Zynga aims for theme park fun in CoasterVille

Zynga has asked you to build a lot of things over the years.  Farms, cities, castles – you name it, you’ve built it.  But being a farmer is hard work.  So is being a mayor or a king.  Isn’t it time Zynga gave your virtual self the day off?  Maybe you’d like to spend some time at a theme park instead?

CoasterVille is the latest game where Zynga asks you to build something (admit it, you love these games), but the something in question this time is the happiest place on earth. (Huh?  That’s trademarked by who?)  CORRECTION: DO NOT BUILD THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH.  JUST BUILD A WICKED AWESOME COASTER PARK.

That shouldn’t be too hard given CoasterVille‘s potential.  The game is being crafted by the same team at Zynga LA that brought us Empires & Allies, a game that netted a five star review here at Gamezebo and was selected as one of the best Facebook games of 2011.  We recently spoke with Zynga Los Angeles’ General Manager Amir Rahimi about CoasterVille, and how it came about.

“Right as we were finishing Empires & Allies we started to look ahead to what the next project was going to be.  There’s a group of us that has always been really passionate about the theme park building game genre. We felt like we could innovate on it and adapt it in a unique and fun way for the social space.”

CoasterVille

In order to do this, they embraced one of the core principles of Zynga’s ‘Ville games, which Rahimi describes as “invest and express.”  Players express themselves through what they build, and become invested in the world they’ve created as a result.  “It’s the express part,” says Rahimi, “that we felt particularly passionate about.”

So how does CoasterVille embrace the idea of self-expression?  With a surprisingly deep level of customization. You’ll be able to select different themes for different parts of your park and build them out with different rides in any way you like, but that’s all peanuts compared to the coasters.  Players will be able to build a completely customized roller coaster, piece by piece – and doing so will be as simple as selecting parts from a menu.  Rahimi told us that the team “wanted to provide an unprecedented amount of customization.”  Mission accomplished, Zynga LA.

Customization isn’t the only thing that sets CoasterVille apart from other social games.  The game is also set to feature some surprisingly smart park visitors.  Every little figure wandering around your park is powered by AI that’s designed to make them act just as a real park visitor would.  One person might be hungry and head to the hot dog stand.  Another might be eager to find the restroom.  This may not sound too exciting on paper, but when you combine this with the dynamic nature of the park at large, things get pretty interesting.

CoasterVille

During our time with the game we were shown two great examples of how the AI might react in a given situation.  In the first, the park had two washrooms, both broken.  Lines began to form because different visitors needed to use the washroom, but couldn’t.  Then when one washroom was fixed but not the other, the folks waiting in line on the other side of the park made their way to the working washroom.  In the other example the player sped up the ride to thrill the guests, but some couldn’t handle it and… lost their lunch.  Those same guests then found themselves hungry because of their empty stomachs and made their way to a food cart.  It’s a staggering level of detail to put into a social game’s AI, and from what we’ve seen so far, it looks like it will be well worth the effort.

Whether you can’t wait to build custom coasters or just want to see what reactions you can get out of your patrons, you won’t have long to wait.  Zynga is planning to launch CoasterVille on Facebook sometime this week. Until then, please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times.