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The Sims 3 First Look

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The Sims 3 First Look


March 19, 2008 - It seems like only yesterday that The Sims 2 came out, so EA's announcement today of The Sims 3 might seem a bit premature. However, do a quick Google search and you might be startled to realize that The Sims 2 turns four this year, which is an epoch in computing terms. PCs today are massively more powerful than their counterparts in 2004, and the designers at EA's in-house studio Maxis are taking advantage of that to make some titanic changes to the series. We know because we went down to Maxis earlier this week for a very first look at The Sims 3, and what we saw made us a bit giddy at the possibilities.


This easily represents the biggest advancement for the series to date, much more than what The Sims 2 meant to the original game. After all, the big feature in The Sims 2 was a full 3D engine that was a huge step up from the series' original 2D graphical look, but apart from that, almost everything else remained the same. You still created single-lot homes where your virtual people spent 90-percent of their lives, and leaving those lots to visit other homes or businesses meant hitting a load screen.


the-sims-3-20080319115112599-000.jpgMeet the next generation of sims.


The Sims 3 looks to finally evolve beyond that limited scope by simulating whole neighborhoods and towns. You still control your sims and you still can design, build, and furnish a home, but now your sims can venture across the street or across the neighborhood without hitting a load screen. It's a seamless, dynamic world that you can explore, one populated by dozens of computer-controlled sims. While you're busy playing, you may see neighboring sims fall in love, get married, have kids, and die. If anything, the world of The Sims 3 sort of reminds us of Simsville, the cancelled 2001 game that tried to fill in the gap between the intimate scope of The Sims and the gigantic scale of SimCity's urban landscapes.


"We want to get people off the lot and out into the neighborhood around them and get them to experience this complete town in a way that they've never been able to before, and frankly we've never been able to deliver before just because we didn't have the technological means or the design expertise," executive producer Ben Bell told us.


Bell gave us a short PowerPoint presentation of the new features in The Sims 3, but then he showed us a pre-alpha version of the game running itself. Maxis has been working on The Sims 3 for years now, so it's in a fairly advanced state, though there's still plenty of work to do. Much of what we saw was filled with placeholder art or user interface data, as the designers are still trying to tweak many aspects of the game. But right off the bat, we watched as the camera could zoom from a scenic panorama of a town right down to the familiar confines of a single home. Each lot in the town, be it a business or a home, is fully modeled and exists within the simulation. In other words, these aren't Potemkin villages. Associate producer Lyndsay Pearson told us that the town we looked at consisted of 97 different lots.


The sims themselves have gotten a huge overhaul when it comes to their personalities. Fans of series know that determining a sim's personality depended on allocating points that determined how shy or outgoing they were, or how lazy or active. The problem with this system was that it was very limiting, since the options were so vague and you only had a handful of points to distribute between them. That's all thrown out the window in The Sims 3. Now each sim can have up to five traits that are selected from a pool of about 80. That calculates out to millions of potential combinations, according to Pearson. We saw traits like flirty, dreamy, perfectionist, paranoid, genius, frugal, brave, clumsy, artistic, kleptomaniac, inappropriate, daredevil, schmoozer, and more. Imagine trying to break down people you know or characters you see on television and the movies to their four or five key traits, and you can recreate them in The Sims 3.


the-sims-3-20080319115110755-000.jpgWhole towns will be your playground.


You'll not only be able to model the traits of your friends and family, but you'll also be able to do a pretty good job of creating sims that look like them, too. Sim creation is much more powerful in The Sims 3, as sliders will let you adjust body weight and muscle tone, and there are options to create a greater range of faces. The graphical leap between The Sims 3 and its predecessor isn't as huge as The Sims 2 was from the original game, but the emphasis now is to create more believable human beings. The sims have been softened and rounded a bit more; they're less cartoony and more realistic.


Another aspect of the game that the producers touched on is the moodlet system, which is how you'll be able to get feedback on your sims' emotions and thoughts. The details are a bit vague, but it sounds like the mood bar will overhaul the hunger, bathroom, and other meters. For sure, the bathroom mechanic is being reduced, as Bell emphasized that you won't "have to spend your whole life staring at the pee bar all day long." The idea is that the game focuses more on the bigger picture, like what sort of life do you want your sim to lead? It's less about having to worry about the minutiae of everyday existence.


If you're a fan of The Sims who loves to just build homes, then there's going to be plenty to like in The Sims 3. Bell promised greater customization options, and they showed off how easy it's going to be to select patterns and materials that go on objects. Let's say you have a great pattern on a couch. In earlier games, that pattern was pretty much restricted to the couch, but in The Sims 3, you can take any material from any object and drag it over another object to populate it. So take that pattern you like from the couch and drag it around to other furniture to create a matching set.


Pretty much every aspect of The Sims as you know it has been rewritten for The Sims 3, which is why we're so excited for the game. The series is nearing its 10th anniversary, and the formula that has served it so well to date has certainly reached its limitations in addition to feeling very dated. The Sims 3 promises to recharge and reinvent the way The Sims is played, and that's something that will affect millions upon millions of fans around the world.


Source(s): http://pc.ign.com/articles/860/860744p1.html

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