I was very lucky to be given the chance yesterday to attend a preview event for The Sims 4 in Sydney Australia. Where I was able to play the game for about an hour and explore some of the new features that the game has and offers just before it is released. I will be writing up full preview which you can all read in a few days, but for now I would say I was very impressed with how the game looks and feels when you actually sit down with it and play it.
I was lucky enough to be given the chance to interview Graham Nardone who is a producer for the Sims 4 on the phone today and was able to ask him a few questions that I had from my time with the game yesterday.
My Interview with Graham Nardone
Graham: Hey Bryan how’s it going?
Bryan: good how are you?
Bryan: That’s very good!
So let’s get started, my first question is…
1. One of the things that I do really like about the game having played it now is the art style and look of the Sims in the Sims 4. How important or how difficult was it for the Sims team to create the unique style the game now has?
Graham: Well I’m really glad to hear you say that because I feel like in particular that’s kinda been a hot topic online and especially once people start to get hands on with the game and really see how it flows in person I think the game is absolutely gorgeous and you really do have to sit down and play it to kind of fully understand how beautifully everything animates and comes together as this whole cohesive thing.
Graham: In terms of we got to that point, I think it’s interesting because you know, looking at Sims 1 to Sims 3 as the franchise has progressed the graphics got more and more realistic with each one and I think with The Sims 4 we finally got to the point where if we continue to kind of push down that direction, you get into this area where you kind of start to experience that uncanny valley effect with your Sim and everything looks a little too like real life and you start to get this strange disconnect where some of the past humour and silliness of the Sims franchise would look strange in that concept. So very early on it was a conscious decision to go in a slightly different direction in the art style for The Sims 4 and really we couldn’t be happier with the result. But I think it’s an absolutely beautiful world that they play in and the Sims look better than they ever have been before and especially once people start to get their hands on the game, I think we’ll see more and more of that.
Bryan: Yeah! I have to say when I did play it I thought it looked much better on computer than I have seen in the videos in the past, I was very impressed with how the game looked, it was great!
Graham: Glad to hear it (chuckles)
2. One of the first things I noticed when playing with the Sims 4 was the new emotions in the bottom left hand side of the screen. Things like focused, Happy, Flirty, Inspired or uncomfortable. What do these type of moods mean for Sims players and how do they change the game?
Graham: So that’s actually going to be a really big difference for how people play the game and that was one of the core areas that we focused on for The Sims 4, certainly if you are familiar with past iterations of The Sims franchise. You know we’ve had emotions but it was more about the game telling you how your Sim was feeling, the UI might say your Sim was feeling bad or sad or whatever, but it didn’t necessarily reflect in the Sim or in the depth of choices that they had because of their situation and so now a lot of gameplay is focusing around how your Sim is feeling and what opportunities or interactions that unlock that moment for you.
Graham: So as you are in these different emotions, if you’re going and socializing with other Sims it has an entirely different interaction because of the emotion you’re currently in. Same thing for any objects that are out in the world as you interact with different things you’ll find different possibilities available to you.
Bryan: Oh okay
Graham: So it becomes this game of starting to explore and control your Sims different emotions and finding different states that you want them to be in for different situations.
Bryan: Yep, Yeah I thought that was one of the really good features, I like the little sounds that it makes when the emotions change as well.
Graham: Hehe, Yeah just to let you know
Bryan: Yeah, those were good!
3. I noticed in the game a player can unlock certain achievements. For example I got the introvert achievement because I didn’t talk to any other Sims for 24 hours. How many achievements are there in the game and what are some of the other ones?
Graham: I wouldn’t want to quote you an exact number just because I’m not sure off the top of my head, there is a wide variety of them to go out and find…
Bryan: Is there a way to view them in the game or do you just have to look?
Graham: Yeah there is actually. If you open up the options menu, one of the buttons in there is for the achievements and so you can view a full list of all the achievements in the game, different ones that you have accomplished, how you’ve gone about doing them or what your progress is on them, so it’s pretty in depth on what it tracks. Ahh, so you know there is fun ones like how much money you’ve collected or if you have a full Sim household. So just doing different scenarios in the Sims game leads to different achievements and then there’s some that are really difficult to accomplish or they are more like player level accomplishments
Graham: I think one of them is like playing the game for 1,000 hours..
Bryan: okay haha
Graham: So you know, good luck with that one! I don’t think anybody will have it within the next couple of weeks haha
4. In the game I was also able to level up my Sims skills when it came to gaming skills or cooking skills. What’s the difference between leveling up skills and getting achievements?
Graham: Oh so really an achievement is basically ahh, you know it’s kind of a reward for the end moment of something you have accomplished, leveling up the skills is kind of similar to past Sims games, where each skill is ranked from level 1 to level 10. The difference this time around is that we tried to make sure that at every skill level you’re unlocking something new. Whether it’s a new way to interact with an object or new forms of socialization that you have with other Sims, new recipes when you’re doing cooking, or new video games to play.
Graham: At every level of skill there should be more content that you are getting access to. So it’s kind of an encouragement to keep pushing forward in it.
Bryan: I did notice that yesterday when I kept playing the video game every time the Sim needed fun and I think there were two video games at the start and then there were four like later on when I leveled up, so it’s…
Graham: Yeah there’s even more than that eventually, so it keeps going!
Bryan: Yep, okay.
5. I noticed there were quite a few changes to the ways that careers worked in the game. You now have to complete daily activities along with managing your Sims mood to get promoted. Can you talk a bit about that and some of the challenges? For example when I played I had to ensure I did some intelligence research on the computer before I went to work for the spy career….
Graham: Sure. So with each of the careers now, you basically have little tasks that help contribute to your job performance, it’s just a form of doing something active outside of the time that you spend at work to kind of contribute to your advancement so as you’re doing that and you’re going through the careers the other really big difference is you’re getting a lot of rewards along the way so being able to have your career tied back into your Sims personal life. So one of my favourite examples with it is if you’re a painter, as your career progresses you start unlocking more and more objects that allow you to build your own art studio at home because naturally as an artist, you would expect them to have a room like that in their house and so now things like that will be possible.
6. When a Sim starts any of the careers, how many stages are there in the career until you get to the top of the career? Is it different depending on what career you choose?
Graham: Yeah, each of the careers has 10 levels and maybe something you remember from The Sims 3 was that some of them had branching career choices, now all of the careers in The Sims 4 have branching choices, so at a certain level you’ll make a choice, what direction you’ll want to go down and that unlocks then even further possibilities. I think with the astronaut for example you can very much focus on being the standard astronaut, or you could be a space smuggler and depending on what path you go down you get different rocket ships, or you get different outfits to wear when you’re in outer space, things like that.
Bryan: I like how sort of you had the activities to do when you came back from the career, but sometimes the emotion of the Sim, makes it sort of not possible to do the activity, like I think my Sim came back from work tired or stressed or something so I couldn’t do the intelligence gathering.
Graham: (chuckles) Yeah one of the things that was very important to us with the emotions is that even though they change and they unlock different possibilities or they even block you from doing certain things is that players still always feel in control of their Sims emotions. So no matter what emotion you’re currently with there is always something you can do to either get them out of that emotion or get them deeper into that emotion and some of the emotional whims that pop up above your Sims head, really kind of help guide you through that process.
7. In terms of the social aspects of The Sims 4, I noticed a new feature where Sims can choose to send another Sim a text. What are The Sims doing when they send a text? I sent Mortimer Goth about 10 texts a day…. Does sending texts help if you want your Sim for become Mortimer’s friend?
Graham: haha! Yeah there’s ahhh, you know that’s just basic socialization, kind of similar to calling them, you can also text them now, there’s some fun interactions on the computer that are similar as well, you can do prank phone calls on the phone, you can sign them up for spam letters on the computer… So doing some like electronic interactions with other Sims is just another way to socialize in different ways.
8. What is your proudest achievement from you personally from working on the game?
Graham:For working on The Sims 4?
Graham: Honestly the favourite thing that I was involved in that is really exciting, is hearing players talk about it is the bills. Hehe.. it sounds like a really small thing but you know so many fans said on The Sims 3, you know “oh money doesn’t really mean anything”, “bills don’t do anything”, “they take barely any money from me”, “two weeks into my game I have more money than I know what to do with”. So I worked on the bills system in The Sims 4 and we made it really hard, it’s going to charge you a lot of money! I kept having people on the team come to me and they’re like “these are too hard, we gotta turn it back” and you know I kept saying “No, I’m absolutely not turning it back”. I think it’s going to be really fun seeing how people respond to that and seeing where it goes.
Graham: And of course if you can’t pay your bills, we play it a little differently now where your power gets shut off and then your water gets shut off. But I really wanted to put a little bit more of a challenge back in the game. I wanted people to have to think you know, when they’re buying things, what they’re spending their money on, if they’re going to be able to pay their bills next week and really have a reason to go out and acquire money. So I’m excited about that one, it’s just like a silly fun thing for me, but I think players are going to have a good time with as well.
Bryan:I think that was definitely a good feature. Yesterday just before I had finished my playthrough actually my power did get shut off in my Sims house!
Everyone: (Everyone laughs)
Graham: That’s right, it’s going to be a little more challenging now
Graham: Thanks Bryan it was a good chat!
Bryan: Thank you very much for your time Graham, I really enjoyed coming in and trying out the game and everything.
Graham: Glad you were able to make it
Bryan: Thank you very much, Bye!
You can find and follow Graham on twitter here @SimGuruGraham. The Sims 4 will be releasing in Australia on the 4th of September 2014 and the 2nd of September 2014 in the United States.