Google+ Previews The Sims 2

Thursday, July 8, 2004 - 23:10

"The Sims 2 is an exponential expansion on the original's hugely successful formula."

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Electronic Arts is preparing its follow-up to the biggest selling PC game of all time. Can it enjoy the same success?

By Russ Fischer

After years of watching The Sims hover at the top of video game sales charts, sitting in the developer's chair at Maxis must feel like using Stephen King's typewriter. But what can you do for an encore? Sure, the company has released a slew of expansion packs, which sell as feverishly as the original, but in 2004, fans finally get something completely different.

The Sims 2 takes the core concept of the original game and expands upon it in nearly every way. Graphics are better, people are more detailed, faces and movement are more lifelike. Appropriately for a sequel, The Sims 2 goes way beyond fulfilling each character's most basic needs. No more are these digital creatures provoked by simple bodily functions. Eating and sleeping are still important, but the game's biggest new feature is an orientation towards aspirations.

Players will choose from one of five aspirations at the moment of their sim's creation. Lifelong dedication to romance, family, fame, knowledge, or wealth will define the sim. No matter the choice, each aspiration has a built-in set of goals, both small and large. A sim geared towards romance might need to keep in touch with the ladies over the course of a day, and make successful hookups over time to feel like a true Casanova. Ah, such realism.

Fulfilling goals is the fastest way towards having a happy sim. Studies have shown that happiness can extend a person's lifespan, and Maxis takes that idea very seriously. Sims now age, but players who enable their avatars towards goal fulfillment will find that happy sims also live longer.

With aging comes a whole new set of functions, such as raising children. Sims who procreate may notice that their genetic traits are passed on through generations. Also, skills of the truly successful become family secrets, ensuring that The Sims 2 will feature the good old-fashioned nepotism that makes industry thrive.

Bringing the new relationships to life is a graphics engine that far outstrips the power of the original. The Sims 2 is on an even keel with much more advanced rendering systems, and while there will be no colorful spells or outrageous lighting effects (outside a disco, that is) the game is very impressive as it opens seemingly limitless facial modeling options.

To take advantage of the newly detailed models, Maxis has come up with new camera controls as well. So instead of the limited bird's eye view that characterized the original game, The Sims 2 will feature a flexible camera that can peer over an entire neighborhood or be taken down to eye level to watch conflict erupt between three generations of family. There's also a tool to let players view the world completely from a sim's perspective, which should highlight the new dramatic possibilities.

If reality TV has taught us anything, it's that we love to stick our noses into other people's business. The Sims 2 is an exponential expansion on the original's hugely successful formula. Look for some in-depth updates on the title as we lead up to its release this fall.

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