Q&A: Sims executive producer Rod Humble

The head of the Sims talks about why there isn't an Xbox version of Sims 2 Pets, how Will Wright sees the Sims staff as his own Sims, and next-gen plans.

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This week, Electronic Arts announced the latest Sims project, The Sims 2 Pets. It will be released as an expansion for the PC, and as a full Sims game on consoles and handhelds--the second Sims 2 game for such platforms.

The Sims games have done very well on the PC side, but the console counterparts haven't exactly broken the bank. GameSpot had a chance to sit down with Rod Humble, executive producer for The Sims, and talk about the obstacles the developer faces in trying to market the console editions to gamers, as well as plans for The Sims in the next generation.

GameSpot: How much of the decision to go with Sims 2 Pets was due to the voice of the Sims community?

Rod Humble: An awful lot. We realize that an easy trap to fall into would be to retread old ground that we did on Sims 1. So we really like to push in a new direction for one expansion pack and then give players what they're asking for with another expansion pack.

The spring one is usually where we try and do something new creatively or try a new life experience. And then in the fall [expansion] we give everybody what they're asking for. So last year was Nightlife and this year is definitely Pets. And we had a lot of fun with it.

GS: How is The Sims 2 Pets going to be different from the Unleashed expansion from the original Sims?

RH: Well, you can create your own pets, which is really kind of awesome. So you make little tiger dogs and cats and you can modify just about every aspect of the animal. Also of course, it's got the more advanced personalities of the Sims 2 core product and it's pretty much improved in every way. Also, your pets can have these really fun careers, where you've got the career ladder. They can actually keep you as a pampered human.

GS: You decided to put out full console versions for The Sims 2 Pets, but you didn't do it for Nightlife or other PC add-ons for the Sims 2. What was it about this one that made you decide to go with the consoles again?

RH: It's such a strong theme that we wanted to have a unified launch. We've never done that before--PC, and console, and handheld--and we really wanted to invest in consoles going forward on the franchise. And this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

GS: Okay. Why isn't there an Xbox version? I mean...there's a GameCube version!

RH: Well, it was a long decision and obviously the Xbox 360 is having a fantastic year, and we just looked at how it would be this holiday season, standing up against what is going to be a great holiday season for the Xbox 360, and given our current-gen focus it didn't quite make sense. Obviously we look forward to making 360 versions in the future.

GS: All of the PC versions of Sims games do really well in retail. What have you added to the console versions of the Sims 2 Pets to try and lure in consumers from the consoles market?

RH: Well, we went nuts again. As you know, we don't like to make life easy for ourselves--so we made different designs on several different platforms. So the Game Boy Advance and the DS versions, although they have a pets theme and they have the core gameplay, they're very different from the rest of the lineup.

On the DS you're running a Sim as a veterinarian, and you run a little pet hospital, which is kind of cool because you get some structure to the gameplay, which was missing before. And the Game Boy Advance version is actually a fairly deep role-playing game. The PS2 edition is the more advanced version of what we did last year. It's got a bunch of extra features--they're in the build mode, which is looking really cool. And the PSP is similar to the PS2 version, as is the GameCube.

GS: Relative to the PC, why do you think that the Sims games have had difficulty cracking the console market?

RH: You rightly point out, they don't usually break the top-five weekly best-seller list, but over time they do sell very well. They're very, very strong back-catalog sellers for us. Which is great. They've also had more success on handhelds than consoles. And I think some of that is to do with the private-versus-public experiences that are fun about the Sims.

So there are some stories that you tell in the Sims that you don't necessarily want in the living room in front of your family or friends. And that probably explains why handheld does well as does PCs, because they're used in the study. But on the other hand there are many experiences in the Sims that you do want public and they're usually creativity based, so here's the house I built, here's the amusing situation that I've set up, or here's something cool that's happened.

So we tried to turn the dial this year on the PlayStation 2 and GameCube designs more in that direction. So the build is a lot more robust and the housing lots are just beautiful, and there's a lot more going on that you can enjoy as a spectator and point out to your family as well. So those are the measures we've taken to address that.

GS: What are the plans to bring the Sims to next-gen systems? It seems really well suited for microtransactions, and maybe the ability to make movies and share them online.

RH: Yeah, we are looking at moving to a whole bunch of platforms in the next year or so. We like the transactions, we're very mindful that we want the game design to drive any kind of business model, not the other way around. So we're always very, very careful of that. We don't just want to force things in for the sake of forcing things in. We are doing it in the future, though we're not announcing it yet, but we will for sure.

GS: Do you think with microtransactions you'd be doing it in packs, or would people be able to buy just one chair as opposed to a whole living-room ensemble?

RH: Well, we've looked at both methods. What's working for us right now on the PC is [stock] packs, which we deliberately chose not to do those by microtransactions, and instead we just wanted a nice bundle of stuff that you could go into a store and pick up, because there are a lot of people who weren't online, who weren't going to the exchange and downloading items. And it's been very successful for us.

It was a lot of fun looking at the top 10 PC charts this spring and seeing, you know, kid's furniture ranking up there at number one. And then number two. So that worked well for us. I mean, really, we're customer focused. We're not going to be driven by a particular business model that may or may not make sense for our customers.

GS: I'm a cat person. And I noticed a lot of it seems to be dog driven, and there's some cats, but what other kind of pets can the gamers expect to play with?

RH: Well, you and me both, actually. I always do the same thing, I always talk about cats first. But you can have cats, dogs, birds, and caged animals, including the guinea pig, who's amazingly adorable. And then obviously you can also make your own pets as well. So there's a nice variety. Also you get stray animals coming onto your lot as well, who can cause some trouble.

GS: How much involvement does Will Wright have in the series now? Is he just too busy doing his Spore thing now or what?

RH: Will Wright is dead to me. [Laughs.] No I'm kidding. Will Wright is a very creatively, very generous man. So if ever we have a question or we want to involve Will, he will always, always get involved. He enjoys watching what people will make out of creativity tools.

You might want to ask him, but my hunch is he gets kind of the same kick out of watching game developers take his original idea and see what they do with it. I think he gets a lot of pleasure out of it. But you know, Will will answer any questions we have. We do try and respect the fact that he loves to focus on whatever his current baby is.

GS: Almost five years have passed between the Sims and the Sims 2. What do you think are the sort of lifecycles for different Sims games? What I mean is, when do you see Sims 3 coming out, or Sims 4?

RH: I don't know if there's any fixed lifecycle for the Sims franchise because I think that it can go a lot more places. Part of the mandate that I had when I took over the position is to really break this franchise out into a more mainstream audience. So the way I like to look at the franchise is walk into a bookstore and take every video game you know and just place them on a shelf in the bookstore. And I think you'll find they tend to cluster a lot in certain areas in the bookstore. And I want the Sims to fill up the rest of the bookstore.

In drama, romantic comedy... the whole bookstore I want to fill up with the Sims because it's a game, it's a franchise that can take in all of real life. So, in the future years you should expect brand-new and original game designs that in no way are linked to the original game systems, which will just deal with different aspects of life. So, it's going to be pretty exciting.

GS: Thanks, Rod.

Discussion

43 comments
nicolewukber12
nicolewukber12

the pc games are the best but the other games are ok. and they are pretty darn good when your computer doesn't work well enough to have the sims or sims 2 on it LIKE ME!!!!!

mendakfizz
mendakfizz

I agree with u leo_watson. Sims just dont 'click' with consoles game. I prefer it to be play in PC.

leo_watson
leo_watson

I really don't think the gameplay works on the console versions from the times I've had a go at them.

simfan4ever
simfan4ever

Im a PC girl always have been so this is going to be SWEET. I tried the sims on ps2 and I didnt really like it that much but hey its still cool cuz people who are console gamers will have the chance to play too :)

elite11
elite11

the ds version sounds interesting

thepeter
thepeter

i wouldn't release anything on a console starting with x.

NJFragger
NJFragger

Man, enabling comments was a bad idea. Why not a link to a thread in the forums or something?

Kwzy
Kwzy

xbox games don't sell!!! that is the truth

2TrickedOut
2TrickedOut

faridmon- Did you even read the article. He said the 360 had a great year so they are probably waiting and working on a 360 version instead of a reg xbox version. Its not because they think gamecube is better. I own a gamecube and feel most developers gave up on it. Its like my N64 a few decent games then hardly anything. I have a 360 and maybe a ps3.

Peach15
Peach15

I can't wait for this game to come out! I've been waiting for them to come out with another Sim game, especially for gamecube! I hope they come out with dozens more for Xbox360!! I have to wait two whole months for this game comes out!

faridmon
faridmon

finally, EA realized how XBOX sucks and the Gamecube ROCKS.

jonnyjd
jonnyjd

I'm over the whole Sims thing. And by the way, why did they have to crop Rod out of a picture for the story? Makes it look little...weird.

mos333
mos333

Sims is like playing with barbie dolls, and the online one sucks.

Thesimsfrk111
Thesimsfrk111

If this expansion is better than the The Sims: Unleashed was than I'll buy it. I hope its not just The Sims 2 with Pets beside you. :/ basically what Unleashed was.

autumnleaf29
autumnleaf29

I have been looking forward to this expansion. I only play the pc version so not too worried about it being on other things. I hope that they are not rushed with it and be full of bugs that will require a download to fix. With having so many expansions on my computer running I worry that adding more with bugs will mess them all up. My computer is pretty much running to the max with them all.

neusolie
neusolie

i think the first sims with pets missed a lot off stuff. i realy want to know can the animals have a lifewish or wishes?

drummerchik224
drummerchik224

The other expansion packs just couldn't hold my interest for long, but I've been waiting for a Pets pack since Sims 2 originally came out. From what I can tell this will be great for a dog lover/Sim lover like me!

hemakm3
hemakm3

Bring it to the 360.

oliver_475
oliver_475

Unleashed, well it really dissapointed me, but the new objects in the game were appreciated! However i am very interested in the sims 2 pets! It's gonna be like a quadruple, chocalately chocolate cake! The ps2 version i'm not so keen on! I bought the sims 2 ps2 for £39.99 and it was absulate bulls**t! Hopefully the sims 2 pets ps2 will be a different story!

dude54
dude54

Wow, has it really been 5 years? OMG! I just realised that i spent five years of my life buying all of the sims expansions only to have sims 2 come out, an that i could have waited a few years and bout them all for 30 canadian! This must be why i cant bring myself to buy any sims 2 expansions

Tecmolover173
Tecmolover173

GAMECUBE IS COOL AND JUST BECUASE A XBOX IS MISSING WHO CARES BESIDES GAMECUBE NEEDS MORE GAMES ON THERE SYSTEM ANYWAYS.

wenbin09
wenbin09

hope they release one for the 360 soon

relset
relset

I agree with those who say that Sims is boring...actually it`s not boring It`s only for children!

t-bag11
t-bag11

i was disappointed when they never released sims 2 with the pets...unleashed was a huge success and i'm guessing this will be as well after nintendogs did on ds

peon123
peon123

NO ONE LIKES GAMECUBE

peon123
peon123

NO ONE CARES ABOUT GAMECUBE but everyone cares about sims because it is sndeed the best series for pc

K0PaSk4
K0PaSk4

Yes! finally! they better put Sumatran tiger as pet this time =|

grave_rob
grave_rob

no one is as stoked as my girlfriend

Fireheart203
Fireheart203

taytizzle you read my mind. I personally was waiting for the sims 2 pets to come out. and for that reason I have not bought any expansion packs. at all. looks great? I KNOW it's awsome.

YEPEE00
YEPEE00

gee, i'm let down. the sims 2 boards are or have been very forward, on this pets as an expansion. anyways, i agree burnin_snowball & adding the console versions have lost what made them fun. i am surprised they have not tried to pool ideas for the next exp. or sims 3.

rahlink
rahlink

The Sims fans have been screaming for pets since The Sims 2 came out. It was inevitable. While not a pet fan, and admit to disappointment that the only animals are household pet types, I am resigned, know that I will get it because I buy all of the expansions as each enhances the game, have other items/tools, etc besides the central theme that works across the neighborhood experience. new building tools are always welcomed as are new furnishings. Happy Simming!

Author_1990
Author_1990

Ponsardin>> No? The pets features has been asked for the community ever since The Sims and they got that with The Sims: Unleashed. Apparently, it had a french theme and there's a bit of farming in it. By the time The Sims 2 was released, fans have asked this and they are now using the idea. I don't think this is an attempt to beat Animal Crossing

MaxoidRodi
MaxoidRodi

It's gonna be a great EP. From what I've seen till now it won't disappoint at all.

fsfunkydotcom
fsfunkydotcom

burnin_snowball did you even read the interview? They said that the Spring expansion packs are the new fresh ideas and the Fall expansion packs are things the community has been asking for. And the community has been asking for pets. The way I read it, he seems to be kind of apologizing for it.

Ponsardin
Ponsardin

Is it just me or The Sims 2 Pets is EA's attempt to beat Animal Crossing: Wild World?

gamespy123
gamespy123

I am looking forward to the non-PC versions. Even though the PC version will be the best of the bunch (because the PC can offer controls that others cannot; the PC can hold more), I'm looking towards buying the PSP version.

xXxManslayerxXx
xXxManslayerxXx

i don't like Sims games, however, i have to reconize that is just a very very good product, the one who made it its a genious ($$$).

taytizzle
taytizzle

What if we're sims, and we just don't know it...:(

burnin_snowball
burnin_snowball

kool but an original idea wood have been better coz we've seen this b4.

chrontricross
chrontricross

i say the sims series. its ppl like you who down grade the games.

games5522
games5522

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

mariokart64fan
mariokart64fan

sims games are to boring and wheres the good games any how games like goldeneye duke nukem doom have all but been forgoten and there also is to many of the same genre on the 360