In a recent interview with Laura Miele, EA’s Chief Studio Officer, GamesBeat got to take a peek inside the ever-changing world of EA and how they are approaching an ever-changing gaming market, and what the thought process is going into the future of gaming.

Laura Miele

Paving The Way Forward

It’s commonplace now for games to be online and/or multiplayer in some way – whether it’s via gameplay, or some sort of separate community hub, waiting room, marketplace, etc.

Now, what does this mean for the next installment of The Sims series going into the future of gaming? There are a lot of very interesting ideas floating around in this interview with how EA is looking forward as a whole.

In regards to the next Sims title, the big question that everyone is asking is, “it going to be online?” It seems like the idea of how to take the world of The Sims into an online space could evolve into something much greater than the chatroom-style “hang out” space that most of us seem to initially imagine.

The Sims has always had a vibrant online community – but it’s one that has been largely forged outside of the reigns of EA, thanks to social media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr.  EA’s own forums are bustling as well, as is use of The Gallery – but it may be time to expand that concept.

User-Crafted Experiences

Miele explains that the way forward is going to be more focused around creating a “creative platform” versus narrative-based stories/themes we’ve come to expect. It sounds like EA is envisioning a framework that players can use to create and shape their own in-game experiences.

With this, will the next installment into The Sims franchise actually include any kind of developmental tools? When asked about people building mods and content, if the concept of “allowing players to build and create in these games, is this something that is on the road map, or top of the mind there?” Miele says “of course.”

Previous titles of The Sims had varying companion-style apps that allowed users to create and expand their games. The Sims had “Homecrafter” for making walls and floors. The Sims 2 had “Homecrafter Plus” and “Bodyshop,” adding in the ability to make Create-A-Sim content. You could also import entire worlds from SimCity into The Sims 2. The Sims 3 had an entire Create-A-World tool for creating custom worlds. The Sims 4 has… um, *checks notes*… nothing The Gallery.

The Gallery

What’s Missing?

The Sims 4 as a whole is only half a sandbox. While gameplay can branch off infinitely and organically adjust to the player, there’s not much of anything from a higher perspective. The individual lot-building tools and interfaces we have are amazing, but that doesn’t expand to anywhere else. There are no world building capabilities. There aren’t even world editing capabilities. 

The worlds are small with a limited number of lots, and all with a strong theme. Don’t like the theme? You can try to “rebuild,” except that you will only change the icons of the lots in the world view. Trying to create anything outside of one of the provided world themes generally is limited to finding the largest empty lot that you can, and building a fake mini-world as if it were a movie set.

Every world that EA releases seems to get better, but it’s certainly no substitution for being able to create your own.

The Creative Framework

Miele states that she wants “players to have flexibility, creativity, and tools to remix items and objects in the world.” Are we taking a step back towards The Sims 3? Something like the Create-A-Style tool that was limited to some basic in-game ability? Are we stepping further back in time towards The Sims 2? Something like Homecrafter and Bodyshop where you could export and modify the resources that made up a piece of content? 

 On the other hand, what if it’s something directly in the game that allows for this modification? An enhanced Create-A-Style, so to speak. Something that allows for not only the color of something to change, but imagine the “mundane” changes: change the style of a doorknob, drag the side of a chair out so that it turns into a couch. Drag a plant to be taller. Drag a table down to be lower. This style of a build/buy mode would allow for nearly infinite customization. (I’m sure, much to the nightmare of the devs and eventually community modders.)

Whatever this ends up meaning for the future of gaming, there seems to be a big focus on giving players the ability to have impact on their experience.

Tools and Workflow

When asked about the kind of tools that could make an appearance, Miele says that players need an “Accessible Framework.” This means that anyone can get into the game and “tinker” to craft their own experience. The more sophisticated tools will generally be left behind the scenes for the developers. Perhaps, though, there could be some advanced tools come to light.

Ever since the beginning of The Sims franchise, we’ve been lucky enough to have a community that develops and supports its own tools as needed to match what the ambitious modders and creators are trying to accomplish. Will it continue to be left up to the community to create tools and platforms that are actually useful?

The “being accessible” part could be troublesome. In the effort to keep things usable, does that also mean forced simplicity? We’ve all heard what they say about trying to please everyone…

This proves to be a very interesting concept as we consider the future of gaming. We all know that The Sims community has always thrived around modding and custom content. Not only does the use of The Sims as a creative outlet attract more users, the content they create then attracts even more users.

Of course people will continue to expect a fully fleshed-out game experience, but changing gears to support The Sims as a creative platform seems more sustainable than an ongoing battle against the community for content creation. Otherwise, at what point do the community creators become not only part of the audience, but also the competition? 

 

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