The Sims and its acclaimed sequel, The Sims 2, were among the best-selling PC games of all time. The virtual-life simulators created by designer Will Wright spawned numerous expansions and gave players the ability to play God, endowing sims with personality traits and guiding them through work, play, love, and loss. Electronic Arts is aiming for The Sims 3 to improve on its predecessors in every way.
In The Sims 3, life will take place within one seamless, streaming neighborhood, rather than several neighborhoods that would require load times. You'll grant sims personality traits and guide them toward completing their deepest wishes, such as becoming an astronaut or a famous rock star. Achieving your lifetime dreams won't be easy, and you'll often be presented with morally questionable shortcuts on your way to the top. Will you really do anything to get ahead? We sat down with executive producer Ben Bell to get the latest on The Sims 3. Here's what he had to say.
GameSpot: Please give us an update on the game. What aspects are the team working on at the moment?
Ben Bell: A lot of our time is spent playing and perfecting the open, living neighborhood and all of the gameplay that takes place there. In The Sims 3, we're opening up the other half of life that players have always wanted to explore. What happens when you're not stuck at home? It's been a huge undertaking for us, but we're very happy with the way it's working out.
One example of the work we're doing is the AI behind the people who live in your town. You control a household of sims, but all of the other sims in your town live and develop as you play. It takes an impressive amount of tuning to make this work just right. I think that people are used to seeing lots of other characters in a gameworld, but they've never seen a gameworld where every character is being motivated by unique personality traits and motives like The Sims 3. Another thing we're working on is a feature called Create a Style, which allows players to customize just about everything, from clothing to furniture to cars. We want players to be able to change the game like our artists can. The interface is really powerful, and we want to make it perfect.
GS: We're sure The Sims 2 community was very vocal about what it wanted from a sequel. What were the most popular requests that fans made for The Sims 3?
BB: We're all fans of The Sims, and a lot of our team worked on The Sims and The Sims 2, so player feedback is built into our team. We also spend a lot of time interacting with members of The Sims community around the world. I don't think the game would be what it is without The Sims community. Fans have always wanted more interaction with a community of sims. If you think about it, The Sims is the most detailed depiction of contemporary life to be presented in a work of fiction, but half of life was missing. In The Sims 3, we'll let you explore the other half of life that happens when you are not at home.
GS: We understand that the game features a continuous neighborhood and no loading times, but there won't be multiple neighborhoods as in The Sims 2. Tell us a bit about this decision. How will it change what different players do with the game once they get it in their hands?
BB: There is one neighborhood, and it is pretty amazing. We've been working exclusively on this one neighborhood, Sunset Valley, for the last few years. There have been many versions of it. Some ideas were scrapped, while others survived for a while until we had a better idea. This town is bigger and richer than anything we've made before. We really wanted to make something that would blow people away, and we wanted to do more with the town than we have in the past.
No two towns will ever be the same after one generation in The Sims 3. As I mentioned, every sim has complete AI throughout their life. You'll see people grow up, go to school, fall in love, get married, get jobs, move out, have families, grow old, and pass away. It's also possible to change all of the sims in your town, so you can fill the town with whoever you like...celebrities, yourself, your friends, characters from your favorite show, favorite band or sports team, or anyone you can imagine!
GS: As players create their sims, they will now be able to select five personality traits that will help define their dispositions. How will this new system let players create characters with more-defined personalities...and more importantly, how will it do a better job of letting players re-create the personalities of themselves, their friends, or their favorite celebrities? What are some extreme personalities we'll see in The Sims 3?
BB: There are over 70 personality traits that players can choose from. When you choose traits, they are represented as a simple word that you might use to describe someone you know, so it's easy to understand what they will do in the game. What makes traits so powerful is that they can change the game in profound ways. You'll see different behaviors, interactions, advantages, and goals depending on the traits that your sims have. Just to name a few examples of more extreme traits, you can let your sims be insane, evil, kleptomaniac, paranoid, brave, hates kids, genius, and more...
GS: We understand that every sim has a dream that can be fulfilled as part of a lifetime achievement goal. What are some examples of lifetime achievements, and what happens when you reach it? What if you fail?
BB: Just like people, the sims have wishes. Some of their wishes are really big, and we call those lifetime wishes. A lifetime wish is a really big achievement like becoming a rock star, raising a huge family, getting rich, or becoming an astronaut. Along the way to achieving your lifetime wish, you'll fulfill smaller wishes. As you fulfill a sim's wishes, you earn points that can be used to purchase special traits and reward objects that are generally hilarious and awesome. There really is no way to fail in the game, but you can make some really funny things happen if you want to cause trouble for your sims.
GS: How much dedication does it take to reach the pinnacle of your respective career ladder? Are there any shortcuts to the top?
BB: If you play your cards right, you might be able to get to the top of more than one career in a lifetime, but it would take a lot of hard work, and your sim would need the right traits. Workaholic sims will be happy if they live at the office, so that might be a good way to go. There are definitely some shortcuts, and your sims will get opportunities from time to time that give them a boost.
GS: Plenty of open-ended moral choices will pop up in The Sims 3, like giving you the choice to skim off the top of campaign contributions in the political career. Give us some more examples of these moral choices depending on your career. What are the consequences of such decisions?
BB: The game is full of moral choices. Some of them are presented to the player as career opportunities. I don't want to give too much away on this subject. A lot of the moral choices in the game come from the social simulator, and this is where the game becomes so compelling. A lot of players use the game to explore moral questions in their own lives. It's sort of a "what if" simulator...
GS: What can you tell us about the community features and sharing options players can use to build and share with their friends and with the larger Sims fan base?
BB: The Sims 3 players will have unprecedented freedom to customize the look of their game. A player with creative aspirations and no technical training or knowledge can make changes to the look of just about everything in their sim's life, right in the game. We call the technology Create a Style. In the past, fans made their creations outside of the game and then shared them on the exchange. We wanted to give the power that our artists have to the players.
The process of getting creations online is easier than ever. The Sims 3 launcher helps you install and manage custom content so that you don't have to hunt around for directories or anything like that. Finally, The Sims 3 community is completely new and there are some incredible tools, including a Web-based video-editing tool so that players can make movies from the videos they capture in the game.
GS: As in The Sims 2, throwing parties is all the rage in The Sims 3. What are the different party types available depending on your career?
BB: There are new party types in The Sims 3, but there are also some pretty cool locations to party with your friends. If you want to call your friends down to the beach and set up an afternoon BBQ, you can do that. Break out your guitar, turn on the radio, call up some friends, and chill out. If you're a rising politician, you can throw campaign fundraisers to build up your campaign fund as well.
GS: Thanks for your time.