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RavenWorks's Journal

THE LAUGH TRACK HAS BEEN REPLACED BY A DIAL TONE!!

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Animal Crossing!
Raven
ravenworks
So after years of observing them from afar, I finally have an Animal Crossing game. And I've got mixed feelings! I'm only about a week in, but I still want to jot down my impressions...

First of all, there is far, far less to do in the game than I had always had the impression of there being. You basically run around town and click on things, either to collect them or to exchange pleasantries with them. Despite this, though, while I perpetually feel about five minutes away from getting bored, I haven't yet *actually* gotten bored! It's oddly satisfying, maybe because you never know what you'll get from the chores or the neighbours, maybe because the interface of wandering around a little forest is just more pleasant than the disembodied "click the things that you're floating above" that superficially-similar Facebook games would ask of you... it's making me realise that you can sell people on a pretty simple interaction, as long as the experience itself is nice (and maybe as long as the outcome is at least slightly unpredictable)..... after all, that pretty much describes most RPG battle systems when you think about it!

On a similarly love-hate note.... Animal Crossing is one of those games that proceeds according to the real world's clock. And I love the way that paces you; accomplish something great, and they'll say "fantastic; your reward will be ready tomorrow!", and you can turn your system off, and you have something to look forward to. It's cute, and nicely relaxing.... it's nice to have a game that isn't designed to keep you playing. (Well, actually, it IS designed to keep you playing, but in the long term, rather than being designed to keep you from putting it down.) Unfortunately, the OTHER thing that it uses the clock for, is having certain events take place only at certain times, or on certain days...! And that seems absolutely insane. Almost all week I was unable to advance in the game because the store that I needed to access was closed whenever I got off work. I had to play on the subway in order to get into the store and make the next (i.e. nearly first) thing happen. Who thought that would be a good idea? Who could take a concept like "we'll make a game that encourages you to play at a leisurely pace" and then think "and also we'll force you to try and find time in your schedule in order to have fun at the times we designated for you"? (As it happens, there IS an option to make the stores stay open late..... but they cost in-game money to use, and require the storyline to be advanced to a certain point, which you CAN'T advance to without playing by their rules for several days first...!) And for example, right now, I'm aware that my villagers are all participating in the bug-catching contest, and I can't attend unless I stop what I'm doing to go play the game.... and I am just not fond of the idea of having to schedule my days off around playing games that I don't want to play at the moment, which I guess means that there's some content in this game that I'll just never encounter! (Common knowledge on the internet is "mess with your system's calendar to play Animal Crossing how you want", but if I have to resort to things like that to make a game enjoyable, then the game's designers have made a misstep somewhere.)

Another thing is how bizarrely false the whole town feels, because of a choice I don't understand... Basically, the "villagers" in your town don't have jobs (they just mill around 24/7), and the "workers" in your town don't have homes (they are either behind a counter or they stop existing)! This doesn't sound like much, it's certainly how most games work, but when the ENTIRETY of your game is the experience of talking to the characters around you and the feeling of living in this town, it really brings to your attention the bizarre falseness of RPG towns.... when you wonder why Crono's mom doesn't have a bedroom, you think "whatever, I'm sure it's around there somewhere, I have to save the entire planet now"; but when a fellow villager tries to tell you they just spent their life savings buying an eel from you, it just immediately feels strange because you saw this character wandering around ALL DAY, doing nothing.... And by the same token, this game's whole concept is that it encourages you to try and befriend the villagers; they'll notice when you talk to them more often, you can send them presents, or drop by their house and see how they live... and just as you're starting to cozy up to the idea (it really is rather cute, if a bit shallow), you meet the people who run the shops... and they're adorable, and personable, and friendly..... and all completely nonexistent outside of work. I want to visit the kindly old man who runs the museum at home, and talk about something besides his work! I want to visit the family of raccoons who run the shops, and learn about their lives. Hell; they set up your 'mayoral secretary', the character who appears on the game's splash screen, as being your supporter and ally in this new town; she helps you get settled in, asks how you're doing and how you're integrating into the town, tells you about her life and how she regrets always working so hard...... and then, rather abruptly, as soon as you complete the tutorial quest, she just completely refuses to talk to you about anything other than the 'menu options' that she basically exists to present. The 'how are you' option just straight up disappears. I feel snubbed! It's even worse than with the other workers, because UNTIL then she had existed as a character who was apparently my confidant, but then she just runs out of script and turns into an automaton. I'm worried that it sounds like I'm expecting too much, but you have to understand -- this is all that the game has to offer, and it goes out of its way to encourage your suspension of disbelief in the matter, but then it just turns around and says "no, no -- only them. Leave the WORKERS alone." Even though it has a full system for cobbling together semi-dynamic characters -- there are over 200 villager characters in the game -- they couldn't outfit the worker characters with that same system? Or better yet, populate the stores with random villagers instead of predetermined workers, thereby solving BOTH problems at once...?

The last thing I want to mention is the weird implied message of going forth and subduing nature... The two main activities in this game, other than socializing, are to catch bugs and fish. This gets you money, and it also lets you fill up the town's museum whenever you catch something unique, which is one of the only traditional 'completable' goals that the game has. To be fair, the game absolutely never forces you to do either of these; but for lack of much else to do (and since I needed the money to unlock the later town schedule), I went ahead with it.... and it feels a bit strange to be stalking and subduing these creatures that are minding their own business, especially when the game is so flippant about their capture (I'm not sure if I'm more weirded out when it says something cute about the animal trying to escape from my line, or when it playfully mocks them for the fact that they weren't able to evade capture...!) It just feels like that whole attitude that the world 'deserves' to be caught by those who are able to catch it, which.... is a weird and uncomfortable worldview to be projecting onto people who just want to live in a quiet town, maybe even children... You could say I'm reading too much into it, but it's the subtle messages that can sometimes dig deepest, because most people never look at them consciously enough to realise what they're being taught. I dunno.

Anyway, all that to say I'm still having fun despite it all. I made my character a girl, which feels wonderfully natural enough that it probably deserves its own post, and I've been wandering around town, laying out my furniture, designing town songs, talking to the little polygon animal people who I feel 'really get me' (somehow), and giving a wide berth to the one who tells me I should be exercising more. It's oddly compelling, and it's got me thinking about how I would do it differently, and tempted to try and figure out a similarly passive experience.... for all its faults, it's one of those games that tried something wildly different enough that it's chock full of food for thought. (Which gets me thinking about the growing consensus that most of the "great" games of this generation are going to be indies, since they're the only people who are still trying new things besides "shooter", "car racer", "fighting game"... but, that's also topic enough for another post!)

I realise this journal has virtually no actual news about my life any more, since that's all on twitter........ and, so be it. ;)


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I think my biggest problem with the last handheld Animal Crossing (Wild World) was along the lines of what you described (I just played it so long and so hard and talked to everyone about everything so many times that I eventually ran out of content and started to notice when villagers were repeating themselves,) plus the oddly stressful mechanic of the negative time-based stuff. I actually love when a game rewards you for checking in at a certain time or whatever because it can make the world feel more alive for having its own schedule, but only if A) it's not a one-time thing (Pokemon Silver's thrice-weekly bug catching contests, so you have something to look forward to but if you miss it then there's still the next one, is fine; the "log in right now or miss it forever" holiday/special event loot in most MMORPGs is not) and B) the game doesn't punish you for not playing it, like Wild World seemed to. Weeds can grow and flowers sometimes need to be watered to stay alive, and when you're actively playing that's one thing (maintaining the greenery is just a quick part of the daily routine) but it means you can never stop or http://brawlinthefamily.keenspot.com/comic110.html happens.

Supposedly, there's an option in New Leaf to prevent that, though? Though it's one of the town resolutions or whatever that you have to get far enough to pass, like the thing that makes the shops stay open later. But apparently there's one for that, I guess? I don't know, I haven't actually played it. And the reason I actually haven't played it is because of the lack of an importing-from-past-games feature; for all the faults Wild World had, it was still my town with villagers that had become my friends and all, and I don't want to start over. I HAVE APOLLO AND CHEVRE, DAMN IT. APOLLO AND CHEVRE. ;_;

oh man, Chevre is in my town and we are BESTIES

and, I think if I were to temporarily lapse from the game, that would probably be the last time I bother picking it up anyway, so I'm not sure if the 'guilting for not playing' thing is much of an issue for me.... but, it's good to know about that feature anyway, I was wondering what the "a more beautiful town" option was, but I guess that's it! (It's a fine line between looking up what the obtuse things the game is saying mean, and spoiling the magic.... although I'm glad I bothered looking up the right answers to give the face-giver cat, that whole thing is ridiculous, I can't believe I forgot to mention that in my post.... and with it, the fact that you have to be white....!)

CHEVRE IS IN MY TOWN TOO
(my Wild World town)
(which is why I don't want to upgrade)

Also, I have no idea how New Leaf handles this, but in Wild World, if any villager tries to move out, you can stop them, but it involves telling them not to go until they say a certain specific thing in response (once they say that, that signifies the move is cancelled.) There was some looking up involved to learn the magic "okay, situation successfully defused" response, because, well, I kind of had to know "okay, I begged Apollo to stay a couple times, is it safe to stop now or is this departure still in danger of being a thing." If New Leaf uses the same mechanic for protecting the neighbors you don't want to lose, then that one just might be important enough to check into, too, because, I mean, YOU HAVE CHEVRE.

I'm making sure to talk to the people I like every day, and avoid the people I hate like the plague, so hopefully the game will take the hint about who should move... but yeah, the second anyone cool threatens to take off, I'm hitting the interwebs.

I saw a post on tumblr where someone accidentally set their 3DS settings in the wrong year upon purchase. If I remember correctly, when they changed the date to the right one, they had a serious need for a haircut. I don't know how the town was, but I do kind of like that sort of touch.

I've only played the first Animal Crossing to be released in North America, and then, uhmm, one of the DS ones. But not any of the ones you guys have played :P

They all look fairly similar, with some new features that I'd like to experience, yet I do wish they would release a "definitive Animal Crossing" that wouldn't be obsoleted in two years by the next iteration. I would like to play more of it, because it's a fun series, but it's sort of a long term commitment, kind of? And I don't want to be left out feeling like "oh, but now there's a new one. .. :("

Erf, even just thinking about it makes me want to play more Animal Crossing; I would really like to start a new game of it. . . It's really nice to play! Though it does feature the issues that have been talked about: there's sort of not all that much to do, really? It's sort of what the game is about, though: just, like, hanging around. There aren't really very many games that are about that. The game does eventually reach the point where you've heard what everyone is able to say, and it enters a weird sort of twilight time, where you reminisce about when you thought the villagers were like real people. . it's a pretty weird game, really.

I've often had the issue of wanting the shops to be open later. I'd often fish all night, and then get a huge sum of bells as soon as the shops are open. . and the best music plays at night, anyway. . . . :P

Though I've honestly never really thought about how strange it is that the store. .people don't have a life outside of their shops. I've sort of thought that their shops are their homes, and they just sleep when they're not working, because they are just that dedicated--especially Tom Nook--and the towne is pretty laid back anyway, so it's not like any of them really work all that hard. .

Grrr~~~ I really want to play Animal Crossing now!! ; - ; I'd really like it if they would make another console release, with maybe some nice graphics, and increased interaction with the villagers. I would totally buy a Wii-U to play Animal Crossing; even though I've already played it twice. It's a great game!! :O

I'm pretty sure there's only one DS one, actually! One for N64/GC, one for DS, one for Wii, and one for 3DS...

If anything, having a 'definitive' Animal Crossing seems like it would be a bad thing, since you already know what it's like when the game runs out.... wouldn't you want a new one to come along BEFORE you reach that point and the magic evaporates?

And, I'd be fine if the shopkeepers live in their shops -- but I still want to be able to visit them like I can with everyone else! It's just disappointing that it's all business, with them.

Sometimes I like to sneak into people's houses just before they lock their doors, and then just hang out, with them being friendly and polite, yet an uncomfortable feeling saturating the area, as they'll go to sleep the moment I leave, but will be polite as long as I'm in their home. . .

While I do agree that the shopekeepers tend to be "all business," some of them--at least when I played--seem to have kind of a character that builds up as you talk to them over the course of playing. Though it doesn't seem to go anywhere, I still wonder if there's a way to get them to overcome their issues. . .. But yeah, Tom Nook only cares about money. . :/

The problem with new versions coming out, is the same problem Teo mentioned: you get really emotionally attached to certain characters. Even if I get another Animal Crossing game, well. .. "he'll" never be there. . . *cough* Although, I think, if you keep letting some members of your towne move out, inevitable the person you're looking for will move in again. Even still. . .well, it's odd: you run out of things to do, yet you also get so attached to that specific iteration, that if you move to a different towne, well, it just won't be the same!!!! ; - ;

Also, I'd like there to be an "Ultimate Animal Crossing," just so you could buy it, and then you would have "Animal Crossing," and then could play it with everyone else who has Ultimate Animal Crossing--which would e the best one--and there wouldn't be a divide of people with different versions of the game.

You mean like an MMO style thing? That would be interesting, but no matter what happens, consoles will eventually get outdated. Most last 5 years before they're replaced. You'd still have to buy a compatible version of Ultimate Animal Crossing.

If you want to get the new Animal Crossing when it comes out, then I'll get it, too =P

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