Google+ Interviews GBA Bustin' Out Producer, Virginia McArthur

Thursday, September 18, 2003 - 23:30

"Nintendo of Japan was recently in our office brainstorming the connectivity features and working with Will Wright and the team on enhancements."

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The Sims: Bustin' Out Q&A

We interview the producer for details on The Sims on the go.

Flash back to the Electronic Entertainment Expo, at Nintendo's press conference. Shigeru Miyamoto brings out Will Wright in honor of the upcoming Sims sequel for the GameCube. Even though the game's being made for all of the consoles, the GameCube version is a big deal to Nintendo because it will, when released, support the connectivity feature Nintendo's actively pursuing. By connecting the upcoming Game Boy Advance and GameCube versions together will net features exclusive to both games.

The Sims: Bustin' Out for the Game Boy Advance is scheduled for release this December. In anticipation of the game's release, we were given the opportunity to throw a few questions to the producer at Maxis on the project, Virginia McArthur. Here, she explains all about the features of the first portable version of the company's massive Will Wright-designed virtual "pet."

IGN: How did Griptonite come to be the team to handle the GBA version of The Sims?

Virginia McArthur: We reviewed many different developers across the US and in the UK. We decided on Griptonite because of their previously successful GBA titles and their experience with the GBA system. Griptonite also seemed to have the best understanding of The Sims gameplay. They are passionate Sims fans who know the game almost as well as we do!

IGN: What has the development cycle been like for the GBA version of The Sims? When did development start, and when does it end?

Virginia McArthur: We started the design phase over a year ago. We worked on an early prototype and put a
lot of thought and work into how we could make The Sims a true GBA-style gameplay experience. We are excited about shipping simultaneously with The Sims Bustin Out on the Game Cube and the connectivity that GBA players will be able to enjoy with both platforms.

Having a sitIGN: How has the game design changed now that you assume direct control over a single Sim?

Virginia McArthur: We played our original prototype and put lots of design mockups up on the wall. We brainstormed about how to control your Sim and what the interface and top-level design would look like. Griptonite was great in quickly mocking up the different ideas on what it would be like to directly control your Sim and how it would look. With direct Sim control, there is no need to click on multiple items and wait. This allows the player to instantly take care of the needs of their Sims, whether they are hungry, dirty, or just need to use to the bathroom.

IGN: What are the main differences between the console and the GBA versions in terms of gameplay?

Virginia McArthur: Direct control of the Sim is a big new feature for The Sims Bustin' Out on GBA. Your Sim can bust right out of the house and walk across an entire village, where you can explore lots of cool new locations, like your Uncle's Farm, a Laboratory, a Dock, and even an underground sewer system.

New goals and missions are unlocked when you visit each new location. On the GBA, some missions are unlocked by playing through the levels and others are unlocked as you meet other Sims throughout SimValley.

You have a whole new way to interact with other Sims. When you meet a new Sim, a close-up social interaction screen appears where you can choose from a wide variety of things to say. If you say the right things, you can make new friends and even fall in love. But be careful with the words you choose, because you'll see reactions on the other Sim's face very clearly.

There is also a whole new way to earn money on the GBA: you can play mini-games! Your Sim can visit several mini-game locations, where you can play games to earn Simoleons. Depending on the skills of your Sims and the number of their friends, you make even more Simoleons each time you play the games.

IGN: Since Shigeru Miyamoto and Will Wright made a large deal at E3 regarding connectivity, has Will Wright or Miyamoto offered any direct input on the GBA game's design?

Virginia McArthur: Yes they have. Nintendo of Japan was recently in our office brainstorming the connectivity features and working with Will Wright and the team on enhancements. Will is constantly reviewing each version of the game and giving us thoughts and directions as we progress through the development cycle.

IGN: Which team is more responsible for connectivity ideas between the two versions, the GBA or GameCube team?

Virginia McArthur: Both teams participate and are responsible for connectivity between the two versions. Because each group has their own separate challenges and rewards, we had to plan these features together to maximize both platforms' connectivity features. Our lead designer for the console team worked directly with the lead designer at Griptonite to make solid contributions for both platforms. The result is a level of gameplay connectivity that is cooler than we had ever dreamed.

IGN: Have there been any "last minute" ideas of connectivity during the development process that managed to squeak in there?

Virginia McArthur: You bet! We've already improved some of our connectivity features based on the brainstorming sessions we had with Will Wright and Nintendo, such as connecting the GBA to another GBA. If a good idea comes around, we'll do our best to get it in the game.

Rocking out.IGN: Are there any "connectivity" elements that do not require the GBA version of The Sims, like a downloadable executable similar to the way Madden 2004 has a "scoreboard" for empty GBA systems linked to the console?

Virginia McArthur: Yes! If you hook up the GBA without a cartridge to the Game Cube version of The Sims Bustin' Out, you will unlock a secret mini-game cabinet. Your Sims will then be able to play mini-games that are downloaded to your GBA. The money you make with these games will be transferred back to your Sim on the Game Cube.

IGN: There's connectivity between GBA and GameCube, but what about connectivity between multiple GBA systems?

Virginia McArthur: We just added a new feature for the GBA to GBA connectivity. You will now unlock a new location, Paradise Island, when you link up two versions of The Sims Bustin' Out on GBA. Paradise Island is then available to you as a second home for your Sim. We recognize that trading is very big for GBA players. Sims' players will be able to trade unique GBA items with other GBA Sims' players. Sims' players will also be able to participate in a special "auction" mode when they connect GBA to GBA and trade unique items with friends.

IGN: Has future support worked its way into the GBA design, the same as the way Sims has worked on the PC and consoles? Like, if a sequel's planned, is it possible to have the character data in the old game move to the next one?

Virginia McArthur: Anything is possible. We haven't announced anything as yet. We'll be sure to keep you posted.

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