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 Author: FlightToAtlantis

All of us at one time or another have sat in front of a just installed newly launched RCT3 for the very first time and had not the slightest idea what to do next. After quickly becoming somewhat familiar with the menus the next question to be asked is usually, “How can I build a great park with this game?”

The best way to start is to pull in the reins and not be too anxious to start using the mouse in the menus before you know what it is that you want to go where. As a serious builder of parks, whether experienced or a newbie, planning is very important at all stages of park building but particularly at the beginning when you've got that big empty lot staring back at you challenging you and your ideas.

Making a Start

The first thing I like to do is loosely decide where I may want the paths in relation to the terrain, to the pool complex and where I want the food courts, plazas and promenades. If you want hills, valleys, lakes and ponds, now is the time to consider and/or place those. It’s handy when the trees move with the landscaping if you’ve placed them before terraforming but terraforming can be death for structures and everything doesn’t always go back to where it was by re-forming the ground. If you really must terraform after building, save the building as a structure, terraform, remove the mess that’s left of the old building and replace with the saved structure.

As a matter of interest, terraforming is the only time RCT3 provides us the opportunity to ‘undo.’  To take advantage of this undo feature you’ll need to keep your finger pressed on the mouse until you’re sure you’re satisfied with the alterations you’ve just made to your terrain. If you've altered the terrain and are not happy with what you've done, without removing your finger from the mouse you can move the cursor in the opposite direction the same number of increments and undo what you've just done, during which the terrain will return exactly to its former shape.  Again, the structures on this undone terrain won't always go back to the positions they were in before undo, but the terrain will look unaltered from the way it was previously. Once you’ve lifted your finger from the mouse the opportunity to undo is gone, nor is it possible to revisit previous terrain alterations to undo those.


The type of paths we'd like to have in our parks is entirely a matter of personal choice. Many gamers prefer park paths that are curved with hidden nooks that suggest mystery & excitement around every turn. I prefer a Roman-esque layout, a rectangular infrastructure with straight paths stretching into the horizon.

Whether straight or curved it doesn't make any sense to put paths all over the place anticipating that strategic placement of no entry signs will get the guests to cover all the paths you've created, nor will eliminating your guest injection point do the trick. It seems the more paths are placed the more paths the guests will ignore. More paths need more path extras and more staff which mean more of a drain on the game engine and less other things you can get into the park for your better enjoyment.

The only way to get guests to travel over all the paths is to space coasters, rides, and attractions evenly about the park – in addition to no entry signs and a guest injection point enabling better one-way travel throughout your park. While the guests don't look particularly natural all walking in the same direction they will be spaced evenly about your park. If you follow Fossil’s tutorial here on expert RCT3 path building you will seldom have a problem with lost guests.

Park Size and Filesize

We all want parks that are 254 x 254 but with all the custom extras available this isn’t always a viable size to have. A workable park with enough CS in it that we’re happy with can be obtained on a landscape that’s around 100 x 100.

I was a very long time playing the game before experimenting with custom content because I had heard how much of a drain it can be on system resources. After I got experienced with RCT3 I got over that and I can’t imagine my parks without custom items. I would now find RCT3 without custom content to be very restrictive.

Most times the default 128 x 128 park is too small for what I want to eventually put into it but an experienced park builder who is severely into custom content would be well advised to start out not much bigger than that. Because of CS I can no longer have in my parks a hundred shops & stalls, more than twenty toilets, a dozen information booths, ten first aid stations, some 400 staff and a path system where guests and staff pass themselves already coming by on their way back. Before custom items a few of my old park files were nearly 30MB – filesizes that included around 5,000 to 7,000 park guests. Getting a really massive well attended park built was the only good thing about the game before all our terrific custom stuff came along.

And speaking of filesizes, in a decent sized park with enough going on in it to attract them 1,500 guests will add about 4MB to your park filesize. I could never understand how a park without CS could take up so many MB on disk until I compared park filesizes after deleting guests. This means that while one of my old, pre-CS parks was 28MB in filesize, because there were 5,000 guests in attendance in that park that 12 – 15MB of that filesize was park guests. It makes more sense that the actual park filesize was around 12–15MB.

As suggested above it’s a good idea for you to start with a smaller park. It’s possible to get a park as small as 32 x 32 in RCT3 but it will be extremely difficult to plan a proper park, or to effectively expand a park that's started out on a map that small.

A Plenitude of Attractions

If animal enclosures are to be included I next sketch them out, doing this by placing scenery. I previously used chess board squares painted white to mark out the enclosures until I learned how to make my own scenery so I’ve got a set of markers for this purpose. To match my rectangular path layouts the enclosures are usually rectangular in my parks although lately I’ve gotten creative with enclosure shapes.

Because I like the guests to eat with a view of the pool then the final positioning of the pool complex is in direct relation to where I want the food courts, where I want the pool shops plaza, where the park's entrance plaza might go, how it might look or if it should be disguised in another structure, all of which needs to blend into the path system and any promenades. All this needs to work well with the enclosures which need to take into consideration where the zoo outbuildings and other staff buildings will go if there will be any of those in the park while leaving room for the aquarium, the dolphin & orca shows, the park shuttles, the coasters & rides, and areas of land with only park scenery. Regrettably one has to understand we can’t have all these in one park and then load it with custom items so choices of elimination will have to be made early so as to strike a balance between what you want to actually have in the completed park and how much park your system can handle.

In RCT2 stalls could be moved to another location but in RCT3 we have no alternative but to delete and replace which can be inconvenient when planning sprawling food courts. I sometimes sketch out the plazas, courts and promenade with scenery (already saved as a structure) before the shops and stalls are placed. If I’m striking out in a new design direction and have nothing already saved then terrain paint or CS markers are the next best thing to sketch with.

Reviewing Your Progress

Whether terrain painted or marked with scenery, when you need to review your planning progress whack up all your graphics options at this time so you can zoom way out above the park and get a good view of your ideas so far.

Park Essentials and Guest Needs

I’m probably one of the few in the community to build a park where one of the last things planned or considered is where the coasters or rides are going to go. I get more enjoyment out of the other things going on in a park. In addition to staff & utilities and shops & stalls, rides & coasters are must-have essentials to draw the guests. I have built a couple of parks that, after becoming completely distracted with all the things I wanted to put in the park, in the end there was only room put by for one coaster or a few rides - not good planning at all if I do say so myself!

Shops, Stalls & Facilities

Food & drinks stalls look best placed in groups with some of them making up one main food court as your park’s focal point in a central park location, in addition to which you’d have the occasional drinks stall either singly or in pairs at various isolated locations throughout your park. Care should be taken to place stalls so that they complement the scenery about the park and the paths nearby. While the guests are eating consider if they’ll be looking over an assortment of kiddie rides, through an inviting selection of specimen trees, at guests enjoying your pool complex, or at the lake you’ve placed in undulating terrain interspersed with landscaping décor. One probably wouldn't want his park guests eating while looking at the toilets or taking in a sea of coaster supports.

The same care in placement should also be taken for souvenir stalls & facilities. Information stalls are best placed near the park entrance or at the far flung outreaches of your park. Toilets and ATM machines do best placed with park scenery so they look more like the park they’re in. So that your park guests aren’t anxious about their toilet needs there should be at least one toilet every 20 to 30 path tiles.

Likewise your park guests should not be feeling anxious about their food and drink requirements. About 30 guests will feel adequately served and catered to by each stall in your park. This means that if you have 1,000 guests in your park, so that those park guests may feel adequately attended to you should have around 30 stalls placed about your park. If you find there are 30 or more guests all heading for the same stall, or observe there are more than a few guests complaining about how busy a particular stall is, it’s a good idea to increase the capacity for that item in that area of your park. It is not known what percentage of stalls should be food stalls, drinks stalls, miscellaneous stalls (toys & souvenirs), or facilities. We’d imagine that in a park with a desert climate, the proper percentage of drinks stalls and toilets would increase in relation to the number of food & other stalls. We’re not sure if more cold drinks are drunk in a hot park climate, or if hot drinks are more popular in a park with cold weather.

Notwithstanding any of this, if you haven’t placed enough stalls & facilities and your guests are hungry, thirsty, sunburned, and need the toilet then they’re not going to ride the rides or enjoy your park – if they feel like that they may even decide go home. Once a guest has decided to go home there’s nothing further you can do about their park visit. This is evident if you’ve ever closed your park, changed your mind about closing it, have re-opened your park, and have noticed that the guests all continue to go home as if the park is still closed.

Rides & Coasters

Most of us already know that gentle and kiddie rides should be placed near the entrance of the park.  Our block buster, death defying coasters should be placed near the park’s rear so as to encourage guests to travel throughout the park to get to them, with the idea that they’d stop at some of the other attractions along the way. The intermediate rides near the center of your park will help some of your park guests work up the nerve to graduate up to your star rides at the rear.

Depending on the size of your park map a few tall rides such as Observation Tower, Phoenix Twister, and Cinipaes Fabbri-MegaDrop should be placed somewhat centrally in your park so your park guests have something to use as a landmark while traveling about your paths, and of course to offer any guests who ride them a view of your park.

When operating a park requiring finance, one of the mysteries about park management is how to price rides. I find that if we add a decimal place to the ride/track’s excitement rating we’d have a good idea of where to start. If we take a coaster with an excitement rating of 8.4 as an example we’d start pricing at £8.40. If this ride has a good intensity rating that price could go even higher. We can mark this up higher still if the ride is brand new or if there is free entry into the park. If after the ride’s been there awhile guests suddenly leave the queue in droves and no new guests are arriving, if the ride's not broken down there’s a good chance the price threshold has been passed and the price needs to come down. Just like setting the price of a ride, lowering the price of rides is trial and error.

While ride queues need to be individually placed we can minimize the number of paths about our parks by merging the exit paths. This would require care in placing the exits of the rides in question so that we can achieve the maximum amount or merge with a minimum of trouble.

One should also take care in presenting a flat ride so that it’s turned to advantage and presents its best view towards the guest. For example, if you’re placing GTT’s House of Glass you’d want its entrance placed so park guests can see the front of this attraction from the paths. Likewise you’d want the higher parts of a coaster towards the rear or towards one side so the guests may see as much of the track as possible when approaching it. You may even want to consider if you want your mechanic to inspect rides in view of the guests in the ride's queue, or if you'd prefer for him to inspect the ride at the rear.

Having parts of a coaster built underground, track sections suspended above water, or track sections near other tracks & rides adds to the excitement rating and makes your park look more interesting.

When building tracks underground consider placing ride effect doors or tunnel surrounds to enhance the area where the track enters the terrain. Entrance queues, exit paths, and the starkness of ride supports will be softened with the addition of vegetation nearby.

The Importance of Saving

Always save your games before investing your time in major changes. If I don't like where the pool is or where I've put the food court I can simply go back to the last iteration and try again rather than spend time deleting the items. Do frequently save areas of scenery as structures. This way each successive park in which you plan to use something similar will be that much easier. What a shame staff patrol areas or paths & path add-ons can't be saved in this way.

A Personal Plan

I’ve gotten into making personal custom scenery in big way lately and have found myself spending a lot of time fine tuning a single building in SketchUp and then building a park around that. Others who are totally into coasters will invest time coming up with their dream track and that's what they prefer to choose to build their park around. One needs to find a plan that works best for them.

Expanding Your Horizons

Feedback is good for a little. It’s far better to take a look at someone else’s work and see what it is you like in that and try to emulate it. During your internet travels take screenshots of fabulous stuff that either visually speaks to you or that you might like to one day try yourself. And of course, whether you’re assembling a building, crafting that death-defying coaster, or preparing your dream park, to routinely come up with results you're happy with it takes practice, practice, practice.

There aren’t any blueprints for park building except for those that appear inside your head while you’re working on a park. Having said that there are all sorts of places on the internet you can view images to get ideas of what you might like to build. If you want to see images of castles select a popular search site, select to search for images, then type in “castle,” it’s as simple as that. Or perhaps you might want to see Medieval, Bavarian, or Baronial castles so you'd search using those words. It's up to you whether you prefer to look at RCT3 screenshots or images from real life.

A great deal of RCT3 is trial and error. You may start out intending to faithfully copy real coasters and then discover you prefer more creativity. How we approach creativity and the results we eventually come up with are sometimes quite different. Except for the manual that came with RCT3 there is no book in which to learn what we need to know about RCT3 nor is there any one stop to download a huge mega pack of custom content. It takes experience in the game, learning your menus, knowing your custom items, browsing the different custom content sites and communicating & sharing on the forums.

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