The Sims 4 producer talks about a 'Green future' with Eco Lifestyle

The Sims 4 recently became environmentally-conscious with the release of the Eco Lifestyle expansion. To learn more about it, Shacknews talked to Sims 4 Producer Jill Johnson.


It's been a while since Shacknews last checked in with the team at Maxis about The Sims 4. A lot has changed since we all went to college with Discover University. The Sims have since become aware of their environment and the importance of keeping it livable. That's the idea behind the recently-released expansion, Eco Lifestyle.

With a few weeks having passed since Eco Lifestyle released, Shacknews wanted to reach out to the team at Maxis to see if they had any words about this latest expansion. We found Producer Jill Johnson, who was happy to speak to us about Eco Lifestyle, maintaining Evergreen Harbor, the expansion's new career options, and the importance of taking care of your environment.

Shacknews: Last time we talked, The Sims were heading to college with Discover University. What made the team decide to jump into Eco Lifestyle as the next expansion?

Jill Johnson, Producer: Following Discover University, we wanted something fresh and different. Choosing a theme for an expansion pack generally involves a combination of team input, brainstorms, community feedback (community comments, Game Changers and surveys) and research. What surfaced from that process is a global interest in experimenting with how actions impact our local environment for better or for worse. We wanted our players to tell their story of how they want their Sims to live and be able to impact their community in a tangible way. Our team really poured their own experiences and ideas into this, so we hope that thoughtfulness and dedication resonate with players throughout the game.

Shacknews: What can you tell me about Evergreen Harbor and what went behind the decision to set this expansion in an entirely new setting?

Johnson: We aim to explore a unique new setting for every world we release and we had yet to explore this space between the suburbs and metropolitan before. Eco Lifestyle leans into the mentality of resourcefulness with materials and environmental consciousness, so the Pacific Northwest felt like a great fit. Cities such as Portland and Seattle are full of artistic landmarks and street art, and we wanted to leverage that kind of vibe for the Modern Development Neighborhood Action Plans to showcase a community coming together and decorating their neighborhood with unique upcycled art as their environment improves. We also loved the tech aspect of cities such as Vancouver, so we got some inspiration from there, too.

Shacknews: I like the idea that Evergreen Harbor can be as much of a clean utopia or a filthy dump as you see fit. What are some factors that influence how clean or dirty the town gets?

Johnson: All three neighborhoods in Evergreen Harbor start off with what we lovingly refer to as the "trash layer," so if you want rats in your game, you can just sit back and watch. The starting state is devoid of any of the extra civic bells and whistles that come with either the Green Initiatives or Modern Development Neighborhood Action Plans. Each neighborhood of Evergreen Harbor starts in one of the three Eco Footprint states: Green, Industrial or Neutral. So while Port Promise is dingy and smoggy, Grims Quarry has lovely sun rays and butterflies and Conifer Station is Neutral.

The most direct way to influence the state of your neighborhood in Evergreen Harbor is by encouraging your neighbors to vote for Neighborhood Action Plans. The Green Initiatives and Modern Development plans will both clean up the "trash layer" and, over the course of the week, make some dramatic changes to the buildings, streets and foliage in your area. Even though changing the neighborhood’s visuals of buildings, roads,and landmarks are specific to Evergreen Harbor, you can still impact the Eco Footprint of any residential neighborhood in any world. If you want the Eco Footprint to be greener, add eco-friendly objects like solar panels, wind turbines and dew collectors throughout the neighborhood. Keep an eye on what wall and floor materials you use as well. There are a number of materials that contribute to a greener Eco Footprint. There are also plenty of smaller ways to make a green impact, such as gardening or upgrading household appliances to be eco-friendly. Every little bit counts!

Moving your neighborhood's Eco Footprint toward the Industrial end of the spectrum may take some community teamwork. The more households that use smoke-producing objects like fireplaces and spaceships, the more impact there will be on an Industrial Eco Footprint. Other objects that contribute to an Industrial Eco Footprint are power generators and water generators. You could also hire an Eco Inspector and encourage them to pollute the area. Similar to how some wall and floor patterns can contribute to a Green Footprint, there are also wall and floor materials that can contribute to making the area more Industrial.

Shacknews: Eco Lifestyle seems to center more around the idea of community. So what are some examples of the ways in which players can interact with their neighbors for this expansion?

Johnson: Neighborhood Action Plans rely not just on your Sims, but on the community as a whole. The votes your neighbors place can differ from what you want, so if you really care, advocate for your cause! Many N.A.P.s focus on adopting more eco-conscious habits and others can change the way your neighbors interact on a daily basis. For instance, while the Free Love N.A.P. inspires everyone to engage in some serious PDA, Action Plans like Roughhousing Encouraged and Sharing is Caring may have you second guessing your (or your neighbor's) choices.

Eco Lifestyle also has Community Spaces. Similar to the overall world, these spaces start out run-down and they don't provide much benefit for the neighborhood at first. It’s up to you and your neighbors to choose whether you want to turn your Community Space into a bustling Maker Space, a soothing Community Garden or a Market Space where neighbors can buy and sell their goods.

Eco Lifestyle brings with it a stronger sense of community. No matter where your Sims live, neighbors might stop by to help you take out the trash, fix your broken appliances, or even barge in to yell at you! You might get phone calls from neighbors trying to convince you to vote for their preferred Neighborhood Action Plan, friends calling you up to tell you about last night's dream, and even the occasional prank caller.

Shacknews: Can you describe the new career options that are introduced?

Johnson: We've introduced two new careers in Eco Lifestyle: the Freelance Crafter and the Civil Designer Work From Home path. The Freelance Crafter career provides prime opportunities to use all the new recycling and crafting objects, including the Recycler, the Fabricator and even the Dumpster! Work on your own time by fulfilling client requests for various handmade upcycled items, including homemade candles, fizzy beverages and fabricated furniture. Each gig has a silly little backstory for the predicaments that led the client to need your service and your goal is to deliver a quality handcrafted item that fits their request. Completing all the gigs unlocks some cool new CAS assets and an increase in gig pay the next time around.

The Civil Designer career is a work-from-home career for those who really want to contribute to their community and have stronger influence with Neighborhood Action Plans. As a Civil Designer, you can draft design proposals to unlock the ability to craft unique items on the Fabricator, including the Smog Vacuum and the Hydroponic Planter that doesn’t need to be watered. Civil Designers can branch into one of two specialties: Green Technician and Civic Planner. The Technician is a mix of technology and management, enabling you to unlock new upgrades like the Vertical Garden’s Cruelty Free Meat option and earn a reward trait that helps speed up Eco Upgrades on appliances. The Civic Planner branch emphasizes community engagement, giving you the ability to rally neighbors around worthy Neighborhood Action Plans and earn a Champion of the People reward trait.

Shacknews: What are examples of items that you can create out of reclaimed materials?

Johnson: The Fabricator has a whole suite of unique furniture that you can make as you recycle unwanted items, collect Bits and Pieces, purchase dyes and level up your fabrication skill. This furniture has a stylish handcrafted vibe and the pieces all work nicely together. There are also some Civil Designer career rewards that allow you to even make certain foods with the Fabricator. The Candle Making Station is a great way to make beautiful, functional works of upcycled art from Bits and Pieces and wax. And if you count herbs, flowers, fruits and vegetables as “reclaimed” materials, you can concoct a slew of new beverages on the Juice Fizzing Station.

Shacknews: Lastly, I know The Sims is a lot of fun and there's a lot of wackiness when playing this game. But I'm curious, was one of the goals of Eco Lifestyle to encourage the player base to be more environmentally-conscious?

Johnson: Mostly we're aiming to offer players a whole new way of playing where both small actions and large actions can impact their environment and community. It's up to them whether they pursue an Industrial existence or a Green future. Eco Lifestyle is here to offer the opportunity to play with some eco-friendly trends such as using solar panels, farming alternative protein sources and home brewing. Playing this pack may give some players inspiration and a sense of accomplishment knowing that their Sims’ actions can make a tangible difference. If that happens to make people more mindful of the impact of our actions in real life and our capacity to create positive change, we all win!

The Sims 4: Eco Lifestyle expansion is available now on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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