The Mobile Game that Kept My Attention

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was released in the US right before Thanksgiving. Like a large number of mobile games, it uses a Free to Play model for monetization. Normally when I play a mobile game, I only play it for a few days, a month at most. This game I've been playing almost every day since it came out.

There are 8 different islands that compose the game area. The player's campsite, 4 activity/camping islands, a market island, an island where you can upgrade and paint your camper, and the quarry.

The Campsite

Within this game you run a campsite, that is seemingly on it's own little island? You're in charge of creating amenities and adding furniture for the animals that come and visit.

Campsite Layout

The campsite is the main focal area of the game. There's two large areas within the campsite where you can put any furniture that you've crafted as well as up to two different rugs. Each animal will require certain types of furniture placed around your campsite. While this can be done manually, the game also gives you the option to auto complete your layout with what a specific animal wants. If you automatically create a layout, after the animal has visited you can then leave the layout the way it is, or it can be put back to the way it was prior.

Camper

A lot of emphasis is put on your camper at the beginning of the game, but it really just serves as another way to customize your area. It acts like a house does in the main series games, you get a loan to upgrade it. And once that loan is paid off, you can upgrade again. I haven't fully upgraded yet, but there are two stories and it seems to get fairly large. You can also put any furniture you've crafted on either floor, but if it's in your camper it doesn't count toward what an animal wants to see.

The camper's exterior can be customized as well. There are a couple of different styles for the body itself, and a ton of different paint jobs you can pick from. Some of the paint jobs allow you to pick colors for different parts of the van while others are specific colors.

Amenities

Within the campsite, the player has two spots for amenities. These are large scale crafting projects that increase the maximum level your animals can be. Each amenity has a type it corresponds to, and leveling up or building those amenities increases the maximum level that animals of that type can be, up to level 20.

Garden

The garden is an area with 20 different plots. There are a few different types of flowers you can grow. And occasionally the event revolves around the garden, giving you new flower types and some special creatures to capture.

Activity Islands

Each of the four "activity" islands has a type of gathering you can do, an animal that rotates every three hours, and a player visitor. The player visitor isn't always someone on your friends list, this allows you to make friends even if you don't know anyone who's playing the game.

Breezy Hollow

Breezy Hollow is the main area where you can gather fruit. It has one tree for each of the five fruits. Each tree contains three fruits and respawn on a 3 hour long timer.

Saltwater Shores

Saltwater Shores is a beach type location. It has two coconut trees, each containing two coconuts on a 3 hour respawn timer, and saltwater type fishing.

Sunburst Island

Sunburst Island is always sunny regardless of the weather on the other islands. It contains butterflys and beetles that you can catch for requests as well as a single coconut tree.

Lost Lure Creek

Lost Lure Creek is a Creek with two fruit trees. From what I can tell these can be any of the 5 fruits, but will always be two separate types of fruit, so you'll never have more than 2 of the same type of fruit tree. It also has freshwater fishing.

Market Place

The Market Place contains two different shops. One allows you to buy furniture and has 3 different options that change every day. The other is a clothing shop that also has 3 options that rotate daily. Isabelle, who teaches you about the game in the beginning, can also be found here and she offers tips and tricks as well as allowing you to reread tutorial text.

OK Motors

OK Motors is the location where you upgrade and customize the outside of your camper. There are three penguin looking characters who take care of it, and there's crazy dialog while they carry out whatever task you're asking of them. There is also a minigame you can play where you try to match 3 characters on rotating dials. They rotate extremely slowly, and there isn't much gain per play.

Shovelstrike Quarry

In the quarry you can break a certain number of rocks to gain bells and a randomized crafting material. You can see which material it will be before you enter.

Levels

Both the player and each individual animal have levels that feed into the gameplay and affect different things.

Animal Level

Every animal that can visit your campsite has it's own level. Levels are gained by talking to an animal when it's in the area, as well as by completing requests. Each animal has a set level that they must reach as a part of their requirements for visiting your campsite. While a particular animal is visiting your campsite they're always available to talk to and will occassionally have requests for you. They won't show up in any of the other four locations though.

Player Level

The players level is directly related to animal levels. Every time you gain a level with an animal, that is added to your "experience". Once you've gained enough animal levels, your player will level up. In the early levels there's only a small number of animals that will visit the camping grounds. As the player level goes up, more animals will come to visit, and thus new types of furniture will open up to be crafted.

Goals

There are two different type of goals within the game, timed or stretch.

Timed Goals

Timed goals are anywhere from daily, through the end of an event. There are 3 every day, and many others that are related to new features or the different timed events that occur.

Stretch Goals

Stretch goals are about ensuring the player has mastery over the systems in the game. They are goals that can be completed at any time, and don't go away regardless of how long a player waits to complete them. There are also new goals released with new features.

Monetization

Monetization schemes is something I don't talk about much normally. I've mostly played premium, sometimes called buy-to-play games, so it was never something I spent a lot of time thinking about. I've also never truly gotten into a free-to-play game the way I have AC:PC.

Leaf Tickets

AC:PC has a hard currency called Leaf Tickets. These can be used to speed up crafting as well as to purchase crafting materials that you may need, or to purchase other items that can speed up your progression.. There's also been a couple of items that you could only purchase with Leaf Tickets, but only at the release of the game and there haven't been any items like that since.

The biggest issue that I've seen is that the game gives you too many free leaf tickets. If you're playing actively you don't need to spend money.

Request Tickets

Request tickets can be earned or purchased. These tickets allow the player to do a set of three requests, on top of the normal three, for animals that are currently visiting the islands.

Calling Cards

Calling cards can also be purchased, but often can be earned through stretch goals. These cards can be used to call an animal to visit one of the four activity islands, chosen by which island the player is on while using it. The animal that is invited is selected by the player, and has a set of three requests that can be completed.

Fertilizer

Fertilizer is used to regrow fruit trees instantaneously. After using this once and picking the fruit, it will be another 3 hours or fertilizer before you can grab the fruit again. It can be purchased with leaf tickets or earned through goals.

Nets

Nets allow you to catch 10 fish at once. You can use them from the dock in either the Saltwater Shores or the Lost Lure Creek. Occassionally you will get seashells from your nets as well as fish when fishing at the Saltwater Shores.

Honey

Honey is used to catch multiple bugs at once. It can be used at the stump on Sunburst Island.

Plant Food

Plant food will speed up the growth of flowers in your garden. Depending on the type of flower it will speed the growth up by up to an hour.

Crafting

A major portion of the game is based around the crafting system. You can craft clothing for yourself and the other animals, as well as furniture. Each piece of furniture requires a certain number of different crafting materials, some bells, and a specific amount of time. You start out with only a single crafting slot, but can upgrade to three total using leaf tickets.

Materials

There are four main materials that you get from completing requests, but there are also a decent number of specialty materials. Cotton, Steel, Wood, and Preserves are the four main ones. At least one of these four will be needed for every crafting project. To go along with those, there are different essences for each of the types the animals can be: cool, cute, rustic, sporty, natural, harmonious, and hip. Finally there are materials that can only be gained during their respective event. These are required for all of the event related crafting projects.

The one thing that really bothers me, is that since they tried to distill things down to the four main materials, sometimes the crafting project doesn't seem to make sense. You need steel to make crayons as an example where I think the materials fall short.

Events

Throughout the year their are different events to celebrate what's going on in the real world. There was a winter holiday event as well as New Years and many others. There are pretty much two different types of events, both offer furniture that is exclusively available through the event.

Craft-a-palooza

Most of the events I've seen have fallen into the category of a series of crafting quests. During these events there is a special crafting material that can be gained by completing requests for animals and the timed event quests. You can then use this special crafting material to create event specific furniture and clothing items. These events run for a set amount of time, and as long as you began crafting the items prior to the end of the event you can collect them.

RNG Matroyshka

The other event was RNG inside of RNG similar to a Russian Matroyshka doll. The event was split in half, in that you couldn't start the second half of the quests until a certain date, but after that date you could work on all the event quests. The quests were focused almost entirely on the Garden area.

There were special seasonal flowers that you got the seeds for from completing requests, or purchasing them. There were three different types of flowers, only one of which had seeds that could be purchased.

Final Thoughts

While there's a decent number of problems I have with the game, it's also very enjoyable. It's something that you can spend a few minutes playing or longer when you have the time, but it doesn't feel like you're punished for progressing, or for not having a lot of time to play. It may not have the same gameplay as the main series Animal Crossing games, but bringing in characters and furniture from them makes it feel like part of the family.

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