Friday, June 05, 2009

Will Wright and the Virtual World of The Sims

The best selling PC game of all time will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year. Game developer Will Wright created The Sims and it was released in 2000 by Maxis/Electronic Arts. Wright also created other sim games such as Sim City, Sim Earth, Sim Copter and Sim Ant. In 1989, Sim City became a big hit and it was originally designed for computer systems such as the Amiga and the Commodore 64. This was an urban planning game where you were in control of developing your own city. The Sims was in development from 1995 to 2000, and it was played on a much more personal level than Sim City.

With The Sims, you create your own characters (sims), and you can design the house they inhabit. Will Wright has called it a "digital dollhose". The game was originally designed as an architecture simulation alone. Some pre-created Sims and houses are included with the game, but the most satisfying thing to do is create your own virtual world. If you want only one person to live in your house, you can do that. If you want a man, a woman and many kids you can do that too. The player is able to design the look of the characters, from the gender, clothing type, the look of the face, body type, etc. You can give your sims different personality traits such as whether or not they are clean, outgoing, active, and the like.

My favorite aspect of The Sims is that you can design their home from scratch. You start with a bare lot and you can determine the size of the house, how many bedrooms, bathrooms, what type of wallpaper, carpet, tile, paint, will be used on the house to make it exactly as you want it. You design where the furniture goes, the size of the rooms, whether or not there are pictures on the walls, what type of doors and windows the house will have, it's all up to you. There are cheat codes which can give you unlimited money to buy furnishings for the home. Otherwise, your sim needs to get a job and as they earn money you can buy virtual home furnishings. I find using the cheat code to be more enjoyable. Homes you design can be ultra luxurious. There are lots of virtual items to keep your sims busy and entertained. Each expansion pack you buy gives you more items for your home. You can build a swimming pool for your sims, which can be indoors or outdoors. Does your sim like electronics? Give them an arcade game, or a computer, or a virtual reality headset. If your sim likes sports build them a basketball court or give them a pool table. Creative sims can paint a picture, play the piano or the electric guitar. The yard can be as elaborate or as simple as you like. You can have a yard with trees, flowers, ponds, or whatever you desire.

There is not an "end" to the game. One of the main objectives is to keep your sims happy. There are 8 gauges at the bottom of the screen that show the status of your characters emotional status. The 8 categories include; hunger, comfort, hygiene, bladder, energy, fun, social and room. If the "bladder" status is low, click on the toilet and they will use it. If the "social" status is low, have them talk to other people in the game. If the "hygiene" gauge is low, have your sim take a shower or a bath. The best way to raise your "energy" status is to send your sims to bed. For a short burst of energy, have them drink coffee or espresso. Make sure your house you design has a kitchen or else the sim will go hungry and the "hunger" status will be in the red. Your kitchen can be however you want it. You can buy a refrigerator, a microwave, a stove, a trash compactor, a dishwasher, or whatever you want. Buy a book shelf for the house and your sim can study cooking. If the "fun" gauge is low, have them watch TV, play a video game, or listen to the radio. The "room" gauge is low if the sim is in a small, dirty, or dark room. Sims like large rooms with lots of windows to let in light.

There have been 7 expansion packs released for The Sims. The Sims 2, The Sims Online, and The Sims 3 have also been released. More than 100 million copies have been sold in this franchise. Perhaps the reason why so many copies of the games have sold is that 50% of Sims players are female. This is a departure from the typically male dominated world of video games. The Sims is different from most games since it is a non-violent, non-sports, non-driving game. Expansion packs and their release dates include the following;

Livin' Large 2000
House Party 2001
Hot Date 2001
Vacation 2002
Unleashed 2002
Superstar 2003
Makin' Magic 2003

Starting with the Hot Date expansion pack, playing The Sims became more enjoyable since your characters were no longer limited to their own neighborhood. With Hot Date, there is a new part of town where your sim can take a date or look for new people to meet. The new area has restaurants, parks, retail shops and vacant lots where you can design your own retail establishments. In Vacation, you can send your sim to recreational areas where they can swim, do outdoor winter activities, and get away from the daily grind. Unleashed gives your sims the opportunity to acquire pets, and there is yet another new neighborhood to explore. Superstar has a Hollywood-like area where you can try to make your character into a music, movie or TV star. Makin' Magic has a new area with amusement parks and magic themed activities. All expansion packs have many new items as well as new lots for designing more homes.

These sims characters are not invincible. If they do not eat, they will die. Sometimes a house will catch on fire, and if the fire is not put out, either by the sim themselves or by firefighters, the sim will die. If a sim is swimming in a pool and there is no ladder to get out, they will die.

Many copycat sim games have been created where you are in control of your own world, but none have reached the overwhelming success of The Sims. One of the most popular sim-type games was Roller Coaster Tycoon where you can design your own coasters, theme park, and you try to keep your customers happy. This was released by Microsoft and they also developed Zoo Tycoon, where you run your own zoo. Will Wright worked in conjuction with the creator of the popular Civilization PC game series Sid Meier to make Sim Golf. In this you can design your own golf course. You are in control of how long the holes are, if there are sand traps, trees, water hazards, etc. Your golf course can have a clubhouse, a driving range, restaurants, a hotel, all in the name of keeping your customers happy, and to keep them coming back. You can watch customers play your course, and you can see what they like and don't like about it.

* Some information came from
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