Posted 2002-11-04 00:03:33 by
One of these days I'm going to write about something I like, I promise, but today is not the day, because... I just don't like Animal Crossing very much. If you know my tastes, however, the reasons may surprise you. It wasn't the insane repetition of unskippable content that really bothered me, or the forced waiting for no good reason (often both of these together). I could deal with those. For a while, I was enjoying the game quite a lot even despite those.
After a week of rental play, it seemed like a worthwhile purchase. For those of you who haven't played the game, it's... it's like a second life, really. You purchase a home, decorate it, get into debt, get out of debt, run errands, go fishing, and interact with your neighbors. It all happens in real-time: when it's night time in the real world, it's also night in the game world. Shops close, people go to sleep. The game keeps track of the date as well, so holiday celebrations also take place. It's truly engrossing. At one point, I could easily have envisioned playing the game a few minutes a day for the rest of my life.
I think what really ruined it for me was Buck moving away from my town. From the start, there was only one neighbor who wasn't an asshole. Buck was a nice guy. Everyone else was angry all the time, or condescending, or prone to stealing my possessions as I tried to make idle chitchat, or all three.
The thievery was the worst. I would walk up to someone, Rolf, say, and speak to him, and he would notice something in my pack and simply take it. But see, he wouldn't really take it. He would just say he was going to take it, and my character would simply hand it over. There was no way of dissenting, or of discouraging this anti-social behavior. I sat pounding on Rolf's head for five minutes with a butterfly net after he took my prized pagoda, and he just thought I was being mean for no reason. The AI was incapable of making the connection.
That's another thing. The AI is pretty poor, which wouldn't be so bad if the game didn't pretend that it was the bees knees. One of the biggest ways of interacting with your neighbors is to write letters. A reasonable designer would realize that natural language parsing is still in its infancy and design around that fact. The designers of Animal Crossing decided to have the letter's recipient get all pissy if the parser can't figure out what the letter means.
I tried all sorts of tricks, like writing only in very short and simple words, including friendly keywords like “love” and “friend”, or the recipient's “catch phrase” (each neighbor has a word or sound that he or she pretty much punctuates every sentence with). But try as I might, I could never figure out how to reliably write an understandable letter.
Buck was the only one who never stole anything or said anything mean about my clothing and decor skills. I tried to talk him out of moving, but he was growing restless, he said. With Buck gone, I had fifteen neighbors who were all assholes. And you know what? I just don't want to live around assholes.