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Zoo Tycoon 2: Endangered Species

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Simulation
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Blue Fang

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'Zoo Tycoon 2: Endangered Species' Developer Diary #5 - Screens

by Rainier on Oct. 11, 2005 @ 2:22 a.m. PDT

Zoo Tycoon 2 gives you the chance to build the ultimate zoo and enjoy it firsthand. You can explore your 3D zoo world as a zoo guest or even care for your animals as a zookeeper. The Endangered Species expansion pack will give you even more to love about Zoo Tycoon 2!

Q: What are “Jeep Tours” and how do they work in Zoo Tycoon 2: Endangered Species?

Jeep Tours are comprised of vehicle paths, Jeep stations, and of course the Jeeps themselves. Jeep paths are one-way roads that you can route throughout your zoo – over wilderness, through shallow water – even on top of elevated paths. You start out with access to four seat Jeeps, but as you gain fame you’ll gain access to larger and more exotic Jeep vehicles.

Guests line up at the stations in order to ride the Jeeps. They can ride them for a couple different reasons: either to go on a tour (so they can see the awesome exhibits you’ve built), or to get somewhere (to reach a food court that is only accessible via Jeep tour.)

If guests think your Jeep Tour is impressive they’ll give it a high “Tour Fame” score, and generously put some money into the donation boxes at the station. Building good Jeep Tours is a great way to earn some extra cash, not to mention that fact that they’re just plain fun to build, watch and ride in.

Q: Why did you decide to include Jeep tours in Endangered Species?

We really wanted to include a “safari-like” element in ES. To do this, we talked about a number of different ideas, but the one that everyone was the most excited about were definitely Jeep tours. While they weren’t easy to implement, we all really think they were worth doing. They give your guests a new “safari-like” experience, and, in keeping with Zoo Tycoon’s other flexible building systems, they allow you to flex your creative muscle. We’re really looking forward to seeing the different tours that our fans will make!

Q: Does a guest’s level of enjoyment vary based on what they see on the Jeep tour? What factors influence their level of enjoyment?

Tours are rated from one star to five stars. In order to gain stars you need to build as immersive a tour as you can. What makes a tour immersive? Biome objects, decorations, new cool tour objects, themed objects and of course… animals. If you build a Jeep tour that winds its way through multiple biomes and gives guest a good view of healthy, happy animals then you’re well on your way. The better the tour, the happier the guests, and the more generous they become with their donations.

Q: Was it a challenge to bring the real-world Jeep vehicles into the game?

The hardest part was making the tour building tools as easy to use as possible while still allowing the most flexibility. Through the course of development, we continued to find ways to make it easier for the player to build their tours and we’re extremely satisfied with the result. Of course we also wanted the guest behaviors to be as fun to watch as possible while giving you feedback about how your tour was doing. While this doesn’t sound hard, it meant revisiting the animation system to add support for the things the guests needed to do. Getting the actual Jeep vehicles into the game actually wasn’t as hard as you’d think. While we did pay very close attention to detail (wait until you see the dashboards!), the people at Jeep were very easy to work with, and we have some really, really talented artists here that “make it look easy”. I think that Jeep is excited as we are about using their vehicles in the game. It’s a perfect fit.

Q: What was the biggest challenge implementing this new feature?

The hardest part of the Jeep tour implementation was probably the actual tour functionality. We didn’t just want our guests to get on the Jeeps and ride from point A to point B with their eyes closed. We wanted to simulate what it would be like to go on an actual safari. Guests have thoughts about everything they see, and have lots of different “in-Jeep” animations that they play as they experience your tour. They’re also smart about rating your tour when they get off – it’s a real challenge to build a 5-star tour - if it doesn’t meet your guest’s expectations then the rating will be lower and you won’t earn as much money as you could.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of Jeep tours now that it’s in the game?

I like hopping in a Jeep in first person and holding on tight as it rolls down an elevated path and then motors right through the beautiful new water. Its even better when the guest next to you is basically jumping out of their seats because they’re so amazed at the volcano the Jeep barely missed driving into…

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