A crash is an event where at least one car of a ride explodes. Crashes may occur when a car momentarily leaves the boundaries of its ride, such as its running rails or tower, and explodes upon (in RCT1 and RCT2) or after (in RCT3) impact with any surface, or if it hits another car at a high enough speed.
Some rides are more susceptible to crashes than other rides. For instance, all flat rides, like the Merry-Go-Round and Top Spin, are immune to crashes as they have predefined ride sizes that cannot be modified by the player in any way except with regards to their placement and operating modes that do not give any provisions for a crash, while some tracked rides, such as the Car Ride, Maze and Mini Golf, are technically immune to crashes as their cars never travel at a fast enough speed to crash and/or the ride type in general does not have any operating modes that permit the possibility of a crash occurring. On the other hand, most other tracked rides, such as the Launched Freefall, several roller coasters and some water rides, like the Dinghy Slide, River Rapids and Log Flume, have an inherent possibility of crashing, although they can also be made technically crash-proof with careful design and planning as well as a proper maintenance regime.
As in most real-life scenarios, crashes are usually caused by a number of factors. In RollerCoaster Tycoon, these factors include the ride's operating mode, the design of the ride, the speed of the ride's car at the point of impact and the ride breaking down.
While this is rarely the primary cause of a crash, a ride's operating mode may indirectly cause a crash, especially if said crash is caused by other factors and if it is the only reason the ride can ever crash. For instance, the Shuttle Loop design for the Looping Coaster in RCT1 can crash if its operating mode is changed from "Powered-Launch Mode" to "Reverse-incline Launched Shuttle Mode" (which would cause the train of cars to reverse out of the station and off the track), or if its Launch Speed is increased beyond the value that is set when it is built (which may cause the train to overshoot the end of the track). Without making any changes to its operating mode, however, the Shuttle Loop design is technically crash-proof as it only runs 1 train and would never leave the boundaries of its track under any other circumstances. As another example, pre-installed Launched Freefall designs are technically crash-proof unless the player deliberately increases the ride's Launch Speed beyond the value that is set when the ride was first built, which would cause the car to overshoot the top piece and crash.
Sometimes, a ride may be designed in such a manner that a crash may occur while its cars are travelling around the track. For rides with unattached cars, such as the Bobsleigh Coaster, Ghost Train and Ring/Raft Slide, the ride can crash if a car flies off the track. This usually happens when the car is travelling at a high enough speed while turning a corner or upon reaching the crest of a hill or start of a drop.
It is also worth noting that the number of riders will affect the speed of the car as it travels around the track. In general, a car with more riders will travel faster than a car with no riders. Therefore, it is possible for a track design to safely pass test runs without crashing (as test runs are done without any riders on the car), only for it to crash once it opens since the additional speed caused by having riders gives the car just enough speed for it to crash. One example of such a ride is Death Slide in Fiasco Forest, which crashes at the start of the scenario despite having completed a test run—this is evident from it already having complete ride ratings when the player first loads the scenario.
In RCT1 and RCT2, excluding the Ghost Train and Haunted Mansion Ride, most rides with unattached cars will crash if a car negotiates the crest of a hill at a speed exceeding 30 MPH (48 km/h) or the start of a drop at a speed exceeding 40 MPH (64 km/h). Of the reminder, the Flying Turns will crash if a car negotiates a hill at a speed exceeding 28 MPH (45 km/h) or the start of a drop at a speed exceeding 30 MPH, while the Side-Friction Coaster will crash if a car negotiates a hill at a speed exceeding 25 MPH (40 km/h). A Ghost Train or Haunted Mansion Ride car will crash if it turns a sharp curve at a speed exceeding 15 MPH (24 km/h) or a medium curve at a speed exceeding 19 MPH (30 km/h). In RCT3, the Bobsleigh Coaster can also crash if its cars careen off the side of the track while entering a corner or, in rare cases, negotiating a curved S-bend at a high enough speed.
The Reverse Freefall Coaster—and, in RCT3, the Air Powered Coaster—and their variants, despite having cars that are held in place by the ride's running rails, can be constructed as incomplete circuits, so their cars can still crash if they travel at a high enough speed to overshoot the end of the track.
Speed (on Impact)
In RCT1 and RCT2, a crash can happen when the car of a ride is travelling too fast when it collides with another car on the same ride. Similar to a ride's operating mode, the speed of a car on impact may cause a crash due to other contributing causes, such as the ride's design or a breakdown.
It is not possible for rides to crash in RCT3 due to this as cars only crash when they leave the ride boundaries.
Like crashes caused by ride design, the speed of a car is influenced and usually increased slightly by the presence of riders. However, unlike crashes caused by ride design, all rides that have an inherent possibility of crashing in RCT1 and RCT2 will crash if two cars on the ride collide at a combined speed of 30 MPH (48 km/h) or more.
It is important to note that a ride that exhibits other possible causes of crashing may actually operate normally without incident for many years as long as it does not experience specific breakdowns. Therefore, a ride breakdown is sometimes indirectly responsible for a ride crashing because it drastically increases the chances of the ride crashing due to other causes. One of the most obvious examples comes from any ride design where the car enters the station exceeding 30 MPH (48 km/h) while another car is at the station. Under normal operations, the car that enters the station will be slowed down safely by the station platform's brakes the moment it enters, and it would fetch up behind the other car in the station without incident. However, if the ride experiences a "Station Brakes Failure" or "Brakes Failure", the car will not slow down as it enters the station and will crash the moment it collides with the other car that is already in the station as it is travelling at a speed exceeding 30 MPH at the time of impact. As an example, most pre-installed and pre-built track designs in RCT1 are highly prone to crashing due to breakdowns, especially if they run more than one car.
The effects of a crash can be split into two categories: immediate effects and delayed effects.
The moment a crash occurs, the ride that crashed will be closed immediately without any player input and a message will appear in the message window stating that the ride has crashed. Because the ride is closed automatically, any guests queuing up for the ride will exit the queue.
In RCT1 and RCT2, there are a few additional effects: the ride window for the ride that crashed will pop up, with the camera view automatically focusing on the car that crashed or is in the process of crashing, any riders on the ill-fated car are immediately removed from the park, and a second message that follows after the initial message stating that the ride has crashed will tally this number of riders as the number of guests that died due to the crash. There will also be an endless cloud of steam rising from the crash point.
Some of these delayed effects will occur almost directly after the immediate effects of the crash, while others will only be more pronounced in the long-run.
As word goes about that a ride in the park has crashed, the ill-fated ride will suffer a massive drop in popularity. This drop then extends to the entire park in general, with the park's Park Rating taking a massive hit and a significantly increased rate of guests leaving the park. Park attendance also falls as a result, with fewer guests entering the park.
The ill-fated ride can be "reset" by manually closing it a second time; in the process, the steam issuing from the crash point will disappear completely. The ride can then be re-opened normally. However, the drop in popularity will remain for a long time, and most guests visiting the park will refuse to ride the ride in the months following the crash. Eventually, some guests will begin riding the ride again, but the ride in question will never be able to reach the same level of popularity as it did before the crash. The only way to fully rectify the drop in popularity is to completely demolish the ride and rebuild it as a "new" ride.
Crashes are preventable on most non-roller coaster rides and roller coasters with unattached cars by simply designing them well. Make sure that vehicles don't crest hills too quickly on rides where the vehicles are unattached, and always test rides with powered launches.
In RollerCoaster Tycoon, it is difficult to completely prevent crashes caused by the "Station Brakes Failure" breakdown or crashes caused by a stall as the result of a "Safety Cut-out" breakdown. The easiest way to prevent such crashes is to remove all but one car/train from the ride, though this reduces the number of guests that can ride at once, and thus reduces the ride's profitability. In addition, Bobsleigh Coaster designs with a turn immediately after the station should be modified since cars may still fly off the turn even if they pass through the station without incident in the event of the ride's brakes failing. Adding "brake runs" (sections of track filled with brakes) can also reduce the speed of the cars midway through the track or right at the end, giving the cars less momentum and possibly preventing a crash. One way to keep the duration (and, in the short-term, likelihood) of breakdowns low is to set the inspection time for rides to "Every 10 minutes", and placing a mechanic right at the exit of each ride with a patrol path on the exit of the ride. This reduces the rate at which the ride's reliability drops, and in the event of a brakes failure, the mechanic is right there to quickly react. A different way to prevent crashes is to make sure that there will only ever be one train in or near the station or on lift hills by adjusting the ride's minimum and maximum wait times. The ideal amount of minimum and maximum wait time varies per ride, and there are no universal safe values or easy formula for safe times; the best way to find out good times is to experiment. Another option is to design the ride such that its cars always negotiate corners, traverse hills and drops and approach and enter the station at safe speeds even during breakdowns, eliminating the chances of crashing.
RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 adds block brakes on several roller coaster designs, which can drastically reduce the possibility of crashes on such designs. Block brakes separate the track into "sections", with each block brake on the track acting as the divider between sections. When a car is still travelling around one section, the block brake that divides it from the previous section of track will completely stop the next approaching car until the car in front has completely passed the next section. Using a block brake system allows many cars to operate on the track without having to build a long station platform to accommodate all of them. In addition, block brakes are powered independently from station and regular brakes, so they will never fail even when the ride experiences a "Brakes Failure" breakdown. The only major downside of using block brakes is a small decrease in the ride's excitement rating.
In both RollerCoaster Tycoon and RollerCoaster Tycoon 2, a crash does not actually happen until the first car explodes. This makes it possible for players to avert a crash at the last possible moment by pausing the game while a car is "Crashing!" and resetting the ride by closing it twice, which automatically removes all cars on the track and causes all guests—including the guests on the car that was originally about to crash—alight from the ride with no issues.
In RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, peeps cannot die under any circumstances. In addition, cars that impact each other at high speed no longer explode, instead bouncing way from each other upon impact—this completely removes all possibility of a crash arising from two cars colliding with each other at high speed. Crashes can still occur, however, if the train leaves its ride boundary either by overshooting the end of the track (for incomplete circuits) or by flying off a corner while attempting to negotiate it at high speed (for rides with unattached cars). The other negative effects of a crash (such as a decrease in park rating) are also still existent. Finally, a crash is considered to have happened the moment the first car leaves the ride boundary, as opposed to the first car exploding after leaving the ride boundary in previous games, although any cars that do leave the ride boundaries will bounce around the surface they impacted (or in the case of water, sink slowly) for a few seconds before actually exploding.