The Sims 4 “How we make the game” Panel

It’s Gamescom time!
We already knew we would not get any news regarding future The Sims 4 content, however SimguruDrake invited everyone that was at Gamescom on Thursday August 18th to 2 panels about The Sims 4.

First up was the Sims Team & Influencers panel, hosted by SimGuruDrake and Chris Mancil (Director of Community & Influencers at EA), more about that in a later post.
The second panel, which I’ll cover here, was hosted by SimGuruRachel and SimGuruLyndsay and looked at “How We Make The Game”

Although we got invited to these panels, opinions shown in this article are our own.

“How we make the game” panel

The panel was hosted by SimGuruRachel, General Manager of Maxis, The Sims and SimCity and SimGuruLyndsay, Senior Producer on The Sims 4.
They took us on a little tour on how they make the game, not so much in terms of coding or technical terms, but more about what the process looks like.
We got a look behind the scenes, split into a few different sections, starting with…

How we think about the The Sims 4

There are four main pillars when they think of The Sims 4.

  • Life
    Since The Sims is a life simulator, they like to use real life examples of what they experience, or have hear of and incorporate those things in the game
  • Creativity
    The Sims has always been a creative outlet. This pillar stands for creative content, or how to make a feature more creative, but also how free a certain feature should be. Do they give full range, or give more guidelines of how to use it.
  • Play
    A very important pillar. The game has to be fun. Even with the more difficult subjects that may occur in the game, like the death of a Sim, there has to be an element of fun in it.
  • Community
    The Community is very important, they get inspiration from it, look for trends, look for wants and is overall a great source to look for new content.

Besides these pillars they also have a few key words. Empowering, you are in control and should feel that way when playing. Optimistic and playful

Maslow-hierarchy
Now, this topic I found very intersting and was pretty sure I would remember it all, so just wrote down some keywords. It turns out I might have needed a few more keywords, so I will do this from memory as best I can.

With each Sims game, they moved up on Maslows hierachy pyramid, with each game Sims got more wants, more needs and got more depth. As shown in the image above, The Sims 1 started at the bottom, all you had to take care of was mainly eat, sleep, work. With The Sims 2 other things became important too. Belongings, friendships, love. The Sims 3 got even more depth and prestige was added, and with The Sims 4, the Sims got emotions, it became important to pay attention to their needs, but also how they felt which could be viewed as feeling of accomplishments.

Learn and Evolve

With each generation of The Sims they learned and evolved. It all started with The Sims 1, it was such a huge (unexpected) success they thought, “hey! Why not keep adding things?” New stuff is always awesome. So Expansion packs were born. With The Sims 2, they thought how can we create more stuff for in the game, stuff packs were added to the series to give the players something in between expansion packs at a lower price. Now, with The Sims 3, the store was added, it was another way to give players content in a way that seemed like a good idea. Sets were usually smaller than stuff packs, and you could even buy separate items from a set sometimes.

packs1

With The Sims 4, they have evaluated what the history of added content was, how they were brought to players and what they would like to improve. One of the changes was “Live service”. This was mentioned before the launch of The Sims 4 as well, but didn’t mean that much to us yet. Now, nearly 2 years in the game, it starts to really show what that means.
SimGuruGraham also tried to explain this on the forums a while back.
It means The Sims is always evolving, even when you wouldn’t buy any of the packs, the game should feel fresh and new. One of the ways to achieve this are the free updates we get regularly, besides the fixes for bugs they also add new features and items in, for example: Painting from reference, pools, ghosts, the nanny, the egg hunts and many more things. Have you guys noticed there haven’t been any new Gnomes lately? Because SimGuruRachel has and she thinks it about time we got a new one again, any suggestions?

The Sims 4 has 4 ways of new content, Expansion packs, Stuff packs, the updates, and new to this list is Game packs.

  • Expansion packs
    Expansion packs are content with a huge variety of options. It gives you a whole set of tools to unleash your creativity. SimGuruLynsday compared it to a complete set of art supplies, where you can use the tools to create what ever art you want.
  • Game packs
    Game packs are new, it’s bigger than a stuff pack, but smaller than an expansion pack. It usually targets a specific play theme. For example Outdoor retreat, the gamepack was solely focused on camping with your Sims. Of course, we can still use the tools to what ever, but the options are more limited than they are with an expansion pack
  • Stuff packs
    Stuff packs are a known add on, although new in this series is that stuff packs now get new gameplay items as well. Stuff packs are more focused than Game packs and Expansion packs, and with this SimGuruLyndsay compared it to a screenshot, a specific scene as a theme. Backyard stuff is only about items and activities in the backyard, kids room is focused only on a kids room etc.
  • Updates
    Updates happen throughout and are usually fixes for certain bugs, but they also bring us new content every now and then. This content is not themed in a way, but mostly stand alone objects or features.

How we make the game

In the previous series, the The Sims team was split up in separate teams. Most were working on the next expansion pack, a small group was working on Stuff packs and another group was working on bugs and fixes.
And with the The Sims 3, the order of producing things were: Pre-production -> Production -> Alpha -> Beta -> Final -> make CD’s to sell
This was done in serial, which means, one was done, then they moved on to the next.

With The Sims 4, they no longer work in serial, but work on Expansion packs, Game packs, Stuff packs and maybe even more than one of those all at the same time. There are still teams, but the division is a little different now. Game pack teams were added, and also the live service team.

ts4-render-20

During pre-production they figure out planning, themes, concept art, what they would like to put in, do some research etc.
Production is where they actually write the code for the game, create the 3d models, animations, sounds etc
Then they “Fix and improve”. Because The Sims is a sandbox game, where there are endless possibilities of the order of interactions or with the combinations of other packs, it is very hard to predict what can happen, what can break. So a lot of time is spend in trying out the new features to find bugs, improve gameplay. If something is bugged, they go back to the coding to fix it. So production and testing are phases that can go back and forth until it is approved.
Then it’s deliver time.

So how does The Sims team decide what comes next? They go through a process of a few things which were illustrated in an image similar to the image below
What comes next2

Why not announce all at once?!

In the history of The Sims, there have been different ways to announce new content. In the early days it was with booklets in the cases, today it’s all online. Through the Social media channels, forums en official website. So why not announce everything they are working on?

This has multiple reasons, one of the easiest ones to understand is that, not everything they are working on actually makes it into the game. Talking about it too soon could result in disappointment.

  • Ideas change
    This one is probably the easiest to understand. Not every idea The Sims team has makes it into the game. Some ideas get even further and are coded in the game, but might break so much it gets put on hold or never released. To prevent us being disappointed about those situations, it’s better to talk about things that WILL be in the game.
  • Show AND tell
    The example of when they told us at/before launch The Sims 4 would be a live service product, we had not clue what to think of that, and because they couldn’t show us yet what that meant, it was hard to explain. Now we had updates, new packs, new content, what they meant then, has become clearer. This is a good example why they would like to be able to show us what they mean when they tell us stuff.
  • Aim to exceed expectations
    We as the The Sims community have great expectations from future content, have lots of ideas and are not afraid to voice it out. But just delivering what we expect is not nearly as much fun, the The Sims team likes to exceed those expectations and give us more.
  • Trailer or screenshot
    Why show a trailer one time, and just a screenshot another. This is sometimes because the idea is set, but may not be completely finished yet. Maybe the mechanics of how an object will be used can still change, then it’s better to show us just a screenshot, we still get an idea of what will come, but they can still work out how the feature will work.
  • Timing
    Besides all that it also has to do with timing. Big events like E3 with releases for other big titles can overpower The Sims news, we might pick it up as we all are Sims lovers, but the other gamers or other game press (that also focus on other content) may be pre-occupied. Or when timing on Origin, is there space to feature The Sims on it during an announcement. These things also factor in when things get announced the get as wide an audience as possible.

But they also said they try to find a good balance between telling too much, too early, too little, too late. With The Sims 4 Get Together there was too little news for a long period of time. So they always evaluate the feedback from the community and see what can be done. That is why we now get quarterly teasers that tell us what we can expect in the next 3 months, without actually spilling all the beans yet.

Questions and Answers

Most of my and your questions were answered in their panel, but one wasn’t. They did not tell us anything about any future content, but with the rumours flaming high about an EP3, there has also been guesses about the next title. Many of which have the word ‘get’ in it. I asked SimGuruLyndsay if the Get in Get to Work and Get Together were intentional this was her answer;
No it was not intentional, when we realized both had get in it, we did consider changing the name for Get Together, but nothing worked as well as Get Together did, so we decided on that name. Though with every new title we have to come up with, there are quite a few ‘get’ suggestions

The SimGurus actually had a really hard question for us as well:
What would you like to see in The Sims that has NEVER been in The Sims before (in any of the generations)
Let us know in the comments below what you think!

Author: Lebanna

Share This Post On

5 Comments

  1. Thank you for the lovely write up. Very clear. Very informative.

    Post a Reply
  2. This post informed on everything I’ve been wanting to know, and the visuals were quite helpful for someone who is a visual learner. Thank you! 🙂

    Post a Reply
  3. I think my favorite bit of info was that the “Get” was unintentional. lol

    Post a Reply
  4. I would like the ability to play the video games your sims make, or to have proper waterparks, or for sims to be able to host book signings if they’ve written a book and are high enough in the writer career

    Post a Reply
  5. Thanks for the write-up!
    It explains exactly why I’m still a happy simmer since the original came out.
    Now, what would I like to see in the game that has never been seen before? I don’t know!
    They’re coming to feel so close to real life that I shudder how Sims 5 would be like sometimes.
    Still, always will be a happy simmer!

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read previous post:
Platinum Simmers at Gamescom 2016!

It's that time of year again, Gamescom is approaching. This is the biggest European Games show/convention of the year and...

Close