Meet the Team Q&A - James Stant

Bo Marit

Lead Community Manager
Frontier
Hi Coaster friends,

As you all know, everyone here at Frontier is working passionately on Planet Coaster in order to bring you the best theme park simulation game we possibly can! Sometimes it can be difficult to see what exactly goes on behind the scenes, with many departments working together and crossing over, from audio to publishing to QA to support etc. Therefore we thought it would be fun to reinstate the Meet the Team QAs we did a while ago; this will give you an inside look at the people, development, and passion that makes Planet Coaster.

We are starting off with the lovely James Stant, Senior Audio Designer. James will be checking in on this thread during the day to answer any of your questions - enjoy!

IMG_8242.jpg

What’s your earliest memory of visiting a theme park?
To be honest, I didn’t visit many theme parks growing up following a somewhat nauseating encounter with a teacups ride!


What is the craziest memory for you about theme parks?
A number of years ago, I performed at Disneyland Paris with a touring band. It felt so incredibly surreal; from the mind-blowing attractions to the larger-than-life characters to the immaculate detailing everywhere, my childhood was being brought to life right before my very eyes.


What is your favourite type of ride at a theme park and why?
Having recently become a father for the first time last year, I feel like my whole outlook on life has shifted towards discovering new things for my son to experience. As such, I get the feeling I’m going to develop a newfound love of kiddie rides/coasters. Now then... where’s the Wendigo?


What exactly are you working on with Planet Coaster?
These days I’m mainly working on the people of Planet Coaster. This covers crowd guests, guests on rides, vendors, mascots, the janitor, etc. but there is some crossover of tasks (so for example, each sound designer ‘owns’ a couple of mascots’ – mine are King Coaster, Chief Beef and Princess Amelie). Many of you may know me as the creator of Planco, the language spoken by the people in your parks. The dictionary continues to grow on a daily basis and I’m so excited to have seen people embracing it with the same enthusiasm I’ve had throughout its development. At the moment though, I’m currently giving a huge overhaul to the guests on rides/coasters, which is a large task but one area of the game that I hope you’ll notice has improved when the game reaches its full release.


What does an average day at work look like for you?
I’ll start off by checking my emails, updating my code/resources, have a quick read of the Planet Coaster forums and updating the Planco dictionary with any new words I jotted down on my phone the previous evening at home. I’m very fortunate to have a varied workload though so an average day could hold anything in store for me. One day I may be composing music for the carousel, the next I may be interactively implementing Jim Guthrie’s main menu music. Another day I’ll find myself working on the mechanical sounds for the Kickflip flat ride or perhaps I’ll be recording people screaming excitedly to use for the guests on rides. Maybe I’ll be sticking balloons up my jumper and rubbing them together to get the squeaky sound of King Coaster’s body suit. The life of a sound designer is creative, experimental and often very unexpected!


What kind of music do you listen to while you are working?
Due to the nature of my job, I don’t get a huge amount of chance to listen to music while working. My academic background is Music Composition and as you may expect, my tastes are rather diverse. I did develop a love for pop-punk-rock (and various similar genres) around the turn of the century and that never really faltered. Lately I’ve been hooked on new albums from Billy Talent and Erik Chandler, but typically I still like listening to acts such as Bowling For Soup, The Offspring, Army of Freshmen, Reel Big Fish, Patent Pending, Zebrahead, ‘A’, etc. I love any band that try to bring a smile to your face; I think that is such a beautiful thing.


What have you worked on before Planet Coaster, and what did you do on those projects?
My first two AAA audio credits were with Rare on Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and Kinect Sports, both of which I gained before finishing my university studies. I moved to Frontier in May 2013, where I immediately joined the Zoo Tycoon team. I worked on some of the animals (bears, giraffes, parrots, large lizards, etc.), the conversation system, biome ambiences, diegetic music placement and additional VO. After that I contributed ambiences, Foley and instrumental/vocal performances to Tales From Deep Space, our delightfully charming adventure game for Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets. I did a bit of work on ScreamRide too, where I worked on the dynamic dialogue system, chatter VO, tutorials and additional cutscenes. Following that, I worked on Elite: Dangerous providing CQC ambiences and match notifications, console optimisations and force feedback (controller vibration using audio signal). I then joined the Planet Coaster team where I was able to combine my park management experience of Zoo Tycoon with my coaster experience of ScreamRide, adding to my childhood love for management sim games (Theme Park, Theme Hospital, Zoo Tycoon, etc.)


How does working on Planet Coaster compare to working on other games you’ve worked on?
I feel like we have a great degree of creative freedom and this is remarkably liberating for us. It encourages you to let your imagination run wild and explore possibilities that you may not otherwise do. Planet Coaster is such a fun project to work on and I’m not sure that creations such as Planco would have been born had it not been for this working environment that nurtures originality and experimentation. I’ve always been immensely proud of my past achievements, but never before have I felt so rewarded for my contributions to a game. This is certainly a massive testament to the work of the whole team, for it is them who inspire me on a daily basis and challenge me to meet the high standards that are being set throughout Frontier.


What have you learned so far from working on Planet Coaster?
That the community are incredibly passionate about importing their own music! We hear you and, as we assured you in our Audio Q&A, we most definitely are looking into it. As players, it’s a feature we’d all love to see added to Planet Coaster, but it’s genuinely not as simple as many would assume it would be. And after all, if we’re going to do something, we want to make sure we do it right!


What makes Planet Coaster special, in your opinion?
The heritage that Frontier has with coaster games and the experience of my team members. I cannot describe how amazing it is to work on a project where I will walk past a colleague’s desk and see something new in development that literally makes my jaw drop in amazement or makes me grin from ear-to-ear. We have exceptionally talented professionals here at Frontier and the desire to be ‘best-in-class’ within this genre is most definitely clear.


What is currently your favourite Planet Coaster feature in Alpha 3, and why?
The Steam Workshop integration. It encourages players to create, to share, to learn, to collaborate and to express themselves. We’ve seen so many mind-blowing creations added to the Planet Coaster Workshop and it’s always remarkable to find scenery pieces being used so ingeniously. Oh, also a special mention for plazas; having seen how frequently requested it was on the forums, I was delighted to see another highly sought-after feature added to a recent update.


Tell the community a fun fact about yourself.
I’ve been very fortunate to perform with the band Bowling For Soup on numerous occasions, performing in front of crowds of thousands of people at some amazing venues across the UK, including Download Festival at Donington Park. My lifestyle is far removed from one of typical rock-n-roll, but this is probably my biggest ‘claim-to-fame’ outside of my life in the games development industry.


If you could ask the Planet Coaster community one question, what would it be?
What sound(s) do you most associate with visiting a theme park?
 

Vampiro

Volunteer Moderator
Nice read!!

To answer the question :
A happy crowd sound with an occasional coaster sound in the distance :)

"What have you learned so far from working on Planet Coaster?
That the community are incredibly passionate about importing their own music! We hear you and, as we assured you in our Audio Q&A, we most definitely are looking into it. As players, it’s a feature we’d all love to see added to Planet Coaster, but it’s genuinely not as simple as many would assume it would be. And after all, if we’re going to do something, we want to make sure we do it right!"

And did made my heartbeat go twice as fast! I SO hope you guys will figure something out!
 
Last edited:
Very nice Q&A, and very interesting to read all your answers!

What sound(s) do you most associate with visiting a theme park?
Hmm that's a tricky one... [weird] Probably the sound of screaming babies, but more importantly I think the screams of enjoyment and fear combined that you don't hear anywhere other than a theme park [yesnod]

I have a question for you James, if that's okay: Is there anything that you find particularly challenging about designing audio for video games when compared to other areas of development that have seen much greater advancements in technology such as modern GPUs for example? Especially in a game like Planet Coaster where I imagine most of the CPU is reserved for the simulation aspect, is it a challenge to make the audio fit in and work around that?

And... a bit of a more personal question [squeeeeee].. What instruments do you play? [big grin]
 
Last edited:
Nice to hear from you James, thanks for your words [heart]

My question is are you guys planning to bring more technical sounds to rides and attractions? I miss those "Kitsch" sounds on coaster brakes [big grin]
 
What have you learned so far from working on Planet Coaster?
That the community are incredibly passionate about importing their own music! We hear you and, as we assured you in our Audio Q&A, we most definitely are looking into it. As players, it’s a feature we’d all love to see added to Planet Coaster, but it’s genuinely not as simple as many would assume it would be. And after all, if we’re going to do something, we want to make sure we do it right!
Amen to that ! [heart][up]

Power to the player !
Vive l'UGC !!!

If you could ask the Planet Coaster community one question, what would it be?
What sound(s) do you most associate with visiting a theme park?
In my opinion, two big things :

The first is the themed musics, all major parks are cut by land, and each has its own themed music (usually a few orchestral tracks, in loop, extremely generic, but sticking perfectly to the theme).
Smaller park, with no lands, also has, at least a entrance music that you usually keep in your head all day (sometimes interspersed with a welcome message in several languages, at least it's the case for few park in my country), and when it's a fairground, well, you also have music everywhere (each rides has its own music, often electro, but still)
Anyway, in term of music, Planet Coaster is a good "fairground simulator" with the music of each "fairground rides" for now, but lacks generic instrumental themed music and these hidden speakers everywhere to play music depending on the area/land, to make a realistic and alive "theme park" (And, even if fairground are important, the screenshots of the community shows that at least 80%, if not more, want to build a theme park, not a fairground)

And the second thing is the sound of the crowd, with laughter, screams, tears/whims of children, blah blah, ... which already seems really well at the moment, parks look very alive (congratulations for that btw)

I hope my answer will help.
And congratulations again on your work !!! I sometimes say, but never enough : Planet Coaster is really amazing, even in Alpha phase, and will end up being almost perfect, I am sure !
THE parks simulation game that we were all waiting for years. [up]
 
Really nice Introduction.
My favourite sounds are the chugging sounds of the steam train, the Whistle blowing , steam exhausting etc.
What I would love to hear more in Planet Coaster are the ambient sounds, birds, tropical forest, crickets, thunder storms etc. running water,splashes etc,
exploding sounds as the giant water fountain pops.
Wind rushing as a coaster speeds close to the path.
And I would like to say how much I really like the carousel music. [up]
 
Last edited:

WingardiumLevicoaster

Volunteer Moderator
Great read. I would say the sounds I most associate with themeparks are, great theme music for the different areas and the entrance as well as screaming!
 
Hi James.

I've never made a secret of the fact that the audio is one of my favourite aspects of this game. It's one of the most important and overlooked areas in a lot of cases so thanks for taking the time to do it right and to do this Q&A.

What have you learned so far from working on Planet Coaster?
That the community are incredibly passionate about importing their own music! We hear you and, as we assured you in our Audio Q&A, we most definitely are looking into it. As players, it’s a feature we’d all love to see added to Planet Coaster, but it’s genuinely not as simple as many would assume it would be. And after all, if we’re going to do something, we want to make sure we do it right!
That's made a lot of pups happy, including me

If you could ask the Planet Coaster community one question, what would it be?
What sound(s) do you most associate with visiting a theme park?
For me - The first time you hear the deep roar of a coaster and the screams when you're approaching a park and then the area music once inside.

And James, are there any audio easter eggs, you'd really like to put into the game or any you've already done?

And also, how does it make you feel seeing how Planco has been embraced by the community and seems to be getting a life of it's own?
 

James Stant

Frontier
Very nice Q&A, and very interesting to read all your answers!



Hmm that's a tricky one... [weird] Probably the sound of screaming babies, but more importantly I think the screams of enjoyment and fear combined that you don't hear anywhere other than a theme park [yesnod]

I have a question for you James, if that's okay: Is there anything that you find particularly challenging about designing audio for video games when compared to other areas of development that have seen much greater advancements in technology such as modern GPUs for example? Especially in a game like Planet Coaster where I imagine most of the CPU is reserved for the simulation aspect, is it a challenge to make the audio fit in and work around that?

And... a bit of a more personal question [squeeeeee].. What instruments do you play? [big grin]
Ah yes, the screams of excitement and fear! One of my favourites too!

Although we are obviously always memory/performance conscious (and continue to optimise our work), generally we feel quite fortunate that we don't have to massively compromise on quality to make the audio fit and perform respectably. At this moment in time, we are operating as a PC-only digital download, so we're primarily concentrating on trying to meet our vision for the game, without having to squeeze it onto a disc. That 'freedom' is great within this creative environment, as you try to make something awesome first and then look at how you can optimise, rather than make something functional and then struggling to gradually improve it. As mentioned in the Audio Dev Diary, a game where you can have thousands of guests on screen is quite a challenge, but our team have developed awesome systems to handle such aspects, so I think the key is the combination of having the right creative mindset and the benefit of technological/industry advances.

I play a number of instruments; mainly 'cello and saxophone, although it all began learning piano from the age of 6 and getting my hands on whatever I could! I have performed on a few cool soundtracks over the past 8 years including Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (baritone saxophone), Kinect Sports (tenor saxophone) and Tales From Deep Space (electric guitar). With live bands though, I'm normally playing my electric 'cello. I also happen to play ukulele when it's someone's birthday at work, isn't that right, Bo? [haha]
 

James Stant

Frontier
Nice to hear from you James, thanks for your words [heart]

My question is are you guys planning to bring more technical sounds to rides and attractions? I miss those "Kitsch" sounds on coaster brakes [big grin]
We always try very hard to remain faithful to real-life counterparts and we continue to try and build our library of coaster/ride recordings. It may not always be easy to get exclusive access to a theme park (like we did with the wonderful Watson Wu), but having such source material to work from is just amazing. Having avid coaster fans such as the legendary Sam Denney around the office is also brilliant too, as they are so passionate about how rides should sound and their expertise becomes invaluable. Coupled with this fabulous community of coaster heads, we're lucky to have so many keen ears listening to game and identifying layers/nuances that would help us improve. I'll bring up the coaster brakes with the audio team though and we'll investigate [up]
 
Great to here that James! I am really looking forward to it!!
You are all doing such a great job on the sound design, this is truly amazing and far more than anyone could have excepted! The mix is so superb.... Listening to Planet Coaster, as well as looking at it, is pure joy!!
Another question I got is how many different people lend their voices for Planet Coaster so far?
 
Amazing read, Thank you.



to answer your question,

Think Alton Towers, the 5 Main Area's also have there own Themed Music, X sector (the smiler tune) Dark Forrest (Thi3teen) and so on and so forth all the way down to cebeebies land, if we got that level of integration, i'd cry, rivers (and turn it into a log flume, with it sown music )


for me its the hum of noise interspersed with screams and the "B&M Roar" That makes me feel "THIS Is a Theme Park"
 
Last edited:

James Stant

Frontier
In my opinion, two big things :

The first is the themed musics, all major parks are cut by land, and each has its own themed music (usually a few orchestral tracks, in loop, extremely generic, but sticking perfectly to the theme).
Smaller park, with no lands, also has, at least a entrance music that you usually keep in your head all day (sometimes interspersed with a welcome message in several languages, at least it's the case for few park in my country), and when it's a fairground, well, you also have music everywhere (each rides has its own music, often electro, but still)
Anyway, in term of music, Planet Coaster is a good "fairground simulator" with the music of each "fairground rides" for now, but lacks generic instrumental themed music and these hidden speakers everywhere to play music depending on the area/land, to make a realistic and alive "theme park" (And, even if fairground are important, the screenshots of the community shows that at least 80%, if not more, want to build a theme park, not a fairground)

And the second thing is the sound of the crowd, with laughter, screams, tears/whims of children, blah blah, ... which already seems really well at the moment, parks look very alive (congratulations for that btw)

I hope my answer will help.
And congratulations again on your work !!! I sometimes say, but never enough : Planet Coaster is really amazing, even in Alpha phase, and will end up being almost perfect, I am sure !
THE parks simulation game that we were all waiting for years. [up]
Thanks for your kind words, Angelis!

Two great points there [yesnod]

You raise a very good point about themed areas and the use of music to really distinguish it from fairgrounds. This is certainly a point I will happily take with me back to the development team and, without saying too much, hopefully some of the things we have planned for Release will help give the players more power to theme their areas.

Thank you for the feedback on the crowds; we're encouraged by the progress we've made so far and we're striving to make further improvements (including guests on rides) so that they feel even more responsive and alive. More laughter and screams coming! [haha][cry]
 

James Stant

Frontier
Really nice Introduction.
My favourite sounds are the chugging sounds of the steam train, the Whistle blowing , steam exhausting etc.
What I would love to hear more in Planet Coaster are the ambient sounds, birds, tropical forest, crickets, thunder storms etc. running water,splashes etc,
exploding sounds as the giant water fountain pops.
Wind rushing as a coaster speeds close to the path.
And I would like to say how much I really like the carousel music. [up]
Thank you, Asteroidcrusher! I have loved composing music for the carousel; I think like many people, I found the carousel music to be so iconic in previous theme park management games, so I was so excited (but a little nervous!) to work on that. I think it worries my colleagues that they walk past my room while I am composing it and see me with a big smile on my face, swaying from side-to-side in time with the tempo [haha]

Some lovely ideas mentioned there, thanks for sharing! We have taken quite a subtle approach to the ambiences so far; we liked the idea of a living world that is also changing and this we hoped this would help us avoid annoying players with repeating sounds. Our audio lead Matthew Florianz is an 'Ambience Superstar'; he's a highly experienced ambient specialist and there are so many intricacies that he and our Senior Audio Programmer Ian Hawkins have developed through a custom system made especially for Planet Coaster. We are already building on these foundations and I hope a couple of the new additions coming to Release 1.0.0 will please you!

All aboard the hype train. Chug chug, chug chug... choo choo!
 

James Stant

Frontier
Great read. I would say the sounds I most associate with themeparks are, great theme music for the different areas and the entrance as well as screaming!
Great choices! More love for themed area music & screams, and quite rightly so!

*Edit: to clarify, that is "themed area music" and "screams". We've not explored "themed screams" yet, although that could be quite amusing! Hehe!
 
Last edited:

James Stant

Frontier
Hi James.

I've never made a secret of the fact that the audio is one of my favourite aspects of this game. It's one of the most important and overlooked areas in a lot of cases so thanks for taking the time to do it right and to do this Q&A.

For me - The first time you hear the deep roar of a coaster and the screams when you're approaching a park and then the area music once inside.

And James, are there any audio easter eggs, you'd really like to put into the game or any you've already done?

And also, how does it make you feel seeing how Planco has been embraced by the community and seems to be getting a life of it's own?
Thank YOU, Nemmie (and everyone in the CHC) for your continued support. It was my pleasure doing the Q&A and it's great to be among a passionate community all helping to make Planet Coaster a great game. I am very fortunate to be part of a super-talented audio department; it's a real team effort and we are always exceptionally grateful to receive such words of support.

Hmm my favourite audio easter eggs so far ... the headphones at the top of the Sun Flare ... the janitor whistling a beloved tune... placing down multiple pirate bells in short succession... those are some of my favourite existing ones (I've seen a couple of people posting about them, so I assume some of these are not so secret any more [mouth shut]) We LOVE adding these kind of details and we're eager to add more for people to find!

I think when you start something like Planco, you hope that people will like it and you dream to yourself thinking, "what if someone actually wants to learn a word or two. How cool would that be!?". Considering that we're still in the Alpha stages and the community have already been excitedly gathering words they've discovered and created their own translation tools for other community members to use - well, that just takes my breath away. A sincere thank you to all who have opened their minds and their hearts to Planco [heart]

"E pavun snubu chala at eyvati onda ol oe!" - I could hug each and every one of you!
 
Hi James,

first of all, thanks for taking the time here to do the Q&A.
It's a pleasure to read it!

All details about the sound are amazing already in that stage, and reading, there will be more just exites me!

A HUGE THANK YOU for Planco - it's incredible how you and the team develope a new language - that's much more than a game offers, and is a big part of the hype!

Thanks so much and keep on the great work - it's highly appreciated!

Cheers!
tom
 

James Stant

Frontier
Great to here that James! I am really looking forward to it!!
You are all doing such a great job on the sound design, this is truly amazing and far more than anyone could have excepted! The mix is so superb.... Listening to Planet Coaster, as well as looking at it, is pure joy!!
Another question I got is how many different people lend their voices for Planet Coaster so far?
From all of us in the Planet Coaster audio team, thank you Juggz!

The list of voice talent will certainly be growing as we progress towards Beta and Release. Last time I checked, I think we were at about 50 actors; this covers the crowd members chatting away in Planco, the characterful mascots joyfully entertaining the guests, vendors saying 'see you later' to customers after serving them, people screaming in excitement as they enjoy the rides... and the construction foreman shouting to warn you when you try to place down a flat ride in an invalid location (that's me by the way, standing in the car park, shouting Planco for things like 'Not there!' - I got some confused looks from neighbouring company workers, I can tell you!)
 
Top Bottom