It’s been making the rounds, but I feel it’s worth echoing. When the DS and Wii online servers shut down, it was forced because Nintendo’s partner who maintained the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection Servers decided they didn’t want to do that any more. This is Nintendo’s own decision here.
The big game affected here is the first Splatoon, which still has, for now, free online play with the purchase of the game. Also affected will be Mario Kart 7 and Animal Crossing New Leaf for 3DS.
There will be some who will shrug over this, saying Nintendo shouldn’t be expected to run these services indefinitely. Sometimes they will shrug quite loudly. I am not one of them. I think online servers should be kept going for much longer than most companies run them. I think this should be considered part of the contract they entered into when they sold the game. It is true that 3DS and WiiU games had free online server access, that Nintendo’s multiplayer subscription service began with the Switch. But I still think the way I do, and I also think it’s foolish to think that, just because it’s a paid service, that Switch servers will be kept running for any longer than the 3DS and WiiU servers were.
My concern is an issue of software preservation. These kinds of games and services are in danger of being outright lost in their current form, like many MMORPGs, and iOS and Android games for previous versions of those OSes. I feel very strongly that this software should be remembered and made available for future generations. It’s true that there are efforts to reverse engineer these kinds of services, but there is no guarantee that they will be completely accurate, or even successful at all, especially if they rely on secret algorithms and information housed on the official servers.
Ah well. Get in those free splatmatches while you can. Their days are numbered.
Let me tell you something about Nintendo games. While I have no knowledge from inside the company, either the Japanese or American sides, what I’ve seen over the years makes me pretty confident in this knowledge. There is a good chance it applies to other companies too, but I’ve noticed it most often from Nintendo. I share it now with you.
First, can you tell what the messages in these images have in common?
They all contain item names, but what’s more, they’re all written in such a way that the item name (along with whatever introductory articles it requires) is on a line to itself.
Nintendo games are written in Japan, and then localized to other countries. Localization usually involves translating, sometimes adjusting, the text, and sometimes graphics, to other languages. This process usually involves a bare minimum of engine work; the coding is largely ready for release at this point. It’s not supposed to need changing the code itself much, for localization.
Japanese fonts are mostly monospaced. Hiragana, katakana and kanji, the three kinds of Japanese characters, are depicted in them all with glyphs of the same size. I’m not sure this is why, but I think there’s a good chance it’s the reason, that text boxes in Nintendo games tend to not support that essential feature to all word processors made in the past three decades: word wrap. It’s not needed for Japanese generally, for the text will be written with newlines embedded. Most text isn’t dynamic, so it usually isn’t a problem.
Once in a great while, due to a localization error, this becomes evident. I remember seeing once a text line in Ocarina of Time, in a dialogue in Kakariko Village, where the text extended outside of the message window. It’s a bit surprising when it happens because usually Nintendo is good about catching it.
However, there is a weird implication of the need to keep all the words properly bordered within their message boxes: if a string has a dynamic part at all, a place where the text can vary, then the text around it must be written to account for the widest text that can possibly be put there.
This is generally true for most games I’ve seen, but where I notice it most frequently is in Animal Crossing games, which have a lot of dynamic text, and must account for the widest possible player, villager and, especially, item names, some of which are pretty long.
It is for this reason that, if a dialogue in an Animal Crossing game contains the name of an item, the other text on that line must be kept pretty short, to prevent the text from overflowing the bounds of the message box. Which is a pretty onerous localization requirement, when you think of it. As a result, the majority of dialogue texts in the game are written in such a way that the item name comes at the end of a sentence, so the inevitable following line break looks natural. This means a lot of characters in shop dialogue begin with an interjection of the item name followed by an exclamation point, so it won’t be so obvious that there’s going to be a lot of white space after the item.
It’s three years after the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, famously introduced to a human contact-starved world right when efforts to contain Pandemic 2020 were at their height, unlike now when the world has largely decided to let the immuno-compromised fend for themselves. This isn’t the place to say what I think about that, but it is the place to write something that, had it been known in 2020, might have helped people out a lot.
Every day, the game hides up to 10 100-bell coins, 5 wasps nests, and 2 random furniture items in trees on your island.
If you care about finding any of these things, there is a way to make the game put them where you want them. Selling wasps and items made from nests can bring in about 10,000 bells a day. The furniture can be given to villagers to help increase friendship. The coins aren’t worth much, admittedly.
Doing this, you can easily get the items you want each day without searching among all your trees. I use it to get the two random furniture pieces each day.
To make this trick work, you must have _exactly 17 non-fruit trees on your island_, enough to generate all the randomly-placed tree items. They can be cedar or other, plain trees.
If you don’t discover one of these items on a day, it’ll be left there for following days. It only places new items if the old ones haven’t been discovered, up to the maximum of each type. The trick relies on this fact.
Decide which of the categories of items you want to lock down the location of. Starting from that location, shake each tree until you find one of the objects you care about. In the example images I use furniture (the leaf icons), since those are a type of item it’s useful to search for quickly. You’ll probably want to have a net on hand, and maybe some Medicine, in the likely event you find one or more wasps’ nests.
Once you found the kind of item you want, stop shaking trees for that day. On the next day, all of the items you discovered will be found among the trees you shook that day, just in different places. Now, shake only the tree you want the item to appear in. If it’s not the item, keep shaking the trees you had shaken before until you find it. With luck, you’ll find it before you shake them all. Now stop shaking trees again.
Doing this day after day, you can get the item narrowed down until it appears where you want it to be generated. Once it appears there, stop shaking for that day, and then don’t shake it again on following days. Start over with another of the type of item you want to narrow down.
By working like this, probably within a couple of weeks you can get all the items you want generating where you want them. So long as you don’t shake any other trees, those will always produce the ones you want. If you shake other random trees, you’ll introduce uncertainty into what’s generated.
In this way, I have produced two trees that always produce furniture every day, generally without fail. This trick has been tested for months on my island.
The only drawback that I can find is, a couple of seasonal events (Christmas and Easter) are known to disrupt it, since they can repurpose some of your trees as non-random types for a little while. When the event ends, you’ll probably have to set it up again.
This is a bit of an expansion over a couple of Mastodon posts I made yesterday. (On what account? Here!)
Animal Crossing New Horizons was an amazing hit for Nintendo. It hit right at the start of the pandemic, and so quickly became the second best-selling game on the system.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? 27 million copies. Super Mario Odyssey? 23 million copies. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate? 29 million copies. These are all very high sales figures. Nintendo has made bank during the Switch era.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons? 40 million units sold. That’s over 2.4 billion dollars in gross revenue, and not even counting Nintendo Online subscriptions and the paid DLC! The only Switch game to surpass it has been Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which has sold 47 million units.
You’d think a game like that would have a long support life, but you’d be wrong. Three years in and it’s been over a year since the last meaningful update. Nintendo has largely abandoned the audience of the most popular Animal Crossing game ever made, by a huge margin.
Why is this so strange? Most games don’t update after a couple of years, after all. There are games that have made a go of a long-lived, if no perpetual, update cycle. Team Fortress 2 famously went on for like a decade of frequent updates, and while Valve has cooled on it since it still sees a lot of play. Stardew Valley is still updated from time to time, and it’s an indie game, although one with a very low overhead.
Animal Crossing, however, has, from the beginning, been a form of gaming that almost demands to be played for a significant period of time. People have played the Gamecube version for many years, keeping their island alive through decades of real time.
Before consoles could connect to the internet, of course, they couldn’t even be updated. But with the introduction of the internet a lot of options became available. The possibilities for a game-as-service approach to Animal Crossing have been great and, in large part, unexplored.
The thing that really made this all visible is the New Year’s Arch item. The first year the game was released, they made available an archway, made of balloons, with the number 2021 set at the top of it. Then for 2022 they made another version of it, but notably, it didn’t involve hardly any new geometry; it was just the 2021 arch with different colors, and a 2 in place of the 1. It looked almost a if it had been auto-generated, like maybe the game itself had support to make arches programmatically. The item’s catalog description, which was identical for both arches, is even careful not to mention the year on the model: “An arch bearing the Gregorian calendar’s number for the new year.” Why be so elliptical about it if it wasn’t intended to be reused many times?
But no, that wasn’t the case. 2023 saw no new arch at all. The first two arches now stand out in the inventory as a stark reminder of that brief window of time when New Horizons saw active support. Ten years from now, people who come back to the game, or (heaven help them/us) never left it will still see only those two arches, mementos of the time when the game was new. It’s not like a new arch would be a huge addition: there’s obviously already a content pipeline that can be used to add new items fairly easily, and a 2023 arch made along the lines of the 2022 one would probably be about five minutes of work.
No one expects Nintendo to add new features indefinitely, or always for free, but the lack of a new arch, the lowest-effort update imaginable, makes it clear that absolutely no additions will be coming to the game, probably ever, not even extremely minor things like updated yearly items. ACNH updates were something that Nintendo could have comfortably milked for years. It’s not like we aren’t already paying them for online server access.
Animal Crossing is not like other games, but Nintendo doesn’t seem to realize that, has never really understood what the series is about. The archway is just another example. And it doesn’t make a fan of series want to buy any new versions if they know they’re going to be supported only for a brief period of the game’s lifetime.
I’m still playing New Horizons after over two years, and as I write this just had my third Halloween! I’ve got a lot of Jack’s Robes and Jack’s Heads in storage if anyone needs one. But that’s beside the point.
How many of you had the original Gamecube Animal Crossing? I did back in college, and it was quite popular with me and my roommates! One of them picked up her own memory card, to have her own town, where she build up a fortune in bells. She was kind of obsessed for awhile.
Gamecube Animal Crossing existed in the days of the early web, but at a time where people were a bit less determined when it came to investigating a game’s code for information on how its systems worked. As such the schoolyard rumor mill was still a large part of the game’s experience, and all kinds of outlandish lore would get traded around. Of course that still happens today (and misinformation is rampant in general), but if someone wants to know the real scoop, that information is out there for the diligent. (Hell, I wrote an ebook on the very topic of Animal Crossing New Horizons strategies and secrets.)
Brutus the cursed villager: does not exist in the game’s code.
Deathwing the cursed fish: does not exist in the game’s code.
Villagers meeting each other and changing moods: outcome depends on the personalities of the villagers.
Rare dialogue: often the result of talking to a villager when they’re in a mood.
Angering villagers: hit them with tools repeatedly, push them around a lot, or talk with one many times in a short period.
NES games “Forbidden Four”: Ice Climber, Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros., and The Legend of Zelda. Ice Climber and Mario Bros. were released via eReader and are difficult & expensive to access now. At first included Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out as well, but it was distributed by a code generator (that’s now sadly defunct).
Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda: were never released by any means, and are only accessible via Action Replay or other hacking means. (Although it is claimed that this code generator can generate them.)
The NES item: does function, but only plays rom files that are on the memory card, and Nintendo never distributed any! Roms can be put onto a card with file transfer methods and played with GCAC’s NES emulator.
Gyroid boxing: the rumor that gyroids can be made to fight in the boxing ring furniture items is false.
The Ringside Seating wallpaper: the crowd cheers if you ring the Judge’s Bell while it’s up!
Master Sword: cannot be pulled from its pedestal. The Super Star, however, will make you flash if interacted with.
Password system: can be used to obtain items that are not ordinarily obtainable, like villager event clothing and special stationery, through means like the code generator I linked above.
Comic Book, Glasses Case, Pokemon Pikachu: Ordinarily part of villager lost item quests. They can be generated themselves with password generators and placed in houses, but they have no models there, and so are invisible.
Tom Nook sleeping in his shop: unviewable in the US version, but in the Japanese version there is a secret means to open his shop late a night, by tapping your shovel on his shop’s window three times.
Working for Nook out of your uniform: it works! Just show up for work out of uniform. He’ll react, but let you do it anyway.
Mr. Resetti’s surveillance center: unavailable in US version. In Japanese version can be found by breaking a cracked rock and jumping down a hole. While there, Mr. Resetti and his brother Don’s feet are visible. They are not Digletts! Some sequels made the surveillance center able to be visited even in the US. (New Horizons, sadly, is not one of them.) Described at 10:32.
Resetti’s music: there is a code that replaces all the game’s music with Resetti’s theme until the game is reset.
Post Office: there are messages for sending letters to players with full mailboxes, and for writing a letter to a villager but waiting to send it until after they leave. The trick of writing a letter to a villager and keeping it in your inventory so they won’t leave does not work.
Police Station: Copper has animations for interacting with some visitors (Joan and Wendell are mentioned), and is known to fall asleep at 2 AM!
The Dump: Nothing special known.
Beta Map: Through a process described in the video, it’s possible to be sent to a testing map through normal gameplay. It’s shown off in the video. It’s impossible to escape from it though without resetting. It’s described at 15:58.
Secret K.K. Slider songs: K.K. Song, Two Days Ago, and I Love You, can only be obtained by asking for them by name. (Each successive sequel made the previous game’s unlisted songs “official,” but added their own unlisted songs.)
Three songs, Forest Life, My Place and To The Edge, can only be played randomly if K.K. Slider doesn’t recognize a request, and cannot be obtained at all in GCAC.
The Whale: I’ve seen this one personally! There is a gigantic fish shadow that can be seen randomly, and very rarely, on the boat ride to the Gameboy Advance island. It cannot be caught. Here’s more info.
“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter
Graham Smith at Rock Paper Shotgun tells about the return of Re-Volt, an RC Car racing game from the Dreamcast age that many regarded as fairly lackluster, but has nonetheless gathered a strong fanbase. It’s for sale again on Steam and GOG. While the game itself isn’t terrific as it is, fan-made mods that improve it require ownership of the original to function.
At GamesRadar (warning: will harass you to subscribe to their newsletter), Dustin Bailey (which may be a fun pseudonym) lets us know that the Coconut Mall reprise track from the DLC of Mario Kart 8 has been “improved,” in that the cars in the parking lot at the end of it now drive around getting in your way like they did back in the Wii version, and in fact are now even more annoying, doing pointless doughnuts in the lot just to piss you off. And yet, the drivers are Shy Guys, not the system Miis that drove the cars in the original, which in my bulbous eyes is still a downgrade.
In sillier news, at the Hollywood Reporter, Mia Galuppo tells us that Bandai Namco is trying to get a Pac-Man movie made. Pac-Man’s relationship with media has been a strange journey. In Japan it originally didn’t do especially well, but in the U.S. it quickly set arcade cabinet sales records, partly due to the stewardship and marketing acumen of U.S. licensee Bally-Midway. They commissioned several sequels that were unauthorized by original creator Namco, most of which have been stricken from the records, except, for a time, Ms. Pac-Man, created by GCC as a hack of the original game that would go on to eventually surpass it in lifetime sales. Namco would in turn adapt several aspects of the Pac-Man expanded universe for their own use, notably Ms. Pac and aspects of the first Pac-Man TV show, a pretty dumb cartoon made by Hanna-Barbera back in the period where they’d adapt anything for a buck. Namco made Pac-Land, an important early scrolling platformer, using the characters, music, and art style from that cartoon. In recent years rights issues have caused Bandai-Namco to reject Ms. Pac-Man too, creating a rights-unencumbered replacement character called “Pac-Mom,” which presumably will feature in this movie. All of this is just to demonstrate to you how incredibly twisted and fraught Pac-media has become, and I haven’t even gotten into the second TV show, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, which I’d rather not discuss. I will note, however, that because of Pac-Man’s inclusion as a character in Smash Bros. 4 and Ultimate, the first Pac-Man cartoon show in some small way lives on in Smash Bros’ Pac-Land stage.
We previously offered Lore’s first video Alt Text piece for Wired Magazine, where he rated Legend of Zelda weapons, so as your reward for making it through another week of the unbridled horror of 2022, here’s another game-related bit he did, about his picks for the five most guilt-inducing games.
It’s interesting that, with video games being such an imfamously fast-moving field and all, three of the picks are just as relevant today: Animal Crossing, The Sims and World of Warcraft, and, holy cats, this was made 14 years ago. The other two are Nintendogs and Lemmings, both series that could stand to be revived.
So thanks Lore for your video, and thanks Wired Magazine for not taking these down, and thanks to you for caring enough to watch a video about video games that’s nearly old enough to qualify for a learner’s permit!
At Rock Paper Shotfun, Katharine Castle tells us about Stray, a game where you play as a cat in a post-apocalyptic world full of robots. Some are mean, but some are friendly, including one your kitty protagonist wears as a cute backpack! It mentions that the platforming involved is unique in that it prevents you from upsetting notions of feline grace by just not allowing you to make bad jumps. I mean, that’s okay most of the time, but what if I wanted to play as a kitty klutz? Believe me, they exist.
We post a lot of articles from Nintendo Life here, we have noticed, to the degree that we are considering a limit to the number of times a single site can be featured in a single news post. Well, we haven’t done that yet, so the three Nintendo Life posts this time out:
CBR.com’s Patrick Arellano presents a list of ten mistakes that still haunt Sega. Many times these lists are pretty light, but this one makes some significant points, especially about the rancor between the Japan and U.S. branches of the company around the Genesis through Dreamcast era.
I don’t intend to make it a habit to post two Sundry posts in a day, but it’s Easter after all, so the subject of this one has an expiration date. This video is from a couple of years ago, when the meme that Isabelle somehow knew Doomguy was still fresh, and Nintendo was still balancing how often eggs would generate in the week before Bunny Day. There is some slight language in text, but we’re all adults here, right?
You may have already seen this, depending on who and what you are. The video has over two million views after all, but it’s important to remember the classics.