Developer Journal | Building the Console Experience

Chante Goodman

Community Manager
Frontier
Hayo coaster friends!

We're thrilled that we've seen so many people excited for Planet Coaster: Console Edition, and we've loved welcoming new people into our PlanCo family. It’s been a wild ride to go from Planet Coaster’s initial launch on PC to getting Planet Coaster ready for consoles. The team have been working on making sure players will have a smooth, fun playing experience on a gamepad. Today, we are sharing a Developer Journal on what it has been like going from PC to consoles. Please welcome Lead Designer Andy Fletcher and Head of Technology Matt Simper!

Hey all! Thanks for having us; we're going to talk about the development process of bringing a beloved PC game to consoles!

Matt:
We always wanted to bring the Planet Coaster experience to console, but it looked like a tall mountain to climb. In order to make Jurassic World Evolution, a number of the Planet Coaster team moved project. While it was quite a different game in many ways, we learned a lot during the making of Jurassic World Evolution; in terms of both performance on console and controlling a complex builder game with a gamepad. We also learned new things from Planet Zoo; for example a number of the game systems (common to both Planet Zoo and Planet Coaster) had to be optimised to make space for all those lovely animals. These experiences gave us the confidence that we could bring the Planet Coaster experience to console.

Andy:
The biggest design consideration for us was ensuring that the game plays well on a gamepad. With Planet Coaster, which offers the most intricate and flexible creative toolset of any game out there, we put a lot of love and care into how we approach this and are now doing the same for console.

Matt:
Right from the outset, we had the vision that Planet Coaster on console must have the same level of creativity and scale as that of its PC counterpart.

Andy:
We've overcome these challenges by getting together people who know the game inside-and-out, having them collaborate on a plan of action, and after that it's all about iteration, iteration and more iteration.

For the controls, we began with a prototype based on the original game, which allowed us to control key tools and menus with a gamepad. This was a rudimentary approach, but it helped us understand how the interfaces and interactions of the game would need to adapt in order for it to be an enjoyable experience on consoles. As development continued, we began establishing rules about how the player should interact with the game world and common types of interfaces. These fundamentals are really important to ensure the game feels consistent and intuitive as you jump between the many different modes of interaction.


Matt:
In the case of performance, we analysed which areas of the code needed more work to run well on console. For Planet Coaster: Console Edition, we've engaged the programming team as a whole to find and make the improvements we needed. This has had a positive impact, both on the performance of the game and the programming team's skillset.

Reducing the memory usage for the Console Edition has been tricky. We inherited good memory savings from some of the work on Planet Zoo that we've brought across, and the rest has been saved mostly from being a bit smarter about memory usage from the game content itself.


Andy:
All the iterative work could be split into two threads: there are the building controls and the manipulation of elements in the game world, and there are menus, panels, and extensive object browsers that need re-designing. Both areas require a lot of finesse work to ensure they feel good on the gamepad and that they support all the features from the original game. Ultimately, these threads need to come together and work in unison as well. Our goals throughout have been to make everything feel as consistent, straightforward, and fast to use as possible.

As an example, we really wanted to give creative players faster access to the most important or commonly used building actions, so we implemented a radial menu system that presents shortcuts to these actions front-and-centre for quick selection. This worked so well that we wanted a similar level of quick access for the other tools options in the game. So not only did we set up a radial menu of shortcuts for all the major toolsets, but we ensured that the more extensive settings could be accessed via D-pad navigation of a side panel. This means that while you’re building paths in the game, you have immediate access to the options that allow you to change what type of path you’re placing, how wide you want it to be, or whether you want the path to tunnel underground. We’re really pleased with how efficient the creation tools have ended up feeling.


Matt:
For controls, we spent a lot of time prototyping how key aspects of the game would be adapted to the gamepad. We've also been prototyping different UI approaches to make the game accessible, but without restricting the capability and creativity of the player.

There are things we haven't even talked about yet that I'm looking forward to players experiencing. Speaking as a programmer trying to get as much out of console as possible, I'm really looking forward to the community seeing how much stuff we're going to allow you to build in the game. We often use the parks and blueprints created by the community for PC to see just how far we can push the consoles.


Andy:
I’m looking forward to the community getting to play the full Planet Coaster experience on console, especially as it includes the improvements and management features that we added since the original game’s launch. There really isn't another game like this on console!

I imagine a lot of the technical and design work that's gone into making the game possible on consoles is going to be kind of invisible to players. The idea of bringing new players to the world of Planet Coaster is really exciting. It's a fun place to spend time.
 
This was wonderful to read. Just a few minutes ago, I was posting on the off topic thread of upcoming games that players are looking forward to in 2020, and Planet Coaster is a game I listed down as something I am most excited for. Mainly as the concept of a tycoon and business management sim games had been mostly a computer exclusive experience, since the games were made with a keyboard and mouse in mind, and that consoles were not as powerful of devices to allow players to build as much as PCs would allow. Often times this would lead to console ports of tycoon games where a good chunk of content and/or mechanics have been stripped to make them work on console.

Planet Coaster console edition is really exciting as it sounds like a proper port of a creative sim management game that would work with a game controller and console specs limitation. This could pave way to future projects and slowly remove the divide between what PCs and Consoles are capable of, so that everyone has equal chance to play these games. It is also super enjoyable to read how Jurassic World Evolution and Planet Zoo helped in this development, which is a good sign of resourcefulness and learning from past projects. They sound like wonderful stepping stones and I am looking forward to this game and future titles. Looking forward to holiday 2020! You guys are awesome 😁👍
 
In the case of performance, we analysed which areas of the code needed more work to run well on console. For Planet Coaster: Console Edition, we've engaged the programming team as a whole to find and make the improvements we needed. This has had a positive impact, both on the performance of the game and the programming team's skillset.

Reducing the memory usage for the Console Edition has been tricky. We inherited good memory savings from some of the work on Planet Zoo that we've brought across, and the rest has been saved mostly from being a bit smarter about memory usage from the game content itself.
Be great if this improvement would also be making its way into the PC version. Great job on getting it done in the first place when hardly anyone believed it would be possible to bring it to console.
 
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