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The Sims 20th Anniversary: Threadless Interview with SimGuruNinja

via threadless.com

Maxis Studio, the creative masterminds behind the city planning and building brilliance of SimCity among other fan favorites, proudly ushers in two decades of playing life with The Sims. That’s right, players have been creating virtual people, designing their environments, and breathing life into their worlds for twenty years.

So much has happened in the game since its creation. Sims, who have their own language, can also have distinct personalities, memories, and life goals. And, in the latest addition to The Sims’ universe, they can now experience the joys of tiny living! The ecological—and infinitely more cozy—movement focuses on a simpler lifestyle like building homes with a smaller footprint to encourage more time for relationships. The Sims has enriched so many lives—in the game’s world and our own. We were honored to connect with the Maxis and the EA team to learn more about the latest designs in The Sims Artist Shop, find out what’s in store in The Sims’ future, and so much more.

Funky plumbob from The Sims
Funky Plumbob” design

What magical surprises will The Sims experience in their twentieth year of existence?

Oh we’re always looking to surprise and excite The Sims’ community and this year (and beyond) is going to be amazing. First and foremost, anyone playing the game will find a new birthday hot tub waiting for them to help celebrate this momentous anniversary! Let’s party!

We also are really looking forward to the upcoming Community Voted Stuff Pack. The arts and crafts knitting theme that our players have chosen is going to be super fun and provide some compelling new activities to keep your Sims busy!

Since we’ve already released a lot of the “expected” Sims content (i.e. Seasons, Cats & Dogs, etc.), we’re now approaching a point in time where fresh, new ideas can more easily come to the surface. We have some thoughts and interesting ideas for what cool new content to make and directions to go in, but more importantly, the players will let us know what they want! We’ll be listening and poised to make it happen! Their continued involvement in this Simming community is more impactful than ever, and we’re going to continue building upon this game together.

Frankly, our development team is incredibly excited and ready to explore this new chapter in The Sims!

The Sims' mantra design
A solid mantra, grab this design on your favorite t-shirt

After twenty memorable years and so much advancement in The Sims’ world, what are some of the biggest fan favorite features?

So this is truly a subjective exercise. If you asked this same question to 10 Simmers, you’d probably get 15 different answers! It also doesn’t help that The Sims history and content is absolutely massive. It’s mental how big this series is! I could probably just go through the most popular add-ons throughout The Sims storied history and discuss popular features, but let’s have some fun and do it a little different. Let’s look at some of the iconic Sims trends that are much loved and overlap between all kinds of players. I’ll give it a shot anyways!

The Grim Reaper –

There have been many glorious…er, I meant to say sad and touching…ways to die in The Sims over the years, but the collector of souls has always remained consistent (although their visage and outfit has certainly evolved over time). When you hear that death music start to play, you know that it’s too late to save them, and it’s time for final goodbyes. The Reaper is moments away. When the end is near the Reaper is too! We stan (even though we fear).

WooHoo –

Love and death are universal constants, even in The Sims. ESPECIALLY in The Sims. Finding new ways and places to create life has always been an entertaining and favorite pastime in The Sims. Our community is always appreciative of and on the lookout for new wooHoo spots! Personally, I find the outdoor bush in The Sims 4 to be one of the funniest/nastiest places in the game to do this deed. It’s so over-the-top and ridiculous that it never fails to elicit a chuckle. I’ll probably always laugh at it. I know, I know —  I’m an eternal child. Sorry not sorry.

Hot Tubs –

Speaking of wooHoo locations, the Hot Tub is an iconic Sims object that finds its way into a LOT of player builds. There’s a certain joie de vivre to the social aspect of multiple Sims in the tub at the same time combined with always entertaining animations and visual effects. Oh those animations! *blushy face* All these things combine to make this object so universally appealing.

Gnomes, Llamas, and Freezer Bunnies –

Why are these things so pervasive across The Sims franchise? That’s a really good question with no perfectly clear answer. One explanation: These things are a little weird, a little mysterious, and a little whimsical. Just like us! These various things are in-jokes that have taken on a life of their own and have grown beyond any individual contributor. They’re just part of Sims culture now.

The Goths –

There are several prominent Sims families and individuals that could have been named here, but most will agree that the Goths are incredibly iconic. They’ve been featured as a key founding family in all four versions of The Sims. Each member of this group has a compelling and recognizable personality and backstory. One could argue that they are essential Sims characters. Despite their popularity and recognizability, there are definitely mysterious elements to this seemingly normal family. Like, WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO BELLA GOTH?!

Okay, okay, I’m monologuing. I could go on forever here. You get the point!

WooHoo design on a t-shirt
WooHoo” design for your favorite tee

According to the makers and creators, what are the biggest moments in The Sims’ history so far? 

Oh jeez, this is another tough question. Hmmm, how do I approach this one? Okay, so if I take a really high-level overview, I’d say the release of each new iteration of the series is a momentous occasion. Each Sims game launch has been a unique and special time in history. The excitement is almost palpable within our team and Simming community alike, and it’s the beginning of a new generation just visible on the horizon — both in terms of the game itself and the new players joining us for their first (of many) Sims’ experiences. I’d, of course, include some of the other Sims titles we’ve had the honor and pleasure of releasing. Titles like the MySims games, The Sims Mobile, various console offerings, The Sims Medieval, and the list goes on.

If we go down a level and look a bit closer at the different expansions and add-ons of these various Sims games, we see each pack represents a unique point in time and all are special in their own way. There have been some amazing, surprising, and very much loved expansions throughout the history of The Sims. They’re our babies, and we love them!

Overall, and this is the most impactful thing to me personally, I am incredibly proud of the inclusive nature of this series and the safe haven it represents to people of every size, shape, color, gender, and background imaginable. So inclusions in the game like expanded gender options and more flexible clothing opportunities are incredibly important. The Sims (to me) represents a better world in which everyone is equal and Sims are only judged by the content of their character. Every person on this planet should feel represented in The Sims, and it’s something we will never stop chasing, improving, and building upon!

In The Sims 4 Tiny Living Stuff Pack, we can dream even bigger and build smaller with cozy, minimalist living. Finally, Sims can enjoy murphy beds and focus their energy on cultivating gardens. What other great tiny-living elements do Sims experience in the latest release?

There is a fantastic three-in-one TV/stereo/bookshelf combo object that can really help you save space, and comes in a couple of fantastic looking options. There are also a few objects that take up less space compared to most of the other similar objects that allow you to minimize more effectively. And, we even added a few Tiny Living surprises that went out to ALL of our Simmers. Namely, we converted all the tiny bookends in the game to be fully functional bookshelves as well as made end tables (finally) able to hold TVs on top!

But honestly, the real power in the Tiny Living Stuff Pack is the three tier challenge mode! While building, you can challenge yourself to create three progressively smaller (and more difficult) living spaces. Can you still fit the essentials into these tiny little play areas? What else can you fit to ensure your Sims not only survive, but actually thrive in their various endeavors?

It’s a special Stuff Pack that’s close to my heart and there’s nothing tiny about the fun and creativity it helps to unlock in Simmers everywhere!

The Sims 4 logo
The Sims 4 is here! Grab the latest logo on a regular t-shirt.

What does the process look like for coming up with a new Sims world? How do new features get dreamed up and, ultimately, created?

Production and Design will agree upon a pack’s theme, then they bring in Art Direction to consider style, tone, and a setting for that theme. When thinking about new worlds and features, we look to themes that players have been requesting in conjunction with styles we have never delivered in the past. We always want to support something unique and different with each new pack.

Once there is alignment between all disciplines, Art Direction will begin developing the general ideas with the Art Team. We always start broad and narrow down specifics as we go, so as the Art Team is working on developing the style, the Design Team is fine tuning the various plans for features and gameplay. There are many disciplines meetings along the way, as the ideas become more solidified, more of the team is brought in to lend their expertise to the process. This includes groups like Audio, Animation, Engineering (lots of sub-disciplines within this), Visual Effects, User Experience, Marketing, QA, etc.

Obviously, this is vast simplification of the process we go through (with many steps along the way not discussed here). But hopefully it’s a bite-sized chunk that will give you a slightly better understanding of how Sims development works.

The Grim Reaper from The Sims
Grim Reaper” design

The Sims have captivated audiences for two decades. What does the next decade hold in store for The Sims?

It’s too early to know for sure, except that it will be glorious! We want to stay super adaptable and responsive to ongoing feedback and emergent player trends. I can say, we will continue to remain culturally relevant and always ready to support the new experiences that Simmers demand, and the stories they want to tell.

What advice does The Sims team have for up-and-coming artists?

Do you have a dream? A goal? An end desire? GREAT! That’s step one. Step two is understanding there are lots of ways to get there. Many routes appear to be unexpected detours. Don’t have tunnel vision! Allow yourself to be open to various paths and opportunities. Many incredibly talented artists work on our team that have come from drastically different origins and paths into video game development. The journey may be unexpected, but that’s also half the fun!

Also, don’t worry about learning software right away; that won’t make you a better artist. Software and hardware change. Always be looking to improve your skill sets by drawing from life and observing the world around you. Keeping sketchbooks and experimenting with different mediums is always a plus. We use 2D and 3D software to develop The Sims, but it is never our starting point. We all developed as artists, designers, and drafts people first, then learned the tools necessary to work in various specific roles of game development.

Hey, thank you for this interview and the opportunity to wish The Sims a very happy birthday!

About the author

Krista

Hey! I'm Krista. Long-time Simmer currently studying at Foxbury Institue.

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