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 Author: FlightToAtlantis

All of us at one time or another have sat in front of a newly installed newly launched RCT3 for the very first time and had not the slightest idea what to do next. After quickly becoming somewhat familiar with the menus the next question to be asked is usually, “How can I build a great park with this game?”

The best way to start is to pull in the reins and not be too anxious to start using the mouse in the menus before you know what it is that you want to go where. As a serious builder of parks, whether experienced or a newbie, planning is very important at all stages of park building but particularly at the beginning when you've got that big empty lot staring back at you challenging you and your ideas.

Making a Start

The first thing I like to do is loosely decide where I may want the paths in relation to the terrain, to the pool complex and where I want the food courts, plazas and promenades. If you want hills, valleys, lakes and ponds, now is the time to consider and/or place those. It’s handy when the trees move with the landscaping if you’ve placed them before terraforming but terraforming can be death for structures and everything doesn’t always go back to where it was by re-forming the ground. If you really must terraform after building, save the building as a structure, terraform, remove the mess that’s left of the old building and replace with the saved structure.

As a matter of interest, terraforming is the only time RCT3 provides us the opportunity to ‘undo.’  To take advantage of this undo feature you’ll need to keep your finger pressed on the mouse until you’re sure you’re satisfied with the alterations you’ve just made to your terrain. If you've altered the terrain and are not happy with what you've done, without removing your finger from the mouse you can move the cursor in the opposite direction the same number of increments and undo what you've just done, during which the terrain will return exactly to its former shape.  Again, the structures on this undone terrain won't always go back to the positions they were in before undo, but the terrain will look unaltered from the way it was previously. Once you’ve lifted your finger from the mouse the opportunity to undo is gone, nor is it possible to revisit previous terrain alterations to undo those.


The type of paths we'd like to have in our parks is entirely a matter of personal choice. Many gamers prefer park paths that are curved with hidden nooks that suggest mystery & excitement around every turn.  I prefer a Roman-esque layout, a rectangular infrastructure with straight paths stretching into the horizon.

Whether straight or curved it doesn't make any sense to put paths all over the place anticipating that strategic placement of no entry signs will get the guests to cover all the paths you've created, nor will eliminating your guest injection point do the trick. It seems the more paths are placed the more paths the guests will ignore. More paths need more path extras and more staff which mean more of a drain on the game engine and less other things you can get into the park for your better enjoyment.

The only way to get guests to travel over all the paths is to space coasters, rides, and attractions evenly about the park – in addition to no entry signs and a guest injection point enabling better one-way travel throughout your park. While the guests don't look particularly natural all walking in the same direction they will be spaced evenly about your park. If you follow Fossil’s tutorial here on expert RCT3 path building you will seldom have a problem with lost guests.

Park Size and Filesize

We all want parks that are 254 x 254 but with all the custom extras available this isn’t always a viable size to have. A workable park with enough CS in it that we’re happy with can be obtained on a landscape that’s around 100 x 100.

I was a very long time playing the game before trying CS because I had heard how much of a drain they are on system resources. After I got experienced with RCT3 I got over that and I can’t imagine my parks without custom items. I would now find RCT3 without custom content to be very restrictive.

Most times the default 128 x 128 park is too small for what I want to eventually put into it but an experienced park builder who is severely into custom content would be well advised to start out not much bigger than that. Because of CS I can no longer have in my parks a hundred shops & stalls, more than twenty toilets, a dozen information booths, ten first aid stations, some 400 staff and a path system where guests and staff pass themselves already coming by on their way back. Before custom items a few of my old park files were nearly 30MB – filesizes that included around 5,000 to 7,000 park guests. Getting a really massive well attended park built was the only good thing about the game before all our terrific custom stuff came along.

And speaking of filesizes, in a decent sized park with enough going on in it to attract them 1,500 guests will add about 4MB to your park filesize. I could never understand how a park without CS could take up so many MB on disk until I compared park filesizes after deleting guests. This means that while one of my old, pre-CS parks was 28MB in filesize, because there were 5,000 guests in attendance in that park that 12 – 15MB of that filesize was park guests. It makes more sense that the actual park filesize was around 12–15MB.

As suggested above it’s a good idea for you to start with a smaller park. It’s possible to get a park as small as 32 x 32 in RCT3 but it will be extremely difficult to plan a proper park, or to effectively expand a park that's started out on a map that small.

A Plenitude of Attractions

If animal enclosures are to be included I next sketch them out, doing this by placing scenery. I previously used chess board squares painted white to mark out the enclosures until I learned how to make my own scenery so I’ve got a set of markers for this purpose. To match my rectangular path layouts the enclosures are usually rectangular in my parks although lately I’ve gotten creative with enclosure shapes.

Because I like the guests to eat with a view of the pool then the final positioning of the pool complex is in direct relation to where I want the food courts, where I want the pool shops plaza, where the entrance plaza might go, how it might look or if it should be disguised in another structure, all of which needs to blend into the path system and any promenades. All this needs to work well with the enclosures which need to take into consideration where the zoo outbuildings and other staff buildings will go if there will be any of those in the park while leaving room for the aquarium, the dolphin & orca shows, the park shuttles, the coasters & rides and areas of land with only park scenery. Regrettably one has to understand we can’t have all these in one park and then load it with custom items so choices of elimination will have to be made early so as to strike a balance between what you want to actually have in the completed park and how much park your system can handle.

In RCT2 stalls could be moved to another location but in RCT3 we have no alternative but to delete and replace which can be inconvenient when planning sprawling food courts. I sometimes sketch out the plazas, courts and promenade with scenery (already saved as a structure) before the shops and stalls are placed. If I’m striking out in a new design direction and have nothing already saved then terrain paint or CS markers are the next best thing to sketch with.

Reviewing Your Progress

Whether terrain painted or marked with scenery, when you need to review your planning progress whack up all your graphics options at this time so you can zoom way out above the park and get a good view of your ideas so far.

Park Essentials and Staying Focused

I’m probably one of the few in the community to build a park where one of the last things planned or considered is where the coasters or rides are going to go. I get more enjoyment out of the other things going on in a park. In addition to staff & utilities and shops & stalls, rides & coasters are must-have essentials to draw the guests. I have built a couple of parks that, after becoming completely distracted with all the things I wanted to put in the park, in the end there was only room put by for one coaster or a few rides - not good planning at all if I do say so myself!

The Importance of Saving

Always save your games before investing your time in major changes. If I don't like where the pool is or where I've put the food court I can simply go back to the last iteration and try again rather than spend time deleting the items. Do frequently save areas of scenery as structures. This way each successive park in which you plan to use something similar will be that much easier. What a shame staff patrol areas or paths & path add-ons can't be saved in this way.

A Personal Plan

I’ve gotten into making personal custom scenery in big way lately and have found myself spending a lot of time fine tuning a single building in SketchUp and then building a park around that. Others who are totally into coasters will invest time coming up with their dream track and that's what they prefer to choose to build their park around. One needs to find a plan that works best for them.

Expanding Your Horizons

Feedback is good for a little. It’s far better to take a look at someone else’s work and see what it is you like in that and try to emulate it. During your internet travels take screenshots of fabulous stuff that either visually speaks to you or that you might like to one day try yourself. And of course, whether you’re assembling a building, crafting that death-defying coaster, or preparing your dream park, to routinely come up with results you're happy with it takes practice, practice, practice.

There aren’t any blueprints for park building except for those that appear inside your head while you’re working on a park. Having said that there are all sorts of places on the internet you can view images to get ideas of what you might like to build. If you want to see images of castles select a popular search site, select to search for images, then type in “castle,” it’s as simple as that. Or perhaps you might want to see Medieval, Bavarian, or Baronial castles so you'd search using those words. It's up to you whether you prefer to look at RCT3 screenshots or images from real life.

A great deal of RCT3 is trial and error. You may start out intending to faithfully copy real coasters and then discover you prefer more creativity. How we approach creativity and the results we eventually come up with are sometimes quite different. Except for the manual that came with RCT3 there is no book in which to learn what we need to know about RCT3 nor is there any one stop to download a huge mega pack of custom content. It takes experience in the game, learning your menus, knowing your custom items, browsing the different custom content sites and communicating & sharing on the forums.

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