John Harris wrote the roguelike column "@Play" for the defunct gaming blog GameSetWatch, and writes that and many more things for the active gaming blog Set Side B. They also interview indie developers for Game Developer, and wrote Exploring Roguelike Games, from CRC Press, as well as numerous ebooks. A print edition of their book book We Love Mystery Dungeon is coming out in 2024. They use they/them pronouns, but he/his is okay too.

The Black Book of Animal Crossing New Horizons by John Harris

Animal Crossing New Horizons has turned into a gigantic social-distancing-powered hit! But the game is fueled by many hidden systems, and although dataminers and Nintendo's own official guide have explained a lot, it's scattered around the internet, often bogged down by random details, and, in cases, is actually wrong, or at least tainted by misinformation. Author John Harris has distilled much of it into just what you need, or at least really want to know, and if you want more links to the sources from which it came, and in some cases has even tested it for verity. Whether you want tons of bells, a five-star evaluation, or just a nice-looking island, we've got you covered.


I'm as hooked on John's book about Animal Crossing as I am on New Horizons itself. There's a lot of half-baked or outright false information about Nintendo's latest hit game on the Internet, so I asked John to put on his investigator's hat (available for a limited time at the Able Sisters' clothing shop) and get to the bottom of the game's many mysteries. It's as enjoyable as it is informative, and a personal favorite of mine in this collection. – David L. Craddock




For example, there is the criteria for achieving a five-star ranking on Isabelle's Island Evaluation. Do a Google search and you'll find a lot of places offering the same info. It's all the same because there is only one good primary source for this information, a sometimes vaguely-worded listing of factors printed in the Official Companion Guide. Dataminers have not extensively looked through this part of the game, maybe because it requires more code disassembly than lower-hanging fruit. So, the information in the book is repeated, again and again, and becomes taken as articles of faith, despite the fact that, in at least one important respect, it is definitely wrong.

How do I know? Because I figured it out myself. The dogma being spread around states that the primary factors of your evaluation are divided into "scenery" and "development," each category earning you a score, and you have to get over a certain number of points in each to qualify for five stars. In those guides, it states that homemade "DIY" furniture is part of the "scenery" category, along with flowers and trees on your island, and implies by its exclusion from being mentioned in the development category that it doesn't play a role there. I know for a fact that it does play a role: I got my island to the absolute border of five stars in development (which is, confusingly, called scenery by Isabelle in the game, but also appears to apply to non-DIY furniture), then picked up a DIY item, talked to Isabelle again, and found my island had fallen to four stars. I then put it back, talked to her again, and found it to be at five stars again. Then I performed the same experiment with a store-bought piece of furniture, and the same thing happened. Clearly, whatever the helpful dog woman bureaucrat calls them, they are counting on the same score. I performed this experiment many times, and am pretty sure of my findings. Something is clearly wrong there.