Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.
When I was a kid, I was all about — what I called — “building” games. Whether they were RTS games like Command & Conquer, business simulators like Restaurant Empire, or anything in between, I was just drawn to constructing and managing organizations of any scale, for any purpose. Aside from the given examples, however, I must say RollerCoaster Tycoon takes center stage as one of my favorite building games.
I spent many an hour on summer vacation playing through the various scenarios. I remember playing some maps over and over again, making each successive park crazier and grander than the last. In fact, even my grandmother (who often said video games would rot my brain — lul) took a fondness to RCT, often watching me play and suggesting where to plant new flower beds. Even now, I still hear her saying the grounds could do with more daffodils.
It wasn’t until RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 that the franchise and I had a falling out. Despite the little nuances that came with a shiny new 3D engine, it lacked the charm and nostalgia the first two iterations and their expansions offered. It just felt hollow in comparison; it wasn’t the game I grew up with.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.
Earlier this past May, I stumbled upon an interesting Early Access game on Steam called Parkitect. A collaborative project between Vancouver, BC-based Glad Raptor Games and Germany’s HappyTexel UG, the combined Texel Raptor team is making a throwback to the classic RollerCoaster Tycoon we know and love with some much needed improvements.
In comparison to Atari‘s RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 and (rather poorly received) RollerCoaster Tycoon World, this spiritual successor might be just what we need to correct the path of an IP gone off the rails. Frankly, they might do for RCT what ConcernedApe‘s done for Harvest Moon with Stardew Valley; building a new take on beloved classic, highlighting what worked and adding modern features to correct what didn’t.
Ahh, what a time to be alive.
What Parkitect does well
Parkitect got its initial funding from a successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2014. The project raised $63,730 CAD, clearing the original $50,000 CAD goal. Now on Steam Early Access and entering version Alpha 3, the sky’s the limit on the funds they can raise so long as they keep up the good work. With frequent developer posts and useful content updates (in case the game itself wasn’t proof enough), it’s plain to see this three-man collab team has been pouring heart, soul, and cheery organ music into their game.
Like RCT3, Parkitect is also rendered in 3D, though its minimalist, geometric art style captures the whimsical, child-like nature of games like these. Personally, I’m all about this style for two reasons: it’s easy on the eyes AND on your system (less textures and fine details means less to load and render). The game also features an interesting tilt-shift perspective that makes it feel like you’re playing with a bunch of plastic toy models come to life. Alongside the “plucking” and “snapping” animations to placing rides and attractions, it’s hard to remember you’re not actually just playing with toys.
On the topic of toys and channeling your inner child, Parkitect has a clear emphasis on creativity and customization. The current alpha is limited to an open sandbox world, but the possibilities are endless in how you shape your park. From terrain grade and biome types, to water level, and even buildings (well, housings for buildings to connect them or create themed exteriors), if you can dream it, you can probably make it.
And if you’re an abyss of imagination like me, there’s even Steam Workshop support or the ParkitectNexus where players can upload and share their creations. Not only is this a neat feature that helps every park owner brainstorm new ideas for their own layouts and themes, but to build community through artist expression (that is, through 3D modeling)? That’s a concept game developers ought to tap into more often.
As far as gameplay’s concerned, RCT veterans will find themselves right at home in Parkitect. The overall goal remains the same (build awesome theme parks) while all the stats and controls you could ever want for your rides are present, with little tweaks and improvements sprinkled throughout.
For instance, instead of just placing merchandise or food stalls and letting them do their thing, stores (and park patrons) have inventories now that must be taken into account. In addition to the usual suspects (janitors, security guards, and a variety of colorful mascots), you also need to hire staff haulers to keep your food vendors stocked, keeping abreast of your park’s physical logistics rather than just crunching numbers on how to best price that new hamburger recipe you wanted to try.
Extra editing tools such as full color sliders and easy-to-save templates make creating themes and uniformity a breeze; the rollercoaster track editor is just as robust, allowing you to build coasters of your wildest dreams. But for only being at version “Alpha 3,” it’ll be interesting to see how many more controls the developers cram into Parkitect.
With over 100 updates since its initial debut in 2014, it’s safe to say we’ll see these changes trickle in steadily until the game’s final (though still undetermined) release. But what are some things the developers can work on?