Image courtesy of Limbic Entertainment

Park Beyond is a theme park sim that allows its players to create impossible experiences

Image courtesy of Limbic Entertainment
80 Level |
December 28, 2022
Led by a passion for programming and building interactive software, Mohamed Hafez got the opportunity to become a part of the global game industry after he completed his Communication Engineering studies at the German University in Cairo and received a master’s degree in Computer Games Technology at City, University of London. Mohamed’s determination and skill set allowed him to start making games as a profession and landed him a job at multiple development studios, including Malaysian Streamline Studios and Egyptian Instinct Games.

Five years ago, Mohamed became a part of Limbic Entertainment, a German game development company known for creating Tropico 6, where he quickly became one of the two Technical Directors. Now, together with the team of Limbic’s talented game programmers and technical artists, Mohamed is working on Park Beyond, an upcoming Unreal Engine-powered theme park manager simulator scheduled to release in 2023.
To learn more about the upcoming theme park simulator Park Beyond, we interviewed Technical Director at Limbic Entertainment Mohamed Hafez to ask him about Park Beyond’s approach to landscape generation, how the title’s NPCs work, how Unreal Engine helped them assemble large scenes, and more.
 

How did you get started with Park Beyond?

Mohamed Hafez, technical director at Limbic Entertainment: It all started with the idea of removing the limitations on what the players can build and do in a theme park simulation. Then came the idea of “impossification” and how we can give players the tools to build parks they can never experience in real life. From there and throughout development, the cool idea of impossifying rides propagated to other areas of Park Beyond, such as shops and the staff!
Image courtesy of Limbic Entertainment
What inspired you to explore the theme park genre?

Hafez:
Park Beyond is driven by the idea of a fresh take on theme park games, proposing a satisfactory toolbox for the players to build their park, a deep management aspect to brain tease and challenge players, an enjoyable campaign, and the craziness of impossification. Along the development journey, we did not doubt Park Beyond for a moment. From the smallest decoration assets to sophisticated large-scale rides and their impossible versions, our team of creative designers and artists always surprised everyone with their creations.
Image courtesy of Limbic Entertainment
What influenced your decision to choose Unreal Engine for the project?

Hafez:
 That was a no-brainer for our team. We have been using Unreal Engine exclusively at Limbic Entertainment for years. Our team experience, build systems, and internal technology, based mainly around reusable Unreal Engine plug-ins, made this decision quite easy.

How do you generate initial landscapes for players’ parks and split them into strategy cells?

Hafez: 
Our level designers create initial landscapes utilizing real-time procedural terrain generator tools, import them as Height Maps into Unreal Engine, and make modifications using Unreal Engine’s Landscape tool. Since Park Beyond features Voxel-based landscapes, we built a Voxel Plugin-powered tool that allows us to convert the Unreal landscape into a voxel landscape. Park Beyond also enables the player to modify map terrain via the in-game Terraforming tools.

To set up logical land segments, additional land parts that the player can unlock to build their park over larger areas, we built a UE-based editor tool, allowing Level Designers to define the overall playable area on the map and to place and shape fragments of it using the editor brush actors and geometry tools.
Image courtesy of Limbic Entertainment
Can you tell us more about your asset production workflow?

Hafez:
What we have learned over the years at Limbic is to always test our designs in the game before producing them. Our recipe is simple:
The above chart is applicable for external and internal production.

How do you make sure that the game’s art style is consistent?

Hafez: 
It was achieved with the small team of artists responsible for designing the assets and overseeing the later stages of production. Also, all the assets were subject to multiple reviews at their design stage and during production to ensure that.

How do you generate and control the game’s NPCs?

Hafez:
We implemented our custom AI system for visitors and staff agents in Park Beyond. Our system is built around pooling agents, scheduling, and multithreading of logic for decision-making, creation, and processing of the agents' tasks.

Visitors decide which actions to execute based on multiple parameters based on their current properties, such as traits, needs, thoughts, etc. On the other hand, staff agents' decisions are based on their job type, as well as parameters like motivation, energy level, job experience, and such.
Image courtesy of Limbic Entertainment
How do you approach the game’s balance making sure it doesn’t feel too easy or too complicated?

Hafez:
We implemented game-specific settings as developer settings, allowing game designers to modify and iterate on changes in a convenient way in Unreal Editor. We also implemented a custom plug-in for exporting and importing game assets’ metadata between Unreal Editor and spreadsheets, which eases the balancing of game design.

Did Unreal Engine come in handy when assembling huge dense parks?

Hafez:
Indeed, Unreal Engine’s profiling tools were good companions along the journey. Instanced rendering, Animation Budget Allocator, and the use of custom primitive data are some of the useful tools that helped us render large parks on the screen. Park Beyond has many toolboxes for the players to unleash their creativity, and while we built custom solutions for some of the areas, utilizing the technology Unreal Engine provides helped us immensely.
Image courtesy of Limbic Entertainment
Did you have a chance to try out the new features provided by Unreal Engine 5?

Hafez:
We are moving to Unreal Engine 5 with our next project after Park Beyond. We are quite excited about building larger but also more detailed worlds using Nanite, Lumen, and the new rendering tech and improvements. MetaSounds and Common UI are also on our radar, and additions to Unreal Insights are always welcomed. Given such additions and improvements still allow us to port and reuse our internally implemented Unreal Plugins and reuse them for new projects, we are glad to move to UE5 for our new games.
 
Image courtesy of Limbic Entertainment

What are your current plans? Where can we follow the development process?

Hafez:
We are currently wrapping up, implementing the last pieces, and optimizing and polishing parts that could still use some love. Please stay tuned for updates on Park Beyond at the game’s official website, Limbic Entertainment’s website, and our Twitter page, and pre-order the game for PC, PlayStation, and Xbox.

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