By Mike Perry, Game Designer
What goes into creating simlish, music, and ambient sounds in The Sims Bustin' Out
The Sims Bustin' Out makes every effort to really immerse players into the game. We recorded all-new simlish to give sims their unique flare and to provide original music lyrics for sims to dance or rock out to. We also included ambient sounds that reflect the graphically rich new locations in the game. We wanted to make the player's experience immersive and realistic.
Where did simlish come from? The original The Sims, created by Will Wright, launched in February 2000. This is when the world was first introduced to simlish, the wacky language of The Sims. Simlish was initially going to be based on the Navajo dialect because Will was fascinated by the Navajo codetalkers of WWII. Ultimately, the team decided against this strategy because of the difficulty in finding Navajo voice actors. They also wanted to use a language that couldn't be translated so that its meaning would be left up to the imagination of the player. Thus, simlish, the gibberish that fans know and love, was born.
The simlish in The Sims Bustin' Out is all-new this year. The process for recording simlish for the game actually took about 240 hours, and there are more than 4,000 simlish phrases in The Sims Bustin' Out. Professional voice actors were hired to record simlish. This year we had a female voice actor with a valley girl accent who provided some phrases, a male voice actor who did an incredible "Yosemite Sam" holler, and one child voice actor. To record these thousands of lines of simlish, animations of social interactions--as discussed in the previous designer diary--had to be finalized and recorded. The animations were then shown to the actors in the recording studio so that they could match their simlish phrases with the actions in the game. It took anywhere from 1-to-15 takes per animation to get a good phrase of simlish. The simlish is used not only with each and every animation, but it's also used any time a sim speaks. The simlish you will hear is new and different. However, you may notice that some favorites will pop up, like "dag dag" and "fredashay."
Not only is simlish important, but the music in the game is necessary for setting the tone of the gameplay experience. When The Sims debuted for the console, we used music from the original PC title. This year, in The Sims Bustin' Out, you will have a variety of new music stations to choose from. We decided to keep the famous bluegrass genre from last year because it was Mom's favorite music. We also added several new radio stations that are exclusive to The Sims Bustin' Out on console. Your Sims can now enjoy heavy metal, '80s pop, hip-hop, and smooth jazz. Each radio station has five songs to choose from. You'll have fun discovering how a sim's favorite music inspires him or her in the game, and you'll also be amazed at what Mom likes to listen to this year! Chris Wren, the audio producer for The Sims Bustin' Out, scouted-out local professional musicians to record the tunes for this year's game. He uncovered native hip-hop artists and a death metal band from San Francisco who both lent their talents to The Sims Bustin' Out. Once the talent was signed, he brought them into the studio to record original music--with lyrics composed entirely of simlish. The rap proved the most fun to see recorded, as the urban artists really got into creating simlish slang for a slammin' track.
All-new to The Sims Bustin' Out are the ambient sounds that immerse you in each of the exciting new locations. This year, The Sims Bustin' Out supports Dolby Digital surround sound, which makes your experience even more real. It was fun to brainstorm with the production team about the types of authentic sounds that would work well with each of the locations, including Casa Caliente, our love shack on the beach; Pixel Acres, the woodsy nudist colony; Hollywood Hills, our movie star getaway high above the bustling city; and the Octagon, our desert military base. In addition to the general ambient sounds, we have localized sounds that fade in and out depending on where you are in the game. For example, if you move the camera near the power lines at Dudley's Trailer, you'll hear a buzzing, but if you are inside the house, you will only hear the beeping of the gaming console. Once we identified what sounds we wanted, like soldier's marching at the Octagon, howls at Goth Manor, and the hum of electrical wires at Dudley's House, the audio team began. The team recorded a majority of the audio sounds in-house. In some cases, the team actually needed to tap into real-world resources. They even went to downtown San Francisco to record traffic noise and got really creative by using machinery loops and kitchen sinks to capture the sound of the waterfall rushing at Pixel Acres.
As you can see, we've really concentrated on making the sounds an effective and immersive experience in The Sims Bustin' Out. We're excited for players to hear what we're talking about this coming December. We hope you look forward to next month's diary, where we'll dive into platform differences, including PS2 Online, GBA, and GameCube connectivity, as well as Xbox HDTV support.
Click one of these links for a behind the scenes look at how Simlish is created: