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Sims News

7 Oct 1999 - 23:00

Strategy Gaming posted an Interview with Luc Barthelet, general manager of Maxis.
Read the interview with Luc on Strategy Gaming, or click read more below this post to read it here!


The Sims:
From Will Wright, the creator of SimCity™, comes a new strategy game that really hits close to home. You are in charge of a neighborhood of Sims and it is up to you to show them that they're livin' in your world now! Force them into a life of crime or help them live life in the fast lane. Build them a sprawling mansion or dump them into a dilapidated shack. Let them party like swinging singles or fall in love, get married and raise a family. They can live out your wildest dreams or experience your worst nightmares. It is up to you to decide... their fate is in your hands.

Interviewer: Anthony Micari
Luc Barthelet, the General Manager of Maxis

1. Maxis' line of Sim games have been known for their deep strategic gameplay combined with easy to use interfaces. How will The Sims go about providing a similar experience?
The Sims uses an object oriented interface. For most of the actions, the user clicks on objects like the Fridge or the TV and select an action from a pie menu. The other overall interface is a mode selection between "Build", "Buy" and "Live". I think this is the best UI to date for Maxis. As for the depth of the simulation, I like to think that we re building sandboxes, and that we mostly work on defining the physical properties of sand. The more interesting the properties, the longer the users will play. I think we have some real innovation in this game and I will describe some of them as I answer some of the questions below.

2. "Life" simulation games in the past, such as Dogz, Catz, and Creatures, have been viewed by many as mere novelties. How will The Sims elevate itself above that status, and provide a unique experience that will have gamers coming back for more?
The Sims is about people and relationships. I learned through the development of this game that when you create an environment with representations of human beings, and make those humans behave in a familiar fashion, that the user cannot help but create a story in his head to explain their behavior. I am convinced that people are more interesting that domestic animals.

3. The history of artificial intelligence has been a rocky one. Some games have been criticized for their lack thereof, while others have provided solid AI that really challenges players. The Sims, however, is trying to simulate the emotions of humans, something that is new to games. Has this been a great challenge for the development team?
One problem we had for a while was that our characters were too smart. They knew exactly what was best for them, and anything the user would do would lead to a negative impact. It took us a while to make the characters a bit dumber, but in a way that would be fun.

4. How much input will the player have in determining the events of the game? Will we be able to tell the characters what to eat? When to sleep, perhaps? Or does one just make bigger decisions and see how they turn out?
The user can choose among many options to feed its sims. Most of them are accessed by clicking on the fridge, but you can also order Pizza by selecting it from the menu on the phone.

5. What I have been wondering about the most is how the player goes about winning the game? Is there an end? Or do you just go on playing similar to SimCity 3000?
The Sims is like SimCity, you can play it forever.

6. Maxis' past titles have been appropriate for all ages. Will The Sims be the same? Or is there material that is recommended for older players?
It is for all ages.

7. This game has been in the works for quite awhile. As it nears completion, what has been the greatest challenge?
They were so many I have a hard time selecting which one. Probably turning the game from a set of interesting tools into a cohesive gameplay experience.

Thank you taking the time to answer these questions for our site. Your generosity is much appreciated.

7 Oct 1999 - 23:00

Strategy Gaming posted an Interview with Luc Barthelet, general manager of Maxis.
Read the interview with Luc on Strategy Gaming, or click read more below this post to read it here!


The Sims:
From Will Wright, the creator of SimCity™, comes a new strategy game that really hits close to home. You are in charge of a neighborhood of Sims and it is up to you to show them that they're livin' in your world now! Force them into a life of crime or help them live life in the fast lane. Build them a sprawling mansion or dump them into a dilapidated shack. Let them party like swinging singles or fall in love, get married and raise a family. They can live out your wildest dreams or experience your worst nightmares. It is up to you to decide... their fate is in your hands.

Interviewer: Anthony Micari
Luc Barthelet, the General Manager of Maxis

1. Maxis' line of Sim games have been known for their deep strategic gameplay combined with easy to use interfaces. How will The Sims go about providing a similar experience?
The Sims uses an object oriented interface. For most of the actions, the user clicks on objects like the Fridge or the TV and select an action from a pie menu. The other overall interface is a mode selection between "Build", "Buy" and "Live". I think this is the best UI to date for Maxis. As for the depth of the simulation, I like to think that we re building sandboxes, and that we mostly work on defining the physical properties of sand. The more interesting the properties, the longer the users will play. I think we have some real innovation in this game and I will describe some of them as I answer some of the questions below.

2. "Life" simulation games in the past, such as Dogz, Catz, and Creatures, have been viewed by many as mere novelties. How will The Sims elevate itself above that status, and provide a unique experience that will have gamers coming back for more?
The Sims is about people and relationships. I learned through the development of this game that when you create an environment with representations of human beings, and make those humans behave in a familiar fashion, that the user cannot help but create a story in his head to explain their behavior. I am convinced that people are more interesting that domestic animals.

3. The history of artificial intelligence has been a rocky one. Some games have been criticized for their lack thereof, while others have provided solid AI that really challenges players. The Sims, however, is trying to simulate the emotions of humans, something that is new to games. Has this been a great challenge for the development team?
One problem we had for a while was that our characters were too smart. They knew exactly what was best for them, and anything the user would do would lead to a negative impact. It took us a while to make the characters a bit dumber, but in a way that would be fun.

4. How much input will the player have in determining the events of the game? Will we be able to tell the characters what to eat? When to sleep, perhaps? Or does one just make bigger decisions and see how they turn out?
The user can choose among many options to feed its sims. Most of them are accessed by clicking on the fridge, but you can also order Pizza by selecting it from the menu on the phone.

5. What I have been wondering about the most is how the player goes about winning the game? Is there an end? Or do you just go on playing similar to SimCity 3000?
The Sims is like SimCity, you can play it forever.

6. Maxis' past titles have been appropriate for all ages. Will The Sims be the same? Or is there material that is recommended for older players?
It is for all ages.

7. This game has been in the works for quite awhile. As it nears completion, what has been the greatest challenge?
They were so many I have a hard time selecting which one. Probably turning the game from a set of interesting tools into a cohesive gameplay experience.

Thank you taking the time to answer these questions for our site. Your generosity is much appreciated.

29 Sep 1999 - 23:00

By B.S. Battle.
Walnut Creek (SimCity newswire) - The Sim City Central Intelligence Agency said Wednesday it had set up a fashion company headed by a computer-game artist to help speed up its development of state-of-the-art disguises.
The venture capital company, called Qool Qlothes, takes its name from "Q," the Ian Fleming-created master gadgeteer who supplied the fictional James Bond with lethal clothing and cars.
The company was formed to ensure the SC-CIA a pipeline to the best video game art talent to solve the most pressing fashion problems, said William Wallow, the agency's chief spokesman.
Qool Qlothes will invest in start-ups or partner with companies like MAXIS to help solve the spy agency's suit and skirt processing needs, said Gilman Gaggula, the 39-year-old chief executive officer of the new company. "Our first job is to find out what cool skins exist today in The Sims," he said in a telephone interview. "We're going to create a baseline of today's best character skins."
He said the company aimed to solve SC-CIA problems in working with agents that really don't know how to dress themselves. Along the lines of a normal private sector video game model, this would create "shoes-off value" for those working with Qool Qlothes, who could then take attitudes back to market.
"Most of our agents just don't know how to dress cool or even naturally.", says Gaggula. "But after we sat them in front of The Sims game for a couple hours, and let them see the new skins and cars they could use, they, like, freaked out." Maxis has agreed to release a preview of some of the newest, secret in-game character skins created by Eric Chin and some of the cars The Sims will be able to take to work.

Available here: Download Graphics Pack 2

15 Sep 1999 - 23:00

By Tex Chure.
With headphones cocked on either ear and Kraftwerk blaring in the background, Sean Baity was in good company Tuesday.
The SimShow preparedness director and officials from all three groups that serve The Sims jostled last-minute preparations before powerful SimsSkinsTutorial.zip barrels through the internet early next week.
"We're hoping for the best tutorial for making skins and preparing for upload," spokesman Jeff Charvat said. The SimWatch news letter serves 300 customers directly in Berkeley, Georgetown and various other counties in 38 countries through website cooperatives. In addition, the news will be posted on all available message boards.
"People need to understand that after the tutorial, there will be a lot of skins on the sites," assistant producer Sean Baity said. "Don't take it for granted that the lines are not hot just because you think the power is off...Oh wait a minute....I mean that it is a step by step tutorial with lots of pictures in HTML format."
People who want to make skins but are mystified by the process should download the tutorial and follow the examples. Its as simple as downloading the zip file and extracting it to a directory.
"You just point and double click on the TheSims Skin Tutorial.htm file and it just opens," said one astounded tester. "Its like...SO easy."

Available here: Download Sim Skins Tutorial

2 Sep 1999 - 23:00

This just in......renegade French programmer Franck "Animal" Le Ouay has just completed a much awaited update to HomeMaster........new code allows users to create paintings out of JPG and BMP files......see included readme for further details.....Download HomeMaster DX5000

25 Aug 1999 - 23:00

Luc's Server, Internet Territory (SCNS) -
Three Sims fans hunting for the mystical real release date of The Sims in a remote corner the internet have found the remains of what appears to be Sims' dinners, scientists and local leaders say. Internetologists and elders from the territory where the zip file was found announced the discovery Wednesday on SimWatch@listbot.com.
But scientists hesitated to say how old they thought the zip file was. "It's so hard to pin down. I don't want to speculate," said Sean Baity, an assistant producer with MAXIS. "The elders have indicated that we should use this situation, what appears to be several hi resolution shots of food and cooking equipment and refuse, to learn more about this game, what it might look like, and how the food is made and eaten". The zip file had been sitting there next to other older zip files, so it felt kind of new. While they could see the zip file, he said, they didn't see the images until it was downloaded and extracted. "What the heck....they are only about 2 MEGS each.", said one of the grizzled fans.

Download Food Graphics

11 Aug 1999 - 23:00

It was an event that left few in its path untouched. The week's final MAXIS upload gave people across the globe the chance to know in a most spectacular way that, whoever walks the Earth, can be duplicated in SimShow 1_3. Starting off the American coast, the available zipfile raced across the wires at speeds approaching T1 access in some areas. A thousand people had traveled to Cornwall, south-west England, so they could stand in line at an internet cafe to download the file. For them, the first contact with the new application came shortly before 10.00BST. "I can't believe it! This thing actually has kids in it this time!", exclaimed one British gamer. "I swear I saw some new textures in there somewhere...", claimed an anonymous bystander who quickly melted back into the crowd. "All the info you need is in the readme file in the zip. There's a word doc, a text file, even an html file. Check it out dude.", said Maxis' own Sean Baity in a non-telephone interview. While others in Europe waited, across the UK outside the zone of download, people left offices and stood outside to meet friends who had played with the skin viewer tool. Buddhist monks gathered at the Eiffel Tower to exchange texture tips. The phone lines of Ramnicu Valcea, the south-central city in Romania where downloads are the longest, were crammed. In Egypt, Muslims shut themselves away to play with SimShow1_3 on the orders of clerics. "We must see the new code of Franck Le Ouay..he is like a prophet to us.", sobbed one emotionally stricken man. Jordan and Syria declared a national holiday. Russian TV found many Muscovites more concerned with domestic difficulties. One woman said: "I'm not really interested in that tool." In some Indian villages, priests rang temple bells and took turns beating steel plates with sticks to celebrate. Cheers and tears had followed the download. On the Cornish beaches, people kissed, some danced, others sensed an erie calm as the lights went out and they turned their computers on. And considering the truly astronomic chances involved in seeing a tool released long before a game is ready, it is perhaps no wonder.

Download SimShow

2 Apr 1999 - 23:00

Yesterday, April 1st, SimCity.com was taken over by Sims promoting the upcoming game The Sims. Now Luc Barthelet has published a statement on the SimCity website. Click read more to read it!


STATEMENT FROM LUC BARTHELET
MAXIS GENERAL MANAGER

As you may know, on April 1st there was a bit of a stir on simcity.com. Apparently a small group of Sims -- the people who live within SimCity -- took temporary control of the Web site while the employees of Maxis were out on their annual San Francisco Bay boat trip. The Sims thought it necessary to take this extraordinary step to press their demands for a new game … one that focused on their lives.

After an intense negotiation session with the group’s leaders, we regained control of the site. Apparently they did not know that over the past few years, Will Wright was busy working on such a project. In fact, he’s calling the game The Sims.

The Sims will put you in charge of an entire neighborhood of Sims. You’ll create a family and build them a home. Then help your Sims pursue a successful career, make friends and find romance -- or totally mess up their lives. Like Will’s other games, there is no right or wrong way to play this game. But you’ll put your skills to the test as you deal with life’s little disasters and real-world situations.

Needless to say, the Sims who hijacked simcity.com were elated to learn about Will’s new game. A number of them said they would be moving to his new game as soon as they could. We will be providing more information about the game soon.

2 Apr 1999 - 23:00

Yesterday, April 1st, SimCity.com was taken over by Sims promoting the upcoming game The Sims. Now Luc Barthelet has published a statement on the SimCity website. Click read more to read it!


STATEMENT FROM LUC BARTHELET
MAXIS GENERAL MANAGER

As you may know, on April 1st there was a bit of a stir on simcity.com. Apparently a small group of Sims -- the people who live within SimCity -- took temporary control of the Web site while the employees of Maxis were out on their annual San Francisco Bay boat trip. The Sims thought it necessary to take this extraordinary step to press their demands for a new game … one that focused on their lives.

After an intense negotiation session with the group’s leaders, we regained control of the site. Apparently they did not know that over the past few years, Will Wright was busy working on such a project. In fact, he’s calling the game The Sims.

The Sims will put you in charge of an entire neighborhood of Sims. You’ll create a family and build them a home. Then help your Sims pursue a successful career, make friends and find romance -- or totally mess up their lives. Like Will’s other games, there is no right or wrong way to play this game. But you’ll put your skills to the test as you deal with life’s little disasters and real-world situations.

Needless to say, the Sims who hijacked simcity.com were elated to learn about Will’s new game. A number of them said they would be moving to his new game as soon as they could. We will be providing more information about the game soon.

3 Feb 1999 - 22:00

Chat transcript February 3, 1999


MaxisDarren: Welcome to today's chat ...

MaxisWill: Hi everybody.

JoelBert: What made you come up with the idea of SimCity ...

MaxisWill: I was working on another game a long time ago and it involved bombing islands with a copter "Raid on Bungeling Bay" by Broderbund. I had more fun making the islands when I was working on the game so after I finished I kept developing the program I had written and after much research it turned into SimCity.

Comics: hi will, how do you feel about the success of the Simcity line? are you surprised?

MaxisWill: Yes, I was very surprised that SimCity had such a wide appeal. It was really my partner Jeff Braun that saw the potential and talked me into starting a company to market it.

SimLeader: Im a long time fan of sim city, and I was wondering when did you get interested in citys, and wondering how it would be to run one?

MaxisWill: When I started playing with my island editor from the 1st game I thought it would be really cool to have the whole scene come to life so I started reading about computer simulation and city planning. The work of Jay Forrester was particularly influential. And as I was reading about cities, I was also programming this little simulation and it was like having a guinea pig to test my theories and assumptions on it. It made the whole subject much more fascinating compared to just reading about it in books.

Anakin006: What difficulties did you encounter when making SimCity Classic?

MaxisWill: The hardest part was that certain parts of the simulation took very long to run (esp. traffic and power scans) this really argued for a multithreaded approach which didn't exist on current machines so I had to write a multi-tasking overlay that ran on the C64 and Mac to separate the simulation from the UI with pre-emptive multitasking.

Slattery: How much input did you have into the development of SC3000 ?

MaxisWill: I helped a little with the tuning and simulation design but for the most part this version was done by the SC3K team. They took it in many directions that I really enjoy. Over the last few years one of my big ambitions at Maxis has been to not be involved with SimCity just because I have spent so many years on it and have so many other ideas I want to pursue. Now I feel that I'm free of it, I'm very grateful to Lucy Bradshaw for that.

PinMaster1: How did you come up with the name MAXIS?

MaxisWill: Jeff's father came up with the idea. Jeff had about 4 rules that he wanted in a name: It had to be short, easily remembered, include a x, z, or q, and look good visually.

zeve: Who is Jeff?

MaxisWill: Jeff Braun and I started Maxis together about 10 years ago. We met at a pizza party thrown by some programmer friends. I showed Jeff my early version of SimCity and he said "Let's start a game company."

Funky: Before you used to make your own first simcity classic game what did you used to be for example student or different job before you decide to created your simcity classic?

MaxisWill: I did a game for Broderbund called "Raid on Bungeling Bay" on the C64, didn't sell too well here because of piracy, but did about 750,000 units in Japan on the Nintendo.

SMN_PlanetSimCity: Have you gone around the web and seen all the fan support for your games?

MaxisWill: Yes, I stay very tuned into that stuff. I think that's one of the coolest things to happen in the last few years and I'm really hoping to leverage that dynamic in upcoming games.

SimLeader: Who came up with the llahma thing? is it your favorite animal?

MaxisWill: Yes, I came up with the Llama thing (for reasons that shall remain mysterious), but I'd have to say that I prefer ants (the ant is a hexapod).

Donuthead: What kind of input did you have in SimCity 2000?....were you directly involved in the making?

MaxisWill: I did about half the coding and 2/3 of the design work on 2000 along with Fred Haslam.

tuvix: How do you decide whether a potential feature of the game will make the simulation better, or just unnecessarily complicate it?

MaxisWill: In simulations you need to think really hard about that. There's an old Japanese saying: "Your garden is not complete until there is nothing else you can remove." I think that sums it up rather nicely.

Jlkvm: What games do you play the most when you have the time?

MaxisWill: Oddly, I really like turn-based war games, maybe to balance out the time I spend making more politically correct games. I spent a lot of time with the Steel Panthers series I also like most of Sid Meier's games.

NickSimManny: How much did SimcityClassic cost for everything??

MaxisWill: I would guess it probably cost about $100,000 -- that's a very rough guess, and it's based on the fact that I worked on it for about 2 years with no pay.

SMN_PlanetSimCity: how can those interested in working at a software company like Maxis get a start?

MaxisWill: The best way is to actually make a simple game -- maybe shareware or in Java -- even it will give you insights into the real issues. It also teaches you how hard it really is and is much more impressive than a resume to most game companies.

MayorTeresa: Where did you get the idea for The Sims?

MaxisWill: I actually started on the Sims before I did SC2000. I then put it on the shelf for a long time after SimCopter. I decided that technology had gotten to the point where it was time to really do it. It basically is about people and architecture and my attempt at an odd RTS game.

JJacobs107: When is a new game called The Sims coming out?

MaxisWill: Sometime this year hopefully, I've been working on it quite a long time at this point.

Anakin006: Were you involved in the other sim games (SimFarm, SimAnt, etc.)?

MaxisWill: I worked directly on SimCity Classic, SimEarth, SimAnt, SimCity2000 and SimCopter. The others were done by other designers.

SuperMario: Do you want to make just simulation games, or other types of games?

MaxisWill: Yes, I'd most prefer to make games that don't fit into existing categories, but that drives the marketing people crazy.

Intrigue: What kind of computers do you use in the design work now? Still Macintosh? Or have you moved to Silicon Graphics?

MaxisWill: Sad to say I've mostly moved on to WinTel machines. Our artists mostly use PC workstations with 3D Studio Max.

Quidnam: Do you expect future SimCity products to increase in complexity? What elements of gameplay do you feel are fundamental and essential to the simulation?

MaxisWill: I don't think the gameplay should increase in complexity. I think it should increase in perceived texture. One of the cool things about SimCity is how each player makes up a story to describe their play experience, so I think we need to provide experiences that are more evocative to the players and help maintain the illusion that there is a real world inside the machine.

SailorUranus: How long did the first SimCity take to develop?

MaxisWill: I started work on it in about 1985 and worked on the C64 version for about 1.5 years. Later Jeff and I started Maxis and I put about 2 more years into the Mac version.

SMN_PlanetSimCity: How do you think new technology will enhance games in the next several years?

MaxisWill: Of course the graphics will get better and that's what most people obsess on, but I'm more interested in the depth of the computation that is opening up which will allow many components of today's games which are now static, to become dynamic: windflow simulations, real dynamic weather, time of day variations, social modeling, ALife subsystems, will all be as ubiquitous in future games as texture mapping and lighting are today.

Ba-shtad: In the platinum edition of SC2K, when did you film that interview?

MaxisWill: I have no idea, many years ago.

TheQat: Did SimCity start out (after C64) as a Mac-only project? ...

MaxisWill: Yes, around 1987 I redesigned the whole thing for the Mac and a few months later the Amiga (BTW, it was the 1st game on the Amiga to use Halfbrite mode) when the Mac was nearing completion we started on a PC version.

Anakin006: What stories do you have about playing your Sim games?

MaxisWill: I remember Fred Haslam and I working on SimEarth in our 1st office. We were debugging the routines which controlled the continental-drift in the game right as the Loma Prieta quake hit. The building started shaking and we ran out into the parking lot and gave each other a funny look and just shrugged.

Intrigue: What is your advice to young people into computers who are considering a career like yours? What kind of classes did you take and where did you go to college (if at all)?

MaxisWill: Don't do it, go back, danger ahead! You need to be very driven and really love the work. I took about 5 years of college but never got a degree -- studied architecture, Mech. engineering and aviation. Ended up teaching myself programming.

SimLeader: why did the origanal game have passwords? ...

MaxisWill: I was sort of torn between the challenge of gameplay vs. the open-ended, erector-set toy approach. Cheat codes let the people who want a challenge pursue it as such and the people who just want to build a train-set type thing do so without limitations.

Intrigue: What language did you learn first and which do you think are important in the gaming world today?

MaxisWill: My 1st language was PASCAL (actually that's not quite true I learned FORTRAN in college and thought it was a waste of time). In gaming today it's mostly C and C++. Still a bit of assembler here and there.

Funky: I remember that I first play SimCity classic way back to 1988, this time on BBC Master (British) computer, did you know that BBC Master used to have Simcity?

MaxisWill: I don't remember the Master, I do remember the Acorn as well as the Sharp and a few other odd machines at the time.

Funky: What are you dream of create an game that you wish to make?

MaxisWill: I like games that let me build things. There's something really fun about making something that's never existed before, especially if it does something or has behavior or dynamics.

MaxisDarren: And now, the final question for today ...

Lexus: what next for maxis?

MaxisWill: We've decided to leave the games industry and concentrate instead on screensavers with cute kittens and puppies and cool inspirational sayings like "there's no I in team."

Bye everyone, thanks for your time. Time for me to hit the rack again.

MaxisDarren: Thanks to everyone for coming in today -- next week, Michael Perry, the designer of SimCity Classic Live will be in @ 3:00 p.m., PST.

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