I love RollerCoaster Tycoon, by that I mean I love the very first entry of RollerCoaster Tycoon released in 1999. I played that game endlessly, and I was overjoyed when we played that game for science class to learn about physics. RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 was and still is a favorite game of mine. It was released in 2002 and I continue to play it to this day. The isometric camera view and the accessible graphics work so well I often forget I’m playing a game over a decade old. For comparison the first Battlefield 1942 came out that year, And World of Warcraft didn’t even exist yet. Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 was alright in the opinions of the fans that played the first two games but RCT3 also hooked a bunch of others to the coaster tycoon game. The ability to ride the rides and create waterparks, firework displays and even zoos made RCT3 fun for almost everyone. I don’t play RCT3 that much anymore but I know a lot of people still do. But those games, the glory days of RollerCoaster Tycoons, were over 10 years ago. The recent history and the future of the franchise are deeply disappointing thousands of RCT fans and the recently announced Roller Coaster Tycoon World may be the poor end of a beloved franchise.
The disappointment started shortly after Atari announced a new RCT game. Employees were on forums asking what people would want in a new RCT game. The community was abuzz with excitement and then Atari made the reveal of RCT4…….Mobile(2014). Yes the king of PC theme parks was making the next installment a mobile exclusive. The choice of platform alone angered longtime fans and the decision stumped some reviewers. As the mobile gaming market often attracts completely different crowds, many people looking at RCT4 mobile on their app store would probably have no idea of the legacy of the franchise meanwhile dedicated PC gamers had nothing.
The next step down for Atari was the announcement that RCT4 Mobile would cost money to buy AND it would feature in-game micro-transactions. So you had to pay to get the game and continue to pay to enjoy the full game, but Atari maintained that once you bought the game you started with a load of in game money; this made few people feel better. When the game released it was a major flop. The emphasis Atari puts on the game is to “hype your park” share it on social media and try to top the leaderboards. My questions were: hype my park to whom? Who among my family and friends cares even a little about my mobile park? And why does any tycoon game need leaderboards? I was not the only one who asked these questions. Secondly the pay to play structure was infuriating. A source of money was plopping down stalls and waiting several minutes so you could tap to collect the coins they made. After an hour or so of collecting coins you could try to build your rollercoaster but most of that time would be spent waiting to collect more coins so you could afford your next piece. Physics of rides were nonexistent, coasters would glide up hills with no need for a chain section, and sharp unbanked curves could follow a steep drop no problem. This was not a RCT game at all, and shared no similarities with previous versions aside from the name. its average score sits at about a 3 out of 10.
Following the disaster of RCT4 mobile, spokesmen at Atari maintained that they were making a true PC RCT game and soon after announced Roller Coaster Tycoon World would be released in early 2015. Huge amounts of RCT fans were beyond excited from this announcement, however, some, myself included, remained suspicious. The company behind the train wreck that was RCT4Mobile, Atari, would be the publisher for the next RCTW game. Forms were enabled by Atari for communication with the fans and one of the first announcements from Atari was their decision to fire the current RCTW developers and hire Area 52 games to develop RCTW. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of Area 52 games as the one big game they were going to develop got canceled and thus RCTW is their first big PC game. This simply made fans on the forums more suspicious, but Atari released beautiful screenshots of parks with high resolution paths and shops which made fans feel better about the direction of the game.
Then came the gameplay trailer released at the end of the Game Developers Conference. The 80 second trailer started with edited real life point of view footage from an existing roller coaster. This made many people think that this was the game graphics and thus many were excited about the realism. Then as the real world footage of the coaster quickly transitions into gameplay footage people’s hearts sank. This RCTW looked nothing like the screenshots; the graphics were cartoony and terribly grainy. The graphics were so horrible that some put screenshots from the trailer side by side with shots from the 11 year old RCT3 and RCT3 actually looked better. Most people were not expecting mind-blowing lifelike graphics but taking a step backwards after 11 years was not what anyone expected. On top of that the trailer features poor ride physics, something tycoon fans demand of the franchise. At one point a monorail going at least 35 miles per hour slams to a sudden halt at the station which in reality would result in massive whiplash. Features like terrain editing were not featured in this completely flat park. Instead, plop able mountain decorations clipped over and covered half of a pathway. Asked for curved paths were absent and instead low resolution paths looked terrible. Bottom line was that the trailer was not at all representative of what the Atari community managers were pledging to fans and looked more like a 2005 game rather than a 2015 game.
The trailer debuted the 6th of this month and Atari has had no solid response to mass outcry against the game. The only official steps Atari has taken were to delay the release to mid-2015 and to promise that the current game looks better than the trailer that they maintain was from an earlier version. With weeks of no information Atari has let the feelings of hopelessness among the fans fester and more and more lifelong fans of the franchise are simply abandoning it. Atari cannot put faith into their old fans or even new adopters of theme park tycoon games as competition for gamers trust is on its way. Upcoming Theme Parkitect looks like an honest attempt to make a game that fans want and constant feedback through developer blogs has been well received by fans who can see their suggestions implemented in subsequent development blogs. Frontier games, which was the developer of RCT3, recently announced an upcoming Coaster Park Tycoon, which has caught the attention of those looking for a quality coaster tycoon game. I still have some small hope that Atari can release an amazing RCTW game, but that hope is fading fast.