Talk of the new Animal Crossing for the Nintendo 3DS has gotten me thinking recently about if another Animal Crossing were made for a non-handheld Nintendo console, either the Wii or its successor. Jon had an excellent idea the other day: an Animal Crossing MMO. Now, I’m not thinking World of Warcraft but with animals, because that wouldn’t keep with the theme of Animal Crossing. But I think there are a variety of improvements that could be made to Animal Crossing that would make it more a social experience, which I think would be a good thing. A problem I have with all the existing A.C. games is that, after a while, they feel too small. The animals repeat the same things (if I have to hear about the Mayor’s connections in City Folk one more time…), the days run together, and it becomes basically an item grab: get Gracie’s furniture sets, get all the Mush set items, get all the clothing, get all the Gyroids, get all the fossils, get all the town upgrades, etc. I get that that’s the heart of the game anyway, but when that becomes too transparent, the game loses its appeal.

With City Folk, if you want to visit a friend’s town, you have to have exchanged Friend Codes with them, both of you have to be online, and one of you has to have their Gate open. That’s a lot of stars to align before any social interaction can happen. I’ve tried posting my City Folk Friend Code on various message boards, and adding other people I didn’t know who had posted theirs. I’ve been to another person’s village, and vice versa, only a handful of times, but I’ve had the game maybe two years now. I get that for children, you probably don’t want the whole of the Internet interacting with you in the game, because it should be a safe place. For older players, though, it would be great if it were easier to interact with real people in-game. Here are some suggestions for doing that:

Let anyone in
Have the option to let your game be open to anyone, and have this setting turned on as soon as you load your game. If you turn this setting off initially, it wouldn't be on thereafter when you load your game, but if you turned it on once, you'd not have to turn it on every time you started the game (unlike how the Gate is now). I don't want to have to run my character up to the Gate and open it every time I play. I also don't want to have to exchange Friend Codes to allow a person in. When you go to your Gate to venture out, there should be a nice interface for finding other towns of people in-game right then who have also allowed visitors. No Friend Codes necessary. Show me folks perhaps nearby geographically, if I have told the game where I live, and maybe let me sort by other villages I've visited in the past, etc. It would be great if there were Facebook integration or something so I could find other people I'm already friends with that have the game, all from one place.
Lay some ground rules
One problem now is that once someone's in your village, they can wreak havoc. I'd love to be able to set limits on what visitors do, such as allowing them to take a maximum number of fruits/mushrooms/etc. from my village, disallowing them to chop trees or uproot flowers, disallowing them from participating in events like the Fishing Tournament in my village, etc. This could totally be part of the game's story, too: you initially go to Booker or Copper to turn on allowing non-friends in your game, and they ask you some questions about what should be allowed. Then when a visitor comes to your town, Copper greets them and informs them of the rules. If the visitor then tries to, say, chop down a tree in your village, Copper or even Resetti could show up and be like "hey kid! didn't you read the rules??" and prevent you from doing it. There could even be a strike system where the visitor gets kicked out by Copper if he continued to try and break the rules you've set. With item restrictions, like saying a visitor can only take 10 fruits with them when they leave, there could be something like customs at the Gate. Copper takes all the stuff in the visitor's inventory that they acquired in your village, checks it over, and makes sure everything's okay. Or maybe no customs, just the game disallows you to take anything over the limit. I think the customs part would be better suited to the feel of the game, though, since it involves the animals.
Make exceptions to the rules
I think the Friend Code system could be used to separate visitors into different tiers. If I've exchanged Friend Codes with someone, that could imply that I trust them more, so maybe all my visitor rules don't apply to them. Maybe Friend Code exchangees could take part in my village's events, like they can under the current Friend Code system. It would be cool if I could set up different rules for visitors with whom I've exchanged Friend Codes versus those with whom I've not. I'm not saying I want all the different security options that a site like Facebook has, but a simplified version of this would be nice in Animal Crossing.
Protect the kids
It would be nice for some parents, I'm sure, if there were some overall child security setting that turns off all the online stuff, or limits it so people can only come over if you've exchanged Friend Codes (like the game is now). This could be some password-protected setting accessed in the main menu with Rover before you load your character, and it could be per-character. Then Mom could have visitors without having exchanged Friend Codes and she could go out and about, but Son would only be allowed to visit and have visitors that have exchanged Friend Codes.

Beyond increasing socialization in the game, it would be nice to have new content every so often. DLC for Animal Crossing, provided by the Wii Shop? Nintendo already sends us free items in the in-game mail, like the Wiimote dresser to commemorate the Wii’s four-year anniversary. If DLC could be taken care of in-game, as opposed to having to go to another channel on the Wii to get it, that would be great. Kind of like how Dragon Age Origins on the PS3 shows new DLC in the main menu. Even if it weren’t DLC per se, but just updates to the game that included new conversation for the animals, new items for Gracie Grace’s store, new items or clothes for Nook’s store, etc., that would be awesome.

I would like some new options that would just add to the convenience of the game, too. Something like a button I could push while inside my house that would clear out that floor of my house, putting all the items on that floor into a dresser. Just re-doing a room right now in the game involves a lot of boring item grabbing, stuffing it into a dresser, and then getting out all the new furniture to place around the room. There could be much more convenient stuff happen in Nook’s store, too, like if I stood in front of a wallpaper for sale for a couple seconds, it shows me what that wallpaper would look like, instead of me having to ask Nook to show me the paper.

I’m sure there are so many things that could be added to the game that wouldn’t detract from the spirit of the game. I don’t want to take away the relaxed feel of the game, or how you have to be patient to get stuff (certain items only being available on certain days, that sort of thing). But allowing me to more easily socialize with real-life people who play the game would go along with the spirit of the game. Allowing me to customize my house with less hassle would be good because the point of the game, IMO, is not to force me to move furniture one item at a time, or to navigate the dresser-contents menu. What do you think? Have any other suggestions?