Following the well-received console incarnations of The Sims released last year, Electronic Arts and Maxis are serving up another helping of virtual life for players with The Sims Bustin' Out. The recently announced game is slated to hit all three current-generation consoles, as well as the Game Boy Advance. While Maxis will be handling the development chores for the console games, Griptonite games will be crafting the GBA game. We recently spoke with producer Virginia McArthur about the upcoming GBA and GameCube games.
GameSpot: When did development on the GBA version of The Sims Bustin' Out start?
Virginia McArthur: March 2003, officially. But we've been researching the possibilities for a while.
GS: Was the game always intended to have ties to the GameCube version of the game?
VM: Yes, we always intended to have connectivity. The question was really what to focus on. With Harry Potter, Animal Crossing, and Zelda really taking advantage of connectivity, a world of possibilities have been opened up for GC-GBA connectivity. The question really boils down to what works best with The Sims.
GS: How did you approach bringing the game to a portable device?
VM: Blood, sweat, and tears! Well, not really, but it did take some careful thinking and design focus. We took our experience from the work we originally did moving The Sims from the PC to consoles and leveraged it. The primary lessons are focus on controls first, and then design the game according to what players of the specific platform want to play and how they want to play it. We spent time with Will Wright and determined the key features and underlying gameplay elements that would make The Sims work on a portable device, and with this key set, we were able to clearly see the possibilities for The Sims on the GBA. Will also talked with Shigeru Miyamoto about ideas for The Sims on the GBA and potential ideas for connectivity.
GS: What were the key elements of the game's graphics, gameplay, and control that you wanted to be sure to bring over?
VM: Sims are sims. No matter what platform you play The Sims on, they have a signature look and feel. Sims mimic real life, and without motives, skills, and relationships, you really do not have a The Sims character. Keeping the core The Sims gameplay intact is key--it makes for the classic, fun, and unpredictable kind of game that is so engaging. One of the core new gameplay mechanics we're introducing on the GBA is the ability to drive your sim. No longer will you have to queue interactions and then watch your sim interact with objects in the world. You now directly drive your sims from object to object, sim to sim, and place to place. The chaos control is all yours.
GS: What can you tell us about the game modes in the GBA version?
VM: The modes are buy, auction, trade, build, and live. It's still The Sims. All these modes are integrated on the GBA--they all work together, driven by you through your sim. Each mode depends on where you are in the world and will automatically switch as you select objects and locations.
GS: How will the game interact with the GameCube version? VM: This is an exciting new area of design and gameplay for us. You will be able to connect to the GameCube version of The Sims Bustin' Out and unlock a hidden minigame cabinet on the GameCube to place in your home and use to make extra simoleans--a little perk for GameCube players having trouble holding down a job. When you're connected, your sims will be able to click on the cabinet and choose from up to eight minigames that are played on the GBA. The sim will continue to interact with the cabinet on the GameCube as long as you're playing the minigames on the GBA. All the simoleans made while playing the minigame will be transported back to your sim's bank on the GameCube.
You'll also be able to download your GameCube sim into the GBA version of the game. This will allow you to take your sims with you anywhere. Once your GameCube sim has been sent to the GBA, he or she will be able to make quick cash, satisfy motives, and work on skills, all of which will be carried over when he or she returns home to the GameCube.
When you connect to the GameCube version, you will unlock a special hidden level for the GBA version. This level is reminiscent of the reward level in the GameCube version of The Sims Bustin' Out. I bet there will be some players who never see this on the GameCube, but will find solace in knowing they can play this level on the GBA.
GS: Can you walk us through what the Game Boy game experience will be like?
VM: We are taking the key features in terms of new locations, unlockable objects, and goal-based gameplay from The Sims Bustin' Out on the consoles and enhancing the design to incorporate new elements like direct control of your sim, new close-up social interactions, and the ability to buy items in auctions and stores.
You start your game by creating a sim. You will get to choose a gender, a head type, a skin tone, and the colors of the preset outfits. You will then dive into setting up personality traits. In The Sims Bustin' Out for the GBA, your sims will unlock certain objects based on their sign, so without connecting to other GBAs and trading objects, there will be no way to unlock all the objects with just your sim alone.
All objects are new, unique, and exclusive to the GBA. We have replaced the catalogue with stores and daily auctions. You can obtain these objects while mastering goals and unlocking locations. You will have up to 20 locations full of goals, objectives, and rewards.
You start out living in a barn. Yes, a barn. So, when your mother asks if you live in a barn, just say yes. You'll meet new characters to help you on your way to bigger and better locations. After all, do you really want to live in a barn?
You will then get to explore the world, meeting new sim characters like Salty Sam, the biker bar juice master, and Anne (Fran Froofaraw's twin sister), to name a few.You'll visit new locations to socialize, play career minigames, and find new objects to help complete goals.
But remember, it's still The Sims! You'll need to keep an eye on those motives and the mood meter. Sims will start to refuse to cooperate if you don't take care of their everyday needs. Trust me, things can be tough once they get in a bad mood.
Your ultimate goal is to unlock the mansion on the hill, live the high life, and throw big parties. Ultimately, your friends will award you with a sculpture memorializing your success! Sims like to be noticed, and they love to be popular--they would love to be on the cover of every newsstand magazine if they could.
GS: Why did you decide to give players direct control over their sims in the GBA game?
VM: It just makes sense! When we played one of our first versions of The Sims on the GBA, it was frustrating to have to wait for your sims to complete actions--on the GBA, you just want to keep mashing buttons. The Sims is all about satisfying motives, and what better way than running directly to those motive-satisfying objects? You'll be able to walk your sim, run your sim, and after unlocking a scooter, have your sim drive. The ultimate navigation and movement for characters on a GBA.
GS: How will the GBA trading feature work? Will it be just for trading, or will it support cooperative play of some kind?
VM: If you connect to another GBA, you will be able to participate in each other's daily auctions. Auctions are held every sim day in the GBA version of The Sims Bustin' Out, so the best way to get more cheap stuff is to link up to another GBA and join in that auction as well. Your sims will be able to show up at the other player's local general store and will have an additional auction time. This is the ultimate trading spot--a way to bargain and take away other sims' surplus.
GS: Who is developing the game?
VM: Griptonite Games, an Amaze Entertainment Studio located in Kirkland, Washington.
GS: What have been the biggest challenges encountered by the team while developing the GBA version of the game?
VM: Making the sims feel and look like sims. The screen is much smaller, and each of your sims has less real estate to show off his or her creativity and emotions. We want you to identify with your sims on the GBA, just like you do with your console and PC sims. We are using the close-up social screens to connect you to your sims and the non-player characters in the world. This is your chance to get personal and really focus on your sims. You'll also be driving your sims, and this helps connect you to the sim on the screen.
GS: You mentioned that Will Wright consulted Shigeru Miyamoto when formulating an approach to developing the GBA game. What sort of involvement has Miyamoto had in the development of the connectivity features for the GC and GBA games?
VM: No one knows the GBA and GameCube market better than Miyamoto, and if you team up The Sims mastermind, Will Wright, with Miyamoto, you get a winning duo. Will and Miyamoto met early on in the process to talk about The Sims and GBA-GC connectivity. Miyamoto also has colleagues who are working with us to finalize and tweak the connectivity features he and Will discussed early in the process. They are very excited and are going to stay connected with us every step of the way, reviewing builds and refining features.
GS: Thanks for your time.