those big-money attractions. With a few clicks it’s simple to change the height and curve of each section of track, as well as put in some safety measures like brakes (assuming you don’t want your coasters to just run on an endless loop, terrifying the riders within). Heat maps show exactly how customers respond to the coaster bit by bit; that drop is great for thrill-seekers, but the wild curve over there is making everyone nauseous.
There are plenty of other stats for deep micro-managing, too. You can see how customers (or Peeps, as they’re referred to in-game) are responding to the park’s attractions, or if it’s too dirty—you’ve got to hire some cleaning staff to wipe up that vomit. Each Peep has its own feelings about the level of thrills desired and range of money he or she is willing to spend. Gone are the days when Peeps have a set amount of money in their wallets and leave the park when it’s gone. After all, it’s 2016; who uses cash anymore? Instead, attractions and food joints fall into general values between cheap and extravagant, and each visitor’s budget rests somewhere along that line.
At this point, after watching the formation of a roller coaster from scratch and building my own rides with the world’s worst queue lines, I was already planning my future amusement parks in my head. It would have to accommodate a wide range of ages, of course, to bring in that family money, but still offer enough thrills to be popular with teens and adults. Should I go with a sci-fi theme or stick with the Old West? That was before I even heard about user-generated content, which adds another level of fun to RollerCoaster Tycoon World. Players can create their own assets and upload them to Steam, where others can download them into their own parks. I didn’t get to see any of this UGC, but the possibilities are exciting.
Unfortunately, since Atari’s original beast of a demo machine wasn't working on the PAX show floor, I was shown RollerCoaster Tycoon World on a minimum-spec Alienware. As such, there were some issues with the game locking up, loading slowly and crashing to desktop. While it looked nice enough, it wasn’t up to the graphical standards I would have liked, especially after hearing that the gorgeous Cities: Skylines inspired the developers. I’m optimistic to see what how it runs and looks on a higher-spec PC when it launches in early 2016 (there are no plans to release for other platforms at the moment). In the meantime, I’ll be mentally building the world’s most vomit-inducing coaster of all time.