The Sims Panel – What We Learned
Earlier this month I was invited by SimGuruDrake to attend The Sims panel at Gamescom 2016 in Cologne, Germany. We would first attend an influencer’s talk and then SimGuruLyndsay and SimGuruRachel talked us through the development of the game.
They started by talking about the overall vision and concept of The Sims 4. They used key terms like ‘Creativity’ ‘Optimism’ ‘Community’ and ‘Empowerment’ to describe how they want players to feel when they play The Sims. As well as these terms they gave us a breakdown of five key concepts that make up the game in terms of how we actually play which are all based around needs and what kind of needs your Sims will have. For example Physiological needs came under the umbrella of basic needs for things like food, water and rest. Each Generation of The Sims takes on board these categories and each generation has improved to include more and more realistic needs for your Sims. The Sims 4 included three extra categories than the first generation of The Sims that focused on the basic needs I spoke about earlier. With the Sims 4 they wanted to include safety for your Sims as a need, the need for belonging and love from other Sims, self-esteem and confidence, and even the need for self-fulfillment.
All of this information was illustrated using a Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and each Sims game moved up the graph to try and go into more depth with how much our Sims wanted to achieve in their life span. It really showed us how each generation of The Sims have evolved and grown which lead the gurus to explain about packs and how even how they release content to us has changed too over the years.The original Sims game only expanded using Expansion Packs, the Sims 2 added Stuff Packs to the mix and The Sims 3 grew with the Sims 3 Store. The Sims 4 has grown twofold adding Game Packs and free updates monthly and sometimes even more frequently.
Give ‘Em a Break!
After breaking down the different packs and what they consist of SimGuruLyndsay and Rachel gave us a breakdown of how the team are split up working on the many aspects that are needed to create content for the game and keep it alive! We were shown a timescale for the The Sims 3 and one for The Sims 4. They used this comparison to highlight how the additional features that were brought along with The Sims 4 mean the team are spread much more thinly and as a consequence have two times more work than they did for The Sims 3. Previously they had the majority of the team working on expansions with only a tiny portion of the production team working on stuff packs. Furthermore The Sims 3 expansions were made in a chronological manor, meaning that they were made one by one, one after the other. The Sims 4 is completely different.
For the Sims 4 they again have a large amount of the team working on Expansions for the game, while a very similar amount works on Game Packs, a smaller number produces Stuff Packs and the rest work on bug fixes and updating the game. Bare in mind that each new idea for content no matter which kind all has to be brainstormed and thought of, pitched and agreed with, sent to the production team to create, bug tested (if something doesn’t work or there are glitches they will need more time to fix it) before it is finally ready to be released. This bit I found the most astounding!
As simmers in the community we have somehow formed this idea that the gurus run some kind of request service where we keep throwing things that we want at them, they make it and give it to us as soon as possible… this could not be further from the truth! The way that their schedule runs means that this simply isn’t possible! When a pack is ready for released it is not completely up to the gurus to decide when it can be released, it depends very much on the time of year, what Origin sales are currently on and whether they want to include it in those sales and many other factors that are often out of their hands! For all we know, they could have created all the things we want for the game, but they are not allowed to release it until the decided time which could be months or even a year or so from now. They are working 4-5 packs at a time which is more than they were for The Sims 3 (one at a time), and all of the things they are working on are not guaranteed to be released right away!
SimGuruLyndsday posted a tweet on Twitter pointing out that it took fifteen days to make the phone cases that were added to the game. If it takes fifteen days to add something that small and easily disregarded to the game, imagine just how long it would take them to create an entirely new life stage? *cough toddlers cough* While it is hard to be patient and wait for the things we all want from the game. The biggest thing I learnt from this Panel is that the team on The Sims 4 are working VERY hard and I feel sometimes we haven’t given them enough credit for that. While the next release may not be what we want, keep in mind that this was possibly made months or even a year ago and it has been scheduled for its release date for a reason.
Now we all made the ‘Get’ jokes when Get Together was released, wondering why they had decided to have Get to Work and then yet more ‘get’ on the next expansion, ridiculing the gurus for this decision. Little did we all know they don’t actually get to pick the names for the packs? SimGuruDrake explained how they create a cluster of items; game play interactions, venues, clothing etc that you would expect to come in a pack of whatever kind. From this point it is then left to a different group within Maxis/EA to decide what to name it. Who knew!? Get Together was not intentionally supposed to be tied in with Get To Work and the next pack is likely to break this trend!
Overall the experience with EA at Gamescom was one I will never forget and I learned so much from The Panel and the gurus while chatting to them about the game. That is all for now but I hope this article was informative and insightful! At dinner we discussed what we would add to the game that has NEVER been added before, what would you choose? Leave your comments down below! Dag Dag!
P.S. – If you’re interested to see more behind-the-scenes of my Gamescom adventure, check out the video down below!