AC: New Horizons Nintendo Treehouse Live Preview Impressions
During E3 2019, Aya Kyogoku and Hisashi Nogami from Animal Crossing’s development team show some gameplay for Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I’m here from Gaming Instincts to show you everything that was shown off during the Nintendo Treehouse Live presentation.
The first question that was asked was about why our villager is being sent to an Island for a getaway. Kyogoku replied that one of the main reasons is because in the past games, you lived in a pre-existing village and started a life there from scratch. This time the developers wanted to give players a new experience. The second reason is by giving players a choice to build something on the island, something that may have not been able to players in previous titles, so building a whole town from scratch would be the experience the team wants to go for.
Immediately, the gameplay starts and Tom Nook and his kids come together to greet players watching E3 Nintendo Treehouse Live in a special introduction. This time around, Tom Nook made a new development company called Nook Inc. The player is relocating through Nook Inc.’s deserted Island getaway package.
Island life first starts with tent which can be placed anywhere, even at the beach which was something you couldn’t do in the previous games. The tent itself is small and starts with only a few items, like in previous games so you’ll just have to get more furniture. The tent can also be relocated at will, but we don’t see that in action yet.
Additionally, just like Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer, you can move furniture in half-units around the buildings, making home decoration a bit easier. Another thing you can do with furniture, is place them outside in the field, meaning that you can decorate the Island with your favorite items.
You’re also given a Nook Phone in order to do things like take pictures, look up recipes, looking at the map, and call villagers over. You can also use it to lookup DIY Recipes in the DIY Recipes app in order to build tools and furniture using the resources on the island. For example: A tiny library would require 5 pieces of wood and 3 books, coconut juice will use up 1 coconut, and an oil-barrel bathtub will use up an oil barrel, a campfire, and two stones.
Collecting and Crafting
Even things like weeds, flowers, and stone can be collected to make tools, so this means that previously-unusable items now have a use in this game. As they collect pieces of wood to create an axe to make a log bench, the rolling world effect is still present in this game. This is an effect that’s been present with the series for a while. It would also seem that some materials such as branches and small stones can simply be picked up from the ground while harder materials may need some special tools to get.
It’s also nice to note that the game’s in-game clock is linked to the real time, so the seasons and time of the day change depending on the region you live in. Also Nogami explains that until the previous titles, the game was set in the northern hemisphere, but in New Horizons, users can play in the Southern Hemisphere atmosphere as well to avoid any time issues. In the preview’s case, since it’s June in the Northern Hemisphere, the game will be set to Winter if set to the Southern Hemisphere.
You can also note that villagers will be ambiently doing chores for themselves throughout the world like in the previous games. They’ll gather wood, go fishing, or just hang around just for you to talk to them.
Finally, they’re able to craft their new flimsy axe in the resident service area that Nook Inc. set up. Crafting here is free. Additionally, Tom Nook’s shop doesn’t instantly start on the island, so you’ll have to sell it to Tom’s kid, Timmy. He’ll buy anything off of you for a good number of Bells, even weeds to clean up the island. Timmy also sells the tools you can make, so you don’t have to craft tools if you don’t want to.
Another app that is shown off on the Nook Phone is Nook Miles, it serves as a challenge board similar to actual Airline Mileage programs. The more things you do on the island such as collect items and craft tools, the more miles you get to spend them on. You’ll be able to exchange these miles for new items and other activities, so it’s a new way to set goals for yourself in the game.
They then demonstrate at the start, the new flimsy axe won’t cut down trees in a few hits, instead you’ll make the tree drop more important wood, like hardwood. Maybe you’ll upgrade the flimsy axe to a modern axe in order to fully be able to cut down trees or get more hardwood.
Since the Treehouse gameplay is only for a 25-minute demonstration, Kyogoku invites Nogami to her island so that they can play together. She simply had to go to the, Call an Islander app from her Nook Phone in order to initiate co-op. Nogami already has a house on this current island, so he can just join without having to set up a camp. Also players can initiate couch co-op by giving their friend another Joy-Con. Unfortunately it is a bit limited as both players must be on the same screen, but a friend can join this way.
Attention to Detail
The Treehouse also goes over the small details and the graphics in the game such as the little rustling of the trees through the wind, the textures for the characters’ hair and the nice and subtle sound design. There are a lot of things that the developers have experimented on in order for users to feel more immersive, so they pay special attention to these details.
In order to achieve the sound details, they describe the process to pulley recording where they recorded natural sound and use it as an actual sound effect for the game. So they did things like recording themselves walking on sand and walking on cut grass.
They also describe the wind effect on the trees to be expressing the in-game wind patterns on the island. So depending on how hard the wind blowing, you’ll see the leaves rustle harder.
Eventually they place the bench near the middle of the island and decide to make a bonfire, using 10 pieces of wood and a campfire. Then Kyogoku decides to change the host of the session to demonstrate that if the leader needs to leave, they can just switch it to another host. The yellow flag above a player decides who the leader is and other may be safe to leave.
It is also then known that up to 8 players can live on a single island at a time, so players can work together by trading resources and collecting things for the island. At the very least 4 people can play on a single screen with four Joy-Cons. No information on how joining players online will work, but they say that the information on that will be coming soon.
They then decide to decorate the beachside with their new bonfire and wooden bench on the beach and say that players can choose whether or not they want to place an item, or just drop the leaf-object for a player to pick up. After sitting on the wooden bench, they demonstrate the Camera app. The Nook phone will allow you to zoom in and out, while making use of the app’s filters. Filters range from Glamour, Dramatic, Film, Cute, Monochrome, Antique and Fluffy. Players will also have an assortment of emotes that they choose from while taking a picture, or just out in the field. It’s also assumed that there will be plenty of emotes to choose from.
As they hang out on the beach there’s a little small water spout in the sand where certain clams live in. If you dig those up, you can craft fishing bait if you want to catch some rare fish. After picking up the manila clam for the first time, our villager comes up with a new DIY recipe. If you get a new item, animal, or material, characters will add a new recipe to their crafting list, such as bait. They can also buy recipes at stores as well, which more than likely contain some truly unique stuff to make.
As the demonstration is about to close, Nogami explains that the gameplay shown may seem done, but there are a lot of elements the team needs to work on. They ask players to be patient and wait for the March 20th, 2020 date that they’ve now set for the game.
While it looks pretty final, I’m guessing that the missing elements would include some building types, tools, and probably some in-game events need to be added before the game’s final release. For now, the game looks like a nice time to spend with friends, and the 2020 date seems perfect for what’s to come.