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What was the reason behind our breathlessly anticipating RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 way back when? Many fans eagerly awaited this third game in the series and the big leap into 3D that it represented. Now well over a decade after its release it remains adored and is still enjoyed by the masses. Let’s explore the timeline of this game:






Vanilla






Around 200MB in size, Atari released the initial demo in September of 2004. At the time many of us were still on dial-up internet while the cable internet in use then was nowhere near the bandwidth that we’re accustomed to today. Average downloads for the demo took from 10 to 20 minutes or more.






Late the following month the first official release of RCT3 took place in North America. It was for Microsoft Windows operating systems. RCT2 gamers immediately discovered that in RCT3, gameplay in 3D required a huge adjustment from RCT2’s 2D isometric graphics. Suddenly presented with the possibility of viewing our parks from any angle and from any height, those who found 3D too overwhelming at first occasionally but briefly switched to the classic view that had been thoughtfully built in.






RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 came with an enhanced user interface. Because the coaster construction interface remained similar it was possible to import our legacy tracks into RCT3. We could stop mourning the sudden halt in RCTGL's development and ride in a meaningful way coasters that we ourselves had built in RCT1 and RCT2. However the similarities in GUI ended there. There were several different themes, scenery items were grouped with menus which were further expanded with completely new ways of finding and placing scenery, and this included placing animatronics that could be used either as themed park décor or as ride events. There were a bewildering array of coaster types to choose from, everything we placed in the park seemed to come up with its own control panel or status panel, while there were additional menus displayed, the purpose of which at first we could only guess at.






RCT gameplay now included a host of graphics options such as day and night cycles, park lighting, realistic weather, anti aliasing, and shadows to name a few. Our parks now had opening and closing times, while the ability to import our own music for use in the game was another big plus.






The people in RCT3, whether VIP’s, staff, or guests, were one of the most striking changes to arrive within the 3D world of RCT3. While all the guests in RCT2 looked exactly the same (let’s face it – they were nothing more than 200 shifting pixels) in RCT3 there are 36 guest types:







six adult, six teen, & six child male guest types, plus


six adult, six teen & six child female guest types,






with every individual guest arriving in our park having one from a choice of







16 skin colors & eye colors & hair colors, intermixed with


16 changes of clothing tops & clothing bottoms, with further options (16 choices of each for each guest sex & type) in


long or short sleeves/(ladies) sleeveless tops,


long trousers or short trousers/dresses, in addition to


shoes & jewelry & various other accessories






Of the 36 guest types, individual park guest features suggested a good representation of ethnicities including Carib and Euro-Asian. We observed that with so many combinations that went into compiling each guest before they were drawn by the game engine, while it was occasionally possible to spot two guests wearing the same article of clothing, comments made at the time that every guest was unique were certainly true.






The guests also moved and congregated naturally. We found we could create our own guest groups, see recognizable expressions on guest faces, and enjoy observing individual Guest AI, multi Guest AI & grouped Guest AI. The Guest AI was enhanced by each guest having his own set of preferences which in itself was made up of several factors which were directly affected by what went on in the park and by the happiness or unhappiness of other guests, whether within or outside of that guest’s group.






After we discovered we could manipulate it, the terrain in RCT3 was nothing short of miraculous. Gone were those blocky, chopped landscapes from RCT1 and RCT2, which in RCT3 presented us with the ability to terraform broad, graceful, sweeping curves into the land; and blend the look & color of one sort of terrain into another.






Ride entrances & exits and shops & stalls came with interiors as well as exteriors, the shops were enlivened with animations, and we could see the vendors in the stalls and at the ride entrances. Guests carried around or wore representations of the merchandise available at the stalls.






There were also more ride types, while the nearly twenty scenarios in RCT3 could be played on several career levels. Along with all this were Coaster Cam, Coaster Editor, Tracks Editor, Scenario Editor, and Fireworks MixMaster. If we found managing the plenitude of options that came with our Career Mode park to be too much we could go into sandbox, kick back, and just have fun.






All this, and with two expansions to come yet!












Soaked!






Soaked! was the first of two RCT3 expansion packs. With programming code constantly evolving, Soaked! cleaned up some of the Vanilla gameplay issues and optimized RCT3 for a wider variety of PC’s while throwing at us a ton of new content. Extending gameplay beyond traditional amusement parks, this expansion was water park themed and included pool complexes built with Swimming Pool Designer, along with pool rides & slides, and waterfalls. About fifty additional ride and coaster types came with Soaked!, many of them water orientated, with the pool rides & slides being built by gamers from an interface like that used to build coasters.






Guest behaviour was also given a revamp in Soaked! and that included child park guests who occasionally peed in our pools! In addition to purchasing sun care products with which to prevent sun burn, our park guests were also able to buy sun glasses, swimsuits, and inflatables from some of the new stall additions. Changing rooms introduced unique access points for our pools while seemingly countless choices in swimsuit bottoms & (ladies) swim suit tops could now be worn by each of the guests. Although swimsuits were included in Soaked!, a huge selection of rides had been added so the peeps can also get soaking wet in their clothes. For those park guests who prefer to get wet either in their swimsuits or in their clothes, if desired, gamers were able to set the water park area of their park away from the rest of the park.






Since RCT2, sorely missed in RCT3 Vanilla was the ability to build proper tunnels through the terrain. The developers at Frontier well and truly focused on what’s below the terrain and what’s underwater with Soaked!, adding the ability to build underground in RCT3 and to place glass covered path tunnels beneath bodies of water.






Soaked! included several more scenarios and two additional themes along with a glass enclosed walk-through aquarium that came with shark and with manta tanks. There were two spectacular sea mammal aquatic shows, water based transport rides, and vastly improved graphics for the appearance of the water in our parks. Alongside our underwater tunnels guests could view sharks, mantas, and schools of fish swimming freely about, while observing dolphin and orca shows at the water’s surface – submarine views that were enhanced with underwater animatronics and animated underwater scenery. There were now jumping water fountains for our paths and Waterfall Designer enabled us to conveniently add drama to our terrain while adding to the water park theming throughout our park.






The greatest quantity of additional scenery introduced in one go with a single expansion in the RollerCoaster Tycoon series came to us with Soaked! which also provided us with the ability to save our scenery with track designs. Following in the footsteps of the Fireworks MixMaster, With H2O MixMaster, Soaked! presented the opportunity for us to enhance our parks with choreographed water jets and laser displays. Guests could become further immersed in the park experience we had arranged for them after we had placed lifeguards and interactive pool accessories in our pool complex; and had added water cannons (for the mischievous minded), speakers, prize-giving passport machines, and the shark-costumed entertainer about our parks. With the franchise now endorsed by The Hershey Company, players were able to add Hershey shops and attractions to their parks.






Soaked! also brought us mouse wheel scrolling for everything in the game that displayed a vertical slider, and added CTRL key support to aid in building elevated structures. Guest statistics and group summary information now became a part of our park management tool kit.

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