Planet Zoo from Frontier Developments

I know Jurassic Park was as disappointment but out of the roller-coaster options Planet Coast was a pleasant surprise… so hopefully they learned from the two experiences…

Frontier clarify Franchise Mode and Conservation Credits:

No buying currencies with real $…

I sure hope playing the game isn’t as needlessly complicated as their Franchise Mode looks to be.

Anyone pre-order the Deluxe edition to get into the beta in a couple weeks? I must confess to being tempted.

I did! Really looking forward to it… not sure how much I will play the beta though, probably just a few hours just to get familiar.

I’ve been playing Jurassic World Evolution to take my mind off real life a bit. I’ma stressful mess at the moment so this game fits good right now. The production values on this are simply out of this world. Phenomenally impressive. However, very little actual gameplay which means little depth. Balance is horrendous. Once your colony gets going you explode into a bajillion dollars. I sure hope they learned some lessons from that for Planet Zoo. Zoo could be an amazing game, but if much of the game is re-skinned from Jurassic World Evolution, there won’t be much there except looking at the pretty animals.

But like I said, talk about production values. Wowsa. I’m extremely impressed with Frontier’s art department.

I broke down and pre-ordered the Deluxe edition. Get to play the Beta copy next week! I’m pretty stoked… been waiting years for a new zoo tycoon game.

Can’t believe it but I pre-ordered the deluxe edition of this. Even though Jurassic Evolution was a rather vapid experience that left the strategy side of me wanting, I did enjoy it as it was the right game at the right time. By participating in the paid beta I hope maybe we can influence them to put more effort into the strategy or financial side of their sims. In JWE before I was halfway done with a park I’d have half a billion dollars which totally ruined the entire dollars part of the game design.

The beta comes out tomorrow and runs till early October.

Here are some details on what will be included:

I will be working from home tomorrow and will be sure to give this a spin and post impressions to the thread will unfortunately be unable to play as I will be working really hard all day!

Trying to play the beta. Instant crash when I try to start first mission, and since that’s what we’re supposed to test, looks like I won’t be getting too far.

ObsidianAnt is streaming now.

First impressions from 2 hours of Beta play:

  • In terms of free form construction and scope for creativity, this is akin to Planet Coaster and has none of the restrictions that Jurassic Park had (that I can see anyway).

  • In terms of gameplay, it’s clear from the start that Planet Zoo is already lightyears ahead of Planet Coaster. The guest/staff management aspects seem about as deep as Coaster, which is to say it is somewhat shallow, yet the game adds animal management as its main focus. So far it seems like trying to maintain/improve animal welfare and get them to breed makes for much more interesting and challenging gameplay than designing coasters and maximising guest fun on them (at least to me).

  • The textures on the animals are mostly really great. You can see fur, intricate patterns, and for most of the animals the faces are terrific (notable exceptions include the male Lion). You can also discern differences between each of the animals.

  • The models and animation are also great from what I have seen so far.

  • It seems like there is a great amount of little subsystems and aspects to the animal simulation (e.g. the game determines which animal is the alpha of an enclosure by size/strength, and if you bring in a larger male they will challenge the existing alpha).

  • The franchise mode, which is in the beta in a limited form, is such a great idea. You can create a string of your own branded zoos, trade animals between them or buy from the world market, and so on. It is essentially online-only as you are actually buying animals that other people have put up for sale. The game will have a separate sandbox mode which is offline. In the Beta it seems like they need to iron some bugs with the world market.

  • A key aspect to the immersion of this game will be its forms of progression. It should be the case that when you start a zoo franchise you only have access to common and abundant species, with access to rarer species coming only after a gradual increase in reputation. At least in the Beta, this isn’t the case. I opened up a franchise zoo and immediately bought a few Wild Dogs using trivial amounts of $ and some conservation credits.

Here are some screenshots of their habitat I made. Keep in mind I am artistically challenged:


I made this rock shelter from scratch:


The game can be really beautiful:

Initially made the barriers too low:

In summary, if you really enjoy zoo games or wild animals, hop in the water is warm! If not, no harm to wait for reviews on release.

EDIT: I should add that performance has been good so far. The first career mission opens up a fairly sizable zoo with many assets and guests running around, and I was able to run it at 4k rez near max settings with good fps (and occasional momentary slowdowns).

Beta crashes for me when I try to use the Franchise mode. I did manage to finish the first Scenario (looks like there’s only one scenario in the beta) which took only a few hours. The in-game tutorial is decent. The UI and tools seem reasonably intuitive, though maybe that’s from my experience playing Planet Coaster.

Frontier already released a patch today… but it seemed to make the game crash even more!

I’ll dive back in once a new patch is out. Overall I really like what I see so far.

Finally got it to run and I have mixed feelings about this. First and foremost I abhor the Planet Coaster/Zoo interface. I think it’s abysmal and I have to spend way too much time searching for things.

I wish they’d used the Jurassic World Evolution interface and people style. The performance for the latter is stellar, and for Planet Zoo it is already janky - ie. lots of hitching and drops of fps. And that’s just on their first (and I’m guessing), smallest map.

I hope I’m wrong, but it’s once again looking like there is going to be no balance as far as the finances are concerned which means this is being directed at people who want to be CAD and interior decorators, vs. than those that want a strategy game.

As @Tim_N mentioned, animal graphics are excellent, but the design tools are still a challenge. Jurassic World Evolution’s tools were so fantastic I can’t believe they didn’t copy a bunch of them for this game. In case anyone missed it, these are made by same company and use their same internal development engine - COBRA.

To me - the interface is a jumbled mess. I’m sure those who deal with Photoshop would disagree LOL.

You don’t think animal management helps alot in that regard? Noone should buy this game for its finance or staff management features, much like noone bought zoo tycoon 2 for those things.

The trouble with the beta is that the balance is off at the moment. Animals are giving birth in zoos too often and far too easily. Time goes by a bit too quick. Yet, all of the criticisms I have of the beta are things that can be fixed, even in a month of dev time. For me at least, the foundations and systems are all there for this to be a great modern zoo game.

I don’t have much of a problem with the interface but agree it can be improved. My biggest wish with the interface is just to improve the animal market responsiveness. Making cash animals not rely on server communication would be a good improvement.

Its clear that they are using this beta to genuinely test their systems. They seem to be very responsive to all the feedback, even in the first day and patch (they slowed down births), so that makes me pretty confident.

What would be perfect is if they gave us simple difficulty options, or start parameters. You would have default game, then a tougher option for the game where people carry less money and maintenance costs are higher. I could have fixed Planet Coaster by re-balancing the financial side of the game if Frontier had just given us a couple mod tools (or options) to work with.

We’ll see how it plays outs, but I’m guessing they just want to push creators again and the rest of us are just out there. This is why I liked the original RCT games. They had a strong economic engine for the time which meant if you were bad at decorating you still had the rest of the game to satisfy you.

I agree with everything you wrote, but when you say:

I think that’s the strength of this game relative to the coaster tycoons: you have animal management. So even if you’re bad at design and think the financial aspects are too easy, there’s always the animals. That’s a big draw for me, I can see why it would vary from person to person though.

Anyway, the day after they announced the game I wrote a post on their forum begging for difficulty options. Unfortunately, noone seemed to agree enough to reply, and I have not heard anyone mention it since then.

PS - In the end, you can’t make a game for everyone. I have seen reddit threads in the last day saying there is too much animal management and that it’s hard to design cool zoos when you have to actually pay attention to the animals at times. I have also seen multiple threads saying it is impossible to turn a profit in franchise mode and that the finance side is too difficult.

If you can find the post I will respond!

BTW, I really do hope the animal management will be enough for me too. I just don’t have the patience nor talent to design all the stuff Frontier wants us to make to populate their games. I ended up enjoying JWE way more than I ever thought I would. Much more than Planet Coaster ironically.

We’ll see how this goes. I have very high hopes, so we’ll see how it pans out with the on-line component. I hope it’s well fleshed out and deep vs. a hackneyed one trick pony (the on-line animal trading).

Verifying game files in Steam seems to have fixed my crashes, fyi. I can get into career mode now, yay.

FYI, in case this was a dealbreaker for anyone, Frontier have decided from all the feedback to add a mode to the final game that is an offline Franchise mode: