Theme Parks

We went to Walt Disney World last week. Disney has in many ways achieved what Guild Wars 2 was (is?) trying to with zoos.

By that, I mean that you have a mix of fixed, sporadic, and mobile attractions. The theme park elements are always there and always running. The Haunted Mansion has doombuggies moving continuously on a treadmill, and Mickey Mouse will always be posing for pictures. Around that, there are scheduled shows that happen periodically, along with parades (by metaphor: world raid bosses on a rare spawn). There are both large shows with highly visible scheduling and smaller shows that look more like something is just happening, a 5-10 minute affair staged outside. An example of the former is the Hall of Presidents; an example of the latter is the newer “The Muppets Present Great Moments in American History.” which happens outside less frequently and with more variation. Animal Kingdom and Epcot always have some sort of performer somewhere in the “streets.” And then there are wandering characters and performers. For example, my wife was thrilled to get her picture with a suffragette on Main Street USA, and we caught Mary Poppins posing for pictures between events. Live interaction with guests, not just fixed shows!

Some of these even have the same Guild Wars 2 effect whereby one event moves to another. Before the “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away” show, the characters parade from Star Wars Launch Bay; the end of the “March of the First Order” show is the march of the First Order through Hollywood Studios.

This is something I really liked about Guild Wars 2 and a reason I have trouble going back to any MMOs. It may be a thin veneer of “world” in your game world, but there is a sense of place, that there is a living world around (even if it is all on a schedule). Things are going on, there are variations instead of the exact same thing every time, and there is a sense that you might see something new this time. Over time, you will likely see all the variations, or maybe they will introduce new ones faster than you can exhaust them (unlikely in an MMO, likely in a real theme park unless you have an annual pass).


  • Contrary to the linked post at the top, I find Animal Kingdom to be more zoo-like than the local zoo. There is not the same experience for every guest, and the animals are not (all? mostly?) in small enclosures. This is best seen on the Kilimanjaro Safaris, which covers an area larger than the Magic Kingdom. Within a day, you probably get a similar experience between tours, as the drivers know where the animals are out that day. But we have been to the park before, and the experience differed this time.
  • If you have the chance, the limited attendance evening events at the Magic Kingdom are a better buy than the normal ticket. We went to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, and even if you have no interest in the Halloween content at all, the chance to ride the most popular rides with a 5-20 minute wait (instead of up to an hour) is great. “Disney After Hours” looks like a similar experience, with more rides open and no special content. I expect that the “zoo” aspect I just talked about is not live during that, but it is extra big for Halloween.
  • Hollywood Studios has the weakest reputation, especially while building its new areas, but I found it one of the better parks for having a lot of zoo, along with live content (but very weak on normal theme park content). The Frozen singalong was surprisingly great. Limited, but everything was better than I remembered from a few years ago.
  • I am still interested in working at Disney Parks and Resorts, if we have any readers with whom I could network. I do project management, strategic planning, and technical development. It’s hard to get your foot in the door.

: Zubon