Park Beyond: how do you build a real amusement park? Interview with Limbic and MackNeXT

Park Beyond: how do you build a real amusement park? Interview with Limbic and MackNeXT

Park Beyond

Since its announcement, Park Beyond has immediately set the record straight: the new simulation-management software from Limbic Entertainment does not want to put brakes on the imagination of the players, on the contrary encouraging the construction of the craziest amusement parks ever seen. To do this, however, just a wagon of creativity is not enough: first of all you need a project, a strategy, a rule that applies to both a virtual and a real amusement park. During the Park Beyond press event, held in October at Europa Park, we had the opportunity to interview Louis Vogt, Level Designer of Limbic Entertainment, and Mathis Gullon, Project Manager of MackNeXT, the company that designs, builds and manage the attractions of Europa Park. Both designers told us how to create and manage an amusement park, each from their own point of view, and in our double interview with Park Beyond we reveal some secrets about amusement parks that you may not know.

Starting from scratch

On the right Louis Vogt, on the left Mathis Gullon Conceiving an entire amusement park starting from scratch is not easy, and Gullon knows it well, who opened his speech during the Park Beyond press event by telling MackNeXT's latest effort, the Rulantica water park. Built near Europa Park, the company took twenty years between planning and implementation, having to face the long series of problems involved in the design of an amusement park.

This list has been addressed by the product manager in detail, providing a series of useful ideas to tackle the sandbox mode of Park Beyond. The first step in designing an amusement park is, mistakenly, to worry about the more technical parts of the project. Gullon tells us that those come later, and that the starting point is to analyze the more human aspects: what does the public want and what do we want to convey to them during their visit to our park? <

Put at the center of the planning the visitor 's experience, giving vent to imagination and emotions, therefore seems to be the primary focus of both real amusement park designers and Park Beyond visionaries.

Questions closely linked also to the economic plan of the project, because the identification of livable themes and experiences in the park also indirectly leads to the definition of a target audience, just as happens in the opening words of mission 2 of Park Beyond. The second step is the macro design of the park, approaching the task from an almost urban point of view: deciding how and where the attractions will be positioned, creating easily passable roads, positioning dining places, services and so on. "A good map always includes a large entrance, capable of surprising and at the same time instilling anticipation to the visitor, optimized and always interesting routes to travel, and compact attractions", explains Gullon. Land use is obviously not a problem in Park Beyond, but the idea of ​​designing a compact and functional map was perhaps the most useful of those applied during our sandbox mode test.

Some creations of Park Beyond However, we are aware of the luck that has happened to us, because it is not common to receive advice from the project manager of an amusement park before playing a management simulation like Park Beyond. How then to educate the player on the numerous notions? This question is answered by Louis Vogt, Level Designer of the game. "The question they ask me most often is related to my contribution to Park Beyond: what good is a level designer when it is the players themselves who build the levels?" Vogt tells us with a smile.

"In Park Beyond we have decided to include a narrative campaign where all aspects of park construction and management are addressed. Through the tutorial levels the players become familiar with tools and mechanics, and this is where my work becomes important ". Vogt says that in order to properly introduce players to the more creative part of Park Beyond design he wanted to step through the tutorials. Mission number 1 stimulates the player to experiment with twists, loops and very steep descents in the small map available, where, however, the initial positions are almost obligatory and gradually become freer.

The missions of Park Beyond help the player to orientate themselves in the sandbox This concept has also been applied to the subsequent missions, with an ever greater magnification of the maps. The gradual approach to game notions has also been used for other building blocks of the tutorials, although this, the developer tells us, is not really his responsibility. Vogt in particular refers to the advanced design concepts, such as the force of gravity and the safety of the roller coaster, explained later in the campaign, and to the game interface, which is populated with new menu points as as players add new knowledge to those already acquired.

What brought us here

To build the most beautiful amusement parks you have to study a little Great designers, you will have understood it, one becomes, one is not born. While Park Beyond empowers everyone to create their own theme park, how do you get there in reality? "It obviously depends on what aspect you want to focus on," replies Gullon, to whom we asked about his academic career. "If you want to design individual rides, it is better to focus on a design school, if you are more interested in park design than architecture, if the technical part of the attractions attracts you, clearly the engineering part.

Per do what I do, that is to follow step by step the construction of new attractions or parts of the park, from the conception phases to the commissioning, usually we proceed with a management engineering course. cheap, but the reality is that there is no university of amusement parks. If you want to enter the industry you must have a truly boundless passion for the subject ".

Video game developer is also one of those rather difficult careers to be codified in a specific course of study, even if many steps forward have been made to date. We also questioned Vogt about his path, specifically what led him to Park Beyond. "I joined Limbic in 2019, hired right during the launch week of the latest Tropico chapter. At the time the team was focused on the game's release but at the same time it was already projected towards the future. When I arrived I was able to breathe deeply the air saturated with enthusiasm and anticipation. We then concentrated intensely on the new title to be developed, aware of our abilities: Limbic is strong on the management front and we knew that exploring converting the narrative aspect into tutorial phases was particularly effective like mechanics. Many of my colleagues like roller coasters ... and that's it! "

Keeping up to date is very important in any sector A strong parallel between attractions and video games is linked to technological innovation, and how staying up to date is essential in both industries. Part of this update process passes through the sector fairs, a place where the upcoming titles are usually seen and tested for the first time in the gaming field.

Making a parallel with Gamescom, where Park Beyond was present with a demo, Gullon told us about IAPPA Expo, the trade fair that the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions organizes every year in America, Europe and Asia. "Participating is clearly electrifying, because you are exposed to all the innovations that the market offers. The most important and stimulating moment, however, comes when you have the opportunity to meet with colleagues and experts in the sector", words that have unequivocally transported us to the atmosphere of Gamescom this year, full of developers who have been eager to tell about their games.

What the public wants

Fun and lightheartedness is what the public is looking for when they visit an amusement park It was at that moment of the interview, while we were talking about the new horizons of the sector, that Gullon told us how much technique and technology are secondary to ideas and emotions, a topic that we have already partially anticipated. Going into detail, Gullon continues: "Technology must be at the service of creativity and not the other way around. Recently there has been a trend in the sector that has seen the birth of attractions linked to specific technologies, but if you put that at the center of the experience hardly the public is passionate about ". Gullon refers to the implementation of helmets for virtual reality in roller coasters or other similar experiences, which however have not been very successful. On the other hand, attractions like those of Universal Studios in Los Angeles, which mainly use augmented reality to enhance the attractions even more, were instead particularly appreciated.

"The public in the end wants simple things: fun and lightheartedness. . The more an experience is personalized and linked to an intellectual property, the more the public likes it. It is increasingly difficult nowadays to propose attractions and parks unrelated to large intellectual property, as much as to insert social themes in the attractions. Who spends a day in an amusement park he doesn't want to think about the park's energy consumption, waste disposal or water recycling ". All this then takes place behind the scenes: the park has strict policies from this point of view and almost 12,000 employees work in an efficient and controlled way, but the visitor is not interested in knowing, for example, that Europa Park consumes a lot of energy. as electric as a town of 6,000 inhabitants.

Park Beyond manages to please many players For its part, Limbic also knows what the players want, and above all what he wants to offer them. After testing Park Beyond, we confessed to Vogt that we were impressed with the depth of the game. In our test we talked about a careful focus on both macro and micro management and, when asked how the team managed to manage everything in such a functional and cohesive way within the game, the developer replied: "We decided to proceed. in this direction because we know that not all players are the same. Ours is a profound simulation-management system but which clearly rewards and encourages the user's creativity. We knew that there would be players more interested in management mechanics and others more oriented towards part of the design. For this reason the catalog offers a long series of objects ready to place. At the same time, however, whoever wants to have the possibility to create every single detail by hand. "

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