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Thursday, October 4, 2001 - 23:10 gets a preview of Hot Date, take a look at what they have to say about our latest expansion pack.

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The Sims: Hot Date

We talk with two of the minds behind the next Sims expansion. New screens inside.

The Sims Hot DateWe joke a lot about the consistency of the top selling software reports. The Sims and its expansions have held the top slots on the list ever since they've been released. And now, as if having the three of the top-selling software titles of the past two years isn't enough, Maxis is planning on releasing several new expansions. Assistant Producer Sean Baity and Game Designer Mike McCormick stopped by today with a build of the latest expansion, The Sims Hot Date. After taking a look at what the new expansion offers, there's very little doubt in our mind that we'll have to clear out another spot on the best-sellers list.

Hot Date adds more to The Sims than any expansion to date. According to Sean, "This expansion pack has more than the other expansion packs. The bar keeps getting raised with each expansion." But it's not just about adding more objects; it's about creating more interesting places for your Sims to go and giving them a much greater range of interactions.

The Sims Hot DateAccording to Sean, "it was a little too easy to get really high relationships" in the original game. Hot Date measures your relationship by both a daily and lifetime rating. (Relationships for existing Sims will be obtain both a lifetime and daily rating equal to the current relationship rating. From there, you're on your own.) Mike explains how the two ratings interact: "The lifetime rating pings the daily one. So if you're daily's really good it'll slowly bring up your lifetime. Accepted romantic interactions will also improve the lifetime one. So you can move it up quicker by steamier ways."

Mood is much more important this time around. So the steamy approach can also have a negative effect on the Sim if their mood isn't right. "You can know someone for a long time but are in a bad mood, you get new interactions like nag." Conversely, apology options open up when you're in a good mood around a Sim you don't like. Good couples who are having bad days will have lots of options to nag one another.

The Sims Hot DateTo account for the forty new social interactions (more than doubling the current set), the team has sub-tiered the pop-up menu. Now when you select "talk" you can choose from different subjects. You may also choose to gossip about other people or brag about yourself. New insults have been included. The poke's still here, but you can now also shake your fist at them. Ooh.... The cool thing is that you can open up new interactions based on the level of your relationship with the other person. Different kisses are available depending on how your Sim and the other Sim feel about each other.

The Sims Hot DateInstead of the basic hug, you can now choose from up to four different kinds of hugs depending on your mood. The basic hug is still here of course, but you can increase the passion of the hug by picking the intimate or romantic hug option. Then there's the option to leap into someone's arms. Sean showed us a demo of how this works by getting one character to leap into the arms of another: "If her hygiene is high enough, he'll accept it and both their moods goes up. However let's say her bladder is really low. He's got a new tickle he can do on her [the extreme tickle]. If the bladder's low enough on the other person, they'll wet their pants." Once she jumped back into his arms, he got the scent of it and threw her on the ground. Awesome.

The Sims Hot DateEight new interests have been added as well. Interest in romance, politics, arts and other topics will determine how well your Sim and another will get along. So what happens if you don't share any (or many) interests? Sean explained that "if you find someone that you really want to date, and they're interested in nothing but politics" you could go to a nearby magazine rack and buy magazines that relate to that topic. At home you can brush up on current events or the arts and impress your date with that knowledge.

To get a magazine, you've got to go downtown. That's where the other half of the expansion comes into play. To get downtown you simply need to call a cab. It shows up just like a carpool would. From there you choose which of the ten downtown lots you'd like to go to. The game will ship with three pre-built areas -- a beachfront, a restaurant and a park. When you're making a new area, you can spend as much as you want (although you can't build while on a date or you want to make sure that your Sims can afford the services you're providing).

The Sims Hot DateThe individual pieces you place in the restaurant have a cumulative effect on the price of meals. "Depending on what you've put in the restaurant, it'll make the food more expensive but it'll also be more satisfying," says Sean. You can create anything from a five-star restaurant to a hot dog cart, but you should watch that you don't make things too expensive; otherwise your Sims won't be able to afford to eat. You can also create shops, parks and other areas where your Sims can spend, interact or just relax.

Although your neighbors will frequent the downtown area there will also be randomly generated NPCs wandering around. They are taken from your skins folder. With a new Date Maker app you can even create NPCs and upload them to the Sims Exchange. You can relate to these NPCs and even get them to go on dates with you. The NPCs who are working downtown won't be available for dating, but the rest will. You can ask them what they're interested in doing. If they say eat, you go eat; if they say drink, you can go drink.

The Sims Hot DateSean says there are "all sorts of ways to force your fun and hunger and comfort up when you're down here but you gotta pay for it. Basically, you're buying love and paying for comfort. At home you buy the objects, here you pay for the services that give you satisfaction." You can tell musicians to play for you date, buy flowers or jewelry or candy or toys for them. The better your gift is, the more your date will like it. You can even buy a copy of a game called The Zims. We're not sure what someone's reaction to that might be.

If things go really well, you can even ask your date to come home with you. If they do decide (against their better judgment) to go home with you, you can play in the new Love Tub. This heart shaped sauna allows you to wash, cuddle and "play" with each other. The playing mostly seems to take place underwater, so we're not sure exactly what could be going on. If you take things too far on the date, your companion will excuse Simself and head home.

The Sims Hot DateApart from the love tub, there are over 120 other new objects in the game. Some (like the giant aquarium, porch swing, koi pond or the industrial stove) can be used in the home or downtown. Landscape objects include numerous varieties of tree. The option to replace grass with sand should make for some awesome Tempe, Arizona neighborhoods. New fences, windows, doors, and such add more options. And to keep track of this stuff, the item categories have been redefined. Electronics now includes separate categories for phones, stereos, and such and art is subdivided into rugs, sculptures, plants and so on.

The game is due out really soon and, at a price of only thirty bucks, it's sure to take up one more slot on the top ten lists. With the other expansions coming out soon, we may need to clear out even more space. Sean even hinted that he'd like to see a workplace-centered version of the Sims in the future. While nothing's confirmed of course, it'd be nice to see that too.

-- Steve Butts

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