[Dev Diary] Thrillville

Find out exactly what goes into making a theme park-based "party game with social interaction." Get the scoop from the PR side of things first, then delve into info straight from the development team (which is why the parts start over).
Published: November 13, 2006
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Brought to you by LucasArts and Frontier Developments, Thrillville is on track to be one of the most distinctive, purely fun releases to ever hit PS2, PSP and Xbox. This November, you can build and customize every aspect of your own entire theme park, as well as play arcade-style minigames that you've placed yourself. As your character explores your park, you'll also learn some valuable information by chatting with park guests. And if you play your cards right, you might make a few new friends while you're at it. You might even get a date.


Every single one of the hundreds of patrons visiting your park at any given time is available for conversation. Each of these individuals has a unique name, personality and perspective on the park, and they'll all remember who's running things should you choose to speak with them more than once.

"Guests like it when their park manager pays attention to them," says Shara Miller, producer at LucasArts. "Some guests are hungry or thirsty, for example, while others might have friendship needs. When these folks' loneliness meter goes into the red, they're looking for someone to connect with."

The loneliness meter Miller refers to is one of eight need meters you'll see for each guest you meet, from the quality of the rides themselves to the placement of snack booths and restroom stalls. "If a person's bladder rating is 80 out of 100," states a matter-of-fact K.C. Coleman, assistant producer at LucasArts, "they really need to pee."

Another need of certain guests is challenge, which you can oblige with a friendly game of Event Horizon, Saucer Sumo or any other of the many multiplayer minigames. "If a guest's need for challenge is high and you help them fulfill that, you'll win big friendship points with that guest," says Andy Gillett, programmer at developer Frontier. "Friendship helps everyone because it increases the overall happiness in the park. When people are happy, they tend to stay in the park longer and spend more money."

Sometimes a bit of small talk also helps friendships blossom. "You can discuss all kinds of weird stuff beyond the status of the park," says Miller. "It's a lot of little factoids about history, animals, sports and other random stuff. Or sometimes it's little pieces of gossip about Thrillville or its evil competitor Globo-Joy. You may even find out how people heard about the park, which is important for knowing whether it's worth spending money on marketing campaigns. You can also try matchmaking or flirting."

Yes...flirting. Guests with high romance needs can be convinced to let you matchmake for them. Once this happens, you're in the shoes of the kid with the crush, and it's up to you to make things end up happily ever after.

"Flirting requires you to pick up on people's signals and respond appropriately," explains Miller. "Each teenager has their own level of openness to flirting. Sometimes you have to make friends with people before trying to flirt, and sometimes you can just dive right in with the pick-up lines. Sometimes they're just not interested, and the more you try to flirt, the more you'll alienate some people. You'll choose different conversation topics to flirt about, and it takes some detective work to figure out what people's patterns of interest in flirting topics are, just like regular chat topics."

"Flirting with someone who already has a partner is always interesting," adds Gillett. "Usually, you won't be successful, but sometimes you will! If you then talk to the partner, he or she won't be too happy...which can be quite fun!"

"The best part of flirting is when you've made it to the 'interested' stage with a person, which unlocks the Cupid's Arrow flirting minigame," Miller continues. "That's an adorable little game where you try to match your conversation topics with what's interesting to your object of affection at that time. Timing is really important, and the game is cute because there's a little bit of a frenzy involved in hitting the right targets."

"And who knows?" says Coleman. "It might even help get you a date in real life!"
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