Animal Crossing: New Horizons characters and features

Animal Crossing: How Real-World Mapping Influences Nintendo’s Fictional Universe

Big news in the gaming world today- the highly anticipated game, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is being released! Though it may not be obvious, the geospatial field interfaces with the gaming world in many ways, even if the game is based in a fictional universe like it is in Animal Crossing.

One of the reasons this game has been so highly anticipated is due to the brand-new landscape and map options. In this version of the game, players are given their own island to explore and develop. Players will be presented with four different map options they can choose from, with each one having slightly different geographic features (different elevations, longer or shorter rivers, etc). Previously released images of the new maps (courtesy of Nintendo) show them to be quite simple, displaying only the necessary features- bodies of water, bridges, and a home base, among other things. Though the world of Animal Crossing is pixelated and filled with animal townspeople, the basic principles of mapping and cartography are still followed to a tee. Certain mapping conventions (i.e. water is blue, forest areas are green) have become so ingrained in what the collective expectation of a map is that there is often an adverse reaction from people if one of those conventions is not followed, even if the world is based on fiction.

For Animal Crossing specifically, the maps are predicted to start very simple and will likely get more complex as the player progresses and unlocks new features. This mirrors what happened with the earliest real-world cartographers- they made maps increasingly more detailed as they discovered more about their surroundings. Moreover, these maps became more complex as people found innovative and improved ways to capture, store, & use data. Nintendo went above and beyond to assure their gameplay mirrored the experience of being a real-life explorer. There have been rumors that there are many geologic features, such as cliffs and mountains, which will be discovered the more you explore the world, just as early trailblazers experienced. In fact, new discovery is still occurring today in places that are only just beginning to be explored, like the deep ocean and space.

There is a subset of video game design that is responsible for designing game maps, known as level design or environment design. While this entails much more than just designing fictional maps, displaying features on a map is crucial for positive gameplay experiences. These maps are often the first thing a player sees when beginning a new game and can guide players during in-game decision making. This is also true in the real world, maps can show a myriad of different features and can provide people with useful data that can aid in key decision making. A great example of this is how geospatial data is leveraged within insurance.

Whether the cartography is based on the real world or a fictional universe, almost all the same principles and conventions still apply. Our real-world expectations for what needs to be conveyed on a map have bled over into the world of simulation and gaming. As the games and features get more and more complex, so do the maps within the game experience, and, as a result, the gameplay experience itself becomes more immersive and enjoyable. It’s quite incredible to take a step back and realize how crucial maps are in our everyday lives. Whether you’re driving to a vacation destination using Google Maps or navigating the world of Animal Crossing: New Horizons utilizing their immersive map experience, there is always value to having a map on hand!

Scrabble tiles spelling out "The Geospatial Blog"

Welcome to The Geospatial Blog!

In its 25-year history, East View Geospatial (EVG) has provided solutions for over 10,000 companies across more than 30 industries in over 150 countries around the globe. Today, the work produced and procured by EVG’s expert staff appears on everything from map library shelves to major aircraft simulators and command and control center monitors. From printed topographic maps to full 3-D renderings of cities, the array of products and services East View Geospatial provides is truly expansive.

EVG’s roots go back several decades.  Beginning with a company co-founded by Kent Lee and Vladimir Frangulov to export systematically declassified Soviet military journals and books (East View Publications—, a map department was created in the early 1990s to focus on a new and quite interesting phenomenon—the sudden commercial availability of a worldwide trove of detailed Soviet military topographic maps.

By the mid-1990s, East View’s map department was growing more successful. Its products and services rapidly began to appeal to users outside its traditional client base of academic and government institutions.  Thus was born East View Cartographic in 1995, the first East View company solely focused on scientific and precision maps and geospatial data.  (EVG adopted its present name in 2012.)

The corporate world, in particular, was very interested in large scale topographic maps, and as the GIS revolution took hold, all paper-based maps began to be much more useful as they yielded critical information about terrain, transportation networks, boundaries, geographic names, and much more.  Soviet military maps were an especially rich vein of data (indeed they still are) for countries and regions of the world not well mapped by other, more easily available map products.

Early corporate adopters of digital mapping data relied on EVG for precision terrain models in exotic locations to build many of Africa’s and Asia’s first cellular telephone networks, saving untold millions of dollars in the efficient network design afforded by such data from East View. The same data was incorporated widely into the civil aviation industry’s terrain avoidance systems, providing a life-saving benefit for anyone flying over such routes.  Energy companies of all kinds relied upon (and still rely on) EVG’s data products and solutions for oil and gas exploration and delivery, for efficient siting of wind power turbines, for mining operations, and even for solar applications.

“In relatively short order, East View became a leading distributor to professional geospatial consumers in numerous verticals—academic, governmental and corporate—in nearly all countries of the world” says Mr. Lee. The success of digital geospatial data sourced from maps soon gave East View the opportunity to expand its repertoire into all forms of remote-sensing data, including high-resolution satellite and aerial imagery.  Mr. Lee says this development path helped underline a broad geospatial competency that no other company, even today, offers: namely, the unique, one-stop shopping proposition that EVG offers its clients in sourcing both remote-sensing data (increasingly a commodity) and locally-produced authoritative data (which is still frustratingly difficult to acquire in so many situations).

Thanks to an unparalleled network of data and content providers spanning the globe, academics, world explorers, nation defenders, risk assessors, software integrators, even reality TV show contestants make use of EVG’s products. The defense industry relies on geospatial data for training, simulations, and mission planning. Telecommunications companies require detailed geospatial information of many kinds to inform their construction of new networks. The entertainment industry needs maps and data for quality sets and for special effects.  In colleges and universities around the globe, East View Geospatial’s databases and maps provide the knowledge on which future scholars build.

The strategy is simple – make discoverable and provide access to the world’s most authoritative geospatial and cartographic content. Partnerships with hundreds of mapping authorities and publishers, from national mapping agencies to nautical and geological agencies, guarantee that EVG can provide authoritative content direct from the source.

From satellite imagery to digital elevation models or population datasets, East View Geospatial’s procurement team can track down anything for its customers. Field offices on six continents and a commitment to being the authority on cartographic data compels EVG’s teams across the globe for new information.

In 2020, East View Geospatial wants to share more of its knowledge with the world. Follow the EVG blog to stay up to date on industry news, innovations, exciting projects, contests, giveaways, and more. We want your feedback and will check in periodically to ask about which topics most interest our colleagues in the geospatial community.

We’ll also be posting new and interesting geospatial tidbits on our social media channels. We are on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter at @EVGeospatial and on Instagram at @eastviewgeospatial.