Urbanization: Villager Zoning and Path Layouts

Chapter 13
Villager zones and path placement – saves hybrid gardens.

In Chapter 9, the four mayoral features I wish to see in the next game are more PWPs and Mini-projects, Ordinances and custom hours, Urbanization tools, and a holiday manager. Two of these features were in ACNL. The other two were the new features, and this chapter about one of them.

The one problem everybody complained about in ACNL the most is the fact that animals are free to move wherever they want, even if it means destroying the town. And this is not rare. In the next game, you should control where animals live. Granted, the same liability in ACNL will be retained in the next game only if you don’t utilize the villager zoning feature. If my ideas take effect, you won’t be seeing Club Tortimer, the group mechanic, or the corrupted luck system anymore, but you’ll still see this problem. If you utilize the zoning feature, the one problem people complained about most will no longer be a problem.

The other urbanization tool is about laying official paths. I’ve seen a couple of dream towns with very nice paths, but those can be wiped away. And they aren’t as effective when they cover front spaces of houses. Maybe there should be a feature where you can make official paths. With the PWPs combined with the zones and paths, you have an ultimate city within a dense rainforest or a boreal grassland.

Villager Zoning

At least eight villagers would already be living in your town by the time you get your permit. All villagers that moved in prior to your first villager zoning session are free to move wherever they want. I know it will hurt, but not for long. What happens here is that if you place a villager zone in one place, animals are more likely to claim it. And if you have more zones than the maximum amount of villagers you have, or even an equal amount, then any land with no zone will not be claimed by an animal. That would be known as the no man’s land, or the no animals’ land.

How to place villager zones:

When you go to Town Hall and work on mayoral features, you can talk to Isabelle about urbanization. Two out of three options are about the tools of urbanization. One of them is setting up villager zones. I would love to see a fourth wall break where Isabelle makes a reference to the controversy created in ACNL on this, but that doesn’t matter. When you choose to set up villager zones, your only options are to remove a zone or place a new zone. You can have up to 24 zones in total. If you have 15 or less, then some extraneous animals would move anywhere they want, so I recommend at least 16.

Setting up zones is like choosing where you live or where you place your PWPs. You can talk to Isabelle on where you want to place the zones. There has to be enough space for it, and the houses are always 3×3 in size. Once you set up a zone and confirm it to Isabelle, a sign post that shares an amazing fact about the game will appear. You can only set up three zones a day.

You can also remove zones in case if you want to place them somewhere else. If an animal is already occupying it, you cannot remove the zone. If a fence appears around the sign, it means an animal is moving in, and you cannot remove the zone.

To remove a zone, you will have to walk in town with Isabelle and read the sign of the zone you want removed. When you confirm yes, Isabelle will work on removing the zone. You can only remove three zones a day, and removing a zone or adding a zone counts towards both counters.

An interesting fact about villager zones is that they function like buildings when it comes to landscaping. You can’t place PWPs, Mini-projects, or other houses in or near the zone. You also can’t grow flowers, bushes, or trees inside the zone. You can’t place trees even near the zones. As for laying actual paths or floor patterns, they can’t be placed in the zones. Those are reserved for villagers only. Villagers also can’t move anywhere besides the zones.

Sign post messages:

Until a fence appears around a sign, the sign will display am interesting fact about the game. Some are advertisements, some are gameplay tricks, and others are even developer messages towards players over off-game events such as duping, time traveling, and the sea bass complaints.

There are 32 of them in total. Keep in mind that not all of them may be seen in your town since you can have only 24 zones total.

Where villagers are most likely to move:

Like I said before, villagers can move anywhere. However, there are certain spots that they are more likely or less likely to move. The zones are the biggest magnets. If there are any empty villager zones in your town, they are very likely going to move in them. If there aren’t, here are the possible locations:

  • Paths – official paths made through urbanization tools are the most likely to draw animals over if there isn’t a zone set up. They won’t plot their houses over the paths, but they will plot their houses along the paths, making them look like they’re connected to the path networks. Therefore, they remain connected to the rest of town. They are still free to move wherever they want, but they won’t move away from the paths.
  • Major landmarks – if no paths or villager zones are set up, they can move anywhere like crazy. But some spots are more prone to villagers moving in than other spots. Attractions such as the Re-Tail and the Café would get more villager love as they will plot their houses near them on any side, even in front or behind.
  • Free zones – there are some spots that villagers cannot claim. Any spaces with a pre-made attraction, house, Major PWP, Minor PWP, Mini-project, or rock cannot be claimed by any villager. They won’t even be too close to them. They could be two spots away from the left or right or three spots away from the front or back, but that’s pretty much the closest they can move to most of these places. In regards to Mini-projects and rocks, which are smaller, the closest approach they can make is one space horizontally or two spaces vertically. Paths made by laying out patterns, trees, shrubs, flowers, and items laid outside are weaker than villager homes, which means they can be claimed by villagers, and they cannot block anything from being placed there.
  • Human houses – they can move near human houses if they want. However, if no zone is set nearby, those spots are the least likely to be claimed. The closest they would plot their houses is seven spaces away from all boundaries.


No, I’m not referring to laying out path patterns we were able to do since Wild World. I’m focusing on the other urbanization tool. Just like working on villager zones, you have to talk to Isabelle about urbanization and choose the second option (paths). After that, you’ll be forced outside of Town Hall, along with Isabelle.

You have ten different paths in total. To change a path space or add a path, you must go to the paths menu (not the patterns menu, there’s another menu). Choose a path design you like, and the space below becomes a new path. But for every path change you make, 100 Bells is charged. You don’t start paying the Bells until you confirm the change after your session, but the Bell counter increases for every path change or addition. If the counter exceeds the amount you have, it will read as red. You cannot confirm changes once it’s red. To remove paths, press Y. The Main Street paths cannot be removed, but the cobblestone tiles in front of the Train Station and Re-Tail can be removed. And you can change the Plaza paths, but not remove them.

Types of paths:

Like said before, there are 10 types of paths. You’ll start out with four, but then you’ll unlock more based on how much completion you have put in.

  • Gray Stone – resembling stone paths from ancient civilizations (the stones are squared), this is the default path for the Jungle biome.
  • Cobblestone – similar to the cobblestone terrain in previous Animal Crossing games (the stones are round), this is the default path for the Forest biome.
  • Orange Stone – similar to the gray stone paths, but only in terra-cotta colors. This is the default path for the Desert biome.
  • Dirt – as the coloration is 10% darker than the dirt in Animal Crossing, this is the default path for the Tundra biome and Main Street in all biomes.
  • Sand – even if it’s a bit lighter (and looks smoother) than the sand at the Desert biome and beaches, this is not recommended for towns with the Desert biome. It’s perfect for towns that embrace nature.
  • Concrete – a concrete path that is smoother than the cobblestone path. It’s perfect for towns with a lot of PWPs with less nature.
  • Brick – a red brick path to place in town. It’s good for both natural towns and urban-like towns.
  • Boardwalk – a wooden path resembling a boardwalk. It’s perfect for buildings near the beaches or sea cliffs, as well as for Japanese themed towns.
  • Steel – a metal path that looks like a spaceship floor. It’s perfect for Sci-fi themed towns.
  • Glow – a metal path with disco lights on the sides and in the center. It lights up at night in beautiful colors. It’s perfect to place near PWPs with heavy lighting like the Illuminated projects, as well as Sci-fi themed towns.

The four paths available at start are the cobblestone paths, dirt paths, and both ancient stone paths (gray and orange). To unlock the other six, you’ll have to complete different achievements.

  • Sand – obtain perfect town status, which also unlocks the Mayor’s Statue and Town Hall Renovation PWPs.
  • Concrete – max out your town’s PWPs with 30 Minor PWPs (including bridges) and 30 Mini-projects.
  • Brick – max out your mayor’s house renovations.
  • Boardwalk – complete the aquarium exhibition in the Museum. Don’t worry about the other exhibitions. Just collect all fish and seafood.
  • Steel – reach an HHA score of 200,000 points or higher with the mayor.
  • Glow – earn at least half of all of the badges with your mayor.

Benefits of paths:

Paths have major advantages to your town. First of all, it tells animals where to walk on. While the ones with tools in their hands may walk off paths freely, no animal would want to walk anywhere with no path. This is true, even for special visitors like Katie and Saharah. Plus, it reduces confusion so they are less likely to get lost.

Another advantage of using paths is that is can restrict animals to moving near them. If you have no zones set up, the animals may move like crazy, but they won’t be moving away from paths. They can’t even plot their houses in the middle of official paths. But they can plot their houses aside to them, which connects them to the network of paths. The path patterns you’re used to in Wild World can be laid by anyone, but are rather ineffective.

Speaking of that, the third advantage is that it helps connect all buildings to each other. As long as all paths are connected to each other with every building connected, animals will feel less isolated and may visit your PWPs more.

Finally, fossil hunting, gyroid hunting, and bug hunting would be a lot easier. As it isolates grassy, dirty, or sandy zones, you will know where to go in order to catch your scorpions or discover fossils that may appear as T-rex fossils. It gives a good backtrack and the random number generator has constraints. Of course, plants can’t grow on paths, nor could you dig through them. But you can lay items on top of them, unlike paths where you used path patterns.

Drawbacks of paths:

While laying paths makes your town look better, there are some disadvantages to them. First of all, laying paths as a mayoral feature is very expensive. 100 tiles doesn’t seem a lot, but each tile costs 100 Bells. To lay over 2,000 tiles, the total cost would be 200,000 Bells, which is more than how much you need to pay your first two house debts and down payment combined.

Another problem is that they never show up on the map. Unless if you’re at Main Street, you won’t see paths appear on the map. This is true, even if you have laid a lot of paths.

You may also worry about nature space. Each space claimed by a path means one less space for natural zones. If you don’t have enough space to grow the minimum amount of trees to obtain perfect town status, that means you have laid too many paths. Not only that, but it never snows on paths, so snowballs will get smaller when you roll them there.

The final problem is the limited palette it has. There are only ten types, but with custom path patterns, you can have any type of path. Isabelle won’t allow laying custom path patterns as official paths, but you can stack path patterns on top of the paths.

Traditional Mode

You cannot move animal zones or modify paths in Traditional Mode like you can in Sandbox Mode. However, as it’s required to lay paths and animal zones to unlock Traditional Mode, you can see the paths and zones. Before New Leaf, animals could only move to where a sign post is placed. With sign posts making a comeback, animals will not be free to move wherever they want. They can only move to where sign posts are.

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