Here I sit once again, in a hotel across the street from EA in Redwood Shores California, ready to go get some great news and info about upcoming products in the Sims series. This time it's the first Sims 3 Expansion Pack, World Adventures. It's a two day event on Thursday and Friday so I have a sneaking suspicion there is more to see than just EP1, especially given that there is already so much info out there about World Adventures already (these fan events are usually before EA start announcing all the details). I'll be keeping you up to date on the TSR blog during the event, with the usual preview once the event is over. Check back during the coming days for the very latest from EA HQ!
So Friday was the final day of the Creator's Camp event at EA. It was a last chance for the creators to put the finishing touches to what they had been working on all week and for us all to say our goodbyes before heading off back home and to our own communities.
We had an award ceremony for the best in show and other selected creation of which I'll try and post some more details when I find my notes! The official site will be featuring the Artists that attended the event this week with previews of what they made, so keep l look out for that.
Before we left EA it was play time! We had a 'Plumbob cookie and cupcake decorating competition' where we all got to play with (and eat) candy, icing and sprinkly type things. My creativity score is pretty low so I only got as far as a custom content snowflake cupcake and an Edible Arts cookie. They didn't win any prizes needless to say, but it was a fun end to the week.
I'm now off to pack my bags and shut things down so goodbye from Redwood Shores! I'll be posting again from home whenever I get there… I think that's tomorrow at some point :o
Before I ran off a little early yesterday to welcome Tug to the campus and prepare for the TSR dinner at the hotel, I spent some time with Ben Bell, Senior Producer of The Sims 3. A couple of us reporters at the event also got some time to throw some questions at him so rather than quote him word for word I figured I'd summarise some of the things I learned from him yesterday. I didn't grab a picture of Ben (you've all seen him from the videos anyway), so for this post you get to see the Atrium on campus (taken from EA's own Starbucks).
I asked Ben about his favourite features of the game. His top two would be the trait system which he personally spent a great deal of time on, researching behavioural stuff and building the stereotypical and exaggerated facial animations for each which you see when assigning the trait in CAS and during game play when that trait rears its head in the characters behaviour. He also loves the introduction of bicycles to the game, being a cyclist himself he loves to see Sims ditch the driveway and cars for a bicycle rack by the house!
I then went on to features that they talked about in game development but didn't make it into the final version. He said there were many but focussed on the video capture features. He's happy with the video tools as they are in the base game but is aware that there is much more they can do to improve on that aspect of storytelling and the use of the game for Machinima. Maybe that will get picked up on in an upcoming pack.
I was then keen to know about any feature of the game that caused much debate or controversy in the team. Apparently the layout of the town, Sunset Valley, went through a dozen or so designs before everyone eventually agreed or agreed to disagree on it. Also heavily debated was the needs system which replaces the old style of eating, sleeping, peeing and washing etc., even down to how it should affect the way Sims will get along on their own without human interaction. Then there was the User Interface, which Ben estimates is on something like version 30!
Lastly, to put Ben on the spot a bit by bringing up a rather contentious issue from the users, I asked him where he thinks the level of facial detail sits in the scale between game and too real for comfort, given that they have moved away from caricature and more towards portrait. His facial expression said it all, it was clearly a big discussion point among the team and one of the hardest things to balance in game design. They wanted users to be able to make Sims look as close to their intended model or their imagination desires but without going too close to photorealistic.
The technology is clearly available to make Sims photorealistic but Sims 3 intentionally falls short to avoid what Ben called "total detail distraction", while managing to maintain extreme expressions and realistic movement. Sims 3 Sims, as detailed as they are, try to maintain the look of the Sims that came before them. If you look closely at the eyes for example, you see the "old simminess" as Ben calls it, in an attempt to preserve generations before them!
Hope you find some of that interesting. I'm off to hunt for coffee.
Time for me to spill the beans about another feature of the game for those folks hungry for more juicy details about the game. Ok enough clues.. Food! Food and groceries actually, another deep feature of the game for which details are only just starting to emerge.
I already blogged about gardening so you know that Sims can harvest fresh ingredients already, but they can also obtain them from the grocery store. They can also buy goods for the home and fish to restock their goldfish bowl should 'swimmy' meet an untimely end. The list of ingredients that you can load into your cart at the store is impressive. I listed 24 so far which include anchovy, links (sausages), cheese, potatoes, steak, roast (turkey), tuna, eggs and all of the harvestable items too.
After buying all these ingredients I sent my Sim to stop by the library on the way home. Here I was able to acquire 3 skill books; Cooking Volume 1: Too much salt, Cooking Volume 2: Why you need baking soda and Cooking Volume 3: Yummy and delicious. I also picked up recipe sheets for some popular dishes like Fish & Chips, Cookies, Fruit Parfait, Cheese Steak, Eggs Machiavellian, Baked Angel Food Cake and Ambrosia. Some of these require higher cooking skills as well, but once your Sim reads one of these recipe books they have the required knowledge to be able to make it in their kitchen, as long as the current food stocks allow.
The Sim food looks great, and there are far more variants of dishes that can be prepared than in previous base games. I think the process of obtaining individual ingredients rather than just stocking the fridge with an undefined $50 worth of food is a welcome detail for my game too.
Other items that you can buy from the store for your home include Worlds Brew Bubble Bath, Mood-Lite Candles, the Birthday Inferno Birthday Cake and the Ducksworth of Bathington (a little rubber ducky).
I guess it might not be completely clear to everyone what's actually going on here at EA and what the creator's are actually doing, so I figured I'd take some time out to tell you.
The groups of creators have been split into 2 rooms, one room for Machinima and the other for Custom Content. Everyone started out by creating their accounts at the new Sims 3 Exchange and then got right into the game, playing around with the new features and getting used to the new user interface. Since then it has been all about creating content and uploading it to the Exchange, populating their profiles with the very first content that will be available to you when the game ships.
The Machinima Artists have been writing stories and shooting in game movies, while the CC Creators have been putting "Create A Style" through its paces, matching colors and textures to generate some great looking alternatives to the stock game objects, hairs, furnishings, walls and pretty much everything else in the game, given that there is hardly anything that you can't restyle in the game now.
In between creating they are being whisked away to a studio for a quick makeover and PR briefing before being interviewed at length about all things Sim. These interviews will be used to generate a kind of documentary about the event and the creators, just like they did way back with the first Sims 2 event. You can expect to see this posted online or bundled with something on disc very soon.
The film crews have been following our every move all week as well (as I write this there is someone filming me blogging… how freaky is that?). They are moving around the room grabbing shots of people playing Sims 3 and creating content.
More detailed blogs later, although I also have a few commitments to interviews during the afternoon.. I'll tell you about those tonight or tomorrow.
Just time to throw something completely new into the mix!
The Sims 3 has a Party Planner for your Sims! When a Sim uses a phone to throw a party the Party Planner screen pops up. Here you can choose which kind of party it should be (currently just House Party or Birthday Party), the day and time the party should start and the dress code. You can opt to have all your sims arrive in casual clothing, formalwear or swimwear. Then you just add the friends you want to attend in the invite list.
Of course not all guests will turn up but later in the game you can acquire the status of "Legendary Host", guaranteeing that all of your invites will be gratefully accepted with attendance guaranteed.
Sims 3 has gardening! Really, detailed gardening! The gardening system is huge and quite similar to Sims 2 Seasons, but you know what? Sims 3 had it first! Of course we didn't know about it because it was so long in development, but the Sims 3 team developed the gardening system for their game before the Sims 2 team took it for their EP.
This is evident early on in your game when creating Sims as the Green Fingers and Loves the Outdoors traits lend themselves perfectly for Sims who wish to tend their gardens, grow their own fruit and vegetables and spend quality time in the great outdoors.
Sims can collect fruits and vegetables as they explore the neighbourhood. These can then be taken home and either used right out of their inventory for cooking great new dishes, or they can put them in the refrigerator so the whole family can make use of them. Alternatively, plant these gathered fruits and veg at home to provide a crop for the family, or to sell at the local "Everfresh Delights" supermarket.
Some of the harvestables include the apple tree, lime tree, grape vine, watermelon vine, bell pepper plant, wild garlic, lettuce plant, onion plant and tomato plant. There are also some rare flowers including the death flower and the life fruit. A sim in possession of a death flower at the time they meet their untimely end are able to deal with the Grim Reaper who will gladly take the death flower instead of a Sims soul! The life fruit can be used to extend the life of a Sim, but if used in cooking to make a quality Ambrosia, it can be used to bring ghosts back to life.
Planted fruits and veg can be tended, weeded and watered. Sim gardening skill levels increase as they study or practice gardening too. Plant and harvest quality can be improved with fertilizing, a by product of all that fishing your Sim can engaging (rotten fist seem to do the trick). Fruit quality can be perfect, nice, poor, foul, putrid or horrifying! The rarity of certain plants also adds value to them when selling at the local market.
Its perfectly possible for a Sim to make a comfortable living from their gardening skills, meaning they can become a recluse and life their quiet little life at home!
I hope that throws a new play details in your direction, its certainly new to me and I haven't seen it mentioned before in any of the previews. I've been playing the system today, picking wild garlic in the graveyard (well duh) and looking around fishing lakes for rare flowers. Loving it already!
Sunset Valley is packed with locations that Sims can visit, use, work at and more! These include Papyrus Memorial Library and the Sunset Institute of Modern Art. Lets look at some others in more detail.
The local hospital is called the Sacred Spleen Memorial Hospital. As well as this being one of the work locations which Sims attend (the medical career kicks things off with the Organ Donor job), they can also attend for other reasons. Pregnant Sims can visit the hospital to have their baby if they choose, and later down the career path, Sims can come here to donate organs! There are apparently several body parts that a Sim can donate, their spleen being one of them!
The dead centre of the neighbourhood (pun intended) is the Pleasant Rest Graveyard. Sims can visit to mourn loved ones and engrave an epitaph on their gravestones. They can visit the mausoleum and even get a part time job here as a grave digger! They can also pull fish from the graveyard pond!
The Wilsonoff Community Theatre is the workplace of Music Career Sims, but they can also visit for a tour of the theatre, to watch a movie, or attend guitar classes. Hogans Deep Fried Diner is a great place to go and eat or drink alone or with other Sims. You can also visit here to join the Culinary Career and attend cooking classes.
Something new to me (and most likely you) is the fact that your Sim can buy into the partnership of these Community Lots. It's costly (around §7,000) but your Sim will then earn an income from that Lot. They can then go on to buy out other partners until they eventually own the business (at a cost of around §20,000). Once you own the company you can rename it, fire the staff if you don't like them and make use of its facilities for free, so free food or books or movies. You can eventually buy up many or all of the properties and have a Monopoly of the town, but given the huge expense this would be something you might aspire to later in Sim life when you have lots of funds and fulfilled many wants.
So that's a huge update on Community Lots. Back soon with a great new topic I've been experimenting with all day!
This afternoon we had a quick trip over to the audio studios at EA for a Simlish session with vocal actor Nikki and Audio Guru Robi Kauker. I've been lucky enough to have several sessions in here in the past, recording some of my own Simlish which was recorded and rendered to Sim video, so I took a back seat to let the others have a try!
I couldn't resist grabbing some video of Nikki and her unmistakable laugh! Nikki does many of the kids voices in Sims 3 and the laugh she throws in to some animations is so childish and hilarious. Then you realise after chatting for a while that she actually talks and laughs just like that all the time! Raving mad!
We learned a few things about the music in the game which, by the way, is incredible. Some of the creators here this week have confessed to loading up the game and then quitting out and reloading just to hear the intro music again! Some of the build mode music is beautiful, and the new kids soundtracks had me giggling too loudly according to some!
Oh yea, what did we learn? Well, one claim to.. er.. 'fame'(?), from the audio team was turning down Mariah Carey for a Simlish track. The reason? She just didn't fit the University EP style! Paul McCartney was invited to perform in Sims 3. They're still awaiting his acceptance! It turns out that many artists actually approach EA to be in the game and are, contrary to popular belief, not actually paid that much for their performance. No… Really! (So we were told).
Here's my video of Nikki. See if you can tell the difference between her Simlish performance and her real voice/laugh.
Me again! OK, so as promised in my last post, here are some further details I have learned about Create A Sim and some other little snippets of further details.
So other than the obvious visual improvements over Sims 2 for creating a Sim we also see a lot more in depth customization of the Sims anatomy.
You've heard lots about the traits system already I'm sure but it transpires that the traits that are used in the game were inspired by the adjectives people use in personal ads to describe themselves. Then the animators took the stereotypical extremes of bodily behaviours for each and applied them to the game, needless to say usually with comedic results!
You can choose to give a Sim between 1 and 5 traits so you don't have to assign them all. If you want a trait to dominate a Sim's behaviour then just assign one trait, giving them a one track mind, so a Childish trait only Sim won't be able to resist playing with any kids toys they come across, and Evil Sims wont be able to resist the temptation to steal candy from babies. Assigning more traits will generate a deeper personality.
Traits can be changed later in the game with one of the buyable lifetime rewards, in this case, "midlife crisis", which will randomise the traits and spin your Sim into a whole new way of life!
The size and shape sliders that add weight and muscle to a Sim is very detailed, behaving differently by gender. The developers realized that men carry weight in different places to women, so this is reflected in the game.
Hair styles can be custom to each clothing category, so if your Sim has long hair, you could choose for her to wear it up whenever dressed in formalwear or sportswear. Styles can also change in/after using the shower, so Sims with long hair that's normally up might be seen with it down while showering. Elders can now have any color hair rather than the default grey, or just add some highlights or deep roots for some extra effect. I'll be looking for some blue rinse grannies real soon!
Facial detail is on a whole new level. Eyebrow colors are independent of hair, as is facial hair. Eyelashes have a length slider and freckles and beauty marks can also be custom colors, independent of anything else. Makeup and face paint can be used in limitless combinations.
Shoes are interchangeable with any outfit, as are socks and stockings, so I'm really looking forward to seeing that 'socks & sandals' look bought right back up to date!
Music plays a bigger part in Sims lives too. You can set a favourite style of music to a Sim who will receive a moodlet boost whenever he hears his favourite tunes.
After creating your perfect Sim you now have an option to "Create a Twin". One of the developers pointed out that she often uses this to create several identical Sims before reassigning their age, creating a new family that truly looks alike.
On a global scale, Sim life spans can be adjusted on a slider, the default being a game tuned 95 days per Sim, but this can be anywhere you choose between 25 and 1000. This affects all Sims in the game though, and the age ranges will all be stretched pro-rata.
Thats me for now, back later!
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