RollerCoaster® Tycoon Story Case Study2020-06-24T15:58:21+00:00

Expanding a beloved classic for a new audience

Enjoy a brand new match-3 puzzle game in the acclaimed RollerCoaster Tycoon® series from Graphite Lab and Atari!

Featured as Apple’s Game Of the Day June 24, 2020!

RollerCoaster Tycoon Story features an innovative rail match system in which players earn tickets that can be used to complete tasks such as repairing rides, cleaning up the park grounds, and rebuilding shops. With the help of a charming cast of characters, such as Sam the dependable maintenance worker, players will restore the luster to Eagleland theme park, unraveling hidden mysteries, and meeting new characters along the way.

“My younger self would have loved this! Unlike vegetables.Little Sammy didn’t like those.”

-Sam, the Maintenance Worker

RollerCoaster Tycoon Story Screenshot
RollerCoaster Tycoon Story Screenshot

Based on RollerCoaster Tycoon, one of the best-selling franchises in PC gaming history, RollerCoaster Tycoon Story is the latest entry in the series and the first to introduce a single player storyline. RollerCoaster Tycoon was created by legendary game developer Chris Sawyer and first released on Windows PC in 1999. The series quickly became a fan favorite for gamers. RollerCoaster Tycoon Story was developed by Graphite Lab and is available now on the App Store and Google Play.

Key Features

  • Hundreds of Levels: Match three or more pieces using the rail match system to complete fun puzzles or earn powerful boosters. Complete complex puzzles and unlock special items including the famous Screechin’ Eagle booster
  • Exciting Story: Finish each round to progress through the storyline and advance to the next level. As you continue to play, additional zones of the park will unlock revealing classic RollerCoaster Tycoon rides like the Steel Mini Coaster
  • Renovate and Decorate: Improve sections of your park by removing debris, adding decorations, and investing in research to further upgrade rides, attractions, and more
  • Endearing Characters: Interact with multiple characters including Sam the maintenance worker, Maggie the mechanic, Tyler the panda mascot entertainer, and many others
  • Daily Rewards: Earn bonus rewards each day for restored rides and attractions. The more rides that are operational, the more money earned
  • Leaderboards: Top the global leaderboards and compete against friends

Early Decisions

Our early days of production were spent on developing the playboard. Inspired by classic match 3 rules, we began RollerCoaster Tycoon Story with similar mechanics. However, as we considered ways for the amusement park theme to show through in the core mechanics, we realized we needed to bring innovation to the match 3 section for two reasons.

First, we wanted players to know they were playing a roller coaster game. Puzzle mechanics would be a big departure from the simulation gameplay the fans had known for 20 years. So, we needed to take a confident risk and bring roller coaster rails into the core gameplay. Second, we didn’t want to make “just another match 3” game. We wanted to innovate and offer a new twist on the genre that players had come to love through titles like Candy Crush.  The result was our innovative “Rails” mechanic which allows players to move full rows of pieces along coaster tracks to make matches.

Check it!

Early concepts

Our first mockups were rough, but effective in communicating our vision

Initial concepts for the game were derived from classic match 3 rules of swapping nearby pieces to make matches. All elements of the initial concepts evolved into more refined versions of themselves.

Check it!

Early concepts

We first explored styles for the match 3 playboard

Our team experimented with multiple styles of pieces as well, including squared pieces which are popular in titles like Toon Blast and Lost Island Blast adventure due to their color grouping mechanics.

“Fixing this Merry-Go-Round’s just like bakin’ a delicious cake.”

-Maggie, the Mechanic

Building Eagleland

As our match 3 mechanics evolved and gained traction, we began work simultaneously to develop the layout of the overwork park that players would be rebuilding. Eagleland, as it is called, was once a thriving park but has now suffered under years of neglect and disrepair. Since the player is focused on the puzzle mechanics, they aren’t offered ability to change where items are placed during the restoration. This meant we had to design the entirety of Eagleland in a way that was visually compelling, but also connected with the story we were crafting. We pulled in references from RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic, as well as other entries in the series. This informed the types of rides we would include and also helped us establish “zones” of the park as well.

Beyond games, our team drew inspiration from the Six Flags amusement park located near our hometown of St. Louis, MO. The flow of the park, types of kiosks included, and even some of the decor options were influenced by physical park designs like those found at Six Flags. Nuances such as the types of swag included in the various carnival games may contain an easter egg or two paying homage to our local park.

Connecting Coasters and Tasks

Our first draft of the story was quite open-ended. The player was returning to their hometown of Coaster Country after spending time in another town managing theme parks. With this expertise they would set their sights on restoring the local theme park, which was once the crown jewel of the town. While a complete arc would take some time to develop, we knew that classic RollerCoaster Tycoon rides would need to play a major role in each area.

Our approach to park design was finding a classic ride (or two) which could be the major renovation for that area and then build around that with additional shop renovations, scenery tasks, and general repair. Doing this would help us arrange our zones in a meaningful way, and would also allow us to begin assigning tasks for the player to complete. Additionally, we could get a better idea of how many levels would be needed to support the renovation of these initial zones.

Initial sketches of the park focused on single zones so they could be assessed more simply.

As the game developed, so did the need for a comprehensive layout of the entire park.

“Every great park needs an entertainer! And I’m the best this park’s ever had!”

-Tyler, the Entertainer

Crafting the Characters

Given that this was the first time RollerCoaster Tycoon would have an established storyline, we knew the character development would be an important step. From the very beginning we planned to have the characters take on roles found in RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic such as the maintenance worker, mechanic, security guard, and entertainer. As these roles evolved, we wrote character descriptions for our artists to work from when developing the likeness for each member of the cast.

Some characters such as Edward received only minor tweaks to reach a supported direction. However, we spent additional time evolving our main player guide (Sam the Maintenance worker) and our mechanic (Maggie) into more memorable designs. Both characters would get complete re-redesigns before reaching their approved direction.

As our story expanded, so too did our cast. While we initially planned for a cast of 4, we added our beloved mascot character (Nibbles the Squirrel) and our two antagonist characters (Larry and Jacqueline) to round out the different personalities the player would meet.

Story Arc

With our mechanics leading the way, we developed the story as a vehicle to connect players to their purpose for renovation. To bring this tale to life, we brought in a local St. Louis based narrative team, Brunette Games. Lisa and her team of narrative designers brought a mountain of experience to the table, having contributed to a variety of other narrative hits including Matchington Mansion. Together we built out the initial story arc, expanded the character set, and added a level of detail to the task list which would connect players to their mission in a more meaningful way.

This partnership lead to over 20,000 lines of dialogue which leads the player through 5 chapters and over 500 levels of gameplay. While our story isn’t over, this initial installment boasts over 40 hours of gameplay for full completion.

Initial versions of the core cast received numerous adjustments and re-designs.

RollerCoaster Tycoon Story CharactersRefined finals

The full cast of RollerCoaster Tycoon Story!

RollerCoaster Tycoon Story Characters

“Hazardous waste! This is a MAJOR concern!”

-Edward, the Security Guard


From day one, we knew that our success would depend on a variety of partners all working together to reach a common goal. Our approach with each project is to identify those partners early on so we can grow the game with the right parties involved. RollerCoaster Tycoon Story is no exception. We identified a need for data management, user authentication, user attribution, ad displays and several other requirements at the design stage. This made it very comfortable to integrate these various systems into the game.

The most extensive integration would be PlayFab, which would handle user management, data management, live events, and several other important systems. We’d used PlayFab on Discovery: Shark Strike and knew it would be a reliable (and scalable) solution for RollerCoaster Tycoon Story. Additional integrations would take months to complete, but offer a fantastic web of functionality for the launch.

  • PlayFab – Player Data, Authentication, Leaderboards, Push Notifications, App Currency
  • Fyber – Offer walls and Video Ads
  • AppsFlyer – User attribution
  • Firebase – Analytics
  • HelpShift – Player support and F.A.Q.
  • Facebook Audience Network – Marketing attribution

Support and Live Ops

Our team is engaged on a daily basis to support the game and iterate to provide the most satisfying experience for our players. This benchmark appears through attainment of great retention, strong monetization, and excellent review scores on both Apple App Store and Google Play. These results developed over months of assessment and analysis during our soft launch period. These testing windows produced valuable feedback on level balance, gameplay length, tutorial effectiveness, pricing, and many other areas to numerous to list.


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Download Today

RollerCoaster Tycoon Story is available now on Apple App Store and Google Play!

Over 50+ tutorial sequences have been integrated

Player feedback on pricing is critical output from Soft Launch

Thanks for playing!

“Squeak! Squea-SQUEAK! SQUEAKLE!”

-Nibbles, the Park Pet

Let’s Make Something Happen!


Let’s Get Started!