Zynga Launches CoasterVille, Its Most Expressive Social Game Yet

From the Zynga studio that brought you the company's most unique game to date, Empires & Allies, comes a theme park management game that offers players unparalleled freedom to create their happiest place on Earth.

Build your own farm. Build your own city. Build your own castle. Zynga's large stable of social games have promised all of these things, but ultimately players are just placing buildings and decorations in different places on the same old map. The trend of FarmVille players using colored hay bales to create works of pixel art (here's mine, for example) sprang from a collective desire for more flexibility and room for expression, a desire that hasn't quite been sated.

Well, at least until later today, when CoasterVille launches on Facebook.

Having translated their love for PC strategy games to Facebook in the form of Empires & Allies, Zynga LA sets its sights on one of the most universally beloved classic PC genre, the theme park manager, games like Bullfrog's Theme Park or Chris Sawyer's RollerCoaster Tycoon. These are games with equal parts strategy and creativity, which is exactly what general manager Amir Rahimi and the Zynga LA aimed to create with CoasterVille.

The core cycle of CoasterVille is simple. The player builds attractions to bring guests into the park. The guests spend money at stores, which generates money and resources to create bigger and better attractions, which bring more guests, spending more money, and so on. It's the way of all 'Ville games. The difference in CoasterVille is the freedom players have to realize their vision of the perfect park.

It starts with the ability to change the park's terrain. Instead of saddling every player with the same green rectangular game board, CoasterVille gives park builders the ability to switch out green grass for dry ground, lush vegetation or a number of unique tile types.

From there players can choose from three initial park themes — Frontier, Jungle or Fantasy. One player might choose to stick to a single style, putting all of his or her resources into upgrading and developing attractions and businesses in that particular theme.

Zynga Launches CoasterVille, Its Most Expressive Social Game Yet

Or they can mix-and-match, Disney-style.

Zynga Launches CoasterVille, Its Most Expressive Social Game Yet

This freedom to create means that no two players' parks will be the same, making visiting friends' creations a joy instead of the resource gathering chore it's become in many of the other 'Ville-style games. Other players' parks can serve as an inspiration, as well as a means to harvest resources in case one wants to style swipe.

But what of the coasters? When I first got word of CoasterVille I was worried that the coasters in question were simple pre-crafted constructs. General manager Amir Rahimi put my worries to rest during a demo of the game yesterday. That frontier-themed coaster in the picture above? It's made up of more than a dozen segments snapped together. As I looked on he pulled them apart and rearranged them, swapped the less interesting bits out for loops and corkscrews; he basically created an entirely different ride in seconds.

Starting from scratch on a coaster is just as simple. Select from a number of coaster themes and just start dropping segments. They can be as simple as a single upward slope, or they can eat your entire park.

The most important aspect of any theme park is the visitors, and CoasterVille's tiny patrons are an incredibly animated bunch. During my demo Rahimi's showed me a crowd of patrons gathered about one of the park's out-of-order restrooms, icons above their head indicating they were desperately in need of release. He fixed a restroom on the opposite side of the screen, and soon the entire crowd was running across the park like crazy people.

Boost a ride to go faster and the guests will come running. Boost the ride too fast and they'll lose their lunch. Once they are done heaving, they'll head to the nearest food stall to refill.

There's an opportunity for deep strategy in CoasterVille, or a player can simply build what they want. There's that freedom of expression again.

CoasterVille is just getting started. In the coming months Zynga LA will be adding more park themes, more terrain types, more rides and park mascots that sing and dance for your guests amusement. Eventually the building fun will spill over into the land beyond the park, giving players the opportunity to realize their idea vacation destination, complete with boardwalks, shops and hotels.

Zynga Launches CoasterVille, Its Most Expressive Social Game Yet

CoasterVille launches later today on Facebook. You might want to get in line early; those queues can be a beast.