Zen and the Art of RollerCoaster Tycoon

I’ve been rediscovering RollerCoaster Tycoon (2) over the past few days, after a long time away from it.  It was partly prompted by this video analysing the genius of the level design in the original RCT.

Today I played the “European Cultural Festival” scenario, an interesting one where you start with a basic park, divided into five zones themed around different European countries (it’s from the Wacky Worlds expansion pack, and makes heavy use of that pack’s new scenery).


The beginning park is truly beautiful, but haemorrhaging cash when you take it over. There are few big attractions, a surfeit of staff, and path layouts which result in guests constantly getting lost. After a first attempt which was working out to be a miserable failure, I reset in order to concentrate from the start on making the park more manageable for both myself and the guests. This actually involved cutting off the British zone entirely (it was gorgeously themed, but only had one ride and a tonne of twisty little paths). There was so much to be done elsewhere, I hadn’t even re-opened it by the Year 4 end of the scenario.

Even with this I was struggling. My strategy this time had been to keep my loan as low as possible (due to the punishing interest rate) and concentrate on building up smaller rides and lots of shops whilst rationalising the pathing. The Russian section particularly was looking great. I was also keen to try and keep to the themes.


However this hadn’t been enough, and partway through Year 3 I was still well off the goal of 2000 guests. At that point I decided to just go for broke, maxed out my loan, and spent a (relative) lot of money on building my trusty triple launched corkscrew coaster in the French zone.


Not big or clever, but the Tricolore theme made it seem fitting. And what do you know, it started to bring the peeps pouring in. It may sound stupid, but I’d forgotten just how important actually building rollercoasters is in RollerCoaster Tycoon. That in turn meant more guests spending money at shops, and it wasn’t long before I was starting to pay down my loan. Before the end of the game it was below what I’d started with.

So I guess there’s two lessons here, and they can probably apply equally to RollerCoaster Tycoon and to real life:

  • Don’t be afraid to sacrifice things which aren’t working (sorry British zone!).
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks on big projects, sometimes it’s the only way to get the big pay offs you need.


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