With over a hundred million units shipped to date, you can't deny that The Sims is one popular franchise.
Developers Maxis started the series nearly a decade ago, after venerable designer Will Wright insisted he could take their immensely popular SimCity series in a new direction and make a "people sim". The concept of manipulating people sitting in their houses whilst you sat in yours was, perhaps surprisingly, a hit, and even after seven expansions the series is still going from strength to strength.
The Sims 3 is due out this year, and despite a recent release date slip looks set to take the franchise to a whole new level. For the first time, you'll be able to follow your Sims as they leave the house and actually participate in the real world, and with a host of new customisation options you'll be able to project your own personality (or anyone else's for that matter) on to your chosen character.
GP: We’ve heard about this “live dragging” innovation whereby the player can manipulate the environment for the Sim. How have you integrated this without ruining the routine of the Sim and creating a “hand of god” effect?
Rodiek: We really wanted to remove the tedium from previous Sims games. We have an Inventory Feature and we needed players to have an easy way to use it. Live Dragging is a perfect fit. If the players have newspapers piling up outside, they can just drag them into the trash so their Sims can focus on fun stuff. Or, if you need to pass a guitar between Sims, you can just open up their Inventory and drag the guitar onto another Sim’s portrait to pass it along. So far the Sims don’t seem to mind too much.
GP: Can you tell us about some of the stranger moral choices the player may be presented with?
Rodiek: To steal or not to steal? Good Sims can donate to charities, whereas Evil Sims can donate to undermine charities. We’re still a light-hearted, humorous game so your choices won’t decide the fates of millions. But we definitely wanted to give players interesting choices to make their stories more exciting.
GP: Approximately how many “lifetime wishes” are there in the game?
Rodiek: There is a large pool of lifetime wishes, which will be determined by the personality traits you choose. Depending on your trait combinations, the possibility of getting a different lifetime wish every time is very real. Players will get to pick from a handful of Lifetime Wishes based on the personality traits they choose from their Sims. It’s possible for you to have a different experience with every Sim you create. Whether you want your Sim to become an Evil Mastermind or Best-Selling Author, the game will give you the incentives to do so.
GP: Can you give us an idea of content specifically suggested by the community that you’ve included in The Sims 3?
Rodiek: Create-A-Style is a direct result of community feedback. A lot of players wanted more options for what their Sims wear or how their homes looked, but they didn’t have the time or know-how to get into the modding community. Create-A-Style gives everyone limitless choices with just a few clicks.
GP: How much of an effect on the game do the “moodlets” have? Will a Sim specifically crave particular moodlets, and will they have a huge effect on their personality?
Rodiek: Moodlets have a huge impact on the game. They’ve more or less replaced the Needs Bars (i.e. Bladder, Hygiene) from previous Sims games. Those still exist, but Moodlets are the focus. Moodlets are the manifestation of your Sims’ thoughts, emotions, and experiences. They can be significant (First Kiss), minor (Minty Breath), devastating (On Fire), or everything in between. The Moodlets are easily one of my favourite things about The Sims 3.
GP: Have you specifically gone after the Second Life market with The Sims 3? Or is this fundamentally a different gaming experience?
Rodiek: Second Life is an online game that I honestly don’t know much about. We have definitely looked at online games like World of Warcraft that have really reached out to more casual gamers, because we’re always trying to make our game more accessible. That being said, The Sims is an offline, single player game that has significant community features for sharing, story telling, and more. The Sims has always been a very personal game experience, almost like a diary for some people, so while we admire and learn from features in online games, The Sims is fundamentally different.
GP: Our community will want to know what DRM measures you’ve included – will there be limited activations? Will an internet connection be compulsory?
Rodiek: We’re not talking about DRM specifically at this time. I can say that we’ve listened to our community, observed DRM from other games, and are working on making The Sims 3 the best experience possible for players.
GP: We’ve recently heard of the delay to the ship date, can you give us some idea as to why this has occurred?
Rodiek: The Sims 3 June launch gives more time for tuning and polish and the ability to launch the game on PC and Mac platforms simultaneously. This is a key EA franchise and title and it deserves a bigger bet on the best Sims game EA has made. These last few months will give us a little more time to tune, tweak, and polish the game. Our players have been waiting for something awesome and that’s exactly what we intend to give them.