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Designing Makin' Magic

Thursday, October 2, 2003 - 23:20

Read the exclusive interview for SimInsider! Associate Designer, Jenna Chalmers, explains some of the mystique behind creating Makin’ Magic.

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We caught up with Jenna during the final development stages of The Sims™ Makin' Magic Expansion Pack at Electronic Art's Maxis Studio in Walnut Creek, CA. Right away, we knew we had come to a place where creative inspiration is welcome. Jenna's work space was strung with white lights, fabrics and other décor creating a real magical ambience. Jenna glowed with excitement when she talked about Makin' Magic and we're looking forward to playing the final version when it comes out this Halloween.

1. What is a Designer's role on a development team?
Generally, a designer's job is to take all the great ideas that come from different people, sort out the ones that work well together and use their own creativity to weave them in to a cohesive, rich gameplay experience for the player.
For "The Sims" in particular, keeping the players in mind is critical. Here, the players are the storytellers. You have to put yourself in their place and determine what elements they need to create their world.

2. How excited was the Development Team to design The Sims Makin' Magic?
We were very excited. With every expansion pack we try to push the limits of what's possible within a game, which is always fun. But with The Sims Makin' Magic, the very nature of the content meant that the sky was the limit in terms of what we could and could not do. This allowed us to let ourselves go creatively, and to come up with some really wacky, off-the-wall moments.

3. What magic themes did you try to follow?
Because magic means different things to different people, we had to focus on what magic means to the Sims. We describe it as "domestic" or "suburban" magic. Some TV sitcoms you could think of that fit this bill are Bewitched, The Addam's Family, and I Dream of Jeannie. To stay within the context of The Sims world, daily life needed to remain somewhat realistic, yet introduce magic with humorous, tongue-and-cheek twists. For example, think of classic elements of pop culture like flamingo and gnome lawn ornaments (also in previous Expansion Packs). In The Sims Makin' Magic, you can now enchant these ornaments to do your gardening or help entertain. Putting a spin on those is very much within the context of The Sims.

4. What were the most fun characters, objects, spells, etc. to design?
The Sims Makin' Magic was fun to design, because we could let our imaginations really run wild. Two things cool stand out. First, spells were really fun. For example, with "Shed Your Skin," you can change your character's looks into something completely different. Coming up with all of these looks was a blast. Also thinking of how and why spells can go wrong was a riot. Our fans are sure to laugh a lot.
Second, the whole look and feel of the game was a treat to design. We created a cross between an old-timey 40's carnival and bohemian gypsy world. Additionally, The Sims Makin' Magic introduces more old fashioned elements with a sense of history like the butter churns, spinning wheels, and an antique tea set which add a real nostalgic feel. We also created a distinct mood with autumn and spooky trees, wishing wells, and fog among other things.

5. Regardless of a new Expansion Pack theme, Maxis always provides something for every fan. What's your favorite new non-magical gameplay or feature?
Baking and cooking in The Sims Makin' Magic is really outstanding. There's a lot of rich gameplay related to cooking which greatly adds to the base play. For cooking you can grow, make, harvest, and buy a lot of the ingredients you need. And with the Baker's Oven and Nectar Press, players can mix ingredients to bake pies or make nectar. In addition, we designed a whole new Mediterranean kitchen set to match the look and feel of the Baker's Oven. I also really like the funhouse rides which you can build and customize for your Sims. The Clown and Spooky themed rides turned out incredible!

6. What is your favorite thing about The Sims Makin' Magic?
The whole look and feel of the game is amazing. The Magic Town location is so mystical and fun that I sometimes think I would want to live there. Some other things I like are the all-new the floors, walls, outfits, and environments such as autumn trees and fog that all contribute to creating an atmosphere that is true to the The Sims Makin' Magic world. Compared to the previous expansion packs, you can dramatically change the way your environment looks. I love that about this game!

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