Today, I’ve been at the EA UK offices playing the upcoming expansion pack – The Sims 4: Get To Work. The lovely SimGuruAzure was on hand to answer questions and point out cool stuff.
A simple overview of the pack would be that it’s a mix-up of Ambitions and Open For Business, plus the return of the aliens. I asked Azure if it was difficult to balance bringing back old fan favourites with adding new gameplay, and she told me that what they really want to do is to give fans a new experience. They’ve certainly achieved that with Get To Work.
A quick disclaimer at this point – it’s worth remembering that the version we played was not the final version of the game. Some things might change between that version and the final release.
My game started, as many Sims games do, in Create-A-Sim. There is tonnes of new content in here. For male adults & teens we’ve got 4 new necklaces, loads of creative make-up (more about that later), 8 new hairstyles, including a slightly longer one than any of the base-game styles (I’d still like to see some really long hair!), 16 new clothing items, 7 new pairs of shoes, and 3 accessories. There’s also a new category of clothing under the outfits section for “aprons”.
For female adults and teens, there’s 9 new hairs – including two really cute ones which I love – 5 new necklaces, 18 new creative make-up styles (again, more on that later), 16 clothing items, 1 pair of socks, 1 pair of leggings, 2 bracelets, and 4 pairs of shoes. Some of the new female clothing can be seen further down.
All of the above is in addition to new unlockable career outfits.
And just to round off this game of Create-A-Sim bingo, for the kids there’s 11 new clothing items for girls, 7 for boys, a new pair of leggings for girls, some unisex odd socks, 7 pairs of shoes for girls and 5 for boys, 2 new hairstyles for girls, one for boys, and 6 new various accessories for girls, 5 for boys.
And then there’s the aliens.
You can create an alien in Create-A-Sim if you want to get started playing with aliens right away. There’s a choice of 9 skin tones here – 2 purples, 2 green, 1 white, 1 pink, and 3 shades of blue. And remember all the “creative” makeup I mentioned? This was really designed as alien make-up. Check out the screenshot below to see how some of it looks on my alien.
The bad news for aliens is that there’s not much choice in terms of your outfit. There are two outfits for aliens. Seriously, that’s it. Don’t get me wrong because the outfits are awesome, the green lights in them pulse and glow, but I really hope the modding community will build on this because if you don’t like green there’s not much for you there!
Aliens also can’t have hair of any kind, not even eyebrows. But they do have awesome eyes with patterns on them, and the skin tones also have patterns on them.
Aliens have different voices to normal Sims – they speak with an echo. Until, that is, they disguise themselves. All aliens have the option to put on a disguise, which lets them look like a normal Sim. They can then change their appearance like any other Sim (except that they can also change their skin tone). Other Sims that you meet might also turn out to be aliens in disguise.
There are some special interactions for aliens. For example, some friendly interactions include “analyze personality”, “empathize”, and “discuss weird atmospheric pressure”. Performing some of these actions, like the analyze personality one, will drain your alien’s brain power, and they’ll get a “low brain power” moodlet after doing a few. I also spotted two mischievous interactions for aliens – “scare with probe” and “memory erase”.
And where there’s aliens in The Sims, there’s male pregnancy. Male pregnancy following alien abductions makes a return in Get To Work, and I can’t wait.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t get to mess about much with photography. But the first thing to note is that your Sims all get camera phones automatically. Sims can now take selfies or normal photos from their phones. You can add filters to your photos, and adjust the size and orientation. When you’re happy, take your picture. Hang it on the wall if you love it. Even sell it in your shop.
Photos that you hang on the wall will be packed up with houses that you upload to the gallery.
One cool new thing with the photography is that it goes hand-in-hand with painting.There’s a new “paint from reference” interaction on the easel – I didn’t get a chance to check this out fully but it seems to be that you can take a photo, and later use it as a reference to paint from.
Baking is a distinct skill separate from ordinary cooking in Get To Work. When you click the fridge to start making something, you choose “cook” or “bake”. Slightly confusingly, the “baked” items from the base game still reside under the “cook” menu – eg. the hamburger cakes.
You can bake all kinds of things, both sweet and savoury. If you buy a special bakery display case for your food it’ll keep for up to 20 days while you sell it in your shop. Speaking of which…
Opening your own shop
In Get To Work, you can buy a retail shop and go there and sell stuff. Any stuff really. Anything you like. So far the only thing I’ve found that you can’t sell is earrings. Everything else, it’s all for sale.
I started out with a clothing shop. The game includes mannequins for all ages and genders, and you can dress them up any way you like. You can include with the outfit glasses, hats, necklaces, bracelets, rings, socks, tights, leggings, and shoes. You can have up to 10 mannequins on a lot, and up to 30 saved outfits for each type of mannequin. You can also pose each mannequin, choosing from the emotions in the game to determine their pose. Customers will approach your mannequins and take a look, maybe even try the outfits on.
You need to convince the Sim to make a purchase. This works similarly to in Open For Business from The Sims 2, for those that remember that. There’s a bar above the customer’s head. When it fills up, they’re ready to buy. You can help them by using interactions like “answer questions” and “offer information” to build the bar up. At the top of the screen it’ll indicate whether the customer is just window shopping, or if they’re receptive to a sales pitch.
Once they’ve made the decision to buy, a shopping trolley icon appears above their head in blue. You must ring up their purchases to get the money. If you don’t do this quickly enough, the icon turns red and flashes, then they’ll get angry and leave. Customers don’t queue up at the till like they did in Open For Business. This is 2015, you ring your customers up on a tablet.
When you sell stuff in your shop, you’ll get retail perk points. You can use this to unlock awesome stuff for your shop. This includes a “sure sale” interaction, which is very likely to result in a sale as long as a customer likes you. There’s also a “curious shopper” perk which will mean customers linger for longer, and unlocks for additional employees, clothes (which make good uniforms but can be used elsewhere) and faster restocking & checkouts. There’s also a perk which will result in lower restock prices for 12 hours. You can buy this perk as many times as you like.
If running a shop is becoming too much to handle, it’s time to hire a member of staff. Initially you can have one employee, but you can unlock up to 3 using the retail perk points. When you go to hire employees it’ll show you 3 attributes for each employee, each scored out of 5. Those attributes are sales ability, work ethic, and maintenance skill. I decided to hire an employee to ring customers up, so I picked a hard worker.
You can also set uniforms for your employees. You can save lots of different uniforms, then assign different ones to each employee. You can use any of your CAS clothes as uniforms. So here is my shop assistant, in uniform, ringing up a customer’s purchases…
At the end of the day, when you shut up shop, you’ll get a financial report for the day, showing you how much profit you’ve made.
The retail feature of the game is a huge feature in and of itself. It could easily have been an expansion by itself, but there’s much more to this expansion than running your own business.
Following your Sims to work was a hugely popular gameplay feature of The Sims 3: Ambitions, and in Get To Work there are 3 new careers which will let you get involved in your Sim’s day-to-day work life. If you have a Sim active in one of these careers, then when it’s time for them to go to work, you’ll get a notification simply asking you – do you want to join your Sim at work, or let them go on their own? This is already an improvement on Ambitions in my eyes, because here you have an option. You don’t have to follow your Sim to work every day, just when you feel like it. And if you have 3 Sims, one in each of the active careers, then you can rotate between their workplaces each day. If you don’t follow your Sim to work, it’s just like any other career – they disappear off the lot, and come back later with money.
If you do follow them to work, you’ll have a series of objectives to fulfil, similar to the social events like parties, but these are called “scored career events”. Fulfilling your objectives will improve your career performance. Like the base game careers, you’ll also have normal objectives to fulfil to get promoted – these seem to be things like doing a particular number of active work days (ie. following your Sims to work), and in the scientist career, getting a particular number of breakthroughs.
While at work, your Sim’s needs will decay a little slower, allowing you to get the most out of the day at work.
Your Sim’s objectives will depend on their current level in their career. At lower levels they’ll be doing the more menial jobs, but as they get promoted they get to do some more responsible tasks. So let’s take a quick look at each career in turn:
If your Sim is a scientist, you can follow them to work at the lab. Your objectives might be to work on the chemistry table, to brainstorm, or simply to interact with your co-workers.
While we’re on that subject, there’s a new interaction to tell a NSFW (not safe for work) joke. Depending on your relationship with your co-worker, you might get away with that one. Or they might just think you’re being inappropriate!
Scientists can also invent… stuff. One of the coolest inventions in the game is the SimRay, which you can use to mind control other Sims, or to freeze them. You can unlock additional options on the SimRay by working on it further.
To get promoted, scientists will need to make breakthroughs. You don’t have to be in the lab to make a breakthrough – you can do it anywhere, for example by taking a thoughtful shower (unlocking the new You-reek-a! achievement if you do so).
With the chemistry table your scientists can create serums, which may have positive or negative effects.
Most excitingly, your scientist can invent a portal which will allow them to try to make contact with aliens, and summon them to the lab.
The portal will also let you travel to an alien world. Specifically, Sixam, the planet that the aliens in The Sims come from. Sixam is a weird and wonderful place, with new collectibles of every type to collect (even an alien equivalent of frogs, I collected an “alien slug”). This includes alien plant species such as tentacle trees, orb stalks, quill plants and fang flowers. If you harvest these alien plants on Sixam, you can grow them back on earth – these plants won’t need water and don’t get weeds.
There’s also a big red button in the science lab. Azure advised us that if we like our scientists, we shouldn’t have them press it. Well… now I want to press the button.
Detectives work from the police station, but they’re often out and about investigating crime. The first thing you’ll do on your first day at work is go to pick up an assignment from the computer. Then you use the crime map object in the police station to move straight to the crime scene.
In this game, someone’s had all of their floors graffiti’d over. The cool thing is that your Sim won’t be the only police officer on the scene – other police officers will also be there, doing police officer things. Above you can see my Sim in the background, photographing the evidence, while her colleague talks to the victim.
While you’re on the scene you’ll have a bunch of objectives to meet, again in the style of the social events, and when you’ve done those it’ll give you an objective to return to the station.
Back at the station, my Sim, being a junior officer, has to first analyse the evidence on a machine at the station, then simply file away all the evidence for a more senior detective to take over. After that, she spends the rest of her day booking in suspects. To do this she can fingerprint them, take their mugshot, and search them. Again in the screenshot below, you’ll notice there’s stuff going on in the background. This is a theme you’ll find throughout the new careers – other Sims are doing things, and it provides a vibrant and convincing backdrop that makes it feel like your Sim is part of a workforce, not an isolated being doing their own thing.
The final thing that’s really cool for detectives is the new objects. There’s special wall and door objects which you can use to make jail cells in your own home – you’ll need to unlock these by reaching a certain level in your career. There’s also a working two-way mirror for the interrogation room. This is a window which genuinely acts to the game camera like a mirror from one side, and a window from the other – really cool, and a brilliant touch.
When you follow your Sim to work at the hospital, you’ll start small – fetching food for patients, greeting them, making beds, and so on. But as you level up through the career you’ll get to do more exciting things – examining patients, running diagnostic tests, and ultimately giving them medicine, or performing surgery. Your main tasks will be to run various tests to diagnose a patient, and then administer appropriate treatment. If you misdiagnose a Sim, then obviously that could have negative consequences, so be careful!
There are also things you’ll need to do outside of the hospital. These include house calls, where multiple Sims are ill in a house and you have to go and examine and treat them, and outbreaks of viruses, where multiple Sims have collapsed on a community lot.
Sometimes, the emergency comes to you. While my Sim was working at the hospital, a woman fainted by the reception desk, and my Sim had to rush her to surgery.
The hospital is also, of course, where babies are born. If your female Sim, or male Sim, is expecting a child, you can now follow your Sim to the hospital and watch as they give birth. While you’re working at the hospital as a doctor, you might also get an emergency event where a pregnant Sim arrives, and you will need to rush them to the operating theatre to give birth. The animation involves the surgery machine, and it is both bizarre and strangely sweet.
The doctor career also gives you a special trait which makes you more resilient to Sim sicknesses (spending so much time around sick Sims must build up your immune system).
There are a few neat features that don’t quite sit under any of the headings so far. Firstly, we have basements. They’re coming in a free update at the end of the month for all Sims 4 players, but they’ll also work great with the expansion pack. We played with them today, and it’s just as easy to build below ground as above – you can still drop styled rooms below ground, for example. In Azure’s demo she showed us a shop where the basement is an area that is target towards … grown-up Sims. There’s a lot of red lighting, mannequins with lingerie on, and inexplicably, a hot dog outfit. I can’t wait to start creating hidden worlds under my Sims’ homes and businesses.
Secondly, there is a new notepad feature on your Sim’s phone. This is a really neat one, because it keeps track of the little things your Sims discover. For example, let’s say your Sim finds out that if they splice two particular plants together they make a snapdragon. The notepad will automatically take a note of that, so you can refer back to it later on.
Finally, buy mode has so much new stuff… just so much. I didn’t even have time to take stock of it all but there is a load of unlockable unique items for each career, and then there’s loads of neat stuff for shops, then on top of that there’s random extra new stuff.
The Sims Studio have really outdone themselves here. They’ve brought back 3 fan favourites in a single expansion pack, and still brought exciting new gameplay to the table. The expansion pack is immense, and 3 hours simply wasn’t enough time. Each new career will take many more hours than that to climb to the top of, and there are quite possibly infinite possibilities for shops (a toilet paper and fine art shop? a sandwich and computer shop? why not!).
I have to say this quietly because it often gets me a clip round the ear but Open For Business… was not my favourite expansion pack. I liked it but I didn’t love it. However, I really do love the retail aspect of Get To Work. And so did some of the other attendees at the event who said Open For Business was their favourite expansion – clearly, The Sims Studio have done something very right here.
As I mentioned earlier, the retail aspect could easily have stood alone as an expansion pack. And yet somehow, without sacrificing depth of experience in the retail career, there is also a whole new active careers system. The new workplaces are buzzing with activity, and co-workers busily doing their thing, and it really feels like your Sim is a part of a bigger workforce. And then there’s aliens. And male pregnancy. And an alien world to visit.
I don’t know where I’ll start when the game releases on 2nd April. But I do know I’m very glad that in the UK, we’ll have a 4-day weekend to play it – that should be enough time to make a start.