A Maya-inspired design tool could redefine the rollercoaster genre.
Coaster Creator 3D is a surprise new title from Gamers Digital and Big John Games. The version I saw at GDC was in the pre-alpha concept stages, but the base framework was really cool.
In previous roller coaster games, tracks were made with predefined parts that must be pieced together. In Coaster Creator 3D, you simply draw out your track on the touch screen and it appears on 3D on the top screen. You can readily manipulate the track in three dimensions with the stylus by pushing or dragging, and the track immediately updates in realtime on the top screen. There's also a "brush system" for tuning turn radius by selecting larger sections at once. The interface was apparently inspired by Maya, the 3D graphics editing software, and the results are super simple and responsive. To make it easier to add more complicated structures such as corkscrews or jet launches, the developers still plan to include a parts library.
Other than some basic customization of the track and seats, that's all that was done. As for the actual game part, there are plenty of potential ideas. In career mode, players will start off designing simpler tracks in a small family-run kid's park that don't involve too many G's and will work their way through the industry designing more ambitious tracks. You'll also be able to design the rest of the park and fill it with concession stands, other rides, queuing lines, and the like. The hope is that people will be able to re-create their own real coasters. Tracks will be shareable using QR codes.
Your Mii will ride the cars along with proprietary avatars, which will respond to track conditions appropriately. There may be a camera system like those found in real rides designed to take shots of the characters, for instance, at the bottom of a plunge. You'll also be able to record your own screams that will be played during the ride. Additionally, an arcade mode is planned where you can tilt the 3DS to collect stars as you pass by on the tracks.
Though it was very early, the editing interface was a great use of the 3DS's capabilities and I'm looking forward to seeing the game fully fleshed out. Look out, Rollercoaster Tycoon, you're about to have some very interesting competition.
Even though it's still pre-alpha, the devs were excited to show it off, so check out the video below and see for yourself.