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“Size isn’t everything”… or is it?

Matt N

CF Legend
Hi guys. Whenever the topic of records and stats comes up in discussion, I’ve noticed that enthusiasts often like to trot out the age-old mantra of “size isn’t everything”, “it’s not the size that matters, it’s what you do with it” or something of that general ilk. But one does have to ask whether this saying always holds true. So my question to you today is; do you think this saying holds true in every instance? Can a ride ever benefit from being bigger? Can a smaller ride ever be held back by the fact that it isn’t bigger?

Personally, I’ll admit that I’m not sure that the adage of “size isn’t everything” is necessarily true in every instance, and I can raise a number of case studies to explain why I think this.

Before I begin, I’d just like to clarify that that doesn’t mean that I think it’s wrong by any means. There are absolutely instances where I think this saying can be vindicated. You can absolutely build a small ride that’s truly brilliant, and by the same token, you can absolutely build a big ride that’s a flop. For instance, the height record breaker Kingda Ka does not seemingly have a very high reception among enthusiasts on the whole, and many even rate Stealth, which is less than half the height and effectively does the same thing, more highly. Many of the other record breakers also often leave enthusiasts distinctly non-plussed, due to them either being uncomfortable, boring or a combination of both. By the same token, many rides that don’t leap off the page stats-wise are very highly rated. Nemesis. Phoenix. The Intamin Mega-Lites. There are way more examples than that, even.

However, I’m not sure that the mantra of “size isn’t everything” is necessarily as true in every case as some make out. And I’ll use a few case studies to explain myself.

I’ll start with one ride type that I possibly feel goes against this mantra; the B&M Hyper Coaster. There seem to be 3 subsets of this ride type in terms of size; the gigas (300ft+, 5,500ft+), the regular hypers (200ft-300ft, 4,500ft-5,500ft), and the mini hypers (<200ft, <4,500ft). And these subsets do seem to follow the same order in average rating as they do in size; as much as the length figures I used in particular are quite rough parameters, there does seem to be a correlation between size of B&M Hyper Coaster and average rating. The gigas seem to be rated higher than the regular hypers on average, and the regular hypers seem to be rated more highly than the mini hypers on average. And even if you delve into these subsets, it’s often the largest that is the most highly rated on average. Take the gigas, for instance; Fury 325 is the longest by a good 1,000ft and the tallest by a good 20ft, and it’s also the most highly rated on average. And if you look at the regular hypers; Shambhala is the tallest by a good 10ft, and also seems to be the most highly rated on average. While this isn’t a hard, fast rule by any means (there are some B&M Hypers that loiter right around the 200ft mark that are pretty highly rated, and some bigger ones that are seen as weaker), there does appear to be somewhat of a positive correlation between height and/or length of a B&M Hyper Coaster and how highly that B&M Hyper Coaster is rated.

Now you could argue “B&M Hypers are designed to be big, so of course they aren’t going to follow that mantra”. But I would like to raise another ride type/manufacturer, one who arguably made their name by following the “size isn’t everything” mantra… it’s every enthusiast’s favourite 3-letter acronym, RMC. Over the years, RMC has made many smaller coasters with very high ratings; many of their earlier creations that made them their name fell firmly into the small/moderate size category, often being under 150ft in height and under 60mph in speed. But when they began making big behemoths, that neared and in some cases exceeded 200ft in height and 70mph in speed… it’s those massive RMCs that have hogged most of the column inches ever since. While this of course won’t be true for everyone, it appears that the current holy trinity of RMCs for most enthusiasts are Steel Vengeance, Zadra and Iron Gwazi. These are also the only RMC coasters to exceed 200ft in height at present. One does have to wonder whether that’s a coincidence. A lot of RMC’s small and midsize coasters seem to fly under the radar somewhat these days, even when newer; for instance, Twisted Cyclone and to a lesser extent the first two Raptors, while respectably reviewed, got a far more muted response than Steel Vengeance in 2018. SteVe is twice the size of any of the “competing” RMCs from the same year. In 2016, when the company built Wildfire, Lightning Rod and Joker, it was Wildfire and LRod, the two vastly larger coasters, that got all the praise; poor old Joker, at barely above 100ft, didn’t even get a look in compared to those two, and even now, it’s among the lowest rated RMCs while the big two from the same year are among the highest rated. Again, while this isn’t necessarily a hard and fast rule, it does appear that there might be a positive correlation between size of an RMC and how highly it’s rated on average.

For yet another two examples of manufacturers who are arguably famous for following the “size isn’t everything” mantra; Gravity Group and GCI, the two traditional woodie manufacturers. Both of these companies produce many compact and small rides that are big hits among enthusiasts; Gravity Group in particular are renowned for getting big thrills out of small packages. But looking at the highest rated rides from each company would suggest that size might even benefit these champions of compact. If you look at Gravity Group; their most highly rated coaster in most polls seems to be Voyage by some distance… and Voyage is also their largest coaster, being a truly massive, sprawling ride. If you look at GCI; their most highly rated coasters among those who’ve ridden seem to be Mountain Flyer and Python in Bamboo Forest, and while exact stats for this duo are limited, they appear to be GCI’s two biggest coasters by a fair margin. And even if you look among more widely ridden GCIs; the tallest and fastest is Wodan, and that does often tend to fall among the most highly rated GCIs too.

I could use other examples, but in essence; I do think size can be a contributing factor to how highly rated a ride is in numerous cases, and the saying of “size isn’t everything” isn’t always true, in my opinion.

But what do you think? Do you agree with me? Or do you think that the age-old mantra of “size isn’t everything” is always true?
 

hersheyfan410

Roller Poster
Definitely an interesting topic but IMO track length and ride time seems to influence a ride’s critical reception much more than any other stat like height or speed. Steel Vengeance, Iron Gwazi and Zadra are much longer rides than your average ‘Cyclone’ RMC or the prototype raptors which many see as too short or over too quickly. Enthusiasts love RMCs and GCIs, B&M hypers etc. so larger coasters are better because it’s ‘more of a good thing’. Plus most of the rides from our favorite manufacturers are fairly smooth and well paced so they don’t have any of the downsides that longer coasters have sometimes.
 

Hyde

Matt SR
Staff member
Moderator
Social Media Team
"It isn't until it is"

This was actually a driver to my creating a coaster ranking years ago - to see if there was any specific coaster element I was most drawn to/highest correlated with my coaster rankings. (e.g. speed, height, year opened) Height isn't the highest correlation, but it's #2:

R Value Correlation
Category
R Value
Rank
Top Speed0.731
Height0.652
Length0.63
Drop Height0.584
Year Opened0.385
Inversions0.376
Duration0.327
Cost0.258

So that's to say, elements more highly correlated, on average, occur more often in higher ranked coasters. Here's a quick visual, charting rank to coaster elements. Again, for correlation, we are looking for charts where the dots are tighter together/not as randomly dotted around. (e.g. cost or duration)

1654626904309.png

1654626923098.png
1654626940376.png
 

jmg.ai

Roller Poster
I do agree with "size isn't everything" because if size was everything, ka would be everybody's number 1. Size plays a role and you made great examples of that but it isn't everything.
 

Matt N

CF Legend
Inspired by the post that @Hyde did, I actually did some maths to try and test whether my case study assumptions in my opening post were correct.

Using Captain Coaster’s World Roller Coaster Ranking for June 2022, I attempted to work out the correlation between height and average rating for each ride type.

I used this calculator to work out the correlation for each dataset: https://www.socscistatistics.com/tests/pearson/default2.aspx

B&M Hyper Coaster
For B&M Hypers, the R value was 0.6 to 2 significant figures (exact value was 0.6047), thus signifying a moderate positive correlation between height and average rating; there is a tendency for average rating to increase as height increases. Therefore, I was vindicated here.
RMC
For RMCs, the R value was 0.4 to 2 significant figures (exact value was 0.4371), thus signifying a weak positive correlation between height and average rating; there may be a tendency for average rating to increase as height increases, but the relationship is weak. Therefore, I was partially vindicated here, but not quite.
Gravity Group
For Gravity Group coasters, the R value was 0.5 to 2 significant figures (exact value was 0.5181), thus signifying a moderate positive correlation between height and average rating; there is a tendency for average rating to increase as height increases. Therefore, I was vindicated here.
GCI
For GCI coasters, the R value was 0.0 to 2 significant figures (exact value was 0.0062), thus signifying little to no positive correlation between height and average rating; there does not appear to be a relationship between those two variables. Therefore, I was not vindicated here.
 

EDjanaika

Mega Poster
Never done one before but loads of people seem to enjoy the Intamin Hydraulic Launches like Dragster and Xcelerator but less so Kingda for it's restraints ( Rita hurts my shoulders so i can understand where they're coming from)!
 

Indy

Mega Poster
It's a complex question, but from a goon standpoint, 100%, it's about what you do with it. Size can simply make up for not doing much with what you have as sensation of speed can go a long way. Or, size can be a deciding factor...

B&M is the perfect example. Yes, Fury is very highly rated and Leviathan is generally pretty far up there as well, but Orion is widely considered to not even be in the same league. Personally, I would consider several B&M hypers to be superior to Orion including SFOG Goliath and Mako which are both on the smaller end of the mega/hyper spectrum.

Intamin is a good case as well. Millennium Force was revered for years and then I305 came along and stomped all over it. Its super intense layout showed what an Intamin giga coaster truly can be. Sure, Millennium Force provides a rush, but it doesn't provide the insanity that I305 does. Millennium Force is simply the 21st Century version of the Beast. But despite how good I305 is, I still personally prefer Expedition GeForce as it does a better job with what it has.

Then, there are the Intamin launched coasters. TTD and Kingda Ka are the tallest in all the land, but few goons say that either of those two are better than the likes of Maverick, VelociCoaster, Taron or even Xcelerator and Storm Runner.

And that brings me to RMC, where size can simply be the deciding factor. RMC/Ride Centerline has generally proven that they know what to do with a ride regardless of the size. If you put an RMC in a park, there is a good chance it is the best ride in the park no matter how big or small it is. Ride Centerline mastered the art of getting the most out of what is given to them. Therefore, their larger coasters are often ranked higher because you're getting more of that mastery and you're getting it at a higher speed.

But from a GP standpoint, size is everything.
 

Howie

Donkey in a hat
I'm gonna go for a more gut instinct kind of answer rather than an analytical one: I love big coasters, me. Bigger the better. If you look at my list of favourite coasters, the vast majority of them are whoppers.
Size matters, at least it does to me. It's not everything and sure, there's some massive coasters out there that are real turds but on the whole, big is good. I like big.
 

Dan Nguyen

Roller Poster
Size isn't everything. I feel like it's more along the lines of a coaster taking advantage of its size to deliver the overall package.

I just rode San Diego's Manta yesterday and, while it's not big, it does pack a punch.

Same with Emperor. I thought Emperor was better than the other two Sea World stateside dive machines.

In contrast, I'm not the biggest Orion fan. Its a big ride, but it ends too quickly leaving you wanting a lot more.

I prefer a ride with lots of elements vs a huge ride that doesn't do much
 

Hyde

Matt SR
Staff member
Moderator
Social Media Team
Inspired by the post that @Hyde did, I actually did some maths to try and test whether my case study assumptions in my opening post were correct.

Using Captain Coaster’s World Roller Coaster Ranking for June 2022, I attempted to work out the correlation between height and average rating for each ride type.

I used this calculator to work out the correlation for each dataset: https://www.socscistatistics.com/tests/pearson/default2.aspx

B&M Hyper Coaster
For B&M Hypers, the R value was 0.6 to 2 significant figures (exact value was 0.6047), thus signifying a moderate positive correlation between height and average rating; there is a tendency for average rating to increase as height increases. Therefore, I was vindicated here.
RMC
For RMCs, the R value was 0.4 to 2 significant figures (exact value was 0.4371), thus signifying a weak positive correlation between height and average rating; there may be a tendency for average rating to increase as height increases, but the relationship is weak. Therefore, I was partially vindicated here, but not quite.
Gravity Group
For Gravity Group coasters, the R value was 0.5 to 2 significant figures (exact value was 0.5181), thus signifying a moderate positive correlation between height and average rating; there is a tendency for average rating to increase as height increases. Therefore, I was vindicated here.
GCI
For GCI coasters, the R value was 0.0 to 2 significant figures (exact value was 0.0062), thus signifying little to no positive correlation between height and average rating; there does not appear to be a relationship between those two variables. Therefore, I was not vindicated here.
It'd be interesting to run a correlation of height against age; if anything, a hypothesis on "yes, size matters" would be that coaster manufacturers overtime trend towards larger/taller roller coasters. This would show as a positive correlation, as "year opened" would increase alongside height.

To prove counterfactual, it may also be helpful to compare against other leading stats like speed, length, or inversion count; just to show if height is the leading correlated factor (that is, more than one statistic could show significance in correlation)
 

Matt N

CF Legend
Size matters in some places.
Some could argue that it matters in terms of marketing in particular. Height records are often big sellers in theme parks; just look at something like The Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, which was built in 1994, but arguably remains Blackpool’s headline attraction!
 
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andrus

Giga Poster
Interesting topic with som interesting answeres!

I'm with you Matt. A lot of people in the enthusiast community proclaim that size doesn't matter. But me, I love a big old coaster! Sure, looking at my top 10 I got some smaller coasters like Juvelen and Phoenix. But the vast majority are big, tall and fast rides. It's almost as Howie puts it: "the bigger the better".

There are some obvious advantages to a big ride. Like Indy points out "from a GP standpoint, size is everything." While not necessarily true, it's a lot easier to sell a big ride. The general theme park goer will obviously be more intrigued by a ride that is taller, faster or have more inversions. It's a lot more difficult to sell "this is a very good ride, not very tall, but I promise you that it will be good". Hence big rides are easier for a park to market and big rides are often built with the purpose to pull in the crowds.

And it's not just the general public that gets more excited from a taller ride. Looking at the RMCs as an example, I'm much more intrigued by going on the big ones like Steel Vengance, Zadra or Iron Gwazi. I bet that Storm Chaser is good as well (as a lot of enthusiasts like to point out), but if I was given to choice to go on Steel Vengance or Storm Chaser my answere would always be Steel Vengance! Yet again I'm quoting one of the terrific answeres above, like caffeine_demon wrote: "who doesn't feel butterflies in their tums on the approach to a big coaster for the first time?"

From a personal standpoint I love speed. And taller coaster inherently have more speed. A big ride also have more possibilities in form of a longer layout and bigger elements. Like eg sustained ejector airtime hills which are only possible on large scale coasters.

There are so many advantages a ride designer could, and should, take advantage of in a large coaster. But that's not always the case. Sometimes big coasters fail to deliver the goods with a poor layout design, just as some smaller coasters still can be brilliant becasue of a creative ride design. But a bigger ride most often have an advantage over a smaller ride.
 

Furiustobaco

Mega Poster
I do believe a lot of it is layout- but having a lot of speed from height can give advantages. For example Steel Vengeance has tons of speed and uses every bit of it which powers it through its incredibly long layout. I do believe it also helps a rides pacing.

There is examples of rides with great stats being crap though. Titan at Over Texas is the biggest waste of great stats in the world. Huge drop at a boring angle, great speed killed by MCBR. Most of the length being boring elements besides the one element that tries to murder you with positive G's.
 
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