Geschrieben von Kerstin Steiner am 23.03.2021
We had the great honor of interviewing director Hikaru Nakano a few days before the release of Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town. He answered a few questions about the upcoming part of the successful series and especially discusses the special features of the game. Below you can read the English version of the interview. However, if you're interested in the German version, check it out here.
The history of the Story of Seasons series goes way back and still inspires countless fans. What do you think are the reasons for the everlasting success of the farming simulation?
I think it is due to the many creators and developers, myself included, who have been able to work on each game throughout [the] series’ long history, and our devoted fans who continue to support us. I think that the series’ themes have changed gradually over time, but I think the most apparent theme is this idea of breaking away from city life to live in the countryside. It is very convenient and beneficial living in the city, and I myself live in the suburbs of Tokyo but – is it really? I think that trying to answer this fundamental question is something that this series has always cherished. I believe our focus on it is individual to the series and a reason to choose to play it.
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town will be released at the end of March. What new features can players expect and what major changes are there compared to the predecessor Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town?
I see the pioneering aspect of the game as a key feature. The farm in Olive Town is set in a forest, and by cultivating it, you can expand the land you can use and discover various things. However, this doesn't mean that you have to – you can keep parts of the forest, or cultivate it completely; it's about the player being able to choose whether to cultivate it and to what extent.
There are some big differences – in previous games, each map was separated and there were different roles around the farm. However, in this game, the forest not only functions as a farm, but also as a place where you can go logging and mining. There are mountains and sea there too!
Players are still tied to stamina, which degrades rapidly depending on how the day goes. In addition, a day in the game lasts only minutes in real time. Will there be a mode in the future where you can play without strict time and stamina constraints?
I believe we shouldn't always be thinking ahead to the future. I think we need to think more about the time and stamina constraints themselves instead of adding more modes. Passing out if you work too hard without taking a proper rest, falling ill if you get wet from working outside on the farm while it is raining – in reality there is a limit to what you can do in a day. As this is reflected in gameplay, it could be said that we are portraying how life would really be like on a farm. Having said that, I think it is also necessary to consider whether how things are at the moment are okay as they are.
What would your personal day look like in Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town? What do you like most about the new part of the series?
While I was developing the game, I tried to play as irregularly as possible. The game will progress no matter how you play it, so trying to break the game this way lead to finding issues. I do this even now, but when asked how I like to spend time, I like to go to the mines and fish while I keep an eye on the animals I am raising.
What takes the most time in developing a game like Story of Seasons, and are there any particular hurdles in developing a Nintendo Switch game?
The most time-consuming part of this game was designing the farm area. There was a lot of trial and error when considering the size of this area, and how much the player would be able to do within it. In terms of technical problems, once we understood the characteristics of the hardware, it took more time than expected to figure out optimization processes.
How did the global pandemic affect development on Story of Seasons and other projects?
The state of emergency that was issued in Japan last year has continued, and it is no longer possible to work the way we did before. Within game development in Japan, as people often work in environments where they can easily get together and talk, the introduction of working from home and online meetings has changed the development process greatly, and I believe has increased the risk of slowing down communication. Even now we are in the process of trying to find the best way to work.
Also, although it may only be a problem for those living in Japan, there are people that do not have their own rooms, some who find working from home easy or difficult – many face problems working in this kind of environment.
If you weren't developing games, would a farm life like in Story of Seasons be an alternative for you?
When I was little, I lived in the countryside and I used to catch crayfish and prawns in streams and ponds, explore mountains, climb cliffs – quite crazy things. We also had a garden where we used to grow vegetables and eat the freshly-picked tomatoes. As we lived in Hokkaido we also experienced, as expected, how terrifying mother nature can be. I still say that Hokkaido is an important place – it's my hometown. In that sense, as I have experienced living close to nature and have very good memories of it, I think I would like to live a leisurely life of growing vegetables and raising chickens. However, and this is not only in Japan, working on a farm requires a great deal of determination, so in the game, I think I would be in the same position as someone from the city.
What interests do you have outside of the gaming world?
Cooking, especially making sweets, is still one of my hobbies, as I have been helping my mother for a very long time. I think that Western confectionery, which varies greatly with butter and flour, is really fascinating. I am good at making pound cake, but my family doesn't like nuts and dried fruits, so I often use bananas and sweet potatoes – I think using nuts like almonds and walnuts is best, though. Recently I have been making fruit jellies and cookies that are easy to make with children.