Meet the Team Behind the NoLimits 2 Roller Coaster Simulator

November 16, 2014, 9:12 PM · In the world of simulators, NoLimits is a lot more like Microsoft Flight Simulator than Roller Coaster Tycoon. That’s just the way Tom Zeliff likes it.


“It started way back in the late 90s, there were a number of coaster games that existed,” said Zeliff. “Disney’s Coaster was the first real game for coaster nerds. We had other games like Theme Parks and Roller Coaster Tycoons, but in those games you couldn’t build exactly what you wanted to.”

So, naturally, Zeliff set out to find a way to make this dream become a reality — but he needed a programmer. Enter Ole Lange. The German was finishing up his programming degree in the late 90s and had posted some screenshots of a recreation of a Schwarzkopf roller coaster named Thriller.

“It looked exactly like the real Thriller,” said Zeliff. “I was one of the fans that said ‘wow that looks so cool.’”

The two teamed up — Lange took over as the lead programmer and Zeliff designed the trains for the original NoLimits, which launched in 2000. Over the 14 years between NoLimits and NoLimits 2, the pair of designers, which eventually became a trio as Kevin Stone joined the team, continued to add to their original game.

“We added terrain and additional trains along the way,” said Zeliff. “People wanted wooden coasters and that presented a totally new challenge because we were only doing steel coasters up to that point.”

Help came from Michael Graham, who was working with Custom Coaster International (CCI) at the time. Graham taught the team everything they needed to know about how wooden coasters behave and the unique challenges that came with designing them. It was the first time the team worked with a roller coaster designer — but it wouldn’t be the last.

“In 2004 Vekokma had a Motorbike Coaster project they showed at IAAPA,” said Zeliff. “They wanted to look about getting their special coaster into NoLimits, so we worked with them and that ended up being the first time we worked with an actual manufacturer to get something in the game.”

Zeliff said they have designed the highest quantity of trains for Vekoma and that working on the motorbike coaster opened a whole new door for the team.

“That kind of opened the floodgates because we did stuff with Maurer Sohne, Gerstlauer, Mack, GCI,” said Zeliff. “We’ve found over the years that NoLimits is used in offices to quickly display designs.”

Those partnerships will continue in NoLimits 2. The game includes the highly anticipated Wing Walker coaster and allows players to import their own objects, something that wasn’t possible in the original game.

“NoLimits 1’s engine was custom built and did what it needed to do, but as technology advanced we needed to stop souping it up and buy a new car,” said Zeliff.

Lange began work on the new engine in 2007.

“It was a lot of time spent developing the interface, making the physics better, getting lighting effects and making it easier to add things,” said Zeliff. “We were able to put a lot more details in trains now so it took a lot more time to design them.”

The simulator is nothing if not realistic — Zeliff sent me a copy of the game before we spoke on the phone and the graphics are absolutely incredible. It’s certainly not as simple as Roller Coaster Tycoon, but for those looking for a truly authentic experience there’s nothing out there as captivating as NoLimits. For Zeliff, it’s the continued support and desires of the fans that makes the entire thing tick.

“It’s about finding out how the fans are pushing it and how we can help them along with what they’re trying to do,” said Zeliff.

Zeliff said the team is also working to add the Oculus Rift engine to the game, which would allow riders to take a spin on their creations in 3D. Beyond adding a new dimension to the game, expect new trains, cars and coasters to be added to the simulator on a fairly regular basis.

As we enter the six months of the year where your local amusement park may very well be closed, NoLimits offers a simulator so real that you just might forget about the howling winds and freezing cold just beyond your window. With realism at its core, NoLimits provides a world that is truly only limited by your imagination.

Replies (4)

November 17, 2014 at 4:11 AM · Great article. I enjoyed reading how industry professions have utilized No Limits.

I loved created coasters on the original No Limits on my Mac, and have been anxious to get the sequel. I am disappointed though as the program has been available since Jan and there is still no word on if a Mac version is even in the works.

November 17, 2014 at 1:29 PM · Except, there is(and has been) a Mac version in the works for years. The NL2 team have announced it various times on twitter and in a recent newsletter Ole posted on the NL2 website. :/
November 17, 2014 at 5:13 PM · The FAQ on their Steam page says that they are working on a Mac version, but there is no release date yet. In the meantime, I'm running the game just fine using Parallels and Win 8.1 Yes, I hate putting Windows on my Mac, even in a partition, but this game is worth it.
November 18, 2014 at 3:48 AM · Great article, it´s interesting to see how near this software is involved with the real manufacturer. I also can say that the new physics and the new engine with all the additions and possibilities .. is nearly endless.

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