The Sims 2 Designer Diary #9

As The Sims 2 nears completion, Maxis' Lucy Bradshaw tells us about some of the new families that will ship with the highly anticipated sequel.


The Sims 2

As the September release date for The Sims 2 nears, the developers at Maxis are busy putting the finishing touches on what is undoubtedly one of the biggest game releases of the year. In The Sims 2, you'll once again have the opportunity to create your own sims, or virtual people, and manipulate their lives. However, the gameplay has been deepened, so you will also have to take into account your sims' desires and fears. Sims will want riches, fame, family, and more, and it'll be up to you to decide whether or not to give it to them. Your sims will also marry, have children, grow old, and eventually die, but you can still carry on playing the game with their children. In this edition of our designer diaries, Maxis vice president Lucy Bradshaw explains what the development team has been working on, and she also gives us an introduction to some of the unique families that will ship with the game.

The Sticky Wall at Maxis.

Crunch Time

By Lucy Bradshaw
VP PC development

Here we are at the final phase of development on The Sims 2. Just to give you a sense of what things are like around the office these days, let me paint the picture. It is Tuesday at 1:30am. I just had a meeting with about six members of the team to review how we are tuning the popularity aspiration in the game. Yup, we are in crunch mode. We have a wall here at the office called the "Sticky Wall"--basically a huge wall with a high-level snapshot of the schedule reflecting the last four months of the project (the entire project would take a much bigger wall), completely covered with Post-it Notes. Each Post-it Note represents a specific high-level task that we need to complete. It is a very tall and very long wall. Each time we complete one of the tasks, we stamp a big "DONE" stamp on its Post-it Note. Well, I am very happy to say that we are awash with "DONE"-stamped Post-its!!!! Ah, but we are not done yet...

We are at that point where we are hammering away at bugs and tuning, tuning, tuning. Truth be told, it is a blast. It's like rounding that final curve and all of your adrenaline is pumping. Each day the gameplay gets tighter as we tune. We're also getting a lot of quality time with our teammates; this is a time we like to call "crunch time." One thing that keeps us laughing as we work is our group of favorite bugs. (Oops, that is a sneak preview of what I'll be writing about next month!)

Another thing we go into overdrive on, at this point, is getting play feedback. Throughout the course of development, we pull together play groups and what we call "Kleenex- testing" groups. (Kleenex tests are where we have first-time users play the game. The deal is, once we have "used" this player, that's it. We can't get first impressions again, so they are used up). We check on how well the user interface is delivering and if players are getting the key concepts of the gameplay. One thing that came clear through these tests is that The Sims 2 is an enormous game. It occurred to us, in such an open-ended game, it might be cool if we expose some of the possibilities in store for your sims by setting the stage, so to speak. So we've been having some fun with our own game.

Strangetown is one of the three neighborhoods that will ship in the game, and it is the home of lots of weird occurrences.
Strangetown is one of the three neighborhoods that will ship in the game, and it is the home of lots of weird occurrences.

When you enter The Sims 2, you can either choose from one of three neighborhoods that will ship with the game or you can create your own. You can create your own family in any of the shipping neighborhoods, or you can play as one of the existing families that we have created, just to get a sense of what can happen. Each family is very unique. One neighborhood that I like is Strangetown--this is where we decided to put all of our very "out there" sims. And the really fun thing is that you can set up relationships across families. Sims are more aware of their relationships than ever before, so the goings-on in the 'hood can get pretty funny.

Welcome to Strangetown

Without further delay, here's a sneak preview of a few of the families of Strangetown: the Curious brothers, the Smiths, and the Grunts.

Pollination Technician #9 just wants to live the good life in the suburbs.
Pollination Technician #9 just wants to live the good life in the suburbs.

The Curious brothers live in the coolest house in town; it's located near the satellite dishes, and it's a modern home with cantilevered decks. The three Curious brothers, Lazlo, Pascal, and Vidcund, are all knowledge sims, which may have been influenced by the fact that their dad was abducted by aliens and never returned (check out their family tree). Aliens play a big part in their lives. Always wanting to catch sight of a UFO, they invested early in a telescope, which they have stationed at the tip-top of their highest deck. Play this house and you'll have a real challenge in store very quickly. Raising sim kids--from babies through those awkward teenage years--is one of the new challenges in The Sims 2. But raising two little alien half-breeds--who would have thought of that? We did! One of the funniest moments is watching Pascal and Vidcund waddle about and eat like maniacs.

The Smith Family has a nice little Cape Cod house with a well-manicured lawn and white picket fence--the picture of suburban normalcy. Take a closer look. The dad's name is Pollination Technical #9. What is that? Take a look at his profile; despite the Hawaiian shirt, it looks like he's going to have an interesting time passing himself off as the typical suburban patriarch. But he just loves his lawn and can't get enough of barbequing. After a long and fruitful career of abducting hapless sims, he decided Earth was a pretty good place to settle down. Now he's just trying to fit in. Those unfortunate genetic traits have been passed down to his son, Johnny, who's trying to make it as a popularity sim, but it's a tough road to haul with his green skin.

General Grunt likes to run his three sons through the obstacle course all day long.
General Grunt likes to run his three sons through the obstacle course all day long.

The Grunts live in a barracks-style house at 51 Road to Nowhere. General Grunt runs a very tight military household; a true domesticated boot camp, complete with one of the new career reward objects, the obstacle course. He can be found drilling his three sons, Tank, Ripp, and Buck, in the art of boot camp basics. They are not all that thrilled. Tank is a bit on the immature side, and will take any chance he can to pick a fight, give a noogie to his little brother, and just be outrageously annoying. Ripp, the lazy one, wants to chat on the computer, and little Buck is happy just swinging on the swing set. The general is a bit suspicious of the Smiths. He just can't stand the sight of them. But PT9 is so oblivious; he thinks the Grunts are a nice, typical Earth family.

The sparks fly in this neighborhood with all of the alien abductions, the other neighbors butting in, and lots of interesting family connections. Like I said, you can move your own family in and make Strangetown your own, or play one of ours for a bit. You'll have fun with the extreme situations your sims can get into.

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