Developer Journal | Challenge and Creativity

Tim Smith

Lead Community Manager
Hi everyone!

With Planet Coaster: Console Edition coming ever-closer, we would like to take the time to talk about two modes that will be available to play: the Sandbox and Challenge Modes. These modes are designed to test our PlanCo Fam in different ways and to ensure you embrace and explore your creativity. Today, we will be speaking to Principal Programmer Mark Allen and Game Designer Alex Paine! Please give them a warm welcome!

Hello all! We'll be taking some time today to talk to you about our Sandbox and Challenge Modes - we can't wait for you to explore them.

Sandbox Mode is the ultimate place to let your creativity shine, whereas Challenge Mode is where you'll need to be aware of the functionality of your park as you build – it needs to be profitable enough to sustain itself and grow. You need to look after your guests and staff: give them interesting rides to keep them excited; food, drink and amusements to keep them happy; and manage the layout of your paths and park transport to keep the crowds where you want them!

Sandbox parks are not restricted by research and money, which allows you to design big from the start without having to develop a functioning park. You will have complete control inside the map boundary, meaning you'll be able to place any ride and scenery items where you like. It is a totally clean slate for you to begin your park.
But, like Mark said, with Challenge Mode money and research are now factors to take into account when playing. You'll still have the freedoms of the Sandbox Mode, but if your park doesn’t bring in enough money, you will not be able to make any progress. It creates a more real-world situation compared to Sandbox Mode where the park has to be slowly developed over time.
Unique to the Challenge Mode are the generated challenges. These will appear throughout the mode and are ways for you to develop your parks in specific ways, which you will gain money for doing.

From a technical standpoint, the biggest difference between the two modes is that what our community wants to build in Sandbox is so much more unpredictable. You might be building a nicely balanced coaster park, or you could have no guests at all and be building some incredible pieces of art from the scenery systems. Sometimes, we see people even eschewing any tools more complex than the voxel terrain system and building great dioramas in that! What that means for us as developers, is that the code needs to be incredibly flexible with the approach it takes to memory use, performance changes and how it scales as the park grows.

Yes, for us, we needed to design an environment that gives you the space to create what you like, while also theming the environment to inspire your creativity, all while allowing the simulation to run without set rules for different scenarios and making sure it is all balanced correctly. For Challenge Mode, we needed to figure out the order of research, and ensure the park can generate money while most of the rides still needed to be unlocked. Deciding on what the challenges would be, and working out the order they would appear in, was one of the hardest aspects of the mode.

I play in Challenge Mode mostly, as I like the feeling of running the park, and keeping all the little wheels turning for the great machine to continue. However I still love seeing what our community builds in Sandbox Mode, it’s truly phenomenal!

For me, it's definitely Sandbox Mode. When I play the game, I like to just build what I like without having to worry about money and whether I have unlocked the pieces yet. I also like the fact that I can build and test coasters in Sandbox Mode, and create blueprints before I take them elsewhere. Finally, I like that in Sandbox Mode you can create mammoth buildings and sculptures without having to create an actual park.
I'm really looking forward to seeing our community's reactions to the controls, the newly balanced systems and new additions to the game. I will be watching live streams on Twitch and YouTube of players trying out the game on console!

I think people are going to be impressed at how natural the controls feel on a console – translation from mouse and keyboard was a big goal for us, and is why the User Interface has been entirely re-designed. I’m looking forward to seeing people’s reactions to that! Also, I'm excited for people to play the new character-focused introductory tutorial, it’ll be a wonderful way to welcome new players!
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