Thursday, August 29, 2013

Create a Style Compromise?

 No Create-a-Style?!?

I think it is pretty safe to say this has been the reaction in Sim circles and on the forums regarding the possibility that Create-a Style may not be included in the newest addition to the Sims franchise, The Sims 4. With a tag line of "Customize Everything!", The Sims 3 introduced simmers to a whole new way to color and control their in game environment.  And we loved it!  The possibilities were endless.

And therein, I suspect, lies the problem.  When you have endless combinations of colors and patterns...on hundreds of objects on the same lot, we are talking about a lot of memory space...a lot of function spent recalling and rendering all of those combinations.  If you have spent any time creating within The Sims 3, then you know that the more "styles" you save, the more custom colors and texture combinations, the longer Create-a-Style takes to load and function.  So much so that people with mid range or lower machines have often experienced crashes or loops attempting to use Create-a-Style under some of these circumstances.  Even the console version of The Sims 3, which has a more strict allotment for space, had to limit the Create-a-Style function.  On the console version, players are able to color shift, but not change textures or patterns in what one assumes is an attempt to control the amount of space Create-a-Sim is taking up in the overall game.

So Create-a-Style is a beast.  It is a fact.  But to the players, it is a beloved beast that adds an important element of creativity and customization that makes a game like The Sims the ultimate sand box.  And players do not want to lose it.

At the recent Simscamp/Gamescom unveiling of The Sims 4, the world got a first look at the new system EA has been working on for Create-a-Sim.  While everyone was excited to see the new ways they will be able to shape and mold our Sims like never before, the fact is that one of the first thing all the attendees noticed was the lack of Create-a-Style. Under clothing options we saw something like this:

Now, knowing what we do about the beast that Create-a-Style is when it comes to system usage, it is not a huge surprise that EA is looking for ways to cage the beast.  Over and over we heard that one of the main goals of The Sims 4 is to enable strong, smooth performance on a majority of machines. And clearly, Create-a Style didn't make the cut.  But it occurs to me that a compromise is possible that could make the players relatively happy, still make the game run well, and not interfere with the chosen UI for the game.

I would like to suggest this compromise in the hopes that something like this is possible.  I know that as players, we don't have as much understanding on all of the myriad factors that affect development decisions.  When features are cut or not included, it is surely done after much debate and arguing and research.  But this particular feature is huge.  It really matters to the fans in a deep way.  While there might not be a way to include the whole thing....Create-A-Style as we know it now....perhaps here is a way to give us SOME of that functionality without sacrificing too much on the functionality of the game?  So please, hear me out.

If we could at least shift colors, we could get tons of variety and customization.  Leaving out all of the hundreds of textures would reduce the load immensely....and further limiting the number of colors that could be saved would further streamline the process.  So what if when the swatches open up there is a "custom" swatch that leads to an additional UI:


To keep it streamlined, to keep there from being thousands of colors saved in our game and bogging things down, what if we limited the number of custom colors to a specific amount?  A "Personal Palette", if you will:

Taking from the current Create-a-Style color wheel, this custom swatch would open to a color wheel that the player could use to select the exact shade they desire. When they have a color they like, they double click on one of the palette squares to save that color.

This way, we could have more saturated colors, less saturated colors...the exact shade of blue we love...the ability to make a completely pink and purple house if that is what our heart desires. Each person's palette would be different, but it would be it would not get too unwieldy.  If you have all of the palette squares full, you have to delete one before you can add another color.

Any lot or asset you download that has a custom color would automatically over write a space in your personal palette.  You could then have the option to keep the asset colored as the creator originally designated, or you can delete that color in favor of your own selection.  Either have some control over the look of your game.

Now look....I know this is not perfect.  I am aware that in a perfect world, we would have a full Create-a-Style like we do in The Sims 3 in addition to all of the wonderful new innovations they are bringing to us in The Sims 4.  But I am a realist too.  If it is a choice between nothing at all and the ability to choose and save a limited number of custom colors, I am all for it.  As a creator myself, I view building and creating in The Sims as painting.  I never could draw to save my life...but I can create beautiful "pictures" with the lots I design in this game.  And as such, I want as many crayons as possible to color with...because I can get a lot of mileage with color...more so that with texture or pattern.  So I would like to suggest this idea to the powers that be at EA.  A compromise.  Something that might possibly give each side a little of what they want for The Sims 4.  Please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bay View Modern Under $16k

By suggestion of Maaike of Platinum Simmers: a starter house for under $16k.
Bay View is designed to take advantage of the IP views, but will work well in any neighborhood.
Features include:
30x20 lot
1 large bedroom, 1 bathroom, several skill builders, large deck

Monday, August 26, 2013

Movie Stuff...what will easily be my favorite stuff pack!

Yeah...I know. But come on!  Who doesn't want a little Rocky Horror in their Sims game?   

All kidding aside, this is easily my favorite Stuff pack.  I don't usually get the stuff packs because I cant find them I really want to justify the purchase.  But this one?  Oh yeah!  It is FUN.
The CAS items are a combo of superhero/villain outfits, western wear...the ladies get to look like saloon girls...and some Gothic/horror/gypsy style items.  I adore the idea of my evil sim stomping around town in one of these funky outfits....and heck, any quirky sim might just THINK they are a superhero.  The horror themed things go well with the Supernatural EP...and the Western stuff can fit in well with the town that came with Pets.  So right away, I can see some versatility...and many ways to use these assets,
Here are a few of the many outfits you will have to play with:

That same versatility can be seen in the objects themselves.  Yes, there is stuff to build a superhero/evil villain lair...but I can easily see using those things with the upcoming Into the Future stuff pack, or in Bridgeport with a modern vibe. Perhaps you have a sim who fancies themselves an international spy?  These things will come in handy. The Western things can be recolored to take on an almost Victorian feel.  And of course the horror stuff will be right at home in any Supernatural neighborhood.  Your witches will love having new decor and many of these things feel right at home in an alchemy lab.  Here are screenies of all the goodies, provided by my dear friend Maria. ( my screenshots did not make it on to the flash drive for some reason :( )

I think you can see from these that there are some unique, fun items in this stuff pack that will add humor and a sense of adventure to your game. Did you notice the all in one shower that looks like a phone booth?  I appreciate the details on these objects and I cant wait to get them into my game because I can see tons of different ways to use them in a variety of situations.  That flexibility...and fun...are what make a good stuff pack, in my opinion.  And for me, this is a must-have.

Heck, I think I would get it for this helmet!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Simscamp Experience

(disclaimer: I have been asked about what Simscamp is like and so I am sharing.  If you feel like this kind of thing will upset you or make you mad that you were not included, please do not read on.  That is the last thing I want to do...upset anyone.)

Surreal.  That is the main word that comes to mind.  I never in a million years thought I would be participating in something like this.  The Sims franchise has been a part of my life for a long time.  When my girls were young we found the series together.  All three of us would sit around the computer, heads together, and decide what should happen to the first sims we made: Hunter and Janine Ruthless.  Over time, the Ruthless clan grew to epic proportions and we all wanted our own simming time, but I have the fondest memories of the way we would sit together and decide what punishment was fitting for Hunter after he flirted with another woman at a party. I began to build for them...the Ruthless clan and my girls...and I just loved it.  So if you had told me that ten years later I would be flying to Germany to take part in an event like Simscamp, I would have asked you what you were smoking.
So what is it like to go to Simscamp exactly?  First, you get an email.  There it is...sitting in your inbox with a return address you don't recognize and the word SIM in the title.  When you open it, its like Christmas morning.  And then you feel quite certain that this must be a joke of some kind.  But it isn't...because they want info like your passport number and that makes it real.  After an initial trading of info, there is a torturous period of no information.  Everything is quiet.  You wonder who else might be scan the Sims community for hints, but there is nothing because everyone has been asked to keep quiet.  Torture! And you start to wonder if you imagined the whole thing.  So when the details start being emailed, it is a huge relief. 

Once you arrive, and people begin to trickle in the odd business of meeting people you know on line but don't actually know begins.  Will it be awkward...will it be uncomfortable?  No.  Because at the heart of it, everyone is a simmer and for some odd reason we seem to share many similarities (no pun intended...well maybe a little).  Conversations might be a little stilted at first, but soon everyone is chatting and laughing like old friends.  Despite the language differences, we all speak Sim and there is that common bond. We are given a bag full of sims goodies!  Yay!

On the first day we were taken on a tour of the city that included the beautiful and impressive Cologne Cathedral, or the Kolner Dom.  I took SO many pictures of this beautiful building...I wont bore you with them all but here are a few:

That afternoon we toured the chocolate museum ( yum!) and then headed to the EA press conference.  We had reserved seats up front and felt like VIP's when the bus pulled right up to the entrance and we walked past the waiting crowds of  people.  The presentation was spectacular...and loud!  So much smoke and lights and excitement.

The next day is filled with presentations by the sims team about Create a Sim and we are all amazed by how much control and manipulation they have added to the process.  It really is like molding them from clay.

We are also given a detailed presentation about emotions and how important they are to the whole concept of The Sims 4 from Grant Rodiek.  I will do a whole post about that..there is  much to tell.

In the afternoon we are treated to a detailed presentation of the Into the Future EP coming out this fall.  With all the excitement about The Sims 4, I kind of forgot about IF...until I saw all the cool objects and new interactions available.  I love the fact that they went modern but not inaccessible with the futuristic stuff.  They could easily be recolored for a variety of different styles.  And the jetpacks!  The ability to dance with a jetpack on is so funny...and a little like air ballet too.  We got hands on time and of course the first thing I did was look at all the STUFF.  One of the EA folks walking around commented to me that it was odd that there were several of us doing the same thing: placing all of the items out and taking pictures.  I had to explain to him that we were the builders and of course that is what we would do....we want to see all the new shiny things we get to work with...and the people we would be reporting back to would want that as well.  There is a whole separate post about the IF but in case you missed it, here are a few pix:

I was particularly struck by the overall look of the future world...there was clearly tons of time and thought put into this place.  It reminds me a little of Logan's Run. ( for all of you young'uns, that is a classic, somewhat cheesy sci fi movie from the 70's..actually not bad.  If you have a chance to catch it on late night tv sometime, give it a shot.) Check out this great shot Bill Sim took:

There is time this afternoon to hit the Gamescom floor.  WOW!  Sensory overload is putting it mildly...and today is the exhibitor day.  It is not even open to the public. We checked out many displays, nabbed some Gamescom gear to take home, and snapped tons of pictures.

Each evening, we are dropped back at our hotel will just a little time to relax and refresh before heading out to dinner.  It is nice to have time to socialize and relax, although the local waiters are horrified that most of us are not drinking the local beer, kolsch. We keep asking for water, or coke and they give us looks that clearly say we are idiots. I am not a big beer drinker.  I like a cold Shiner with chili, but to me it was very light and tasted rather like American beer.  I am quite sure they would not consider this a compliment.
Day two dinner is a river cruise with the developers.  We enjoy the scenery...the company...and try to pump them for information about The Sims 4.  But they are keeping quiet. Aaron, the build designer does tell me that he thinks the presentation tomorrow will make things clearer and assuage many of our fears and concerns.  Will he be right?

Day three begins with the thing that all builders have been chomping at the bit to find out....what's the deal with building?  We have SO many questions!  And of course the first thing we are told is that we cannot share any of the stuff we are about to be shown until after September 11th.  We sign agreements to that effect.  I am very disappointed that I cant spill the details but what I can tell you is that we actually went "squee" several times during the presentation.  Seriously.  And Aaron was right...many of my fears and concerns were addressed.  I am  eager to start building in The Sims 4....the plans I have!

The next presentation is from the designer in charge of animation.  That, too, is under the embargo...but a fascinating look at what does into the decision making and design of the game.  Hearing the thinking and details behind the process truly make it easier to understand some things...and that is another thing we cant wait to share when the embargo is lifted.

Finally, we have a little more time on the floor...which is packed.  While I am taking pictures, I see a person in line to play the demo of The Sims 4 looking at me and smiling. I smile back. I thought perhaps it was because I had on a plumbob headband, but it turns out it was someone from facebook.  I wish I had known, as I would have introduced myself.  What a small world it is when I can be in Germany and see another simmer in line at Gamescom who happens to be on my facebook friend list. Surreal.

Finally it is the live broadcast and we watch from the Simscamp room.  A day earlier, they had announced a contest for the campers: whomever could use the CAS demo to make the best Ryan sim would be in the Live Broadcast.  Those of us who were more shy did not even sense in risking it.  But the two beautiful ladies who won are there on the screen and doing a fantastic job considering what an overwhelming and never wracking experience that must be.  At dinner that night, we are sad because we know that we have to say goodbye tomorrow...but we are laughing and having a great time. I get to spend time talking to Grant and Graham, which is yet another surreal moment of this trip. 

I am so honored and appreciative that I was asked to participate in this event.  It was energizing to see how much the EA people really do care and think about this game.  Even more so, it was nice to be surrounded by people who feel as strongly about the Sims as I do.  I didn't have to explain quizzical looks when I try to explain that I build pixelated houses in a video blank stares when I try express how much I am looking forward to an expansion pack.  I was with people who understood exactly what I meant and that was wonderful.

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.