The lack of Create-A-Style has been weighing heavily on many player's minds. We have gotten used to being able to pick the colors and patterns for everything in the game and creativity has flourished as a result. How would it affect the Sims 4 experience?
The reasoning behind taking the color wheel/pattern choices out of the game makes sense. Create-A-Style does affect performance and rendering times as the game has to constantly store and call out the hundreds or thousands of color/texture combinations we create. I get that. After a few years of saving colors and patterns in my game, it takes several minutes just for Create-A-Style to open in game. That is on a very fast computer and no CC at all. So having a set color palette makes a faster, smoother running game. Sounds good to me.
But you have to do it right.
To allow players to have as much control as possible, there needs to be a clear, flexible set of presets that have uniformity. One of the biggest gripes we all had about The Sims 2...which also used presets...was that it was very hard to match things up. Wood tones in a particular chair might not be available in the end tables or coffee tables. The curtains might not match the bed colors, and so on. You were often forced to choose a style or a color you didn't want to use simply because you were able to find things that matched it.
So when the word about no color wheel came out, I had my reservations as much as anyone else...but I was open to the idea of presets. I could see how it might be ok and I was hopeful. I wanted to keep an open mind until I could get my hands on the game and see what we had to work with. Last week I got that chance.
What is the verdict on working with color/pattern presets instead of a Create-A-Style tool?
I hate to say it but I am truly disappointed in the way presets have been handled.
I tried to build as much as possible while I was at Creator's Camp so that I could get a genuine feel for the game. I made 5 houses...a starter, a cottage, a mansion, a modern, and a Mediterranean. I wanted to try a variety of styles to see what there was to work with in the game. And while I absolutely loved so many aspects of build mode, such as the clutter and decor objects, freedom of vertical placement, the ability to move rooms or the whole darn house anywhere on the lot....the honest truth is that all of that seemed to fade into the background as I became more and more frustrated by the planning of the presets.
The curtains are a prime example. For a base game, there is a nice variety of styles. The ability to move them up and down is incredibly helpful. However, they do not tie back to most of beds in the catalog. I chose a pink bed for one room and there were no pink curtains...which could have been ok if there had been a white option. But there was no white. There was a lamp in the same pink as the bed, but the chairs and sofa that come in pink are a whole different shade of pink. There is a very cute children/teen style bed in the catalog but there are no curtains that match any of those options. I had to go with something else.
With the wall textures, I discovered the same thing. There was a wall that was half stone, half siding. I placed it on the bottom floor of the house. For the second floor, I wanted just the siding...and that option existed. But not in the same color of green. So I couldn't use it. The foundation tool ( which is really easy to use and handy) allows you to choose several different options. But there is no continuity here either. I chose a dark brown foundation color on my modern house. The dark brown wall color is a different shade. There is no shade of paint that matches the foundation. I was surprised that the foundation colors did not ALL have a matching wall panel.
I found this to be the case over and over. I spent quite a bit of time at one point looking for a rug...any rug...that would go with a bed I chose. None of them matched. No white to use as a neutral. I finally had to give up and try a different bed in a whole different color because I found something that matches it. Rinse and repeat. It was frustrating. I felt like I was being herded in a certain direction. Want a country style kitchen? It has already been decided that "country" should be one of these three colors.
I think there is a possible solution to all of this. If you are going to have presets, fine. Have presets. But it would be more effective to have a uniform, overarching color scheme that isn't style driven. Continuity of color across all objects would be incredibly conducive to creativity. Decide what colors you are going to use and then make sure that everything comes in those shades. Not just some things. Everything. If you are going to have olive green as one of your colors, everything could have an olive green option and it could be the same hex code olive green. That will give the most flexibility to the player and create a more enjoyable experience.
The idea that certain styles of objects should only come in certain colors is very limiting. It forces the player in a specific, narrowed direction and it cuts off self expression. If we cant have a limitless color/pattern options, a uniform palette that spans all styles and all objects would enable the player to fully utilize the build catalog to maximum potential and foster creativity.
Another thing that would help immensely is to have a black and a white option for everything. Everything. I found many objects that came in a "white-ish" option that was really cream or a grayish putty color. Not a true white. A true white object or a true black object is a workable neutral that can be paired with anything, providing the player with more options for expression and innovation.
There is no way for the designers to come up with every possible combination a player would want to use. Of course not. That wouldn't be feasible. They can, though, ensure that if there are 15 different foundation colors, there is a matching wall for each one. They can ensure that the same 4 shades of wood are used uniformly on every object that comes in a wood option, regardless of style. They can ensure there is continuity in the presets so that we have as much opportunity as possible to find something that works. They can not limit colors by "style". Blue might be a country color to you, but it could be a modern color for me.
Overall, I found building in The Sims 4 to have a lot of potential for creativity. They have clearly listened to many of our old frustrations and worked hard to find a solution. There are a TON of new features to experiment with and I cant wait to see the clever ways people come up with to use them. On the balance, there is much more to like than not. But if I am honest, I have to say that I am disappointed with how they handled the preset colors. It is limiting and constrictive. It is not as well thought out as it could be. It makes me feel like I will be forced to use the same objects over and over simply because they happen to match.
At the Creators Camp, we had a very frank Q&A session with Simguru Lindsay and Rachel Franklin, the executive producer for The Sims 4. At that time I expressed my concerns about the color situation. In an informal poll, many simmers agreed that if they could work on one thing next, color continuity would be one of the top things on the list. I truly hope that the feedback is considered. They have the ability to actually change a weak point into a strength fairly easily if the presets are managed thoughtfully with an eye to providing the players with the most flexibility possible.
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.