People Power: Planet Coaster’s Smart Crowd Technology

Of all the things I expected to be writing this Friday, “you should definitely check out this Planet coaster [official site] dev diary” was fairly low on the list. And yet, here we are.

You should definitely check out this Planet Coaster dev diary because not only does it convey the scale of the theme parks Frontier want to build (crowds of thousands), it also shows some of the tools they’re using to simulate those crowds. There are two interconnected goals – to treat every visitor as an individual and to convincingly portray large crowds moving realistically from one attraction to the next.

If you’re not quite as excited about the simulation of pretend people as I am, you might be disappointed by the lack of actual coasters, thrills and spills in the video, but if you’re the kind of person who follows individuals around their Skylines cities just to see how they live, this should be right up your virtual street.

I love the animations showing crowds as a sort of fluid force, sweeping through the pathways and causing blockages as they gather around popular attractions. If I can see that there are systems in place to move people around the park, and to track individuals, I’m immediately more inclined to believe that every change I make has some kind of impact. Sure, like an actual theme park, the game will live or die on the strength of the rides themselves, but it’s good to see the science at the base of the whole operation.


  1. c-Row says:

    *manly squeeeeeeee*

    This looks like the kind of game you stop playing at some point just to enjoy the characters, like a little ant farm.

  2. davethejuggler says:

    This wasn’t really on my radar at all but now it totally is. The crowd dynamics stuff coupled with the animations based on traffic, mood etc …. man it’s got so much potential! Excited!

  3. Krazen says:

    Even if this isn’t a game for me you have to give props to those animators. That’s some quality work.

  4. Flatley says:

    The fluid dynamics of a large crowd can be modeled with the same equations as the dynamics of compressible gas (like in a rocket or jet engine), and will exhibit similar behaviors, most notably shockwaves if too many people try to fit through a small passageway at once.

  5. SuicideKing says:

    “but if you’re the kind of person who follows individuals around their Skylines cities just to see how they live”

    Yes, I am.

    “this should be right up your virtual street.”

    Yes, this was!

  6. noodlecake says:

    This is great! Very interesting. :) I wasn’t at all interested until now.

  7. Simon_Scott says:


  8. JustAchaP says:

    I think I remember reading some where that in RCT3 there were 1000 different looking peoples so there wouldn’t be any clones walking around. I think I read that some where *shrugs*

  9. racccoon says:

    Good to see this sort of depth & approach.

  10. Y2Kafka says:

    So the actors will move around the park realistically, simulating a regular park goer as they go from ride to ride? Where have I herd that before? *coughsimcitycough*

    • Y2Kafka says:

      Perhaps I should add that I am “Cautiously Optimistic” and hope the game (and the AI) turn out great. But seriously guys… Sim City.

    • Nouser says:

      At least up to Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 it worked exactly like that. Each single visitor of the park was a single entity that navigated the roads and decided which rides he would take based on his personal preferences. Also, things like restaurants and gift stores earned money by individual purchases of the visitors.

      At a Simcity-like scale such a thing was impossible, but in the limited crowd simulation of a theme park, this is 90s technology, but now nicely animated.

      • noodlecake says:

        No. This is handled completely different to other similar games like RC Tycoon. It’s handled in a similar way to a fluid simulation. It’s much cooler.

  11. Elliot Lannigan says:

    It’s soooooo nice to see a team of talented, accomplished developers with a decent size budget be able to work on a niche product like this and have passion for it. And it doesn’t even involve killing thousands of NPCs. There aren’t many more games like this left in the mainstream and even Sims / Sim City got AAA-ified to death (literally in the case of Si mCity, I think they killed the franchise). I am not detecting any icky groupthink suit-driven AAA vibe here. I hardly ever buy games on release but I’m tempted to try to gret this one as soon as it comes out, just to help support this part of the industry and prove there’s a market for AAA quality games that aren’t about stereotypical gamey shooty things.

    • Elliot Lannigan says:

      Also the young nerdy guy in the glasses and light shirt is so cute, he seems so excited about the game its infectious. :)

      • king0zymandias says:

        And the accent too. British people have the best accent.

        • noodlecake says:

          British people like Willie from The Simpsons, or like Ned Stark in Game of Thrones?

  12. denizsi says:

    I see crowds walking in tight lines over wide and half empty roads. Not very convincing, really. “Shortest route” is not a viable application on a global scale. Smooth and fluid animations with collision aversion and crowd behaviour is nice, though, even if nothing new.