Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Build Me Up, Buttercup

The Build/Buy System in The Sims 4

Before we get started I need to apologize for two things: 1) the pix I have were only allowed at the end of the presentation and they have horrible glare.  So yeah...not the best pix.  Sorry about that.
And 2) the cheesy title of my article is from a very old song by....wait for it....The Foundations.  Get it?  Build mode...the foundations...sigh.  I am sorry for that.  If you saw the movie "Something About Mary" then you might know the SONG

But now....on to the good stuff.....BUILD BUY MODE!

A bunch of stuff has already been leaked about the build/buy mode, so you might have already heard about some of these things...but overall, I have to say I was truly excited by what I was shown. Just as with the CAS stuff, the build/buy stuff demonstrates a level of flexibility and the ability to mold things that I find intriguing.  Wont lie...I went into the presentation a bit worried.  It seemed like they were doing many things to make building easier...which I know is a GOOD thing for lots of people.  As a builder, though, I was worried that they were dumbing things down and taking away the tools that I need to express myself creatively. That is so NOT the case.  While they have done many things to make building faster and easier, for those of us who really want to spend time in build mode, there is plenty to sink our teeth into.  Here are 8 things that I think you will love and how they will impact your game play:

1) movable rooms

This is bigger than it sounds.  Each room unit you draw...either by placing a shape or by free handing it ( yes, you can do both!) is read by the game as a movable unit.  Movable.  Like building can pick up whole sections of your house and place them somewhere else.  You can also intersect blocks and free hand connect them into a larger unit.

What does this really mean to me?   Ever made a house and realized that you didn't leave enough room on one side or the other...or that you placed it too close to the street?  You currently have to basically start over and redo the whole thing...SO frustrating, right? With this movable unit system, you can move your house anywhere on the lot.  Scoot it back a few problem!  

The best thing about the whole "movable room" thing is that it is in addition to free hand drawing walls. They are not making us build with blocks only.  You can still draw out walls in any shape you want...still make diagonals... and push and pull them to get the look you want.

2) adjustable foundations

As you may have heard, you can add foundations after you have already drawn out walls.  You can also adjust the height of those foundations to three different heights...and the stairs will adjust accordingly. Also, there are several different foundation designs to add a little something extra to your build.

What does this mean to me?   Freedom!  You can change your mind about how you want your house to look and the game works WITH you, not against you.   No redoing a build because you don't want a foundation, or want to add one.  No building on a hill to get a higher foundation level.  No fiddling with the stairs and getting that shallow indention on the bottom because the height of the foundation and the ground level are not matching properly.

3) Adjustable Wall Heights

The walls can also be adjusted to different heights. And the windows adjust to fit the walls accordingly! No standard wall height to limit what you can create...and no limitation of only being able to use certain windows.

What does that mean to me?    Building things like this modern with several different levels without having to resort to cheats or CFE will be a snap.  Homes in real life don't always stick to one standard wall height throughout...and now, neither do our sims' houses.

*we were told there will be only 3 floors not including the foundation and the roof in the base game....but with all of the adjustable heights for those three floors, I think we can get plenty of height on our buildings and lots of vertical variety.

4) Auto Window Function

This is a little time saving thing that will come in handy: with one click, the game will add windows all around the walls at spaced intervals.  For the whole house.  You can then move them, delete the ones you don't want, and adjust accordingly.  The idea is to get things out in the game quickly.  And along those same lines....

5) Magazine Mode

The idea behind magazine mode is that you can select an entire pre-designed room of furniture, like shopping at Ikea, and plop it down in your room.  There are several themes and a filter to help you select the kind of look you want.  We saw a modern bedroom and a Victorian style living room. as examples.  Here is what you need to know about magazine mode:
  • a filter will allow you to quickly select rooms by color and design style
  • once placed, any object in the room can be moved, rearranged, deleted
  • the focus is on getting things out into the game quickly so you can then finesse the details, or get on with playing
  • the game treats anything new being placed as having precedence over what is already there. 
This little fact is actually HUGE.

This means that whatever you are placing will not be blocked by something that is already there. The game assumes that what you are currently trying to place is more important.  No searching for the one item that is keeping you from placing a chair or a wall hanging.  Love this!
  • Things are not placed on a grid system.  You can place objects anywhere on a wall at any height with a rotational type action.  Complete freedom to place things where you want them.  Currently only certain objects can be height adjusted on walls in The Sims 3.  With The Sims 4, anything on a wall can be placed anywhere.
  • You can place items individually as well as from the set and these items currently come in present color options.  No create-a-style.
Yeah.  I know.  This is a biggie.  The game is still in development and I was told that the lack of CASt is being discussed.  EA is aware of the community feeling strongly about this issue.  I spoke with a producer about this and I emphasized that if there is no CASt, then the color/texture options available have to be extremely varied and plentiful.  They get that.  What remains to be seen is what WE get in the final product.

  • The items and objects we saw in the presentation were cute.  Charming, detailed, interesting.  Some of the Victorian stuff reminded me of things from a dollhouse ( in a very good way).  The modern things were sleek and cool.  We saw a neat kids play scape that looked like a pirate ship and a large teddy bear that hinted at some of the kids objects in the game, but we did not get to see a full catalog of items or of rooms.  Just a few examples.  
  • You can preview any object or room by selecting it and mousing over the room you might place it.  Then you click to place as usual.  If you have a hard time visualizing things, this will be helpful and keep you from doing a lot of place and delete. 
  • There is a tool that also allows you to easily see how your rooms and the exterior of your creation will look at different times of day.
Let's head back outside and talk about some of the other exterior features that had me "squee!"...cause there were several.

6) Moldable Roofs

Oh yeah!  Just like the walls, there is a "push and pull" function to the roofing that allows you to mold it to whatever shape you would like. You can adjust the curve to round out the roof line, as in the fairytale cottage above, or you can flip them out to get a pagoda style...or anything in between. 
Some other nifty options available with the roofing that builders will love:
  • roofs are no longer drawn...they are shapes that you can place and then mold to fit the space underneath them.
  • you can use multiple textures on the same house.  Each roof section you place can be a different texture/color if that is what you want.
  • super easy "barn" shapes are fast and without multiple steps
  • the eaves can also be molded...pushed and pulled to whatever length you desire.

What does this mean to me?   It means that of the most universally hated parts of building..will be so much easier.  Hands down. Between the variety of shapes and the adjustable eaves, you will have more options to make the exact kind of roof you want without the wont have to jump through hoops to make it happen.  And this is awesome.  ( or is that awe-sim?)  

7) Curved fences 

I know we were all hoping for curved walls, but the mechanics of being able to place flat objects on a curved wall are problematic.  Especially with the "off the grid" wall placement ability.  The next best thing is the curved fence option which can be used inside and outside.  Easily placed and molded like everything else, this is a new feature that will make true wrap around porches possible.  I am sure creative simmers with think of all sorts of ways to use this cool new feature but a few that immediately come to mind are:
  • softer edges on houses with porches
  • more accurate looking Victorian shapes
  • curved balconies
  • great gazebos with a truly circular shape

8) Little Extras 

There was clearly some thought put into what would make building easier and more enjoyable.  The result is that we will have:

  • Easily drawn cornices.  They draw in like no more tediously placing each little part of a cornice.  We saw a couple different designs, but no telling what will show up in the final catalog.  This is a nice feature to have in base game.
  • Spandrels! Oh yeah....spandrels! might be asking... are spandrels? 
    This is a spandrel.  We currently only have them attached to a fencing option in The Sims 3.  With The Sims 4 they are a separate element that can be drawn on.  And they are fantastic for making Victorian style homes like this:

    We actually saw several styles of spandrels, including one that looked very Gothic. 

  • Columns can be placed anywhere including on or in "moveobjects" cheat needed.  And if you don't want to use columns or they might get in the way, you don't have to use them because.....
  • Cantilevered rooms are now possible.  What is cantilevered?  Its basically when a room hangs out over the edge without visible support like this:

Previously, the game demanded support underneath structures that extend beyond a couple of units.  Not any more!  We saw whole rooms hanging out over the edge with no columns or walls beneath them for support...which will lead to more flexibility and creativity.

What does this mean to me?  It means more options to create.. a facile ability to reproduce a home you have seen in a picture or dream up something new.  The more tools we have to work with, the better.  And the fact that we are getting these things in a base game suggests we can look forward to even more as the series develops over time. 

So there you have it....just some of the many new build/buy features we can expect to see in The Sims 4.

The game is still in Alpha...and as such, there was plenty we did not get to see.  I did not get to see a complete catalog.  I didn't get to see anything having to do with terrain sculpting, paint, water...all of those issues were not shown or discussed as of yet.  Nothing was shown or discussed regarding basements, either.  I will be waiting for more info along with everyone else in the months to come on these and many other features.

What does this all mean to you?

The main impression I took away from the presentation that designer Aaron Houts gave was that building in The Sims 4 will be easier and quicker all the way around.  They have made building less intimidating for those who don't like to build without sacrificing creativity and tons of detail for those of us who love it and given builders solutions to some of our biggest building frustrations.
Aaron told me that since he has started building in The Sims 4, when he goes back to The Sims 3, he becomes frustrated with the things he cant do in 3 that he can do in 4. I think we can take this to be an excellent sign of things to come. I have a strong feeling that will be the case for all of us once the game is released.

 Drop me a line if you have any questions, and I will try to answer what I can!  


  1. Thanks Ruthy, very informative and succinctly put!

  2. Ruth its 45. I cant ever get to your page. If there is not CAS I wont buy. I dont make houses etc but I do create sims just for me and I will not be happy about that at all. I know it is beta though so we shall see but I dont see how they can just shove that important piece of the game aside.

  3. Thanks for the write up! As soon as I saw the title of your post, I started singing that song. Now, it's stuck in my head but worth it for info on moveable rooms!

  4. You said "if there is no CASt, then the color/texture options available have to be extremely varied and plentiful". What I would say is not so much plentiful, as *matching*. The most frequent reason I use CASt right now is to get my windows to match my doors. EA just need to create matching color options for each item.

  5. 45...There is definitely create a sim....but create a style was not on the table when we saw the demo. Hope that clears up the confusion. I agree with so many that create a style is a huge part of the game for us now and I know that EA is aware of simmers feeling about it. Let's hope that what they come up with is something that still gives us plenty of options.

    Inge...I hear you and you are right. I will say this, the designer Aaron is an actual builder, so I am hoping he with think of this..and of course there is always twitter to remind him @simguruhouts.

  6. Thank you so very much for all this information. I love it!

  7. Wow Ruthy, I am totally excited again about the TS4. I can say this, with all I know now if they add CASt to TS4 base game it will be the most sold game around the world for EA.. If the add it. For me it would put it over the top, they would blow this game outta the water with CASt, hands down..

  8. Thanks Ruthy for posting! Am a little more interested in TS4 now.

  9. Excellent article. You've added a couple more things to the "Awesome" list of Build. And I really appreciate that you took the time to show us pictures of Cantilevered and Spandrel to explain what the words meant.

  10. Great info Ruthy. You guys are doing a fantastic job with the information you're all providing. I'm site hopping trying to take it all in. I do see some things I like so far in buy/build so this is a plus.

    Cheers! ☺

  11. Ruth, thanks for the write-up; very nicely done and answered many of my questions. One I have that still remains is whether, like objects, windows can be placed at various wall heights, or do we have to choose from presets?

  12. Thank you for this. It's detailed and gives a better idea to what build/buy is going to be like than on other sites/videos I've checked out so far. I agree with Inge that CASt isn't AS necessary if they actually have matching colors like door and window frames. I find myself itching to try building in TS4, where in TS3 I practically avoided it.. My houses won't look like boxes with a roof anymore(and My husband builds houses for a living)! These flexible tools make me feel more comfortable and I'm excited to be able to show my creative side in my houses.
    Thanks again for the lovely article.

  13. Thanks for all the info !
    I wonder about the height of the walls though... from what I've seen (from previews, etc.) it looks like you'll be able to adjust the height of the walls only for the entire floor/level, and not per room... I hope I'm wrong but if that's the case then I don't think you'll be able to build the kind of house that you pictured in 3) , or that it will be very useful unfortunately... But really I hope I'm wrong, and if you got more info on how it works I'd love to know more ! It would be truly awesome if we can change the height of any wall we want.

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About Me

I build lots for people to use in the Sims. I have created hundreds of lots that have been downloaded by people all over the world. My work has been featured on the official Sims 3 site, several Sims 3 fan sites and in Game Informer magazine.
I am a mom...a gamer...a book worm...a worrywart...a fan of architecture, interior design, and all things Grumpy Cat.