The New Animation System in The Sims 4
Yes, we love our simmies...but they can be a bit robotic at times. Especially when room is tight and you have to watch them jockey for proper positioning before they can begin an interaction. It takes you out of the game and makes you more aware of routing than of the sims themselves. But after hearing Marion Gothier's (yes, that name WILL sound familiar!) presentation on Animation for The Sims 4, this will soon be a thing of the past.
One of the most interesting things I learned from her presentation was the lengths the animation team will go to in order to replicate natural interactions. Marion mentioned that they set up a secret camera to film several office parties and studied the resulting footage like sociologists in order to determine a more human way for our sims to interact in groups. They actually took certain behaviors from the footage and incorporated them into the programming. Unlike, the still way in which our sims will currently position themselves directly in front of someone in order to have an interaction, the new system provides several different ways for the team to deliver natural, realistic sim behaviors.
Once again, we were not allowed to take pictures, but I have gathered up some bullet points for you to give you a quick overview of what to expect:
- Sims will take more natural pathing routes without robotic shifting to get to where they need to go. Better yet, being in a large group doesnt freak them out and result in a bunch of stop and start positioning as the sims all fight for routing space. Marion showed us a demo that blew us away. She took a very small room filled with sims and directed them to leave. It was jaw dropping how easily they did this without knocking into each other or waiting for another sim to use the same path.
- Objects don't throw sims for a loop. If an object is in a sims' path, they don't stop and suddenly sidestep to a different route...cause how many of us do that in real life? They glide around objects smoothly.
- All animations work sitting as well as standing. Your sim doesn't have to stop whatever he is doing to stand up to complete a specific animation sequence. Anything they can do standing up, they can do sitting on the couch or sitting on a bed. This should be great for storytellers as it gives much more options for positioning.
- Sims can bend and twist at the waist while sitting to accomplish some of these actions. So much more realistic! If your sim is sitting on the couch and talking to someone who is not directly in front of them, they will naturally twist to look at them, just as you would.
- Lip Service! They spent quite a bit of time making the mouth animations match more closely to what the sims are actually saying.
- All new animations! And when I say "all", I mean it. Marion mentioned that none of the animations from Sims 3 are transferring...its a whole new set for the sims of The Sims 4. While you might be losing some old favorites, I think having a fresh set of behaviors and interactions will make the game exciting and interesting.
- Cups. This might be a little thing, but I love it. Out simmies will now have cups while they eat in addition to the plates. We saw this picture leaked a while ago and the cups really stood out to many simmers...now you know why. Eating/drinking animations will now more closely mimic how people actually eat.
- Multitasking. Sims can talk to another sim while they are doing something else. Your sim wont have to get off of the treadmill, stand directly in front of another sim, wait for that sim to position themselves correctly, and then start talking ( with lips not matching what they are saying). They can gain skills and take care of social interactions at the same time. This is going to be so convenient for everyone...those who love to accomplish things will enjoy getting things done without social relationships being negatively affected. Story tellers will have all new situations to use in their pictures.
- No Sad Cooking. While the new emotional system does affect how sims carry out certain tasks, not everything is tied to your sims emotion. Some things, in a common sense way, have the same animations regardless of your sims mood. This is directly a performance issue. The various permutations required to have every interaction performed in every type of emotional state available would be mind boggling...and would affect performance of the game. Performance is something that was emphasized by each and every team member who spoke with us. It really is a cornerstone for this new game.
I really wish you could see some of the demo's as they would illustrate the exciting new ways our sims move and navigate better than any words. Hopefully, in the coming months, EA will be sharing more of this...because it is a huge game changer. Sims act smarter...less robotic...more natural. It's pretty cool.
A quick note about this since I know many people were really hoping for this. When you see the animation programing and what is involved in getting one particular action programmed, it becomes very clear why sims of varying heights would be a huge issue. Take a basic interaction like hugging, for instance. If sims could be varying heights, the animation would have to have a programmed interaction for each and every possible combination. Otherwise a tall sim hugging a short sim would be grabbing them around the head...or thin air, even. The math on this is such that it makes it almost impossible. I think Marion mentioned something along the lines of needing to employ the entire country of China to get the job done. It is a valid point, and one that I honestly had not considered until I saw everything that goes into just one interaction....let alone the thousands and thousands our Sims are capable of performing.