Introducing Experiments in Unattended Rollercoaster Tycoon (EiURCT)

Recently, I bought the very first Rollercoaster Tycoon (with the Corkscrew Follies and Loopy Landscapes expansions) on Steam after seeing GraphiteHelix playing it one weekend on his laptop. This is going to be the first in potentially many experiments in leaving a game of Rollercoaster Tycoon running without any player input. I’m personally going to expect the following with these experiments:

The best-case scenario–which will probably include properly zoned handymen, a handful of mechanics, and possibly appropriately timed inspection settings for all rides–will probably lead to a slight decrease in park attendants, a small decrease in profits and park/company value, and possibly a slightly decreased park rating.

The worst-case scenario–which will most likely not include any of the above for the best-case scenario, and will probably be expected on parks that are pre-made e.g. Diamond Heights or Alton Towers–will probably lead to a dramatic decrease in park attendants, a massive decrease in profits, park/company value, and possibly even bankruptcy, and a massive dip in park rating.

Of course, the other thing that needs to be factored in these experiments is the amount of time the game is running unattended; this can range from as little as an hour (i.e. a lunch break’s worth) to a quarter of a day (i.e. when I’m sleeping) to maybe even half of an entire day (i.e. an entire day at school, or even a weekend at GraphiteHelix’s place). I’ll be starting one of these experiments very soon, so keep an eye out on this blog for the first exhibit of Experiments in Unattended Rollercoaster Tycoon (´・ω・`)

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Spongebob Squarepants coin pusher: why, mechanically, it’s an ehhhh coin pusher

Lovely, the moment I come back to doing full-length blogs is also the moment where I rant a bit about a specific coin pusher game I’ve been playing recently (´・ω・`)

So I’ve been going to Dave & Busters quite a lot recently in a blind pursuit for whatever decent big prizes may grace the arcade-restaurant combo’s prize wall, and there’s one type of arcade game that will, more likely than not, grace pretty much every Dave & Busters (and Round 1s, for that matter) in this country: the coin pusher.

You got your traditional coin pushers that are as simple as dropping (or shooting) the coin and hoping that it drops coins into a collection chute for some nice tickets, and then you got your next generation coin pushers that not only support up to 6 players on the largest setup, but also throw in other never-before-seen doodads like large chips that you can redeem for tickets, bonus credits, and card collecting, in which you play to drop cards on a play field that you then collect and exchange for large amounts of tickets, assuming you can get all of the cards in the set. Wizard of Oz, Star Trek, and Spongebob Squarepants are three examples of such games, although the latter of the three does things quite a bit differently than the others.

But first, let me go on record for this.

Spongebob Squarepants is…not really that great of a coin pusher.
And that’s putting it nicely.

Don’t mind the fact that this particular coin pusher was out of order :c

Yes, this coin pusher does support the multiplied credits for multiple plays and collectible cards mechanic that has graced all of the recent coin pushers, but there also lies a plethora of differences between them as well, some good, most ehhh. For one…

Spongebob only has one, and ONLY ONE, mode of agency

The first thing you’ll notice when you start playing this game is the fact that you can’t aim your shot. All you have is a single button that lets a coin loose and will either a) drop on to the play field in whichever way it wants to go or b) go through the constant revolving pineapple carousel and into a chute that does certain things when you shoot coins into it (more on this later).

Yep, this is all you have to work with.

In layman’s terms, your only mode of agency in this coin pusher…is timing.

Yes, timing is of the utmost essence when it comes to these things in general, but at the very least the other games gave you some other modes of agency to go along with it, whether it be in the form of a skill shot button, multiple coin slots, the ability to move your coin chute, or even a combination of all of these.

But in Spongebob? Nope. Timing is all you have. Your coin goes the same route no matter what: down the ramp and onto the play field. No control over where it lands on the play field…just when. As a result, a good majority of coin drops on the play field will be center-biased, so if a card that you want is off to the side…well, have fun.

Your best hope with Spongebob is the pineapple chute

As mentioned before, there’s a constantly revolving pineapple carousel that does certain things when coins go into it. These things include the machine spitting out extra tokens on to the play field, giving you two credits, dropping a new card into the play field (remember this quip for later), and giving you a chance to drop even more extra tokens on to the play field (4 in most cases).

See those orange things around the big Spongebob bonus wheel? Those things are a lot more important than you think 😡

If you miss the chute, there’s no guarantee that the coin you shot will go where you want it to go, considering that all coins reach the same destination and will fly off whichever way gravity wants them to go the moment it hits the end otherwise.

Without this control, what else is a coin pusher player to do? There are two approaches one could take: the stupid approach would be rapid firing the coin button in blatant disregard of the pineapple chute, relying on the tried and true method of just dumping a bunch of coins Japanese medal game style to get things pushing. I say that this method is stupid solely on the fact that it burns through coins in an absurdly short time frame. The clever approach would be to just time the pineapple chutes in an attempt to consistently get them in, resulting in a flurry of extra bonus tokens flooding the play field and giving yourself just a teeeeeeeeeeny bit of extra time to push things off.

Coin go in to chute, coin poop out from side. Keep doing that and you’ll have your Spongebobs in no time! :c

Using the pineapple chute is without a doubt the most cost-effective way to get more coins on to the play field without having to, you know, drop a copious amount of credits into the machine. It’s also effective in throwing new cards into the play field as well…and speaking of which…

How “loaded” a Spongebob machine is is directly proportionate to how often you load the pineapple chute

In any of the other collectible card coin pushers like Wizard of Oz and Star Trek, one would assess which machine to play on through a few factors: how many cards are on the field, how close is the credit meter to getting the bonus credit roll, and how likely is the coin pile going to budge from a glance. Knowing that a particular side is “loaded” with cards is one of the motivating factors in plopping yourself on that side, especially if you’re trying to complete a set for that particular coin pusher. The card unloading mechanism is usually automatic, firing off at set intervals while also, on occasion, unloading many cards at a time should the machine know that one particular side is very busy.


Spongebob’s card unloading mechanism is driven solely by player input, specifically the aforementioned pineapple chute. On the bonus wheel is a lot of spots for regular bonus tokens, three spots to get more bonus tokens, two spots to get two credits, and…one spot to unload ONE card. Naturally, if no one plays the game, very few, if any, cards will be on the play field. The only way to jack up the card count is to consistently hit the pineapple chutes enough to get cards unloaded.

This baby works…but only if you’re playing and timing your drops into the chute.

So when it comes the time to answer the dreaded question of how “loaded” a Spongebob machine is, I can guarantee that there will be some varying degree of beating around the bush, trying to explain the empty play fields in comparison to the heaps one can find on other collectible card coin pushers alongside the mechanics of the Spongebob machine specifically.

Final thoughts

The past few attempts at playing this coin pusher have been ending with me zoning out the play field entirely in favor of just getting coins into the pineapple chute consistently. After all, if the game doesn’t allow you to aim your shots, then your only strategy at this rate is to brute force the coin pile, which tends to go at a much faster pace the more coins you load on to the play field anyway. It’s as close to the antithesis that you’ll get to playing a coin pusher without bring in Japanese medal games into the equation, though that isn’t to say that the other collectible card coin pushers aren’t guilty of being able to do the same thing (the big difference being that you can at least aim your rapid fires).

Well, at the very least these machines pay out their coin drops. Even if it is just a measly two tickets per coin, at least at Dave & Busters.