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 Author: FlightToAtlantis

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All of us at one time or another have sat in front of a just 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.

Starting With The Right Landscape

The first thing to focus on is the terrain. I find it difficult to get ideas from the flat, blank landscape that comes with a sandbox so I usually begin by randomly making a few rolling hills and perhaps a lake or two. If you do want hills, valleys, lakes and ponds in your park, 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 because everything we've built 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. After having a fair idea of what contours I want in the terrain I'd consider if I want a monorail tour, or some sort of shuttle around the park and where I’d like to put the stations. Also considered at this time is where I may want the paths in relation to the terrain, to the pool complex and where I want the food courts, plazas, parades, and promenades.

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. It is not possible to revisit previous terrain alterations to undo those.

It's important that any terrain due to be covered with water and any coastline be fine tuned as early as possible for two reasons.

If you wish to change sea beds after the water has been added, while it's possible to make small changes to underwater terrain with the water in place each alteration takes a very long time to show up on the screen and even in a medium sized park that's somewhat busy this will be a huge drain on the game engine.

While there are water rides present in that body of water, terrain tiles making up coastline that's at sea level have limitations in the way they can be adjusted .

Unfortunately both of these points mean it's necessary that the water rides be deleted along with the water they were in so that you may make any needed terrain changes. Then after you're done the water needs to be replaced along with the water rides if you want them back there in their previous locations.

Major terrain and infrastructure changes are best made in parks where there are few or no guests. This will save the game engine from updating the data for each of the guests in the park to match the changes you've made to the park. If you've got huge terrain and infrastructure alterations to make, if there are already a large numbers of guests in the park it's best to send them all home first.

If you’re a newbie or find you’re not quite up to landscaping and would like to look over some ready made terrains do have a look through the different terrain types that come in my Campaign Scenario Park Saves Pack which is an assortment of Atari’s scenarios that have been saved as sandboxes. You can find them here with my downloads: Sandbox Campaign Parks. This pack is handy for those who’d like to make modifications to existing terrains, or who simply want some ideas of what can be done.


The paths system is usually the first thing we add to our parks after we've terraformed the landscape. When situating our park paths we should right at the start consider the style in which we want to arrange them. Various path layout choices are illustrated here in our article Effective Park Design.

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. For my own parks 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 only a few strategically placed no entry signs will get the guests to cover all the paths we've created, nor will eliminating our guest injection point or increasing the number of them do the trick.

The only sensible way to get guests to travel over all the paths in our park is to space coasters, rides, and attractions evenly about the park. This will enable the minimal use of one way signs about our park only at points where they're really needed. Without taking care to spread our attractions, maximum placement of no entry signs would be required to control access through every park path. Along with this we'd need a guest injection point & a park entrance (if our park does not already have them) which will ensure one-way travel throughout our park. This overkill approach will result in guests that don't look particularly natural all walking in the same direction but they will be spaced evenly about our park. In very large parks it will also ensure that by the time our guests travel around the entire circuit to reach the park entrance so they can leave our park they'll be completely jaded with their park visit. So that such guests will leave our parks with an improved view of it, to offset this inevitable state of exhaustion it's essential that plenty of entertainers, stalls, facilities, benches, and toilets are placed about the latter half of their journey around such a park. More of these placed in the second half of the park will go some way towards extending the happiness of your guests with their park visit before they make that irrevocable decision to go home.

It is possible to have your ride exit directly onto the main path system instead of building a separate exit path specifically for that attraction's exit. If that attraction requires benches at the exit for nauseous guests you'll need to place the benches on the main path right there at that attraction's exit.

If during the progress of your park you've discovered that you've been operating your ride but have forgotten to place the exit path, quite often you'll find that after your guests exit the attraction they'll make their own way across the terrain to return to your main path system.


We should place at least one entertainer in queues with the potential to become long. Queue line televisions also placed on queues will ensure that our guests are less dissatisfied with their wait and are happier when they do board our rides. When it comes to queue capacity RCT3 does allow us a little leeway in that queues that are full of guests will slightly overflow onto the path they adjoin. This overflow can be made up of as many as fifteen guests. Guests who want to queue for an attraction who encounter an overflow already there will simply linger on the path within a few path tiles of the overflow and walk back and forth past the overflow area until a space becomes available in the overflow.

It is possible to set up a smallish flat ride in RCT3 with the entrance station directly accessing a path without any queue. While not ordinarily recommended, this is handy if you're setting up rides inside a structure, if the ride doesn't take more than 15 guests per load, and if you don't want sprawling paths and queues inside your building.

In our article Queue Waiting Times: How They're Calculated we've shown how to identify which queues in our parks will require entertainers and televisions.

If you'd like compact ride access with your ride queues and exit paths all in one this article Maximising Your Small Park's Real Estate will show you how to do this.

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 experimenting with custom content because I had heard how much of a drain it can be on system resources. After I got experienced with RCT3 I got over that and I can’t imagine my parks without custom items. Now that our staff make most of our own custom content we'd find playing 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 with a landscape that's 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. Those filesizes 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 custom content became a possibility.

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 some 6,000 guests in attendance in that park that about 15MB of that filesize was park guests. It makes more sense that the actual park's contribution to the total filesize was around 15MB.

As suggested above it’s a good idea to start with a smaller terrain rather than a larger one. 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 we’ve  now got a set of markers for this purpose. To match my preference for rectangular path layouts the enclosures are usually rectangular in my parks although lately I’ve gotten creative with enclosure shapes.

Because I often like the guests to eat with a view of the pool then the final positioning of the pool complex is often in direct relation to where I want the food court parades, where I want the pool shops plaza, where the park's 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. Then 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. Occasionally I can 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 with which to sketch.

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 Guest Needs

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, something that happens because 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 flat rides - not good planning at all if I do say so myself!

Shops, Stalls & Facilities

Some gamers like to place a food court or two in their parks but guests who walk past several food court stalls to get to the one they want reduce the popularity of the stalls they have walked past. Stalls spread evenly about the park in islands made up of loose clusters of perhaps three to five have the potential to earn higher overall popularity ratings. Care should be taken to place stall islands so that they complement the scenery about the park and the paths nearby. While the guests are eating consider if they’ll be looking over an assortment of kiddie rides, through an inviting selection of specimen trees, at guests enjoying your pool complex, or at the lake you’ve placed in undulating terrain interspersed with landscaping décor. One probably wouldn't want his park guests eating while looking at the toilets or taking in a sea of coaster supports.

The same care in placement should also be taken for souvenir stalls & facilities. Information stalls are best placed near the park entrance or at the far flung outreaches of your park. Toilets and ATM machines do best widely scattered somewhat evenly around the park and placed with park scenery so they look more like the park they’re in. So that your park guests aren’t anxious about their toilet needs there should be at least one toilet every 20 to 30 path tiles. If you've placed enough toilets, placing about half that number of ATM's would be sufficient.

Likewise your park guests should not be feeling anxious about their food and drink requirements. About 30 guests will feel adequately served and catered to by each stall in our park. If we find there are 30 or more guests all heading for the same stall, or observe that more than a few of those guests are complaining about how busy a particular stall is, it’s a good idea to increase the capacity for that stall type in that area of our park.

If we expect up to 1,000 guests in our park, so that those park guests may feel adequately attended to we should have a minimum of 30 stalls placed about that park. If you've already carefully planned and built up an area of your park and the addition of another food or drinks stall would detract from that area's appearance you may stack your stalls following the suggestions given in this article, Maximizing Your Small Park's Real Estate.

It is easy to build a park in which guests are adequately fed while at the same time it remains a mystery as to why they're always thirsty. Many gamers are unaware that the ideal proportion of drinks stalls to food stalls is two to one. Therefore, to make up the 30 stall minimum required in our park for our 1,000 guests we'd want to place at least 10 food stalls and 20 drink stalls.

We can also confirm that guests do specifically drink coffee when they want an energy pick-me-up. Outside of that information it is a mystery what percentage of our stalls should be merchandise stalls or facilities. We might idly think that in a park with a desert climate, the proper percentage of drinks stalls and toilets would increase in relation to the number of food stalls & other stalls but this can't be confirmed. Additionally, we’re not yet sure if more cold drinks are drunk in a hot park climate, or if hot drinks are more popular in a park with cold weather.

As mentioned in our Customers, Popularity, And Satisfaction article, upon discovering they're hungry or thirsty some guests will head for the nearest stall where there are at that time no guests being served, even if that stall is some distance across the park. If this guest walks past stall A, stall B, and stall C to get something across the park at stall D this will reduce the popularity count for stalls A-C due to this guest’s having walked past them to get to stall D. If this guest who had intended to use stall D got there and found it was too busy that would also affect stall D's popularity. No gamer would attempt to avoid this dilemma by placing all stalls in the park singly and at isolated locations but we do need to consider alternatives of attending to this.

The benefit of a star path layout is that a minimum number of stalls need to be bypassed by guests while they are on their way to another area in the park. A guest who wanted a particular stall who found that the stall they wanted was in another point of the star would simply need to leave the point of the star in which they found themselves, cross over the star's middle, and walk into the desired star point to get to the stall that they wanted. The bigger your park is the more points you'd want in your 'star.' Do try and place the majority of your stalls nearer the points of your star so as to minimize the amount of times they are bypassed by park guests who choose to walk across the middle of your star. Star path arrangements along with other path layout styles may be seen here in our article Effective Park Design: The Best Start For Your Park.

Notwithstanding any of this, if you haven’t placed enough stalls & facilities and your guests are hungry, thirsty, sunburned, and need the toilet then they’re not going to ride the rides or enjoy your park. At that point they're very close to deciding to go home. When a guest or group of guests decides they're going to leave our park, their decision is final and will not change. They will head for the exit and will no longer look for rides & tracks or stalls & facilities, even if we place these items along the path they that are walking along to exit our park. Likewise, if we close our park, change our mind about closing it, and then re-open our park, our guests will continue to go home as if the park is still closed.

Rides & Coasters

In new parks Guest AI responds well to parks in which gentle and kiddie rides have been placed near the entrance of the park with block buster, death-defying coasters situated near the park’s rear. The reasoning behind this is to encourage guests to travel throughout the park to get to your star attractions, with the idea that they’d stop at some of the other attractions along the way. The intermediate rides near the center of your park will help some of your park guests work up the nerve to graduate up to rides that are rated above the guest's ordinary intensity level.

Depending on the size of your park map a few tall rides such as Observation Tower, Phoenix Twister, and Cinipaes Fabbri-MegaDrop should be placed somewhat centrally in your park so your park guests have something to use as a landmark while traveling about your paths, and of course to offer any guests who ride them a view of your park.

When operating a park requiring finance, one of the mysteries about park management is how to price rides. We've put together this guide to aid in pricing your attractions: Park Admission, Ride Pricing, and EI&N.

While ride queues need to be individually placed we can minimize the number of paths about our parks by merging the exit paths. This would require care in placing the exits of the rides in question so that we can achieve the maximum amount of merge with a minimum of trouble.

One should also take care in presenting a flat ride so that it’s turned to advantage and presents its best view towards the guest. For example, if you’re placing GTT’s House of Glass you’d want its entrance placed so park guests can see the front of this attraction from the paths. Likewise you’d want the higher parts of a coaster towards the rear or towards one side so the guests may see as much of the track as possible when approaching it. You may even want to consider if you want your mechanic to inspect rides in view of the guests waiting in the ride's queue, or if you'd prefer for him to discreetly inspect the ride at it's rear.

Having parts of a coaster built underground, track sections suspended above water, track sections that turn over themselves, or track sections near other tracks & rides adds to the excitement rating and makes your park look more interesting. Additional tips and hints on adding to a ride's excitement rating are provided here in our article Park Admission, Ride Pricing, And EI&N.

When building tracks underground consider placing ride effect doors or tunnel surrounds to enhance the area where the track enters the terrain. Entrance queues, exit paths, and the starkness of in-game supports will be softened with the addition of vegetation nearby.

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 re-load the last park iteration I saved 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

Because I make most of my own custom content I've 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, and more 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 view 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 often 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. 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. Sadly, these days there's a distinct lack of community contribution and member interaction on public RCT3 forums which are dying a slow death.