The Sims 2 Designer Diary #3

Maxis' vice president of PC development Lucy Bradshaw and creative director Charles London discuss the many moods of the sims.


The Sims was a surprise hit when it was released in 2000. No one thought a strategy game that lets you control the lives of little computer people, also known as "sims," could possibly be as addictive or as popular as it has proven to be--except maybe the game's developer, Maxis. Now, Maxis is hard at work on the sequel, The Sims 2. The game will not only let you control your sims' lives, but it will also let you follow their development from birth to adulthood to senescence. In this edition of The Sims 2 designer diaries, Lucy Bradshaw, vice president of PC development, and Charles London, creative director, explain exactly how moods and emotions will affect the way sims live, act, and feel in the sequel.

Putting Sims in the Mood

By Lucy Bradshaw and Charles London
VP PC Development/Creative Director

Visit GameSpot's media page for The Sims 2 and see a happy sim in motion.

Let's face it: Mood is everything. Think about your own life. Do you remember feeling like everything in the world was an exciting adventure, even taking out the trash, just because you finally kissed that person you had a crush on forever? Have you ever been in a terrible mood because you were hungry? Or so tired that everything around you seems drab and irritating? Moods color all of our perceptions. It's the thing that makes us unique as a species.

Bringing that same dimension to The Sims 2 is the goal of the design team. Before The Sims 2, mood was just a bar on an interface. It was hard to tell, just by looking at a sim, what mood he or she was in. A sim could get slapped or kissed and walk away as if nothing had happened. That's not an accurate illustration of mood. Mood is indicated by such things as bouncing when you're happy or sagging a little when you're sad.

But why is mood so important? Anyone who plays The Sims knows that, in their world, mood is everything. It's what determines whether your sims will go to work, chat with other sims, build skills and interests, or fall in love. Whether you're a human or a sim, your mood encompasses much more than just how thirsty you are or how much fun you've had. It's a reflection of your personality, memories of the past, and hopes and dreams for the future. We're bringing a realistic representation of all these factors to your sims in The Sims 2.

Visit GameSpot's media page for The Sims 2 and see a depressed sim in motion.

Until now, sims have lived "in the moment." They had no real sense of context because they had no recollection of what had come before in their lives. Giving the sims memories--and the impact they have on their moods--is key to the new game. Memories are, in essence, a collection of life moments that shape how we respond to new experiences and how we view the world. And this will also be the case in The Sims 2. A sim who has accumulated a lot of happy memories is going to be in a better mood. By contrast, a sim who is carrying around a lot of emotional baggage will be in a bad mood. Players have direct control over both scenarios and can work to change them. As we design the game, we're trying to form a landscape of events that players can explore to gain insight as to what makes their sims tick. This gives sims personal histories that really matter.

Nothing More Than Feelings?

These days, The Sims 2 design team spends a heck of a lot of time inventing memories that are relevant to a sim. For example, in The Sims 2, not only will a sim remember if he or she was jilted by a lover, but another sim who witnesses the event will also remember it, and will be able to share it with their friends. After the breakup, the jilted sim might still be reeling from heartbreak. A friend who "heard it through the grapevine" can lessen the pain with a simple pat on the back. However, salt can also be poured on the sim's wound when he or she sees his or her old flame with a new love. It's this type of context that introduces surprises, crazy successes, and failures to the game--along with a dynamic new strategy.

Visit GameSpot's media page for The Sims 2 and see a shy sim in motion.

The development process can be both fun and disturbing during design sessions, particularly on subjects like memory. Locking the "final" memory and [list of memorable moments] for sims in The Sims 2 isn't a straightforward or easy task. There are lots of obvious examples, like a "first kiss." After that, it's incredible how quickly everyone's ideal memories and moments lists differ. During the development process at Maxis, we ended up sitting around in a room writing lists of memories on a white board. You learn a lot about each other during this type of meeting. After a coworker mentions something like "first time locked in an elevator" or "puked in public," the memory lives on and it stays burned into your brain when you run into him or her later on in the hall. After we get over the initial trauma of "sharing," it's all about "sim-ifying" our favorite moments and adding them to the game.

Memories not only affect the mood of the sims in The Sims 2, but, over the course of their lifetimes, they also affect a sim's personality. In The Sims 2, each personality is unique. You will be able to recognize a shy sim from an outgoing sim immediately. His or her body language, autonomous choices, and unique interactions all become more pronounced in the extremes of mood. For example, a shy sim is apt to daydream or talk to houseplants to meet his or her social needs, whereas an outgoing sim will work the room and chat incessantly. [And to be a bit more imaginative], ultraneat sims clean everything in a house in seconds when their moods are elevated, while ultramean sims [deplete] the moods of other sims when theirs are in the basement. The possibilities are intriguing and endless. In The Sims 2, we want to uncover the hidden amusement that lies at the edges of our sims' personalities.

Visit GameSpot's media page for The Sims 2 and see an outgoing sim in motion.

We're continually struck by how our journey to good sim designs is often through modeling ourselves and then abstracting the findings into something that players can experiment with and enjoy. Sims need to feel alive, genuine, and true. Above all, and if we have done our job correctly, sims need to surprise the players. When that comes together, you know it immediately. That feeling and knowledge that we have "nailed it" is our benchmark. We begin to see these little beings move around their world, and, one day, we find ourselves believing. When moods start showing through in The Sims, players start believing. They suddenly care deeply about their sims because the sims care too. In the last few weeks here at Maxis, these little guys have finally started to wake up. It's pretty cool.

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