Siliconera spoke with Harvest Moon: Skytree Village creator Natsume’s producer, Taka Maekawa, about what went into developing the company’s third original installment in the Harvest Moon series.
Fans had a lot of feedback to offer on Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley. We’ve seen some issues addressed, with the addition of a town and improved character interactions. What new or improved feature are you most proud of?
Taka Maekawa, Producer at Natsume: We have some loyal and dedicated fans that have been playing Harvest Moon for years and years, so we truly value the feedback we get. It’s hard to narrow down what we are most proud of to just one thing, since there are tons of new features and improvements. We tweaked, improved, and added to all sorts of areas in Harvest Moon: Skytree Village. Such as redesigning the UI menu, making the character controls more responsive, adding a rich and robust story, and new character designs and models. And let’s not forget about the new addition of the Poitou Donkey! There’s just too many features we’re proud of to just pick one.
How has terraforming been transformed in Harvest Moon: Skytree Village? Will we be able to do anything unexpected on our plots of land?
We know terraforming is not for everyone, but we wanted to improve upon the original formula for Harvest Moon: Skytree Village for those that truly enjoy creating their perfect farm. We kept the basic structure of terraforming the same, but added features that will expand the freedom and efficiency when doing it, such as tool upgrades that allow you to manipulate multiple areas at once. This will save time, and allow you to work a larger area. It might not sound like a major upgrade, but once you start using it, you see how something so small adds to a lot more enjoyment.
Another addition is one of Doc’s new inventions…a raft! The raft allows you to transverse any waterway, allowing you to get more creative with water. How about islands of crops? Actually, I am in the process of doing just that in my game, making a variety of islands each with different crops. The raft is used for other things as well, such as expanding the fishing feature.
The art direction has shifted in Harvest Moon: Skytree Village, with characters looking more mature and realistic than they did in Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley. How did this transition come about and what new details can we expect to see when it comes to character design?
At the start of the project, character design was one of the first things we talked about and looked into improving. It’s an extremely important part of any Harvest Moon game. Knowing that, we did research on past Harvest Moon titles, went over feedback from fans, and tried a variety of different sketches and styles. However, we wanted it to be more than just a different art style, so we created new character models that now allow for emotions during conversations and such.
The Natsume-original Harvest Moons have taken elements from Minecraft to allow for terrain alteration. Have any other games inspired and influenced Harvest Moon: Skytree Village?
Much of our inspiration and influences for Harvest Moon: Skytree Village came from fan feedback. Not only from Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, but from years and years of Harvest Moon titles.
It wouldn’t be a Harvest Moon game without new crops and flowers! With these new crops and flowers come new and exciting variants to discover. Only a player with a true green thumb can discover them all!
Now that there is a town to visit, what kind of festivals and special events will we see? Which one do you find most interesting?
There are a variety of festivals and events that happen around town. One of my favorite festivals is the Fishing Festival. With the addition of the raft and the improvement to the fishing engine itself, I truly enjoy the challenge, especially the Advanced Fishing Contest. It requires a strategy instead of just luck.
What is the process Natsume goes through when creating new bachelors and bachelorettes? Do you start with an art style? Personality traits? Fan feedback?
I usually start with fundamentals of the character. That is, the personality, background, and how the character will be a part of the overall story. Each and every character has to be meaningful to the game and have a purpose so that they drive you to interact with them. Relationships, whether with a potential spouse or with an NPC, are a huge part of any Harvest Moon game, so a lot of care and time goes into each and every character.
How detailed is the relationship system in Harvest Moon: Skytree Village? Will there be an extensive opportunity to date possible partners and maybe more events after you’ve started a family?
Each bachelor and bachelorette have multiple dating events. As with most Harvest Moon titles, the more you get to know a person, the deeper and more meaningful the events become. Once you find that special someone and tie the knot, the events will continue with marriage and family.
Part of the fun of Harvest Moon is finding all sorts of secrets. Can you talk about some of the mysteries? Will there be secret areas, hidden bachelor and bachelorette options, beyond the Harvest goddess?
Fundamentally, all Harvest Moon games are repetitive by nature, so it is extremely important to have a variety of things in the game that keep it new and fresh to drive you to keep playing and moving forward. So, yes, there are all sorts of secrets in the game, some big, some small. I would tell you what they are, but that would ruin the surprise!
Yes, Harvest Moon: Skytree Village will have free and paid AOC. We will be revealing more about the AOC in the near future.
Can we expect to see any StreetPass compatibility or multiplayer?
Harvest Moon: Skytree Village does not offer StreetPass or any multiplayer options. But who knows about the future…
A number of Harvest Moon-likes, such as Stardew Valley, World’s Dawn, and Wild Season have come to Steam. How do you feel about these contemporaries?
It’s great to see more games in this genre! Back in 1997, there was only one, Harvest Moon for the SNES. Now there are a lot more, increasing the genre, creating a variety, and making more competition, which in the end is a good thing. It’s great to see a game in the genre do something new and innovating.
How are things going with the PC and Wii U ports of Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories?
We hope to be able to talk about them as things become more final!
Harvest Moon: Skytree Village is now available in North America for the Nintendo 3DS.