Quality of Life: When Themes and Mechanics Collide

JWE has clearly had a lot of love poured into it to make it operate the way it does. The attention to detail is impressive in every respect. Jurassic Park was the reason I started drawing, and later started modeling in 3D. It's my favourite film, and in a roundabout way, it got me into the games industry. It seems clear to me that fellow fans of the franchise worked on this game, and the results are evident right from the outset.
I'm particularly impressed with the dinosaurs' animations. All of these animals move with what feels like real heft and mass, and I find myself taking a moment to just watch my favourite individuals move around and interact with each other. As another aesthetic point, I appreciate the voice acting. Even "Not-Pratt" does a decent approximation. Having the chance to explore your park firsthand by flying the helicopter yourself is interesting, rewarding and fun. I appreciate very much the fact that the radio plays, among others, the song on the radio in the beach scene where Dodgson meets Nedry in the film.

I'm a fan of "Tycoon" kinds of games. I doubt I could calculate the amount of hours spent on Rollercoaster Tycoon as a kid. Planet Coaster, also by Frontier, is a modern favourite. The idea of being able to design the living, breathing Jurassic Park of my dreams is nothing short of incredible. I wish I could go back in time and tell my kid self that this game would one day exist.

It's precisely because I appreciate this game and all the hard work that everyone on the team at Frontier put into it that I'd like to offer some of my more critical feedback, as well.
I feel like JWE is a decent game that is a little bit hamstrung by a few quality-of-life issues. In some ways, I feel that the game misses the mark for a "zoo sim" game, which, arguably, in a game where the dinosaurs are animal attractions that one builds a park around, it is.

The Cascading Crux:

The largest and most egregious problem that JWE faces from a mechanics point of view is the lack of a "loan" system or bank bailout - a mechanic which every other city/park building game I can think of has. The lack of this mechanic can create artificial barriers to players learning and adapting to fix situations when they go wrong - and with these kinds of games, half the fun is in responding to when things go wrong. Security and emergency response is touted as being an important facet of running a successful park. However, the player's ability to actually do this is gated entirely by money in a way that I don't feel is conducive to fun, nor realistic. The costs of many items and actions which could be considered very basic are astronomical even when put into context.
It's deceptively easy to get into a situation, especially relatively early on, where the player knows what the problem is and how to fix it, but they have their hands completely tied. Modest park savings can be wiped out in just a few seconds, leaving such essential actions as tranquilising an escaped dinosaur rendered impossible. One has to spend money to make money, and the "Contracts" mechanic is meant to assist with this. Completing contracts yields financial bonuses, but when such basics as refilling an enclosure's meat dispenser can cost $120,000 - the entirety of some contracts' rewards - the player is soon left with no choice but to either demolish essential buildings in some kind of Hail Mary, or restart the island.
This simply isn't fun.

When Themes and Mechanics Collide:

Thematically, JWE sometimes feels a little tonally confused. The game seems interested in having the player pit dinosaurs against each other in a way that I personally find difficult to understand, given the way costs are balanced and mechanically how park management functions. The way to achieve this is to go against what a well-managed park needs, in order to orchestrate situations that would arise only in a failing park.
Hammond's park didn't intend to have the Tyrannosaurus rampage around eating other dinosaurs - this only happened because of the park's failure. The Tyrannosaurus is meant to live inside her paddock, and she should not, under normal circumstances, ever encounter a Triceratops.
Either the player intentionally lets loose a very expensive predator into the herbivore herd, or breeds expensive herbivores specifically to be sent to the slaughter, which is over in seconds, and seems heart-wrenchingly cruel. Either method is financially unsound, and ethically dubious at best. In a game rooted firmly into a series of books and films that explores the idea of dinosaurs as living, breathing animals deserving of respect, and the ethics surrounding their life and death, this seems somewhat tone-deaf. Characters express to the player that they are uncomfortable with being asked to pit dinosaurs against each other, or even more bizarrely, to intentionally allow one to escape. The player cannot express their own discomfort, or even disagree to play the game this way; Ultimately, essential progress is gatekept behind these missions.
Speaking personally, I want to create a beautiful place where my animals are kept safely, responsibly, and given good lives in as positive a way as I can offer them in captivity. Essentially, I want to make a dinosaur zoo. With the game balanced as it currently is, JWE feels to me like it is causing me to battle between its own desire to make some kind of dinosaur pit-fighting arena, and my desire to create the Jurassic Park of my dreams. It will be a long time before I forget "Tank," the Triceratops I bred and released into my Ceratosaurus enclosure in the hopes of appeasing the bloodthirsty Security guy asking for a dinosaur with at least 3 victories, or whatever it was he wanted at the moment. She was born to a tremendous and swelling fanfare that made me as a Jurassic Park fan well up the first time I saw it happen, and she died exactly 41 seconds later for no benefit, because the Ceratosaurus who murdered her died of "old age" before I was able to heal them up and breed two more sad sacrifices to satisfy the ravings of a loon who thinks releasing an aggressive dinosaur into a live populated park is a great way to test emergency ETAs.

Addressing a Solution:

Mechanically, I think some of this could be addressed by having predators tend to keep to themselves and only hunt when they are hungry, not when they are in range. In this way, players could create paddocks that have meat dispensers at one end and carnivore/s, and herbivores at the other. Occasionally, the predator might hunt one of the herd or get into a fight. This should have a very long cooldown time, however, to make this occasional fighting seem natural and not become financially prohibitive. Predator animals, just like other animals, want to protect themselves; If their prey is causing them serious harm they will likely want to run before sustaining a lot of damage. As the animals are, fighting feels a little bit like Rock Paper Scissors, and new fights can trigger very quickly, resulting in the previously victorious predator going down very easily.

All in all, there's still a lot that I love about this game and at the time of writing I'm still interested in playing more. I want so much for this to be a game that keeps me coming back. I'm someone very predisposed towards that. At the moment, I feel like this is a game that could be great if it had some of the numbers and things under the hood tinkered with a little bit more. JWE is absolutely worth this investment of time, I feel - both from me as a player, and from Frontier as a developer.
Thank you for all your efforts, and thank you for reading.
 
Why would you need a loan system? It's not that hard to make money in this game. It's pretty easy once you get some Dinosaurs and a few buildings put down. Money just starts flowing in.
 
I did explain why in the relevant section - sometimes, especially in earlier parts, correcting mistakes when they happen isn't possible because of this, and that negates a significant portion of the fun.
Every other similar game I can think of has a loan mechanic to facilitate this.
 
Why would you need a loan system? It's not that hard to make money in this game. It's pretty easy once you get some Dinosaurs and a few buildings put down. Money just starts flowing in.
Yeah, I agree. This game doesn't need a loan system, as it stands. You are literally swamped with cash in no time at all, currently. You can also share resources from the other islands (send out expedition on one, sell on the other), which I think you shouldn't be able to do, just like the bank is not shared.

But, if they actually make money mean something, then perhaps it would be a good addition.

Mechanically, I think some of this could be addressed by having predators tend to keep to themselves and only hunt when they are hungry, not when they are in range..
I do agree, this does need to be sorted, but one correction "In range" has nothing to do with it. It seems more like the predator randomly selects its prey, regardless of where it is on the map, and makes a bee-line to it, for no reason other than the code controlling its behaviour gives this action a priority above all else (aside from maybe grabbing a quick drink of water). If it was in-range, then things would seem better and the range could be reduced to improve it.
 
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