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Interview with Claire Skaife

In this interview, Rob Tonto interviews Claire Skaife, former webmaster of Skeg's RCT Park.


Rob Tonto: How did you become the webmaster of Skeg's RCT Park?

Claire Skaife: I started Skeg's RCT Park for two reasons. Firstly, I've always been interested in web design and I'd been looking for ideas for a website for ages. Secondly, I noticed that there weren't any really good RCT guides on the web, so I thought I'd write my own. I also wanted to share my own parks and tracks with people, so starting my own RCT website seemed like a good idea.


Rob Tonto: What's the hardest part of running a major fan site?

Claire: The hardest thing is keeping on top of it all! If you don't check your email each day then your inbox can quickly get clogged up with huge park files which cause new mail to bounce. Also, if you don't update for a couple of days, then you end up with a lot to do!


Rob Tonto: How did you discover RCT?

Claire: I didn't start playing RCT until about 6 months after it had been released. I'd heard about the game but I'd assumed that it was a bit like the old Theme Park (which I didn't like). However, I was looking around a game site one day and read a review of RCT. I'm a bit of a coaster nut, and once I realized that you could design your own, I downloaded a demo. The next day I went out and bought the full version and I've never looked back!


Rob Tonto: What was your reaction to it?

Claire: I've always been a huge coaster fan, so the fact that you could design your own was a major reason for buying the game. Needless to say, my first coasters were all complete disasters! After a couple of hours I got the hang of things though. Even now, I'm still learning. Sometimes I'll look at a park or track that's been sent in and think 'wow, that's a great idea' and then try it in my own parks.


Rob Tonto: How many saved games and tracks are on the site?

Claire: Well, it's growing all the time! There's a bar on the site that will tell you how many tracks and parks there are. At the moment, there's 243 parks and 235 tracks. The parks range from completed scenarios, blank landscaped parks, new scenarios and 'featured' mega parks to smaller parks. If you send a park in, we'll put it on the site! If it's really good, we'll post screenshots and more information about it to encourage people to download it. There's actually more than 235 tracks on the site as some of them are racing coasters. One of the unique features about Skeg's RCT Park is the way that we've split the tracks into two categories: Big expensive tracks for mega parks and small, cheap coasters that are useful in scenarios. All our tracks include tp4 preview files, so you can see what they look like when you're playing the game.

The parks range from completed scenarios, blank landscaped parks, new scenarios and 'featured' mega parks to smaller parks. If you send a park in, we'll put it on the site! If it's really good, we'll post screenshots and more information about it to encourage people to download it.

There's actually more than 235 tracks on the site as some of them are racing coasters. One of the unique features about Skeg's RCT Park is the way that we've split the tracks into two categories: Big expensive tracks for mega parks and small, cheap coasters that are useful in scenarios. All our tracks include tp4 preview files, so you can see what they look like when you're playing the game.


Rob Tonto: If you could ask Chris Sawyer one question, and he had to answer it, what would it be?

Claire: Wow! Tricky question! I guess I'd probably be a bit sad and ask a few technical questions about his games. Transport Tycoon was one of the first PC games I played and there are a lot of similarities between that and RCT. I'd also want to know what plans he had for future games too, but I guess he wouldn't tell me!


Rob Tonto: Do you think trainers have helped RCT's success?

Claire: Absolutely! One of the first things that I looked for when I installed the game was a sandbox mode so that I could experiment with new coaster designs. I wasn't very impressed when there wasn't one! Until LL and Arid Heights type scenarios, if you couldn't download trainers, patches and blank parks off the net, then you were missing out on building huge mega parks.


Rob Tonto: How do you think trainers should be used?

Claire: I personally only use trainers when I'm designing competition parks, or to water flowers etc. just before I release a mega park. I don't think there's much point in using trainers when you're playing the scenarios as it defeats the object of the game. You may as well just build a mega park!


Rob Tonto: Who else helps with the site?

Claire: Everybody that sends me things! If nobody submitted tracks and parks or entered the competitions, then there wouldn't be much on the site! I have a couple of staff members too. CJ King makes the tp4 (track preview) files for me, which I don't have the patience to do. In the early days, Rob helped me with the completed scenarios too (as I used to cunningly save the games *after* the deadlines). Gman and RCTUniverse help moderate the forums.


Rob Tonto: Why did you switch servers to Tycoon Resource?

Claire: Skeg's RCT Park was getting too big for the old server. I was having bandwidth problems (like Chocobogo's site) and my hosts were getting concerned. I also only had 10Mbs of space, so I had to keep all the parks and tracks on a different server, which was't ideal. Tycoon Resource let me have as much bandwidth and disk space as I want and it's free!


Rob Tonto: How many hours do you spend on the site a week?

Claire: I really don't know. I tend to do a bit here and a bit there, but I would guess that an average update will probably take a couple of hours and I try to update the site a couple of times a week. Ironically, as the site has grown, the time it takes to update has got less. I've written a lot of scripts and templates, so a lot of the process is automated now.


Rob Tonto: Why should people visit Skeg's RCT?

Claire: I think that if people visit, then they will find something that they like and come back. As well as all the parks and tracks, there's a comprehensive guide, which includes sections on beating the scenarios, building mega parks and, of course, designing coasters.

There's more than RCT stuff on the site too. As well as sections on the history of coasters and real life ride and park reviews, there are articles on individual coaster designers.If you've ever wondered, for example, what the difference between an inverted coaster and a suspended looping coaster is, then that's where you'll find the answer.


Rob Tonto: What are some things you want to see in an RCT 2?

Claire: I'll start with one of the things that I *don't* want to see - the ability to ride your own coasters! I don't think the technology of an average PC is quite up to it yet. If it's going to be done, then it needs doing well. I think a proper 3d view (so that you can view buildings and coasters from any angle) would be good and wouldn't require a really high spec machine.

I'd love to see another add-on pack. Unfortunately, one of the great things about RCT is that all the rides and coasters are based on real life, I guess we'll have to wait for the amusement park industry to come up with some new designs! It would be great to have some more themes and scenarios to play around with though.


Rob Tonto: What's your opinion on the official RCT site?

Claire: I don't think you could print it! You can't really blame Hasbro for never updating the official site though - there's a lot of excellent fan sites on the net and I don't think they could do much better.



Rob Tonto: What are some of your favorite RCT fan sites?

Claire: To be honest, I don't really visit other sites much anymore. I think Tycoon Resource is very good, considering that it was only launched a few months ago (and I'm not just saying that because they host Skeg's RCT Park!) Damination and RCT Station are both excellent too. RCT UK used to be good, but after its relaunch they don't seem to have much content on it. Great sites which are sadly no more that I used to visit a lot are RCTOA and Chocobogo's site.



Rob Tonto: What did you use to design Skeg's RCT?

Claire: As I wanted to learn the intriciacies of web design and development, I code everything by hand using a text editor. I've written quite a lot of perl scripts and dos batch files to automate the output though, so it's not as bad as it sounds!


Rob Tonto: Are there any plans for the future of Skeg's RCT?

Claire: The site will be coming up to its first birthday soon, so I'm trying to think up ways of celebrating it! I'm halfway through writing a new javascript navigation system, so the site will probably be undergoing a makeover soon. I'm also in the process of updating the coaster designers section to include the latest rides, as well as adding more designers. Apart from that, it will be business as usual, though if anybody has any ideas for new section on the site, then I'd be happy to include them!



Rob Tonto: What's you opinion on RCT vs. Sim Theme Park?

Claire: Unfortunately, Homer (my PC) can't run Sim Theme Park as he's getting on a bit. Over the five years that I've had him, I've upgraded him as much as I can, but now it would be cheaper to buy a new one (sorry Homer!) I'm just hoping that RCT2 doesn't come out before I've had to chance to save up!



Rob Tonto: How many hours do you spend playing RCT a week?

Claire: I rarely play RCT now, though I'm currently working on a joint park with CJ and Jo Ann King. After you've spent a lot of time looking at other people's parks, you get a bit fed up of the game! Besides, I'm currently guiding Leeds United to European glory in my other favourite game - Championship Manager. If you've ever wondered what the strange headlines in the news section of the site are, they refer to my other great passion in life - football (or 'soccer' as some misguded souls call it) and the mighty Leeds!

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