Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Roof...The Roof..The Roof is on Fire: The Sims 4 Build Mode

As a creator, as soon as I got my hands on time with The Sims 4 at Creator's Camp, I went straight for Build Mode.  And stayed there.  For hours and hours.  I kept setting myself a limit along the lines of "just 2 more hours of build mode and the I will look at the rest of the game..." and then failing to do just that.  Why?  Because there is a LOT to see/discover/figure out.  

Faster/Easier Building

One thing that I heard repeated over and over is that they wanted to make building faster and easier so you can hurry up and start playing.  While I think this is a noble goal for many players, my concern is that it makes the assumption that no one likes to build.  Creators like myself would heartily disagree. For many players, building and creating is as much or more fun than actually "playing" the game.  So, when I dove into build mode, I was curious to see if this zeal to make things faster and easier limited the creativity of those of us who actually enjoy the building process.  In most cases, it didn't.  A majority of the new tools and features offer a fun, less frustrating build experience full of possibilities. In order to get a genuine feel for how Build mode works in The Sims 4, I tried to build as much as possible and in a variety of styles.  So let's dive in!

Manage your World

There are 2 different worlds to choose from, each with its own distinctive feel.  Will you decide to build in the lush New Orleans flavored Willow Creek...or is the painted desert of Oasis Springs?  The choice is yours.  I like that even with a base game, we get two completely different environments in which to explore and create.

Each world is divided into small neighborhoods with about 25 lots total in each world.  Since 5 of those lots are venues, that leaves you about 20 lots to work with in sizes ranging from 15x20 to 50x50.  There are no huge 64x64 sized lots.  There are just a handful of empty lots to choose from; however, you can use the bulldozer tool and delete any existing lot to make room for your own creations.  In fact, most of the controls you are familiar with from The Sims 3 are here which I found made for an easier learning curve.  For a list of all of the tool hot keys CLICK HERE

There is no way to edit the terrain or the world files at this time, so you will have to keep your creativity to one of the lots for now.  I was expecting this as we did not get the ability to edit world files with The Sims 3 until expansions were released.

The new "manage worlds" function is basically your EDIT TOWN mode.  I was particularly pleased to learn that from "manage worlds" you can go in and build on any lot, regardless of whether or not there is a sim family there in residence.  There is no need for a clipboard because you do not need to move them off lot to change or edit the homes of any sim in the world.  You simply enter the lot and make whatever changes you like or even swap out the home entirely with something from the gallery, making it much easier for a player to customize the neighborhood.  A plumbob floats above the map view to indicate where your "active" household is located, but you can very easily enter any lot, occupied or not, and make any changes you desire.

Once you select your lot, you will discover a clean, easy to follow build menu with several new features. While functions are still grouped together with a more "build" related section and a "buy" section, there is also a handy search feature that allows you to type in the name of an object.  As in The Sims 3, you can find objects grouped by room or by function.

Building Blocks

One of the most innovative features of Build Mode is the "block" system.  You can place rooms in a variety of shapes and then pick them up and mold them in any way.  You can grab any side and push it in or pull it out to get the exact shape you want OR you can pick up the whole thing and move it.  It feels like you are sculpting.  The draw tool is still available if you prefer to draw your walls out one by one.  Once you have connected walls in a "closed circuit" they become a room unit that can also be picked up and moved anywhere on the lot.

And speaking of moving things on the lot....YES.  You can pick up your entire house and move it around the lot.  Hurray!  I tried this out several times and it is a dream come true.  No more rebuilding the whole structure simply because it is a few squares too close to the street.

Speaking of blocks, you will discover that the "room catalog" function is located in the build mode section.  This consists of several pre-designed rooms similar to the blueprint mode we had in The Sims 3.  When you place one of these rooms,  it comes as a completely designed, furnished block. Sounds like it should be located in the buy catalog?  Nope. Unlike most interior decoration you should not wait until you have the exterior of your home complete to use them because they erase any windows or exterior wall treatments in the location they are placed, which might be a bit frustrating.  To get the best use out of the pre-designed rooms, you will want to use them as a base for your structure...arrange them into a pleasing shape....and THEN work on the exterior of your home.

From the bottom up

Once you have a structure you like, you can then decide if you want to use a foundation or not.


Shouldn't the foundation come first?  Not any more!  The new foundation tool completely eliminates yet another  potential "darn it...I have to start completely over" moment. You can add the foundation at any point in your build process.  AND you can decide on several different heights for your foundation.  The lowest setting is similar to a stage...there is no need for stairs at all as sims will just step up on to it.  The highest setting will provide a nice imposing look well above street level.  You can adjust the height at any time. Unfortunately the foundation tool applies a foundation to everything on the lot uniformly.  This means you are not going to be able to have a high foundation on your house and no foundation on a potting shed.  It is an all-or-none proposition.

Notice that lovely curved porch? Walls dont curve, but foundations/fencing can.

There are several different foundation looks to choose from...ranging from a very smooth modern look to a more classical, sculpted look.  Some of these foundation looks come in multiple colors and others do not.  Since it is all presets, I did find it frustrating that some of the foundation walls did not have a matching wall treatment.  It was difficult at times to get a uniform look.

Wonder Wall

Another innovative feature is the adjustable wall height.  There are three different heights and you can have a different one for each floor of your structure.  This is variety we have never previously seen and should open new doors for creators.  The taller wall heights have a selection of larger windows and doors that are better scaled to them, but you can place any of the windows at any height on each wall panel so it is very easy to get a wide variety of looks.

Speaking of windows...the flexibility of placement is fantastic, but it does not extend to off grid placement.  Windows still have to snap to grid and cannot be centered between two wall panels.  A very minor quibble given the freedom of being able to place them at any height.  That is a feature I have wanted for a very long time indeed!  There is a nice selection of styles available for a base game and I was pleased with the details and choices.

Wall treatments themselves...both inside and out....are somewhat limited and the block style building system can make filling the walls a bit tricky.  Using the tool to cover the entire wall can result in some areas being missed because they are not considered part of that room "block" or other areas being filled unintentionally for the same reason.  My best advice here is when applying the walls to make sure you are in "walls up" mode and go slowly.  I was in a rush to get the most out of my time, and I later discovered a few unexpected errant wall tiles on some of the homes I made in Creators Camp.

Another convenient feature of the new walls is that they do NOT need to be supported to create usable space.  You can cantilever a room over empty space or float it in the air, if you so desire.

All that is required to make it useful is a way for your sim to enter the room.  I can imagine that this feature will be particularly fun for those who enjoy modern and sci fi style builds.  Hovering space ship, anyone?

What else is new in Build Mode?

  • Add a string course to the top of your exterior walls  ( what the heck is a string course, you ask?) It is one of these lovely little architectural details that at dimension to your structure: 

  • Add both curved and straight fencing in a variety of styles and colors
  • Add spandrels and corbels to your porches ( more architectural details) 
  • Add columns and pilasters.  (I know, I know...it's like architecture 101 in here now.  Pilasters are like a column that is halfway embedded in a wall.)  In The Sims 4 these are not separate objects.  You simply place any column against a wall and it turns into one.  The other half of the column does NOT cut into the wall or space behind it at all.  How clever is that?!

  • Add exterior elements like awnings, window boxes and other decorative items.  In base game!  And remember, since you can place them at any height, you can adjust them to fit any window.  No more inability to use an element because it doesn't fit properly.
  • Add a chimney separately from the fireplace.  This is a flexibility we have never had before without using cheats.  The chimney sections are an element on their own and can be placed anywhere on the exterior of the home.  Best part?  As long as there is a fireplace somewhere inside the house, smoke will come out of the chimney.  It doesn't have to be placed over the fireplace directly!

Above it ALL: The Roofing

Ask any simmer who tries to build what their main headache is and "roofs" will come up 9 times out of 10.  They can be tricky and frustrating.  Apparently EA gets that...they listened and responded with a innovative new roofing system that doesn't " draw" them on at all.  Each section is it's own movable block, just like the rooms.  You plop it down and then mold it to the shape you want...push and pull it to the exact height or width you need.  You can even adjust the curvature to get some cool new shapes.  Currently there are no conical or octagon shapes available, but I am sure those will be arriving at some point.  In the meantime, there are even MORE roofing details to play with. You can adjust the eaves to be longer or shorter AND you can even adjust them on just one side to get even more unique looks.

Since the roof sections are individual objects, that means they can be colored independently as well.  Never had that ability before...I am looking forward to experimenting with it and seeing what kind of new looks can be created.  I can envision a charming Hobbit style home with a curved, rounded roof done in a patchwork of colors.  What will you come up with?

The eaves can also have a trim color and style added as well for an extra bit of design.

Roofing collision is quite different in The Sims 4.  In the past, our roofing sometimes intruded or clipped into a room of the house.  As long as there was another roof above it, it was usable space. Unfortunately, this often resulted in disappearing roof sections or holes in the roofing.  Now, it is the room "blocks" underneath the roof that determine if the space intersected by a roof is usable.  It is a bit tricky as it must be a solid room unit to prevent a roof line from intersecting into the space.  I had to use a little trial and error, but overall I am confident that with time this new system will be much more superior.

Getting Down to Earth

Once you have your structure completed, you will probably want to do a little landscaping. The Sims 4 landscaping package is varied with plenty of flowers and bushes to choose from....the more lush trees and bushes you would expect for a world like Willow Creek and plenty of cactus and palm trees for Oasis Springs.  Unlike The Sims 3, all of the landscaping plants come out the same exact size...not in the "small, medium, and large" variety I was expecting.  You can imagine how thrilled I was to hear about a new cheat that is designed to allow the player to make any object...including the plants...larger.  Yay!  You can then imagine how disappointed I was when another player discovered the cheat does not transfer when a lot is uploaded to the Gallery. I will be avidly waiting to hear that they have gotten the kinks worked out of that cheat code, because I can see the vast potential it brings.

There are many different terrain paints and the brush controls you would expect to see.  Some nice rocks are available, somewhat on the small side...but well modeled.

What is currently not available is the ability to sculpt the terrain or add bodies of water. All of the rout-able terrain is flat.  This helps greatly with routing and sim movement, and the surrounding world is sculpted so well that you don't really feel like it is a "flat" world at all. I will be very curious to see if these tools are ever made available at some point.

Ready to move inside?

One of the first categories I looked at was the clutter (!) section.  There are multiple sections in decor that are clutter or clutter related: sculptures, clutter, and miscellaneous objects. Oh wow!  I could not be more pleased with these objects.  They are charming, detailed and interesting. A great variety, too.  An old favorite of mine, the bowl of fruit from The Sims 2 makes a more refined appearance along with tons of new objects.  I am absolutely delighted.

Another "squee-worthy" category is the kids objects.  Very cute, adorable objects for a base game can be found here including several oddly large stuffed animals.  Speaking of oddly large, the child's doll house appears to be on steroids in The Sims 4.  Make sure you have plenty of free space for it.

Rather than tell you about all of the objects, I would like to show you.  One thing I think that stands out is the level of detail to be found in the catalog.  Objects are appealing and intricate.

The new kitchen cabinet system is very thoughtfully designed.  After you choose the cabinet, open the sub menu to select the shape you would like to use.  Some sets come with curved or slanted end sections or island sections, enabling the player to achieve a variety of looks.

There is no color wheel or Create- A- Style.  Objects come in preset colors and pattern combinations.  Some objects come in many different colors/textures and others just have a few choices available.  I found this aspect of the game to be the most frustrating.  To find out more about it CLICK HERE

One of the best parts of using these objects is the freedom of placement.  Almost all objects....mirrors being one exception....can be placed anywhere on the wall.  Horizontally and vertically.  There is not a way to overlap or place more objects on the same panel, as the "move objects" cheat does not seem to exist at this point.  You heard me correctly.  No MOO.
It's true.

Even without a "move objects" cheat..which we hope will be forthcoming...there are a much wider variety of ways to place and use these objects within your creation. 

Overall, my impression of time spent building with The Sims 4 was that they listened to many long standing player complaints and frustrations ( "roofs are hard!"  "We cant move the house on the lot once built!" "We need more clutter!"  ) and came up with clever, innovative solutions to make building easier and more fun.  I wont pretend that the loss of Create-a-Style isn't a huge blow for creators, but I can see how all of these other tools, objects and advances can certainly soften the blow and open up new possibilities.  I will be building and creating for The Sims 4 and I suspect many people who might not have tried to build previously will be making things as well.


  1. thank you so much for sharing Ruthie xxx

  2. Thank You so much Ruth dear for sharing your experience with us!

  3. This is all great information, thanks very much for sharing!

  4. Great work, Ruthy. I really love these screenshots. Thanks for putting this together for us. I love that cow...lol. He's like, "What you talking about, no MOO?" :)

  5. Thanks dear Ruth, for sharing your insight into the build mode. Admittedly, I'm not good at all with building so I am glad there are creators like yourself who are amazingly good at it, so I can download other creators fabulous houses for my sims to live in :) xxxx

  6. can you make an octagonal roof?

    1. Nope...there is no octagon or cone shaped roofing in the base game.

    2. That drove me crazy when I tried to play yesterday! I can make an octagonal room but can't put a roof on it if the shape makes up part of the exterior. I can't believe they didn't put that detail in... oh well.

  7. Sims 4 is one of the best simulation game I ever played. My husband is an architect and he really used this game to create model homes. My husband created also our home on Sims, and now we are planning to build the house to the lot we have purchase last moth. we are now contacting the engineer and Memphis roofers comapny we have hired.

  8. Thank you for these great tips. I am going to be getting my roof replaced soon and so I am glad that I came across this information. I am just excited to get my roof repaired so I am really glad that I was able to come across these great tips.
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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.