Qt3 Games Podcast: Forza Horizon 4, Loop Hero, Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Title Qt3 Games Podcast: Forza Horizon 4, Loop Hero, Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Author Tom Chick
Posted in Games podcasts
When March 11, 2021

Tom Chick, Jason McMaster, and Nick Diamon haul ass across England, go around in circles, and then get stuck on an island..

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Best screenshot ever!

Nightmare fodder.

Boring English countryside? You guys are killing me. This is torture to listen to. None of these things are true!

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz. That the sound of a Mazda sprinting past, and it’s me falling asleep with my controller in my hands.

Please push back more! I know you’re as into driving and racing games as much as I am, so why are you inoto Forza Horizons? What’s the appeal? It’s got to be something more than the liveries and frictionless collection that @Telefrog mentioned on the podcast.


Yeah, I don’t care what the car looks like.

I just enjoy the driving experiences that the designers have curated in the game. I don’t bother with creating my own via Blueprints. It’s nice that the option is there, I used it a lot in Forza Horizon 3, and created my own challenges too, so that @robc04 could attempt them, and he created some for me in return. But I didn’t bother in Horizon 4.

One of the first things to really grab me by my underwear and yank me into an excited state was when I was given a Ford RS200. The offroad races in Horizon 4 are excellent. That car is a Group B uncontrollable monster in the DiRT Rally games, and I’m not good enough to be able to control it. But in Horizon 4 that uncontrollable power can be unleashed because even though I’m following a track in Horizon 4, I can slip and slide outside the lines and then use the power of that car to recover.

For the cross country races, the Ford Trucks and other monster truck type vehicles are great fun. So is the Lamborgini SUV that is an early reward.

For the asphalt races, sports cars be a lot of fun, but also get a bit boring, it can vary a lot. And then suddenly it’s winter time, and all asphalt races gain new life because there’s certain sections that are iced over, it can make for some great races.

I loved all the story missions I’ve played so far. I’m only 3 years into the game, so I haven’t seen most of them yet, but I finished the Stunt Driver missions, the Taxi service missions, the Drift Club missions. By the way, I don’t normally enjoy drifting in games, but I had a blast with the drift club missions and getting 3 stars in all of them was hard but fun. And then you can hop on over to Storm Island and there’s a bonus set of Drift Club missions there too.

There’s just so much to do in the game, if I don’t like a particular activity, I don’t bother and go do something else. I’m not sure what you have to do on PC to get it smooth. I also didn’t enjoy it as much until I started playing it on XSX where it stays at a smooth 60fps at all times and looks gorgeous.

Given some of the countryside is Scottish, I’m surprised there hasn’t been some kind of Celtic uprising on this forum yet at being lumped in with the English…

Coming from you, that’s saying a lot! I only did a couple of the offroad races, but I probably should have pushed through that track of advancement instead of the road races. The road races have so little personality, especially given how they’re all “enh, just pick whatever cars you want”. As I mentioned on the podcast, this was a really disappointing contrast to Project Cars 3, which is very specific about it’s combinations of track, conditions, and cars.

That said, I would submit that you had no trouble mastering a powerful rally car in Horizons because it’s a shamelessly arcadey driving model and unlike a game like WRC9 or Dirt 4, it’s aimed at the lowest common denominator, skill-wise. Which isn’t necessarily a criticism so much as an observation. As with the career progression, this is not a game with much interest in pushing back, cultivating patience, or encouraging skill. In other words, it’s a driving game, not a racing game. So naturally, you’re going to have an easier time with the races. :)

Yeah, these events were the ones that I enjoyed most, and I imagine once you get used to what’s going on in the Battle Royale mode, they’re a pretty cool multiplayer way to do cross-country racing. Even if you’re doing it in some random car dropped out of the sky.

I do like this in a driving game. Project Cars 3 does it as well. You can play any track in a thunderstorm or under winter snow. But it’s a cool way to add rhythm to an open world, and I love that lakes freeze over in Horizon’s winter. Still, it’s another example of how it feels like nothing is curated in this game, and instead everything is always available. I never felt like I had to drive on snow if I didn’t want to, or that I had to wait until winter to drive on snow if I did want to. I was constantly shunted through loading screens as it changed the season based on whatever event or challenge I was doing. Seasons are a great idea, but they didn’t feel like seasons so much as track settings.


Edinburgh is the capital of North England, right?


Handful of nitpicky Animal Crossing corrections that won’t at all increase Tom’s willingness to play the best game of 2020:

Fruit availability isn’t based on hemisphere; it’s just randomly decided when your island is generated (along with native flowers and, like Telefrog talked about, the colorways of your island’s purchasable items like lighthouses). Hemisphere dictates season, mostly, so that players see the right weather types for their rough world-area. Since some sub-resources like mushrooms and cherry blossoms are based on season, this does let online traders acquire certain things off-season for their geographic area.

You can acquire new fruits not on your island by spending the (very easy to acquire) in-game currency of Nook Miles to fly to randomly generated “Mystery Islands” that you can use to get extra resources (e.g., your trees and rocks “run out” each day after being harvested too much) and to acquire flowers/fruits that aren’t native to your island. No need for paid multiplayer at all.

Online access also grants island backups/restores in the case of system loss. Oh, also cloud saves for most games on the Switch, except the ones that don’t support it. And good luck syncing them if you have multiple Switches; the online really is truly bad :)

Secondary players can do anything first players can do on an island, after the primary player (dubbed Island Representative) unlocks it, including terraforming; there’s no limitation on secondary players making changes. However, secondaries can’t progress the meta unlocks, basically (which run out fairly fast–you can power through everything in a week or two), but if a player starts as the primary and then never touches it again, I guess that could be an issue. . . or the second player could just login as the first.

It is obnoxious that there’s no way to change which user account is the island rep after it’s set, though the game is pretty upfront about warning about how permanent some of these things are, silly as it might be that they are permanent at all.

Finally, afaik, you can travel back to holidays that have been added via updates, and now that we’re a full year in, all major holiday events are in-game. They might continue to add even more new seasonal stuff going forward, but you’re not gonna be locked out of Christmas (excuse me, Toy Day) in 4 years just because the game’s development cycle has ended.

Exactly right. Every year they pay a traditional fealty and taxes to the South England capital in the form of an enactment of the handing over of the sack full of Meerschaums. This is the origin of the Scottish phrase “bag o pipes” now shortened over the centuries to “Bagpipes”

Also, I know you should be used to this by now, but this has happened several times and you seem to be surprised by it every time, but I think your press account gives you access to all the DLC for a game. So that’s why you got the VIP DLC for free, and every single car pack and the two major expansion packs. It’s a good point that redeeming a car is a long process, but I can see why they would want you to introduce you to a car that you bought using that slow method, building up the excitement of playing what you just purchased. I never bother buying any cars-based DLC in these games because jeez, it already has hundreds of cars, why would I want to pay money to have more cars?

Oh, and by the way, the reason to get excited for when the Price-is-Right prize meter lands on clothing is that there is an achievement for unlocking a high number of clothing items.

Also, I unlocked this really bright purple wizard outfit once, and purple top hat, and so when I’m wearing that, I realized that I could see that all the time! You see when you’re driving, you can always see your arms when you grip the steering wheel. So you turn left and your bright purple wizard robe can be seen, and when the sun is just right, your clothing is also reflected back at you from the windshield. So even though you’re driving down the field of flowers in a Lamborghini, sliding sideways, you can’t help but gawk at your gawdy wardrobe reflected back at you from the windshield. Good stuff.

The first time I fired up my regular old copy of Forza Horizon 4 (no expansion packs, no deluxe access, etc) the game still sprayed a bunch of cars at me.

Yay! That’s good news! I’d hate for anyone to miss out on Festivale just because they started playing too late.

Honestly, it’s my fault for not reading the descriptions more closely. I just boot up whatever is the “Ultimate Edition”, because I assume there might be some sort of exclusive content. So, yeah, I shouldn’t be surprised that these editions circumvent actual gameplay and, in many cases, basically break a game’s economy. Which is already “broken” in Forza Horizon, in that it doesn’t really have one.

That would work for me if I were into the game! It’s like how I started photographing every one of my cars once I realized there was a progression track for photography. I’m definitely into progression tracks, but only if I’m into the game in the first place.

Honestly, the pointless progression system in Forza Horizon is pretty much exactly the same as The Crew 2. If I didn’t hate the actual games, that stuff would have been a decent hook for me.

Yes, I noticed that! I had on a Santa suit and thought it was kind of funny that the red sleeves and white gloves were showing up on the steering wheel. But can I confess something? I hate seeing avatar hands in a driving game. I actually hate seeing the wheel, mostly. It’s really distracting the way they the wheel jerks around when I tap the stick on the gamepad. I was delighted when someone pointed out the option in Snowrunner to turn off the wheel and hands. And I was also happy to discover one of the cockpit views in Forza Horizon was intended to mimic seeing past my hands on the wheel, as if the monitor were positioned where the dashboard would be, behind my hands on the gamepad. That was a really nice take on the traditional cockpit view. I also liked the drift camera. Well, in theory. There’s a similar option in Project Cars 3, but it’s too disorienting for me.


Okay, take me to task on this, Armando. How would you respond if I were to suggest that Animal Crossing isn’t actually a game? I mean, yes, technically, it’s a videogame. But isn’t it a sandbox above all else?


Sandboxes can be games. I’m sure Tom would argue and say something like “If the developers can’t be bothered to give me an objective, then why should I do that for them?”, ignoring the fact that Animal Crossing has (admittedly pretty nominal) objectives. But we don’t debate the videogame-ness of Minecraft or The Sims, do we?

Shitty, pithy, yet also petty, answer: of course it’s a game, unless you have a tragically under-developed sense of FUN that compels you to artificially limit the horizons of your enjoyment ;-)

Longer answer: If I go by the fourth or fifth thing I Googled that seemed like a useful starting point, this random person identifies three important criteria to separate games from toys (which I suspect your “sandbox” term would fit under, albeit as an especially sophisticated toy):

  1. Inherent/Provided Goals of the Play Experience
  2. Inherent Rules/Restrictions for the form of Play
  3. An Ending (one might even say Winning?) Condition to Play

Now, to be upfront, A) there’s lots of ways to split this hair, and you might subscribe to a different subset of criteria. Be kind and engage me on these terms, though, and save me the trouble of searching through your prodigious Qt3 posting history to find the last time you argued with people about certain things were games or not to find them :). B) Animal Crossing is, by no means, a difficult game. It’s exactly the kind of experience that moves at a speed I, a very poor gamer, can enjoy.

For Criterion 1: Animal Crossing: New Horizon introduced a new achievement-esque system that delineates specific, inherent goals of play, while simultaneously guiding players toward useful/productive activities within the sandbox gamespace. Some are enormously simplistic: an achievement for total days logged in, for instance (capping at 300!). Some are fairly rote: an achievement for chopping increasingly large quantities of wood from trees (capping at 5000!). Some engage with challenge based game-systems: an achievement for crafting 1, 10, and 20 “perfect” snowmen whose snowballs must be rolled to very particular proportions you need to eyeball; another tracks fishing streaks which is randomized and reflex-based). Some act as capstones for diving deeply into hidden game systems, tantalizing you to figure out their specifics (an achievement for reaching “good friends” status with multiple Villagers). All of these reward an in-game currency, Nook Miles, used to buy items, recipes, and travel tickets to the randomized reward islands I mentioned in my last post.

There are also smaller, moment-to-moment goals. When you encounter Wisp the friendly spirit and scare him into pieces, you have to search your island and catch the floating spirit essence. When you find Gulliver the hapless sailor, you need to dig up pieces of his broken communicator to send him on his way. (both reward you with new, and in Gulliver’s case, unique in-game items). Sometimes, a villager will challenge you to a timed island “hidden item” hunt with a reward at the end.

There are also outright contests. There are NPCs who arrive seasonally who will host fishing and bug-catching tournaments. Fishing is mostly reflex-based as above, but there are minor strategies that the player can employ to increase success (e.g., harvest a TON of fish lure components the day before and clear a direct path from where the NPC stands to the nearest body of water you can face directly into and toss lures/your line at without needing to change angle after the catch/victory animation plays). Bug-catching is partly sight-based (spot the little fuckers), and partly dexterity-based (some bugs are easily spooked if you walk too close, too fast, requiring slow approaches and accurate net-angling). Both tournaments award money for sold catches, themed items for points you earn for turning in catches, and eventually, a series of unique trophies for achieving high scores across the seasonal events.

There are also collection goals beyond just enjoying having nice things. The museum logs all turned in bugs, fish, sea creatures, fossils, and rare art items, visually demonstrating your success in tracking down all of these rewards.

There are also some more sophisticated challenge-rewards system that I’ll cover later in Criterion 3.

For Criterion 2: Animal Crossing: New Horizons rules/restrictions are very generous, because it is designed for children to play, but they do exist. The fishing and bugging contests employ a simple time limit, as well as the randomized spawn-rates of the critters, and provide ways to achieve bonus points (catch a set number of targets, play with friends, etc.). The crafting systems require set numbers of materials, some of which are rarer than others, and many of which spawn on slow timers (1x/day for new wood/stone, 1x/3 days for fruit). Simple tool chains need to be constructed to harvest some materials at all, or to harvest efficiently, or to reach particular parts of the island (certain terrain obstacles are impassable without the right tool).

Those tracked items like fish/sea creatures/bugs spawn seasonally and with a time-system: butterflies frequent spring and summer mornings, some fish only show up during rainstorms, or in the winter, or in particular kinds of bodies of water. Of course, you can always cheat and modify your game clock, but otherwise, filling out the museum takes serious planning, attention, and in some cases, even real-world knowledge of critter habits!

There are some strategic considerations. The rocks you mine from operate on a timer: once you make your first shovel swing, you only have a few seconds to mine as much as possible, but each strike drives your character backwards. You can plant trees or dig holes at the right angles to hold yourself in place, maximizing your mining efforts, increasing your chances of acquiring rare materials like gold.

There is very minor risk, in the form of the wasps, tarantulas, and scorpions stinging you and resetting your position on the island/making you ugly with swollen-up facial features (which the villagers will point out and even make fun of). If you shoot down balloons at the wrong angle, they can drop into a body of water and are lost forever. You can, theoretically, wind up in a spot you can’t physically escape from (you can call in an airdrop pickup from a very angry NPC who will chide you for your silliness).

Holiday and seasonal events are typically timed and include elements of luck and randomness that must be overcome within a span of time. E.g., collecting particular recipe ingredients to help a chef prepare the perfect Thanksgiving meal, or gathering perfect feather color combinations to trade in for a bevy of Festivale-themed items. Crafting resources like mushrooms, cherry blossoms, and snowflakes only appear at certain times. Wishing on stars during each zodiac season earns you special crafting materials that can be used to create unique astrological items, in addition to more common mats that can be used to make space-themed gear.

For Criterion 3: The game presents a guided progression during the early game that comprises a simple “campaign” that develops, populates, and unlocks modifications to your island. The Island Representative works directly with Tom Nook to expand and develop the island they’ve discovered/moved to together. This takes the form of a progressive series of quests. They start simple: gather basic materials that are naturally on the ground (e.g., branches). Then, catch a handful of creatures to tempt the museum curator to establish a branch on the island. Then, gather more difficult-to-acquire materials to get a shop built. Build up a large stock of money to add island infrastructure like bridges and ramps. Craft home goods and buy land-plots to invite new citizenry. Finally, you are challenged to spruce up the appearance and appeal of your island enough that the famed musician, K.K. Slider, will be tempted to visit and play a special concert. Victory enables you to unlock the full terrain sculpting terraforming tools for maximum control.

However, once this is accomplished, there is a post-game that goes beyond mere sandbox aesthetics (though, for many people, things like interior decoration, clothing design, and island theming are major motivators for play). There are several hidden or slyly suggested game systems that require substantial work and time to maximize. For instance, the flowers in-game operate on a fairly sophisticated genetic breeding system, influenced by positioning and watering techniques. Earning the rarest flower colorations can take weeks of very meticulous field maintenance (just ask poor @Knightsaber). Villagers will gift you their personal portraits after you rank your relationship up with them sufficiently by interacting in beneficial ways continuously over time, rewarding [very simple] roleplay. Some craftables, like the Giant Robot, require exceedingly difficult to acquire resources. . . or for you to behave “mean,” reinforcing that RP element (you get one rusty part each time you help Gulliver escape your island, but you can get up to five if you keep his lost parts and refuse to help). Money is a continuously limiting resource, unless you opt to engage with the Stalk Market turnip trade system that operates under very specific, arcane rules that can, with time, be learned and mastered. Finally, there is a hidden island rating metric that, if maximized, earns you a one-of-a-kind flower bloom to showcase your island’s beautification.

For these reasons and more, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a game-in-truth, in addition to a fascinating friendship simulator/interior decoration sandbox/island creation tool/multiplayer bonanza.

TLDR. :)

I will assume you like the game, a lot.

I mean, for what it’s worth, the game described might not be one that you, or Tom, would like. But what is described is, nonetheless, a game, which was the real point of contention :)