When the gameplay reveal for Animal Crossing: New Horizons aired at E3 2019, my co-workers and I were astounded. Everyone was chattering about Tom Nook's new outfit or the crafting system, but my eyes were on the prize: the dirt paths.
While Nintendo developers talked about the crafting system, I murmured, "Wait, go back to the paths. Can we just dig those up with a shovel? We can just digpaths now? Why is nobody talking about the paths?!"
Pathing in Animal Crossing has been a horrific task of torture in every game, and while all fans are excited for the new systems that New Horizons may introduce, a lot of dedicated players are particularly excited for other tiny details that don't get formally announced. They're hidden away in blurry promotional images or 30-second trailers that just have a character running around, shaking fruit off of trees.
Let me explain the grueling awfulness that was placing paths. Starting in Animal Crossing: City Folk for the Wii, players were able to create paths by running in the same spot over and over again, since the game introduced grass wear. Paths became a hot design item --- if you just ran all willy-nilly all over your town, the grass would wear down quickly, resulting in your town becoming an awful dirt pit. Players used paths to delineate where people should walk to get to certain landmarks, like the museum or different villager homes.
i on god wanted to cry when i saw how the dirt paths were made in the new animal crossing like. only true fans will remember running back and forth to wear away dirt naturally pic.twitter.com/1ZMNZ2UAr4
--- marlee animal crossing ⛱ !! (@marleemutt) June 12, 2019
Players would also use patterns to lay down unique paths. You could download a design of a repeating pink brick road and slap that down, but even doing that took forever. You'd have to open the menu, select the pattern from your screen, put it down, move along, and repeat the process. If you saved a different design --- say, for a cute varsity jacket --- over the path pattern, awful garbled varsity jackets would appear on the ground in place of the path. You had to keep that path pattern forever. Even more dedicated players would use patterns to create paths with edges, requiring 10 pattern slots to make properly. It was truly an awful time.
Animal Crossing : New Horizons apparently lets you add paths by using a shovel, and even appears to allow for stone paths, which is a wonderful upgrade.
Stone Paths pic.twitter.com/b8MPC2IPsB
--- ACPocketNews (@ACPocketNews) February 3, 2020
That's not all. There's the addition of things like stairs over cliffsides, too. Animal Crossing: New Leaf allowed players to decorate their towns with "public works projects," like a playground, a bench, or a lamppost, but this is something that has functional use in the town.
Animal Crossing town layouts presented are randomly generated, and some hardcore players will reset their game repeatedly upon starting. If you don't like the layout because there isn't a convenient slope to go up the cliff, then just reset the game until you get a good one! With stairs, players won't have to worry too much about the layout.
as always i unironically love animal crossing fans pic.twitter.com/4M6n22OqNR
--- jess annabelle cane's reply guy (@jessterlavorre) February 2, 2020
Perhaps the funniest and least functional thing that players are getting excited over is Tom Nook's little paw pads. All animals seem to have little pink "peets" on the bottom of their feet and ... it's cute. It's good. It's a great small detail that slathers your brain with dopamine as you coo at its cuteness.
Animal crossing fans are so deprived of any sort of content that "The Nookings have peets" is downright newsworthy https://t.co/ywQ7HGSW6K
--- Stegladon! (@dude_wolves) February 5, 2020
While we'd love for there to be a Nintendo Direct focusing on Animal Crossing: New Horizons, it's this drip feed of artwork, short videos, and promotional images that has been getting everyone pretty excited for the game anyway.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons launches for Nintendo Switch on March 20. An Animal Crossing-themed Switch will debut on March 13.