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Zoo Tycoon Gold
Dev Dairies: Elavated Paths


An Interview With

Name: Linda Currie
Title: Senior Designer
Responsible For: Lead Designer for Zoo Tycoon 2: Endangered Species

What are “elevated paths” and how are they used in Zoo Tycoon 2: Endangered Species?

Elevated paths are pretty much what they sound like… pathways that are elevated in the air. This allows you to provide raised walkways for your guests that are above your exhibits, giving them a completely new vantage point to view animals from.  They also allow your guests to travel over areas that they otherwise couldn’t walk on… rivers, mountains, etc…

What were the initial goals for this feature? Why did you decide to include this feature in Endangered Species?

On the most basic level we wanted to expand the content in Zoo Tycoon 2 to include more of the features that you might see when you visit a real zoo. By doing so, we introduced additional building options that players can use in their zoos. Aside from our interest in giving people the tools to make more varied zoos, the elevated paths are a feature that fans have long asked for. We were delighted to be able to answer that request!

How will elevated paths impact how players build their zoos and/or play the game?

Elevated paths really open up a lot of doors when building zoos. Now you can make large pools for your crocs or hippos and create elevated paths to extend over the large body of water. Before you might have had to divide the pool into two separate areas to make sure your guests had a good view.  Another benefit to using elevated paths is that animals will be less aware of guests who are viewing them from elevated paths. Because of this, they’ll likely spend less time hiding out in shelters or tall grasses and the more of the animals the guests see, the more the guests will donate!

We’ve added a new terrain feature called Conservation Areas. These areas have some restrictions on what you can build in them but one thing you can do is build elevated paths that travel over them.  This expansion also introduces ground vehicles that you can use to tour through you exhibits. You can make bridges using the elevated path feature so you can have vehicles travel on bridges over guest pathways or have your guests walk on overpasses over your roads.

What was the process for developing this feature?

This feature was a pretty big undertaking that involved design, art and engineering. On a simple level it started with design talking about what we wanted to be able to do on, and with, elevated paths. For example, things like, “Do we want you to be able to place buildings on elevated paths?” (yes) or “Do we want you to be able to build entire exhibits on elevated paths?” (no).

Engineering works with design to help determine what we feasibly could and couldn’t do, and this helps refine the design further. And art works with design and engineering to figure out what they are going to look like and how they are going to be constructed, not by the player but by the game engine itself.

Then it gets implemented piece by piece, the graphical look gets refined, the user interface (UI) gets polished and the kinks (aka bugs) get worked out. This process started from the moment we began talking about the expansion after Zoo Tycoon 2 was completed, and continues as I write this while we make sure it’s bug free and working smoothly.

What was the biggest challenge implementing this new feature?

The user interface (UI) has been a challenge since we really wanted the player to have a lot of flexibility when building with this feature. We had some choices where we could have made a simple system that only gave you the ability to build the basics. Or we had the option to go down a more flexible route, which is what we did. Building a simple bridge or small elevated surface is easy. But with our system you can also make complex path networks that take you up, down and around, over and under in multiple layers, etc… and a more flexible system like this can also be one that takes a little more getting used to. To build these complex elevated path networks you need to feel comfortable moving the camera around and viewing your zoo from different angles since you really are building in 3D. The challenging part of all this was polishing the feedback that the player has when using the elevated paths. We’ve spent a lot of time making sure that the player could assess where guests approach the elevated paths from, see how they connect to other elevated paths, and have good control over ramping up and down, etc. 

What is your favorite aspect of elevated paths now that it’s in the game?

They look very cool. ; ) I’m one of those convoluted path builders so I like making intricate and interesting networks that take guests from one exhibit to another and over one exhibit to another. And it’s very fun to be able to make my vehicles drive over bridges. I also really like the challenge of building around terrain whereas before I might have simply used to terrain tool to bulldoze things flat. Ultimately elevated paths add a lot of interesting options to your zoo layout and more than ever, no two zoos look alike. 


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