Game Design Analysis – Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 (RCT2)

Name of the game

Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 (Playing the OpenRCT2 open-source adaptation of the game)

Short description of the game

Released in 2002, Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 (or RCT2 for short) is a construction and management simulation game developed by Chris Sawyer. The game is second in the Roller Coaster Tycoon series and it was all designed and programmed by Sawyer in assembly language.

RCT2’s main mode of gameplay consists of different scenarios where players have to manage a theme park and meet certain objectives by a deadline. It also has a sandbox mode where players could create their own scenarios and rides without constraints as well as having scenarios which modelled after the real-life Six Flags Theme Parks. With its unique gameplay, it is considered one of the pioneers of the simulation games genre.

The open-source adaptation of the game, OpenRCT2, was created by a group of volunteers to make the game compatible with more modern versions of current operating systems as well as adding more control and options to the game.


OpenRCT2 download: (Requires the original RCT2 game which can be downloaded on Steam)



Preamble + How I felt upon playing the game

Before I dive into the analysis of the game, this game was my childhood and I would play it ever so often during my primary and secondary school years.

Upon playing the game, I experience a sense of satisfaction whenever I managed to build a roller coaster that has high excitement ratings. I also realized that at any moment in the game, I am always worried about my park rating as well as my finances and my eyes tend to be focused on this HUD a lot.

Nonetheless, this game really gave me a sense of nostalgia through the pixelated graphics. The clear animations as well as the sounds also made me feel like I am overseeing the management of an actual theme park.

Relate to elemental tetrad and 4-5 lenses

Lens 9: The Lens of The Elemental Tetrad

Technology: As RCT2 is a rather old PC game (2002), the original game was only supported on older versions of Windows such as Windows XP or Windows Vista. However, after the open source adaption was released, the game is now playable on Windows 10, macOS and Linux. Hence, I would say that the technology for this game has been well-managed now thanks to the adaptation.

Mechanics: The main gameplay for RCT2 is unique in the sense that there were not many games of the same genre back then. The gameplay involves a collection of scenarios in which each scenario gives the player the control of a theme park with certain constraints. For each scenario. the player is required to meet certain objectives whilst keeping in mind the deadline in order to complete it.

This challenge of managing a theme park requires a lot of strategic planning from players as there are many things that the player must take care of. This includes things like finances and loans, staffing, park rating and guest happiness which keeps the player engaged at any given moment in the game. The scenarios also progressively get harder as more challenging scenarios get unlocked with each scenario cleared.

The game also allowed players to express their creativity and encouraging the spirit of design as players are able to place scenery around the park to beautify it and think of how to construct roads/paths and rides that can navigate through the park environment.

Personally, I feel that the mechanics of the game is the reason why this game is considered a classic as it really engages the player’s creativity, imagination, and organisation skills.

Aesthetics: As an early 2000s game, the aesthetics can seem rather pixelated when viewed with a modern lens. However, at that time, the aesthetics of the game was considered amazing with how life-like the parks can look with clear animations of guests walking around the park and roller coasters darting about on the tracks. The audio of guests screaming as they enter a drop on the roller coaster is also a nice touch as it added to how a theme park should sound like. Although the objects in the game (such as the scenery) were of low quality, they were definitely detailed enough for players to distinguish between different objects in the scene and there was enough variation for players to create their own unique theme park.

Story: As this game is a simulation game, a story is not needed for it to be fun and addictive for players. Even though a well-constructed story could be effective in giving player some context as to why they are managing a certain park, it may be superfluous as the main appeal of the game are the mechanics which traps the player to carry on managing the park rather than a deep lore.

Lens 38: The Lens of Challenge

In each scenario, there are certain objectives that the player must meet to clear them. These objectives can include achieving a minimum park rating by a certain date or getting a certain number of guests in the park.

As the scenarios often have a tight deadline, the player must plan and imagine in advance how they would allocate their resources and go about expanding the park. For instance, the player might start with cheap and simple roller coasters in the beginning to attract more guests in the initial stages of the game or invest bulk of the money into advertisements in order to entice more guests into the park to meet a certain goal. The scenarios also progressively get harder with more constraints as the player advances through the scenarios which keeps the game interesting.

Lens 51: The Lens of Imagination

As the game was fairly limited in terms of technology at that time with regard to graphics, imagination plays a huge role in the game to immerse the player into managing a real-life amusement park. The game uses a lot of sound that is commonly heard in an amusement park (such as guests chatting, screaming upon a drop on a roller coaster, the splashing noise of water rides) which fills the gap in trying to capture the experience of being in a theme park. The objects in the game are also nicely and smartly designed (such as the roller coasters) to enhance the realism of the game. For example, the guest walking animations, although simple, has a lot of variation in the speed as well as going back and forth different sprites which can tell you if a guest in the park is happy/excited or sad/tired. This forces the player to imagine how a guest would appear with various moods by fitting the player’s mental model.

Lens 52: The Lens of Economy

Bulk of the game is heavily centered around managing finances as the player would want to keep the theme park running at a profit to expand the park. As such, there are a lot of choices that needs to be made by the player so that he/she is able to keep the theme park afloat.

For instance, a player might decide to only build smaller thrill rides in the beginning before spending massively on a huge and attractive roller coaster. On the other hand, another player would think that building smaller roller coasters would be more beneficial in ensuring a more constant supply of guests arriving to the park. Both approaches are indeed valid ways of managing the expansion of the park with the financial constraints and they each have their own trade-offs and benefits.

However, even though this game might seem fun for a problem-solver and strategy-game lover like myself, there are players who would find this constant planning of resources to be tiring and may find the game stressful or not as fun.

Lens 21: The Lens of Flow

Although the different scenarios have clear objectives set, the game (in my opinion) does not do a very good job in trying to keep the players fixated on them. In my experience of playing the game, I am often carried away by my imagination in building the best theme park that I can such that I forget what the original objectives of the scenarios were. This happens frequently to me as the game rarely reminds you of the objectives that you need to complete. Hence, the game does not really have a flow as there is no constant reminder of objectives which does not really hold a player’s focus.

However, it is also possible that this seems more like a feature rather than an oversight on how the game is supposed to be. Bulk of the reason why this game is considered a classic is because most players consider the fun in the game to be the actual building and designing of the park rather than the accomplishment of meeting certain objectives.


In conclusion, the various lenses play a role in helping to shape the experience of the player in RCT2. Even though the game may not necessarily have a defined story or objectives, it was incredibly addictive as it relies on imagination and creativity to keep players engaged (since no playthrough of any scenario would ever look the same due to the endless possibilities of design and management approaches).

Note: Images are taken from the actual game played (OpenRCT2 Adaptation)

By: Sim Jun Yuen, Darren (A0136233N) (CS3247: Game Development AY20/21 S2)

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