Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a title currently selling well, it seems, in Europe and North America, and has already been a significant success in Japan. As a game it can also be hard to explain to others, with its world following real time and so many activities being rather simple tasks in pursuit of new items, improving relationships or additional wealth.
In an interview with Gamasutra, producer Katsuya Eguchi spoke at some length about the design philosophies behind the game, and a desire to create a "parallel world" that's so obviously different from our own, but nevertheless has rules, principles and values that can easily be attributed to real life.
In an interesting segment on a gamer's town developing into a visual portrayal of their own values and characteristics, Eguchi said the following.
You speak about values; everyone has different values. Some people might think a certain item has more value than another does, or may think it's worth it to spend bells on a particular item when someone else doesn't. It's all kind of like things in this life — this value system.
Your town becomes a reflection of your values. The time you spend on relationships reflects how much you value that relationship. As someone creates their town it's a reflection of their values, and when you show it to people, it should be something that you want to be show off to people. It's something that you should be proud of.
And as you show it off you see what other people have done with their spaces, that will also shape the way you feel about your own town. It should be this kind of automatic feedback mechanism when you play with another person and see what they've done. So it definitely shifts and changes, but it's all a reflection of that person's values — the values and beliefs they hold.
With New Leaf, we were able to take that self-expression to the next level. You can customize not just your character, but your town this time, and you can apply designs to furniture, and you can share all of this with the Happy Home Showcase and through the Dream Suite. So all of this has been made for people to share their own reflections of their personalities.
Eguchi goes onto explain that the animal population was deliberately adjusted to be more naturally friendly, though some will still get on your case for mistakes. It's all part of an effort to apply chores in the game without making them too demanding or disconcerting, therefore encouraging gamers to play every day. On that topic, it was raised that the game has no 'ending' in the traditional sense, and Eguchi once again drew a parallel to real life.
At a certain point it will end, but in the same way that life does, every day — to day, to day, to day — it keeps going. In the same way, we wanted your life within Animal Crossing to keep going, so we built into the game a mechanism to be sure that there are always new discoveries for players. You like something one day, and then you may discover that you didn't like it as much as this other thing. So there's always something to strive for.
We also built into the game a feedback mechanism, where you're always getting feedback from within the game, from animals saying they like certain items and asking you if you'll trade with them, or playing with friends. Friends may give you feedback and you can see what they're doing with their towns, and get new ideas.
So it's always about this constant discovery, and also adding a lot of variation within the game. There are always a lot of different paths you can decide to go down. We want it to feel like a story that was never going to be done. It was never going to be finished. So that was something we tried to achieve.
We recommend checking out the full interview, and would be interested to know your thoughts on Mr Eguchi's comments. Do you see parallels — albeit fantastical — to real life in New Leaf, and do you happily visit your town every day?