The player becomes the mayor, undertakes public works and makes rules and regulations. Where did these ideas come from, and how did they all come together?
Well, I would often come home late from work only to find that Tom Nook’s shop was closed.
So you’d come home late thinking, “I’m going to play Animal Crossing!” but then be disappointed to find the shop was closed.
I’m sure there are plenty of players who have fiddled with the clock when playing the game, but this is a shame as a really nice aspect of Animal Crossing is the sense of unity that comes from time passing in sync with the real world. It means that everyone gets to share that sense of the seasons and the time passing, so we were keen to retain that element of the game.
I wondered if we could make it so the game adjusted itself to the player’s circumstances, meaning that players wouldn’t need to adjust the clock. But if all the shops were open twenty-four hours a day, there would be no difference between day and night, defeating the whole point of having time in sync with the real world. Anyway, we put that problem on hold for a while, and then the idea of the player becoming the mayor was raised and it occurred to us that the player could use his or her authority to adjust business hours.
This time, you can adjust things to fit your own lifestyle, so shops can open early in the morning or stay open until late at night.
The mayor has the authority to decide these kinds of rules and regulations.
Of course in the real world, rules are passed by a local council, so the mayor can’t simply do things entirely on their own authority! (laughs)
Ah, yes, that’s true! (laughs) And mayors don’t pay for things out of their own pocket either! (laughs)
Wait! So the mayor makes the rules, but has to foot the bill?
Yes! (laughs) The mayor raises funds for public works. The animals who live in the town will contribute a little money, but every little request goes to the mayor, so you end up using a lot of pocket money.
So you use your own pocket money for public works?
Yes, you do! (laughs)
When I hear terms like ‘mayor’ and ‘regulations’, I can’t help but think in terms of the real world. But it makes sense in the game to make it this way. Once you hit upon the idea of making the player the mayor, it provided a solution to a range of issues.
Do you think that some players will feel a burden of responsibility when they are made the mayor?
Ah, there’s no need to worry! (laughs) Even if you don’t fulfil your duties as the mayor, no one will complain.
No one’s going to say: “Come on, Mayor. Get your act together!”
So you don’t get an approval rating?
No, you don’t.
At first, there is one tiny hurdle to overcome, where you have to gather support from the town residents in order to begin work on constructing the town, but once you’re past that, an easy-going life as mayor awaits! (laughs)
Come to think of it, you’ll always have the example of the previous mayor to compare yourself to, won’t you? (laughs)
That’s right. (laughs) When you remember that you’re taking over from Tortimer, well...
... It makes things pretty relaxed! (laughs)
But when we had Eguchi-san play it in the later stages of development, he said it didn’t feel much like you were really mayor.
Yes, that’s right. He said that when you actually played the game, you didn’t really feel as if you were the mayor, so we decided to add some elements that would enhance your sense of being the mayor.
What exactly do you mean when you talk about this ‘sense of being the mayor’?
Well, one example is at the beginning of the game, when you plant a tree in the Plaza. That’s an event we put in to enhance the feeling of actually being the mayor.
Ah, I see. So the problem was that although you had become the mayor, it didn’t feel like you were recognised as such by those around you.
Right. For example, we had initially made it so that when you completed work on a bridge, it ended there. So we decided to hold a ceremony upon its completion.
At this ceremony, everyone sets off firecrackers and celebrates, which is really satisfying for the player.
Scenes like that really bring it home that you’re mayor, and I felt really glad we included them. I mean, it’s not like putting in this kind of thing fundamentally altered the gameplay, but...
... It does feel different.
That’s right. Now you really feel like the mayor.
You can refuse to hold a ceremony, though.
That’s right. (laughs) When you finish a public project and return to your office, your secretary Isabelle will ask you if you want to hold a ceremony.
Ah, yes. You have a lovely secretary who always lends a helping hand.
That’s right. Anyway, you can select ‘No’ and refuse to hold a ceremony. She’ll then become so dejected in the way she speaks and acts that you’ll feel really sorry for turning it down.
I’d like players to witness this themselves, so they should refuse a ceremony at least once!
You have cute characters like Isabelle in the game, and then you also have characters like your old friend Mr. Resetti , who appears from under the ground when you reset the game.
We really weren’t sure about Mr. Resetti, as he really divides people. Some people love him, of course, but there are others who don’t like being shouted at in his rough accent.
It seems like younger female players, in particular, are scared. I’ve heard that some of them have even cried.
That’s right. That’s why we were a little unsure about including the Reset Surveillance Centre at first. But just around that time, the Japanese government’s budget revision process was attracting much attention, so we decided to have Mr. Resetti’s department go through the revision process too. (laughs)
I heard that the assembly member in charge of the review asked Mr. Resetti, “Is it really necessary? Can’t we just reset?” and that, in the end, it was phased out. (laughs)
(Editor’s Note: This is a parody of real-world events in Japanese government, but with an Animal Crossing twist.)
Is that true? (laughs)
Well, in the end, we made it so the Reset Surveillance Centre was a public work, so we left it to the mayor to decide whether or not to have one.
But would anyone really want to go to the trouble of building a Reset Surveillance Centre?
Well, some people want to meet Mr. Resetti! (laughs)
They want to get in trouble sometimes, right? (laughs)
That’s right. And there are also some things in the game you won’t be able to see unless you build a Reset Surveillance Centre.
We put a lot of effort into the interior of the centre, and there’s a bit in which the player will get their hands on a microphone.
So we don’t want every player to veto this public work!
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