Interview With The Sims 2 Producer, Tim LeTourneau

Thursday, February 19, 2004 - 22:10

"Another new mode dubbed camera mode, provides you with the opportunity to travel all over the game environment as if you were a Sim."

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The Sims 2 Interview

The most successful PC game franchise of all time is Maxis's The Sims. Will Wright's acclaimed people sim extention of his Sim City ideas has sold countless millions of copies in both full, deluxe and many expansion packs. Now the developer is working hard on the full fledged sequel, The Sims 2, and HomeLAN got a chance to chat with Maxis producer Tim LeTourneau to get more info on the sequel.

HomeLAN - First, how much pressure does the development team have to make a game that is as successful as its predecessor?

Tim LeTourneau - The Sims franchise has had huge success and we definitely have set the bar high for The Sims 2. I wouldn’t call it pressure, but rather, our development team has the desire and drive to make The Sims 2 the first next-generation people simulator.

HomeLAN - Maxis could have continued to create expansion packs to the original Sims. Why was the decision made to create a full blown sequel?

Tim LeTourneau - Our goal was to expand The Sims to a whole new level with The Sims 2 and allow you to immerse yourself in the Sims’ world like never before. We now have more realistic Sims, lifetime gameplay, unstoppable customization, and a whole new 3-D world. These are just a few of the endless features in The Sims 2.

HomeLAN - What were the development team’s main goals in making The Sims 2?

Tim LeTourneau - There are several goals set for our development team, but the main goal is to have our players immerse themselves fully into this next-generation simulation. We’ve created dynamic environments and dynamic Sims, so players will continually be drawn back in to experience something new. The game and gameplay can mean different things to different players, so we want to surprise and entice current Sims players and attract new players as well. These are just a few examples of what we are striving for with The Sims 2 development.

HomeLAN - How much team does Will Wright give to the development of the sequel?

Tim LeTourneau - Will Wright is present in everything that we work on at Maxis. Each of our games are built on concepts and mechanisms that Will has created and imagined. We are fortunate to have him share his ideas in each development process and we enjoy working with him.

HomeLAN - Much has been made of The Sims 2’s storytelling features. What can you tell us at this time about this feature?

Tim LeTourneau - Storytelling has always been one of the coolest aspects of The Sims games. With The Sims 2, we definitely have big plans that expand upon this popular feature. In the new storytelling mode, you can capture pictures during your gameplay experience, create and edit a photo album, add captions, and share the albums with other players via The Sims Exchange on www.thesims2.

Another new mode dubbed camera mode, provides you with the opportunity to travel all over the game environment as if you were a Sim. You will be able to see the expressions and emotions of the Sims who are the stars of your stories. We are also introducing the new movie maker feature which puts you in the director's chair by letting you create your very own Sim videos. The movie maker comes complete with custom settings so you can create the best footage with your computer. Combined with the new camera abilities, movie maker will let you produce stories that are more dramatic, cinematic and entertaining than ever before. There are extraordinary stories out there that no one but the storytellers can possible imagine and we can’t wait to hear them!

HomeLAN - How much more customization will The Sims 2 have in terms of creating the actual Sims?

Tim LeTourneau - We have focused a great deal on the customization capabilities in The Sims 2 and are looking forward to see what you create. Create a Sim is incredible and amazingly detailed, all the way down to the Sims’ DNA, their nose size and shape, width of their mouth, and the eye color selection. You have complete control over how your Sims look as well as how they will act. You can set their personalities, aspirations, and relationships. You may even spend hours just creating your Sim!

We also wanted to give you more control over how your Sims’ neighborhood develops, offer more architectural options when building a house, and provide the option to create community lots that all Sims from the neighborhood can visit.

HomeLAN - What sorts of new situations and environments will be seen in the sequel that was not possible to put into the original?

Tim LeTourneau - The fact that there are now six age ranges for your Sims and they have awareness of their familial relationships, gives way for more dynamic and dysfunctional behavior. Imagine the family chaos that could result when Dad comes back after an alien abduction.

HomeLAN - How has the AI been improved for the sequel?

Tim LeTourneau - The Sims are more intelligent, aware, and responsive to other Sims and their environment. With new facial expressions, body animations, and the ability to pass on genetic traits from generation to generation, the Sims have really come to life. They understand their relationships and act accordingly. Your Sims will have memories, so their past experiences can influence their future behavior. For example, if a Sim witnesses another Sim experiencing a critical life moment, they can respond to that, as well as gossip about it to others. This alone creates a much richer set of relationships than previously seen in the original Sims game.

HomeLAN - What other gameplay features in The Sims 2 do you think are important?

Tim LeTourneau - Something really cool we’ve done for The Sims 2 is revamp the build and buy modes. This is one of the features where you can spend a tremendous amount of game time and use your creativity. You can also get lost in creativity with design mode where you can build in 3D, create decks and foundations, manipulate lighting, and decorate objects on the fly.

HomeLAN - What can you tell us about the graphics engine for the sequel and how it compares to the original?

Tim LeTourneau - The Sims 2 has had a complete graphical overhaul featuring a fully 3D environment that is more lifelike and dynamic. We are now allowing you to view and play the game from any angle and zoom in close to see every last detail from the expression on your Sims’ face to food on the table. Instead of feeling like you are looking down from a bird’s eye view, it now feels like you are in the room with the Sims.

We’ve also given the Sims a more complex skeleton that permits a new level of realistic motion. The old paddle-hands have been replaced with articulated fingers, and the rigidity of their faces have been replaced with animated and communicative expressions. Your Sims’ hair and clothing can also move so it gives a subtle feeling of life that is really fun to see.

HomeLAN - How much support will Maxis give to people who want to create mods for the game?

Tim LeTourneau - Player made content creation and easy access to content made my others is a core feature of The Sims 2. There will be various tools available to allow the community to customize virtually every element in the game, from clothing to hairstyles to the furniture in the homes. We have put in a great deal of effort to make this a more seamless aspect of the game as well. You will be able to drop new content into the game and use it immediately, rather than pour thru directory structures to do achieve this same goal.

HomeLAN - Will there be a demo of The Sims 2 released before the game is sent to stores?

Tim LeTourneau - There are no current plans for this at this time, but we will keep you posted!

HomeLAN - What is the current status of the game’s progress and when will it be sent to stores?

Tim LeTourneau - The game is coming along great and you can expect it to be release in the second half of 2004.

HomeLAN - Is it safe to say that expansion packs for the game are in the works?

Tim LeTourneau - There are no current plans for this at this time.

HomeLAN - Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about The Sims 2 at this time?

Tim LeTourneau - We are really looking forward to getting the game into the player’s hands!

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