Recently I got the chance to ask a few questions to the creative team behind The Sims 3. I want to thank them for taking the time to answer my questions and I also want to thank Angie at EA for arranging the interview.
What is the background and setting for the game?
Sunset Valley is an open town and the lives of the resident Sims are full of surprises to discover. Like any town there are those who are meeting the challenges of getting ahead in their careers, trying to meet the love of their life, or raise a family. As you get to know the Sims in town, Sims Players may be surprised to meet some familiar names. In many ways Sunset Valley is a prequel so Players have the chance to change the lives of some very iconic Sims. A Player can jump right in and control one residents or create a Sim or family of their very own and become part of the town’s story.
Players can also download Riverview which is a town in a rural setting. There are completely different stories and Sims in Riverview. There are new places to visit and new items to experience that can’t be found in Sunset Valley. Riverview can be downloaded for free from The Sims3.com after registering your game.
How is Sim Creation handled this time out?
We wanted to deliver a level of customization like never before in Create a Sim and we also wanted to make it intuitive and easy. Do you want to create a Sim who is inherently muscular but put on some weight or someone who is lanky and rail thin? Is your Sim a rocker with purple tipped hair and red highlights? It is easy to spend hours sculpting the facial features of your Sim using sliders and customize the clothing down to the colour of the shoelaces. Beyond the way they look the Sims are smarter and have more depth with the new Personality Traits. Players can choose up to 5. Traits range from Good, or Evil, or Loves Children, or Hates the Outdoors, or Vegetarian, to Insane. These traits influence everything from your Sim’s Lifetime Wish (the long term gameplay) to how they interact with other Sims and their world. For the first time you start playing the game as you create your Sims as the Personality Trait choices you make impact your gameplay.
How was the decision to allow greater exploration arrived at, and what new options does
this bring to the series?
Given the open seamless town we wanted to prompt the Player to take their Sims out of their homes and to explore Sunset Valley. New to The Sims 3 is a collection game where you can find rare seeds, gems, and other valuables hidden in more remote areas. Beyond the collecting game, gardening and fishing also rewards Sims that venture off the beaten path. The exploration doesn’t stop at finding things. There are benefits for exploring the social life of the town. For example meeting new Sims that are Natural Cooks can lead to swapping of new recipes or in the Law Enforcement career your Sim has the opportunity to scavenge through your neighbors’’ trash and write up reports about them to advance faster.
How is aging and career and social progression handled in the game?
Everyone in The Sims 3 now ages which means that the neighbors grow old and will eventually pass on. The teen Sim that may have babysat your Sim’s children will grow up and may even become a coworker. Players do have the option to turn aging off and also have control over the lifespan of their Sims. As for careers, Sims will autonomously head off to work if left alone. Players will also have the ability to decide how their Sims do at work. Sims have the option to take it easy or work hard or suck up to their boss. All the choices do have consequences such as working hard will lead to more stressed out Sims (unless they are a Workaholic). There are also Career Opportunities that Players can opt into. This could range from delivering paperwork for the band to City Hall as part of the music career or befriending someone who works at the science facilities to learn their secrets as part of the criminal career. One of the biggest changes in The Sims 3 is in the social progression. Not only does the Player get some insight into what other Sims think and their reactions, Sims are also smarter in how they socialize. If the Player has their Sim tell the same joke twice other Sims will react with boredom. Sims with complimentary Personality traits will get along better than say an Evil Sim and a Good Sim.
What sort of things will players be able to buy and create this time out?
Players will have access to design the sets and fashions of their Sims using Create a Style. Being able to select the perfect color or pattern for furniture or clothing used to be something that the average Sims player could not do. Now anyone can do it in game. We focused on allowing Players to easily customize in game and also on making it easy to share content.
We are also showcasing themed furniture and clothing on the Sims 3 store on theSims3.com. The Sims 3 Store allows us to be a little more stylized or whimsical and showcase the talents of our Artists to play with trends in fashion and home décor.
What Social options are available to Sims this time out?
There is a wealth of Social options as different Personality Types can affect which Socials options your Sims will have in the game. Good Sims have the option of making someone’s day better, Schmoozer Sims can Flatter while Childish Sims can Goof Around. One of my favorite moments about the open town is that Sims will even gossip with each other about the going ons in town. Getting to know Sims better of course unlocks new Social options and watching the interplay of different Personalities always surprises me.
What are the new features players will see this time out compared to past games in the series?
Your Sims are smarter. The gameplay is no longer about micromanaging their needs, it is about their psychology and of fulfilling their Lifetime Wish. Instead of worrying about feeding your Sims you spend time working on achieving goals. Maybe your Sims Lifetime wish is to be a Rock Star. You make choices on whether to take your Sim to the park to play the guitar for tips or maybe they should spend time chilling with their band members at work so that they advance faster in their career.
The Sims 3 is an open seamless town. You can see what the neighbors are up to from the front porch of your lot. The town has its own story. The residents of Sunset Valley fall in love, get married, have children, go to work and even grow old and die. Your Sim might meet their boss at the beach or run into new Sims at the gym and become their best friends. There is so much to explore in the open town, whether it is getting to know the Sims who live there or finding rare collectibles in the more remote areas of town.
We’ve introduced new goal oriented systems for players. Your Sims’ long term goal is their Lifetime Wish. If you help your Sims satisfy their Wishes, or keep them happy, they’ll earn Lifetime Happiness points. You can use these points to purchase Reward Traits like Steel Bladder (never have to pee again!) or even a Midlife Crisis where you can decide your Sim has had a change of heart and you get to pick a new Personality Trait. Moodlets are fantastic in that they give constant feedback on what is impacting your Sim, whether it is the thrill of a promotion or the heartbreak of getting prized possessions stolen. The game is more about managing Lifetime Wishes and your Sims’ moods and not about peeing.
What are some of the career options players will have?
Players have a choice as to how Sims will work, whether it is to take it easy or chill with coworkers or take on independent cases etc. There are also new Opportunities. Opportunities are challenges that Players can opt into whether it is submitting the best Chili for a cook off or playing the guitar and someone’s birthday party. Careers in The Sims 3 will teach you how to manage your Sims’ moodlets, how to develop skills, what opportunities are, and how to get around town. They also provide your Sims an easy way to socialize with co-workers and their bosses. Some careers will earn your Sims some handsome rewards on top of a hefty salary. There are also perks for reaching the top of different careers. As an Astronaut your Sim can sneak their dates into the Military base and impress them by giving them a tour of the space shuttle. Climb up high enough on the police force and your Sim gets a squad car with sirens.
What are the biggest obstacles you faced in creating the game and the biggest success?
We really wanted to be a cohesive experience that appeals to many different types of players. One of the biggest challenges was creating a new Sims experience that would appeal to both new players as well as Sims fans. Whether it was the open town or the creativity tools like Create a Style we wanted to make sure that it was intuitive and captivating. One of the things that constantly amaze me is how much depth and richness the game has. I’m still finding moments (like when I discovered that flirty Sims are better at writing Romance Novels) where I find myself laughing and wanting to give kudos to everyone who worked on the features. I love how interconnected everything feels.
What engine is the game using and what are some of the new features it will offer gamers?
The Sims 3 uses an internally developed engine. The new engine allows us to have the entire town come to life with each character having their schedules. The new engine also allowed us to give more creative freedom for our Animators. There are more nuanced facial animations for example. And that the objects and the clothing can be customized on the fly by the Player in game is a testament to the hard work of our engineering team.
What can you tell the readers about the movie making tool please?
We love Create a Movie. All the magical moments in the game can be video captured with a click and then shared. Players can use the Create a Move tool on thesims3.com that allows them to edit their clips, add transitions, effects, captions and a soundtrack to make movies. These movies can be shared on social networking sites or emailed to friends. With The Sims 3 and an internet connection everyone can be a movie director.
The series has been a huge success. To what do you attribute this and what do you think the future holds for the series?
The Sims is inspired by real life and is a game about little people so there are so many places for the game to go. Part of the success of the series is that every one has some reference for people. There is no one “right” way to play so the game appeals to gamers, creators, storytellers, and even people who like to push the rules of the game. And ultimately the Sims does have a sense of humor and has moments of surprise. There is so much to discover and even having worked on it I still look forward to playing it.