Contrary to how most people play RollerCoaster Tycoon, crashes aren't my first preference. Too much indiscriminate death and destruction. I like to mete out my fury in teaspoons, slipped to my guests one by one. Individual tragedy lets you enjoy the subtleties of suffering, and forces your subject to wonder what they did to deserve it. Because it's so tailored that they must have done something, right? Psychological and physical torment, in one convenient package.
So, upon completing several challenges in Planet Coaster, I decided to reward myself with a nice, traditional drowning.
This story originally appeared in November 2016.
One of the unintended joys of playing amusement park simulators is operating the park in such a way that the only person it brings amusement to is you — the omnipotent force to whose whims guests and roller coaster tracks must bend. The latest offering in this genre, Planet Coaster, released last week, and it only seemed appropriate to baptise it in virtual blood and fire.
In Planet Coaster's spiritual predecessor RollerCoaster Tycoon, drowning is by far the easiest way to dispatch of your guests. Choose a candidate, pick them up by their tiny arms with arcade machine pincers and hurl them into the water. Aquatic fun times for all. You can even delete a populated path suspended over a river, plunging a whole crowd into a lake and creating a minigame of picking out as many as possible before they disappear beneath the surface.
This old, trusted classic was therefore an obvious choice for my first Planet Coaster murder.
Though Planet Coaster guests visit in groups, Zac was a loser who was visiting my park alone. Nobody would miss him. Picking him up with the "move" option (no pincers, sadly), I relocated my test subject to the pirate-themed cove, ready to introduce him to Davy Jones.
There's some kind of force field.
He wouldn’t drop into the water, no matter where on the lake I clicked. My glee gave way to bafflement. I tried to place him in the middle of a patch of grass. No dice. On top of scenery? Nope. On a ride? Not there either.
To my horror, I realised that I was unable to place him anywhere that was not a path.
Reluctant to let my subject escape his fate so easily, I placed him on a single circle of path away from the rest of the park while I decided what to do with him. As I suspected, he was incapable of stepping off it, trapped by his own shortcomings. There's a metaphor in there somewhere.
I did happily note that once the trapped party realises that they are trapped (which takes longer than you’d think), they jump up and down and wave their arms like a distressed Sim. This makes trapping Planet Tycoon citizens much more satisfying than trapping RollerCoaster Tycoon citizens, who merely continue to pace as though, like sharks, they will perish if they cease to move. Planet Coaster people stand still. They know that they are not the predators. They are the prey.
Fun fact (actual funness will vary depending upon your feelings about attempted murder): Falling doesn't kill guests in RollerCoaster Tycoon. You could build a ramp to Heaven, delete it out from under them and they will just drift gently to the ground, as if sinking in invisible quicksand. (I’d prefer a cute little blood splat, like a Starcraft Zergling.)
Still, it's a new dawn, it's a new game, and if I can’t kill by water I will kill by air.
Constructing an Island of Misery in the sky (population: Zac), I built a ramp out over the nothingness and placed my subject upon it. Then I stole the ground from beneath him as effectively as telling a long-term partner I never loved them.
Note that he had ample opportunity to escape.
He hovered for a long moment, defying gravity like a singing green witch, then seemingly blinked out of existence. Tracking him with the guest camera, I discovered that, unfortunately, deleting the path from beneath guests merely teleports them to the park entrance. A quick test determined that this would occur regardless of whether the path was raised or not. No plummeting to the death. No cute blood splats.
Frustration growing, I deposited Zac once more on his island to think about what he had done, and proceeded to delete chunks from a roller coaster's track. A twisted wreck of steel and fire. This is what I needed.
Yes, mass carnage is not typically my style. My temperament is much more that of a serial killer. I favour the slow burn, like sucking on a boiled sweet, savouring every moment rather than crunching it down. Or like consuming an onion by layer by layer, instead of biting down on it intact. But if you're going to crash a roller coaster you're morally obligated to maximise casualties, otherwise it's just a waste of resources. I abhor inefficiency.
Upon completion of my edits, I attempted to open the ride. It wouldn't let me — the track had to be tested first. Fine.
Bippity boppity boo.
The carriage flew off the track, bounced like a ball and disappeared in a puff of smoke and glitter. No fire. No boom. Just an inoffensive blue cloud, as though Cinderella's fairy godmother had turned the carriage into a pumpkin.
And I still couldn't open the ride. What kind of babyproofed hellscape is this?
I knew people bowling had to be an option. It was featured in one of Planet Coaster's trailers. It would be a terrible case of false advertising were it not.
This one required the most preparation of all my experiments thus far. To ensure maximum casualties, I reconfigured all the ride exits to funnel guests into a section of path unconnected to the park exit. I then constructed a few stalls along this path, ensuring that the crowd grouped up and quickly became a mosh pit, because hedonism is the one true constant in life.
Using the money that these same citizens had paid me for their five futile minutes on a merry-go-round, I constructed a giant roller coaster. Well, half of one, anyway.
Again, no fire, but people were flung into the air which was quite spectacular. It was like watching a flock of birds that are really bad at flying, but willing to have a go at it anyway. Even so, there were no casualties. It even felt a bit like the guests might be enjoying it, as though it was just another ride. And unfortunately, those that landed off a path teleported to the front of the park and escaped. This is not a good method if you want to get more than one use out of your victims (which I recommend where possible — recycling is a virtue).
At this point, I decided to delve into the psychological. In Planet Coaster, guests visit in groups - adult groups, groups of teenagers and families. Ah yes, families. With children.
What would happen if I separated a child from their parents? Would the child cry? Would they search for each other? Would the parents leave the park without them, or look for the information booth that I had not bothered to build, never knowing that their spawn was trapped on top of a floating island in a pool of vomit?
It turns out that none of these things happen, because you can't separate out groups. Though you can select individuals and see their stats and thoughts, try to move them and their whole group invites itself along, like unwanted third, fourth and fifth wheels. It's as though everyone is wearing backpack harnesses with the leads all tied together, because they are all giant infants who refuse to die.
If I can't even inflict psychological torture, what's the point?
In RollerCoaster Tycoon, you could bury your guests alive if you were skilled. Raise the land quickly enough, and the guest would glitch through the ground. The text would say that Guest 2094 had drowned, but you would know in your heart that the sucker choked on dirt.
Attempting this in Planet Coaster bears an added complication in that the guests are strict believers in Not Walking On The Grass. But limitations are the fuel of creativity, and I was not about to let one small setback prevent the destruction of lives.
Yes, you can't glitch your citizens through the earth — or if you can, you can't do it as you would have in RollerCoaster Tycoon. But what you can do, and what I did with Zac, is dig a crater, place another lovely little circle of pathway isolation at the bottom, deposit a guest upon it and then gently close the earth around them. This is where I said goodbye to Zac.
Bolstered by this victory, I repeated this process with several families.
They're still in there.
Technically they are buried alive. They don't seem to suffocate, so no death, but there is prolonged suffering, which is more my modus operandi. In fact, I think I prefer this to a straight up burial. I like the idea of building roller coasters on top of caverns filled with people, oblivious guests speeding by overhead. Screaming in stereo.
Following the relative success of my live burial, I decided to revisit drowning. There's a common belief that drowning is like falling asleep, so from a certain point of view I was trying to be humane. Drowning is also convenient because there is very little clean up afterwards. Blood and steel do not evaporate.
So I decided that if the people will not go to the water, the water will go to the people. Creating another crater with a circle of pathway, I deposited several families into it and then filled it with water.
The ladies, gentlemen and children of the lake.
I quite like this as a water feature. Yes, there’s no actual death, no bloated corpse floating on the surface like carnival balloons. But once they realise they’re trapped, they do flail, which bears a certain aesthetic quality. I would gladly put several of these in my park.
Further, this construction allows one to drop a family onto the submerged path — directly into the water. I did find a way around that particular limitation after all.
So in the end, despite the many setbacks and hardships I endured, despite a world set against me, this is a tale of triumph in the face of adversity. A story of determination, of persistence, of overcoming the odds. A testament to those who, when they are told, "Amanda no," stand and say, "Amanda yes."
Aim for drowning. If you miss, you will still land in the water.