Planet Zoo: Conservation Pack & Update 1.10: Review & Interview With Game Designer Kilian Schmitt
Planet Zoo is back once again for another major update, along with the brand new DLC, titled the Conservation Pack, and I think it is one of their best releases to date. To introduce the new pack and update, we also had the chance to pose some questions to Game Designer, Kilian Schmitt.
Review – Planet Zoo: Conservation Pack DLC
As the name suggests, this new pack is focused on conservation, adding 5 new endangered animals from around the world. These are Mongolia’s Przewalski’s Horse, the last truly wild horse in the world and currently listed as endangered; The Amur Leopard, a critically endangered Leopard from the border areas of Russia and China; The endangered Siamang from protected areas of Indonesia and Malaysia, the largest of all Gibbons, which comes with some new behaviours (more on that in a moment!); The Scimitar-Horned Oryx, an Antelope from North Africa that is now listed as Extinct in the Wild; And lastly the rather adorable Axolotl, a critically endangered new habitat animal that was originally from Lake Chalco and Lake Xochimilco.
The Siamang is of particular note, as it comes with a new swinging behaviour, “brachiation”, a specialised form of arboreal locomotion in which movement is accomplished by swinging from one hold to another by the arms (check out the video above from SimplySavannah). To show this off, the Update comes with a new modular climbing frame enrichment for the Siamang to swing along. I should just mention that the day before release, the Planet Zoo team spotted a bug with the brachiation animation along the connected portions of the linked frame piece. However, Siamangs will still brachiate along individual sections of the frame. They are aware of the issue and hard at work for a fix, with more information landing over the coming days.
Along with the new animals, the Conservation Pack also brings with it some brilliant new building pieces. As someone who is very much a builder, I LOVE these new additions. There are over 150 new scenery items, with things such as a 3D printed concrete wall set, gardening tools, guttering, hoses, wooden wall slats, crates, and various vegetables. Of particular note are the various “wheel” pieces, which will be a boon for those of you who like building custom vehicles to decorate your zoos. However, for me, my favourite pieces are the new “grass panels”. One of the things that has always been a bit annoying is the inability to put in nice green, lush lawns… now you can!
The new grass panels are technically listed as roof panels, however, you can lay them out exactly as you would with mulch, allowing you to create lawn areas. I tried this out on one of my builds (above), and you can see the massive difference it makes compared to the terrain grass for the Grassland biome.
In addition to the new building pieces, the DLC also comes with a host of new plants and vegetation, including a Tomato Plant, Fig Tree, and Korean Pine. The new plants I really love though are the meadow flowers, such as Buttercups, Oxeye Daisies, and Poppies. These work brilliantly both with the grass panels or mulch to create some wonderful-looking meadow areas.
If all that stuff wasn’t enough, the Conservation Pack DLC adds a new Timed Scenario with “Turtle Rock Wildlife Orphanage”. Here you’ll be challenged to rescue, rehabilitate, document, and release as many animals as possible. You also need to be sustainable, provide renewable energy, diversify your plant life, and provide lots of education, creating a really interesting challenge!
Review – Update 1.10
Along with the DLC comes the free Update 1.10, which brings with it a host of educational enhancements, the aforementioned new climbing frame enrichment, and new behaviours for both animals and guests.
To help educate your child visitors, you can now add a Height Measuring Station, where you can compare your size against the Giraffe and Gorilla; A customisable Soundboard Station, which plays sounds from one of the animals; And a Pawprint Station, so guests can compare their hands to the paws of the animals. These stations also boost your conservation rating.
Speaking of guests, they have a new “Group Photo” behaviour! When guests are viewing a habitat and have an overall happiness rating of above 50%, one member of the group will take the role of photographer with 1-5 others grouping together as the subjects, who line up and happily pose together to capture a snapshot.
Animals also get new behaviours too! First, there is the “Sniffing Behaviour”, activated by placing certain items in your habitat. This new behaviour extends to a lot of the existing animals. Next, we have the “Chorus Behaviour”, which I can tell you from experience, makes your zoo a lot noisier! The new Siamang, along with Arctic and Timber Wolves will now join together in Chorus Calls with each other. Lastly, we have the “brachiation” travelling behaviour, previously mentioned for the Siamang.
The building side of things has gotten some updates too with 1.10. One major addition are new smaller habitat gates. Set a 1m high, you no longer have to have the full-size doorway into those habitats which only need a small fence to keep the animals in place. The update also expands shopping options for builders, with all the missing shop counters and small signs (introduced in 1.8) now available.
One other little thing which hasn’t been mentioned much, there is a new grass path option, allowing you to create walkable lawn areas. Wonderful if you want to set up some picnic spots for your guests!
Interview With Game Designer Kilian Schmitt
Alongside reviewing the new update, and the Conservation Pack DLC, we had a chance to put some questions to Killian Schmitt, Games Designer on Planet Zoo, to discuss the new content, and the challenges they had bringing it to the game.
How did you pick out the animals for the new DLC?
Each of the five new species is so interesting! When we worked on our Conservation Pack animal list, we considered animals based on their general appeal, unique appearances or features, and captive populations and significance. We also take into account the wishlist of our amazing community of Planet Zoo players.
Conservation is a crucial aspect of modern zookeeping, so while core systems of the game already are designed around releasing and nurturing rare animals, we wanted to really highlight the good zoos can do for conservation efforts. That’s why the animals we have chosen for this pack are species at the brink of extinction, or that have already gone extinct and are returning through the help of zoological breeding programmes.
Any particular challenges developing the animals for this new DLC?
Our goal is always to create authentic animals that feel as real as possible. With the Siamang, there were two very specific behaviours we knew we wanted to include to achieve this.
As the first gibbon species in Planet Zoo, we had to create a way to incorporate their trademark brachiating locomotion into the game (the way they swing from branch to branch) which is no mean feat! We ended up with a modular set of several climbing frame pieces that players can use to freely build enrichments for the Siamangs, giving us the option to control the behaviours per piece while maintaining creative building freedom for the user. We can’t wait to see the frames that players design with these.
Additionally, Siamangs have a throat pouch, which inflates during their frequent hooting and calling – something they’re very well known for. Our riggers, animators and character artists worked their magic to ensure this distinct aspect of this species was accurately represented in-game. It’s amazing to watch and listen to them in-game.
I know this probably changes with each release, but favourite animal right now?
My favourite animal of this pack is difficult to choose! I’ve been a huge fan of Amur leopards since I was a child and first heard of their struggle for survival, on the other hand as a rider I can say that horses are undeniably the best animals. I’ll say it’s Przewalski’s horse for me right now, their conservation history is incredible.
Can you talk about the role of conservation within Planet Zoo?
As mentioned, species conservation is a vital aspect of real-world zoos. With Planet Zoo it’s always been important to us to highlight its value, by actively incorporating conservation into the gameplay (by enabling players to release animals to the wild, which in turn awards resources to bring more endangered animals to the zoo) and education (via our Zoopedia, listing information about the conservation status of all species present in the game). With the Conservation Pack, we wanted to highlight this even further. We hope that by placing conservation and education at the heart of Planet Zoo that we can bring some awareness to the challenges some species face, while providing a fun experience for players.
Can you talk through some of the new props and scenery?
The scenery pieces coming with the Conservation Pack are inspired by sustainable building techniques, such as 3D printed construction pieces made with natural materials. There are many eco-inspired props for players to get creative with too, such as ‘backstage’ tools, foliage like wildflowers, and gardening supplies. They allow players to build a modern and sustainable environment in their zoos.
Can you talk a bit about the new timed scenario?
The new timed scenario is set against a Mongolian-inspired backdrop, a country battling against habitat destruction, which also happens to be the home of one of our fascinating Conservation Pack animals, Przewalski’s Horse. In the scenario, players must work to grow a park that was created to aid conservation efforts, rescuing and rehabilitating animal, protecting its pristine habitat, and turning it into an educational hotspot for guests.
Any chance of getting more Career mission updates in future DLC?
At the moment we have nothing to share regarding future scenarios.
Any animals you personally would like to add in that you haven’t managed to yet?
At this time, we have nothing to share regarding future plans for animal releases. From a purely personal perspective, it would be interesting to see a porcupine as they are a favourite animal of mine! They’re very unique little critters that would certainly be an interesting challenge for our art teams.
Any things you have yet to implement that you’d love to see added to the game?
For now, we have nothing to share regarding future features and are focussing on the launch of our Conservation Pack, which comes with a wealth of new features and quality of life improvements such as new education stations, the Siamang’s brachiation behaviour, animal chorus and sniffing behaviours and more.
Have you seen the “PlumSloosh” Redditor – Drawing Planet Zoo very badly every day until Iguanas become habitat animals?
It has been shared to great delight in one of our weekly meetings, but despite the endearing artwork, our iguanas are very comfortable in their exhibit boxes!
If you’re a fan of business sim games and/or building games, ‘Planet Zoo’ continues to be one of the best on the market. The Conservation Pack DLC comes in at £7.99 and is, I personally think, one of the best DLCs they have released. Update 1.10 is free and gives you some good enhancements for eductation, along with some interesting new behaviours to both animals and guests. If you’ve not yet joined the ‘Planet Zoo’ family, now is a great time to jump in!