Managing Your Finances
Dave "RCT Help"
I don't know about you, but I like
to try and win the scenarios in Rollercoaster Tycoon and if, (like
me) you don't use trainers or saved game modifiers to cheat that
means that you have 3 main challenges:
- to build coasters that are exciting
enough for people to want to pay a lot to ride them
- to manage the park so that guests
like being there and will spend all their money before they leave,
hopefully still happy
- to make sure that you always have
enough money to meet the scenario objectives.
This article concentrates on the last
item in the above list. There are other
articles in the Knowledge Base that cover the first two items.
Managing your finances is an essential
part of each scenario objective. For example:
- Where you need a minimum number
of guests you need cash to build new rides, or cash to offer marketing
incentives such as reduced price food/drink/rides so that new
guests will want to come and visit and the existing guests will
want to stay.
- Park value is directly linked to
the amount you spend on rides and scenery. Stop spending cash
or have no cash to spend and watch your park value decline.
- Park rating is affected by many
factors, but plummets when guests think that the park is untidy,
or a ride crashes. Maintaining cleanliness and safety is the job
of handymen and mechanics. You need cash to pay their wages.
- For scenarios where you have to
build a certain number of exciting coasters or complete some unfinished
ones, obviously you're never going to finish those without the
cash for construction.
Fortunately, the financial model in
Rollercoaster Tycoon is pretty simple. Much simpler than some of
the game's contemporaries such as Railroad Tycoon (I or II) or Chris
Sawyer's previous game, Transport Tycoon. Thankfully, it is also
much easier to manage money than in Theme Park, a game that was
perhaps the greatest influence on Rollercoaster Tycoon. In Rollercoaster
Tycoon there are no worries with fluctuating economies and interest
rates, increased running costs as rides get older, rising wage and
food prices, or buying and/or selling your own and your competitors'
stocks and shares.
It is arguable whether Rollercoaster
Tycoon is an appropriate name for this game! Because the financial
model is simple you are closer to a 'Park Manager' than a 'Tycoon'
but the simplicity means that with just a little care you can get
on with the fun parts of the game like building coasters and theming
In the rest of this article I'll detail
some important strategies for looking after your park's finances,describe
some micro-management tactics to maximise income from individual
attractions, and explain what the options are if you become insolvent.
Except where I specifically specify
otherwise, I assume that you will not be charging for park entrance.
After I bought Loopy Landscapes which does not allow you to charge
park admission, I stopped charging in any of the other RCT and AA/CF
scenarios that do permit entrance fees. There is a separate
Knowledge Base article on park admission pricing that should
be read in conjunction with this one if you intend to charge for
Spend all your cash!
What? Isn't this article all about
avoiding going broke? Yes it is, but most of the cash that is spent
in Rollercoaster Tycoon is not wasted, it is an investment to attempt
to make more money. Unlike the park guests who are consumers and
are happy to spend all their cash and have nothing (apart from the
occasional map, umbrella, photo, cuddly toy or t-shirt) to show
for it when they leave the park, you (the park owners) expect to
get something back when you spend. Your hope is that rides, shops
and stalls that will in turn collect money from the guests. Furthermore,
unlike real-life where money in the bank would earn a little interest,
in Rollercoaster Tycoon no interest is earned at all. So cash in
hand is 'dead' money. Spend it while you've got it.
Note that cash in the bank does
not count towards the park value either. Company Value = Cash +
Park Value - Loan. Park Value rises when the Cash is spent on rides,
shops, stalls and scenery. So piling cash when trying to win a Park
Value scenario is the worst possible thing that you can do.
Maximize your loan!
Now I'm telling you to borrow as much
money as possible? Why? Because you can make much more money by
building rides, shops and stalls and charging for them, than you
will be charged on the interest rate on borrowings. In Rollercoaster
Tycoon, the interest rate on borrowings is one sixth of a percentage
point per month or £1.60 per month per £1,000 borrowed. This is
tiny compared with the amount that can be earned by investing the
money on profit-making rides, shops and stalls.
Prioritize your spending
From the beginning of most (if not
all) scenarios the most important things in your park for making
you profit are your rides, particularly coasters. Typically (nearly
always) the next highest money-making opportunities are food and
drink stalls, then information kiosks, then souvenir stalls. Try
to avoid building too many of the shops and stalls. The guests won't
buy extra food and drink just because there are extra stalls and
every stall has a running cost.
Spending money on scenery and theming
should be your last priority. It is best spent on theming around
rides to make them more exciting so that you can charge more for
However, spending on scenery should
not be completely avoided. Scenery has a positive affect on park
rating. Higher park ratings mean that more guests are likely to
visit when happy guests go home and tell their friends. Of course
the extra guests have all that money to spend in their pockets.
Park rating also has an influence on park value and so is important
in scenarios where park value is a target.
Large scale land flattening/leveling
should be avoided as much as possible and the last priority for
your cash. Unlike spending on scenery which can be partially recouped
by selling the scenery improvements, money spent on land reformation
can never be recovered.
Never use the default prices
When every ride, shop or stall is built
it has a default price for the ride or the things that it is selling.
(If a ride is built in a park which is charging an admission fee,
the default ride price is zero). A good strategy is to change these
default prices. I tend to quadruple the default price of coasters,
treble the thrill ride price and double the gentle ride prices.
My personal preference is to leave food, drink, souvenir and umbrella
prices unchanged (and I also give maps away free in parks where
lots of guests are saying they are lost). Although the guests are
willing to pay the high prices when the ride is new, they are not
going to accept the prices as the ride gets older. This means that
you need to check your rides frequently and this is described in
the tactics section.
Check out the guests' thoughts
Check out what people are thinking
of your prices. Open the Guest Information Window and choose to
see a summary list of guests' thoughts. There are 4 types of thought
you need to focus on if they are towards the top of the list.
- I'm hungry/thirsty. Spend
money on food and drink stalls and watch the money roll in.
- X is really good value.
This means that you can raise its price! Do it slowly until the
thought goes down the list.
- I'm not paying that much for
X. This means that you need to lower the prices. Do it slowly
until the thought goes down the list. Lowering prices might not
seem an obvious thing to do if you're worried about your finances.
The reasons are explained in the tactics section of this article.
- I cannot afford X. This
is best ignored. The guests would pay if they could, but they
don't have enough money left. Whether you decide to reduce prices
in this situation depends on:
Understand the Financial Information
Window and Don't Panic!
- how many people are thinking it?
If it is a high proportion of your guests, can you afford for
them to leave with their remaining money. Is it better to take
the money they have by reducing prices before they go?
- whether you can afford to? Generally,
are your finances healthy enough to cope with some reduced prices?
- how close to the end of the scenario
are you? Do you need the guests in the park to meet the scenario
objective more than you need to keep the prices high?
Take a few moments to look at the Financial
Information below before reading on.
Is this a healthy financial position
or not? (Let's ignore May as it is not a complete month). At first
sight it looks as though April is a good month following three bad
months from September to March when lots of money was lost. More
detailed analysis shows this to be not entirely true.
This window does give important information.
The bottom line shows the change in amount of cash over each month,
but the most important information is
not easy to see without doing some mental arithmetic. This is because
the window combines one-off expenditure
(on building rides, shops, stalls, scenery/landscaping and marketing)
with the recurring income and expenditure
that repeats every month. The recurring expenditure is Ride Running
Costs, Shop Stock, Staff Wages, Research and Loan Interest. The
recurring income is Park Entrance Tickets, Ride Tickets, Shop Sales,
and Food/Drink Sales.
What is vital
in Rollercoaster Tycoon is to make sure that the recurring income
exceeds the recurring expenditure. In other words, without building
any new rides, shops and stalls or doing any landscaping and without
any marketing, does all the ticket and shop/stall income pay for
all the ride running costs, shop/stall stock, staff wages, research
and loan interest? If they do not, eventually the money will run
out and you won't be able to build anything new to try and generate
any new income.
To calculate the recurring income vs
expenditure, you need to take the bottom line at each month, subtract
the Ride Construction cost, then subtract the Landscaping cost and
finally subtract the Marketing cost. All of these numbers are usually
negative and so subtracting them adds to the bottom line. This gives
a slightly different picture.
|Original bottom line from
|Adjusted to include only recurring
The Finances Information Window suggests
that there was a significant dip in the finances between September
and October, but that things have improved since then. This is true
if we want to know just about the cash. However, by looking at only
the recurring costs and income, there was actually a dip in trading
profits (recurring income - recurring costs) between October and
March and then in April there was a slight recovery.
Overall this is
a pretty healthy position with (if no money is spent on new stuff)
the cash reserves increasing monthly by over £5,000. If it is spent,
that's enough to build a smallish coaster every month. Perhaps of
some concern though is that despite massive spending on new rides
in September, October and March, the trading profit has hardly increased
at all. Closer analysis of the Financial Information Window shows
that food/drink sales fell quite a bit and extra staff have been
taken on, but ride income hardly rose at all.
Note: This all goes to show that
it is very difficult to look after everything in Rollercoaster Tycoon
at the same time. This financial information was taken from the
Octagon Park scenario that requires you to build ten BIG coasters.
In the two months between mid-September to mid-March that it took
to build a coaster, I stopped monitoring the guests' thoughts and
they started to think that several of the thrill rides were too
expensive and refused to ride them! They had also stuffed themselves
with food and drink in the previous month because I hadn't built
food/drink stalls before then. Subsequently hardly anybody was hungry
and/or thirsty in March.
It is important not to panic if the
recurring income minus recurring costs are negative, especially
at the beginning of each scenario. It may take several months before
there are enough guests to use your new park facilities and help
you recover your costs. However, after around 6 months if you are
still showing a recurring income minus cost deficit, you need to
look at some of the strategies above and then think about some of
the tactics described below in the next section of this article.
Tactics for extra profit
All the above strategies are suitable
for overall park management of finances. This section describes
some techniques for squeezing out extra profits (or reducing losses)
from your attractions.
Use the Rides and Attractions Window
The best way to quickly review all
of the rides, shops and stalls is to open the Rides and Attractions
Information Window. With this window you can learn about rides and
attractions by Status, Queue Length, Queue Time, Popularity, Satisfaction,
Reliability, Down-time and Profit. Nearly all of these views can
help you decide what can be done to improve profits, but viewing
all the rides, shops and stalls sorted by profit can help you immediately
focus on areas for improvement. Concentrate on:
- coasters that are not making over
£5,000 profit per hour. Coasters are your best profit makers.
You want to maximise their big profits so you can have more fun
building new ones!
- shops and stalls that are not making
- items at the bottom of the list
that don't have any figure displaying.
For the last of these, the solution
is easy. You've forgotten to open them! This means that they aren't
costing anything to run, but they aren't earning you any income
either. Open them.
Suitable tactics for rides, shops and
stalls are described below.
Increasing Ride profits
Consider the following. They are not
in any order of priority and some may not be appropriate for the
ride that you are hoping to improve.
Increasing Shop and
Stall Profits (or Minimising The Losses!)
- Are you charging anything for the
ride at all? If you are charging for park entrance, every ride
you build has a default price of zero. You need to consider increasing
it, or increasing park entrance fees every time you build a new
- Are you charging enough for the
ride? If lots of guests are thinking that the ride is good value,
it means that they are prepared to pay more for it then you are
charging. Click on the ride (or its name in the list of the Ride
and Attractions Window) to open the Ride Information Window and
check out the guests thoughts about the ride.
- It might not seem obvious, but you
could try lowering the price. If your guests think that
the price is too expensive you are not collecting much money. By
lowering the price, you will collect less per guest, but may have
more guests riding. For example a ride that costs £1 may
only get 3 guests per hour riding it, earning you £3 per hour.
By lowering the price to 50p the number of guests may increase
to 10 per hour, so earning you £5 per hour. Running costs of rides
are fixed and don't increase as the number of riders increase,
so this is a worthwhile tactic to consider.
- Look at the ride queues. Are they
too short? Are people walking past your rides because there is
no space to stand in line? Is the length of the queue shorter
than the capacity of the ride train? Is the train therefore having
to wait while the queue refills before it can leave the station?
- Are the queues too long? Do guests
start walking down your queue but turn around before they get
to the ride entrance? Do you have lots of people thinking that
they are standing in queues for ages? Would it be better to have
them walking round the park looking for other rides?
- Redesign the queues so that they
start right next to the ride exit. This increases the chances
that the guests will repeat their ride.
- Try and increase guest throughput
on a ride. If you consistently have trains leaving the station
half-empty with a queue of empty trains behind, lower the ride
maximum waiting time. The trains will still leave half-empty,
but at least there's a chance you'll increase the number of guests
per hour. Running costs do not increase by running the trains
more frequently. The Helter Skelter and Maze run with a default
number of guests much lower than the maximum. Increase it.
- Consider shortening rides. Shortening
a tracked ride will reduce ride time, so more guests per hour,
and reduce running costs. However, if it reduces excitement, you
may have to lower the price. Rides like Ferris Wheel and Go Karts
can be shortened by lowering the number of rotations/laps respectively.
- Increase a ride's excitement by
adding theming, changing the design, taking footpaths over parts
of the rides, raising land and building tunnels, etc. The more
exciting a ride, the more the guests will pay.
- Demolish rides and rebuild them.
Older rides become less interesting to guests. Check out the ride's
popularity and satisfaction rating to see if it's low. Demolishing
and then rebuilding rides restores the guests' interest. Before
considering this, be aware that the money you will get back from
demolishing the ride will be much less than the cost of rebuilding
it the same way. Make sure that you will have enough cash or can
borrow enough to rebuild the ride.
- Is your ride unreliable and breaking
down so much your guests cannot ride it as much as they'd like?
Rides become more unreliable as they get older. The more unreliable
it is, the more likely it is to break down. When it breaks down,
what is the down-time? How long is it taking a mechanic to get
to the ride and repair it? Consider hiring more mechanics and
minimise down-time by assigning them to specific rides using their
- Is your ride stalled? Older rides
wear out. They appear to be open and running but a ride car may
be stuck somewhere and preventing anybody from completing the
- Is the ride too intense? Check what
your guests are thinking. If they think the ride is too intense,
look at reducing intensity by smoothing curves and reducing speed.
Guests can become 'braver' by riding less intense rides first.
Consider building more gentle and thrill rides to allow the guests
to become braver.
- Is it difficult to get to the ride
from the entrance? In big parks, make sure that you have transport
rides that deliver lots of guests to your rides that are far from
In the overall scheme of things, shops
and stalls do not contribute much to profits. Profits are typically
in the hundreds per hour compared with the the thousands that can
be expected from rides. The greatest impact that shops and stalls
have on profits is in raising the guests' satisfaction. This drives
up park rating which in turn increases the number of new guests
who are likely to turn up at the park entrance.
Perhaps the three most important things
for shops and stalls are location, location and location. Are your
shops in suitable places? Information kiosks do well close to the
entrance, and by transport ride exits. Food/drink stalls don't do
well when the nearby paths are covered in vomit or they are close
to ride exits where the guests leave feeling sick. Toilets are good
things to have by exits of rides which make guests nauseous. Souvenir/hat/t-shirt
stalls do well by exits of popular and/or satisfying rides. You
should avoid putting shops and stalls on cul-de-sacs.
If all else fails and shops and stalls
remain loss-making, this is probably because you have too many in
your park. Each one has a running cost. Consider demolishing some
so that the guests use one of the other ones instead, or temporarily
close some of them (which removes the running cost) until guest
numbers pick up.
Dealing with Insolvency
You become insolvent in Rollercoaster
Tycoon when all of the following happen at the same time. You:
- have a negative amount of cash
- cannot borrow any more from the
- have recurring costs that exceed
your recurring income.
In more than a few computer games,
you would be thrown out of the scenario and told that you must replay
it. However, Rollercoaster Tycoon does not do this and you have
a decision to make. Are you going to be able to recover from this
in time to win the scenario, or are you going to give up and start
again? If you decide to try and recover, then this is the section
for you! But it's worth emphasising that if you follow the guidelines
in the earlier sections of this article, you should never find yourself
in this situation, and it may be a better idea to start again using
the techniques described.
How have you got into this situation?
What is likely to be happening is that you have wasted a lot of
money on landscaping and rides that nobody is prepared to pay for,
coupled with a high cost of staff, running costs and research, but
very small sales. And the main reason that you have poor sales,
assuming that you have used the tactics described above to make
sure that your attractions are open and you are not charging too
much is because you don't have many guests or your rides are too
intense for people to ride.
Solving the latter is relatively simple.
Demolish the intense rides and use the money to build something
that the guests are prepared to ride.
As for the reason that you don't have
many guests, this is probably because the park rating has gone very
low. You don't have any money to advertise for more guests, so what
can you do? Consider the following:
- Switch off research. This can reduce
your costs by as much as £400 per month. What's the point of researching
new rides and things when you don't have any money to build them?
- Hire more staff! Park rating is
probably very low because it's untidy and loads of rides have
broken down. You don't need cash to hire staff, so get some new
ones in to improve the park as quickly as possible. You can always
fire them later. Alternatively, do some micro-management and pick
up existing staff and drop them in problem areas to quickly clean
However, any extra staff drive up your
costs and will temporarily make your insolvency position worse.
There are two ways to try and improve this, first by closure combined
with selective demolition, and then with more drastic demolition.
- While rides and attractions are
open, they cost money to run. If there are no guests to use them,
close them down. Start with the things furthest away from the
entrance. If any guests arrive, you don't want them walking past
lots of rides and attractions that are closed before they find
ones that are open. If you close lots of rides, consider firing
some of the mechanics who look after them, they are not needed
when the ride is closed. Re-hire them when you re-open the ride.
- In conjunction with these closures,
demolish some of the path tiles so that the closed parts of the
park cannot be reached. You will gain a small amount of cash for
some of the path tiles that you demolish. Make sure that the unreachable
paths are clean and then fire the handymen who patrol them. Making
parts of the pathways unreachable will force any guests that do
arrive to move only past rides and attractions that are open.
- Further small amounts of cash can
be raised by selective demolition of any scenery that you have
placed in the park.
- But if all these tactics mean that
you are not recovering quickly enough, consider total demolition
of some of the rides. Keep demolishing rides until you have some
cash in the bank and use it to either advertise or build small
attractions close to the park entrance so that they will earn
income as soon as new guests do start to arrive.
Rollercoaster Tycoon is a great game!
But without an understanding of how the finances can be managed,
it can become frustrating (especially for younger players) when
the cash runs out. I hope that this article has given you some good
ideas about how to make more of your money.