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Animal Crossing's Katsuya Eguchi Explains How the Series Embraces Change

Posted by Samantha Sofka

Keepin' it fresh

Staying up to date, while at the same time pleasing fans, is quite possibly one of the biggest issues for developers of games in franchises such as Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda and Animal Crossing. The games have been around for many years and have amassed a huge fan-base that arguably expects Nintendo's popular franchises to "blow their minds" with each sequel released.

The task is especially difficult for series that have been around for 10 or even 30 years. "To be honest, yes, I always feel [frustrated about that],' said Animal Crossing's Katsuya Eguchi to USgamer recently at the Game Developer Conference (GDC) 2014.

He went on to say:

With [Nintendo's] products, it's only when people play them and enjoy them that the product actually has value. We constantly have to create something new and provide something new. When we put out a product, at that time, it’s the best thing we can offer. But as time passes, we look back and realize that it’s not going to work now. We’re in a different environment. The world outside is a different place. We have to constantly think about what we can create that’s new and refreshing for people who play. That’s the constant sense of pressure that I feel.

According to a discussion during his GDC panel, Eguchi and Animal Crossing: New Leaf director Aya Kyogoku said one of the struggles they've faced with the Animal Crossing series is keeping the newest title feeling fresh without completely abandoning its "fundamental essence." This is a problem many Nintendo veterans are unfortunately familiar with. They want to stay true to what the audience loves while at the same time changing it up enough to keep people interested. The main question is, how do you freshen up a game like Animal Crossing enough without betraying it's roots?

Eguchi and the team made subtle changes with Animal Crossing: New Leaf which gave the impression that almost nothing had changed. The game was adapted for 3D graphics, added new objectives, objects and an option to make the town self-sustain even when you aren't playing. The additions to New Leaf gave new life to the AC series as well as increase long term playability which, according to Kyogoku, "reflect the team's awareness that play habits and expectations have changed" since the game's predecessors.

As the series grows, time passes outside. Technology changes. The way players feel and think, their perspective about gaming changes. As a franchise, to stay relevant, we have to evolve along with that change. For example, that beautiful town ordinance may reduce some of the stress the game could cause. Things like that, we have to take them into consideration and constantly think about them and adjust to how the world has changed around us.

Games like New Leaf perfectly demonstrate how Nintendo is able to keep up to date with the world on their own terms. Both Eguchi and Kyogoku stress that the most important factor is to "never lose sight of its fundamentals"

Starting with the Nintendo 64, the communication aspect of Animal Crossing back then was about communicating with your family, or your friends that come over, and you would play after you go home. It would be communication with people you actually share a physical space with. As technology becomes more advanced, it expands the scope of what we can do. With the introduction of memory cards on the GameCube or the wireless Internet connection now, the scope of who you can reach out to and who you can communicate with has expanded. In real life, back in the day, people would gather physically to talk about their lives – here’s what’s been going on, here’s what’s happening around the world. Now, with the introduction of the internet, that’s done on a global scale, and very quickly. I feel like, as Nintendo’s hardware takes in those new technologies like the wireless internet connection, we’re able to be in sync and move in parallel with how the world is moving forward. I feel like the introduction of technology into our games is a reflection of how we’re moving in parallel with the rest of the world

The Animal Crossing team seems to have embraced the future, and most importantly, kept the interest of the fans. The title scored a spot on the 10 best selling games list of 2013 with a grand total of seven and a half million copies sold. It will definitely be interesting to see where the series goes in the future. When asked about the future of the game, Eguchi admitted that the way the series is set up now "caters to portable systems" but that it wouldn't be impossible or improbable to bring it to a console once again. If that were to happen, he said that the focus would be "how to fully utilize the features of that console, and how to integrate that into the concept and the world of Animal Crossing, to create a new way of playing Animal Crossing." Are you excited to see what's next for the series?


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User Comments (12)



Melkac said:

I hope the next game is another New Leaf instead of another City Folk...



Socar said:

If only the same can be said for Kid Icarus, F-Zero, Star Fox and Metroid..........



bouncer0304 said:

All i want is an update to give mayors the power to put new neighbours in a suitable spot. Hate that my beautiful town is ruined...



Justaguest said:

There should be much more to do in AC. I dont know how I managed to waste so many hours on it:P



rdrunner1178 said:

@Ryo_Hazuki-san Yeah they should have made one and added cross-play like Monster Hunter & Smash Bros. This is the perfect game for that. Being able to use the tablet and the TV screen to run your town, while also being to take it on the go with 3DS. The Animal Crossing app on Wii-U got me excited thinking they were making a game for it.



Yorumi said:

I feel this is rather out of touch. They've added and tweaked some minor things in AC but the series hasn't changed all that much. There is so much they could and should be adding to the series that they arn't.

About a year ago I played the sims(3 specifically) for the first time. I don't know why I had never played it before but I was entirely shocked at how much you can do in that game. Just to give you an idea, there's 3 types of houses(regular on a foundation, pylon house, and a house boat, yes it moves wherever you want). You can fully customize the entire house, the floorplan, number of floors(build a tower if you want), all the furnature, the walls, floors, stairs, windows, and the yard. Plant trees, build a fish pond, design a fountain etc. You have individual skills that level up, cooking, repair, snorkling/scuba diving, alchemy, gardening, athletics, charisma, science, tinkering, magic, fishing, performing, and plenty more I'm forgetting. You can hang out with friends at the beach, throw a house party, go to the movies, spend time at the library, explore underwater caves, meet a mermaid, become a mermaid, advance in all kinds of careers, collect bugs, metals, gems, shells, maps to secret locations and treasure and still more.

Don't get me wrong I've enjoyed AC, and I'm also not in any suggesting they clone the sims. However, when you look at all that, and how much the game has changed over the years, waking up everyday to shake a few trees, and chase shadows in the water seems to be rather lacking.

There's just so much more they should be doing in AC. How about some exploration, mining, gardening, cooking, more interaction with the neighbors. How about allowing us to build things, build a roller coaster and invite people over to ride it. Randomize the ocean and let us just go exploring for a new island every day that could have say a randomized temple on it to explore, possibly with puzzles that require multiple people to solve.

Over all my point is I think it's a little delusional for them to say they're keeping up with trends when probably the biggest change from the original is that now you can set an ordinance and place a few props in a town so small there's hardly any room for them.



luckybreak said:

So true. The game really doesn't actually have that much to do. Its mainly about collecting things because thats all there is to do. Thats why its suited to short play sessions every day, because it allows you to do the same crap over and over again. However, I still enjoy it immensely, but my town never actually feels alive.

All the games seem like a sandbox filled with not enough toys IMO

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