Guest Behavior Analysis in Medium to Large Zoos

I followed a handful of guests during their entire stay in my park to try and understand their behavior. I made a chart but it won't let me attach the picture. The error message doesn't specify why.

Background

Certain areas of my park are virtually empty, despite having the most appealing animals. I added transit stations from the front of the park to these exhibits, but it didn't help much. I also changed the guest settings (in sandbox) so that they would stay longer. I decided to do a more in-depth investigation into why guests are not travelling to these areas, as well as why education and happiness levels were lower than I would expect. For reference, I have 23 habitats in my zoo, plus a reptile house with 10 exhibits.

Findings
Test Guest
Habitats seen: 7
Exhibits seen: 0
Favorite animals seen: 1/5
Habitat education boards viewed: 1/7
General education boards viewed: 0
Donations: 0

The first problem I noticed is that guests often want to see animals that exist in the trade center only. These animals do not have habitats and are not on display anywhere in the zoo. The first guest I looked at had 2/5 favorite animals in the trade center. 2 of his favorite animals were in the reptile house, but he walked through the entire reptile house on 3 separate occasions, and did not view these animals, or any other reptiles.

Guests choose which habitats to visit in a way that is very inefficient and seems random. All of the guests I followed chose to head to a habitat on the other side of the park when they first entered. They all changed their minds before arriving at these habitats. None attempted to use the transportation rides, even when they went directly from the entrance of the park to the target habitat. I can't upload the screenshot, but my park is in 4 distinct sections, all pretty far apart. In real life, guests would view all the habitats in section 1 before moving on to section 2. Zoos generally have a clear path to follow so that guests don't miss anything or get lost. Guests behaving this way would not have to walk far between habitats. The first guest I followed walked past all of section 1, viewed one habitat in section 2, went back to section 1 and viewed 1 habitat, and then walked past sections 1 and 2 to get to section 3. It took a long time and he complained about the walking. Only one of the habitats he chose contained a favorite animal, despite some favorites being nearby.

He first targeted a habitat in section 2, viewed it, and then headed to a favorite animal in section 1. Before he reached his favorite animal, he stopped at a habitat right next to the favorite animal. After viewing the neighboring habitat, he inexplicably decided not to view the favorite animal. He then targeted a favorite animal in section 3, which was very far away. Before reaching the animal, he stopped to view two other neighboring habitats in section 3. From there, he wandered around section 3, viewing the same habitats multiple times and looking for a drink stall. Several times, he decided to take the train to a drink stall at the front of the park before changing his mind.

I am focusing on this particular guest because the others were plagued by bugs. The second guest got stuck viewing her second habitat (I think), and then fled despite no escaped animals. The guest also viewed animals while standing next to education speakers, but they did not become more educated. I assume this is a bug. The guest almost never chose the view the habitat education boards and completely ignored the larger general education boards.

How Transportation Rides Make Everything Worse
Transportation rides transport guests much more slowly than walking, in most cases. I watched a transportation queue and it took 10 months for the guest to board the train, not including actual transit time. I have two trains lines at every station, going in opposite directions. At one of the entrance stations, every guest in the queue was queuing to "go home." Even though they are a few steps from the park exit, they decided to use the train to leave. I don't know how or why they can leave using the train, but they clogged the queue preventing guests from using the train to view faraway habitats. Because guests are stuck in transport queues for 10-13 months, their happiness plummets despite green needs and "amazing" station scenery. For guests with a set time limit in the zoo, it wastes 15% or more of their stay.

Conclusions
In a small zoo with a handful of habitats, this behavior doesn't matter much. The guest can choose habitats at random and not have to travel very far. They can see every habitat in the zoo fairly easily. The maps provided are huge and that's awesome, but guest behavior doesn't make sense in a large park. It's very frustrating to see a guest say "I wish I could have stayed longer to see the iguana" when I saw him pass the iguana exhibit 3 times and not look at it. Or when he wants to see an animal that is not actually in my zoo. Guests with hugely inefficient routes clog up the zoo, wasting time wandering around without viewing animals, becoming educated, or gaining happiness. I'm sure that the randomness was implemented to get guests to spread out and not clump up at the zoo entrance, but it's causing problems and I think there is a better solution. Maybe the first habitat choice is random, but all subsequent decisions are based on proximity. That way, the guests "start" in different places around the zoo, but they follow a logical and efficient path from there until they get tired and leave. They also shouldn't view the same habitat multiple times (habitat A, then habitat B, then back to A.) This would work well with the transport rides too, since guests who initially choose a far-away habitat can travel there by train, while those with close habitats can walk. Once they view all the habitats in an area, they can get on the train and ride to a different area rather than doubling back (if that makes sense for the layout of that particular zoo.) Transport rides really need to be faster and more efficient to support large zoos.
 
Last edited:
I should add that this guest viewed the most crowded habitats, and ignored the less crowded habitats, indicating that there is something more going on here. The layout is: entrance, section 1, then further back, section 2, further is section 3, and farthest is section 4. The most crowded habitats are at the beginning of each section, while the habitats further into the section are empty. This seems irrational, since the farthest habitat in section 1 is closer to the entrance than the first habitat in section 3. Every habitat has its own food court and many scenery items. I still have no clue why guests seem to prefer these habitats.

Economically, this is not viable, since the unpopular habitats cost just as much in food and staff care, but receive no donations and do not educate/please guests.
 
For me this is one of the big reasons i stopped playing.
Frontier put a time limit on the time that the guest are in the park. +/- 1 hour.
You can turn off the time limit in sandbox mode by going to guest settings, "extend guest stay." If you select this option, guests will stay in the park until they run out of money or their needs turn red. I use this option, but it doesn't help much.

I will start a separate thread for the timed challenges, but I think part of the reason the game has to be easy is that it simply isn't stable or balanced well enough to demand people play strategically. Every time I tried to do a timed challenge, the game bugged out and ruined the attempt. Different bugs every time. It simply isn't stable enough for challenging timed play. That's why I have to go into sandbox and turn off all the mechanics in order to play. They don't work. You saw in my post that many of the guests I followed simply bugged out: Phantom escaped animals, randomly "merged" habitats, education items not educating guests, education items registered as improperly placed when they aren't, guests looking at animals through tall solid walls, animals getting stuck, animals getting stressed despite all guest viewpoints being one-way glass, it goes on and on. I don't even bother with details like the desired exhibit temperature being in Fahrenheit and the current exhibit temperature being in Celsius.
 
Last edited:
Thank you for the tedious work you did to get a solid picture of exactly what is going so wrong with the guests. I really, really hope the devs are going to do something about this. I went on a several month hiatus, hoping that when I came back, the major game-breaking issues like this would be fixed (sandbox mode isn't a solution, I bought the game exclusively for challenge mode and wanted a challenging management game). I'm so deeply disappointed to see that these very old, very major issues haven't been fixed, and apparently haven't even been acknowleged. Back to waiting and hoping one day I'll get my money's worth, I guess.
 
Thank you for the tedious work you did to get a solid picture of exactly what is going so wrong with the guests. I really, really hope the devs are going to do something about this. I went on a several month hiatus, hoping that when I came back, the major game-breaking issues like this would be fixed (sandbox mode isn't a solution, I bought the game exclusively for challenge mode and wanted a challenging management game). I'm so deeply disappointed to see that these very old, very major issues haven't been fixed, and apparently haven't even been acknowleged. Back to waiting and hoping one day I'll get my money's worth, I guess.
I totally feel you man. When i heard that this game was in the planning i was super excited, when i heard Frontier was going to make it, i expected all this problems... especially when you look at Planet Coaster and how much potential that game had but also did not reach up to its potential due to some mayor flaws or missing things/elements.
I Expect the same thing will happen to Planet Zoo, there will be a lot of DLC packages but the mayor issues in the game will remain unresolved...
 
Last edited:
I followed a handful of guests during their entire stay in my park to try and understand their behavior.
Your observations cover a good part of the (random) visitors' mechanics, which were discussed in this forum intensely like 6 months ago among some then active forum members. Since then, devs havn't changed anything, only the introduction of the three different difficulty levels helped a little bit to run larger zoos regarding the economics, i.e. being able to afford having more species.
However, the main flaws regarding performance, randomness of visitor behaviour, poor performance of transport rides (economically, huge lag, empty or too full) and nearly empty parts of larger zoos due to the 60min IRL time limit still remain.
There's just one tip I might give you: I've started to play sandbox and started to spread several 'entrances' (guest spawner and entrance gate) around in the zoo, mainly in fake bathrooms or restaurants. So far, it's been helping to spread visitors around in the zoo, but it is still only approx. 1/16 of the whole map. I also deactivated the visitors needs as far as it's possible to reduce the amount of time they waste on finding drinks/ food/ bathrooms. So far, it's a fairly lively result with visitors mainly focusing on enjoying the animals.
 

Chante Goodman

Community Manager
Frontier
Hey @Onelegflamingo, and everyone else in the thread! Interesting post! I spoke with the dev team about this, here's what they would like me to respond:

Guests choose which animals they wish to visit based on the appeal of the animal habitats. These choices are already significantly altered by distance to the target destination. The choices made within these scores are weighted random, which aims to result in a reasonable distribution of guests to locations.

Guests are also able to change their minds as they travel, and choose different weighted destinations, to allow them to respond to changes in appeal of habitats, park layouts, and when their needs encourage them to go to shops or services.

Guests are are highly likely to stop and look at high value views of animals as they go past, regardless of the animal. This is because it looked very weird in development when they just bee-lined past everything to reach their destination! Not to mention they would spend a long time walking to resolve their needs.

Other objects like Educations Boards only become guests goals as guests approach them - they won't seek out this information from a far distance, so you should make sure to place your education appropriately.

Due to the discussed time limit of ~1 hour, guests do not expect to visit every animal on their list, nor every animal in the zoo. We think this makes sense because ultimately the guest runs out of money, which would then cause them to be unhappy as they could not pay for services within the zoo, as well as causing severe economic issues to the player that form in waves as guests arrive and leave the park in various states of distress that we saw in testing.

There's a lot of largely invisible complexity in the guests. While we would like to address the general direction of any feedback provided and especially hunt down any bugs, it is especially time-consuming to reproduce during tests in large parks of the type you mention.
 
Hey @Onelegflamingo, and everyone else in the thread! Interesting post! I spoke with the dev team about this, here's what they would like me to respond:
Thanks for the response! Great to know they're listening! But I'm a bit confused, because this doesn't address guests wanting to see animals that exist in the trade center only, transportation rides making things worse, guests randomly deciding not to view favorite animal after travelling all the way there, guests not becoming more educated while standing next to education speakers... or most things in this thread, honestly.
 

Chante Goodman

Community Manager
Frontier
Thanks for the response! Great to know they're listening! But I'm a bit confused, because this doesn't address guests wanting to see animals that exist in the trade center only, transportation rides making things worse, guests randomly deciding not to view favorite animal after travelling all the way there, guests not becoming more educated while standing next to education speakers... or most things in this thread, honestly.
The point of this response was to explain how the guests work in general - if it's not helpful, I can work with the dev team some more on a response?
 
The point of this response was to explain how the guests work in general - if it's not helpful, I can work with the dev team some more on a response?
Additional color on the things, which @Jeminyne mentioned, would be great. Esp. making the transport rides to work properly would be great to distribute guests more.
However it's interesting to learn some new facts about the mechanism it's still a fact that guests nearly 100% stop walking through parts of a zoo when it's getting larger than approx. the first 50% of the map (measured from the vanilla zoo entrance). The only thing that helps so far is to build several spawners/ entrance spread over the map and that's only possible in sandbox.
TLDR: more optimization and some more information would be appreciated.
 
I would love to know if the problem with the guest want to see animals that are in trade center is something that could be possibly looked into.

I have this problem in challenge mode, sometimes I buy animals in advance for future enclosure long time before building it, yet guest have thoughts about wanting to see the animal species currently not in zoo, only in trade center. Add if the animal in trade center has biggest appeal from all animals, it is even shown in the main zoo tab as the most favourite animal even if not placed in the zoo yet.
 
Hi Chante,

Thanks for the reaction!!
The devs said: Due to the discussed time limit of ~1 hour, guests do not expect to visit every animal on their list, nor every animal in the zoo. We think this makes sense because ultimately the guest runs out of money, which would then cause them to be unhappy as they could not pay for services within the zoo, as well as causing severe economic issues to the player that form in waves as guests arrive and leave the park in various states of distress that we saw in testing.

But i noticed that this is not the case, most of the guest (in large parks) that leave after 1 hour still have a lot of money to spend.

I understand that there must be a limit that guest can stay in the park (money, time, feeling happy or not...) but with large parks this means that guest see only one or 2 animals specially if the animal they a going to first is on the other end of the park.
By the time they are there, with visiting shops of transportation in the mean time, the hour is almost over.
 
Top Bottom