Saturday, January 28, 2012

I've Kind of Ruined Animal Crossing for Myself

With a PSP that's on the fritz, a month til the Vita drops, and a lackluster DS library, my options for portable gaming have been limited.  It doesn't help that I keep forgetting to check out DS games at GameStop whenever I go there, but that's another matter entirely.  So since I've disallowed Harvest Moon DS to ever grace my system again, I'm burnt out on Rune Factory still, and my other DS games are more or less "Played it, Beat it, Don't Care" (Castlevanias, GTA:  Chinatown Wars, etc.), I decided "Welp, guess it's time to go back to Guardia."  Guardia being the name of my town in Animal Crossing:  Wild World for DS.  I'd always considered going back to it, but, well, the game kind of encourages continued play through something resembling penalties for staying away.

In Wild World's case at least (As well as City Folk since the games are fairly interchangeable, don't know about the first game) if you're not around then nobody else will pick the weeds that constantly grow within the walls of your town.  For some reason.  This is an issue, of course, because it causes your town to devalue or something, nobody likes living there, and eventually you're stuck with a bunch of people moving out because the place is such a crapsack.  So when you do hop back in, you have quite a bit of work to do before you can get back to the daily grind of life in an Animal Crossing game.  So the first few hours that I spent playing, it was doing nothing but going around and pulling up weeds because yes it took that long.  I did discover, however, during my weed pulling that only one inhabitant of Guardia had moved out.  Who this person was, I don't recall, of course, nor did I get a letter, I think, so it was of no concern.  Replacing whoever it was was a new person already, a cat with the skin of an orange (not kidding) calling herself "Tangy".  I have been avoiding Tangy.

Of course, once I finally got things set up, there was only about an hour of play to be had in Wild World.  Look about for fossils and dig them up, have them appraised by the Owl working the Museum and pocket them for selling to Nook.  (Because I have pretty much all the Dinosaur skeletons put together already)  Grab a cup of coffee from the cafe under the Museum (despite having the avatar of a ~13 year old kid).  Start digging behind rocks and then smacking them to try and get bags of money (the holes being the thing holding you in place to get the max of seven bags).  Check the recycling for free items.  Visit the Able Sisters and check out their stock.  Go to Nook's, sell things, check the catalog and see if I haven't already had something the Sisters are selling.  Repeat for Nook's furniture stock upstairs.  Talk to villagers if I feel like it.  And finally, go home and go to bed so I can turn the game off.

It's very routine, unfortunately, because I can't seem to make Animal Crossing, er....not be routine.  Wandering the limited slice of a world you're given just isn't too much fun, I've given up fishing, and I can't bother talking to the other residents beyond what's necessary since residents of a similar personality seem to, er, say the exact same things.  And there's not that many different types of Personalities unfortunately.  As was evidenced by Roald (a penguin) and Tank (a rhino) who lived directly next to each other and were obsessed with working out.  While it was cool for the theme, since it made -sense- for them to live next to each other, they would oftentimes say the exact same thing to me after talking to the both of them, so it got a little less fun.  It was about when I started figuring this all out that I came to a very unnerving conclusion.

Animal Crossing is basically a Facebook game you play on Nintendo products.  It's kind of an outlandish claim at first, but the parallels are there.  It's built from the ground-up to be played in short bursts everyday.  Facebook games do this by having things happen in semi-realtime (Plants in Farmville only grow every few hours and such, Cafe World food takes hours to cook, etc.) and Animal Crossing does this by only having a limited amount of things you can do in a single day.  They both tend to change in the day-to-day while largely remaining the same. (Sales in the in-game shops corresponding to certain days, celebrating holidays and the like)  They both tend to have exaggerated art styles to cater to a wider audience.  The only big difference is that Facebook games tend to be made by undesireables with the intention of siphoning money out of you for bonuses which, to be fair, some game companies do anyway.  (See Bamco's Hyperdimension Neptunia's DLC)

I don't say this to be extremist or anything of that nature, nor is it a condemnation of Animal Crossing, as a lot of people see "Facebook Games" and instantly go to a bad place.  Which is natural, of course, but having played a few Facebook games in my day, I can't help but see the similarities and be annoyed by them.  After playing Mafia Wars for so long, it was less something I was playing and more something that I did because it was in my schedule which I can sort of how I see Animal Crossing capable of falling into.  And try as I might, I can't really think of a way for it to get out of that rut beyond actually introducing more game to it, but at the same time, I'm not sure about that, either.  With Animal Crossing played in real-time, there's only so much you can really put into the game, since you don't want to have enough content that people trying to do all of it every day will burn themselves out.  But you -want- your players to play your game for more than a couple token hours as well, which is what I imagine a lot of Animal Crossing players do unfortunately.  Perhaps Animal Crossing 3DS will offer a solution, but we won't be able to see until it's out.

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