|05 April 01 PC Gameplay Interview|
|As you read this, goods lorries laden with copies of The Sims: House Party are chugging their way to stores across the country. Yes, it’s launch day tomorrow, and to celebrate the arrival of the keenly-anticipated add-on pack we chatted to the game’s famous creator and co-founder of Maxis Software, Will Wright. Take it away, Will…|
|Will on the Birth of The Sims|
PCG: How did the concept of The Sims arise?|
WW: I first started thinking about The Sims after reading Christopher Alexander’s book “A Pattern Language”. I became interested in how much environmental design (architecture and so on) can influence and change behavior.
PCG: How different is the final game from your original concept?
WW: Once we got the behavioral model working for the Sims we found it to be quite fun. At that the point the game became a bit more focussed on the interactions between the Sims and not just between them and their environment.
PCG: Why do you think The Sims is so popular and has such a broad appeal when it covers what is (on paper, at least) an incredibly mundane topic?
WW: Well, for one thing it’s about a subject that everyone understands and has plenty of experience with. Somehow by keeping the game more grounded in day-to-day reality players tend to project more of themselves into it. I really think it’s this tendency of players to project into the game that has given it such a broad appeal.
PCG: Are you ever surprised by some of the interactions between characters in the Sims games?
WW: Yes! Even though I know exactly how it all works I still can’t predict what will happen on a minute-to-minute basis. The original intelligence model was inspired by ant behavior. Ants are quite interesting because individually they are rather simple but together in a colony they exhibit a much higher degree of intelligence. The Sims are similar in that one Sim is rather predictable but together in a group the dynamics become quite complex.
PCG: Did you ever imagine that such an active online community would develop, or was that always the hope?
WW: From the very begining of the project this was a major goal of mine. We went out of our way – we probably spent an additional year on the project – to make sure that the game would be expandable in every possible direction. We developed many (about 7 so far) player-level tools for the game and released several of these even before the game. But despite all this the size and enthusiasm of the fan community has very much surprised me. About a month ago I tried to count all of the Sims fan sites – I gave up at 600.
PCG: What’s the strangest download you’ve seen a fan produce for The Sims?
WW: Well, there’s the website devoted entirely to armadillos in The Sims – wallpaper, pet, topiaries, sculpture. Some of the skins get a bit odd, like lobster man and mech robot.
|Will on “The Sims: House Party”|
PCG: Why did you choose a house party setting for the second add-on pack?|
WW: The social interactions are the favourite part of the game for most people. However, with all of the other things going on in the game there isn’t always time to throw a good party. We made a few critical mods to the game to make large parties more practical. For instance you can invite over the entire neighborhood with one phone call now.
PCG: How raucous can the parties get? Will neighbours complain about the noise or police start banging on the door?
WW: Yes, the police can be called. Even worse is the serial mime [a mix of a serial killer and a mime].
PCG: Are you worried that the parties in the game might seem a bit tame to some?
WW: We had to keep the rating to match the original game. At the same time we leave some things open to the player’s imagination. If they drink enough punch they’ll become rather tipsy.
PCG: If you were to throw a house party would it be anything like the ones in the game?
WW: I don’t really have a dance cage like they do, though if my neighbors would use it like the Sims then I’d probably get one!
|Will on the Future of The Sims|
PCG: Will there be any more expansion packs for The Sims?|
WW: That’s undecided at this point. I think I’d rather focus most of our efforts at this point on the online version.
PCG: Are you working on any other Sim projects – Sim Sanitarium, perhaps?
WW: Never, nope, not at all, no way, sorry.
PCG: What can we expect from The Sims 2? How do you see the concept evolving and expanding?
WW: I see The Sims evolving in a more dramatic direction (but also becoming more open-ended). The reality of the people should be much higher also.
PCG: How will The Sims Online work? Will the game evolve purely by the actions of its participants, or will there be “events” triggered by a “game master” to drive things along?
WW: We’re trying to make the world as player-driven as possible – no game-master events. One of the main design goals is to reward players for doing or building cool and interesting things in the world that other players can then enjoy.
PCG: Have you ever wanted to make a game that’s a little less cerebral and slightly more visceral? If so, what would it be?|
WW: Actually my first game, Raid On Bungeling Bay, was quite a bit more visceral than most of my later ones. SimCopter was also more in that direction as well. Yes, I could see doing more work in that direction – though I have no idea what it would be.
PCG: Where do you see the PC games industry heading now that consoles are starting to break into the online scene?
WW: It will probably take three years for consoles to catch up to PCs as far as online gaming goes. I think the PC will continue to be the preferred platform for higher-end simulation and strategy gaming. The advantages of a RGB screen, a mouse and massive amounts of RAM and storage will prevent the widely-predicted death of the PC.
PCG: Will there be a console versions of The Sims, for that matter? If so, would you have to make any compromises to the concept?
WW: I think so. Yes, with that amount of change to the underlying platform the design must change. I think going from a mouse to a console pad will probably be the hardest part.
PCG: Do you think online multiplayer games are now more important than single-player experiences?
WW: They’re very different. I don’t think more important is quite the right term… perhaps more demanding might be more accurate.
PCG: In many ways The Sims is an interactive soap opera. Can your foresee a time where it’s more popular than TV soaps? And if so, would that be a good thing?
WW: I think our industry (interactive entertainment) has the potential to eclipse TV at some point in the future. A game like The Sims is a fundamentally different thing than a TV soap opera despite their thematic similarities. As the each generation of game players grows up games become more of an “mainstream” entertainment. That is they are seen more and more as a mature entertainment form like TV and movies.
|And with that he was gone – and we were just going to ask if he had any idea who shot Phil Mitchell. Many thanks to Will for sparing us time for a chat, and also to the good people at EA for helping pull everything together. The Sims: House Party goes on-sale tomorrow.|