Ami Takai worked on object design in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, specifically regarding furniture. In a post on Nintendo’s recruitment site, Takai explained how the whole process of development took place.
It may not seem like a complicated position, but furniture creation is actually a significant part of Animal Crossing’s design. Takai ended up making “hundreds of kinds of furniture”, all of which needed to be presented well in HD.
Our full translation is below:
Dealing with HD
In game development we refer to small items in the scenery as ‘objects’. There may not always be a huge amount of attention given to the job of designing these objects, but in the Animal Crossing series they play a very important role. In the Animal Crossing series, objects known as furniture can be interacted with and used to decorate the player’s house however they want.
As a lead furniture designer on Animal Crossing; New Horizons, I had to work to create hundreds of kinds of furniture that would work well in high resolution on the Nintendo Switch screen. Creating high resolution furniture takes a lot of time and effort, and we coordinated our efforts with more people than ever before in the series’ history, including a contract company to help with modeling.
When working with high resolution, even small details are visible so it was important to get the pieces designed well to ensure the items feel right to the players. But that doesn’t simply mean making them look real. In Animal Crossing the important point is ensuring the ‘personality’ of each piece while still fitting into the game world and maintaining a coherence in the overall design. That was how we verbalized the guiding principle behind the art of the game when working together with the staff of the contract company.
Making ‘furniture’ wasn’t just limited to desks and appliances, but also meant making stuffed animals, utility poles and spaceships. Creating such varied items involves a lot of people, and at times even the documents and specifications we created were not adequate for keeping all the designs cohesive. There were many times that the design staff would talk together working on a single piece trying to decide “How can we express the nature of this furniture properly?”. We would periodically make time to look back over the creations and the reference materials and images being used, which allowed such care to be taken in their design. The creators understood how important it was to ‘express the charm of each furniture piece’, and spent a lot of time thinking about how they could deliver that concept properly.
By communicating well with the contracting company, we were able to create great mutual understanding and form a solid single team together. If I asked for something, the company would arrange models of the furniture and line them up on a table for me to see, it was always quite a sight. Amongst those they even had things you don’t really see much anymore like old style dial telephones, and seeing that made me realize how seriously the company was taking the job and how hard they were working.
Turning the world into furniture
Furniture items can be rotated 360 degrees and seen from all angles, so it was important to put effort into making the sides and back of items too. Designing items for a high resolution screen requires making high quality models which in turn requires a lot of knowledge. At first I felt I needed to search for the necessary information, but slowly I began to see everything in the real world too in terms of furniture models. Simply, in Animal Crossing, a room is divided into an unseen grid of boxes, and placing big pieces of furniture may take up three boxes, and small furniture may only take up one. I would see a piece of furniture in my everyday life and think “I could make this work in two boxes” or “How would I go about making this to keep its charm?”. I suppose I developed a keen eye in my everyday life by making furniture. I know how much work it is to get so many people working together to share their knowledge on something like this, but now I feel like I want to turn the whole world into furniture for the Animal Crossing series.
Takai originally joined Nintendo in 2013. After working on Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, she then contributed to Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Welcome amiibo. Other than furniture object design, Takai was a coordination manager on Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Nintendo’s support for Animal Crossing: New Horizons is now complete. The last major update has gone out and Happy Home Paradise is the game’s first and only piece of DLC.
Translation provided by Simon Griffin and centurionnugget on behalf of Nintendo Everything.
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