The Sims 2 Preshow Impressions

The stakes are high for the sequel to the best-selling computer game of all time. Read our impressions of the unlikely, new directions in which EA is taking its lucrative franchise.

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At a recent event leading up to the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Electronic Arts showed off many of the games in its upcoming lineup for this year, and, strangely enough, The Sims 2 was not among those games that were actually shown. Instead, The Sims 2's executive producer sat down with us to give us her take on the key directions in which the developers are looking to expand with this important, new game. As you know, the original 1999 game, The Sims, experienced unprecedented commercial success, and following up on that is a tall order. Visually, at least, it looks as though The Sims 2 is going to contain even more personality and charm than its predecessor. But how is it going to play? We've got some new details.

Specifically, producer Lucy Bradshaw sought to answer the question, "What's making it a 2?" A fresh coat of paint alone wouldn't make The Sims 2 much of a sequel, since the original game's success was partly because of its sheer originality. In The Sims, the object of the game was to manage--or mismanage--the mundane aspects of a character's life, and the game's great innovation was that it made this fun. The Sims 2 will feature a different focus, though, on what Bradshaw is calling "genes, dreams, and extremes."

Let's explain those. "Genes" refers to a significant, new change from the previous game, in how your sims will actually grow up, grow old, and eventually, die--yet, their offspring will inherit their traits and aspects of their personality. You'll be able to play through multiple generations of sims in this new game, which is a pretty shocking twist and one that seems like it might be hard to swallow.

"Dreams" refers to the fact that each sim in The Sims 2 will now have a personal, lifelong aspiration to pursue--these aspirations include the pursuit of fame, fortune, knowledge, family, or romance (apparently, only one such aspiration per sim is possible; perhaps they just don't aim high enough?). What this means in practical terms is that the gameplay of The Sims 2 will be more goal-oriented than that of the previous game. Again, this seems to be a departure from the sandbox-style gameplay of the original, but at the same time, it will give players the incentive to try to make their sims get somewhere in life.

"Extremes" are important, though. While gameplay in The Sims 2 will be more goal-oriented, nevertheless, you'll have the option and opportunity to go out of your way from accomplishing anything productive. Just as sims will have personal aspirations, they will also have their fears. For instance, a romantically inclined sim might have an intense fear of rejection, so you might set him or her up to experience his or her worst possible nightmare. If you're feeling sinister.

Ultimately, as Bradshaw put it, The Sims 2 is intended to be a game in which you feel like you're "directing your own playable sitcom." You'll still be able to engage in the dollhouse-building-style gameplay of the original, and you'll still be able to set up ridiculous situations and see how they pan out. But this time, your sims will be charged with stronger, more developed personalities.

Bradshaw commented on a few other interesting features being built into the game. For example, you'll be able to make movies of your sims--literally set up camera angles and record and then edit together sequences of their actions to show off to your friends or others in the Sims community. Sims will also remember their past generations; a long-departed sim might still come up as a topic of discussion a hundred years later, which seems like it could be interesting. Also, expect the Sims 2 Body Shop utility to become available for free download prior to the release of the game--that way you can begin designing your sims and hit the ground running when the game ships.

Speaking of ship dates, EA expects to announce the game's specific ship date at E3. The Sims 2 has experienced some delays in its development, but it now seems focused on a clear path--a path that's fairly surprising, but then again, the franchise is built on a surprising foundation. We'll have more on the game from E3.

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