Rollercoaster Tycoon is a PC game from way back in the year 2000. It’s been immensely popular and well remembered over the years. It was actually so popular that it eventually started being distributed as a freebie with boxes of cereal! It was a different time back then.
What I’m trying to say is; Rollercoaster Tycoon is probably my favourite game ever made.
I’ve been playing this game on and off for 20 years now. When I was a kid I played it to the bitter end. By that I mean I 100% completed the game and the two expansion packs. This is no mean feat, requiring approximately 250 hours of gameplay to beat. That is some insane dedication to a game for an 8 year old.
Honestly, I’ve played this game for so long and I have such good feelings of nostalgia associated with it, it’s quite hard for me to objectively talk about the game. So this will mostly be a jumbled blog of memories and things I like about the game.
The game is presented in isometric pseudo-3D. The game doesn’t really have a sandbox mode, instead having you play through a series of pre-constructed scenarios. In the scenarios you have to meet goals such as attracting a certain number of guests, having your park worth a certain value or achieving an income of a certain amount per month (amongst other goals).
In my experience, these goals are usually quite easy to meet and VERY easy to meet if you take advantage of some of the game’s exploitable “quirks”. But it’s not really about meeting the goal. Each scenario gives a different challenge and a different landscape, which means your gameplay strategy will change from level to level. At the end of the day, it’s about making a cool theme park (also the goals incentivise you not to torture guests).
The first scenario, Forest Frontiers, is an empty and very flat park where you can build whatever you like easily, cheaply and safely. Later levels pose more challenges. For example, I’m currently working on Lightning Peak; the entire park is a steep mountain and building flat rides and shops can be annoying. It also rains constantly. Even so, building coasters that take advantage of this mountainous park can be immensely fun and rewarding. Without challenges such as this, the game would become boring.
Some of the scenarios have some great ideas, such as Gentle Glen – in this scenario, none of the guests like scary roller coasters, so you have to focus on gentle rides. That means you can explore some fun ideas, like making coasters that have low intensity but high excitement.
There’s also some scenarios that’re just ridiculous. Micro Park, for example, the “final” scenario. You have a 15×15 tile park and have to meet a park value goal. Construction in this park is difficult and turns into a spaghettified mess quite quickly.
Overall, there is a huge variety of scenarios and goals, with the first game and expansion packs featuring 81 scenarios. This is what leads to 250+ hours of gameplay. If that’s not enough for you, there’s a sequel with more scenarios and loading custom-made scenarios is as simple as copying and pasting a file to the RCT directory.
Caring for guests
The game isn’t restricted to coaster building. Some of your guests don’t like the intense rides and will prefer gentle rides, so there’s a good series of flat rides at your disposal. There’s also some nice transport rides; railroads, monorails and charilifts.
Every ride or attraction in this game features some flavour text to tell you about them. I love the bathroom’s description: A prefabricated concrete restroom. The flavour texts often tell you some interesting little facts about how different roller coasters work. Not interesting to me as a kid, but I like to read them now.
You will also need to keep your guests well fed and watered, of course, so there’s a big selection of food and drink stalls. The guests are also completely hopeless at finding bathrooms, so make sure there’s plenty of those around.
At the end of the day, if your guests really annoy you, you can pick them up and drop them in a body of water. None of them can swim. It sounds horrible, but we’ve all done it at some point. Likewise, we’ve all launched a roller coaster full of guests into the stratosphere.
Sequels and OpenRCT2
The Rollercoaster Tycoon community is still going strong. It had a sequel long ago; Rollercoaster Tycoon 2. This was very similar to the original game, but with a lot of new rides, features and a big overhaul of the scenery which allows you to construct buildings and sculptures (some people are interested in that, I am not).
If you own RCT2, you can and should be using OpenRCT2. This is an open source, community run project to fix and expand upon the base game. This allows you to import all the Scenarios from Rollercoaster Tycoon 1 too!
The potential for where OpenRCT2 can take the game is as of now, pretty limitless. There has recently been plugin support announced, so people can write custom behaviour to further improve your RCT experience. It just shows how much love there is for this game, even 20+ years later.
Rollercoaster Tycoon development moved to other companies after the second game. Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 was a lot of fun, and is something I intend to review in future. There was a little legal trouble surrounding it, but it seems this has now been resolved and the game is available for digital download once again!
The RCT3 developers, Frontier Developments, went on to do some pretty great stuff. You might have heard of one of their newer games; Planet Coaster. I can’t play it on my low-end hardware, but it looks pretty great.
After RCT3, the series took a huge nosedive in quality, with many attempts to revive the series being met with negative reception. Not that you would need any future sequels, I get by just fine with OpenRCT2 personally!