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Nintendo details their process for creating unique villagers in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Making memories with unique friends

The developer-oriented CEDEC 2020 conference recently took place, and a number of Nintendo devs were on-hand to talk about their work on Animal Crossing: New Horizons. You can see slides from Nintendo's presentation right here, and the tidbits they shared below.

- Animal Crossing: New Horizons has roughly 400 unique villagers
- the goal was for each player to have their own unique set of villagers to show off to others
- to make the villagers beloved by players, the team needed to design characters players would “want to interact with”
- Nintendo also wanted to make villagers that players enjoy watching to see what they're doing
- designs start with the silhouette, as each villager has a distinctive silhouette by species
- silhouettes are very simple by design, as getting to specific limits the sort of animal variety the developers can use
- the challenge was making characters unique, while also not standing out too much overall
- Nintendo said this approach allows for freedom, as a cat can look like a cat from afar, but it can have a unique design up close
- when deciding each of the villagers’ personalities, the developers looked towards real-life
- the team decided how each of the five personalities are perceived in terms of appearance
- this can create a sense of connection towards the villagers, as players can imagine them being similar to someone they know
- all 35 villager species are designed to draw out the distinctive traits of their species
- the feelings are expressed the same no matter the species in order to help further the connection between with players
- villagers have two general categories of actions, ones that they enact themselves and ones that are derived from their situation
- this includes eating, doing yoga, sweeping the floor, fishing, and more
- villagers with an interest in music will be seen more frequently singing
- villagers who like to read will be seen reading more
- Nintendo adjusts the frequency of actions and patterns to make the villagers seem as if they have their own will
- villagers will also change their clothes to fit what they are doing, further giving this impression
- actions where the villagers find something and do something depend on what the villagers happen to see at the time
- the change from “doing their own thing” to “doing something with what they found” happens automatically
- the developers made it so that the villagers will look at the object and ponder about it before switching to interacting
- as players interact more and more with the villagers and see how they act, each player will get to make their own memories

Comments

to make the villagers beloved by players, the team needed to design characters players would “want to interact with”

How about giving them more dialog so they don't repeat themselves so much? I swear, starting with AC: City Folk it seems within a week or two you will have read through every possible conversation you can have with the different personality types. That's not a good thing in a game that is so heavy on text.

Yup thats another reason I dropped the game so quickly and got bored of it faster than past entries. The dialogue is very limited and repetitive in addition to the slow drip feeding of content, lack of content from previous entries, the tedium/lack of QOL stuff when it comes to crafting made me drop the game after about 3 months.

I kept looking for articles on this around launch and didn’t find any! I thought I was going insane. I was SO bored by my villagers - it felt like they were very generic in terms of personality, and remembered in New Leaf they genuinely felt unique from each other. I went back and played NL a little and my feelings were confirmed - in only 30 minutes of playing I had more meaningful, interesting interactions with my villagers than I had had in several weeks of playing New Horizons. I really hope they address this with an update.

ngamer01
Sun Sep 06 20 01:18pm
(Updated 2 times)

Going by what the Animal Crossing sub-Reddit posted, Nintendo changed animal interactions to always put casual talk (includes stuff you've done lately) first before all the deeper interactions that depends on your friendship levels with the villagers in New Horizons.

In the past games, you'd normally take one or two visits to hear most stuff, but New Horizons now requires several convos in a row to get the deeper interactions. That can however lead to lesser friendship values if you talk to one villager too much, too soon. Yeah. You can upset villagers by being too chatty with them.

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