Livin' Large: Part 1
It's no secret that Maxis' The Sims has been immensely successful since its release in January of this year. The game manages to take designer Will Wright's unique gameplay philosophy of creating your own world to a level never before attempted by anyone, and the results are better than anyone expected. To date, The Sims is the second-best-selling PC game in North America, second only to Disney Interactive's Who Wants to be a Millionaire line of home trivia games. This success can be attributed to The Sims' broad appeal and accessibility. So it came as no surprise when, on the first day of E3, Maxis announced that it would be building on the success of the game with an expansion pack called Livin' Large, to be released toward the end of summer 2000. GameSpot broke the story on this add-on a few days before E3 in an interview conducted with the game's executive producer, Sinjin Bain. In that interview, Sinjin revealed only some of Livin' Large's upcoming features, including information on the new interior decors and careers.
We've since been given a playable build of Livin' Large for preview purposes, and we've been busy introducing our Sims to the new objects and features of the add-on. Livin' Large boasts five new additions and enhancements to the original game: new characters, more than 120 new simulation items, three new decor and architecture styles, ten new careers for a total of 50 new jobs, and the ability to maintain ten neighborhoods - that's 50 Sim families - at once. Our build contained a little more than half of the themed items, yet there were more than enough to illustrate the sheer number of items the final product will contain. Interestingly enough, not all of these new items were created by Maxis - some user-created skins will be included in the retail version of Livin' Large. These skins were put together by fans of the game, uploaded to TheSims.com, and hand-selected by the designers at Maxis for inclusion in the game. This is part of Will Wright's goal to constantly empower users with the ability to change, customize, and mold Maxis games into their own product. Maxis PR manager Patrick Buechner had this to say about Wright's intention: "He was emphatic about getting the early tools out to users before the game was released. He had a sense that the fans would drive this if they were given the ability to customize [The Sims] and tell their stories via TheSims.com. He was also insistent about the need for interesting 'failure states,' like not making it to the toilet on time. For as many people that find it mundane to send their Sims to the toilet, there are many more who take joy in not sending them there." Such real-life catastrophes are plentiful in The Sims.
We'll be splitting up our preview of Livin' Large into three parts. Today we'll take a look at several of the new items and household goods that will be available in the add-on. Next Friday we'll closely examine the game's new careers, and we'll wrap up the preview with a one-on-one interview with the legendary designer Will Wright himself in two weeks.
Livin' Large Vida Loca
For the purposes of this preview, we decided to start a new Sims family and outfit their house with as many of the new items available in Livin' Large as possible. Of course, it usually takes hours of gameplay in order to save up enough money to go on such a shopping spree, but Maxis was kind enough to give us the corporate credit card and the keys to the local IKEA. With our 100,000 Simolians in hand, we bought a nondescript two-bedroom house and proceeded to transform it into the ultimate bachelor pad. Here's a breakdown of the end product, room by room.
Living Room: The first thing we did with the living room was tear out the boring royal blue carpet and replace it with a 4x4 pattern of Blue Moon wonder carpet, Powder Puff wonder carpet, Pillowy Clouds wonder carpet, and Baby Blue Eyes wonder carpet. Although each of these carpet tiles is meant to be used separately, combining them resulted in a floor pattern that's not only visually pleasing but also gives the impression of a larger area. The walls were papered with the ultra-tacky bovine wall treatment, which is part of Livin' Large's retro '50s interior decor - one of three new themes in the expansion pack. While the standard windows offered plenty of light, we had them removed in favor of a pair of El Sol circular windows and a single Fut-tronic bubble window, which looks like it came out of an episode of The Jetsons.
After we laid the foundation for the living room, we switched over to the game's buy mode. First on our shopping list was a Schwa throw rug, which is adorned with soft and stylized geometric shapes. For seating, we bought the Red Matter sofa, an outlandish couch that seems out of place anywhere outside a museum of modern art. We complemented it with an egg chair that Mork & Mindy fans will instantly recognize. A 16:9 aspect ratio Soma plasma bigscreen, a retro jukebox, and a pinball machine all found their way into the living room as part of the mandatory entertainment requirements of the house. The standard doors were replaced with '50s diner-style doors, complete with vinyl siding, button quilting, and a porthole. Lastly, we adorned the walls with neon flamingo signs. While they don't give off enough light to improve the Sims' room score, they seemed to fit our slightly demented design to a T.
Total cost of our bizarre living room: 10,500 Simolians.
Bedroom: While our living room was a blend of Vegas lounge- and retro-style decor, we set out to create a bedroom solely based on the Livin' Large medieval theme. As in our living room, the first step we took in creating our new bedroom was to replace the existing carpet and wallpaper with something a bit more eccentric. From Livin' Large's palette of medieval-themed tiles, we chose the cobblestone pattern for the floor and the Yorkist wall treatment to decorate our walls. The combination of these two dark and dank designs gave us the perfect starting point from which to build the ultimate Dungeons & Dragons-inspired abode.
The centerpiece of the bedroom is an antique four-post bed built using hand-turned walnut and adorned with a heavy goose-down mattress that provides a high level of comfort, energy, and room. Most importantly, the bed looks right at home in the gothic decor. To accentuate the room's look, we lined the walls with several wall torches that favor the use of an open flame instead of electricity to provide indoor lighting. We also removed all of the standard wood-frame windows and replaced them with massive stained-glass archways that display an image that "celebrates the invention of the corset," as well as several arrow-slit windows that, while functional, are strictly for show. One of the last pieces we bought was a Highbrau coat of arms that bears a symbol of honor and courage. Even though it's expensive, this wall decoration improves your Sims' room score dramatically, making it a must-have item. Of course, no medieval bedroom would be complete without a high-tech stereo system, and the Strings Theory stereo fit the bill nicely. It not only raises your Sims' fun and room scores, but it's classified as a group-activity item as well.
Total cost of our Medieval Times bedroom: 10,000 Simolians.
Kitchen: If our bedroom embodied everything about the Dark Ages (except for the stereo), then our kitchen is the epitome of culinary technology. We kept the default El Paso adobe wallpaper in the kitchen, since it accents the cabinets we later installed, but we replaced the standard tiles with the mountain fog ceramic tiles in order to match the clean look our aluminum appliances bring to that part of the house. Once the floor and walls were completed, we removed the existing rectangular windows and added a pair of small privacy windows along the south wall, a pair of full-length plate-glass windows for the north end, and a pair of artsy Decorp deco windows along the west wall.
To construct our curved kitchen counter, we matched up the Barcelona Incurve and Outcurve counters from the original game, and we added an Epikouros dual-sink system, which is efficient enough to raise your Sims' hygiene level by several points. We then added the massive Freeze Secret side-by-side fridge - the biggest refrigerator available - which raises your Sims' hunger score by eight points thanks to its huge capacity. We placed a Pyrotorre gas range and oven at the opposite end of the kitchen, alongside a Junk Genie trash compactor. All three of these appliances share a common look and feel, so it was only logical that the dining area look the same. We coupled a standard folding card table with a pair of new "M" chairs, which are comfortable and increase room scores as well. A Cone Head floor lamp with a brushed steel base and polished chrome shade was placed next to this area, and we put an XLR8R food processor, a microwave, and a Gagmia Simore espresso machine on the countertops. The piece de resistance was the smoke detector, which alerts the fire department when one of your Sims sets the kitchen ablaze.
Total cost of our nouveau kitchen: 7,500 Simolians.
Bathroom: For our bathroom, we used a combination of Too Turquoise ceramic tiles for the floor and Too Turquoise treatments for the walls. There are several decor options that are meant to be paired up in Livin' Large, but we thought this combination looked the best. We kept one of the windows the same but replaced the second with a boomerang window that looks like a lopsided crescent moon and brings in plenty of sunlight. For an additional turquoise glow, three blue-plate-special sconces were placed along the walls.
Our bathroom's centerpiece is The Sims' Flush Force 5 XLT toilet, which satisfies eight bladder points and has a comfort level of four. According to its product description, this hygienic wonder "has more buttons than a stealth bomber" and even comes equipped with a 56k modem. The other eye-catching piece in our bathroom is the Sani-Queen bathtub, which features chrome-plated pipes and floor mounts and has high comfort and hygiene levels. A standard pedestal sink and medicine cabinet combine to put the finishing touches on the bathroom.
Total cost of our bathroom: 4,270 Simolians.
Game Room: No room is as important as the game room. The first thing we did was add tatami mats to the floor, despite the fact that we ended up furnishing the room with chairs. Two computer desks - an O'Mann partners desk and a mesquite table - were placed at opposite ends of the room. On the first desk, we placed a high-end Brahma 2000 gaming computer, complete with all the latest multimedia peripherals, and a Down Wit Dat boom box. On the second, we put a Meet Marco system, the absolute top-of-the-line desktop computer whose incredible artificial intelligence not only increases your Sims' fun score but adds to their study attribute as well. We also placed an SSRI virtual reality set on that desk. A standard Posture Plus and the ultramodern Von Braun recliner were bought for the two desks.
A second, albeit smaller, television was added to the game room, and a cactus plant was placed in the corner to provide some trace of life, since anyone who spends as much time as we do in front of computers has no life. Finally, to ensure the safety of our new Livin' Large house and all of its belongings, we added the SimSafety IV burglar alarm to keep those pesty crooks away.
Total cost of our game room: 13,815 Simolians.
Backyard: After completing the interior of our new house, we headed outside to make a few cosmetic changes. The first thing we did was add a swimming pool complete with a deep-end ladder and a diving board, and we adorned either side of it with a dolphin topiary. To further spoil our Sims, we added a basketball hoop, a massive outdoor telescope, and a THX-451 barbecue grill at the other end of the backyard.
Total cost of our backyard: 8,500 Simolians.
Even with our massive budget, we couldn't possibly have bought every single item in Livin' Large for our house. Not all of them are meant simply for decorative purposes either. Some of the other new items include an oil lamp that, when rubbed, will cause a genie to appear who may grant wishes - or wreak havoc. Other items, like the crystal ball, will give your Sims mini-objectives to accomplish: For instance, one might be to throw a big party with lots of guests. If you can succeed at these in time, one of your Sims' traits will be improved. These attributes were set in stone the moment your Sims were created in the original game. New household items like the crystal ball will add hours to the life span of The Sims' already addictive gameplay.
Next week we'll take a look at the new career tracks in Livin' Large and will bring you new screenshots and artwork for some of the more extravagant jobs. Until then, be sure to browse through our Livin' Large screenshot gallery and see if you can pick out the new items in each image.