The basic premise of Zoo Tycoon is to build a zoo while making sure the animals and guests are happy and are having a good time. One of the biggest goals of the game is to make sure the animals in your zoo are happy. To do so the exhibit of that animal has to suitable for it. For instance Giraffes love savannah grass and a lot of trees. Other animals like different types of terrain and foliage. Every exhibit also needs a shelter for the animals. Of-course you will need to hire staff for your zoo so that they can feed the animals, fix broken objects etc.. There are 3 types of staff you can hire.
- Zookeepers - Zookeepers will feed and heal sick animals. They also make the animals happier when they enter their exhibits. If an animal escapes from its exhibit the zookeeper will catch it. Zookeepers can also be assigned to specific exhibits.
- Maintenance workers - Maintenance workers pick up trash, empty trash cans and fix broken fences so animals won't escape.
- Tour Guides - Tour Guides help guests around the zoo and also tell them information about various animals. They also increase the guests happiness level.
Staff members are paid once when hired and again at the beginning of each month.
There are 3 modes you can choose from in Zoo Tycoon. Tutorial, Scenario and Freeform.
The Tutorial mode will teach you the basics of Zoo Tycoon like how to make an exhibit, how to make an exhibit suitable for a specific animal, how to keep the guests happy and more.
The Scenario mode in Zoo Tycoon will give you certain objectives. These objectives can be anything from making an exhibit suitable for an animal to breeding an animal within a time limit.
The Freeform mode is the main mode of Zoo Tycoon and the mode where you will most likely spend most of your time. The Freeform mode lets you choose a map for your zoo and also how much money you want to start off with. As you progress more and more things will be unlocked for the freeform mode such as more animals, shelters, foliage and buildings. You can also research for things. Some things are only available through research.
After the success of the first Zoo Tycoon Microsoft and Blue Fang decided to release 2 expansion packs for the game. Zoo Tycoon: Dinosaur Digs and Zoo Tycoon: Marine Mania. Later on all these were available in one package which was named Zoo Tycoon Complete Collection.