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05/25/2006

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fish

you actually started over? didnt you loose your DS with the game in it? and the pain was too great to risk it ever happening again?

Andrew Crowe

Isn't this what we want though? "Progressive" gamers are always talking about how games need more emotional depth; how if games were movies, we'd watch nothing but action, sci-fi and fantasy flicks, maybe with the odd comedy tossed in. Animal Crossing manages to get the player to empathize with the town and its inhabitants; I can only imagine what it would be like if I were responsible for the in-game tragedies that might befall a love interest in a proper drama game, rather than a silly title with some bizarre animals... Something to think about, at least.

I've also been neglecting my AC:WW town - thanks for the time-travel idea! Maybe I can salvage my relationship with my townies yet... :)

matt

same thing for me, Janie! i finally got a purple tulip and was going to hit you up for some pears since my sapling didn't make it, but i couldn't remember exactly which date i had played last, so now i'm afraid if i go back my town will be all dried up :(

it's a poor game-design decision to let flowers just die off. have them all turn brown and not reproduce, but don't punish me for not having time to cultivate an entire town's worth of flowers every day. it's sort of like someone telling you to "walk it off" after you've just fallen down 5 flights of stairs.

PhilM

It's an interesting design choice - so many games nowadays choose not to punish players for failure but (at most) to delay reward or progress. And so few games demand (or even measure) regular play. I'm with Andrew in that I think it's good to have games that do require (and create) involvement, but...

(WARNING: Non-Animal-Crossing player talking through his hat.)

I was going to suggest that maybe Nintendo have made their virtual community TOO player-dependent, as jane implies and matt states outright, and that maybe part of the game should be not just watering all the flowers yourself but establishing a community which does all that maintenance work itself. By this token, the indicator of good play would be a community which CAN survive the player's absence (or at least backslides a lot more slowly than an unskilled player's town).

Then I had second thoughts. Wouldn't that diminish the importance of the player? And isn't that pride in our own virtual importance a key part of the game's appeal?

I don't think it would, necessarily. I think there's some really interesting design work to be done in (a) developing plausible relationship models which can account for this, and which the player can manipulate to create civic pride among her townies and thus a sustainable community; (b) providing positive feedback not just for personal productivity, but for leadership that creates community productivity by such things as conflict resolution, rewarding ingenuity, instilling responsibility, etc. "Gee, thanks for solving that problem! Now I can get back to my work." "Thanks for showing me how to help

Imagine if you came back to your town after such a long [sic] absence to be told "we missed you, but we kept things going in your memory because we knew that's the way you would want it". Or even "Look what we came up with while you were away!" And possibly with the coda "But thank goodness you're back, we need some help with..."

As I said, I'm not a player - I've only ever seen it played, and that briefly. I don't know whether some of this is in there already, and if not, whether this would work for people who actually are players. I'd be very interested to hear - Animal Crossing is very high on my list of "games to play if I ever have money for the platform and time" and one I like to learn more about meanwhile. However, such a setup would give you an inbuilt, but indefinite, endpoint to the game, which would allow for a satisfactory resolution without actually pushing you out at any specific point - i.e. YOU get to decide when your work here is done.

What do the players think?

greggman

It sounds like an opportunity to me. Either a service you pay someone for to watch your neighborhood (just like when you travel you might pay someone to watch your pets). Or, if in a future version the game supported more online play maybe you could ask a fellow player to come water your garden etc while you are gone.

matt

well the current game does let you go online into a friend's town, but i would've loved to be able to have my work on the town inspire the townspeople(animals) to take care of it themselves. while i can see your logic, phil, that it may have the effect of marginalizing the player, for me it would have the effect of enhancing my presence... the more work i do, the more civic pride the other residents have allowing me to focus more on beautifying things rather than dealing with every small detail.

still, an even better solution without having to go into revolutionizing the animal crossing gameplay would be to let me put my town in "suspension" mode where nothing changes until i decide to come back. as it stands now, i don't ever want to come back because my garden will be dead and it took me, literally, 6 weeks to build up and i was *just* starting to get the high-level flowers.

T. Holbrook Walker

First of all, you tried to cheat by turning back time. If you hadn't, I may have had some sympathy for your town situation. As it is, though, I have to say that it's fitting for you to suffer the consequences of your actions.

Nothing personal, but the game is made the way it is for a reason! Look at it this way; in an age where people are trying to elicit tears from gamers by generating emotional attachment to characters and locales, Nintendo has done it simply by creating yet another game that forces you to play. Often.

I know a lot of people who own Nintendogs but are afraid to turn it on because they haven't played in months. And I'm talking 30-year-old men here. They must think that they are going to find a puppy dead from starvation lying in a pool of its own urine.

I want to praise Nintendo for creating these types of open-ended games, but they need to take a cue from Natsume and allow people to sidestep the maintenance aspect of the game (Harvest Moon does this brilliantly). For example, in AC:WW I should be able to hire a gardener for, say 5000 bells a week, who will weed my town and water my flowers. Or maybe even one character in the village who loves flowers could do this for me if we became good enough friends. Or in Nintendogs, how about allowing me to put my dog in the dog hotel even if I don't own any others and just save and park the game immediately?

I ultimately rid myself of AC:WW and Nintendogs for this very reason. My maintenance -- things I had to do every time I started playing that took upwards of 15 minutes to complete -- started to drain my desire to do anything else. After a while I was *JUST* doing the maintenance in hopes that I would want to sit down and have a drag-out session at some point, but then I realized that I was no longer having fun because of this.

Yeah, I'd love it if Nintendo either didn't punish you for not playing or gave you a way to buy/earn the convenience of not having to do the same crap every time you start the game so you can focus on actual progress. As it is, though, you have to accept that this is how things are. If I were a reviewer, I would definitely ding the score of the game for this. If everyone did, maybe Nintendo would start to take notice that we won't stand for this any more.

Next time you talk to Reggie, be sure to bring that up. ;-)

Dr. Zaius

I finally had to bite the bullet and sell my AC town because of the maintenance and the fact that characters I had emotionally invested in moved away.

It's kind of similar to why I still haven't finished the first Fire Emblem for GBA, whenever a character dies I have to reset the chapter because I've become too emotionally attached to that little batch of pixels. I can't tell if I really like Fire Emblem or I hate it!

And, God Help Me, I'm really looking forward to the next Harvest Moon title for the DS. At least Harvest Sprites don't die on you.

ArC

I gotta agree with T. Holbrook Walker on the second point: the (nearly) mandatory maintenance of a Nintendogs session ultimately drove me to quit playing, esp after I got Mario Kart DS. Mario Kart can be played for a few minutes and put down.

But as to the first, well, I don't think I can care about cheating in (what's pretty much effectively) a single-player game. Jane shoulda been able to cheat the way she described, or more properly, the game shouldn't have had such the kind of strict time requirements that necessitated the cheating attempt to begin with.

At least going into the experience, Boktai players know they have to go out into the sun sometimes (or find a UV lamp...) But I don't think new AC/Nintendog players are as aware of the need to always keep on booting up the game to perform the maintenance chores.

jane

It's not cheating if the game lets you do it, in my opinion. I play games very exploratorily, not to try to "break" them but to try to see the edges of them. Time traveling is just a natural thing to do in a game that actually rewards you by the passage of time.

In any case, the same thing happened to me without time traveling before - I was simply too busy, and couldn't play for a ocuple weeks. Your moral point disappears to fluff when you consider that I could have saved my town by time-traveling back, if I had remembered what day I stopped playing.

So, no, it wasn't time travel that "caused" this to happen.

Come on, man, give in! Fire Emblem rules!

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