Interview: Littlewood channels Animal Crossing to create the ultimate relaxation game

Littlewood interview Sean Young, Animal Crossing influence

Following the failure of his mobile game, solo developer Sean Young needed a way to unwind and recuperate. That led him to Animal Crossing. “On paper, it seems like Animal Crossing would be rather boring and tedious!” said Young. “I mean, who would find picking weeds and paying off a loan enjoyable, right? But like most people who play Animal Crossing, I quickly found myself unable to put the game down.” This relaxing experience planted the seeds that, when combined with a love of RPGs, would result in Littlewood.

Littlewood is an upcoming town-builder game with RPG elements set in the world of Solemn. The premise is that you are a hero who already defeated the “Dark Wizard” and saved the world — but at the cost of your memory. The game is about exploring assorted beautiful locales, collecting resources, rebuilding your town, and inviting new people to live there. Collecting the right materials to build the right structures in the right places can entice new townsfolk to move in, and developing relationships with townsfolk could be the ticket to getting your memories back.

Although the game features no combat, RPGs are a strong influence on Littlewood, and Dark Cloud and RuneScape are the two other games that majorly influenced this title’s development. “I love things like player customization, stat progression, and playing through the game my way,” said Young. “With Littlewood I wanted to extend the customization to the player’s entire town so that it really feels like the town is theirs.”

Littlewood interview Sean Young, Animal Crossing influence

Indeed, players can engage in activities as diverse as gathering, mining, woodcutting, bug catching, fishing, farming, cooking, crafting, and selling — and your proficiency at each activity can level up. Players can spend plenty of time grinding assorted skills if they so desire. In fact, players can even grow their relationship levels with the game’s myriad quirky NPCs, and Littlewood offers diverse ways to interact with its characters.

“Players can talk to NPCs each day to get new bits of dialogue and to increase their heart levels,” said Young. “You also can hang out, compliment, and complete quests for your townsfolk! I’ve implemented a ‘Special Moments’ system too that plays a little cutscene at your Town Square once you’ve met certain heart level requirements for specific townsfolk.”

The ultimate end goal of Littlewood is to romance a character and get married, and the plan is for any character of either gender to be a romantic option. The credits will roll after marriage, but the game doesn’t have to end there. “There is absolutely tons of post-marriage content to complete,” said Young. “Maxing out your stats, finding every townsfolk, donating every item to the museum, cooking every recipe, and unlocking all achievements are just a few things to keep players busy!”

Littlewood interview Sean Young, Animal Crossing influence

Essentially every aspect of the game is designed to be low-stress, even the rare instances where monsters rear their heads. “Wompers run around inside of the Dust Caverns, trying to bite all miners who enter!” said Young. “I plan on adding some type of hazardous enemy to the Endless Forest, but other than that, I don’t think there will be much conflict.”

However, players looking for “battles” may yet find them in an unexpected place: Littlewood will feature a full-blown card game called Tarott Monster, where the player and an NPC opponent take turns fighting each other with monsters. These creatures have “Defend” and “Support” abilities that enable dynamic and fast-paced gameplay, and a match could end in just a few rounds, though they’ll surely be action-packed. New cards to play are hidden around the game world, and they are what became of the Dark Wizard’s monsters after his defeat.

“One of my favorite RPGs of all time is Final Fantasy IX, which had a really cool card game,” said Young in explaining Tarott Monster’s origins. “I love when games include in-depth mini-games like that, so I just had to include a card game of my own! I grew up with TCGs like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! as well, so card games are really special to me.”

Littlewood interview Sean Young, Animal Crossing influence

Littlewood had a massively successful Kickstarter this past January, reaching its humble $1,500 goal in two hours and ultimately raking in $82,000. That final total was roughly double what Young had secretly been hoping to raise for the project. “The Littlewood Kickstarter was an amazing experience,” he said. “Seeing such passion and interest in my project is what keeps me going, and it made all of those long nights of programming worth it!”

Right now, Young is just committed to finishing the game, but if there is demand for it, he will consider post-release content or a sequel. He is developing Littlewood entirely on his own (though Bashi Boizu is providing the soundtrack), so he is shrewd never to overpromise. Along those lines, Young hesitates to give the game a precise release date, but if Littlewood version 1.0 releases for Steam by the end of January, then he hopes for the game to release on Nintendo Switch later in February or March. The plan is to bring the game to “as many platforms as possible” after that.

“I don’t have much experience porting games to consoles, though, so I hope players can have some patience for me!” Young added. All Littlewood Kickstarter backers will receive a Switch copy of the game for free though, an incredibly generous and straightforward way to satisfy his fans.

There was always pressure for Littlewood to succeed, but now that Young and his wife have learned that they have a daughter on the way, there is “more pressure than ever.” Nonetheless, Young said, “We’ve already got our lists of games that we want our daughter to play, and hopefully she will enjoy playing my games at some point!” They have even decided to name her after a character in the game.

Ultimately, Littlewood feels like a game about rejuvenation — albeit Sean Young-style. “Combining the (quirkiness) and friendliness of Animal Crossing, the town building of Dark Cloud, and the grindy yet rewarding skill progression of RuneScape seemed like the ultimate chill game for me!” Young said. But more solemnly, he also added, “Hopefully players will be able to see that Littlewood’s quirky townsfolk, easygoing pace, and love for simplicity was all due to me playing Animal Crossing during a time that I absolutely needed it.”

You can keep up with the development of Littlewood on Sean Young’s Twitter, as well as on the game’s Reddit page and Discord channel. Littlewood is currently available on Steam Early Access.

John Friscia
Head Copy Editor for Enthusiast Gaming, Managing Editor at The Escapist. I'm a writer who loves Super Nintendo and Japanese role-playing games to an impractical degree. I really miss living in South Korea. And I'm developing the game Boss Saga!