Planet Zoo Advanced Building Improvement Suggestions

Hi :)!, this is part 2 of my suggestions for Planet Zoo. In my previous post Planet Zoo UI/UX and Gameplay Improvements I touched upon interface improvements.
In this post, I've collected suggestions regarding building mechanics. Being me, I've put some extra hours preparing the media as well :)...

@frontier - I hope you'll be willing to address at least some of the issues mentioned here. As a gamdev myself I understand you have a business to run, introduce new things and DLCs
to the game to make money, but in my opinion, you should also allocate some resources to address the issues or improve mechanics that annoy players in the long run.

And, as previously, I'd also like to ask the forum community to upvote and comment on these suggestions to support the cause :)
Thanks in advance and let's hope for the best :)!

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1. Move, Rotate Manipulators Improvements
Problem: Move and Rotate manipulators are used constantly during gameplay, they are the core of player interaction with in-game assets. Unfortunately, the current implementation of move/rotate gizmos is extremely basic, allowing for move and rotation in only one axis at a time, which makes advanced building a very tedious and time-consuming process.

Solution: Move and Rotate manipulators should be upgraded to meet industry standards, so to speak.
  • The Move tool should allow moving the objects not only in a single axis but also to move in a plane or free-hand move.
  • The Rotation tool should also allow for rotation from the player’s point of view (in camera plane) and most importantly a free-hand rotation.
I don’t think I even have to emphasize how greatly that would improve user experience and make advanced building a pleasure instead of a chore.

Example video:

CTRL+Z Improper Behaviour in Advanced Move/Rotate Mode - bug
Problem: in the example video I reconstruct the problem: the CTRL+Z undo action does something completely unexpected and undesired in this situation, meaning, it undoes action unrelated to what the player is currently doing (manipulating object in Advanced Move/Rotate mode). Taking player out of construction process like this makes for a poor user experience, to the point in which I would regard it as a bug.

Solution: in Advanced Move/Rotate mode every action (i.e. move, rotate) should be recorded as a separate event and CTRL+Z should undo exactly the last of those actions. To be more specific in my opinion this should work like this:
  1. Player enters Advanced Move/Rotate mode and starts manipulating the object;
  2. Every step is recorded in the undo list (for performance reasons let’s say the last 50 actions are undoable)
  3. Player is allowed to undo all his actions (let’s say they made 5 in this example) and upon reaching the initial state CTRL+Z does nothing, meaning the player stays in Advanced Move/Rotate mode (in the initial state) until they actually exit it by pressing accept/cancel or ESC.
In essence, Advanced Move/Rotate should be a separate process with a separate undo track…

Example video:

SHIFT+D (or SHIFT+X): Duplicate with Transform Feature in Advanced Move/Rotate Mode
Problem: very often the building process involves a lot of repetitive actions, like duplicating, moving, and rotating an object by exactly the same distance and/or angle (e.g. building stairs, roofs, barriers, domes, placing fences, etc.).

Solution: the ‘Duplicate with Transform’ would be a GREAT new feature. Frontier, if you have anyone in 3D department working in Maya, they can show you exactly what I’m talking about.
In short, the SHIFT+D (or SHIFT+X, since neither of those shortcuts is used in Advanced Move/Rotate mode) would duplicate the object and apply recent transforms (if such were made), making the process not only a quick one but also allowing for very consistent results.

One thing to mention here: I understand that objects are not actually duplicated but rather bought from the store and, in general, player is required to ‘approve’ the purchase by clicking ‘✔ checkmark’ button after every duplication (like with CTRL+X duplicate), but my idea revolves around speed and efficient building; the process should not be interrupted - player should not be prompted for approval; rather the $X amount price popup should appear simply indicating a purchase has been made (like during placing objects right from the store - there’s no confirmation there either)

Example video showing the process:


4. Random Rotation on Placement (in Nature/Construction Placement Mode)
Problem: when working with environments players are looking for random natural placement of foliage and rocks. Currently, it takes a lot of extra clicks and rotation manipulations to achieve a natural random look.

Solution: it would be great to have a ‘Random Rotation on Placement’ option. This would randomly rotate in 360 degrees each plant, rock, or prop currently held after the last one was placed. This would be fantastic for quick/efficient and natural coverage of garden/park/forest areas:


Example video for random rotation on placement:
Rocks are automatically randomly rotated in XYZ-axes on placement, plants in Y-axis; no additional input from player needed:


5. Random Rotation Shortcut (in Advanced Move/Rotate Mode)
: No random rotation option available in Advanced Move/Rotate mode. Actually, in this mode, the ‘Z’ rotate shortcut doesn’t work at all (like in placement mode it at least rotates the object 90 degrees).

Solution: First, the ‘Z’ shortcut should work in this Advanced Move/Rotate as well. Also, a ‘Random Rotation’ would be a very useful addition to the panel. In the screenshot below is my layout suggestion (note: I accidentally named it 'Auto Rotation').
How this 'Random Rotation' toggle would work:
  • when (X) toggle is checked, the ‘Z’ shortcut does standard 90 degrees rotation (or even better the rotation value is taken from 'Angle Snap' setting, regardless if it's active or not);
  • when the middle ‘circle’ toggle is checked, the ‘Z’ rotates the object in random 360 degrees in a base plane (Y-axis) - this is useful for plants, trees, props;
  • when the last ‘globe-like’ toggle is checked, the ‘Z’ rotates the object randomly 360 in XYZ axes - this is mostly intended for rocks, but some other construction elements would benefit also.
To avoid undesired behavior, selecting ‘Angle Snap’ would reset ‘Auto Rotation’ to default (X) state, and the ‘Z’ shortcut would rotate the object by the value selected in the Auto Snap option.

SIDE NOTE: why is this panel so small nor extendable by hand like some others?? There is a huge inconsistency with those side-panels, some big, some small, some extendable, some not… User experience should be consistent across the entire interface...


6. Center Camera - ‘F’ for Focus Shortcut
: an ‘F’ (for focus) shortcut would be a great improvement of user experience. Since the camera focus point is slightly unpredictable (difficult to figure out where the camera’s center of rotation is) and there is no shortcut for Center Camera, there’s a lot of unnecessary messing around with the camera involved in the building process.
This shortcut should generally work for every selection that has Center Camera function (objects, props, plants, groups, animals...).
In addition, the object should not only be centered on the screen but also camera zoom should be adjusted to bring the object into view (again, for reference please check out the ‘F’ shortcut in Maya)... when I'm zoomed out in bird's-eye view, I'm expecting to be zoomed in on the object of interest when pressing Center Camera.


7. Ruler Snap Feature for Non-grid Objects
: It would be great to have some way of moving objects in a consistent manner. In the Advanced Move/Rotate panel ‘Ruler Snap’ option could be introduced allowing the player to set the Local Ruler in fractions of a meter (for example the defined values could be: 0.1m, 0.2m, 0.25m, 0.3m, 0.5m, 1m).
In the attached image is my suggested option placement in the panel and an example of visualization of the Ruler - in my opinion, it doesn’t actually have to be visible (to avoid clutter of the view), or it could be just faint lines with dots.
The important thing is, it should always align to either World or Relative axis (as selected by the player with the gizmo button); and the origin point (0,0,0) of the ruler is always located at the object’s pivot (the ruler moves and aligns with the object in other words):


8. Changing Pivot
: Since almost all non-grid objects have their pivot point placed at the base, sometimes trying to rotate those objects in space to achieve a particular result is a tedious job.

Solution: The ability to change pivot point (center of rotation) would be a much-welcomed feature. This would be a fantastic improvement in manipulating the building elements, but also, for me personally (and I believe for many others) this would improve rock formation customization (since currently the rocks rotate around the base point it is a very weird experience trying to rotate them around… which forces players to abandon that idea altogether and do the same repetitive rock formations over and over again...).
The solution I'm talking about is a simple toggle, allowing us to at least switch between 'base' and 'center' pivot locations ('base', 'center', and 'top' would be perfect!).
Below is my suggestion for the Pivot Toggle button placement, and a video highlighting the idea.


Example video:

8. Deselection/Changing Selection Improvements
: deselection or changing selection between objects while in Advanced Move/Rotate mode could be greatly improved. At this point, the entire process of duplicating, moving, and manipulating objects during construction is needlessly interrupted each time the player switches from object to object.
Here are my suggestions on what the flow should be in certain scenarios:
  1. When an object is selected: clicking in an empty area (like the ground) should deselect the object (no need to force the player to press Escape or target ‘X’ button).
  2. When in Advanced Move/Rotate mode, after duplicating with 'CTRL + X': the same principle applies as in #1 - mouse click in empty space should apply whatever manipulation was done and another click should exit the tool completely (no need for 'Escape' or 'X').
  3. When in Advanced Move/Rotate mode player clicks another object: the clicked object should be instantly selected with Advanced Move/Rotate mode opened ready for manipulation (since Advanced Move/Rotate doesn’t require approving the change when player clicks on something else, then it might as well keep the manipulators open greatly improving the building flow).
Example video illustrating problem and improved proper flow:


Some additional points related to gameplay:

Animals Escape Through Barriers
: It occurred to me several times... When some sort of climbable object is used as a base decoration for barriers, the animals tend to escape walking straight through the barrier like it wasn't there. I don't know if that was maybe reported or fixed already so I thought I mention it here.


Animals Blocking Ride Tracks
: Animals should not be allowed to stand or lay down on the tracks. There should be some AI logic applied, so if the car, boat, or train approaches the animal should clear out the way instead of disrupting/blocking the ride. Again, I don't know if that was maybe fixed already, if not it should be fixed ASAP as it is messing up safari style rides or river boat rides (I had Flamingos standing on track in front of a boat just chilling :))
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I agree @Kolikokoli, I play franchise exclusively and this sort of rides disruption has very negative impact on the cash flow...

But there are more important issues covered here :), btw thanks for the replies everyone!
I have been sitting on similar ideas for about a year, and now I go to post and someone has already posted them. Thanks for sharing your golden ideas (including your UI improvements as well). Coming from the Zoo Tycoon world, there are a lot of players who don't play because the game is so time consuming, and Frontier is truly missing out on a whole market of people because of this. I'll give props because I think they made a very thoughtful, beautiful, and compelling zoo management game that has a lot of potential. I love the complexity, but it is a big time sink to accomplish anything. The advanced movement tool could easily be overhauled by adding a few of these features. The adjusting the pivot/axes is a must!

Some other ideas to help as well (borrowing from sketchup)
  • Drop objects onto surface: Allows you to take a whole group of objects (say groupings of plants), and auto-place each individual onto the ground via the Z-axis. This would save time on having to place hundreds of plants in an area.
  • Multiply/Divide Duplication: may be similar to your advanced duplicate, but sketchup has a feature so that can type "/5" or "x3" when duplicating. For divide, it will insert the number indicated of objects between the original and your duplicate. Multiply does essentially the same, but additional objects beyond your duplicate at the increment
THX Otter Lord! You're right, the game is great, but you really get a feeling that it plays against you :), the interaction with UI and building features are very discouraging.
I would also love to see something like "align with world grid". There is world grid (up, down, west, east, north, south). My biggest issue during building is that long beam being slightly off.
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