Last week, I was given an opportunity to see a preview of Natsume’s latest entry in their long-running flagship franchise: Harvest Moon: One World. In this entry, Natsume seeks to revolutionize the farming genre by allowing you to move your farm to different parts of the world, explore five different environments and towns/villages, and replacing the general store with finding seeds out in the wild. Just based on my watching the preview, it is clear that Harvest Moon: One World wants players to spend their time exploring the world and experimenting with planting instead of following a rigorous daily farming cycle.
I spoke with Graham Markay (Vice President of Operations), Taka Maekawa (Producer), and Adam Fitch (Localization Editor). In Part One of this two-part interview, we talk about the various areas to explore in Harvest Moon: One World, how Natsume is changing up the genre by having players find seeds out in the wild instead of buying them, how mutations work, and more.
Harvest Moon: One World is set for release on March 2, 2021.
This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Operation Rainfall: My name is Quentin H. with Operation Rainfall, and could you please introduce yourselves?
Graham Markay: Graham with Natsume. Adam [Fitch] with Natsume, and Taka [Maekawa] with Natsume. Taka is the Producer of Harvest Moon: One World.
Adam Fitch: I’m the localization guy, so I was the guy who put the funny Russian accents in the game, and stuff like that.
GM: He’s basically the game guru.
OR: What is Harvest Moon: One World about?
GM: Fundamentally, its about the main character trying to improve life for everybody, and that sort of mission involves finding and reviving the Harvest Goddess. Very much like [how] you’ll see at the beginning of the game, its nothing but potatoes. So there’s no variety- there’s ancient history about a variety of different crops and flowers that used to grow- but times are different now. So you set off on this adventure-
GM: Yeah, journey to try to find out what happened to the Harvest Goddess. And in doing so, you find more seeds. And it also comes from this book that you have that pushes you. And as we explained during the presentation, as you start to explore, you find harvest wisps that unlock different types of seeds as well as find news areas with culture and people.
It pushes the user out into the world, and ultimately, to hopefully find the Harvest Goddess. But that’s only half of what Harvest Moon is. The other half is always that ‘openness’ and freedom to live your life the way you want to live your life. If you’re not big into planting crops and watering them every day, but you love animals, you can have a barn full of exotic animals. Different sorts of chickens, a camel, and different things of that nature to where you can focus your attention towards the animals then possibly crops. Or if you want to mine or fish or cook to make money, you can do that [instead] of selling your crops.
So it’s up to the user what they want to do, but there’s that fundamental story that kind of pushes you through the game at your own pace.
“So it kind of goes back to the concept of the game when I first started planning One World. As Graham said, we wanted to [evolve] the game.”
OR: During the press presentation, you showed us a bunch of different areas that players can explore. Can you tell us a little more about them?
GM: Well, we don’t want to ruin the surprise for everyone. But fundamentally, there’s a lot of different towns and each town is unique in its own way. Whether you’re talking about the simple thing of weather being different- they each have their own look and feel and culture. Not all of the buildings are the exact same. They all have their own uniqueness to them- like you would if you traveled out of the United States and into Europe, or something of that nature. So we really wanted to give each town and area its own personality.
OR: Let’s talk about the uniqueness and personality: will there be any new fishing competitions or festivals throughout the year? How will they work in the different areas?
GM: There are a ton of festivals. I’ll let Adam take this one, because he has a lot more experience with the actual specific festivals than I do.
AF: After you solve the issue each town has, you can unlock the different festivals. Yeah, there is a fishing festival- that one is in Halo Halo, the beach town: the one with a Hawaiian vibe. But there’s all sorts of festivals in different areas. There’s the equestrian festival in Calisson, the kind of country-side town. There is the cooking festival in Lebkuchen, the German-style town. There is the aurora festival in Salmiakki, the snowy area. You go out on a date with the person you’re trying to woo, and watch the aurora borealis together. There’s all sorts of festivals.
And the cool thing is that you unlock them, and they are not just automatically unlocked. You talk to the different characters in the town [to] unlock them.
GM: Some of them are reoccurring festivals that you’ve seen in other Harvest Moon games too. They have new bells and whistles, but like Adam was saying, there are brand new festivals that haven’t been in any Harvest Moon game in the past. And once again, we really wanted to utilize that unique look and feel of each particular area, and find festivals that made sense for that particular town or village.
OR: One of the biggest changes for Harvest Moon: One World is the introduction of harvest wisps. Why did you decide to go with these instead of allowing people to pick and choose what to buy from a general store?
AF: I’ll just start out with, for me- say if you go to the general store and buy ten strawberries seeds, I’m going to want to buy those strawberry seeds and I am going to want to use them. I’m not going to put too much risk into what I’m planting. With the harvest wisp system, it really allows you to experiment more with them because you just find them.
I’ll be in situations where I’m like ‘I wouldn’t normally plant this kind of seed in this kind of time, but I have the seed and might as well see what happens if I plant it.’ And that unlocks a lot of mutations. And that’s the other cool thing- I think that’s one of the main reasons we did it, was to focus on the exploration aspect of farming.
Taka Maekawa: So it kind of goes back to the concept of the game when I first started planning One World. As Graham said, we wanted to [evolve] the game. And when doing that, I thought ‘all the past Harvest Moon games have been where the player has to be in one place. He has his own house, she has her own house, and that will be the base. And that’ll be the center of the universe, and you’ll go to town from the house, but you will always return to the house.’ I was thinking ‘what if there is a way to explore around the world, and when doing that, if there is a way to move your farm around.’ Which changed to the idea of the expando-farm where you can pack up your farm and move to a different area. Once that concept was set, I started thinking about ‘Well, how about the seeds? If you can buy the seeds from the store, the play path will be from your home, take care of your crops, go to shop, sell, earn some money, buy some seeds, and go back to home.’
I thought that there’s this pattern. Since this game is more focused on the exploration, I wanted to [give] a player a reason to move around and I came to the idea of the harvest wisps. Like scattering them all around the world, I thought would give the player a reason to walk around, look for them, and explore around [instead] of making your everyday just like a chore.
And that’s how this harvest wisp system came [into being].
GM: Kind of like I mentioned in the beginning, they appear at different types scattered through the land and they have different rarities to them. During the presentation, Adam was just getting the common stuff: grass, turnips. But there’s rare and ultra-rare wisps out there that you can get that are seeds allowing you to do different things- once again, pushing that user for exploration and not being anchored down by that particular one thing.
So now, you can pack up and go and be that wanderer if you will.
“You want the player to represent the way you see yourself or how you want to be. And that’s the whole reason for the customization.”
OR: You mentioned mutations are making a return. Could you tell us a little bit about how they are implemented in Harvest Moon: One World and how they differ from the predecessor titles?
GM: When they first appeared, which was in Harvest Moon: Lost Valley, mutations were a little complicated: elevation, crop soil, percentage based upon water, fertilization. So we made it a little easier in this installment of Harvest Moon. There’s still crop mutations, which is great and allows people to try to fill up their encyclopedia. For example, a type of ice tomato is particularly used in a recipe or you’ll need that mutation for a gift for somebody. But this time, you can get a plain turnip seed and take it to a particular different area with a different environment/soil types, and plant it there and get a chance of a getting a different type of crop. [It’s] very much like taking a tomato seed and getting a tomato in a standard area, or taking it to the winter town and getting an ice tomato. So once again, it’s there. It has the fun of unlocking those mutations, but it doesn’t have the complexity of what you’ve seen in the past. From our experience, and from what we’ve found from our fan base, some liked it. But for the majority, it might have just been a little too complicated.
AF: I think ‘overwhelming’ is a good word to use. We didn’t want to overwhelm people, but we wanted to make it more user-friendly.
OR: How do harvest wisps differ from harvest sprites, and what role do harvest sprites play in Harvest Moon: One World?
AF: So the harvest sprites drive the story in the game. So there’s five different harvest sprites. There’s the harvest sprite of life, Vitae. And she’s the guide in the game. You’ll unlock her at the very beginning of the game, and she’s the one that tells you the whole story of what happened to the Harvest Goddess and explains exactly what the harvest wisps are.
And as you reach each town, each town has a different harvest sprite to revive. So for example, in Callisson, the beginning of the game, there’s Soli- the harvest sprite of earth that you have to unlock. And so, each area has its own harvest sprite to unlock. In past games, we’ve had harvest sprites working the farm. But in this game, they’re more of a story element whereas the harvest wisps are the entities that you’ll be interacting with that will help you with gameplay.
TM: You said it really nice.
You can customize your characters with a variety of hair, eye, and other features. (Images courtesy of Natsume).
OR: You can also customize your character for the first time in Harvest Moon: One World. It’s a first for the series. Can you tell us a little more about that?
AF: I can’t remember which [game] had the first customization- but in this one, we definitely wanted to do it. Honestly, we did something we’ve wanted to include for a long time. And in future Harvest Moon releases, we’re going to focus more and more on customizing your character and basically having a character that looks like you. That’s an important thing for us. So we’re going to lean more heavily in that as well.
GM: Harvest Moon is a very individualistic type of game. You put yourself in that character-
AF: -But it’s also very inclusive, I think.
GM: And it’s good to also be comfortable. You want the player to represent the way you see yourself or how you want to be. And that’s the whole reason for the customization.
What do you think of the new changes to the classic Harvest Moon formula?
What festivals would you like to see make a return in Harvest Moon: One World?
Let us know in the comments below, and please check back on Friday for Part Two of our interview!