Wednesday, November 17, 2010


The first dream job I ever had was to be a roller coaster designer. I'm not that great at math and I have no idea how I would ever get a job as a roller coaster designer (really, how many coaster firms are there beside Intamin and Bolliger & Mabillard and Disney Imagineering?).

Of course, that hasn't diminished my love of roller coasters. The end flying sequence of my thesis film D was pretty much just me designing a roller coaster (putting the hours I poured into Roller Coaster Tychoon to good use!)

I've been particularly tickled with the idea of using rides as narrative devices (see: just about every ride at Disney World), and I've been itching to make my own roller coaster the past couple of weeks, so I'm going to design a roller coaster based off of my favorite 1950s sci fi thriller, THEM!

I'm not completely done with the cart design yet, but the first big design consideration I hit was what kind of harness I would use.

At first I modeled some shoulder harnesses, which allow for riders to safely experience some insane acrobatic tricks (pretzel rolls, corkscrews, and my favorite, the snake roll)

(coolest coaster ever: get launched out at 40+mph, immediately descend into a snake roll)

And inversions are always fun, so the first obvious choice was to use shoulder harnesses.


As I started modelling the shoulder harness, I quickly realized that riders would have a hard time seeing left and right. Being that I'm trying to work a sort of narrative aspect into this ride, being able to see your environment is going to be essential to the storytelling, so the shoulder harnesses went out and lap bars went in. Of course, this means that I won't be able to pull off my more favorite coaster acrobatics, but that makes designing this coaster more of a challenge: How do you make a roller coaster thrilling without the use of inversions?


Stephen said...

I think the limits given by not being able to see one's left or right could have potential for a more interesting visual narrative. Part of the excitement/anxiety you get on roller coasters is because of the realization that there's no way out and you're confined to this little seat, that's about to hurdle up and down a twisting and turning track.

But if you really don't want to lose that,just remember that some of the most exciting roller coasters have lap harnesses, and they're usually the ones with the highest drops. Rather than being about disorienting the park-goer(?) by turning them upside down, un-inverted rides are more about anticipation and momentum.

Hyungjoon said...

I also think a lap bar is the best for what I think you are trying to achieve. Think: just about every ride at Disney World. Also, I don't think that lap bars limit the thrill of the ride as much as one would imagine...

You can just throw park-goers into loops without any regard to safety :)

Jerry Chan said...

It doesn't look it right now, but the coaster carts are going to be based off of jeeps. A large part of the thrill factor on this is going to be believing that you're in a car careening through scenes of destruction. Lap bars leave you more exposed and vulnerable, which should definitely help with the thrill factor

Another consideration I had was that because of the bulk of the shoulder harnesses, it'd be hard to see past them if you're not in the front seat

I'm not sure if I'll be utilizing height that much; I'm not imagining this as a mega or gigacoaster. At that point, the narrative aspect is lost and it's just another roller coaster. Obviously there will be drops, but I'm going to have to rely more on surprise and misdirection than speed alone, which is more interesting in my opinion

And yeah, I'm pulling a lot of inspiration for this from the Disney rides. I don't think anyone beyond Disney really pushes for that narrative aspect of ride design