We took a look at The Sims 4 and compiled the latest info surrounding it during E3.
During this year's E3, The Sims 4 was finally given a launch date of September 2, 2014. Players were treated to an extended hands-off demo on-site, and during EA's press conference a 4-minute long gameplay presentation was shown.
The press conference presentation recapped what we've previously seen from the Create-a-Sim(CAS) and Build Mode gameplay videos. It further emphasized that you'll be controlling the "hearts" of your sim—traits, personality and emotions will be a much bigger deal than in any previous title.
The Gallery was shown off during the presentation, we got to watch it in action from the live server demo. This tool allows you to acquire lots, pre-made sims, fully furnished rooms and more, all created by the other players, and then you can download and place them immediately into your game. Don't worry, they aren't making the same mistake they did with SimCity—the game does not require a persistant online connection.
We watched Sims 4 Producer Graham Nardone buy an entire home lot from The Gallery and replace his existing home with it. Next he purchased an entertainment room and plopped it down outside his home's walls, immediately connecting and expanding the house. This was followed by a brief demonstration of how easy it is to grab a room and relocate it, or raise/lower the foundation... both of which are very powerful tools and easy to do.
The new world in The Sims 4 is called Willow Creek. Within Willow Creek, there are five unique neighborhoods, which can be modified via "Manage Worlds" (the replacement for "Edit Town"). During an interview Graham had with the SimsVIP fansite, he mentioned that each neighborhood supports up to five lots. He later mentioned on the official forums that there is a 6th neighborhood which can be modified, but was built to be a "gorgeous park for Sims to enjoy the great outdoors."
In a household with multiple Sims, they can each visit different neighborhoods and lots, and even if they are not the active focus, time will still pass for those Sims and they will continue to perform "their life simulation." Away actions will allow you to assign your Sim some minor tasks while they are gone elsewhere. Expect a lot of gameplay to happen in public areas (anywhere that is not a lot), but even within a lot your Sims are aware of objects and other Sims outside.
During the demo Graham took his household of two "bros" to a gym lot. In here we saw several other Sims, as well as Chuck Norris, getting their workout on. Interaction with NPC Sims on the lot was a familiar experience and in no time Chuck Norris was mentoring Graham's Sim up to another Athletic skill point!
One of the biggest downsides in The Sims titles has always been their load times. Currently I could fire up my Sims 3 neighborhood and safely go AFK for about 7-15 minutes before I get in-game. During the demo (which was stressed to be played on the alpha version of the same live client that players will have) it was amazing to see the initial load of the game take about 30-60 seconds. Another load into a gym lot took maybe 15 seconds, which was a short load time but much different to experience after playing in The Sims 3's open world so much recently.
Going back to Graham's forum post yesterday, he discussed in further detail what I experienced watching the demo:
"Now, when you're traveling between a world, a neighborhood, or a lot, you will incur a short load. There is only one lot that's "active" at any single time, meaning if you want to use another lot you will travel there. This allows us to have 20 Sims actively running their full simulation at any time in the neighborhood - that area includes both the public space and your active/loaded lot. When you travel between lots in the same neighborhood, everything that was occurring in those public spaces persists...
after the load all of the same Sims will still be where they were, doing what they were doing before you started loading. It's all feels quite natural when moving around the neighborhood rather than being a disruptive experience.
"Counting the number of lots in a single world is a rather arbitrary number in The Sims 4 though, as you can freely travel, move, work, visit, etc, any world, neighborhood, or lot while still retaining the information about who your Sim is, their belongings, their relationships, their family, etc."
I'd much rather have some 15-60 second load times than a 10-minute wait to get into my game, so I'm completely fine with how this works out! A further Twitter response from Sims 4 Producer Sarah Holding about load times was that "when you're traveling between lots you incur a short load. There is only one lot that's 'active' at any single time."
On The Sims forums, a poster named Cinebarrecently inquired whether or not there are loading screens tied to these extra load times. The answer is yes – even though the load times are short, you can expect to see the normal Sims-style loading screens with their silly phrases such as "reticulating splines" and the like! I'm not certain if the load screen is between lots or between neighborhoods at this time, however between neighborhoods would make the most sense.
Households and Aging
During Graham's SimsVIP interview he shared that aging options have been expanded so that you can separately enable/disable automatic aging for played household and for NPC households. The aging option for played households includes any households you've played, whereas the NPC households are the ones that the game generates. Like previous titles, you can control up to eight Sims in a household.
Graham also talked about "rotational gameplay," which is the ease of switching between households that you're playing in your world, and eventually between worlds once more are added. This is done via Manage Worlds and should be a better experience than in the previous titles. Sarah revealed on Twitter yesterday that "you can still only have one family per lot... because there are five neighborhoods per world, you can have 12+ families in Willow Creek."
Grabbing a Sim from The Gallery will automatically add them to your active household, but you can enter the Manage Worlds tool to shuffle that Sim either into a different household in the world or just kick them out which sets them as an unplayed household (with this option they'll still be in the world).
Mods and Custom Content
Graham definitively stated that game mods will not be available on The Gallery, but are still supported if players want to modify their game experience. Custom Content (CC) can be found in The Gallery, and there is a way to designate that it is modded content so that other players downloading it will be aware of what they're grabbing. Community-driven comments and ratings will help self-regulate the good from the bad, which is about normal for CC!
Confirmed during E3 by SimsVIP, for the first time ever a Sims title will have an auto-save feature. Anyone who has lost hours of gameplay before will likely welcome this! During the SimsVIP interview Graham had this to say:
"It's not part of the traditional saving system. You're familiar with being able to "Save As..." or "Save", and those are still your normal save files. The auto-save is in addition to that. When you do different things in game, the auto-save is just kind of running and thinking in the background, and it's going to make occasional checkpoints of your progress. If you ever got to a point where you forgot to save as you were exiting your game, you can jump back to that auto-save easily. Of course you can continue to have your manual saves... you can jump back to your previous save and not worry about the auto-save overwriting it; it's entirely in player control."
Death by Laughter?
I have to admit that while I loved nearly everything I saw during The Sims 4 demo, I was concerned to see Sims dying from laughing hysterically. It's fun sometimes to have some Sims that you're reckless with, or maybe play a cruel gold-digging wife, but overall I'd wager that there's other players like me who get attached to their Sims and don't want to see them die to something so ridiculous.
On Twitter, Sarah addressed this concern by stating that "Sims are far more likely to die of fire than emotions." Hopefully this is accurate and there are ways to intervene in a timely fashion as well!
Pre-order options for The Sims 4, which will release on September 2, 2014, are:
PC Download - Limited Edition for $60: Includes "Life of the Party" digital content
PC Download - Digital Deluxe Edition for $70: Origin exclusive version includes "Life of the Party" and "Up All Night" digital content, and The Sims 4 digital soundtrack
Retail Box - Limited Edition for $60: Includes "Life of the Party" digital content
Retail Box - Premium Edition for $80: Includes "Life of the Party", "Up All Night" and "Awesome Animal Hats" digital content, as well as The Sims 4 digital soundtrack. Also features the "Creator's Guide" hardcover book, which is a guide to becoming a master creator and includes Sims 4 artwork.