Game Design, Game Industry, Game Review

Animal Crossing Pocket Camp Game Design Analysis

I have been playing Animal Crossing Pocket Camp for a while now, and I am loving it to death. There are a lot of genuinely great game design aspects that make this game a true gem among mobile free-to-play games.

What is the Appeal of Animal Crossing?

For those who don’t already know about Animal Crossing, or those who have just never understood the appeal I will explain what I believe to be the main draw.

Playing AC makes me feel like a little kid playing with stuffed animals. When you are young and playing make believe, there is no goal or purpose, you simply do it because it is fun. And that is what Animal Crossing is about. Its playing make believe.

Animal Crossing also has a very ‘zen-like’ style of play that allows you to do things in your own time, at your own pace. The rewards in the game do not come from having skill, but instead from having patience and dedication. The more time you spend playing, the more you are rewarded.

Animal Crossing also has a very positive, wholesome mood. Unlike many games, where the player is trying to defeat something or someone, Animal Crossing is about helping others, doing nice things for others, and making friends. The animal characters are very supportive and friendly, and always have something nice to say.

In APCP (Animal Crossing Pocket Camp) specifically, the animals will even check up on you, and give you health and happiness tips. Some ask if you have been working out, others remind you not to stay up too late. If you have been playing APCP for several minutes, there are even animals who will suggest that you stop playing the game and do something else for a bit. It makes you feel very cared for as a person, and is all around incredibly wholesome.

Play Without Pay

My very favorite thing about APCP is that I can play the game pretty regularly and fully without having to pay a single cent. APCP is free to play, and has in-app purchases. However, those in-app purchases are far from necessary to getting the most out of the game experience. I have never felt like I needed to purchase anything in the game to get more out of it.

If you are playing the game because you want to spend time playing it, there is absolutely no reason for you to pay money.  Buying the in-app purchases is purely motivated by valuing your time over your money. If you play animal crossing for the wonderful zen feeling of having a stuffed animal collection, and a wonderfully decorated campground, without having to spend hours playing the game, you can if you are willing to pay money.

Consistent Updates to Content and Features

There are pretty regular updates to ACPC and consistently something new to look forward to. At the time I write this, ACPC has just released an update wherein players can now craft their own clothing items. There is also an update to look forward to where players will be able to dress up animals at their camp.

The game also has regular ‘events’, which tend to last about 15 days each. There are exclusive items that are only available during an event, so if you want to get all of the items, you will be very motivated to keep playing.

Playing with Friends Done Right

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A lot of games have tried to incentivise players to invite and play with their friends. ACPC is one of the few I feel has done it right. Friends in ACPC can help each other by putting up items for sale in their Market Box, or visiting each others gardens and watering their plants. You can also help your friends during events by sharing items with each other.

This game does it right though, because even though it is helpful to have friends, it is not a distinct advantage. This is accomplished by two main factors.

  1. You are rewarded for the act of sharing as much as you are rewarded for being shared with.
  2. Everything you can do with a friend, you can also do with a random stranger.

This means that you are motivated to share with random people, and they are motivated to share with you. Even if you don’t actually have friends, you still have access to all of the advantages.

Perfect Mobile Gameplay Loop

The best mobile games are the ones you can pick up and put down without interrupting gameplay. I can play APCP while I am cooking dinner, or while I am waiting for things to download, and still feel like I am making worthwhile progress in the game.

APCP also has a relatively short game loop of about 3 hours. Within each 3 hour time period is about 30 minutes of worthwhile gameplay (in my opinion). To me, that 30 minutes is long enough to be a meaningful amount of play time, while still being short enough that it will never feel like I wasted time playing the game for too long.

The 3 hour time window is also perfectly timed. It is long enough that I never feel inclined to ‘plan my day’ around playing the game. But also short enough that practically every time I remember the game, and feel the urge to play it, the 3 hours has passed. I can play it when I wake up in the morning, then again at lunch, once more when I get home from work, and one last time as I go to bed.

Conclusion

All in all, Animal Crossing Pocket Camp is a solid game. For a lot of gamers, it can feel like a grind, but if you like cute, stress-free games, you can’t go wrong with this one.

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