Zoo Tycoon Developer Interview

By Cindy Minguez, 3 years ago
The staff of Xbox Wire recently sat down with Microsoft Studios Manager Jorg Neumann to discuss Zoo Tycoon, a joint project between Frontier Development and Microsoft. Neumann gives us some exciting new details about what to expect in the next installment of the popular series. Zoo Tycoon is a sim game in which the player builds a zoo from the ground up, populates it with animals, then brings in the customers, all the while maintaining the fine balance between happy, healthy animals and fat, juicy profits.

Neumann and his team have rebuilt the game from the ground up for both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One based on fan feedback. Zoo Tycoon has a devoted fanbase, and the development team is listening.

We've heard numerous times that players want a “Tycoon” experience that is designed from the ground up for the consoles. At the top of everyone’s list is the desire to make the creation of highly personalized zoos more intuitive and easier, while maintaining a high degree of creative freedom and self-expression. It’s amazing to see just how much Frontier has succeeded and how easy it is to create the zoo of your dreams.

The second most sought after feature by fans is the desire for a greater connection to the animals they care for. I believe players will be very excited to see how we've integrated Kinect into the experience to deliver a whole new dimension of interaction in “Zoo Tycoon.” There is something special, almost magical when you have animals that recognize you, your voice, and that react to your movements and instructions.

Another area fans really wanted us to focus and innovate on for the new “Zoo Tycoon” is the social experience. Xbox Live backed by the cloud is the perfect platform for this ambition. We absolutely love the idea of building and maintaining the zoo of your dreams together with friends.What does this mean for gameplay? You can upload your zoo to the cloud, share it with your friends, and have up to 4 players simultaneously contribute to the creation and maintenance of a zoo at any one time. Collaboration is a key part of this new “Zoo Tycoon” and we believe it will open up the experience on a truly global scale.

Xbox Live really is the key to establishing what will be the first worldwide community of “Zoo Tycoons.” For the first time, players from around the globe can share their zoos, communicate with other Tycoons directly via Skype, loan and trade animals with each other and engage in large scale community-wide conservation efforts. Players will be able to come together and work on achieving a goal related to the care and support of these amazing animals. Not only will they receive special awards for their participation, but we intend to also support related real-world conservation efforts, which I’ll talk about later.

When asked how the game will compare to Zoo Tycoon 2, Neumann explains that Zoo Tycoon 2 is a great reference because it really shows the heart of the game and is one of the reasons the series is so popular. What the developers are trying to do with the transition to the consoles is to take the magic of previous Zoo Tycoon games and adding to that the power and tools available in a machine like the Xbox One.

Construction and the “Tycoon” aspect of the game are incredibly important to the franchise and game as a whole. Certainly there was some temptation to simply reuse both systems from the PC series, however we identified a need and opportunity to develop a system that plays to the strengths of the console experience.

We have dedicated a lot of time and effort to offering players accessible, intuitive systems that work well on a console controller and interface, balanced with the greatest level of depth possible. After all, the best gameplay is often found in balance and I believe players will appreciate the improvement to gameplay by optimizing these systems. “Zoo Tycoon” fans will find themselves at home with the core game loop and key mechanics, while new players will find they can instantly grasp the core game and get hands on creating their zoos due to the improved accessibility.
He goes on to discuss the stunning amount of detail going into the animals to make them as realistic as possible. Interaction with and education about one's animals is also being raised to a new level through the gesture and voice commands available with the Kinect of the Xbox One in ways that weren't possible before.

Another new, very exciting feature ties in-game animal conservation to real-life conservation and preservation efforts.

Another new feature we are super excited about is the animal conservation and preservation component within the game. There will be a great deal of focus on captive breeding and saving/rehabilitating and releasing animals back into the wild once they're ready. Once released into the wild, the player can keep tabs on each animal to see how they're progressing and adapting to their new home.

That desire to support the conservation and care of these animals is at the core of our community challenges. We love the idea of bringing gamers together and putting that collective passion towards the education about and conservation of the very animals that make this type of game possible.

For example, we are delivering in-game updates based on real world events that raise player awareness regarding the animals they love. These real world events, made possible by our strong partnerships with great companies like the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, are turned into in-game challenges. For example, if certain challenges are successfully completed by the “Zoo Tycoon” community of players, Microsoft has committed to donating resources to help assist the preservation of these animals. We love the idea of dedicated people making games for passionate players who in turn have a positive real world impact on the animals that make this franchise possible.
So players' efforts in-game can actually have a real-world effect! That's amazing!

In addition to the original Campaign Mode, an adaptive challenge system has been added to keep players alert to new situations as they arise. In this version of the game, the Tycoon has more access to the guests, as well. If one prefers to run everything from his or her jet, that is still an option, but for those who like to get in there among the action, owners can now wander the park and interact with guest through expressions and do jobs from picking up litter to delivering food to concession stands before they run out. A buggy has been added, however, to make all this running around nice and fast.

Neumann said a fully playable version of Zoo Tycoon would be ready for GameCom in Cologne, Germany, between August 21st and 25th. The game will be available for everyone else during the holiday season in 2013.

If you would like to read the interview in its entirety, you may do so here.
Cindy Minguez
Written by Cindy Minguez
Cindy has been writing for TA/TT for three years now and is the Assistant Manager of the Newshounds at TrueTrophies. She's an English instructor at a small college and considered a remarkably cool teacher for knowing all about Mass Effect, Skyrim, and Diablo III.