Having spent a few crazy days at Sims Camp at gamescom in Cologne, Germany, I’ve finally found some time to sit down and start sharing my experiences with the game. I know many of you have been eagerly awaiting information to come out of the event and some attendees have already managed to get some info out via their social networking sites, but in my usual manner, I’ve opted for a long winded but hopefully informative article.
I have to stress the usual disclaimer, more so than ever. We were seeing and using pre-alpha software, so what we saw is in many ways far from the polished version of the game that will ship next year. Still no suggestions when next year, EA won’t be pushed to committing to any quarter or season. Likewise, thinks can change, so I might tell you something here that although correct at the event, may be wrong in the final or later versions. Also, all these images are exclusive to TSR, please don’t reuse them, but link people to this article if you want to share them.
EA got the scoop themselves in showing CAS off in the TS4 Live Broadcast from the show floor on Thursday, but I’m pretty sure I still have many details here that Jill didn’t manage to cover in her report. After speeding through CAS, I’ll spend more time on Emotional Gameplay, which hasn’t been covered much yet!
Create A Sim
Jill Johnson is a Producer on TS4 Create-A-Sim. She demoed CAS for us and then we got to play on our own, trying out the tools, stretching our imaginations and grabbing screens and info to share with you all. This build has a very limited set of clothing, hair and other assets. I invited people to post in our forums, any questions they wanted answering and there were lots of concerns about the quality of the hair and it looking like plastic. I grilled Jill best I could on the issue and she explained that hair seen in the early teasers (remember the eyes?) were built with something like Hair version 1.5, today we were using Hair 3.0 and has massive improvements already. Hair isn’t finished yet and there is still work to do on layers and textures so as with most stuff, don’t write it off just yet, there’s still a long way to go before we see a finished game.
The biggest change for CAS is that pretty much all of the sliders have gone and been replaced with direct manipulation. This means that you can use your mouse pointer to simply grab parts of the Sim body and drag them around to make limbs bigger, smaller, wider and narrower. Breasts can move up and down as well as bigger/smaller. Butts can be inflated, shoulders broadened and even feet enlarged. Posture can be changed too, to make Sims slouch forward or walk tall and straight. It’s like using modelling clay to build any shape you desire (now I have the smell of Play Doh in my head!). All this allows for an almost infinite body shape. Two sliders that remain are those for Heavy/Fit (represented by an apple and a donut) and Fat/Thin (represented by a couch and a dumbbell).
You can start out by choosing one of a broad range of body shapes and starting faces which you can then fine-tune to your needs if you wish. EA claim to have spent a lot of time creating base faces that represent multiple ethnicities, which can be seen quite clearly in the latest images released. There is also a really smart randomize feature for you to quickly pull together some random Sims. In truth thought, it’s not completely random at all! You can choose which features to switch so if you are happy with your Sims face you can lock that in.
Your choices are Body Shape, Body Size, Face, Skin Tone, Hair, Facial Hair, Voice, Clothing, or All. The reason I say it’s not completely random is that it’s smart enough to match certain clothing types and colors. So if it selects a beige leather jacket for a random female Sim the tool might select some beige boots to match. Nothing came out looking like a wardrobe fail in the dark of morning, these Sims looked like the outfits where color and style matched for them!
But CAS actually works in 3 levels of detail. First you are zoomed out to change things like clothing and accessories, change body size and shape etc. Then you can zoom in on the face to the next level where you can manipulate the head size and shape, nose, mouth ears. This level of detail wowed us at Sims camp as it was, but then Jill went another step deeper and zoomed in on each of the editable features of the face. Again, manipulation is simple, by grabbing and dragging the face structure to exactly where you want it. Even the eyes are so detailed now that you can change the size of the iris, a first for The Sims. Eyebrow arch, lip crease and the bridge of the nose can all be adjusted in minute detail.
Another Sims first is the ability to interchange boots and clothing items, they call it the Sims 4 Boot System. If your Sim is wearing long boots, they will be tucked under boot fit trousers, or fully visible if wearing shorts or a skirt. I managed to mash together an image for you to see the same pair of boots being worn in two ways.
I also made one to show you how feet and legs adjust to accommodate heels. There may be other heel heights in the final game but for now you can see how the leg adjusts to accommodate them.
Another biggie; Hair and hats can be changed independently, so you can select any hair you like and style it with any hat. The same can probably be said for other accessories but for this early build of CAS, glasses, accessories and makeup have been disabled so we couldn’t play with those. Hair cannot be manipulated in CAS though, so don’t expect to be able to grab hair and make it longer or fuller. This has been asked a lot. Hands can also not be manipulated (it would break the many interactions and animation based around pickup and touch).
Other details like freckles, birthmarks and tattoos are all possible according to Jill, but remain unconfirmed for the base game launch.
Much of the personality system in the Gamescom build of CAS are disabled but we were able to glean a lot of further information out of the Producers. I should point out now that a lot of the community have picked up on CAS images and assumed that there are only 5 ages in Sims 4. I can confirm that these images are placeholders and do not represent all ages at all, there are likely to be more. Notice they are all the same size, the game doesn’t show ages like that, they are smaller to bigger and then smaller again for Elder. We heard Producers mention Teens, Kids and Elders. Right now, the demo and all media assets only showed Young Adult.
So you can see from my image here that as well as Gender and Age you can still choose Traits. We’re told there are over 50 in the base game (more in the Emotional Gameplay section later). Sims also have Aspirations, and the one you see here is linked to the Astronaut career in the game (you will see the spaceship in the gamescom demos and media assets).
Walk Style is new and a great addition to the game. You can choose the way your Sim will walk in game, from Perky, Snooty and Swagger. These are ‘basic walk cycles’ which can be overridden in game if the Sim is grumpy or happy or any other emotion takes over them. I also found out that children can inherit a walk cycle from one of the parents, depending on which traits they also inherit.
Voice Style isn’t exactly new, we could pick Voice 1 or 2 etc., and change pitch before. For female Sims you can now choose either Sweet, Melodic or Lilted. For males you can chose from Clear, Warm or Brash. For Sims 4, the studio selected voice actors for the broadest range of content to keep Sims unique and gameplay less repetitive.
Other features are missing from this build. Producers talked about favorite colors and we know there are many food types, so I would expect to see those options appear as well at some point.
So that’s my quick rundown of CAS. One last point on the look of the Sims; we have been talking among our Featured Artists about how the game looks and we realized that looking back, if you compare the core Sims 3 game images that were released at launch, the Sims (especially hair) don’t look anywhere near as good as we have come to expect today in our game, thanks to later patches and custom hair from the community artists. We plan to jump in to Sims 4 looking forward and with an open mind. You might choose to hold off on that now, but you just wait until you see what we can tell you about Build/Buy and other aspects of the game in September when our embargoes are lifted!
Producer Grant Rodiek is the emotional gameplay guy! He gave us a very detailed overview of the way the game mechanics work and how Sims 4 shows this in so much more detail than previous games. So much so that you will be able to glean more information about a Sims mood by looking at their face, or the way they walk, than by looking at the User Interface like we have become used to.
When considering gameplay they decided that if a Sim is more often than not sad, or angry, then the game was not so fun to play, so they decided that in the future, negative storytelling should not result in negative gameplay. Just because your Sim is moody it shouldn’t make you feel that the game is not worth playing.
A sad Sim can be seen slumped forward, walking slowly and grimacing, with raised eyebrows and maybe even a quivering bottom lip. An angry Sim will stomp around with clenched fists. A Sims mood might also restrict their interactions to be more realistic, so a sad Sim can no longer flirt because in life, that’s unlikely to be possible. They can complain about their problem though! Angry Sims can denounce friendships and chew people out, but cannot offer encouragement.
Many more things will affect a Sims mood in Sims 4. Moodlets fuel emotions but even furnishings will change Sims feelings. In one example we saw, a Sim started feeling frisky after viewing an amorous piece of artwork. Grant suggested that you could build a love cave with romantic paintings and lots of pinks and reds if they are a Sims’ favorite color.
You could create a Gym with angry pictures, dark colors and object that suggest power to build anger and therefor productivity in a Sim working out. Not all objects are emotions based, only the ones where it makes sense for them to do so. Emotions can also be drawn from watching movies or reading books, if it has a particularly sad story-line, for example. Sims can even randomly wake up and get out of bed in a bad or sad mood, just to add another touch of reality to our Sims lives. They may also come home from a bad/good day at work with a changed mood to when they left home.
Emotions were described as being like temporary traits as they can give certain unique interactions in the short term. This was shown with the brilliant new object, the Gigantic Pirate Ship Playground where happy, fun parents can play with children, chasing them around dressed up as a sea monster, but sad Sims cannot feel playful and therefore won’t have such interactions available. Different ages have different emotional content assigned to them but we were told that all ages have them! Teenage was mention here 😉
Emotions can be controlled by the player by influencing what a Sim does. For example taking a bubble bath will reduce sadness, taking a salty shower will allow a Sim to have a good cry and a cool shower will help a Sim cool down if angry.
Grant suggested that there were around 15 different emotions which included Confident, Flirty, Bored, Cranky, Embarrassed, and Energized.
Other big changes to Sim autonomy are that wishes and wants are being replaced with long-term goals. The new aspiration system will be simple and friendly as the team try to move away from players thinking, “My Sim doesn’t like that so I won’t do it, or my Sim likes that so I will.”
Emotions have intensity levels and believe it or not, EA confirmed that a Sim can actually die from its emotions! An example was that a Sim taken through the levels of anger through furious to enraged might result in them having what was described as something like a heart attack where they will break into such an animated rage that they keel over and die!
Speaking of which, EA have changed their philosophy on death for Sims 4. They realized that some things in previous games made death almost not fair and as funny as it was to die by having a satellite land on you from above, it just wasn’t right. In Sims 4, death will only ever be a result of your actions, or age, and before a Sim does die from your actions, there will be plenty of warning signs before the event occurs! One thing for sure though; depressed Sims will not commit suicide! EA had no desire to gamify tragic events.
We were told that there are around 10 Skills in the base game fixed into 3 Skills categories. Focus (logic, cooking etc.), Inspiration (painting, writing etc.), and Energize (athletic, physical etc.). More details to come about those in future.
And a final fascinating fact for you, confirmed by EA; you will see both left and right handed Sims!
That’s about all I can tell you for now. I hope you found it informative and enjoyable. I will be writing up my reports on the absolutely amazing Build/Buy Mode, but that info is under embargo until September 11th. Then on September 18th I can tell you some surprisingly interesting stuff about the animations in the game. I’ll also be posting my hands on preview of the final Sims 3 EP Into the Future just as soon as I can get it written up.
I have to say this though, and EA may or may not like it! Having watched and played Sims 4 for a day and a half, switching back to Sims 3 for Into the Future felt really dated and cranky. You might think Sims 4 doesn’t look like the polished game you expected but boy, does TS3 age after playing TS4!