Developer Journal: How to Manage Animal Behaviours

Chante Goodman

Community Manager
Frontier
Welcome to another Planet Zoo Developer Journal, where we'll be introducing you to some of the fantastic people working on the game, and giving you a little more insight into what you can expect at your future zoos. As the development team are hard at work on the game, these journals will not be appearing weekly, instead, we'll be releasing them when we have more information to give you!

Today we'll be speaking to Programmer Megan Brown and Senior Designer David Bamber about animal behaviours and how you can manage them in Planet Zoo.

So please give a warm welcome to Megan and David!

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From left to right: Programmer Megan Brown and Senior Designer David Bamber

Hey everyone!
We're really excited to tell you more about your animals. Hopefully this will give you some insight into what to expect at your zoos, and it might even inspire you to start planning!

Megan:
Animals in Planet Zoo are highly responsive and will behave differently depending on their situation. For example, if you have a social species like the Plains Zebra, having multiple of them in the same habitat will allow them to socialise together as they usually would in the wild. On the other hand, if your animals become stressed they will tend to hide away more. Weather can also impact your zoo: rain and snow will make a habitat colder which may have positive or negative consequences on your animals depending on their preferences; if they don't like being out in the snow they will want to find shelter until the weather passes, and will have lower welfare if no shelter is available. Not all species will be phased by such conditions however, with Timber Wolves for example not being bothered at all by a snow drift or two. All of this (and much more) will change how your animals behave, and you'll need to pay close attention to their needs in order to ensure the highest standards of welfare are always met!

In order to keep your animals happy they require a habitat well suited to their needs and desires as well as ongoing care and attention. Habitats need to be spacious enough for the number of creatures they contain, with the correct types of terrain, and somewhere they can take shelter if they dislike being out in certain weather conditions. Once in their habitat, it’s not just a case of sitting back and watching your baby elephant gallivant around! You need to take care of food, water, enrichment and, depending on the species, other animals to socialise with. You'll want to check up on how clean the habitat is and if the temperature suits the needs. Your animals may also become stressed if there are too many guests peering in at them and they have nowhere to go for a moment of peace and some privacy! You will need to keep all these things - and more - in mind to create a content and thriving zoo.


David:
Food quality is another thing you'll want to take into account, as it improves the nutritional welfare of your animals. You can research better quality foods for each species, but this will carry an increased cost, so it's up to you to decide if it’s worth it. Higher welfare animals have the potential to live longer, raise young more successfully, and be more appealing to guests.

If your zoo is very popular, you will have to think carefully about how to incorporate shy animals into your plans, as they hide or get stressed when visitors become numerous. To improve the situation, instead of allowing guests to look in all the way around the habitat, just build a few windows into walls at strategic points. Combine these viewing areas with shelter and food locations, to give your guests the best experience of an animal's natural behaviour.


Megan:
There are many ways you can begin to mitigate potential obstacles in your zoos. A good start is to have enough keepers to keep up with the food, water and cleaning demands. Stress caused by guests can be minimised by the use of one-way glass, which allows your guests to continue peeking without disturbing the habitat's owners. While animals in the real world can be hard to understand, they do provide you with hints as to what they are feeling, and this is also the case in Planet Zoo. If they are sick or injured they will tend to lie down more to rest, whereas animals that are stressed will try to hide away from guests, so keep an eye on their behaviours to make sure they're always content.

I’m sure you'll be very creative in how you try to balance animal welfare with zoo design and guest happiness; there is a lot that needs to be maintained and monitored over time to ensure the continued happiness of your animals and I can’t wait to see how you handle these challenges!


David:
Breeding and social groups are another important part of animal management. For example, you can build habitats for pairs and juveniles, ‘bachelor’ groups of young males, or related family groups. Each species has a range of group sizes and gender mixes it is happy with, so dig into the Zoopedia to research and plan your populations over time, and build the habitats to match. The Zoopedia is a fantastic player resource for planning and improving animal welfare. If you aren’t sure how to improve a habitat, or are unfamiliar with a particular species, the Zoopedia is how experts will get their welfare to 100%!

Megan:
A vast amount of research has gone into all our systems. One in particular I would definitely highlight is the mating system; specifically who will mate with who. In real life animals have hugely varied mating habits, ranging from pure monogamy (one-one partnership, sometimes for life) to polygamy and seemingly no mating rules at all! In Planet Zoo we have attempted to match our mating rules to be as close as possible to their real-life counterparts. To give some examples: for West African Lions, only the Alpha male will be allowed to mate with the females in his pride, whereas Reticulated Giraffes will mate with any member of the opposite sex.

Maintaining a diverse gene pool is very important, especially if you want your population to remain healthy. Inbreeding between closely related animals will lead to reduced fertility rates and increased chances of catching nasty diseases, so to maintain a healthy group, you will need to make sure mating does not occur between related animals and may need to periodically introduce new individuals to maintain diversity.


David:
We are always thinking of how to get more from animal behaviour. A lot of the personality is conveyed through its head and eyes, so we put a lot of work into looking around. Some animals use fast, rapidly changing head movements with a short attention span, while others move with a great sense of weight. Even just walking around, your animals will move their heads to follow other ones, and check on their surroundings. If you look closely, you should be able to pick up differences between the head movements of adults and juveniles!

Megan:
Another example of this is how West African Lions interact with each other as a group. If you put more than one adult male in with an adult female then those animals are going to fight for dominance, and the winner of that fight will become the Alpha of the lions in that habitat. This grants him the sole rights to mating with the females and producing offspring, so if you want specific creatures to breed you’ll need to keep this in mind.

How animals socialise is also a highly detailed system. Each species has different requirements for how many of its own kind it wants in a habitat. Some are largely solitary, like the Grizzly Bear, and they won’t be happy if you add more than a couple in together. Others, like African Elephants and Plains Zebras, actively seek out social interactions and need a reasonable number of same-species animals to fulfill their social needs. Even among social animals how often they will want to go and engage with others of their kind will differ. The most social of species, like the Zebra, will get unhappy very quickly if it finds itself alone, and will frequently seek out others and move around together as a group.


David:
Before we go, I don't think we can talk about animal behaviour without talking about dung... it's always a fun aspect to work on (my YouTube recommendations list is now very specific)! We’ve tried to pay special attention to the size, shape, number of ‘boli’ in a pile, and frequency compared to eating rates. We wanted to make sure this vital aspect of zookeeper work is properly represented, and some animals will need extra keepers simply to keep up with the volume of dung (I’m looking at you Elephants!). We know from our conversations with keepers that this less glamourous side of animal care is time consuming, but is absolutely vital to keeping them fit and healthy.
By the way, every piece of dung is a physics object that rolls downhill!


Thanks so much for having us, we hope you've enjoyed reading all about Planet Zoo and we're really excited to show you more!
 
Interessting The Blog tells mor about socialisation Movement and Breeding and the Posibilities of seperate the Animals after they reach an Age. And Somewhere about Breeding and Mating. But indeed is this a Very Cool Blog thanks! Even many Questions are still unanswered. The First. How it will look like when they mating? the Second. When you are inbreeding. Are you also getting Mutations like Albinotism ? Or can the Appearence like endsize and what matters like a Fluffyness and Size of the mane by Lions affected or maybe the Patterns of some Animals Like Zebras? Ho far would it be go with the Changes in the Breeding of new Generations ?
 
A fantastic entry to the journal. Thank you, team!

I'm a bit worried about the talk of "alphas" and "dominance" because there's a lot of misconceptions around about those concepts (as a dog trainer I'm more than aware...). But I trust the team did their research.
 
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Thank's for this update, it's amazing to see how much depth the team is incorporating, and the attention to detail is astounding! I honestly gave up on zoo games after zt2, but I'm super hype for this one.
 

heatherg23

Volunteer Moderator
(y)Thanks for the insight into the game. I love having to balance the various things you mentioned. That's what makes it fun!!! (well for me at least :))
 
How you talk about Lions and Lioness courtship & breeding, will it be the same with Tigers... only bringing them together when she is in season? otherwise the Male will often kill the female if the timing is not right?
 
The breeding mechanics sound so interesting! I can't wait to see how they affect park management. Really excited to see how unique each animal is with coat/personality too, many Albinism will be included? :)
 
This is great great news. Thanks You for sharing all those information.=D
Can't wait to play the game!
 

Joël

Volunteer Moderator
Awesome developer journal!

Every word that I read about the game makes me more excited!!! 😊

Before Planet Zoo was announced I already had a suspicion that Frontier was working on this game, and I was a bit worried about what features of real life zoo's would be included or excluded from the game. I'm happy to say that my worries were completely not needed.

I'm seeing great features being mentioned in articles on the internet (of the press preview of the game earlier this year), and here on the forums in these Developer Journals, and I'm very excited to see things like breeding programs, animal enrichment and unique animal behaviour and requirements for the game.

Keep it up, everyone at Frontier. 😎👍

As an enthusiastic and frequent visitor of real life zoos, and with what I've learned from what goes on behind the scenes of zoo's, I'm going to love this game! ❤
 
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