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A crash is an event where at least one car of a ride explodes. Crashes may occur when a car 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 that is not part of the ride (usually the terrain or water), or if it hits another car at a high enough speed.
Some ride types 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 tracked rides like 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 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 Go-Karts, Launched Freefall, roller coasters in general and 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 ride types where their cars are not held in place by the ride's running rails, 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.
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 featuring cars that are not held in place by the ride's running rails 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. Of the reminder, the Flying Turns will crash if a car negotiates a hill at a speed exceeding 28 MPH 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. A Ghost Train or Haunted Mansion Ride car will crash if it turns a sharp curve at a speed exceeding 15 MPH or a medium curve at a speed exceeding 19 MPH.
The Air Powered Coaster and Reverse Freefall 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 have been killed on the ride. 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 twice in succession; 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 roller coaster crashes. The easiest way to prevent station brake failure crashes is to remove all but one train from the ride, though this reduces the number of guests that can ride the coaster at once, and thus profitability. For coasters with more than one train, implementing brake runs can reduce the speed of the trains midway through the track or right at the end, giving the trains less momentum and possibly preventing a crash. One way to keep the number of breakdowns low is to set the inspection time for roller coasters to "Every 10 minutes", and placing a mechanic right at the exit of each roller coaster with a patrol path on the exit of the ride. This keeps the reliability of the roller coaster high, and in the event of a station brakes failure, a 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 by changing the minimum and maximum wait times. These times can change for each individual roller coaster, and there are no universal safe values or easy formula for safe times; the best way to find out good times is to experiment. These are easier to find out for longer roller coasters. Another option is to design the coaster delicately to be long enough that trains enter the station at a safe speed, eliminating the chances of crashing due to high speeds.
In RollerCoaster Tycoon 2, using block brakes can drastically reduce the possibility of roller coaster crashes to almost nothing. Block brakes operate by completely stopping the train and not letting it move forward until the next section is clear of other trains, preventing even the slightest possibility of two trains colliding. Using many block sections on a long roller coaster can allow many trains to safely operate on the track without building an extremely long station.
Also, if a ride crash is happening, the guests on board do not actually die until the first vehicle is destroyed - helpful for catching derailing crashes in mid-air.
In RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, peeps cannot die under any circumstances, thus, crashes are less of a problem. Crashes can still occur if the train derails due to an incomplete circuit, in which case, the cars do not explode immediately after touching land or scenery; the cars simply explode 10 seconds after derailing. This means that derailed cars can slide across paths, knocking over peeps along the way (see: Peep Bowling). Also unlike the prequels, when two trains collide at high speeds, they simply bump off each other rather than exploding.