A though about path system and "GodMode"

A thought about path system and "GodMode"

Hi everyone.

I think that paths are a really big deal when talking about theme park design. And I think many, if not all the current and upcoming theme park games, including our very own Planet Coaster, handle them wrong.

DUN DUN DUN /dramatic music

First, let's see how these games do their paths. There are a few differents systems:
- The RCT/Parkitect way : Plop down your tiles on a grid, make straight paths or add them to form a plaza or avenue, etc.
- The NL2 method : Paint the terrain or do 3Ds. No limitations, but no AI neither.
- The Planet Coaster/RCTW/TPS system : Spline-based paths with various pre-determined width.

Sorry for the later, but I think this is the worst and least realistic way to do that. Or at least it can cover some of the real cases scenarii, but in itself it's not sufficient to acheive the very look of a theme park. And that's a pity in my opinion.

The main issue, I think, is that they took the problem backward. They give you a zone of nothing, and then you add paths where guest can walk. In real life, and as seen in the image below, it's the opposite: Everything is a path, unless you have obstacles such as rides, buildings, fences, planters or unwalkable surface (water, mud, steep slope... lava).



This is an exemple among many, but you can look by youself searching parks on Google Earth.

Now the question is, how to implement that in a game? Though question, and I don't really know. But I think paths would be better if they were under a terrain tool. Basically it's a terraforming thing : You can put down grass, sand, etc... or pavement, concrete, bricks... Though you'd have to design tools aimed for that exact purpose, unlike NoLimits where it's a bit wobbly (the merging of textures, you can't really rotate the shapes...)

I think if you keep a spline-based method, it would be better to shape the sides of a walkable aera (path, plaza, etc) rather than its direction.


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Queue lines are also an important part of a park design, and once again most theme park games failed to deliver their true spirit.

Yes, sometimes queue lines are a lonely narrow path, meandering through a field of grass (as seen in Planet Coaster videos). But that's usually the last part of a queue, where it's themed and more spread-out.

Though a queue usually starts, for capacity reasons, like this :



The infamous switchbacks!

It's, in most cases, a big walkable area, with light fences in straight line and U-turns at the ends.

There are also many interesting mechanism in queue lines that I won't explain here but are worth investigating (Fast Pass, single riders, shortcuts between differents "zones", etc.).


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In the topic title, I'm refering to what I'd call a GodMod. That would be an option for advanced users to optimize their parks to be "peep friendly" - to borrow an idiom from RCT3.

Basically, Artificial intelligence, even the best of them, can't be as smart as real-world theme park guests (cough, cough...). That tool would have an interface where the player could determine by hand the walkable zones, like with a brush or something.
It could also serve to mark down employee-only area or exit only paths, without having to plop down a specified item.

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I think I'll stop here, I'd have ton of more suggestions about various topics, but I feel like these devs really know where they are heading - except maybe for paths, thus this discussion.
I'd love them to rethink the path system just like they redid the terraforming (height map vs. voxel)! [happy]

Thanks for reading through!
 
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Just bumping in to praise this, I guess.

Very good points, and well explained too. Using a spline system for the sides rather than the center of a path would be a dream (which I only just now found about!) come true for me - but I'm not sure how it should be tackled and whether it's feasible to be implemented. It'd require extra controls over curbs and textures to be able to connect and blend paths together, and it may serve realism players moreso than the common casual player. It's still an amazing idea though, and it's a necessity for being able to create e.g. continuous plazas and food courts.

GodMod is a fantastic idea too (though some early gameplay shots of PC showed guests possibly taking shortcuts over grass, so AI might not just follow paths - don't quote me on this though, my memory of it may be very poor). Unless paths are more flexible than just draggable splines that can vary in width, it's near impossible to create realistic theme park spaces - as it seems the clunkiness of paths and lines as they seem to be in the game now, much like RCT3 and RCTW, makes it hard to blend scenery, paths and rides together, as you inevitably end up with all these empty spaces between them and clumsy shapes.

All my +1's [yesnod][up]
 
I think realism is the most important aspect of a theme park game, and you bring up some great suggestions that would bring more realism into the game.
 
That picture 1st one is Southend-On-Sea, otherwise known as Peter Pans or Adventure Island :)

I live 6 mile from this...good for ages 6-16 I'd say :)

Childhood memories coming back to me...HA!
 

Kerrash

Volunteer Moderator
...- The Planet Coaster/RCTW/TPS system : Spline-based paths with various pre-determined width...
I think it is too early to comment on how the paths are going to work in Planet Coaster. We've not seen them properly yet [tongue]
Whilst it is true that in most of the US theme parks I have visited, they all seem to use paving liberally; this is not the case in all theme parks over the world.
Take for example, this small section of Alton Towers in the UK:

I think realism is the most important aspect of a theme park game, and you bring up some great suggestions that would bring more realism into the game.
I prefer to use the term 'Believable', talking about how 'realistic' a game is tends to bring on misconceptions that it must look photo-realistic.

Pixar, for example, have created some wonderful worlds but the way they behave and the details within them draw you and and make you believe that it could be a real place.
 
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^I agree Kerrash. I like realism too, but it does not have to be at extremely high levels.
 
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It's almost like we need a hybrid of spline and plop-n-place where you can have spline paths that allow them to meander around the park using a designated route and a plaza tool that allows us to plop down a larger paved area that allows free-for-all walking. Which is pretty much how the path system in RCT3 works, just on a spline based freer system.

Either that, or allow us to use a path created by a spline system and widen it a lot to allow for plaza effect.

As for the cattle-pen / switchback queues, I'm certain I've seen a screen of this achieved in PC some-where, but not sure where.. It was raised as a concern on Facebook some-where and there was a pic that showed a cattle-pen queue...

I agree with Kerrash on this one too... I'd rather have a Believable game than Ultra-Realistic.
 
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Why not a hybrid of all three. Spline based for those perfect curved paved paths. Plop n place to fill in areas between these paths to create plazas. And a "sprayer" type tool that tells the game that areas of ground is walkable by peeps. I know I work in a park that has large open areas of grass that guests are expected to walk across sometimes but we also have normal paths that people logically stay on most of the time. And similar, in the event someone makes a playground or picnic area of the like you expect your guests to know to walk in the area that looks like a picnic area and a playground but not underneath that rollercoaster or dangerously close to that lake.
 
Thank you guys for your inputs.

As for the cattle-pen / switchback queues, I'm certain I've seen a screen of this achieved in PC some-where, but not sure where.. It was raised as a concern on Facebook some-where and there was a pic that showed a cattle-pen queue...
Oh, good news then!


(though some early gameplay shots of PC showed guests possibly taking shortcuts over grass, so AI might not just follow paths - don't quote me on this though, my memory of it may be very poor).
Woops, I just quote you on that. [big grin]
But I did remember that as well, and thought that was already an awesome step forward.


That picture 1st one is Southend-On-Sea, otherwise known as Peter Pans or Adventure Island :)
Oh so that's the park where Rage is at? I admit I took the first Google Image that was relevant to my point, and haven't recognized the place. Thanks for the info!


I think it is too early to comment on how the paths are going to work in Planet Coaster. We've not seen them properly yet [tongue]
We've definitely see a spline-based system in the gameplay video - yet I agree devs sure have not shown us everything. But that's the tricky part about suggestions: Either you come too early in the development and the topic haven't been brought to the table yet, or either you come too late and the issue is already implemented and it's tedious or impossible for the team to go back...
As I thought this is a very important matter and a primary function of the game (it affects how ride entrances, shops, restaurants or path ornament works, and obviously the very AI of the peeps), I thought I'd bring it early.


Whilst it is true that in most of the US theme parks I have visited, they all seem to use paving liberally; this is not the case in all theme parks over the world.
Take for example, this small section of Alton Towers in the UK:
True that, hence why the spline system has to stay. But even in your exemple it's not blatant. The way I see it is: The left of the image is grass, and the right is a big walkable area with planters (or rides) in the middle.


Pixar, for example, have created some wonderful worlds but the way they behave and the details within them draw you and and make you believe that it could be a real place.
That's very true. That's why I'm not talking about drains, or other ultra-realistic details. But path behavior affect the look and overall design of a theme park.

A thing that bothered me with previous games, is that some concept-arts got that system right (ie.RCT3 or RCTW, but the final games never did.
 
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I think realism is the most important aspect of a theme park game, and you bring up some great suggestions that would bring more realism into the game.
Really? I'd say these games are about a realistic as Battlefield of Call of Duty. Aka very little.
 
I also want to add it would depend on the "starting point" whether paving will be used liberally or not. If the starting point is a beautiful nature with lots of foliage and hills and such, or even existing old park or estate, you would want to use the existing hills and foliage as scenery.

But if the existing plot is just a flat surface with boring weeds (like old farm plot agriculture) maybe it is easier to just pave the hell out of it. But it would result in boring result. There are both kinds in Sweden. Naturally the ones with prettier foliage wins the beauty contest. ;)

I think scenarios with pretty nature, hills, forest, rivers, flowers etc are more interesting to play. But of course it is my opinion.
 
Cattle-pen!! Sort of... Top left of this image (taken from the 3rd Dev Diary) I THINK this us also partly under cover too (look at the shadows)
 
^ Nice catch.

While it's already better than previous titles, it's still not quite that. Here are the three main issues in my opinion:



1: The current path comes with fancy rounded corners. It's fancy (yet personnaly I don't like the look of it), but eats up a lot of valuable space.

2: Railings have discontinuity, where in real life it's just one big piece.

3: All fences are on both sides, resulting of a redundancy.

Another difference is that the raillings inside a cattle-pen are usually very light. It's either a simple metal fence, chain links, or poles with ropes inbetween. That also means the pavement is uninterrupted and have only borders on the outsides of the cattle-pen.


(EDIT: Is there a way to edit that terrible typo I made in the title of the topic? It's a "thought", not a "though". Thanks!)
 
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Yeah, most parks like Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, etc are just huge patches of concrete with the rides/trees/buildings built in some of that concrete. Even Cedar Point is like this.

I think there's a way to do this in a video game without it looking bad. We would just need a paintbrush-type tool.
 
yes i woul like to have option of that type of queueing AS WELL as the more scenic variety. both good.

(sorry bad type, i was in car crash hurt my hand)
 
annnnnnnd ... again, this is why we need "Areas" (and put things "above") and not only "Paths" ...

One more reason.
 
Oh. sad. i really thought Frontier were about to blow our minds with proper queues. but that image does indeed seem to show an RCT3 style snaking path. i hope they are reading that we really do want proper queues. there are at least three threads talking about this i think.
 
I'd say it would be very hard to implement the path mechanism op proposed. To change the path system, devs have to change path-finding AI accordingly, and that's not a trivial task.

Below are my pure speculation:
From the videos I have seen, the guests in a park use a relatively simple shortest-path-finding algorithm, in which a tourist will always find a desired place to go first, and then find a shortest path later. Which means 1) tourists now are not capable to roam around without a target place in mind. 2) the path system has to be compatible with graph (graph as a concept in computer science). I'm not a computer science expert myself but I think it's hard to put a rational AI into the path system the op suggested.
 
I'd say it would be very hard to implement the path mechanism op proposed. To change the path system, devs have to change path-finding AI accordingly, and that's not a trivial task.
Not necessarily no.

You can use the same path-finding system in both.

"Road with borders" or "Areas with invisible paths on it", it's the same, they always follow the same "invisible line" at the end.
 
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