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Sims 4's First Major Expansion Introduces Playable Jobs

Upcoming Get to Work expansion will add four jobs to the Sims world.

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While The Sims has always let players have direct control over a wide swath of their characters' lives, whenever the Sim goes to work, he just disappears. But that's set to change with The Sims 4 expansion: Get to Work.

According to a press release from EA, you'll be able to take an active role in four different job types:

  • Emergency room doctor will let you "spend your days saving lives. Just make sure to stay focused as you’re treating patients, delivering babies, and performing emergency surgery."
  • Police Detective involves "solving elaborate mysteries" by having your sim "investigate crime scenes, interrogate Sims, arrest criminals, and work your way from Cadet to the Chief of Police."
  • Scientists will be able to "create crazy inventions. Collect unique specimens to craft diabolical creations like the Sim Ray and decide whether you’ll use your inventions for good or to torment your fellow Sims."
  • Entrepreneur is a broader occupation that can taken on as a supplement to the other three professions. You'll be able to "create any type of retail business you desire including bakeries, clothing boutiques, art galleries, bookstores, and many more." Using the game's Build Mode, you can "customize every facet of your business."

In addition, the pack introduces new photography and baking skills for characters to learn, and aliens will invade the game in some capacity. They'll look like regular Sims and it will be the job of the player to "uncover which Sims are truly out of this world."

The expansion pack is set to launch sometime in April this year. And 2015 also marks the 15th anniversary of the Sims franchise. To learn more about developer Maxis' plans for the franchise, and what's in store for players to mark the anniversary, we interviewed The Sims franchise senior producer and Sims 4 creative director Lyndsay Pearson.

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What's been the reaction to Sims 4 from players so far?

It's been really exciting to see what the fans have been doing with The Sims 4. I think something that has come through very clearly in the response is that it's a very different take on The Sims. We have changed up some of the pace and feel and the opportunities of what you can do with the game itself. The fact that your Sims now respond in these emotional ways, the fact that their personalities manifest in a lot more of the organic interactions that happen in the game.

So you get a totally different set of interactions based on whether you picked a hot-headed Sim who happens to be angry rather than a romantic Sim who happens to feel flirty. It unlocks a bunch of different story possibilities. And the fans have responded very positively to that. They like that their Sims have this very blown out space of things for them to go and tap into. They're recognizing that this is a foundation for a new version of The Sims universe, and they've been very excited as we've offered expansions already. We had added ghosts for them to play with, which is something we heard that they wanted and something we were able to give them right away. We added pools as another way to express their creativity. We gave them some new careers. And just last month, we released the first game pack that let you take your Sims camping.

The fans have responded very well to this foundation that we've laid for them, and they're excited to see where we go with it in the future. And at the same time, they still just love being part of The Sims world. There are still a lot of fans who are playing The Sims 3 and even playing The Sims 2 because they like to see all the different flavors of what the franchise has offered over the years.

How do you balance what things are going to be saved for an expansion versus what you develop for the main franchise?

The focus of the base games in all the different generations we've done is about setting out that baseline experience of getting your Sims to live out a day, be able to make some money, be able to have a relationship. Really setting up those pieces of what it means to have a base life for you to play out. The Sims 2, with that notion of lifetimes, was about making sure you have something to do at all of those different life stages. How to challenge yourself at making your Sim excel, or purposefully fail, at achieving those goals.

The Sims 3 foundation was about that world and creating a space where your Sims could have an opportunity to go down to the bookstore or what it meant to navigate a space where all of The Sims are simulating all the time.

And The Sims 4 foundation is about setting that groundwork in the same fashion. How do we make sure there's a way to make money for your Sims? A way for them to excel and progress? A way for them to tell really interesting stories about who they are and who they met and how all those Sims interact? When we evaluate whether something's an expansion content or not, it has to do with that core of setting up that foundation. When you look at some of the things we've done with expansions in the past, we put in things like dance speheres or vampires. And those aren't really things you run into in your traditional day-in-the-life, and that's a great opportunity for us through expansions or game packs to give you a very themed and flavorful new slice of life.

There was some criticism initially for not including things that have felt like series staples, like dishwashers for example. How do you come to decisions about these smaller items and ideas?

There's always an evaluation process of how we make sure that we're building a foundation that addresses as many of those possible stories that you could tell as we can. So something as small as a dishwasher, for example, it was certainly something that we discussed. And when we looked at the Sims themselves, they already have the capability of handling the dirty dishes. We brought over live drag from The Sims 3. So it wasn't a gameplay moment that felt meaningful at the time of how our Sims were reacting to the world. How their emotions were playing out and how their interactions were playing out. It wasn't an object that two Sims would use together, for example where you could see their personalities clash. It wasn't an object that would show off how our multi-tasking and compatibility were working.

That was a small opportunity that we didn't feel was the best place for us to showcase some of these things that we want to put in front of you. It doesn't mean that it's not a piece of content that we know people like and want, but we have to make some choices trying to highlight the strengths of the new foundations that we're offering each time. And I think that that's a healthy way to approach it. And there's certainly no way we could ever give everything to everyone all at one time, so we're always looking for opportunities to add new features that players are looking for and that complement the way that they play right now.

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A good example of that coming up is what we're doing with our first expansion pack. Giving the opportunity to take their Sims to work. We've heard that feedback loud and clear, we know that they like how in the past we were able to handle Sims bringing jobs into their day more actively. So the focus of this pack is going with them to that job and playing out this huge chunk of their life. This wasn't core to that initial story we were trying to lay out, but it's a very important piece of the puzzle we want to be able to offer.

What do the new jobs in the expansion involve?

The Sims are going to get to be doctors. They're really going to see patients. They're going to have to work with surgery machines. It's about working at that hospital and managing the things that are coming through the door

Your Sim is going to get to be a scientist, working in a lab and inventing things and inventing serums. They have a bunch of different effects on the Sims they can test them on, or their neighbors around town.

As a detective, you'll go around town to solve crimes and track down criminals. Interrogating them, booking them in to the station.

And your Sims will be able to set up retail spaces where they can set things for sale. They can run a little cafe where they sell the pies and cakes that they've made at home. They can sell the paintings they've created or even just take items out of the catalog and set up a little toy store or home store.

There's these four new aspects that we've gone really deep into letting you play out that story of what it means for your Sims to be at work, and they're actually going to be there.

Can you have multiple jobs?

If you're picking between a doctor, scientist, or detective, that is a career track and you can only have one of those at a time. A different Sim, of course, could have a different one. But you'll be able to run a business on the side as well. So if you want to be a doctor who happens to sell garden plants on the weekend, you can set that up.

Changing track a little, with the continuing popularity of the Sims and the support that the team gives to current versions, why has the franchise stayed off of consoles recently?

Our focus has definitely been on what we can do with our PC simulation experience. That's always been where The Sims has come first; that's always been its focus. And I think the console market went through its big transition to the next big consoles, and I think we were seeing an interesting mix of what people wanted out of The Sims and what we were able to give them on console had diverged a little more recently. People have been enjoying the PC products, and The Sims 3 has so much to offer on the PC, that I think more people were looking to the PC experience for the Sims than to the console at that time.

But those things change so frequently. Our focus has just been on the PC right now and delivering that experience to that audience.

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What about how that ties into the mobile games. Has there been any consideration given to linking that with the main game?

The mobile experience right now with The Sims Freeplay is a really cool and different way to interact with The Sims, and we haven't tied them directly together because it's actually a pretty different pace and a different feel in a lot of ways because it's been specifically designed for that mobile space. But we certainly look for those opportunities to get those touch points together and see if there's a way the audience is looking for that. It's been really cool to talk with the team that's worked on the Freeplay game and learn from what they've done while sharing what we've done. We're always looking to our audience to find out if they're interested in connecting those types of things and what that would mean to them. We take inspiration from the audience on a regular basis to find out what we can deliver next.

What's changed the most over the years about what people want from a game like The Sims?

Something that's changed a lot about the audience is how important approachability has become really important. That doesn't mean making a game easier or dumbing it down. People want to feel like they understand it when they first get in. For us on the Sims through the generations, that has meant we've constantly tried to figure out how to make it a very welcoming game to jump into. There are so many things you can do in The Sims that it can be a little intimidating, so we're trying to give people a leg up in explaining how to start a story or giving people a gallery with a family to download right away.

I think people want to feel like they're part of a club without having to grind their way there. That seems to be a trend more recently: more and more games are valuing that approachability and that introduction to their franchise. Making it clear what it means to be part of their universe. You're welcome, join us, and come play. That's something we've taken very seriously with The Sims, trying to make it easy for new people to come to and for people to come back who haven't been there for a while.

Thinking about the Sims history, the game wasn't the first to tackle issues like gay marriage, but it was definitely a trendsetter. How has that affected the game's development and how does the team handle that responsibility?

Here at Maxis and on The Sims, we pride ourselves on offering this game space that allows players to tell their stories so flexibly. It's something that we're proud of, that we've been able to be ahead of that curve and offer this game that allows people to explore parts of life they don't see in other games. And we continue to be proud of that, and it feels like it's been part of our culture for so long that it's interesting to see it popping back up in pop culture. But we have always had the flexibility for characters in our games to be gay, to have relationships that would be all sorts of things across the spectrum. We let our Sims get divorced. Our Sims don't care about race, they don't care about gender. Our Sims are very progressive in that way. It's been fun to be a part of that, because it really just comes down to offering tools for players to tell the stories they want to tell.

The Sims have been around for 15 years, so where does the franchise go from here? If you had to think about 15 years from now, what would the Sims be?

It's fun to think that far about because, who knows, things change so quickly with technology and the industry. I think The Sims, at its core, offers such a unique way to engage with a game. You get to be creative. You get to tell a story. You get to be a little devious with it and torment them because they're still just these little characters. You get to take it in so many different directions. I think 15 years from now, there'll be some really interesting opportunities with technology that allow you the player to get more directly in the game. That's the kind of thing that Oculus Rift is trying to do, to get you more in that virtual reality or augmented reality space. The Sims is so complementary to real life, I think there could be some really cool ways that could combine in the future. I love the idea that my Sims somehow get more self-aware and start interacting with me. I think that could be really interesting.

There's a lot of ways to play with it because at its base, it's just these little interesting people leading their lives. The way that you can interact with it has so many different possible touch points, that I really look forward to seeing what technology has to offer us and looking for an opportunity to make that make sense for The Sims.

I read Ready Player One where they all live in that very, very different virtual world. And that totally made me think of The Sims as well. That augment real-life of just being able to drop yourself into these really fantastical places that are a different version of your regular world. It's pretty fascinating.

Is there anything special coming up for current Sims players to celebrate the 15 year anniversary?

Coming up as part of our anniversary celebration, we'll be offering a genealogy tracker for our fans. Something to recognized the generations of Sims that they've created and played. It's a very requested feature from them, so I think they'll be really excited to get that. It'll basically let them track these really big family tress that they've made over the legacies of their families. It's kind of a nice nod to anniversaries, legacies, and our fans having been there a long time.

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