Designer Diary #1The Sims Bustin' Out

Game Designer Mike Perry begins this series of designer diaries on the sequel to the console incarnation of the best-selling PC game of all time.


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Designer Diary #1: The Sims Bustin' Out

By Mike Perry
Game Designer

Bringing The Sims PC to the Console
Why bring the number one PC game of all time, The Sims, to the console? We realized that there was an opportunity to reach a group of gamers (console gamers) who haven't been able to experience the irreverent and humorous nature of The Sims. We were also excited about bringing these gamers a totally different type of console game.

Once the decision was made, we thought, "Now what?" First and foremost, we wanted to preserve everything that makes The Sims a unique and fun game. We wanted to bring the wacky and unpredictable nature of The Sims into the level-based and unlockable world of the console. Our challenge was to translate the fun, open-ended gameplay aspects of The Sims to the power of the console, while adding brand-new Sims-style console gameplay-like levels, unlockable items, and, of course, full 3D. What a challenge it was!

The Sims Bustin' Out will build on the original game's momentum.
The Sims Bustin' Out will build on the original game's momentum.

We started the development process by focusing on the console game controls. They are the most important elements of a game design and determine the success of a console game. So, to take a page out of Shigeru Miyamoto's book, we began this design process first. We focused on making the game controls, on a standard controller, natural, precise, and easy to pick up for players of any skill level. Early in the development process we created a test bed for controller experiments. We worked for months, on tuning the controls, in order to get the right feel for The Sims on a console. The controls you see today were actually designed a full year before they shipped.

Additionally, we were also challenged with bringing a 2D game, The Sims on the PC, to the 3D realm. We actually built a full 3D prototype of The Sims on a console without any Sims simulation so we could see the full effect of the power of the console. We were able to add all new particle effects, real-time lighting, and full 3D camera movement for the first time ever.

The game design then began. We started with brainstorming sessions to get creative ideas. Of course, we asked Will Wright, the creator of The Sims, immediately for his input, so we could incorporate his vision into the console design. Next we wanted to solicit input from all of the Sims product development talent here at Maxis to capture their ideas for this new 3D console world of The Sims. They requested cool new objects that are exclusive to the console, such as a strip poker table, a sonic shower, and a teppanyaki table. Also, the teams really wanted to play The Sims with, or against, each other in order to share the experiences of The Sims with one another. So, two-player was a natural.

Character creation is always a highlight of any Sims game.
Character creation is always a highlight of any Sims game.

The next step was to take all of our game design ideas and begin what we call design "visualization." This is where we envision the gameplay and post giant maps of the game neighborhood on the wall to get a better idea of what new locations would work best. We create hand-drawn sketches of new Sims characters, as well as research personality attributes that give the characters their vibrant flare. We also post, on the wall, tiny slips of paper with all kinds of objects and career possibilities for the game. At one point we had an entire room of post-it note ideas that fleshed out all kinds of gameplay and specific features. It took us about two months of this before we established the Sims neighborhood and levels that would evolve into a true console gaming experience.

At the conclusion of an intense year of development, players were finally able to get their hands on the first-ever version of The Sims for the console. Feedback from Sims fans and console gamers was very positive. The wacky and unpredictable Sims, their relationships, their loves and losses--and even their lack of bladder control--lent itself to a challenging and fun console gaming experience. We felt like we gave console gamers what they wanted: a challenge, goals in every level, tightly designed controls, and the ability, for the first time in the Sims franchise history, to get unlockable rewards and win The Sims! The magic of The Sims had successfully transitioned to the console platform, and we were thrilled that the game was so well received.

The success of the original game prompted development of a sequel.
The success of the original game prompted development of a sequel.

Developing the sequel, The Sims Bustin' Out
So we got it right once. Now, how were we going to do it again? How were we going to make a second console version of The Sims that was bigger and better than the first? After the game shipped, we went back to the basics and obtained feedback from our fans. We wanted to know what they liked about the game and what they thought we could improve. Players told us that they liked the new two-player gameplay but preferred the two-player "Play The Sims" mode to the unlockable two-player challenges. They also wanted more locations in the neighborhood and wished they could get out of the house and explore. More objects and fun social interactions were also high on the list. Fans also really liked interacting with the new characters on the console. They liked Mom and her helpful nature, and they loved to hate Dudley, because he was such a slob.

Of course, we also had our own laundry list of things we wanted to add and improve, like giving the Sims characters a bigger world to explore and the ability to drive a scooter or car from location to location within the Sims world. We also knew that we wanted to take the graphics of the next version of The Sims on console to a whole new level.

Armed with all of this important feedback, we began production of The Sims Bustin' Out. As the name indicates, we are getting players out of the house to explore all-new locations. The Sims Bustin' Out is three times as big as the first version of The Sims on console! We are focusing on making The Sims Bustin' Out a bigger and better sequel by significantly improving the graphics, expanding the number of locations, incorporating new social interactions, objects, characters, and careers, as well as enabling two-player gameplay throughout the entire game.

The Sims Bustin' Out will feature a number of improvements and new features.
The Sims Bustin' Out will feature a number of improvements and new features.

In the coming weeks, we will be giving you a glimpse inside our process. We will be discussing the development of our new-and-improved game engine and its effect on the look and feel of the game. We will also give you a peek at our exciting new neighborhood, which boasts all-new fabulous locations and unlockable modes of transportation available to help players get around. You will be the first to hear about over a hundred new console-exclusive objects, social interactions, and the new cast of zany characters that we have planned for The Sims Bustin' Out. And, finally, we will give you the inside scoop on the two-player gameplay mode and other important game features.

We are currently cranking our way toward alpha and are experiencing many sleepless nights of development and testing. Keep the dial right here--in the coming months--for the latest and greatest information on The Sims Bustin' Out.

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looks awesome