One of the most highly anticipated PC games of the year is The Sims 3, the next game in the series that's all about creating little computer people and controlling their little computer lives, right down to the trips they make to the little computer potty. And every game in the series has always offered plenty of stuff to do right out of the box, from creating a family of sims, to leading virtual home lives, and using the games' design tools to build out a luxurious virtual home or an outdoor lot area, such as a bowling alley or a nightclub. But the Sims series, like pretty much all other long-running game series, owes a great deal of its longevity to its legions of loyal fans--especially the ones who take the time and effort to craft new items and characters for other players to download and rate on the "Exchange" community site.
GameSpot had the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes look at a community-focused event that the publisher refers to as "content creator camp"--an event in which some of the most devoted sims crafters in the world made their way to EA's Northern California campus to spend a very productive week behind the wheel of the game's updated design tools, building lots of different types of content that will be used to populate the Sims 3 Exchange site once the game ships later this year. These devoted fans were among the first people in the world outside of EA ever to get their hands on the actual Sims 3 game that week...and coincidentally, so were we. We'll take you through what we saw of the game's editing tools and the ins and outs of this community event, and will also be happy to share our exclusive hands-on impressions of the actual game tomorrow (Friday), so please come back tomorrow for them.
To create the content that will populate the Exchange site, EA's community team apparently handpicked about 30 different Sims fans from across the globe to help create new characters, homes, furniture objects, lots, and custom patterns. The Sims 3's new custom-pattern tool will let you design your own customized pattern, which you can then apply to pretty much anything in the game (including clothes, furniture, and house wallpaper), and with any kind of color tint you choose. You can then upload them on the Exchange site to share with other players. From what we understand, the game's diligent community is pretty stringent about policing objectionable player-created content, so any offensive or copyrighted material that tries to sneak through will probably get weeded out quickly.
Among other things, the game's updated character-creation tools will allow for much more nuanced and detailed characters because the game will now have a true gradient slider for skin tones to pick up more subtle skin-tone differences. It'll also have even more in-depth slider bars to let you adjust such things as the height of your characters' noses, the size of their eyes, and more hairstyles, fashion accessories, and clothing styles (including one-piece and two-piece ensembles, as well as the usual sleepwear and swimwear) than you can shake a stick at.
There are also color sliders for your characters' eyes and hair color (and you can actually create matted hair colors to make characters with tasteful, and not-so-tasteful, dye jobs in which the hair roots don't match the ends). Oh, and the game will also have a few offbeat skin colors, such as blue (in case you wanted to re-create the eccentric Blue Man Group performer troupe, or simply create a philandering sim and see how many blue children you can father around the neighborhood) and green. These are apparently quite popular for making vampire-looking characters among the Sims' fan community, which contains many goth players who are fans of black hair, black nail polish, and horror films. But given that The Sims 3 offers nongoth facial cosmetic and makeup options, including at least a few with pretty unicorns in face paint, it may be safe to assume that The Sims series also has a strong fan base among circus clowns.
Like with previous games in the series, The Sims 3's design tools will also let you create multistory houses that you can furnish with piles of new and different furniture. Likewise, you can build out multilevel 3D terrain (to create your own little backyard wooded hills), though if you're extremely creative, you'll be able to bend the rules a bit, such as making a "detached" house consisting of unconnected towers surrounding an open courtyard. Of course, you'll also be able to play with the game's outdoor "lots," the public common areas that we mentioned previously, should you feel that you can design a better gym or supermarket than what ships with the game. Even though the game will ship with only one town, it'll have dozens and dozens of outdoor lots to futz with, including a handful of secluded lots that aren't necessarily impossible to find, but will be out-of-the-way enough to make for relaxing secret fishing holes that your harried sims will want to escape to as they climb the game's expanded career ladder. That's the kind of thing we'll go into more detail about in our hands-on story coming up tomorrow, so please do come back for that. The Sims 3 is scheduled for release later this year.