Animal Crossing Interview July 9 Feature

Aya Kyogoku talks about the Animal Crossing spin-offs, Amiibo and the series’ future

In a recent interview with USGamer, Aya Kyogoku, the head of the Animal Crossing series, talked about the new Animal Crossing spin-offs, Happy Home Designer and Amiibo Festival, and the current direction of the series.

You can read the main quotes below, or the full interview here.

On how the new Animal Crossing games aren’t traditional:

Aya Kyogoku: Both Happy Home Designer and Amiibo Festival are spinoffs of the Animal Crossing series, and that’s what we’re developing them as. One thing that we focused on was, “What kind of game play experience can we create using Amiibo figures and Amiibo cards?” We also went in with the approach that we didn’t want to be limited in the scope of what we can do based on what Animal Crossing in the past has been. So this is the result of our endeavor and coming up with a new game play experience with Amiibos and Animal Crossing.

On how amiibo Festival will be different from the Mario Party series:

AK: One of the main tenets of Mario Party is that you’re playing a board game and in between those board game moves, you play a mini-game and compete, and that’s a focus. For Animal Crossing, the focus is actually playing the board game within the village of Animal Crossing, so it’s not really focused on the mini games.

If you look at where Joan comes in and you are able to purchase turnips, that’s an element that was very prominent in the original Animal Crossing series and that also happens here. So you purchase on Sunday, and you have between Monday’s turn and Saturday’s turn to sell those turnips to gain money that will help you win the board game. There are a lot of elements that were very popular and significant in Animal Crossing that now act as a very unique characteristic here in the board game. I think that’s a major difference between this and Mario Party.

On how Animal Crossing’s theme of communication fits into amiibo Festival and Happy Home Designer:

AK: Obviously these two games are on different hardware and there are different types of gameplay to go along with the game mechanics. We definitely took into account different ways of integrating communication into these games.

Amiibo Festival is a board game that you play on TV, so everyone would be facing the TV. You play with your family or your friends, so it encourages direct communication between people.

Happy Home Designer is a different form of communication. You are taking requests from the animals to create homes for them. Obviously, Animal Crossing has a very big catalog of furniture. So even with the same themes – please create a school or a café – I think it will be really hard to find two identical designs. Depending on the player’s taste or sense of design, you get very different results.

We actually tried this within the dev team as well. We had a theme of “school,” and there were people who would build a traditional elementary school or high school, and then there were people who would take a different approach and make it more like a tech or vocational school. There were even people who would create a training ground for superheroes. Everyone had their own take on “school.” With that, there’s a lot of desire to show off what you’ve created and see how other people have taken that theme. We would show off screen shots, like on other services like Twitter or Miiverse, or other social media where we could share this.

So in that sense, we tried to create a fun competitive way to show each other off and we were hoping that once you see a home design it would inspire, “Oh maybe I can try this, or maybe I can try that.” Obviously, this is a different form of communication; it is more of an indirect form of communication to really inspire each other to have more fun and communicate with each other through these home designs.

On what came first, amiibo or the game concept for amiibo Festival:

AK: Initially when the Amiibo was announced, there was nothing really said about Animal Crossing Amiibos or any plans for that matter. But as the Animal Crossing team, we were confident that if there was one, it would be really cute… honestly, we just wanted Animal Crossing Amiibo. We wanted the company to make Animal Crossing Amiibo, so that’s why we made a game that works with them.

On input for the Animal Crossing amiibo:

AK: Yes, as part of the Animal Crossing team we know that a certain character is very popular and that a lot of people would be happy to see it created and so we did have input into that.

On whether the amiibo cards work in both amiibo Festival and Happy Home Designer:

AK: Yes, Amiibo Festival will be including other games that you can play specifically with Amiibo cards. Actually, in the board game itself, you’ll see houses of specific animals. Using an Amiibo card, you can actually get your favorite animals to live on that board with you. So beyond just having your favorite animal live there, if you have had a chance to design a home for them in Happy Home Designer, that home that you designed, the way it looks will actually be built in the board game. So that’s another way that we’ve linked Amiibo Festival and Happy Home Designer through the use of Amiibo cards.

On any plans to build amiibo support into New Leaf:

AK: So there are no current plans to add that back into New Leaf, but as a series, the Animal Crossing team is always thinking and planning what the next title might be. So once Happy Home Designer and Amiibo Festival come out, the development for the rest of the Animal Crossing series will continue. I’d definitely like to integrate the use of Amiibo cards and Amiibo into the series.

On what the team wants to accomplish with Happy Home Designer:

AK: The idea of creating homes is a very prominent and, I think, enjoyable feature of the Animal Crossing series. Even within the development team, when we made things like New Leaf, we had to create a room for them to have in the game, so when characters visited them, they could see the room. So that process in and of itself was a lot of fun for the development team.

In Animal Crossing, the typical Animal Crossing game play, the part that involves decorating or making houses is your house. Furniture collection is something you do as part of your daily life as you progress in the game. What you’re left with is the design choices and coordination choices that you want to make within your house is limited to what you’ve collected thus far. If you have a specific image or a specific design that you want to create, the process of collecting those pieces of furniture is very very difficult. I think if you have a certain taste, e.g., I want to make it look like my real room or I want to make it specifically look like this room, it’s really difficult to do sometimes. Because of that, it sometimes makes creating rooms a little more standard in typical Animal Crossing games.

Home Design is a fun aspect of a typical Animal Crossing game, but on the development side, just creating houses for the animals, yes, it’s creating houses, but it’s a different type of fun. We really wanted the consumer, the player, be a part of that and enjoy that as well, so that’s how this sort of idea originated. Through the many ideas and concepts that the animals will request for you, we wanted each one to be able to try different ideas and try different design concepts and to just have fun doing so.

On what inspired Animal Crossing’s news direction and where the series is going from here:

AK: I see these as spin-offs, and by focusing on one aspect of the game, we are able to expand the freedom you have in that. So, for example, in Happy Home Designer, it’s not that we just took the home designing aspect of Animal Crossing and New Leaf and just made a game out of it, but through having access to all of the furniture, being able to manipulate it with a touch-screen, it’s increased the freedom you have within that aspect of Animal Crossing.

As we continue to develop the series, I think it will depend at that time on what hardware or system is available, what type of game play will be fun at that time. We will have an open and free mind to really think about what would be best. As far as Happy Home Designer and Amiibo Festival, these are different approaches that we took, but it doesn’t necessarily dictate the direction that the Animal Crossing series will be going forward. This is just another set of experiences that we will be able to dip into as we try to evolve and think of great ideas that work for the times for whatever title comes out in the series. One thing that won’t change is the idea of communication that through the game play of Animal Crossing, we can encourage communicating across players. That’s something that we will always hold as important as we build Animal Crossing around it.