After going to college with the first expansion pack for last year's blockbuster game The Sims 2, EA and Maxis are setting their sights on going downtown with The Sims 2 Nightlife. As with any expansion pack to The Sims, you can expect plenty of new content and objects to play with, as well as new and interesting forms of gameplay. The focus in Nightlife is about going out and having a good time, and to facilitate this, the expansion will add cars (so you can zoom downtown faster without having to wait for a cab), tons of new locales, such as dance clubs, bowling alleys, and restaurants (along with the ability, of course, to design your own downtown locales), and a bunch of new social interactions. We were more interested in some of the new dating and social aspects of Nightlife, and senior producer Tim LeTourneau was once again good enough to indulge our questions. You can expect Nightlife to ship this fall.
GameSpot: There's more of an emphasis on dating in Nightlife, but what's improved? As it is right now, it's not too hard to get sims to go from complete strangers to engaged in just a day or two of game time. Will you stretch this out a bit in Nightlife to make the courting ritual more of a challenge? Will you need to work harder to woo a potential partner?
Tim LeTourneau: It's true that experienced players can speed through the relationship game in a couple days, provided all the conditions are right. What we've done here is make some aspects of the relationship game easier if the conditions are really right--if the sims are attracted to each other, and the player is focused on making sure a date goes well. With each expansion we add a lot of new gameplay, and that new gameplay takes time out of a sim's limited life span, so we have to find new strategies that allow players to get through parts of the game more quickly so they have time for all the new stuff. To make it challenging for the hardcore players, we added a lot of rewards to the dating game, so mediocre dates won't be that hard to achieve, but "dream dates" will take some work. The fact that dates are scored, have strategic challenges, and, most importantly, have rewards make it a whole new dating game from anything we've done before.
GS: Will we see a return of the bar mechanics from the Hot Date expansion? In other words, can you go stand at a bar and try to pick up other sims using moves that are exclusive to the bar, like ordering someone a drink?
TL: There are some bar moves like ordering drinks, but not like Hot Date. Romantic interactions are spread all over the place. A lot of the moves are on the dance floor and in the booths, and even in the cars.
GS: Nightlife is about more about dating, though. It's about having fun. So University introduced pool tables. Nightlife will introduce bowling, but what else? New dance moves? Raves, or ravelike dance clubs? Posh restaurants and street diners?
TL: You kind of hit a lot of it in the question--you've been doing your homework. The dance clubs you can build are really amazing. I've had a blast just designing what mine look like--there are so many different choices. Also, I can't wait for people to see the sims doing "The Smustle" together. Other fun stuff includes the poker table (one of my favorite new objects) and the karaoke machine. You can't help but laugh when you see a low-creativity-skill sim sing his or her heart out badly. So whether it's a date, a boys' or girls' night out, or an evening of family fun with the kids, there are a lot of really fun things to do and experience.
GS: In our previous Q&A, we learned about the new date score, which measures the wants and fears of both your sim and his or her date and displays the score as a meter onscreen. How does the new date score improve the dating system? Aren't you simply just doing the things you were doing before, like giving lots of hugs and kisses to work your way up to a romantic crush or more? Or is it more like when you're giving a schoolmaster a tour of your house in The Sims 2, and you're trying to keep him impressed so you can get in?
TL: It's not just about romantic socials, it's about having fun, both for you and your date, or all the folks in your group. Different events while you are out are scored differently, and sims respond differently to events. An active sim might really go for bowling, but a lazy sim might dislike it. It's never the same date twice. Also, dates and outings now have levels, so it might not be that hard to have a so-so evening, but "dream date" is going to take some serious strategic work for the player.
Party HardGS: Are you rewarded better on a date using the date score? If you do exceptionally well do you get a bonus in the relationship? And if things go spectacularly bad, how bad can it get? After all, when things go bad in The Sims, they tend to go really bad.
TL: It's not just the relationship, though there is something really nice about receiving a love letter in the mailbox after a great night out. There are a variety of rewards that can be received just based on who you were out with. For example, if your sim goes out and has a great time with someone in his or her profession, the sim might just get a call about a few strings that have been pulled to get them a quick promotion. Nightlife brings a bit of networking to The Sims. Of course there are some great failures, but those are way more fun to find when you're playing.
GS: Then there's the outing score, which measures how well things are going when your sim and his or her friends are out on the town. How is this measured? What happens if the outing score drops? Does the group disband, or are there petty arguments? And how are you rewarded if the outing score goes through the roof?
TL: Well, outings are like a big group date, in a way. The amount of fun the group is having is the primary metric, and increasing relationships is a big help as well. The rewards for outings are as varied as with dates. One of the most powerful ones is being introduced by your buddies to other sims at higher relationships than just meeting people on the street.
GS: One of the features introduced in the University expansion was the ability to manipulate other sims to do stuff for you, like your homework. Will you be able to try to manipulate sims in new ways with Nightlife?
TL: This isn't really a big feature of Nightlife, as you aren't managing the day-to-day stuff differently, you're focused on a great time out.
GS: If you have both the University expansion and Nightlife, will you be able to have nightlife-style clubs in college towns? Or create young adult sims with the pleasure aspiration? Will Nightlife affect University's gameplay in any way?
TL: It's all made to work together. Players will absolutely find new strategies for getting through the school years utilizing the new features and objects introduced in Nightlife. Young adults can definitely be pleasure sims. They can go downtown and check out the clubs and restaurants. And if players want to, they can build everything up right on campus.
GS: University introduced cell phones, and Nightlife will introduce cars. But what other kinds of objects will be added in Nightlife? What's the coolest, in your opinion? What's the most useful?
TL: I mentioned the karaoke machine, which still makes me laugh every time I see it. But I'm a builder at heart, so I love the creative and construction tools in the game. Half-walls are so powerful, they let you create completely new-looking structures, and I know our talented builders in the player community are going to create some amazing- looking structures with them. A useful object, to me, is always about versatility and how many different ways I can use the object. In that respect, I don't think there is anything as useful as the sectional sofas, which let you create so many different looks that just weren't possible to create before--I love them. Sorry to geek out on you there, I know they may not sound sexy to the average person, but to a Sims player, I promise that they're golden.
GS: No problem about geeking out Tim, we like to do that too. Thanks again.