Life/farm simulation games are apparently a dime a dozen. Hell, some of them are free, so they don’t even cost that much. Yet every time a new one comes out, whether from a AAA studio or an indie developer, it gets harder and harder to tell what, if anything, is new. And came Disney Valley of Dreams.
Disney Valley of Dreams makes his home somewhere between animal crossing and your favorite Mouse House movie. It’s a fantasy world where everyone has forgotten who they are. As a visitor with unique magic, you must unravel the mystery and bring all those lost Disney characters back to town. But you can also buy new clothes for your avatar, decorate your house, go fishing, grow crops, all those life simulation type things that allow you to escape to a different world.
As cozy grove, Dream Light Valley takes the promise of animal crossing and runs with it. But unlike those games, you feel like you can play it endlessly and beyond.
Typically, simulation games in this vein artificially limit what players can do at any one time. There is always something to do (even if it’s just aimlessly digging holes), but quests usually require resources. And these take time to grow back, which means the game stretches out over days or weeks, rather than hours. Often it’s fun. Other times it’s frustrating. I myself have been guilty of time to travel around it.
It’s basically the balance between being able to binge when I’m in the mood, and the game telling me, softly, “OK, time to put the controller down and go for a walk.” Usually I as limits in games, personally. But I want them to be well designed; otherwise, I feel like the game is trying to control me.
Daniel Cook, Creative Director at cozy grove the manufacturer Spry Fox, is very aware of this problem. “There is a need for satisfaction,” Cook explains. “You need an opportunity to relax.” A game can do it for you. But, as Cook points out, some games get addictive and trap you. At this point, all you’re playing for is the next dopamine hit instead of relaxation or satisfaction.
But it’s also important that the game design leaves room for player choice. “We have this concept of everyday fun in gaming, where we want to give someone something exciting and interesting every day,” Cook explains. But cozy grove also never kicks you out once you’ve finished this daily treat. “Autonomy is very important,” he adds. “People have to choose how much they play, when they play, how they play.”
Dream Light Valley goes even further. While cozy groveresources can take a few days to replenish (fruit trees, I’m looking at you), Dream Light Valleytakes a few minutes, so you can pick it up after a break and have something new to do, rather than waiting until the next day. It’s a perfect balance between frenetic gameplay and rhythm, between a quest-based adventure game and a life simulation game.