Note that some features are platform-exclusive, so please read carefully which features belong to which platform – I’ve tried to make this as clear as possible.
Heather: Can you tell me a bit about yourselves and your roles on the Sims team?
JoAnna Lio: I’m JoAnna, and I’m the director of the Pets project (on console)
Ryan Vaughan: I’m Ryan and I’m the producer on all the dogs in the PC game
Kelly Mondragon: I’m Kelly and I’m the producer on the 3DS game
H: Pets have been one of the top requested features from the community, so how do you hope that the expansion pack and the console games will meet the fans’ expectations?
R: I think one of the really cool things we’re offering on Pets with The Sims 3 is the ability to actually control the pets, and this is for the 3DS, the console, and the PC. Unlike The Sims 2, where you were just able to interact with your Pets, with The Sims 3 Pets it’s all about becoming the pet. You get to be a cat or a dog, or with the PC version, a horse, and you get to live life, and play with life as one of these animals. So you’re actually playing the game in a whole new way – you’re not thinking about your career or making money, you’re thinking about going out and hunting a mouse, or digging up your owner’s front yard. So we’ve not just added pets, we’ve added a whole new way to play the game.
H: The development team is very involved with the community – on forums, Twitter, and so forth – can you think of any examples of the ways you’ve incorporated fan feedback into The Sims 3 Pets?
J: Yeah, for console, people really like our Karma Powers, so we’ve expanded those to include a whole load of new Karma Powers. One of the ones we’ve included is called Transmogrify. With it you can transform any Sim, cat, or dog into a different species. So if you have a cat who’s a genius, you could convert them into a Sim that’s a bookworm. There’s a whole mapping of traits, so that’s really fun.
H: With regards to the 3DS… how to you take a game that’s so big and so complex and turn it into a game that’s portable that you can carry around with you?
K: It’s challenging! We had a really nice base game to build on, so while we don’t have as big or as robust a feature set as the PC or the console, we’ve tried use the 3DS hardware to our advantage. So obviously there’s the 3D technology, which is great – to be able to see your Sims in real 3D. Then we’ve tried to use other aspects of the 3DS hardware in creative ways, so with Streetpass you can create your pet on your 3DS, and trade it with anyone you walk past who has the game on their 3DS.
We’ve also used the PlayCoins from the 3DS, so you put your 3DS in your pocket and walk around to earn your PlayCoins… and then what we’ve done is you can take those PlayCoins into the game and you can use them on Karma Powers and various things in the game, so we did have a lot of fun with the 3DS hardware.
H: Do any of you have pets of your own at all?
R: I have a black pit bull named Bella, and she’s my puppy-dog! She’s definitely been a big influence when we started getting into production in the game – seeing how dogs interact with people, and seeing some of the funny things that they do.
J: I’ve got a short-haired cat named Pearl … he’s very friendly! *
K: I have a dog… I’ve had several Dachshunds in my life, they’re the best dogs ever!
H: Do you sometimes play the game and see your own pets’ behaviour in the game?
J: Yeah definitely. My cat for example really likes to sleep in a bunch of different places, sometimes he gets up on the counter when he’s not really supposed to, and so in the game the cats can get up on the counters, and they can sleep on tables and beds and sofas.
H: Create-A-Pet seems to be a lot more versatile than we’ve ever seen before, so what’s the strangest pet you’ve made with Create-A-Pet?
R: There’s lots of really deep stuff we could get into, if you’ve seen any of the other demos of Create-A-Pet, then you will have seen there’s this whole layer system where you can add spots, and reshape them and change the colours, so you could make tie-dye polka-dot zebra-striped horses, and dogs that have a Great Dane’s face and a little Dachshund body. We’re going to be releasing The Sims 3 Create-A-Pet demo on Thursday, that’s coming out the same day we’re having our live Town Hall event. So you’ll actually be able to upload your pets to The Sims 3 Exchange, and they’ll be available once you get the game. We’re so excited to get this feature out to you guys and see what you guys make, I’m sure there’s going to be some pretty crazy stuff that comes out of it.
H: On the console version, is the Create-A-Pet as versatile as it is on the PC?
J: Pretty much, in fact you’ll be able to see a lot of that on Thursday when we do the demo. You can layer the different patterns and you can change the colour and the opacity. I really like making dalmatians that have different coloured spots, so like, bright green, bright pink, bright blue – it’s a lot of fun. And you can also modify the physical features of well.
H: And how about on the 3DS? Does any of this make it onto the very compact version of the game?
K: Yeah, we have most of what the others have talked about. One other thing we have on the 3DS that’s unique is we have different categories of accessories that you can accessorise your pet with. So we got really crazy with this and we have little jetpacks, and little monkey outfits and cowboy outfits that you can put on your pets, and we have loads of hats – lots of fun things you can accessorise your pet with.
H: We saw at GamesCom that your pet’s personality can change if you encourage or discourage certain behaviour. But how does the more basic training work? Say you wanted to toilet train your pet, or teach your pet not to climb on furniture, how would you do that?
R: It works a lot in the same way – you’ll have the option to re-enforce lots of pets’ behaviour. So if your cat is going round tearing all the furniture up and you re-enforced that, then you’d end up with a pretty destructive pet. A lot if it has to do with their interactions and what they’re doing… if you encourage and support these interactions, they’re going to do it more, if you discourage them they’ll do it less. So you can really train your pet into the traits you want to have.
K: On the 3DS version we also have lifetime happiness rewards that you can purchase for your pet that will stop them from scratching the wrong things or peeing in the wrong areas.
H: How long will the pet pregnancy be?
R: It kinda depends, it’s never a set amount of time. It’s usually a day or two. But it all really depends on the pets themselves, and how many puppies or kittens or foals they’re having.
H: And how many can they have?
R: They can have quite a few – cats and dogs always have a different size litter. Horses will always have just one foal at a time. But for cats and dogs, it could be one, or it could be three or four.
H: Can pets see and interact with the ghosts of Sims?
R: Yes they can. They have their own ghosts, so you’ll have cat, dog, and horse ghosts that hang around as well.
J: On console, if your cat has high enough hunting skill, they can actually help you capture ghosts, which is a very cool thing to do. There are lots of hauntings that go on at night in the town, so you can go around and capture ghosts and spirits.
H: Are there any new ways to earn money with your pets?
R: Yes there are, there’s quite a few different ways. One of the biggest ways is with the new skills. Cats and dogs will develop the hunting skill. Dogs will go out into the world and dig holes and search for different kinds of buried objects. So they might dig up some really expensive, really valuable gems and rocks for you… I think it’s the same on the console.
J: Yeah, you can do a lot of the same things. And then something that’s specific to the console is they’ll dig up relics, associated with one of the mysteries that they can do. So those will appear in the museum in one of the parts of town and you can also show them off at your house.
R: You can sell all these things for a profit, which is really cool. For the PC, another way to make money is at the new equestrian centre. So you have to build up your riding skill for your Sim, and either your racing or jumping skill for your horse. Depending on how good you are, you’ll have a better chance of winning competitions at the equestrian centre – the better you are the more money you’ll make.
K: One other cool thing worth mentioning is you can teach your pet a series of tricks, and then take your pet out in public and put on a trick show for tips.
H: Pets can be quite sensitive to their owner’s mood. For example, if I’m upset my dog might come up to me and put his head on my knee to try and comfort me, might we see our Sims’ pets try to cheer up their owners if they’re down?
J: They do so by being playful – and they give really adorable hugs. You can smooch the cat or dog, you can give them hugs it’s really cute.
R: It really has a lot to do with the relationships that they have the Sims, a Sim might come up and kinda put their hand up to have them sniff their hand, and if they have a bad relationship, the dog might back up and start growling at them. Alternatively if they have a really good relationship, the Sim might kneel down and the dog might hop up on their shoulders and give them a hug. So how they’ll interact has a lot to do with their relationship.
H: Another thing my dog does, is he suddenly becomes your best friend whenever you have food, and he hangs around the dinner table when we eat. Will dogs in the game behave like that?
R: They’ll definitely beg for treats all the time! If they have the piggy trait they’ll beg more often and they’ll kind of be sloppy eaters.
K: … and dogs in the game aren’t above snacking from the trash can, just like in real life!
J: Yeah, they’ll actually eat the trash, and roll around in the trash.
H: Will pets choose a favourite bed that they prefer to sleep in?
J: Yeah, there are a number of pet beds that you can have in your house, and they’ll have preferences much like the Sims do.
H: And what about horses? Do they prefer to sleep in the stables than in the garden – we’ve seen them sleeping just in the garden from some demos.
R: Yeah, they will have these – we’re calling them box stalls – and that’s a really good place for horses to go to sleep, or they can go in there and eat. And then your Sims can go in there and clean up the stable, and as they do that they can collect fertiliser for their garden – they’ll grow better quality fruits and vegetables in their garden if they use the fertiliser out of the box stall.
H: Is there any way to restrict the movements of the wild horses in the game – if you didn’t want them in your town centre and you wanted to restrict them to more rural parts of the neighbourhood, is there any way to restrict those movements at all?
R: You can certainly restrict them on your lot. There’s a new gnome that you can put on your lot and it’ll make sure that all the wild animals stay away from it. It’s a secret gnome but you can place it on your lot, and it’ll spook off racoons and deers and wild horses and stuff like that, so you have control of who’s coming on your lot and who’s not.
R: My favourite things are definitely the ability to control pets. It really turns the game into something new for players. It’s a new way to play, it’s a new way to experience life. It has a whole new set of experiences – moments of joy and sadness that go along with living life as a pet.
J: I think on console, it’s a close call between the mysteries that you can take your pets on or that you can do independent of your pets. There’s a lot of fun storylines where you can get to know the people around your town, and discover some really cool things. Then there’s also Kinect, which is a really cool way to play the game which we’ve never done before.
K: On 3DS, aside from the features I already talked about, I completely agree with Ryan. Now that the pets are full Sims and they have skills and traits, you can actually play them as you would a Sim, and it is something that’s totally new to the series.
Thank you so much to all three producers for their time, it was great to talk to all of you!
* Around here my audio recording went a bit fuzzy, I listened to these bits over and over and got second opinions, but if you are pretty sure that I’m wrong on these details, please let me know!