The Sims 2 undergoes machinima makeover

Update: Electronic Arts teams with <i>Red vs Blue</i> creators to apply their quirky aesthetic to The Sims 2. GameSpot speaks to <i>Red vs Blue</i> creator Burnie Burns.

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It seems that being the publisher of the best-selling PC game franchise of all time isn't enough for Electronic Arts. When it comes to The Sims, building the brand never stops.

With that brand-building spirit in mind, the series added some more weight today. This morning, EA announced that it was partnering with Rooster Teeth Productions to create movies based on The Sims 2 game. These movies will employ the onboard tools that are available to all owners of the game.

Setting an example for The Sims 2 gamers who are interested in creating machinima (wherein games are used to create digital videos), EA has teamed with Rooster Teeth to create a series of machinima that will be posted on a dedicated Web site, www.strangerhood.com.

The first movie from Rooster Teeth went live on the site this morning.

The movies are designed to instruct and inspire The Sims 2 gamers to dig in and use the tools available to them. Lucy Bradshaw, executive producer of the game, said in a statement, "The movies we've seen from [Rooster Teeth], so far, are amazing. We look forward to showing players out there just how much you can do with our game. The possibilities are endless."

Gamers will recognize the Red vs Blue team as the one that previously tapped Halo as fodder for its playful approach to machinima moviemaking.

GameSpot spoke with Rooster Teeth founder Burnie Burns immediately after the news was released.

GameSpot: Burnie, how much have you had to change your usual MO now that you're working with the largest game publisher in the world?

Burnie Burns: Well, going from the largest software company in the world, Microsoft, to working with the largest game company in the world is not that big a change. It's not like we're having any new challenges or anything like that.

GS: But the games are worlds apart--Halo and The Sims 2.

BB: Yes, the biggest thing, as far as what changes, is that The Sims 2 is a Teen-rated game, whereas Halo is a Mature-rated game. And so to keep in tune with the game itself, we've agreed to make [the videos] Teen rated. But that fits with the humor anyway. Whenever we write stuff, we like to have it fit in with the audience that already likes the game.

GS: Are you still doing work based on the Halo universe?

BB: I want to make it clear that we're still doing Red vs Blue. It's not like we're stopping. In fact, we're about to start season three.

GS: What's it been like working on The Sims and with EA?

BB: Everything so far has been great. Everything we've done so far has been lots of fun. When we first started talking about [The Sims 2], they had seen Red vs Blue. EA were fans of Red vs Blue. That helped a lot. It wasn't just like somebody told them that they should get in contact with us. They contacted us because they liked Red vs Blue. They've been very, very cool to us.

GS: How are you approaching the creative challenge? And what are your goals with this new project?

BB: Well, with machinima, you have to work within this limited world. We can't really go in and make The Sims characters fight with guns or anything like that. That's something we can do in Halo, but in Halo you can't put them on a couch or things like that.

When we were writing Red vs Blue over the last year and a half, we'd come up with things that were funny that we wanted to use, some concepts we wanted to make fun of, things that we wanted to parody, but that we just weren't able to do.

Now, with The Strangerhood, we can make fun of sitcoms, make fun of reality shows, poke fun at stuff that we were just not able to in Red vs Blue.

GS: Sounds good.

BB: The project is a really good fit. We actually have a lot of stuff already written out. Hopefully, as we start to work with The Sims 2 engine, we're going to be able to use that. But the way machinima works, you never know. The game's not built to make movies, that's what the creative process is--we try to milk all that out of [the limited palette]. Some things you can do and some things you can't, but that's part of the fun challenge.

GS: Besides posting the movies that you make using The Sims 2 engine, are you going to be providing any other sorts of content gamers can read or watch?

BB: If there's any inspiration, it's going to be inspiration by example, I think.

We don't have a problem talking with people on our forums about how we do things, but we have a commitment to not do too much stuff that's outside of the game engine. We try to keep it so that anybody can replicate what we do in the game engine. That's the really cool part about machinima.

GS: In general, what do you hear from your fan base?

BB: We get a lot of e-mail from young filmmakers who are wanting to tell a story but who don't have the money to go out and buy even a video camera. But they may already have a PC game or an Xbox game, so they can sit down and create. With The Sims 2, the cool thing is, they've already got all this stuff built in. You just hit a button and you can record your gameplay footage. You don't need any kind of external video-capturing equipment or anything like that.

GS: Do you end up answering lots of reader mail that poses "how to" questions?

BB: We answer questions as they come up, but we don't really put too many tutorials out there because there's lots of great machinima sites like machinima.org. They talk about how machinima works and they offer free tools and things like that.

GS: How many Strangerhood episodes are planned?

BB: Our goal is always to try to treat any series like a TV series, so we try to do 22 episodes in a season. That's what we're planning to do here. As far as continuing seasons and things like that, as long as the game company will put up with us then we'll be happy to do more.

GS: Any fear of losing your core fan base?

BB: We got e-mails as soon as we put the Strangerhood videos up. People were real positive, they were liking it. We thought perhaps the change from a first-person shooter to a more "sitcomy"-looking cartoon might [alienate] some people, but so far they've been real excited about it.

GS: Burnie, that character you call Tovar, he looks a bit like The Sims creator Will Wright. Is that intentional?

BB: [laughs] I don't know, I don't think so! I might be a little colored by the fact that I know what Tovar's character is really like. Trust me, if he looks like Will Wright, I don't think he acts anything like Will Wright. And if he does act like Will Wright, I definitely want to get a job working for Will very, very soon.

GS: Thanks, Burnie.

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