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The Sims

The Sims is a strategic life-simulation computer game developed by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts. It was created by game designer Will Wright, also known for developing SimCity. It is a simulation of the daily activities of one or more virtual persons ("Sims") in a suburban household near SimCity.

The Sims was first released on February 4, 2000. By March 22, 2002, The Sims had sold more than 6.3 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling PC game in history; as of February 7 2005, the game has shipped 16 million copies worldwide. Since its initial release, seven expansion packs and a sequel, The Sims 2 (with its own expansion packs), have been released. Another sequel, The Sims 3, is currently under production. The Sims has won numerous awards, including GameSpot's "Game of the Year Award" for 2000.

Overview

The Sims focuses entirely on the lives of virtual people called Sims, placing the player in control of their virtual "world" and their daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, reading, and bathing. Will Wright, the game's designer, calls it a "digital dollhouse". Although players are encouraged to make their own characters, certain pre-made characters, such as the Newbie and Goth family, have become popular.

The player controls almost all aspects of the lives of a family either premade or self-created. Many choices lead a player's sim to a large household or a single life.

Origins and development

The idea for The Sims is thought to be drawn from Will Wright's experience in the 1991 Oakland firestorm, when his house and many of his possessions were burned down in the fire. Wright was required to move his family elsewhere and rebuild his life; these events led to Will's inspiration of creating a simulated game about life. The game is also loosely based on SimCity, another computer game designed by Wright in which the player must manage a city and its citizenry, dubbed "Sims". The idea of "simulated people" led Wright to believe that he could program and design the perfect construct of the main aspects that a computer or video game possesses.

Wright originally proposed the idea of a virtual "dollhouse" to Maxis in 1993 while the idea was still in development, although the proposal was met with skepticism by staff; computer hardware during the period was not thought to be capable of running such a simulation smoothly. In 1995, Wright was offered an opportunity from Electronic Arts to continue developing the concept and game so that EA could publish it. Development of the game, initially dubbed "Project X," commenced in 1995.

After production for the game finally began in 1995, Wright was interviewed about his idea in a PC Magazine article published around 1995, in which he talked about the chance for players to control a computer generated character in their own environment.

In 1997, the name of the game was changed from "Project X" to "The Sims" as a reference to Will Wright's earlier "Sim" games, which had been very successful in the early- to mid-1990s.

Gameplay and design

Instead of objectives, the player is encouraged to make choices and engage fully in an interactive environment. This has helped the game successfully attract casual gamers. The only real objective of the game is to organize the Sims' time to help them reach personal goals.

Creation of families

In the beginning, the game offers players pre-made characters as well as the option to create more Sims that they can control. Creating a Sim consists of creating a "family" (identified by a last name) that can hold up to eight members. The player can then create Sims, by providing the Sim a first name and optional biography, and choosing the sex (male or female), skin complexion (light, medium, or dark) and age (adult or child) of the Sim. The personality of the Sim is dictated by five attributes and a specific head and body (bundled with a specific body physique and clothing). The player cannot change a Sim's face, name, or personality once they have been moved onto a lot.

Each family, regardless of how many members are in it, starts with a limited amount of cash (§20,000) that will be needed to purchase a house or vacant land, build or remodel a house, and purchase furniture. All architectural features and furnishings are dictated by a tile system, in which items must be placed on a square and rotated to face exactly a 90 degree angle with no diagonals permitted. Walls and fences go on the edge of a "square" and can be diagonal, whereas furniture and Sims take up one or more squares and cannot be diagonal. There are over 150 home building materials and furnishings for purchase.

Sims' lives

Sims are directed on the basis of instructing them to interact with objects, such as a television set, a piece of furniture or another Sim. Sims may receive house guests, which are actually based on the Sims of other game files. The player cannot control "visiting" Sims, although it is important for Sims to interact with one another in order to develop a healthy social life and gain popularity.

Sims, if enabled within the game, have a certain amount of free will, meaning they will engage in activities when left to their own devices, though player commands will override anything a Sim decides to do on its own. However, Sims may not perform important commands, such as find a job or conceive a child. Unlike the simulated environments in games such as SimCity, SimEarth, or SimLife, the Sims are not fully autonomous. They are unable to take certain actions without specific commands from the player, such as paying their bills. Thus, if left alone, without any player supervision, the Sims will eventually develop overdue bills and their property will be repossessed.

The player must make decisions about time spent in personal development, such as exercise, reading, creativity, and logic, by adding activities to the daily agenda of the Sims. Daily need fulfillment must also be scheduled, such as personal hygiene, eating, and sleeping. If the simulated humans do not perform need fulfillment, they suffer consequences. For example, if they do not eat, they will die of starvation. If they do not go to the bathroom, they will wet themselves. If they do not have fun, they become depressed, and unwilling to do things. When Sims have low motives they are more likely to be nasty to other Sim characters by insulting them, slapping them and even attacking them.

Financial health is simulated by the need to send the Sims to find jobs, go to work and pay bills.

There are several career tracks, with ten steps in each. A Sim that makes a number of new friends and learns the right skills, can get promoted, and receive a raise and changed work hours. The original careers are, Business, Entertainment, Law Enforcement, Crime, Medicine, Military, Politics, Pro Athlete, Science and Xtreme. The expansion packs add new careers.

The inner structure of the game is actually an agent based artificial life program. The presentation of the game's artificial intelligence is advanced, and the Sims will respond to outside conditions by themselves, although often the player/controller's intervention is necessary to keep them on the right track. The Sims technically has unlimited replay value, in that there is no way to win the game, and the player can play on indefinitely. It has been described as more like a toy than a game.

In addition, the game includes a very advanced architecture system. The game was originally designed as an architecture simulation alone, with the Sims there only to evaluate the houses, but during development it was decided that the Sims were more interesting than originally anticipated and their initially limited role in the game was developed further.

The first game of The Sims has several limitations, most notably that children never grow up to become adults, though babies do eventually become children. Also, adult Sims never age (or die of old age), and there is no concept of weekends. For example, adults and children are expected to go to work and attend school respectively, every day. In particular, adults receive a warning if they miss one day of work, but they are fired if they miss work for two consecutive days. Children can study at home to keep their school grades up.

While there is no eventual objective to the game, states of failure do exist in The Sims. One is that Sims may die, either by starvation, drowning, perishing in a fire, electrocution or by virus (contracted from a pet guinea pig, which can happen when its cage is left dirty). In this case, the ghost of the deceased Sim may haunt the building where it died. In addition, Sims can leave a household for good and never return; two adult Sims with a bad relationship may brawl, eventually resulting in one of them moving out. If a child has failing grades for too long, he or she will be sent to military school and also leave the lot for good. There are also more complicated ways of killing Sims, including getting them into a pool and deleting the steps, or putting them into a room then deleting all of that room's doors.

The Sims uses a combination of 3D and 2D graphics techniques. The Sims themselves are rendered as high-poly-count 3D objects, but the house, and all its objects, are pre-rendered, and displayed dimetrically.

Reception

In 2002, The Sims became the top-selling PC game in history, displacing the game Myst, by selling more than 6.3 million copies worldwide. As of February 7 2005, the game has shipped 16 million copies worldwide. Critics praised it with positive reviews. It has been a success in many ways—attracting casual gamers and female gamers (the latter making up approximately 50% of players) — unusual in a market traditionally dominated by young males. Open-ended gameplay has been done before in games, such as the farming-based simulation series Harvest Moon (a 1997 game originally released for the SNES), but The Sims has certainly gained popularity for this particular style of gameplay.

Simlish language

Simlish is a fictional language featured in Maxis' Sim series of games. It debuted in SimCopter, and has been especially prominent in The Sims and The Sims 2. Simlish can also be heard in SimCity 4, but far less frequently. It also featured to an extent in the Firaxis game Sid Meier's SimGolf. Designer Will Wright was conscious of the need for dialog in the game, but thought that using a real language would make it sound too repetitive and would also be too costly to hire translators for world languages.

The Sims development team created the unique Simlish language by experimenting with fractured Ukrainian and Tagalog (one of the major languages of the Philippines). "Sims" will usually let you know what they want by making some sort of movement while talking in simlish. Inspired by the code talkers of WWII, Sims creator Will Wright also suggested experimenting with Navajo.

Expansion packs

The Sims is one of the most heavily expanded computer game franchises ever. In all, a total of seven expansion packs were produced for The Sims (listed in chronological order):

The Sims: Livin' Large

Release date: August 31, 2000 (North America)
The Sims: Livin' Large (known as The Sims: Livin' It Up in the UK, Ireland and Finland) is the first expansion pack released for The Sims. The pack includes new characters, careers, items, and features. Main Article

The Sims: House Party

Release date: April 2, 2001 (North America)
The Sims: House Party is the second expansion pack for The Sims. House Party gives players the ability to throw parties, as well as new characters and "party" themed items, such as the "costume trunk".

The Sims: Hot Date

Release date: November 12, 2001 (North America)
The Sims: Hot Date is the third expansion pack released for The Sims. Hot Date added a new feature not present in previous versions of The Sims, namely the ability for Sims to leave their homes and travel to a new destination called "Downtown", a way of going out with a sim to have dinner with him/her as well as dance with them. All of the following expansion packs for The Sims have added new destinations as well. It is reportedly the inspiration for The Sims 2: Nightlife, the second expansion pack to the sequel of the game. As with all expansion packs in the series, Hot Date included many new furnishing objects, characters, clothing items, and Sim faces.

The Sims: Vacation

Release date: March 28, 2002 (North America)
The Sims: Vacation (called The Sims: On Holiday in Ireland, the UK and China) is the fourth expansion pack for The Sims. The sixth expansion pack for The Sims 2, called The Sims 2: Bon Voyage, features a similar theme. Vacation introduced a new neighborhood, called Vacation Island, where Sims could take vacations with members of their own family or with other Sims. Vacation Island is split into three distinct environments: beach, forest, and snow-capped mountain. Sims can receive souvenirs from these vacation spots.

The Sims: Unleashed

Release date: November 7, 2002 (North America)
The Sims: Unleashed is the fifth expansion pack developed and published by Maxis/EA for The Sims. The Sims 2: Pets, a similar expansion created for The Sims 2, is inspired by this expansion pack. In Unleashed, the Sims can now adopt pets for their families, particularly dogs and cats. Dogs and cats are treated as Sims, while other pets are treated as objects. However, they cannot be controlled directly like human Sims are.

In Unleashed, the original ten-lot neighborhood that was featured in all previous games, is now expanded to over forty and there is now an option to re-zone lots into residential or commercial. In commercial lots, you can build shops of numerous types and restaurants which sims can visit by calling the Old Town trolley to take them there.

The theme of the game, with its new lots and music, is considered Cajun or Zydeco. One could compare it to New Orleans' French Quarter with voodoo shops and jazz musicians appearing on commercial lots. This theme returns in The Sims 2: Apartment Life.

The Sims: Superstar

Release date: May 13, 2003 (North America)
The Sims: Superstar is the sixth expansion pack of seven expansion packs released for The Sims. This expansion allows the player's Sims to become entertainment figures and includes representations of several famous Hollywood personalities.

The Sims: Makin' Magic

Release date: October 29, 2003 (North America)
The Sims: Makin' Magic is the seventh and final expansion pack released for The Sims. It introduces magic to the game and allows Sims to cast spells and forge charms. In addition, it introduces baking and nectar-making. This expansion pack includes a disc containing a preview of The Sims 2. The Sims 2: Apartment Life brings in witches to the game similar to this

Compilations

Compilations with the original The Sims game

The Sims has been repackaged in numerous editions. These are not expansions in themselves, but compilations of the basic game plus pre-existing expansion packs and additional game content. These editions include:

North American releases

Name Windows
release date
Features
The Sims Deluxe Edition 2002 Core game; The Sims: Livin' Large; The Sims Creator, an editor used to create custom Sim clothing; Deluxe Edition exclusive content, which includes 25+ exclusive objects and 50+ clothing choices.
The Sims Double Deluxe 2003 The Sims Deluxe Edition; The Sims: House Party; Double Deluxe bonus content.
The Sims Mega Deluxe May 25, 2004 The Sims Double Deluxe; The Sims: Hot Date.
The Sims Complete Collection November, 2005 Core game; all seven expansion packs; Deluxe Edition exclusive content; Double Deluxe bonus content; The Sims Creator.

Releases in other regions

Name Region Windows release date Features
The Sims Triple Deluxe Europe 2003 The Sims Double Deluxe; The Sims: Vacation.
The Sims: Full House Australia/New Zealand 2005 Core game; all seven expansion packs; disc containing preview of The Sims 2.

Spinoffs and sequels

The Sims Online

In December 2002, Maxis shipped The Sims Online, which recreated The Sims as an MMOG, where actual human players could interact with each other. This sequel did not achieve the same level of success as the original The Sims game that producers and developers thought it would.

Reviews for The Sims Online were lackluster. Many reviewers likened The Sims Online experience to an enormous chat room where few participants, if any, have anything worthwhile to say.

The game was revamped in 2008, and given a new title called "EA Land".

On April 29, 2008, it was officially announced that EA Land would be shutting down permanently. Effective on that date players could no longer renew their subscriptions and new players could no longer sign up. Existing players were able to play until August 1, 2008, when EA-Land became completely out of service.

The Sims 2

Maxis released The Sims 2 on September 14, 2004. The sequel takes place in a full 3D environment, as opposed to the combination 2D/3D ("2.5D" or Isometric) environment of the original game. Other additions to the original gameplay include Sims that grow from infancy to adulthood, then age slowly, and eventually die. This game features clear "days of the week" with obvious weekends for children to stay home from school, as well as "vacation days" to take time off work, an "Aspiration Meter" that increases and decreases as a Sim fulfills specific desires and experiences its worst fears, and "Aspiration Rewards" which can be "bought" with "Aspiration Points" that are earned each time a want is successfully filled.

The Sims 2 is set 25 years after the original game, and integrates a storyline into the game. For instance, the Pleasant family (available in the family bin in The Sims) has settled in a suburban neighborhood, and their family tree panels reveals relationships with the original Pleasant family from The Sims. Additionally, the Goth family has aged significantly, while Bella Goth has mysteriously vanished (suggestively from an alien abduction).

Because faces and neighborhoods are handled in very different ways, objects had to migrate from 2D sprites to 3D models, and some objects (particularly those contained in expansion packs) were not copied at all. The Sims 2 was not made backwards-compatible with any The Sims content. There have been many expansion packs and add-ons released for The Sims 2.

MySims

MySims is a console game created by EA exclusively for the Wii and Nintendo DS. It features Chibi-like characters (similar to the Wii's Mii avatars). It was released in September 2007 and will receive a gold edition for Microsoft Windows based computers.

The Sims Stories

The Sims Stories is a series of computer games from The Sims series, based on the original The Sims 2 engine, optimized for play on laptops, as it has lower system requirement than The Sims 2, but can still be played on desktops. One feature of this game, if played on a laptop, is the auto-pause function, which stops and starts the game according to when the laptop lid is closed. At present, three games have been released.

The Sims 3

The Sims 3 was announced in an interview by EA in November 2006, where it was also mentioned that the release date of the game would likely be in the "fiscal 2009" year. A teaser site currently exists for The Sims 3 with screenshots, a trailer and information on the upcoming game.

Among some promised features are no perceivable loading times, more realistic Sims and more open home locations and neighborhoods.

Other versions

Ports

  • The Sims and all its expansion packs were ported to the Mac by Aspyr Media, Inc..
  • The Sims was ported to Linux using Transgaming's WineX technology (now known as Cedega) and was bundled with Mandrake Linux Gaming Edition. However, both WineX and the Cedega engine are unable to run the Windows version of the game. The original port will no longer run on modern Linux distributions and is unable to accept the various add-on packs intended for the Windows version.

Console versions

The Sims was remade for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube consoles. It is a somewhat different game from the PC version; it features some gameplay modifications, a 3D camera perspective and some resources from some PC's expansions: parties, dates, and jobs. However you can't build a house with 2 floors, and an object limiter is active on all houses to prevent the player from constructing and furnishing houses too large for the console to load. Various console versions with different names, such as The Sims: Bustin' Out, incorporate some of the components of the expansion packs as separate games.

Film

The Sims (working title) is a live action, drama film currently in preproduction.

On May 25 2007, it was announced that The Sims film rights had been purchased by 20th Century Fox. It will be written by Brian Lynch, the writer of Angel: After The Fall. The film will be produced by John Davis, who has worked on films such as Norbit and Eragon.

References

Inline

General

External links

Official sites

Resource sites

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