I was lucky enough to get a behind the scenes look at Park Beyond – the upcoming theme park management simulator developed by Limbic Entertainment, while also getting the opportunity to speak to producer Marco Huppertz, and level designer Louis Vogt about the game’s development, genre insights, and how they seek to bring in a new audience while also providing a rich experience for fans of their titles.
The game sports a compelling campaign that makes the game accessible to newcomers, while adding new wrinkles to the genre that keep things fun and interesting. Impossifications allow you to expand rides in ridiculous and outlandish ways, while the robust coaster building tool allows you to curate and perfect a roller coaster made for all terrain types. Here’s what they had to say.
You guys have obviously been doing simulation games for a while with Tropico and stuff. And sim games have been around for a long time as well. What do you think are some of the major differences between designing a sim game now as opposed to like, 20 or 30 years ago?
Louis Vogt – I mean, I wasn’t here 30 years ago. Maybe Marco can say more on that. But I think from what we’ve seen, on the one hand, the very obvious thing is, a lot of stuff we can now do with just getting realistic emotions and animations from single visitors. That’s not very specific to our game, I would say, but that’s a very technical thing. And also, the quantities and the amount of size you can put in and different simulations that can happen at the same time. I’m not 100% sure how much I can say about that. Marco, maybe you have a different viewpoint from that.
Marco Huppertz – I mean, 30 years, it’s also getting a bit tight for me. But overall, I would say that just with the technical capabilities, on one hand, we are able to create an immersive gameplay experience, where we are going on impulsive vacations in our game and stretching the limits of reality a bit at the same time. We are able to provide players with this feeling of a real lively park that you are managing. And then, of course, we took our learnings from making games like Tropico. And then not just being able to provide players with this experience on PC, but at the same time, giving this simulation game, Park Beyond, to players on PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series is something that we’re just preaching to a lot more people and are able then to hopefully build a bigger community of players.
That was actually what I wanted to touch on next. I noticed that the end of the trailer and the presentation, there wasn’t any mention of PS4 and Xbox One. Is it next gen exclusive?
M.H – Yes, it is. That’s a decision we made throughout the development. We made this decision because we knew that the simulation in our game is going to be huge. At some points you have 1000s of visitors roaming through the park there are so many things going on at the same time. We are able to make use of the technical hardware and capabilities of the new gen consoles. We wanted to not limit ourselves too much with the capabilities of the of the older gen, and then give player this next gen feeling of playing a park management game.
Do you think do you think that new hardware has allowed you guys to create a console experience more easily for this type of game? Traditionally, they’ve been a little bit hit and miss, especially in terms of controls. Do you think that the new hardware has helped you accommodate that?
L.V – For the example of the controls, I think that’s pretty much the same regardless of the state of the hardware. I mean, we kind of decided early on that we were going to ship it for consoles. We also decided that every feature we design, has to be designed for keyboard and controllers at the same time, just to make sure that we don’t have to compromise on anything. So if we are speaking of making use of this new hardware, it’s really about not having to make compromises and not delivering an inferior experience to players that just want to play it on their console.
One thing that was interesting to me in the presentation was that the game has a story, which isn’t something that a lot of sim games have. How do you think this advances the experience? And how do you think it’ll bring in a new group of people that haven’t really been interested in the genre, maybe aren’t as familiar with it, I noticed that you mentioned you sort of use that as a way to help people segue into the genre and sort of learn the ropes.
M.H – At limbic, we like to tell stories. And on the one hand, we just want to give players this experience of going through this compelling story where they meet sympathetic characters that take them on this journey of this theme park, and making them a theme park legend. But on the other hand, it’s exactly what you already mentioned. From our past experience, we know that the campaign can be this great tool to onboard new players, especially in simulation games, and especially for Park Beyond where they are going to be using so many features. Players that are new to the genre, might go into the sandbox mode and be totally overwhelmed with the number of features that are available for them to use. With the story mode, we want to gradually introduce players through the missions, to all the features that we offer in game. It’s also important that we don’t have this one tutorial mission that tells you everything, and then in the other missions you’re just left on your own with the story, and then you’d need to make use of everything that you learned in mission one. We want to use the missions gradually to introduce the players to a bit of new stuff from mission to mission.
The Impossification system sounds really interesting. How do you think it takes the theme park genre forward as opposed to recent entries in the genre?
L.V – We can’t really speak about all the other games for that genre, but I believe it comes back to the impulsive vacation we mentioned earlier. This was the first idea or the first thing we wanted to really add to the genre. For Impossification, it’s really about not having limits based on absolute realism. I wouldn’t say this replaces any one game, but I would say this adds something for a player base that just wants to do crazy things. Also, Impossification is not just a visual aspect or allowing you to build those crazy rides, it also ties back into the management aspect of it. So this also gives a different twist on our management aspect as well. So people will interact differently with those Impossified rides. It adds different layers onto the whole game and gives it a completely different twist, I would say.
You guys said that accessibility was a big part of development. How do you sort of push it in this game in the genre?
M.H – So in terms of accessibility what we think about a lot is what we mentioned before with the story mode, we see the campaign as part of the accessibility because of the way that we use it within Park Beyond. For us, it’s also important that if players choose to leave the story mode after a few a few hours of playing it and go into the sandbox mode, that they are not hindered by features that they haven’t learned about so far. We also want to make sure that every feature on its own within the sandbox mode and within the game is easily understandable for the player while at the same time also hard to master. So one thing, for example, is the coaster building, we wanted to make this as easy as taking a toy set and playing around with it. The more you get used to using the coaster editor while building your coaster, you are going to get better and better with it just by using it but the first steps into those features should be as easy as possible for the players.
In regard to the Impossification system. Were there any design challenges that you guys sort of had to work around when you were implementing it or coming up with the idea?
L.V – If we say we want to expand beyond everything and make everything crazy and unleash the player’s creativity, we obviously still have to work in between those boundaries of what can we make possible, what plays nice, and works well. We have made decisions based on the base rides for example. That is pretty much our team that thought about this flat ride flavor, as I think Marco and I call it. What makes rides iconic and how can we push them and it’s really our team who does it. For example for the coaster we made, we do not really want to limit anything at all. When you say “I want to have like 10 cannons each after the other” then you can just do that freely.
I understand that you probably won’t be able to answer this with your proper answer. But what is the most insane emulsification you guys have come up with so far?
M.H – Oh, I know one actually, you can see it in the trailer in the background. It’s like this spinning wheel. And it’s doing this swinging motion. At some point, it just does 360s and it’s at the same time turning on this axis. So that’s the base right? When it reaches the top, the spinning part where the visitors are sitting in detaches from the shaft and then it just shoots up with this fireworks effect. Then it’s caught by the main structure and taken around again. So going into this one in first person view makes you dizzy just looking at the screen. That’s one of my favorites.
L.V – I think we’ve seen a concept art in the beginning and at the end of it, and it has to do something with animatronics because I really like this concept of the animatronic. I think the crazy kraken is a great example of that because I really enjoy the thought of having this robot arm grabbing you and throwing you around. That’s something I would actually like to see in real life, but I’m not sure if it’s if it would pass any safety regulations.
You guys were talking about the modular rollercoasters quite a bit there as well. It sounds like the omnicart is going to encourage players to experiment with a lot of coaster building and the different types of terrain and stuff that you can interact with. What inspired the idea for the omnicart? Where did that come from?
L.V – It came from how do we take these boundaries away from the player? And not really have to make them decide, okay, do I want to build a water ride? Or do I want to build a ride that just can fly, for example. How can we design a car that can transform into everything? It took us a lot of attempts to get it right. It was an iterative process with a lot of cart designs, and then trying to combine them and also making sense of how the animations will work, how will the wings unfold? How will it turn into hovercraft?
How complex can you make these theme parks? And one other thing with the modular coaster system; how do you allow for ease of use while also leaving room for wild creativity?
M.H – So we know that we’re going to have different types of players. While some of the players might want to focus on park management, and maybe are not really the most creative people in terms of building, we are going to supply your prebuilt shops and buildings. But we know that a lot of players also like to really go into details with the decorations and then maybe not care so much about the management part. They can leave that aside and really focus on you’re taking each little building piece and then really making their own. I think the complexity then also stretches as you mentioned, into the coaster building. Like I said before, for us, it was important that from the beginning, it’s easy to use the coaster creator.
We also want to give players the option to really make complex coasters. So let’s say you start building a coaster, for the first part, maybe you just want to get the layout right. So decide on the height, and you care about where the coaster roughly goes. But then while you’re building, you can go back to the nodes that you’ve already placed, and edit those in terms of banking and pitch, you can really adjust the coaster so it looks exactly how you want it. You can also add in nodes later, and then just stretch your coaster into a different direction, delete parts that you’ve already built, and then just fill up the part that you’ve deleted. Another thing that comes into this complexity then are also the modules. We are going to provide players also with different modules that maybe are not so visually blowing you away, but really give players this possibility to take the coaster in different directions.
These games often benefit a lot from multiplayer functionality, especially in longevity. Is there any plans to add multiplayer stuff beyond what you mentioned about park sharing?
L.V – This game was concepted as a single player game. There are no plans on making a multiplayer game out of it as of right now at least. With what has already been said, we know that people like sharing things and so at least this should be accounted for.
Park Beyond launches in 2022 for PS5, Xbox Series consoles, and PC.