Theme Park Insanity sits down with the creative geniuses behind one of the most up and coming theme park sims online to date - Virtual Towers Online!
It’s no secret that when it comes to gaming within the theme park enthusiast community nowadays there is one name which is taking the community by storm, and that name is Virtual Towers Online!
Virtual Towers Online is the brain child of Immortal Media – a group of individuals whose passion for Alton Towers Resort transcends far beyond that of just visiting the park and riding the rides.
In this exclusive interview we take a much closer look at how and why the project began, what drives the team to be ever more creative when it comes to keeping their recreation as accurate as possible and what those who choose to download the game can look forward to as the project continues to progress forward in the years to come!
What is Virtual Towers Online?
Virtual Towers Online is a game project fuelled by a small team of developers in their free time in an attempt to create the most accurate and realistic re-creation of the Alton Towers theme park in Staffordshire, England. Over the course of the development it will flourish in to a unique style incorporating gameplay, simulation and social interaction.
There will be a story mode where you progress your career from a low level role right up to management and everything in between. This gives the player the chance to interact with ride control panels and operate the coasters and flat rides. This also earns you in game currency that allows you to purchase unlockables and things such as clothing items to customize your avatar.
On the flip side you have your simulation and social interaction elements in the online mode where you can simply go have fun with your friends all over the park and go NUTS!
There are lots of extra features we have planned that we cannot talk about but this project is a very unique one and it will hopefully stand out against the rest in its category.
Who are the geniuses behind this magnificent creation?
It’s a lengthy passion of love starting with Pete (Aka The Boss) starting way back in the RCT3 days.
Others have come and gone along the way and contributed to the project but as it stands right now there is Pete, Dave, Jordan and myself Gav.
We do have occasional help from others who wish to contribute which is always greatly appreciated.
What inspired the project to come to be?
The project first started as an RCT3 (Roller Coaster Tycoon 3) mod for the 20th anniversary of Nemesis containing custom track and scenery made specifically to interact with RCT3’s “peeps” system. That was made by Pete. Later down the line, Pete teamed up with others and looked in to making the entire Alton Towers Theme Park in RCT3 but it had its limitations and overall it was decided that it would look far more impressive in NL2 (No Limits 2).
But then it was discovered that No Limits 2 had its limits. There just wasn’t enough land space to fit the entire park and hotels in the same NL2 project.
So the plunge was taken to jump to Unreal Engine and build the entire project from scratch and here we are now.
The main inspiration for the project has always continued to stem from the love for the park. Immortalizing Alton towers forever in a digital format that will be there even after the park has gone.
What would you say have been the most challenging aspects of bringing this fantastic recreation of the UK's number one theme park resort to life?
I think in a way the entire project IS the challenge. We jumped in to creating this project with very little knowledge of how the Unreal game engine worked so everything from blueprints to optimizing techniques has been a constant learning curve and will continue to be. There has been parts along the way where we have just wanted to give up on tackling a certain task, I know Jordan had a nightmare with the menu, but after spending enough time on it you eventually figure it out.
There are also blocks that get thrown in our path which is challenging and frustrating for us such as reference data that we just can’t get to be able to construct certain elements of the project.
How has the project evolved or changed if at all over its lifetime so far?
The project has definitely become A LOT prettier as it has grown, mainly due to learning new techniques. Another huge change is the fact that we can use more polygons in Unreal engine meaning the models can look cleaner and highly detailed. That was just not possible in RCT3.
It has allowed us to now experiment with lighting and physics too.
How did you approach building the jaw dropping environments we see today and what were the main softwares used to create them?
So, we mainly use 3 pieces of software. They are Trimble Sketchup, Unreal Engine and Photoshop.
Sketchup is our go to for 3D modelling but we have used other software such as Blender and 3D-Coat. The workflow is generally the same for the most part. We decide on what needs doing next, if its something that requires modelling then we jump in to Sketchup and export the model out and in to Unreal Engine. We will then use photoshop to create textures and materials to apply to those models in engine bringing it all to life.
The most recent BETA saw the release of what has likely become one of the most iconic coasters now on park! How challenging was it to bring good old Big Bob to life and how has this been received by your fans?
It was DEFINITELY a challenge for sure. A great deal of time was spent getting Big Bob looking fabulous. All the planks of “Wood” had to be made and positioned accurately and there are a LOT of planks in that model.
I think the fans on Virtual Towers love our Big Bob. Especially the fact that we can use fire particles in the game engine to have real looking fire rather that simulated by screens.
What has been the overall reaction from your fan base since the project has evolved past the original Hex release and how have opinions changed if at all regarding the project?
It’s always great to see everyone get excited over new stuff we show or announce. Overall I think everyone’s opinions have remained the same if not better. We constantly aim to push the boat out and impress everyone more and more every single time.
Have Alton Towers Resort themselves had any direct involvement in the project and if so how has this been received by the team over at the resort?
Unfortunately not which is a huge shame. We would absolutely LOVE to be involved with Alton Towers, it would certainly make a lot of things easier and we could do so much more for Alton Towers and Merlin than just a re-creation of the park with the assets we have made over the years.
Which aspects of the project yet to see release would you say you are most looking forward to working on going forwards and why?
Forbidden Valley is definitely going to be the best area to work on. We are going to be spending extra special attention on nemesis to get it looking absolutely superb and the area in general is going to look fantastic.
I also think the splash Landings hotel and waterpark is going to be exciting and visually stunning. I can’t wait to play around with creating interactive water slides and features and that big glass roof letting all kinds of lighting goodness in. It’s going to be special.
Is it fair to say that fans of the project can also look forward to seeing other non-coaster related rides such as Duel, The Congo River Rapids, The Blade and more besides added to the virtual ride line up in the years to come?
Of course! The aim of this project has always been to make it EXACTLY as it is in the real world. We are talking about every little detail. Maybe there is an infamous bump or a jolt on a ride that everyone knows about. We would program that in. I think it’s the little details like that which makes the experience of this project stand out. The flat rides and tracked rides will all be in there INCLUDING past rides which will be a feature we throw in later down the line.
Finally, what’s next on the agenda for this ever expanding project and which part of Alton Towers Resort will fans see come to life in the not too distant future
What’s next? Hmmm, I would say that we want to work our way up to Forbidden Valley for sure but I’m NOT going to say which path we are taking…Can’t be spoiling ideas and secrets now. There are often times where we may just come up with an idea one night and change our focus to that but for the most part we try to stick to the plan.
We would like to offer Pete, Dave, Jordan and Gav aka. Immortal Media huge thanks for allowing us this brilliant opportunity as we are huge fans of the game ourselves and as such like many of you we’re sure we too can’t wait to see what the future holds for this exciting project as well as what visual gems Forbidden Valley will likely offer once this area has been completed.
If you want to check out the absolute masterpiece that is Virtual Towers Online for yourself then you can do so by clicking the following link to download the game for yourself!;
You can also follow Virtual Towers Online o all of their social media pages as well for all the latest regarding upcoming releases, new BETAs and so much more besides!;
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/VirtualTowersOnline/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/virtualtowers
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/virtualtowersonline/
Overall once again we would like to thank Immortal Media for taking the time to sit down with us and if you haven’t checked out Virtual Towers Online for yourself yet then only one question remains – WHY NOT?!!