(disclaimer: I have been asked about what Simscamp is like and so I am sharing. If you feel like this kind of thing will upset you or make you mad that you were not included, please do not read on. That is the last thing I want to do...upset anyone.)
Surreal. That is the main word that comes to mind. I never in a million years thought I would be participating in something like this. The Sims franchise has been a part of my life for a long time. When my girls were young we found the series together. All three of us would sit around the computer, heads together, and decide what should happen to the first sims we made: Hunter and Janine Ruthless. Over time, the Ruthless clan grew to epic proportions and we all wanted our own simming time, but I have the fondest memories of the way we would sit together and decide what punishment was fitting for Hunter after he flirted with another woman at a party. I began to build for them...the Ruthless clan and my girls...and I just loved it. So if you had told me that ten years later I would be flying to Germany to take part in an event like Simscamp, I would have asked you what you were smoking.
So what is it like to go to Simscamp exactly? First, you get an email. There it is...sitting in your inbox with a return address you don't recognize and the word SIM in the title. When you open it, its like Christmas morning. And then you feel quite certain that this must be a joke of some kind. But it isn't...because they want info like your passport number and that makes it real. After an initial trading of info, there is a torturous period of no information. Everything is quiet. You wonder who else might be going...you scan the Sims community for hints, but there is nothing because everyone has been asked to keep quiet. Torture! And you start to wonder if you imagined the whole thing. So when the details start being emailed, it is a huge relief.
Once you arrive, and people begin to trickle in the odd business of meeting people you know on line but don't actually know begins. Will it be awkward...will it be uncomfortable? No. Because at the heart of it, everyone is a simmer and for some odd reason we seem to share many similarities (no pun intended...well maybe a little). Conversations might be a little stilted at first, but soon everyone is chatting and laughing like old friends. Despite the language differences, we all speak Sim and there is that common bond. We are given a bag full of sims goodies! Yay!
On the first day we were taken on a tour of the city that included the beautiful and impressive Cologne Cathedral, or the Kolner Dom. I took SO many pictures of this beautiful building...I wont bore you with them all but here are a few:
That afternoon we toured the chocolate museum ( yum!) and then headed to the EA press conference. We had reserved seats up front and felt like VIP's when the bus pulled right up to the entrance and we walked past the waiting crowds of people. The presentation was spectacular...and loud! So much smoke and lights and excitement.
The next day is filled with presentations by the sims team about Create a Sim and we are all amazed by how much control and manipulation they have added to the process. It really is like molding them from clay.
We are also given a detailed presentation about emotions and how important they are to the whole concept of The Sims 4 from Grant Rodiek. I will do a whole post about that..there is much to tell.
In the afternoon we are treated to a detailed presentation of the Into the Future EP coming out this fall. With all the excitement about The Sims 4, I kind of forgot about IF...until I saw all the cool objects and new interactions available. I love the fact that they went modern but not inaccessible with the futuristic stuff. They could easily be recolored for a variety of different styles. And the jetpacks! The ability to dance with a jetpack on is so funny...and a little like air ballet too. We got hands on time and of course the first thing I did was look at all the STUFF. One of the EA folks walking around commented to me that it was odd that there were several of us doing the same thing: placing all of the items out and taking pictures. I had to explain to him that we were the builders and of course that is what we would do....we want to see all the new shiny things we get to work with...and the people we would be reporting back to would want that as well. There is a whole separate post about the IF but in case you missed it, here are a few pix:
I was particularly struck by the overall look of the future world...there was clearly tons of time and thought put into this place. It reminds me a little of Logan's Run. ( for all of you young'uns, that is a classic, somewhat cheesy sci fi movie from the 70's..actually not bad. If you have a chance to catch it on late night tv sometime, give it a shot.) Check out this great shot Bill Sim took:
There is time this afternoon to hit the Gamescom floor. WOW! Sensory overload is putting it mildly...and today is the exhibitor day. It is not even open to the public. We checked out many displays, nabbed some Gamescom gear to take home, and snapped tons of pictures.
Each evening, we are dropped back at our hotel will just a little time to relax and refresh before heading out to dinner. It is nice to have time to socialize and relax, although the local waiters are horrified that most of us are not drinking the local beer, kolsch. We keep asking for water, or coke and they give us looks that clearly say we are idiots. I am not a big beer drinker. I like a cold Shiner with chili, but to me it was very light and tasted rather like American beer. I am quite sure they would not consider this a compliment.
Day two dinner is a river cruise with the developers. We enjoy the scenery...the company...and try to pump them for information about The Sims 4. But they are keeping quiet. Aaron, the build designer does tell me that he thinks the presentation tomorrow will make things clearer and assuage many of our fears and concerns. Will he be right?
Day three begins with the thing that all builders have been chomping at the bit to find out....what's the deal with building? We have SO many questions! And of course the first thing we are told is that we cannot share any of the stuff we are about to be shown until after September 11th. We sign agreements to that effect. I am very disappointed that I cant spill the details but what I can tell you is that we actually went "squee" several times during the presentation. Seriously. And Aaron was right...many of my fears and concerns were addressed. I am eager to start building in The Sims 4....the plans I have!
The next presentation is from the designer in charge of animation. That, too, is under the embargo...but a fascinating look at what does into the decision making and design of the game. Hearing the thinking and details behind the process truly make it easier to understand some things...and that is another thing we cant wait to share when the embargo is lifted.
Finally, we have a little more time on the floor...which is packed. While I am taking pictures, I see a person in line to play the demo of The Sims 4 looking at me and smiling. I smile back. I thought perhaps it was because I had on a plumbob headband, but it turns out it was someone from facebook. I wish I had known, as I would have introduced myself. What a small world it is when I can be in Germany and see another simmer in line at Gamescom who happens to be on my facebook friend list. Surreal.
Finally it is the live broadcast and we watch from the Simscamp room. A day earlier, they had announced a contest for the campers: whomever could use the CAS demo to make the best Ryan sim would be in the Live Broadcast. Those of us who were more shy did not even try...no sense in risking it. But the two beautiful ladies who won are there on the screen and doing a fantastic job considering what an overwhelming and never wracking experience that must be. At dinner that night, we are sad because we know that we have to say goodbye tomorrow...but we are laughing and having a great time. I get to spend time talking to Grant and Graham, which is yet another surreal moment of this trip.
I am so honored and appreciative that I was asked to participate in this event. It was energizing to see how much the EA people really do care and think about this game. Even more so, it was nice to be surrounded by people who feel as strongly about the Sims as I do. I didn't have to explain anything...no quizzical looks when I try to explain that I build pixelated houses in a video game...no blank stares when I try express how much I am looking forward to an expansion pack. I was with people who understood exactly what I meant and that was wonderful.