David Braben Talks About Rollercoasters

Mate, I don't know what you're on about. It's clearly a dinosaur.

“Can I play as the dinosaur?” I ask a slightly jetlagged David Braben as we discuss the just-announced Planet Coaster [official site] after the PC Gaming Show at E3.

“Mmmm. Not at the moment but it’s a nice idea.”

He pauses then adds, “You do realise it’s not actually a dinosaur? It’s a bloke in a suit.”

“We’re done here.”

I consider making good on that and leaving the theatre but I have a few more questions to ask and so we carry on talking. It’s clearly a dinosaur, though.

“We’re very excited about it,” says Braben. He’s talking about the game, not the dinosaur. “We’ve loved the genre, really enjoyed it and want to take it forward.”

His studio, Frontier Developments, was responsible for Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 which came out just over a decade back. He explains that the game is still selling. “We’re still charting ten years later because we really hit it out of the park then and we want to do it again. It’s such a lovely type of game.”

What’s on show in the video isn’t gameplay as that’s only just starting to come together but the reveal uses game models so you can get a feel for the cheery style even if you don’t remember or didn’t play the previous game. As an aside, I also swear I’ve seen at least eight iterations of that main guy wandering the pop-up shops of Dalston and Hackney.

I ask how the game deals with disaster. For the most part this is because I’d put my success level in rollercoaster building games at an optimistic fifty percent (and a realistic thirty twenty eight percent) so it’s directly relevant to my own game experiences. But I’m also asking because rollercoasters periodically feature in headlines and recently this has been for all the wrong reasons. If I remember correctly, Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 took the approach that nothing terrible can happen to your guests. It sounds like Planet Coaster will be doing more of the same. “It’s supposed to be friendly,” says Braben. “It’s not going to be a mature game.”

Braben doesn’t want to talk too many specifics but it sounds like the Planet Coaster team are looking at generating different experiences depending on the length of the coaster and where the riders choose to sit.

“One example which I wish we’d done before is you get a very different experience if you ride in the front of the train or if you ride in the back. If you’re doing a loop-the-loop if you’re towards the front you go fast into the loop and then slow down. It’s actually quite a nice experience. If you go in the back you go into the loop and you slow down on the nice flat bit then you whip round. It’s horrible. I hate it!

“The worst is the power lift hill ones where you go up and suddenly it starts picking up speed. If you’re on the front that’s great – slowly over the top and then you accelerate. If you’re at the back you can’t see where you’re going then you suddenly start accelerating and then you’re thrown up against the rests and you’ve lost your bearings by the time you get down the hill.”

“The great thing with that from a design point of view is the length of the train affects the things I’m talking about. You could have one or two cars and then everyone in them gets much the same experience, or you can have wider [coasters] rather than longer.”

Lastly I ask about VR. Rollercoasters have that combination of fast movement and a stable, seated position for the player which suits VR and seems to eliminate a lot of the nausea problems people might experience.

“It’s absolutely something we would look at,” he says, but adds that there are no promises on that front because of how virtual reality technology might develop or alter in the coming months. It’s probably a good idea to hedge bets at this point. I mean the man can’t identify what is CLEARLY a dinosaur so how could I believe a word he says about the future of virtual reality?


  1. Ufofighter says:

    Fool me once….

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yeah, I was excited to play a game where you avoid getting coffee rings on the table. I feel so betrayed right now.

  2. peterako1989 says:

    dear david, please make elite dangerous offline and optimise solo play and leave rollercoasters aside!

    • Grendael says:

      Probably a different team

    • wyrm4701 says:

      That would convince me to change my mind and give David Braben money, but it won’t happen. It looks like he decided to lie about ‘offline mode’ early in development to get more money, and he doubled down on it by making refunds difficult. There were no consequences for any of this, so be on the lookout for more lies, falsehoods and half-truths in his upcoming games.

      • metric day says:

        I wish I had the energy to get worked up over the cancellation of an offline mode nearly a year later. Must be exhausting keeping up that level of bitterness over a really hardworking, quietly competent company.

        • Samwise Gamgee says:

          Hear hear. I was a bit miffed about it at first but he is a decent bloke, they are an excellent company and they make excellent games. I don’t believe they lied about it for a moment, I think they just had to make a difficult decision that unfortunately pissed some people off.

        • wyrm4701 says:

          It’s a bit weird to characterize it as “worked up” and “bitterness”. There’s nothing emotional about it, outside of slight amusement at your assumption.

        • Hobbes says:

          More the fact David’s about as economical with the truth as a car that does a hundred miles to the gallon. His interviews are beautiful things, in fact… wasn’t there one on here that was just that very thing?

          link to rockpapershotgun.com

          Yeah, yeah there was.

          “Depends on how long your lunch hour is”

          Oh David, you scamp…

        • syllopsium says:

          ‘quietly competent’ does not describe a company that either a) outright lied or b) planned so badly they didn’t realise firm commitments couldn’t be made until the last minute

          Not bitter about it – there’s plenty of other space sims out there. Just a pity they let us down, and I’m not about to trust them any time soon.

    • The First Door says:

      Personally, I’d rather they left Elite: Dangerous aside and made more roller coasters and dinosaurs. Wait, can we have dinosaurs ON roller coasters, please? Pretty please?

  3. mr_barnacles says:

    So about this dinosaur … can we play as the dinosaur? I really didn’t care a whit about this game until minutes ago, when I learned about the dinosaur [nb, person in dinosaur suit]. Can the dinosaur/person-wearing-the-dinosaur build the coaster? Ride the coaster? Repair the coaster? Critique the coaster?

    I, too, want to play as the dinosaur.

  4. Diziet Sma says:

    Excellent, I really enjoyed the Rollercoaster Tycoon games and I look forward to seeing what the studio can produce here especially given Elite Dangerous which was a success to me and something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. As a counterpoint to the inevitable slew of comments from the obligatory angry internet mob.

    • metric day says:

      It’s really bizarre, isn’t it. Watching E:D grow has been a joy and those regular changelogs give me a warm glow.

  5. Luperts says:

    The man has obviously never seen a live dinosaur

  6. Dances to Podcasts says:

    “The great thing with that from a design point of view […]” and not something I, as a player, would care about at all.

    • TychoCelchuuu says:

      I think he means from the point of view of someone designing a roller coaster. Which is obviously something you as a player care about if you’re playing the game.

  7. MacTheGeek says:

    I’m not sure I can trust the perspective of someone who prefers the front seat of a coaster to the back.

  8. OmNomNom says:

    And within just 2 years after release, this game will be fun. Within 3, you’ll realise other people are actually playing with you at the same time.

    • Hobbes says:

      But forums will be full of people telling you how wonderful their experience is of it, and any complaints or criticism will be met with harsh responses, trolling, insults and off topic commentary, often tacitly supported by volunteer moderators who were selected from the community.

      • Ufofighter says:

        Well I can give you an advance of the top 3 most common comments you’ll see in case you dare to criticise something:

        “Maybe this game is not for you, I’m sorry ,please leave”
        “I think (insert the most retarded / lazy desing decision you can imagine here) is great because it remembers me the 30 years old original game mechanics”
        “I was a backer since alpha 0, so… I’m right and you are wrong”

      • Hobbes says:

        Gosh darnit. You get me! You do! /Drcoxvoice.

        Though lately a lot of the alpha backers have been more and more critical, it’s only a small rump of the people who seem hell bent on defending their purchases or defending their investments that are intent on plugging their eyes and ears to the mess that E:D was at launch. It’s only just about playable at 1.3 and it’s woefully slim on content, which wouldn’t have been an issue if Offline mode was a thing because people could have modded that kind of thing in

  9. Hobbes says:

    Digging around on the Planet Coaster site pretty much confirms all the worst fears, this will be an always on, always connected job again. Forget any concept of an offline mode, Frontier is going to be pitching this as one of those experiences where you’ll have to be logged in constantly if you want to get anything done (they’re already advertising premium perks such as having your name immortalised on a foundation stone in everyones’ game).

    That makes this one an instant pass. Run fast, run far folks. David is at it again!

    • Raoul Duke says:

      Why would anyone be stupid enough to sign up for this, in that case?

      I can’t think of a more “offline” game than Theme Park and its progeny.

      What will people do when these guys decide the servers involved are no longer profitable and switch them off?

      • Hobbes says:

        They fell for it with Elite Dangerous, and that was marketed on Kickstarter to fans of elite, the original “Galaxy on a disk” game. If you go onto the planet coaster site, and I encourage you to do so, you will find all the information you need to make an informed and reasoned decision as to what Planet Coaster is.

        Here’s what’s been presented :

        There’s 100 x Foundation Stone “Limited run” digital items, which will allow you to place your name or phrase on *all* theme parks, not just yours (so if you’re wondering how they’ll make that happen, wonder no longer, see the login button in the top corner? yeah…). Those cost £500 a pop. There’s also £10 and £40 VIP passes that give you access to the character creator, those in turn give you access to create a character that will visit your theme park and other theme parks around the world. There’s also a limited run of “Staff passes” where you can create and name a staff member that works at the parks. Again, all of these will appear in other peoples’ parks.

        Finally, in a re-run of Frontier’s Alpha model of Elite Dangerous, Early Bird Beta Access will set you back an additional £30, over the £20 pre-order, for £50.

        That’s not counting the t-shirt/wristband/dev diary access package, at £25, which includes none of the above.

        Gotta hand it to Frontier, they are selling this one -hard-.

        And yes, if you do even a cursory poke around the planet coaster site –

        “We’re giving you the best-ever design tools, crafting the most sophisticated management simulation, and bringing your parks to life with crowds you’ll love to thrill. Planet Coaster will give you total freedom to make your park unique, and a connected global village where you can share your creativity with the world.”

        Which invariably means you’ll be required to be online to make this thing work. This is a re-run of EA’s Simcity, it uses the Cobra engine (Elite:Dangerous) which means it’ll probably use the same horrific netcode as well, that’s not a good thing for reference. That code has a habit of flaking out if you do not have a relatively stable connection, it’s very tolerant of low bandwidth but not of low reliability.

  10. Superpat says:

    They should create a game where you’re an innocent bystander trying to survive as a roller-coaster park starts falling into place around you.

  11. Captain Deadlock says:

    Rollercoaster Powerplay: chose one of ten identikit paintings who differ in no way other than having a particular favourite colour. Forgo any other game progress you might have been getting otherwise in order to drag rollercoaster pieces back and forth 10,000 times so that you get a 10% bonus to more rollercoasters a week later (as long as the server is online when you want to play). Woooo “connected global village”, I can “interact” with other rollercoaster people through an interface that resembles IRC in 1995