The Emotional Core of The Sims 4
No doubt you have been hearing a lot about the emotional system in The Sims 4 and how it will be a game changer. Grant Rodiek, The Sims 4 producer in charge of this new feature, gave us a walk though of just some of the aspects that will be affected by our sims emotions..and it really will change how you play the game. My impression is that we are just learning the tip of the iceberg...but here are a few key points that really stood out to me.
1) Sims will behave more like actual people
The underlying idea is to make our sims feel more like real people. As they are now, simmies can be a bit stiff and rigid as far as behavior goes. Tell them to do something and they do it. Unsuccessful interactions can be spammed repeatedly until they finally work. Things that happen around them have little effect on whether or not they complete the next item in the action cue. This can lead to us playing in a mechanical manner. We know the steps we need to do to get certain actions and we can charge right through them in a predictable manner. The thought behind this new system is that the world around our simmies affects them...and those effects don't just come and go immediately. In real life, you don't normally go from being happy to sad in two seconds..things happen, interactions occur and you gradually feel differently. Sims will now experience a similar progression
2) Deal with it!
Your sim's dominant emotion will control and influence everything about them...and there is no ignoring it. Failing to deal with whatever negative emotions your sim might be grappling with will send them deeper into that particular emotional state. For instance, your sim might start out annoyed, move into anger, and then into "enraged". You might decide to let them take this downward spiral and see what happens ( you know you like to mess with them sometimes!) or you might decide to intervene and help them find a way to nip that anger in the bud.
Either way, what this means to the player is that there is a new challenge at hand. Sims will not simply keep to the path you lay out for them in the action queue. They might have ideas of their own based on how they are feeling and if you want to herd them in a certain direction, it could be that you will have to get creative about solving their current emotional drama before that can happen. You will be focusing more on guiding your sims through life based on how the feel about the world around them, rather than the more mechanical steps of just keeping them fed and washed. And if you decide to leave them alone, it sounds to me like there will be all sorts of new and unexpected directions your game may take. For now, if I leave my sim to their own devices, the worst thing I have to worry about is that they wont get out of the sprinkler long enough to feed themselves. But with this new system, the possibilities of how they will behave seem much more realistic and entertaining.
3) Emotions limit interactions
Just as with people, sims actions will now be actively affected by emotions for better or for worse. Feeling inspired? It might be a good time to work on that painting and the results could be outstanding. But if your sim is feeling grouchy, you will find that certain interactions will be grayed out and unavailable. Flirting? Nope. Telling a funny story? Maybe not.
What does that mean to me? It means if I have a certain path I want my sim's life take, I might find that he is not as cooperative as before. I might not be able to have him hook up with that girl until I get him to cheer up a little. There is no making friends with the new boss until I help him get into a happier or more appropriate emotional state so that his interactions will be more effective. It means that there is not as clear a path from point A to point B....there are emotional roadblocks...challenges that will present themselves. There can be a lot of fun in figuring out a way around these obstacles. To me, that adds a new dimension to the game that I am looking forward to experiencing.
4) Emotions are like Temporary Traits
I really like this concept. Our sims will still have traits...tons of them as a matter of fact..but in addition to that there are all these layers added by the emotions. Grant said there are 15 emotions and each emotion has different levels...with each level affecting your sim differently. The result: sims with more depth and dimension. You dont have to have a "flirty" trait on your sim to have them be temporarily a bit of a tease...and be successful at it. You don't have to have an "evil" sim to experience the joys of stomping around angrily and plotting revenge. It gives your sims a much wider range of behaviors and possibilities. I will be very curious to see how this plays out.
5) Objects affect our sims like never before
There seems to be much more of a ripple effect with the objects and items in the game. A violin can affect not only the mood of the person playing it, but the feelings of the audience as well. And those effects will then color how they interact with other sims and the actions they take. Your sim's boss might be at the a party, saddened by the sound of the violin and become depressed...he may then be very unreceptive to your funny joke the next day and any attempts to increase friendship could have a negative effect. Your sim might become frustrated at the lack of advancement and be rude to another sim...and so on. A bit of a "butterfly effect" if you will. This means our sims will not live in a safe little bubble...but that some of the actions and decisions they make might have wider and longer reaching effects.
One concern I do have about this is that it will be easy to fall into certain ruts in using these objects. For instance, if we know that a certain painting inspires "frisky" feelings in sims, it seems predictable that this painting will be in every venue where you would want sims to flirt or socialize. I don't like the idea of limiting myself to using certain objects over and over simply because I know they will have a particular effect on my sims....or worse yet...NOT being able to use an object in a build just because I know it produces a particular effect on sims that I want to avoid. There is talk of sims being more confident when they wear a red dress..which is interesting...but I don't want to have my sim in a red dress every time I want her to succeed at certain interactions. I suspect this will be an issue for tuning and I hope that EA pays very close attention to this aspect. They are doing so much to make the game behave less predictable so making our use of certain objects more predictable seems directly opposed to the spirit of this new system. I will be extremely interested to learn more about this "emotional" aspect to objects as that information is released.
Overall, I am intrigued by this new "emotion" based behavior system for our sims. I guess it depends on how you play, but for me personally, I do find myself falling into certain patterns with my sims. I know that if I want them to get to the top of a certain profession I have to do A, B, and C over and over. And I find myself sometimes mechanically executing those steps without enjoyment. While it seems like there is still a clear path to get to certain goals, from that I can tell the path from A to B to C in The Sims 4 is not as clear now. There are all sorts of challenges and situations that will present themselves along the way that might prevent me from getting to point B entirely. I might find my sim takes a detour I never intended at all. And I am thinking that might be pretty darn fun.