Heather: I know you’ve been on the Sims team for quite a while now, so what exactly is your role on the team?
Jennifer Lane: I’m a producer on the Sims, and I’m lead producer for the stuff pack line. I work on both the expansion packs and the stuff packs, but really, particularly in the past few weeks the focus has been on the stuff packs. I’ve been with the Sims since the Sims 3 base game, and my role is… well besides causing trouble… is just to help the team make sure things happen. It’s a really fantastic team and getting to work with them is pretty cool.
H: So next week, the Master Suite Stuff Pack is released. Stuff Packs in general can be quite a tough sell with the community, because they don’t add any new interactions or traits, so what does the Master Suite Stuff Pack add that makes it a must-have?
J: First of all I just want to address what you said about Stuff Packs not adding new interactions. That’s exactly true, we very rarely add interactions. We have done in the past, but it is very unusual for Stuff Packs. We like to keep the Expansion team focused on those kinds of things, because it adds a lot of gameplay, which is what they’re doing. The Stuff Packs are there to add a lot of variety, and they add variety to the gameplay that you have from your different expansion packs and the base game.
Now to answer the question that you actually asked! What is really nice about this stuff pack, well actually this does relate to what I was saying before – it’s a really great pack to mix and match with your existing items – these things will go extremely well with almost every expansion pack and stuff pack that we have. We played with having all of them together, or having a number of them, and the way the objects are built, just by changing the style of them with Create-A-Pattern, it really changes the feel of a room.
It’s also adding so much intimate wear and so much sleep wear, which we know a lot of people have asked for in the past. We’d get comments like “why aren’t you being a little sexy? Why are you being so conservative?”, so it’s nice to offer a really large variety in a stuff pack for them. So much we do is very conservative, it’s very everyday, so for this pack we said “we’re going to do sleepwear, and we’re going to do it right!” and that’s really cool – just in time for Valentine’s Day!
H: So what’s the inspiration for this Stuff Pack?
J: There’s not a single inspiration for it. It’s taking inspiration from everywhere. So you know, I’ll have a different opinion about things than King has, than you have – everyone just has different opinions. So we tried to look at the community to see what things people have asked for a lot, and one of them has been, “we want more intimate apparel”. Having the bedroom and bathroom furniture went really well with that, so that’s kind of where we were coming from.
We also looked at what we had done in the past that people really liked, and what is the team really interested in doing, and what we decided is we were going to push it a little bit and not do such conservative things. We also looked at culture and at entertainment, and fashion shows that are featuring lingerie, and the kinds of things that are trendy, and also with the release being so close to Valentine’s Day, over time, we decided “this is what we’re going to do!”
H: Last week we were treated to an awesome live chat with you and King, and we saw a lot of flames and some stencils – are there any new patterns in this pack?
J: There’s not a lot of new patterns, but there are a lot of stencils on the objects, so you can change things up pretty quickly. We have a lot of patterns already in the game that will work very well with these to create different styles, plus you have the option of using Create-A-Pattern to make your own as well.
H: Did we see all of the new objects in the live chat last week?
J: You didn’t see all of them, but you did see almost everything. I think I forgot to show the double door. There’s a really nice double door that has the same kind of pattern as the fireplace has. I’m not sure if I forgot anything else, there may be one or two items that I didn’t get a chance to show.
H: What about the heart-shaped hot tub? Will that return for this pack?
J: We do not have the heart-shaped hot tub in the pack. A lot of people have been asking about it, but we don’t have any hot tubs in this pack.
H: Is there a chance we might see it in the future?
J: I can’t talk about anything we haven’t done or haven’t announced, but I can tell you it’s not in this pack and we are aware a lot of people are asking for it.
H: Can the candles cause fires?
J: No, they’re actually just lamps, so they won’t cause a fire in your Sims’ home.
H: Last week we saw a whole variety of new clothes, from some really cute pyjamas to some really raunchy undies, but does any of the new clothing work for pregnant Sims?
J: None of the clothing works, from these particular items, for pregnant Sims.
H: Will we see the “name brand blankets with sleeves” that you were wearing last week in the game?
J: [laughs] The “name brand blankets with sleeves” will not be in the game! We did order those from an online retailer that’s well known by everyone and starts with an A. That’s something that would be quite a fun thing to have in the game, but that would be something we would actually have to animate, so we didn’t do that this time.
The reason we wore the blankets is, I’m not a person to sit here and say “hey, you need to buy a bajillion of these”, I just wanted to say “this is the stuff we’re building, I hope you like it”. You know, it’s fun to be kooky! That’s who we are! We work long hours and sometimes we need a creative outlet!
King (in the background): I’m very very serious…
J: You are not very serious! You know, the two of us are especially bad together. We shouldn’t even be allowed to sit in a room together, especially not next to each other!
H: What about onesies, are there any onesies in the new pack?
J: There are no onesies in the game.
H: Are there any new shoes in this pack, like slippers or “bedroom heels”?
J: We didn’t add any slippers. We did talk about it but we wanted to add so much of the actual tops and bottoms and whole body pieces, that that was just a bit too much. One of the things we did do, was originally a lot of the two-piece items were going to be a full-body item, but we made a decision that we wanted people to be able to mix and match these, and I think that was the right thing to do – I think people will enjoy that more.
H: Are there any fishnet stockings?
J: We didn’t add any stockings, but there are stockings already in the game, and you can apply a pattern to them and make them look like fishnets.
H: How did you come up with the idea for the eye mask?
J: We were doing some concept art, and they had drawn an eye mask – they’d actually drawn the one with the panda eyes – and we all started laughing. We realised “it’s crazy to add this, because the Sims are going to think they’re sunglasses”, but then we were like, wait a minute… this is actually something really fun that we can do to help people to tell stories. So that’s why we continued with it, because we all loved it. It was something extremely different and it was such a fun thing to do!
You might have noticed, when I did the demo last week, I gave my Sims that were wearing the eye masks the Clumsy trait, so if you do that you can kinda tell a story of them falling around wearing the eye mask. Plus it looks cute too, you know, stuff packs are very visual.
H: How many styles of the eye mask are there?
J: Let’s see… I can’t remember the exact number, there’s either three or four and they can all be Create-A-Styled as well. So there’s a panda, giant eyes, there’s the stars, and there’s the plain one.
H: It seems like this stuff pack is very focused on the ladies, with comparatively few new options for men. Was that a conscious decision or was it the direction that the theme of the pack took you in?
J: It was kind of the direction that the pack took us in. I think in general, there’s more intimate wear for women compared to guys. We did add quite a lot for guys but we noticed that more often than not, men’s intimate wear was a similar style but with different patterns and fabrics, and we have those different patterns in the game. So what we did is we came up with some things we thought would be nice, and really add to the game, and then people can Create-A-Style those to make them look different.
That is one of the reasons that we added the long lounge pants, and also we wanted to make sure that we had a couple of different varieties of men’s underpants, and also the open and closed robes just to add some variety.
H: Compared to the development of a really big expansion pack like Pets, roughly how long does the development of a stuff pack take?
J: The actual development does take about the same amount of time, but there’s a different focus for it. There are a couple of reasons it takes around the same amount of time. One is there’s a smaller team, and the other is that there is a different focus than when we create expansion pack. So to create the objects and the clothing, that takes around the same amount of time whether you’re doing an expansion pack or a stuff pack, it’s just with the expansion pack they’re making more of them. So with a smaller team, and the focus on that, it winds up taking about the same amount of time. Plus there’s people that were working on both of them.
H: You’re always really active in the community, especially on Twitter but also on the Sims 3 forums. How does feedback from the community influence the content and the theme of the pack?
J: I think it influences us greatly. You know, we can’t always respond to everything, but we do listen. We can’t always do everything that people want, but we try. So we incorporate what people are saying into what we can do. And maybe we can’t do it in the thing that we’re working on now, but we keep that noted for future.
I really like to hear what people think is good, and what they think is bad, as long as you’re giving an explanation as to why. “That sucks” doesn’t help me, but “that sucks because…” really helps us to understand what people like. I wish I could be even more active in the community, but obviously my job won’t let me do that sometimes! But please, do keep talking to us, we are listening!
H: What’s your favourite new thing in the Master Suite Stuff Pack?
J: My favourite changes every day. The reason why is that I get so excited when I go from seeing it on paper, to being able to play with it in my game. So last week it was the eye masks, right now it’s the men’s lounge pants. And in terms of the objects what I love right now is the new single curtain. Because before we haven’t had separate items for the left and right curtains they’ve always been a pair, and they were made to fit a certain kind of window. But with the single curtain, there’s a lot more options and opportunity to be really creative with it.
H: You’ve mentioned in the past that you were a Sims fan a long time before you joined the Sims team. How was it to go from being a fan of the series to actually working on the game?
J: Well it was great, for one! I was already a developer when I was playing The Sims, so I had worked on a lot of games before that. It’s hard for me as a developer to have to use cheats so often. As a player, I never use cheats, that was my thing, that was my rule – I could not use cheats, no matter how frustrated I got. So now I do have to use them all the time. I do still like to play without cheats as well, but sometimes I have to get to certain things very quickly, and I’m often not playing the game as I would be playing as a player.
The thing is that there are so many different ways that our players play the game, and I have to try out all these different play styles during development.
Thank you very much to both Jenn and King for their time, especially as we were interrupted by technical issues and they delayed their trip to Bacon Bacon so they could speak to me! We’d also like to extend a big thank you to EA UK for setting this interview up for us. Don’t forget, Master Suite Stuff is out in the US/Canada today, Europe on Thursday, and the UK on Friday!