LOS ANGELES — Animal Crossing is beginning to branch out.
Every entry in Nintendo’s life-sim series has been pretty similar to this point. You move into a new town, you make friends, you fish, upgrade your house, and just kind of hang around. However, two upcoming games are starting to play around with these conventions. Happy Home Designer for 3DS focuses on building houses, and Amiibo Festival for Wii U is a multiplayer digital board game.
At last week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, I got to talk to Animal Crossing director Aya Kyogoku about the series’ new direction and how these two games came to be.
GamesBeat: Why make an Animal Crossing that hones in on this one specific aspect of the game [series]?
Aya Kyogoku: In Animal Crossing, home creation and home decoration was an aspect of the game that a lot of people enjoyed. But that’s only one part of living out your life in Animal Crossing. When we were developing Animal Crossing, we had to come up with ideas for houses that the animals have when they first move in to your town. They have a set of furniture and decorations they use. That was very fun for us as developers. We had to think about, what kind of things would this animal like? What kind of life do they lead? Trying to figure out what they’d want was very fun, and we tried to think of a way we could get this kind of experience to players as well. That’s where the origins of this home-designing concept came from.
GamesBeat: Is it still a simulation game like Animal Crossing, an experience that just goes on and on, or is there more of a win state, a point where you’ve built the perfect home?
Kyogoku: This is more of a simulation that’s focused on house design or house creation. When you get a request — it might seem initially that you get a request from an animal, they give you a certain theme, you create a home based on that theme, you get a good evaluation, and that’s the goal. But actually, the theme is just a guideline. The fun starts when you can expand on that theme using your own originality and creativity. In that sense I think the sense of freedom that you experience in Animal Crossing is still very present in Happy Home Designer.
GamesBeat: In the regular Animal Crossing games, you have to buy a lot of the furniture and things that you would put in a house. Do you still have to go to the store and buy those things, or is all that more available in the beginning now that you’re a designer?
Kyogoku: Yes, that’s correct. It’s all available to you.
GamesBeat: Are there any items you can unlock later in the game?
Kyogoku: Not every single furniture will be available in the beginning. Obviously, as you know, Animal Crossing has lots and lots of furniture. Having it all available might be too overwhelming at first. As you take on different requests, furniture that fits that request or theme will become available. We’ve designed it so that they become progressively available at a good pace. It won’t overwhelm you, but it’ll give you enough choices.
GamesBeat: Is there a budget with each house project that you have to work with, or can you go crazy and build a huge mansion for every animal?
Kyogoku: No, we got rid of the idea of a budget. Whether to include one or not was something that we thought hard about and discussed amongst the development team. What we wanted to get out of this game was for the player to reflect their creativity in the game. We didn’t want any constraints from budgeting to be an issue. In real life, depending on the budget you had, you might have to give up on some things you wanted to see. We didn’t want that to happen in the game world as well.