GDC 2009: The Sims 3 Updated Hands-On - Role-Playing and Short Attention Spans

In our next go-round with this life-simulator sequel at GDC 2009, we play as a would-be rock star facing his worst nemesis...our own incredibly short attention span.

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SAN FRANCISCO--By now, no real introduction is needed for The Sims 3. This highly anticipated life-simulation sequel will offer a much deeper character-development system built around personal traits and life goals that, when fulfilled, grant lifetime wish points that can be used to purchase superhuman powers and fantastical devices. But for our play session during the 2009 Game Developers Conference, we decided to aim nice and low.

Specifically, we chose to create a household with a single character whose traits tended toward boundless creativity and living off the land (and his neighbors), such as the "virtuoso" trait, which makes your sims better able to do well with music and art; the "vegetarian" trait, which makes your sims prefer meatless dishes (and actually makes a different set of "favorite foods" available at character creation); and the "mooch" trait, which gives your sims an additional "social" option to casually beg for money in conversation with the people they talk to. And of course, we chose the lifetime wish for our sim to become a star musician.

Given our plan, we figured that pulling off the dream of the lazy, long-haired musician next door would require serious forethought and planning, as well as a strong visual design to really help set the mood. As we've mentioned in our previous coverage of the game, The Sims 3 has enhanced character-appearance options to let you customize your characters' eye size, shape, and color; hair style and color, standard clothing, formal clothing, swimwear, hats, eyeglasses, jewelry, and tattoos, among other things.

We wanted to create a character that wasn't easy on the eyes: a run-down loser with shabby clothes and an annoying head accessory, like a goofy headband, that would make most self-respecting people want to punch him in the face. Steeling ourselves for the task, we hunkered down with the game's character editor for a good two, maybe three minutes before making an even more gutsy executive decision: to just click the "random sim appearance" button a couple of times until we got a sim that had a hat. We figured that was close enough, and off we went.

Our next step was to save our new sim to a family and create any additional sims for the family, a step that would let us build out a whole household of slackers. We decided against doing this partially because that would've meant that we would have had to do the extra work of customizing additional characters (and potentially having to manage household relationships), but primarily because we were bravely committed to role-playing a single slacker living alone. Once our family of one was saved, we were ready to head out to the neighborhood to jump into a vacant house and start our new virtual life. As we've reported previously, the Sims 3 has only one single but extremely large neighborhood in which to live, with numerous community "lots" and plenty of different houses to choose as a base of operations, ranging from cheap little shacks in the range of 10,000-15,000 simoleans (The Sims series' currency) to grand mansions that cost much more.

The Sims 3 will let you lead a vibrant social life, even if your sims are all bookworms who hang out at the library.

We settled on a smaller, one-story flat for about 12,000, partially because having to furnish a larger, multistory house would mean a bunch of extra work designing the rooms with different layouts, carpeting, wallpaper, and furniture, but mainly because we wanted to have the courage to stick with our initial plan of having a lonely, lazy slacker, whom we were role-playing. Then we remembered that as you prepare to buy and move into a house, there's an option for you to purchase the house already furnished (which costs more simoleans), and we totally chose that. Courageously. Purchasing a furnished house won't necessarily net you the best stuff, but it'll make sure that you have all of the essentials a sim needs to live: a refrigerator, a phone, a shower, a toilet, and a bed.

Once we bought our house and moved in, we set about the task of getting into the music-career track by picking up the newspaper and looking for a job. Fortunately for us, the music-career track was one of the first careers available in the newspaper, and we signed up for a five-day-a-week shift that started the following day. We were all psyched up to use the game's new-and-improved job system, which lets you choose your daily work demeanor each time you hop into the carpool to head out to the office, such as "work a normal day," "work extremely hard," and "slack off." We were especially excited about that final option, because, well, you know.

For sims who want to make a difference in the world, everything's waiting for you downtown. The rest of us can buy a house that's already fully furnished.

However, we'd spent most of our sim's money on purchasing a fully furnished house and didn't have enough funds to buy a high-end electric guitar to practice our creativity skill at home, so we knew we'd have to dig down deep to get the scratch for it. We took a deep breath, cracked our knuckles, and typed in the cheat code to get additional simoleans for free about four or five times, and then used the money to buy a new guitar, as well as a computer, and a telescope, which popped up on our sim's ongoing wish list. In The Sims 3, your sims will periodically have minor wishes appear in their wish window in the lower left-hand side of the screen, and left-clicking each wish to "promise" it to your sim will make it an ongoing goal that, if accomplished, will put your sim on the long-term road to personal fulfillment. It will also put your sim in a near-term nirvana state of a positive "moodlet"--the minor emotional bonuses and penalties that sims will experience as a result of their actions and their surroundings.

After practicing guitar a few times to build up a skill point or two, we found that the first in-game day got away from us, and a few peanut butter sandwiches and bathroom breaks later, our sim was asleep--and then awake again after we set the game to its fastest speed setting to skip through his good night's sleep. The next day, we woke up at the stroke of 10:00AM to start practicing the guitar again until our carpool arrived for the first day of our entry-level music job, which we chose to spend "schmoozing with the rest of the band members" instead of working particularly hard. After getting back, we grabbed a bite to eat from the fridge, played some more guitar, and made the difficult (but ultimately, noble) decision to send our little guy back to bed.

The next day, we woke up at the go-getter hour of 11:30AM and decided to take our sim up on his next wish of heading downtown to look over a book at the library. In The Sims 3, every character has a mobile phone that can call a taxi cab that automatically arrives to whisk you away to whichever outdoor destination you choose, and in this case, we sent our wannabe virtuoso downtown to hit the library. When sims "use" lot services in this way, they can gain skill bonuses, just like using skill items at home, but they're taken out of the world and can't be sent to do other tasks or meet other people. Our own sim successfully borrowed his book but appeared to be getting bored, so we sent him along to the nearby city park to seek the company of like-minded individuals and mooch as much money as possible.

Active sims can find love, exciting and/or new, at the local swimming pool.

Fortunately, it was a lovely day, so there were plenty of folks taking in the sun. We zeroed in on the absolute best targets of opportunity (the closest ones) and began working our charms, chatting about interests to find that our first would-be friend and sponsor was also an artsy person who liked music, liked talking to musicians, and (once we increased our relationship with her significantly through careful juggling of social options) liked parting with 10 or 20 simoleans here and there to help out a friend. However, the late morning quickly became the early afternoon, and our sim was late for his next day's work! As his carpool ride showed up back at the house, leaning on the horn, our sim immediately took to his feet, sprinting homeward to go off and earn his daily bread. Did he succeed? We don't know, because while it was time for our sim to go to work in computer land, it was time for us to go have lunch in the real world, so we ended our play session at that point to grab a sandwich, like a true person of stature. Some might say, like a hero.

The Sims 3 is scheduled for release this June. Stay tuned to GameSpot for further updates.

Discussion

63 comments
greater_bird
greater_bird

Not much of a preview, since all the primary gameplay they describe is no different to how The Sims 2 played... As for the details they mentioned that are different - I do like the ability to buy pre-furnished houses. The description of doing tasks on community lots as "taken out of the world and can't be sent to do other tasks or meet other people" sounds much more limited than the entirely open-world community I've previously heard described.

codykingo
codykingo

This is what I want to hear about, not the gay movie maker.

Mimogrede
Mimogrede

I CAN'T WAIT FOR THIS ONEEEE!!!

zima_claim
zima_claim

what a strange preview. so, are you telling us that basicaly there is almost NOTHING new in the third part of the game? that sucks!

angelkadaj
angelkadaj

I loved making gay relationships

Pabasa
Pabasa

Rdkil, Your sim would not automatically initiate a sexual activity on another sim unless you've trained him or her to do so on the specified gender. I.e. if you don't make your male sim flirt with another man he won't do so automatically at all. Unless you count hugging.

Pabasa
Pabasa

Rdkil, Your sim would not automatically initiate a sexual activity on another sim unless you've trained him or her to do so on the specified gender. I.e. if you don't make your male sim flirt with another man he won't do so automatically at all. Unless you count hugging.

Rdkil
Rdkil

I wonder if they will get rid of the whole "instant gay relationships that Sims and Sims 2 had. As in, if your character was a male and you wanted him to be good (straight) friends with another male, the other male would automatically treat him like a woman and do... things. That was one thing I didn't like about Sims; that homosexual relationships were pretty much forced on you if you wanted two sims of the same gender to be friends -_-

music_dreamer
music_dreamer

For those of you obsessed with graphics. In all honesty, from a professional standpoint, I do believe they are about the same poly count for the characters as in Sims 2, just normal mapped. This would make sense, seeing how it would be ridiculous and possibly a poor business strategy for EA to release a great game like Sims 3 to people who have current systems set up for that of Sims 2. Just some food for thought. I am slightly disappointed it didn't become an MMORPG. Oh well. :)

PrezKennedy
PrezKennedy

Looking forward to Sims 3: Unleashed, Makin' Magic, Vacation, Open for Business and remakes of all the other addon packs they did for the Sims 2, and previously, The Sims. Milk it until it's dry EA Games, just like you've done for every other fun franchise you've ever owned.

mfa1486
mfa1486

wow new option I do not expect to be present i well no't comment and say more word but i well say i love u Ea Games i love u

Mini_Buddha
Mini_Buddha

Dear everyone, It seems that some of you peanuts posting below hadn't realised that this is not meant to be a deep review of the new features of Sims 3, but a fun piece. You people probably haven't even considered that this was meant to be funny - God forbid that someone ever has to describe sarcasm or irony to you..... PS. Sims 3 will be hot :)

Mega_Loser
Mega_Loser

true, to the person below. Graphics got a big facelift.

mrs_meanie0
mrs_meanie0

the graphic isn't the same as the sims 2.what's wrong with you guys? :|

Tommy_Fantasy
Tommy_Fantasy

i don't mind if the graphic are like the sims 2 , because so that i don't have to change new graphic card for it , the new game system improvement are way more important :)

Sniperwolf_SN
Sniperwolf_SN

It looks like will be amazing, I think its a big step farword

Vasot
Vasot

The graphics look exactly like Sims 2...

HitachiYasumoto
HitachiYasumoto

Thanks for the article, but to me, it was not quite a useful or interesting hands-on here guys... I think we would have appreciated some more details... It was like explaining the first 10-15 minutes of a Sims 2 game.

Demono
Demono

Sounds like you had no well thought out goals whatsoever for writing this preview. Can I have your job?

Kuroi_Ryu
Kuroi_Ryu

Brilliant preview. Possibly not the most informative thing I've ever read, but I figure everyone has already decided whether or not they're going to get this game by now, right?

TheClown24
TheClown24

soon the flood of expansions will start

CyberAltair5
CyberAltair5

Now that's what I call a huge improvement for a sequel.

Fanible
Fanible

I'm sure there will be plenty of new stuff to toy with in this installment, but this article and OP made it seem like they'd never played Sims 2 before. Overall, it wasn't a very interesting or informative read.

clicketyclick
clicketyclick

The money cheat was klapaucius in Sims 1 pre-patch, rosebud post-patch. It was kaching and motherlode in Sims 2. I think this article confirms that kaching is carried over to Sims 3, since if he typed in motherlode, he wouldn't have had to repeat the cheat "four or five times" to get enough money. I wish the article had focused more time on describing the many new elements in Sims 3. Only the last 3 paragraphs really describe stuff that isn't in Sims 2 already.

samgamespotter
samgamespotter

This game iz gonna rock, simlish style. Cant wait to get my hands on this one.Is it true that the sims 3 uses the old sims 2 engine with some tweaking here and there, the specs are out and seems pretty small to me so it shouldnt be a problem.

PumpkinBoogie
PumpkinBoogie

@ TristanH, Yeah, 'motherload' was always the one I liked using....I forgot the name of the other one b/c motherload always just bought so much more money to the table, LOL. I hope that Maxis/EA do just as good of a job on this with enabling user content just like in Sims 2. Some of the best stuff I actually got for my Sim (cars, clothes, houses, etc) all came from the user community. :)

LeoBrZ81
LeoBrZ81

Well, that wasn't very informative! I want to hear about the effects that the traits have on the sims. Like, Gamespot mentioned once that traits gives them special social options, and so far, the only "special social" we know of is stealing candy from babies for Evil Sims.

Laksamanama
Laksamanama

god damnit i dont think my comp will be strong enough to handle this!!!

TristanH12
TristanH12

lol, the cheat codes are still in. I hope the money code is still the same, what was it last, "rosebud", "motherload", I feel like there was one more across the sims generations.

adventureseeker
adventureseeker

woot never played sims before and im definetly getting this

yichun4
yichun4

Definatly getting this! And Infamous and Uncharted 2 and God of war III This one is alot more open ended.

DareLee81
DareLee81

Anybody who says there's nothing new in this game and it looks just like the Sims 2 obviously never played the Sims 2.

mrbass208
mrbass208

Seems like a lot of people are missing the point graphically. While it may look like a cleaned up, more polished version of The Sims 2, what isn't being effectively communicated is how much larger, deeper, and open-ended the scope of the game world is. Such a development coupled with a new graphics engine would overwhelm even the most modern systems. It may look a bit like the Sims 2, but it will play differently and it's likely to be accessible to more people.

BigDaddy973
BigDaddy973

This looks like it will be a fun game!

cichy69
cichy69

funny cause there already was something like that in sims 2.. dont see whats new about that

Fhenrhyr
Fhenrhyr

It looks good. I still like the original Sims, though. But I will try this for sure.

Skullbomb
Skullbomb

The graphics are just fine, at least EA-games is playing it smart with the sims games, keeping the games playable without you running off every month for a brand new pc. The focus on the gameplay, AI and content alot more here than at the looks, wich is as it should be!

Dalhedaren
Dalhedaren

Why does it look like the sims 2? I don't see any work on the graphics, not that I care much for it.

forhekset
forhekset

What an odd article. Once again, doesn't really explain anything about the game. Either we already know about it or it existed in the Sims 2. I thought you were able to actually go to work this time?

Lub1
Lub1

uhm, so, they just used the same engine as the sims2? uhm,...why?

cepux
cepux

That video was funny :D

Destroy3r3
Destroy3r3

I predict the game will last veeery long until we stor playing it... I hope that EA will stop this monthly expansion-releasing. If they want to give us more content, they should make it downloadable from the Internet, and of course, make it free... Otherwise they could just wait a few months more and put it in the game...

Kingnetherdrake
Kingnetherdrake

I was getting kind of bored with the Sims, I bought every expansion for the first series, and in the second series they released so many expansions and extra packs, my allowance couldn't keep up. I'll see what they're doing with the Sims 3, It looks like a nice game but if they're releasing an expansion pack every month again, I'm going to pass.

AbandonedFish
AbandonedFish

@ Hazzerz Let us know when your life sim masterpiece comes out then, kk?