Posts by Tag / GAME: Animal Crossing: New Horizons (20)


Nook Miles+ and Binge-Playing

Animal Crossing games have always had a soft limit on how much you could do in a single day. Fossils only show up once a day, trees can only be shaken once a day, flowers can only be watered once a day, and so on - plus many event triggers (such as house expansions) have built-in overnight delays, so even once you hit one of these goals you can’t move forward past it until the next day.

You always could keep playing, catching more bugs and fish and picking up more shells, but at that point you’re mostly farming Bells. It’s an option, but it’s not where the game’s best experiences lie and I don’t think it’s what the designers really want the player to do. It’s possible because none of the mechanics forbid it but they don’t particularly reward or encourage it either.

Because of this, I’ve always gotten the impression that Animal Crossing wants to be played a little every day. You can choose to binge it and try to play as efficiently as possible and rush the various objectives, but the game neither encourages nor supports this approach. It’s designed to be less fun for players who come at it like that. It’s designed to slow you down. It wants to be a Zen garden, not a checklist.

New Horizons adds a fascinating feature that runs somewhat counter to this - the Nook Miles+ program that comes pretty early in the story progression. At all times, you have five mini-quests active that reward Nook Miles (a secondary currency alongside Bells) when completed and instantly replace themselves with another objective. These are things like catching five bugs (or five fish, or one specific bug or fish), spending Bells, selling items, crafting items, tending flowers, and so on - things that are very much in the “things you were probably going to do anyway” vein and often things that also earn you Bells along the way.

What this means is that even once you’ve done all the significant things you can do in a given day, you constantly have a short checklist of directed activities. You always have goals to accomplish for rewards. In some ways, it feels like a very non-Animal Crossing concession to players who want to binge and clear checklists. You can keep playing and knocking out more and more goals.

But at least in the early game, it seems to be less rewarding than it first appears. At the very beginning, Nook Miles are incredibly valuable - they’re how you repay your first debt and progress the game to unlock more mechanics and activities, and they can be spent on some absolutely vital purchases like an increase to your inventory size and a tool quick-select ring. Once you get through those things, though, there’s much less to do with your miles, at least in the early game. They still have some use and value, but at this point I have tens of thousands of miles just sitting around so it’s hard to find the Nook Miles+ objectives particularly compelling. I’m back to feeling like the game wants me to put it down until tomorrow.


The New Old Hotness

Sometimes it’s stressful to start a new game.

Entering a new world, understanding a new set of rules, seeing the systems beneath, learning what’s vitally important and what’s noise to be ignored, all create real cognitive load that can be quite demanding.

It’s pretty silly how many evenings I’ve wanted to unwind with a game but not been in the middle of anything with sufficient chill and found myself unwilling to start a new game, even one known for being relaxed and cozy, because I didn’t have the energy. At those times I want comfort food, not a new adventure.

This is one of those things that’s really helpful about genre conventions and so-called kitsch. It’s one of the major benefits of a series holding on to its core identity. The more you know what you’re getting into, the less energy it takes to get into it.

That’s why I was a little nervous about how different Animal Crossing: New Horizons is from its predecessors, but I was reassured by its connections to the past. I’m pretty sure that no matter how stressed or tired I am today, starting New Horizons isn’t going to scare me off. It’s going to feel like coming home.


Entitled Developers

So like, I love Nintendo and everything, but this is also the company that decides there is One True Way to play their games to justify forcing you to unlock all characters in an otherwise tournament-ready game one by one, or selling you an expensive controller and then not letting you use it while destroying accessibility by unnecessarily requiring motion controls, or preventing you from backing up your own saves, selling you a save backup service, and then not letting you use it, or requiring an online connection to experience certain content even if playing alone on a portable console.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about entitled gamers, but none about entitled developers. I don’t know what else to call it when a developer feels like they can decide for you how you get to enjoy the games and services you’ve purchased from them and hobbles those games and services in ways that cause real problems for communities, accessibility, and preservation all to stop players from having fun in an unapproved way.

See also: Atlus pretending Fair Use doesn’t exist and dictating terms for using gameplay footage and screenshots (perplexing after their previous backpedaling on the subject), many developers tracking player activity even outside of their game, and on and on.


Can we just take a moment to appreciate the fact...

Can we just take a moment to appreciate the fact that Animal Crossing: New Horizons, through NookLink in the Nintendo Switch Online app, will allow you to scan and use QR codes for custom designs - including ones created in New Leaf and Happy Home Designer? Meaning that over seven years of player-created content is still usable?

I like when Nintendo makes its games into platforms and then doesn’t abandon them.


Island Name Generator

Now that we know that Animal Crossing: New Horizons will support island names of up to ten characters, maybe you’d like some inspiration? Well, Angie’s Town put together a bunch of themed words, and I went ahead and made a generator based on it!

🏝️Animal Crossing Island Name Generator🏝

By the way, I like making little web tools like this. If you’ve got a name generator or some other guide or calculator or something that you wish someone would make an interactive version of, let me know!


Crafting a Progression

Like many folks, I was skeptical when the early reveals of Animal Crossing: New Horizons showed that it had a significant crafting element. But when I thought about it, I started to get genuinely excited because I think crafting could be the key to solving the single biggest problem I have with Animal Crossing: its randomness.

A significant long-term appeal of mainline Animal Crossing games is customization. As you get more and more customization options like furniture and decorations and clothing and so on, you can increasingly make your own mark and express your own creativity and personality in the game’s world. The problem is that those options are doled out on a largely random schedule. You can plan to decorate your house in a particular style, but you can’t really take steps toward the goal - you mostly just have to wait and hope the relevant furniture and such becomes available. In the meantime, you make do with what you get - and even if you have most of the furniture in a theme, you might be waiting a long time for the last piece or two and have to make do with mismatched sets in the meantime.

It’s not yet clear exactly how crafting will work in New Horizons but if it follows the precedent established by other games, it could solve this cleanly. Crafting can provide a progression that allows you to actually make plans and take steps toward your goals, and often themed sets of furniture and such are all on the same tier of that progression, craftable with the same materials.

For the first time, my Animal Crossing home decor might reflect a purposeful progression rather than a random mishmosh of whatever the Nooks have deigned to sell. I like that idea a lot.


Animal Crossing Builders?

Dragon Quest Builders 2 has me cautiously excited for Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

The mayor systems in Animal Crossing: New Leaf added more control over the overall town, and then Happy Home Designer had you creating homes/facilities to resident requests… New Horizons includes crafting systems and has you building up a deserted island with increased customization. These all sound like steps toward the Dragon Quest Builders formula.

This could go a lot of ways, but the idea of an Animal Crossing that’s basically DQB without combat or a closed story (and presumably with Disney Magical World-style renewable resources instead of terrain deformation) is really appealing.


No Cloud Saves for Animal Crossing: New Horizons

It’s being reported that the upcoming Animal Crossing: New Horizons will not support cloud backups for its save files “to avoid manipulating time, which remains one of the founding concepts of the series.” (Source, translation.)

It’s bad enough that Nintendo doesn’t allow you to back up your own save files manually and makes a paid subscription the only way to protect your data from hardware failures, damage, loss, or theft. That’s already anti-consumer.

But if they’re going to do that, then once you’re paying money for the privilege of backing up your data from playing your game on your console, no game should be able to opt out. It’s ludicrous to charge you for a service and then tell you “Nope, this particular developer didn’t feel like you should get to use the service you’re paying for on the product they sold you.”

Supposedly, developers need “a good reason” to opt out of cloud backups, but in practice the reasons we’ve seen so far usually aren’t good at all. But what I find interesting about this one is how paternalistic it is.

It feels similar to the argument you sometimes hear against the inclusion of easy modes, that somewhere a player might play on easy even though they’d enjoy the game more on hard, and preventing this possibility is somehow worth blocking other people from enjoying the game at all. I don’t care if some player out there uses save backups to finish their insect collection faster or whatever - why on earth is preventing that worth blocking all players from backing up their save in a game that’s intended to be played for months or years?