The Sims 4: Big world, bigger personalities

By Steven Wong, Jun 24, 2014 1:30pm PDT

I've got to hand it to the sims, they never fail to impress. They grow in sophistication with each successive game, and with The Sims 4, it becomes even more difficult to discern between playing a game and setting up situations in a virtual fish tank to watch sims interact.

A huge amount of attention has been given to usability with The Sims 4. Last month, the developers released a video detailing how intuitive, user friendly and detailed the new Create A Sim system will be. Players can quickly recreate the likeness of themselves, family, and friends without having to flip through menus or user slider bars. Now, players can use to mouse cursor to manipulate sims directly to create some of the most realistic models I've ever seen in a Sims game. In addition to general personality traits, sims will have special traits that will help them achieve their life goals. For example, someone seeking knowledge might be able fast learners. Achieving aspirations unlocks goal rewards.

The house building system is similarly tactile and easy to use. Players can directly resize walls, rooms, and even the house's foundation without having to delete anything and start from scratch. But one of the biggest stand-out features of The Sims 4 is the integrated gallery. The gallery replaces the rather unwieldy Sims 3 Exchange, and keeps all user content in the game instead of having to quit out and launch an external program. The Sims 4 will make user created and curated content available at the touch of a button. Players will be able to search out entire houses, which can be dropped directly into their game. If you're just looking to make some additions to the house, the gallery will make it possible to upload and share individual rooms, which others can download and drop into place, complete with furniture.

Although the building and downloading dream homes are nice features, the real stars of The Sims 4 are the sims themselves. While the previous game focused largely on expanding the neighborhood, these new sims will have personalities that are as big as the world they inhabit. You can see their personalities start to come through the moment you select a type of walk for them from the Create A Sim.

The new sims are driven by emotional states, which impact their actions and interactions with other sims. During the live-played E3 2014 demonstration, one of the sims was angry due to an earlier interaction. The sim's demeanor could be seen across the sim's facial expressions and body language, so players don't have to rely solely on thought bubbles to know how their sims are feeling. His friend tried using unique interactions unlocked linked to her personality traits, like talking about video games (associated with the geek trait), but it had little effect. But since they were both into working out, they decided to exercise together. Emotions will be able to charge a sim's actions. For example, they can perform push-ups of rage. Not only do these actions help the character work off anger, but working harder means he can build up his fitness skill faster.

Emotions can also be contagious, like in real life. After an afternoon at the park failed to cheer the sim up, his friend also began to grow angry. So, the two of them went to the gym where they could hit the exercise machines together for anger-fueled workouts. That's when they ran into sim-Chuck Norris, who was happy to use his much higher fitness skill to help train the character up. Hanging out with Chuck and gaining a new Fitness level was enough to cheer the sim up, and soon they were off to throw a party, and that's when the presentation pulled out another surprise. The gallery won't be limited to housing. Players will be able to download entire sims, complete with skills and personality traits, and drop them into their games.

The party turned out to be a great success, despite the how sim-Kim Jong Un made an appearance and his bad mood nearly wrecked things. Kim Jong Un ended up wetting himself, and the main characters thought this was so hilarious that they laughed themselves to death, with one of them landing in the puddle of pee.

Other notable features in The Sims 4 cover how sims interact with the world. They can fish out of a pond and immediately grill whatever they catch on a nearby grill for an impromptu lunch. If you see flowers that you like, sims can pick up clippings to bring home and plant in their gardens. With the powerful building and personality tools, players will be free to create unexpected and weird stories - almost to the point where the line between being a player and a spectator starts to blur.

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