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Feisty Frenchman Fields a Few Frequently Formed Questions

Thursday, October 7, 1999 - 23:00

Strategy Gaming posted an Interview with Luc Barthelet, general manager of Maxis.
Read the interview with Luc on Strategy Gaming, or click read more below this post to read it here!


The Sims:
From Will Wright, the creator of SimCity™, comes a new strategy game that really hits close to home. You are in charge of a neighborhood of Sims and it is up to you to show them that they're livin' in your world now! Force them into a life of crime or help them live life in the fast lane. Build them a sprawling mansion or dump them into a dilapidated shack. Let them party like swinging singles or fall in love, get married and raise a family. They can live out your wildest dreams or experience your worst nightmares. It is up to you to decide... their fate is in your hands.

Interviewer: Anthony Micari
Luc Barthelet, the General Manager of Maxis

1. Maxis' line of Sim games have been known for their deep strategic gameplay combined with easy to use interfaces. How will The Sims go about providing a similar experience?
The Sims uses an object oriented interface. For most of the actions, the user clicks on objects like the Fridge or the TV and select an action from a pie menu. The other overall interface is a mode selection between "Build", "Buy" and "Live". I think this is the best UI to date for Maxis. As for the depth of the simulation, I like to think that we re building sandboxes, and that we mostly work on defining the physical properties of sand. The more interesting the properties, the longer the users will play. I think we have some real innovation in this game and I will describe some of them as I answer some of the questions below.

2. "Life" simulation games in the past, such as Dogz, Catz, and Creatures, have been viewed by many as mere novelties. How will The Sims elevate itself above that status, and provide a unique experience that will have gamers coming back for more?
The Sims is about people and relationships. I learned through the development of this game that when you create an environment with representations of human beings, and make those humans behave in a familiar fashion, that the user cannot help but create a story in his head to explain their behavior. I am convinced that people are more interesting that domestic animals.

3. The history of artificial intelligence has been a rocky one. Some games have been criticized for their lack thereof, while others have provided solid AI that really challenges players. The Sims, however, is trying to simulate the emotions of humans, something that is new to games. Has this been a great challenge for the development team?
One problem we had for a while was that our characters were too smart. They knew exactly what was best for them, and anything the user would do would lead to a negative impact. It took us a while to make the characters a bit dumber, but in a way that would be fun.

4. How much input will the player have in determining the events of the game? Will we be able to tell the characters what to eat? When to sleep, perhaps? Or does one just make bigger decisions and see how they turn out?
The user can choose among many options to feed its sims. Most of them are accessed by clicking on the fridge, but you can also order Pizza by selecting it from the menu on the phone.

5. What I have been wondering about the most is how the player goes about winning the game? Is there an end? Or do you just go on playing similar to SimCity 3000?
The Sims is like SimCity, you can play it forever.

6. Maxis' past titles have been appropriate for all ages. Will The Sims be the same? Or is there material that is recommended for older players?
It is for all ages.

7. This game has been in the works for quite awhile. As it nears completion, what has been the greatest challenge?
They were so many I have a hard time selecting which one. Probably turning the game from a set of interesting tools into a cohesive gameplay experience.

Thank you taking the time to answer these questions for our site. Your generosity is much appreciated.

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