Developer Journal: Biomes

Bo Marit

Lead Community Manager
Frontier
Hello all! Welcome to another Developer Journal in which we will be discussing Biomes!

Please say hello to Art Director Marc Cox and Artist Luke Darby:

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Thanks for the welcome everybody! We are happy to talk some more about the Biomes in Planet Zoo!

Luke:
A big part of Planet Zoo is showcasing the variety of animals from various habitats from across the globe, and exploring the types of environments they live in. A large focus for us is conservation; just like with real zoos we want our animals to feel as comfortable and natural as possible as they would in their own habitats, so having different Biomes is important. Each Biome can present different challenges to animals in their natural habitat, such as climate change or deforestation. This is something we try to bring to light through our Scenarios in Career Mode.

Marc:
The range of environments we present to the player serve as a great vehicle to individual creativity. The community shares our enthusiasm for the ability to contextualise a location, whether it’s in relation to the animals they choose or if it’s the architectural theming of the zoo. You're all very well informed about the planet so it’s only right that we support your expectations in showing off the wealth of natural habitats around the world. While most of the worlds’ flora and fauna is to be found in the tropics and rainforests, we wanted our full animal roster to reflect the extent of range where wildlife can be found rather than just the abundance in one location. We focus on the six key Biomes and have as many animals as we could to represent each of them.

Each Biome has a specific set of terrain materials which characterise the environment. Some animals may find the conditions and terrain balance perfect, but many will require some design from you to provide the right balance of grass to soil and water. With the increased frequency of snow and rain in some Biomes, there will be a requirement for good shelters to be built. It will be very important to make these the right size too! Heating is a big consideration for any zoo and it’s important to use heaters and coolers accordingly so the animals are happy and thriving. Snow Leopards in the desert for instance are not likely to be very happy Leopards.


Luke:
In order for your animals to thrive within Planet Zoo, it's really important to craft a suitable environment that fulfils their needs. If you don't do this effectively it could cause stress and unhappiness in your animals. This could have negative effects on your animals' well-being or could potentially lead to them trying to leave their habitats, so it's really important to make them happy. Each animal species is unique and will have different wants and needs depending on the kind of area they would naturally live; some will prefer cold snowy locales while others will want dry rocky habitats. This is something you will really need to consider when choosing where and how to build your zoos.

Marc:
Our Animation and Audio teams have taken on a herculean task of narrating to you when and where the animals are in trouble. Signs of distress can be seen in the lack of energy and increased fatigue leading to loss of appetite and eventual death if neglected for too long. Milder symptoms of an unsatisfactory habitat will affect the welfare rating and manifest in factors like breeding. If the reproductive capacity is lowered you’re not going to see any baby animals!

The creativity aspect of Planet Zoo is one of its foundation stones and being able to mix up different habitat treatments provides an extra challenge. While the base textures are specific to the Biome, there is a large inventory of rocks, trees and plants which can work within those Biomes to create bespoke ecosystems. It’s up to you as to how you bring those elements together.

We've also got the first look of the Tropical Biome here for you! The Tropical Biome is one of the most abundant and diverse Biomes when it comes to the sheer number of wildlife that thrive there. Rainforests dominate these regions and are said to be the ‘Lungs of the Earth’. We’ve given the Planet Zoo community a super range of lush-looking trees, exotic plants, liana vines and volcanic rocks to play with. From some of the tallest trees on the planet like the giant Kapok to the beautiful ‘lobster claw’ flower, there is every opportunity for you to bring the heart of the Amazon to your zoo plans.


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Luke:
My personal favourite Biome would have to be a toss-up between the Desert and the Tundra purely from a visual standpoint. I find the snow-covered mountain tops of the tundra and the sandy canyon of the desert to be the most visually striking, so it's hard to choose just one. As I was responsible for creating the materials that you use to define the look and feel of your zoos, I spent a lot of time seeing each one evolve and grow into their own unique worlds. They were also the most fun to create from start to finish in my opinion, so they would have to be my favourites!

Marc:
I love green stuff. Green is my go-to colour so naturally I would be drawn to the Temperate and Tropical Biomes. On this occasion though I’m going to say I’m actually really fond of the Tundra biome. Tundra is a fairly bleak environment for life to thrive in, so it provides a real challenge for all those budding zoo creators to create habitable homes for animals from more exotic climates. Alex Mourant on our Environment team has given us some beautiful mountain scenery to add some majestic landscape drama. Together with the sounds form our talented Audio Department you’ll really feel like putting on your winter coat!

I’m very fortunate to have worked on both Planet games and with Planet Zoo I’m already seeing a huge amount of incredible creations from old and new players alike. When I see the images you are posting and read your positive feedback and comments it’s an incredible feeling of togetherness. I feel just like one of those players as they clearly show how much fun they are having. What I’m really looking out for is the way you will use the themed architecture to provide interesting and varied shelters for your animals. It’s easy to integrate the crowd areas with these buildings too so I'm excited to see what you come up with there. Every day at Frontier we’ve been treated to some beautiful and inventive content and we're only in the Beta! It bodes well for the future and I’m confident we’ll be seeing ever-more outlandish and beautiful zoo art from you once the game is out and roaring.


Luke:
I think what I am most looking forward to seeing from the community are the more unconventional and unique-looking zoos that you design; the really 'out there' ideas - especially in regards to how you can utilise the terrain tools provided. Maybe we'll have a zoo build in an underground cavern or atop floating islands; how players can really explore their creativity and make something that stands out is what I am looking forward to most. This is definitely something I'd like to play around with personally too; it may not be the most realistic but it's certainly the most fun.
 
Whole Frontier crew are unbelievably AWESOME!!!!!!
Maybe i sound cheesy, but really guys u really surprised me with your commitment
and listening the community and thats just means very much to us(at least for me).
So i wish you all the best!
Love love love!
;)
 
Our Animation and Audio teams have taken on a herculean task of narrating to you when and where the animals are in trouble. Signs of distress can be seen in the lack of energy and increased fatigue leading to loss of appetite and eventual death if neglected for too long.
Throughout the beta I have been beyond impressed by both animal animations and sound design in the game. It's entirely immersive and stunning. The tiniest animations on animals really bring the entire world to life; something as small as an ear flick, or a giraffe bending its long neck around to scratch an itch on its rump amazes me. Coupled with the general ambient sounds animals make, and the sounds of zebra teeth gnashing during a stallion battle just blow me away every single time!

Now to add to that the visual changes in animals when they are sick or injured, the distress signs mentioned here, and the playfulness of younger animals over the older ones is just amazing. I can't say it enough, it's just really really well done!!
 
Biomes and weather

I love the tropical backdrop and I am very much looking forward to create clearly distinguishable zoos based on the biome they are located in! :)
Visually, it will be awesome!

One question (or a suggestion, depending on the current plans): How much do biomes influence non-visual game features - actual game mechanics?

Based on the beta, I guess that every biome has a certain temperature (range).
I also guess, that each biome has a certain likelihood for specific weather events like rain and snowfall?
This alone would probably be enough to make them feel different.
And at the current speed of the game, it's probably all that makes sense.
When a year passes in the blink of an eye, seasonal effects are undistinguishable from "daily" weather changes.

However, apparently many players have stated (including me), the time goes too fast for their liking in Planet Zoo.
And you awesome guys have confirmed to "look into it".
Bravo! :)

Could you imagine that - after a change - the weather could differ even more based on biomes?
That actual seasons would make sense then?
Snowfall and low temperatures could be more likely in temperat biomes during winter, but only last for two or three month.
Taiga and tundra winters could last for four to six month and feature increased likelihood for snowfall.
While rain could be a rare event in desert biomes (and only occur in spring), two long lasting rain periods could reperesent the monsun in tropical (potentially even linked with Indian continent location?) biomes.

What do you think? Would this be too much effort for too little gain or have an actual impact on how different zoos would play & feel?
 
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