I love the daily routines that come with playing life-sims. Indulging in the repetitive cycles of scavenging, crafting items, harvesting crops, and completing NPC quests is a great comfort—as well as being a big ol' heap of dopamine straight to the brain. Life-sims understand the appeal of completing repetitive small tasks and the immense satisfaction players find in that.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Stardew Valley, and Glumberland's newly released Ooblets (opens in new tab) have perfected this art. Their whole systems are built on an achievement system that congratulates you every step of the way, helping you settle into the more gentle rhythms of their worlds. Although there are joys with the neverending cycle of these small tasks, constantly being on a daily routine of crafting, farming, and scavenging, can start to feel like a tiresome grind.
The balance of labour vs. gratification is a delicate one and something that Animal Crossing and Stardew approach differently, each with their own positives and negatives. Between Animal Crossing's laid back, real-time clock and Stardew Valley's demanding production cycle, I feel like Ooblets hits the sweet spot between these two. It lets you complete tasks at your own pace, whether that be building a cosy easy-going garden or an epic ooblet empire.
Island living in Animal Crossing is a calm easy-breezy lifestyle. There's no sense of urgency in this tropical paradise and everything moves at a slower pace. AC's laid-back vibe is great but it takes several real-time days for anything to happen. This slower rhythm means you can't do everything in one day, which, as chill as that is, has proven to be a bit of an issue for productive players (opens in new tab).
After collecting all the shells, gathering every piece of fruit, hitting all the rocks, and chatting to every resident more than once, I found myself with little to do, tempted to skip to the next day when the cycle would reset. It's a much more relaxed approach to life-sims' daily cycles, but one that I found often bothersome. After two hours I would be done for the day, left to wander the quiet beaches of my island catching fish to fill time.
Ooblets' approach to scavenging is similar to Animal Crossing's. There are only a certain amount of resources to collect each day but avoids the inevitable crafting cap by introducing the wishy well system. Complete tasks for Bagetown's mayor and they'll give you wishes for the wishy well. It's essentially a sort of scavenging cheat sheet that lets you buy a small selection of sought after items for a price.
If, frustratingly, you're only one clothlet away from building an oobcoop, instead of buying seeds and waiting three days, you can get one from the wishy well and get your precious oobcoop instantly. Why wait a day for an ooblet to sprout when you can get a speedy grow item from the wishy well and have your cute critter right now? It's a great feature that avoids frustrating the player when they are so close to finishing a task. With the price of these items being just right for a one-off purchase, it's an accessible system that smooths out any interruptions in your day.
Stardew Valley's daily routine is a satisfying but exhausting one. Farming is hard work where planning and preparation pay off. Finding a daily routine is one way of not feeling overwhelmed from being plonked in a huge empty plot of land. It's a daunting feeling when you first see the size of farmland you have, a silent expectation that the game puts on the player. As much as I love the immense satisfaction of growing a bumper crop of vegetables, it's almost impossible to take even one day off from farming. A break from my carefully thought out routine would be detrimental to my harvest, at least until winter's harsh grip destroys everything.
Compared to Stardew Valley's giant lot, Ooblets' garden space is small and cosy, immediately lowering the expectations the game has of the player. If you're starting to get into the mass production side of Ooblet's farming you can upgrade the space to be bigger, or you can stay within the snug space of what you already have. It's a small but clever way of making sure the player isn't overwhelmed when they first play.
Ooblets also approaches farming differently then Stardew Valley, and plants can blossom throughout the day instead of each morning. Usually, I would tend to my crops as soon as I woke up so then I could go on with my day, but Ooblets forces me to break from my self-imposed routine for a more relaxed easy-going attitude.
Ooblets is still in Epic Early Access, but I think its approach to the daily tasks of small-town life hits the right spot. There's always something to do in Ooblets, and doing most tasks is an effortless process. There's no strict routine, but daily life in Badgetown is always full of stuff to do. No matter what you accomplished during your day, regardless of how many crops you harvested or dance battles you competed in, nothing is lost. Whatever you do, you'll always end each day by hitting the giant "I DID GOOD" button.