[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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By Jonny Watts, Senior Producer at Frontier Developments

Weaving all of the elements of Thrillville together into one cohesive experience has at times been one of the most nerve-wracking processes in developing the game - but also the most rewarding. It's the time when all of your work starts gelling, and your true vision for the game either comes to life...or falls flat. Even with the best-laid plans, you can often find that you've made all kinds of assumptions about the way people will play or enjoy your dream theme park that don't end up coming to light. Sometimes that comes as a pleasant surprise (for example, I never imagined I'd sink so many hours into selling people goofy hats and then making them flirt). But it's equally likely that you'll watch someone play Thrillville and realize that they're missing out on little features and jokes that you thought tied the game together so brilliantly...which means you gotta go back to the drawing board.

With Thrillville, we were lucky to have so many gameplay types that naturally fit within the theme-park fantasy already. You can imagine yourself playing bumper cars, racing go-karts, building roller coasters, selling ice cream, etc. So it never felt like either a design stretch or a strain on authenticity to create game with all of these elements.

Because our team has worked together on simulation games in the past, we've had a head start on thinking about Thrillville as a game greater than the sum of its parts. We knew that there would be three basic things that drive the game world: happiness, maintenance and money. So, each gameplay mechanic serves at least one of these game needs, and some of the more rewarding ones serve more than that! Knowing this, we had a place to work from on the level of basic motivation.

What has been trickier has been developing a hardy "ecosystem" for Thrillville. Each of the core elements of the game, whether it's building, talking to people, playing games, managing staff or minding the finance, needs to both feed off the others and give something back to you as the player. This system of interdependence isn't something that can be shoehorned in. You need to commit to it early, so that everyone on the team is designing and implementing with it in mind.

We've also tried to tie together different elements through tone. There's an underlying thread of goofiness, good-natured charm and classic fun throughout the visual style, game design, voiceover, music and cutscenes.

But we've had to do a lot of trial and error to make the controls, sense of progression, and sense of difficulty-ramping consistent within every facet of gameplay. Will gamers expect to build coasters using the same basic controls that they use to talk to people? How do we tie in the basic principles of each game without ruining all the fun that comes from their differences?

Answering questions like these hasn't been easy, but we've tweaked away at them every day. We'll let you tell us how well you think everything comes together when you play the game in November.
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