There's seemingly no end to the fun real-world scenarios that Maxis can turn into expansion packs for The Sims. We've already seen expansions for vacations, parties, dating, and pets. Now, The Sims: Superstar promises to give your sim a chance to make it big in Hollywood. You can try out the new movie, music, and fashion career tracks and play a direct part in what your sim does on the set. There's also the new fame score to consider, as well as plenty of additional objects appropriate for designing the huge houses for the rich and famous. We recently spoke with the game's producer, Jonathan Knight, to get more details on what Superstar will offer.
GameSpot: Give us a quick overview of what Superstar will offer for fans of The Sims.
Jonathan Knight: Superstar offers the opportunity to make your sims famous, and for the first time ever, the opportunity to follow your sims around during their workday and control the gameplay that earns them money.
GS: We know that Superstar will give sims a new motive, fame. Give us a rundown on how fame works.
JK: The "fame score" starts out as five empty stars, which you need to fill up (a half star at a time) as you progress toward superstardom. By working at a variety of objects in the entertainment arena, you'll earn fame and money. If you've got the required skills and the requisite famous friends, you'll get promoted through the fame track. But you have to keep it up, or your star will wane.
GS: Can we expect to see new career paths based solely on fame? How will fame affect existing career paths in the game?
JK: Fame is a lot like a new career path, except you follow your sims to their job and control their activities. If you're in an existing career, you'll have to drop out of it to pursue your dream of being a star.
GS: So what's the workday of an aspiring star like? What sort of control does a player have over a sim's actions on a set?
JK: Depending on the particular set they're playing with, players will choose to act, sing, or move in different ways and with varying intensities, trying to create an overall performance that the given director NPC desires. In the music recording studio object, for instance, players choose the genre of music and then choose different styles of singing for different sections of the song. The result is a huge variety of finished songs, and the gameplay is figuring out which combination the record producer (in this case) is looking for. How much you get paid is based on how well you deliver what the NPC wants.
GS: How do the new star career paths tie into the existing skill system? Does every sim have the potential to be a star?
JK: Every sim has the potential to be a star, yes. Three of the existing skills (creativity, body, and charisma) are required to move through fame path, and they will affect your performance on the first couple of objects.
GS: What's the Superstar social scene like? What sorts of sims are we likely to meet?
JK: You'll meet nobodies and somebodies, and you'll have to figure out the difference. The spa is a nice place to meet celebrities, but so is the karaoke bar. In Studio Town, you never know when you might see somebody you know!
GS: Could you discuss the new Studio Town area? Will it be a sandbox lot? Will Superstar add new sandbox lots to build and design freely?
JK: Studio Town is where celebrities and fans alike can congregate. In addition to the movie, music, and fashion sets (where your famous sims go to work), sims will find an assortment of spas, shops, and food establishments in Studio Town. And as always, fans are free to bulldoze our Studio Town and build their own from scratch.
GS: Famous stars are likely to want bigger houses. What sorts of new building options will the expansion pack add?
JK: There's a giant scuba tank that's the size of a large living room, for your swimming pleasure. And there's a skydiving simulator for a little backyard fun. We've also made a satellite dish for the home, which adds all-new channels to your TV. And there's tons of new art and sculpture, and even a new pool table, to help you make the ultimate crib.
GS: Could you highlight some of the most interesting new items that will appear in Superstar? How will they affect the game?
JK: Well, there's tons of new stuff in Superstar. The karaoke stage is an amazing new object that basically introduces players into the fame game. New food carts will keep your sims fed. We're adding a new clothing type--high fashion--and a new clothing rack and changing booth. These should help the sims dress for success. But I think the new songs--original simlish compositions, in five genres--are going to really steal the show.
GS: There have been quite a few expansion packs for The Sims. Is it a challenge to keep the ideas coming? Does each pack fit into a broader plan for expanding The Sims?
JK: To be honest, it's not a challenge to keep the ideas coming--we never seem to run out of new ideas for The Sims. The challenge is zeroing in on what we think will be the most compelling, and having the discipline to say, "Nope, this is what we're making this month, so let's just make sure it's as great as it can be, and save those other ideas for the next pack."
GS: Are there any plans to add Superstar's content to The Sims Online?
JK: Let me finish the Superstar content first!
GS: How long has Superstar been in the works? When is it due out?
JK: We started developing the concept in October of last year, and it will be on shelves in May 2003.
GS: Thanks, Jonathan.