What makes an Exciting Flat Ride?
by Victor Davis and Marc Bloom

A well-balanced park sprinkles in a series of well-placed gentle or thrill rides amongst the many great coasters. However, you won't find much information on exactly how to make those gentle and smaller rides more exciting. How can you give your peeps the most satisfaction from these rides?

It turns out that there are several general rules of thumb that you should know about before placing any such "flat" ride. Detailed below are several "tips" to consider when choosing ride placement. After giving you the basics, we'll discuss the flat ride excitement tables, which are given at the end of this text for reference.

Tips on Scenery Placement
Tip #1: Each ride can "see" up to 5 tiles in any direction.

Each ride has a 5-tile "sight-radius." Consider the illustration in Figure 1, where we are getting ready to place a bumper car. Notice the yellow arrow? Well, that's the "center" of the ride. Everything within the white picket fence is within 5 tiles of that yellow arrow. After the ride has been placed, only scenery elements within this radius will be counted toward this ride's excitement bonus.

Figure 1: Bumper Car Sight Radius

Notice that this is not the same as a 5 tile radius around the ride after it's been placed. As you can clearly see, the back of the bumper car is only 2 away from it's sight-radius border, while the front is a full 5 tiles away. This means that simply by rotating your ride around, you may be able to capture considerably more (or less) scenery, depending on how you have your park arranged.

For a 3x3 flat ride, the yellow arrow is in the exact middle of the ride, making a quick visual appraisal of the ride's sight-radius rather easy (it includes 4 extra tiles around the outside of the ride). A 2x2 ride also has the yellow arrow placed in the corner, so 2x2's are also a bit "lopsided."

(side note: there is an exception to this rule -- each maze relies on the entrance pavilion for its center rather than the yellow arrow.)

Tip #2: All scenery elements are treated alike.

So, what types of scenery elements count? Well, it turns out that all elements are treated alike. This means that you can mix and match themes at will. For example, there are exactly 4 scenery elements that have been placed in Figure 2, below a fountain, and three different trees, all of which are within the ride's sight radius.

Figure 2: Bumper Car with 4 Scenery Objects

Tip #3: Up to 48 "scenery objects" count for each ride.

First, let's define a "scenery object" to be any tree, statue or flower pad. The first part of this tip is to point out that a square flower patch counts the same as a flowerbed that fills a whole tile. Basically, you can think of a scenery object as anything that takes up 1 tile or less. This means that you can place up to 4 scenery objects in one square (i.e., 4 gravestones), or any combination, as in Figure 3, which shows the same bumper car ride, but with a Jurassic bone, a small bush, a tile flowerbed and a gravestone statute.

Figure 3: Another Bumper Car with 4 Scenery Objects

Similarly, some large single-item scenery elements can count as multiple "objects". For example, the Sphinx covers 8 different tiles. This means that it has the potential to count as up to 8 scenery objects; but if only 4 tiles are inside the ride's sight radius, then the object is only worth 4 "objects" to the ride. Thus, for example, the Sphinx in Figure 4 counts as exactly four scenery objects, even though it covers 8 tiles, since only half the Sphinx is inside the sight-radius.

Figure 4: Sphinx -- halfway inside the Sight Radius

Basically, it turns out that most flat rides benefit from having these scenery objects placed around them, and that sometime before 48 of these have been placed, this effect wears out. Because of rounding, each ride is a bit different, and will max-out in excitement sometimes shortly before 48 objects are tallied. You can find the specific maximum for each ride in Table 1.

Tip #4: Park boundaries do not matter.

If you have a ride next to the border of the park, and if some trees outside the park are within the ride's "sight radius" of 5 tiles, then those trees will count in the ride's excitement calculation. Similarly, if two rides have sight-radii that overlap, the theming will count for both rides. With this tip, I hope that you're now starting to see the power of this information, especially for cost-conscious budget spending in a scenario.

Tip #5: Not all rides are created equal.

This is perhaps the most important tip of all, because it hits the heart of the issue how should you use this information to your advantage when building a park?

It turns out that some rides are much more sensitive to scenery objects than others. Many indoor rides (Circus Show, Haunted House, etc.), are not affected by outside theming at all. On the other extreme, you'll find the Observation Tower, which can gain almost 3 excitement points from just theming! Since the Observation Tower can only get a maximum of 2.43 on it's own, this is clearly a dramatic and important effect. Table 1 lists most of the flat rides for which this applies, and is sorted by the effect of scenery on ride excitement, from highest to lowest. More on those in a bit.

Tips on Other Flat Ride Options

Most flat rides come with a variety of other options that can be selected to affect the ride's excitement, and they frequently should not be over-looked. In general, there is no right or wrong answer regarding how long you should make a flat ride last. Make sure you monitor all the adjusted rides carefully to make sure that the peeps are getting tired waiting in line, and that they aren't screaming to be let off the ride. A general rule of thumb is that the longer the ride, the shorter the queue. By this I mean that if you add 3 revolutions to a swinging ship, you should probably reduce the queue length proportionately.

With that in mind, let's do a quick examine of these options, the effects of which are listed in Tables 1 and 2.

Tower Rides (T):

Each of these rides can be built to varying heights. The higher the ride, the longer it takes. In Table 1, the effect of an additional vertical unit is listed in the effect of the "increment". In general, it's common practice to build these to the maximum height to gain the most excitement. However, the table below also suggests that when you do this for the Roto-Drop, you're adding more to nausea and intensity than you are to overall excitement.

(Side note: the Table defines the "increment" for the upward whoa belly as an additional 2 MPH.)

Rotation Rides (R):

Usually, the default number of rotations for these rides is fairly low. Increasing the number of rotations can increase the excitement for each ride (some, like the Ferris Wheel, more than others, like the Enterprise), but these increases come at a proportionate cost to the length of the ride. It's hard to prove that Chris Sawyer designed it with exact tradeoffs between excitement and ride-length in mind, but that general principle definitely applies here, and the excitement bonuses for small changes in the ride simply aren't big enough, usually, to make it worth your while.

One item in this category that is worth mentioning are the differences between the Swinging Ship and the Swinging Inverted Ship. The Swinging Ship is much less exciting, but has a slightly higher bonus from scenery, and also has a much larger maximum number of rotations. The Inverted Ship, on the other hand, gives one of the highest bonuses to increasing the number of rotations, yet limits the possible number of increases somewhat.

Timed Rides (M):

These are the Bumper Cars and Flying Saucers. They appear to be take advantage of almost the exact same programming modules, so I think you can view them as strict substitutes, with the flying saucers being innately more exciting. A bonus for buying the expansion packs, I presume?

Indoor Rides (I):

These rides are nice to get peep out of the rain, but as you can see, the vast majority of these rides have fixed excitement levels. The Enterprise and Observation Tower are notable exceptions in this regard, however.

Rides with Multiple Settings (L):

One tip to keep in mind is that for each of these rides, the default setting is always the least exciting. Further, the first setting is always the least exciting and the last one is always the most. Thus when comparing the "Avenging Aviators" (Motion Simulator) to the "Thrill Riders," you know that the "Avenging Aviators" are less exciting since they are listed first. In fact, in this particular case, these rides go through the exact same animation sequence, and last the same length of time. Therefore, if you want to maximize excitement, switching from the "Avenging Aviators" to the "Thrill Riders" gains you 0.35 excitement points for free.

In general, however, the more exciting the ride, the longer it takes. In the case of the 3D Cinema, for example, each film listed takes approximately 20% longer than the last one listed. Thus, even though "Space Raiders" is 0.70 more exciting than "Mouse Tails", the added length of the feature should be taken into consideration. Indeed, if I show "Space Raiders," I typically try to limit my queue length to just 4 tiles. That's just long enough for roughly 1 showing (20 peeps).


You can do quite a bit to optimize the excitement generated from your flat rides. This means that in a scenario park, you should be putting certain rides, like the Observation Tower, in places where you plan on putting a lot of theming. Further, if possible, it could save you a lot of money to put your Ferris Wheel or a Whoa Belly in the same vicinity. On the other hand, that theming will be wasted if it's near the Circus Show.

For a contest park, you should pay a lot of attention to the theming around the 4x4 rides, making sure that the "front" of the sight-radius actually captures a large quantity of scenery.

Finally, there is a substantial amount of evidence that you'll probably want to change or adjust some of the default settings for some of the rides, especially for the Motion Simulator and other rides in which you can select from 2 or 3 different ride types.

Good luck and happy gaming!