EA announced earlier this week that The Sims 2 Nightlife, the second expansion pack for last year's hit game, has gone gold. This means that development on Nightlife has finished, and it's now on its way through manufacturing before arriving at a store near you later this month. Nightlife promises to be a huge expansion for The Sims 2, because it adds a gigantic new downtown area to explore, not to mention lots of new content, ranging from objects, fashions, character interactions, and more. There are even cars and vampires added to the core game. So in our final Nightlife Q&A, we once again turned to Tim LeTourneau, the longtime producer of The Sims and The Sims 2.
GameSpot: How are the downtown areas delineated in Nightlife? Are they integrated into the existing neighborhoods, or are they all set on a separate screen, much like the college campuses in The Sims 2 University?
Tim LeTourneau: Downtown is a whole new neighborhood (just like the campuses in The Sims 2 University). What's really cool is we have added the ability to set neighborhoods to nighttime, which kind of goes with the whole theme of the pack. So when you see our downtown you see searchlights combing the sky in a dramatic cityscape. I think players are really going to be surprised when they see it.
GS: Will the current neighborhoods in The Sims 2 (Strangetown, Veronaville, and so on) have their own custom downtown areas? Will you be able to "share" a downtown area with different cities?
TL: Each neighborhood has its own downtown. Now the players can either create a downtown using the template we provide, or if they prefer, they can build one from scratch. Sims can also move to the downtown as well, so if you prefer to tell the story of your sims living a more metropolitan life, you can.
GS: How many different "plots" are there in a typical downtown that you can develop? Is there enough room to create a diverse downtown, with clubs, bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, and more?
TL: Well the downtown that we provide has over 20 different lots that sims can visit, with all the variety you can think of--restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, diners, poker clubs, etc. Players will definitely find their favorite hangouts, or make their own and add them to the list.
GS: Speaking of bars, restaurants, and bowling alleys, what other sorts of downtown locales are possible?
TL: There are karaoke lounges, nightclubs, card rooms, and, my personal favorite, there is even a cemetery--a great place for dates with vampires. And as I said, you can combine any of the different locales, so the possibilities are only limited by the player's imagination.
Dating DraculaGS: How much will a car cost? Does owning a car actually save a lot of time, or is it more a prestige thing for your sim?
TL: They range in price from the introductory hatchback all the way to the sports car. Having played a lot now, I can honestly say that a car has become an essential purchase with my starting funds. They save so much time in a career, because they give you an extra hour to get to work. But they are also so convenient for going out, as there's no need to waste time waiting for the cab. The prestige part is just a bonus.
GS: How many different car models do you expect in Nightlife? And will mod makers be able to create custom car designs, like they create custom objects?
TL: There are five cars that are shipping with the pack (with a great variety of design modes). We also have another one available for download if you preorder. I'm sure the modders will figure out how to expand that number greatly.
GS: Let's go back in time a bit. When did the development of Nightlife begin? Were the first initial expansion packs plotted out before The Sims 2 shipped?
TL: We have talked about a lot of different expansion pack ideas. Probably any pack we would ever do has crossed our mind at some point by now. About halfway through The Sims 2 University, we thought about what we'd like to see The Sims do next. The community experience wasn't everything we thought it should be in the base game and we wanted to add more of a reason for sims to get out of the house. That's really how The Sims 2 Nightlife took shape. Of course, our memories of The Sims Hot Date also had some influence on this decision, too.
GS: Is there a list of potential expansion ideas floating around somewhere at Maxis, and how does an idea move to the top of the list?
TL: There's definitely a list, but that doesn't mean that any of the things on there will gel into an actual pack. As I said, a lot of ideas are floating around in our heads. We really rely on what the community of players is asking to be able to do as well--they are our greatest influence. We couple their requests with our own creative juices and ultimately settle on a pack concept that we think will be the right thing to do next. You'd think after all these years it would be more scientific, but the reality is that The Sims is a game that is made from the heart. We can feel it when we've made the right choice when the whole team embraces the concept and makes it their own.
GS: And finally, any hints as to what's next for The Sims 2? There are the console and handheld versions coming out, but what about future expansions for the PC version?
TL: Players will know what the next expansion pack is soon enough. For now, you'll just have to wait!
GS: Thanks, Tim.
TL: You're welcome. I'm always happy to tell people what's up with The Sims.