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One horse disagreer of the Apocalypse
#101 Old 26th May 2014 at 9:58 AM
Peter and I were chatting over a drink last night pondering over what the especial challenges there might be of creating The Sims 3 specifically. One that we agreed would pose challenges not present in most other games was the representation of houses/lots in the world. I think most games have premade meshes for their buildings - you may or may not be able to take avatars into them, but they all have preset footprints and doorways, shape and texture - and in some cases the player cannot even place them individually.

In the Sims 3, players create the houses wall by wall, and the game has to somehow assemble that into a mesh for lower LODs and reload it back as seperate components as the camera gets near, and maybe even some other dissembling once you have a sim actually using the lot. I can see a lot of technical difficulty not just implementing it, but optimising it to minimise lag.

Since this thread I think was mainly started with the graphics in mind, I guess Graham was referring to how hard the graphics programming is, not to things like the scripting which as we know modders are coping with fine and I am sure EA programmers could have easily made more intelligent had the game been specced that way. (Eg sim rolls want for mac&cheese then make mac&cheese next time you cook, not goopy carbonara. Not specced this way as it was intended as a challenge for the player to score points fulfilling, but frustrating to someone like me who would enjoy seeing sims behaving like sentient humans)

"You can do refraction by raymarching through the depth buffer" (c. Reddeyfish 2017)
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Field Researcher
#102 Old 26th May 2014 at 10:42 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inge Jones
No game company had the knowledge before they tried it! Even Will Wright didn't know how to make Sims at one point in his professional development!

However it was Will Wright's origina vision. If Bethesda would make a new Sims they need to look at what makes the Sims Sims. Therefore I don't think you should shift franchises to different teams and let Bethesda rather make a original life simulator based on the Sims. (competition is good for the market!)

As example James pointed Halo out who shifted from developer which is, in my eyes, a weird move. To be honest, yes I think the departure of Will has something to do with the 'failure' of the Sims 3. The Sims didn't had a new person who followed up Will and proteced the franchise. Zelda as example is now made by Aonuma instead of Miyamoto. Miyamoto trained him and trusted him with the franchise. I don't have the feelinf we have the same kind kind of person for the Sims.
One horse disagreer of the Apocalypse
#103 Old 26th May 2014 at 11:04 AM
I think probably Rod Humble was a more human simulation sort of person at heart than people who have shaped The Sims since. Rod went on to Second Life which is another type of simulation mainly of the human experience (though they do have their share of supernaturals lol).

I am still hoping one day for a more simulation-oriented sims-alike game. I can't see it coming from EA now. In fact I can't even see a Sims 5 coming unless Sims 4 picks up considerably more revenue than Sims 3. Not that Sims 3 is exactly a market flop, but yes it *is* probably one of their more complex and resource intensive titles.

"You can do refraction by raymarching through the depth buffer" (c. Reddeyfish 2017)
Retired
retired moderator
#104 Old 26th May 2014 at 12:35 PM
Well, if TS4 flops then at least in a decade's time it can enjoy the sort of glorious revival we saw in the 5th reincarnation of SimCity, right?

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Field Researcher
#105 Old 26th May 2014 at 12:53 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by kiwi_tea
Well, if TS4 flops then at least in a decade's time it can enjoy the sort of glorious revival we saw in the 5th reincarnation of SimCity, right?


Not funny.
Lab Assistant
#106 Old 26th May 2014 at 1:26 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inge Jones
I think probably Rod Humble was a more human simulation sort of person at heart than people who have shaped The Sims since. Rod went on to Second Life which is another type of simulation mainly of the human experience (though they do have their share of supernaturals lol).


I've always been under the opposite impression: that we could credit Mr Humble for the RPG/quests' aspects of TS3... He was at EverQuest before he joined the Sims' team. Isn't EverQuest one of the big MMORPGs? I've always believed that Rod Humble had been hired specifically for his RPG background, because that was the "big new idea" for the future of the Sims at the time (2006), that is the beginning of TS3 development. I'm also always a bit worried when I learn that one of the devs in charge today was hired around 2006. Nothing personal there, just that I always read it as "was hired for his/her RPG experience." And furthermore, has never knew the Ye old Maxis days when simulation and fun were still at the core of the design.

A bit of reading (digestion time here for me ;-):
Rod Humble on Wikipedia and on Linkedin. In short: he was hired in 2004, was promoted to super boss of the Sims in 2008 and left end of 2010.
More then on Maxis and on the Sims Studio. This is just Wikipedia, so not exactly gospel, but there are some interesting tidbits.

Quote:
EA completed its acquisition of Maxis on July 28, 1997. Compared to other companies acquired by EA, such as Origin Systems and Westwood Studios, the absorption of Maxis took a slower pace, and the company staff was lost only gradually. Over 1998 Maxis was allowed to finish SimCity 3000 on its own time; following this, Wright's efforts were thrown into The Sims, at the time seen as a major gamble for the company, as the dollhouse game was not seen as a match for the video game market's demographics. After development work for the game was concluded, Maxis' longtime studios in Walnut Creek were officially closed in 2004, and the staff moved to EA offices in Redwood City. The Sims was released that February; its massive success buoyed Wright's reputation and saved Maxis as a separate working unit. For the first half of the decade, Maxis continued to produce expansions and sequels to The Sims.


There is a bit of confusion between the release of TS1 in February 2000 and the release of TS2 in September 2004.
What I find interesting is that there was a big reorganization of Maxis and the Sims team after 2004 which was finalized in 2006 when the original studio was completely divided in 2 studios:
  • Maxis and Will Wright worked on Spore, released in 2008 (Wright left in 2009), and the Studio moved at some point to Emeryville
  • People working on Sims products were incorporated in a new structure, based at EA headquarters (read the black star...) and headed by Rod Humble.

Quote:
After many years of successful titles in The Sims franchise, in 2006 Electronic Arts transferred all development responsibilities from the original developer, Maxis, to their newly created division initially named The Sims Division, later changed to the current name. Rod Humble was selected to lead this new team as the studio head. Maxis refocused their attention on their next project: Spore. (...)
Particularly, Will Wright and Maxis were not involved in the development of the latest title in the series, The Sims 3, although many developers of former Maxis products remained involved in its production. This third generation of the main series was developed entirely by The Sims Studio. In 2012, EA announced an organizational restructuring that features Maxis as one of their four primary labels, effectively replacing the former EA Play label. As part of this initiative, The Sims Studio became a part of the EA Maxis label (Redwood Shores studios). Thus, the Maxis branding is now once again present on releases starting with The Sims 3: University Life, developed by the Salt Lake City studios, and SimCity, developed by the Emeryville studios. The Sims Studio is developing The Sims 4 along with Maxis, which has fully returned to create the new title.


Future only can tell, but I'm not that sure that the come-back of Maxis (team and/or brand) is going to be the salvation of the Sims franchise. After all, our "modern" Maxis, the one from after 2004, is also the studio of Spore and SimCity 2013, visually beautiful, somewhat innovative but certainly blatant failures when it comes to game play!

And I find that Rachel Franklin, as fine a lady as she is, looks very much "online gaming" on her profile, much more than simulation I'm afraid.
One horse disagreer of the Apocalypse
#107 Old 26th May 2014 at 1:40 PM
You've obviously done more research on Rod than I have so I give way to your judgement here. But I do remember that he was the one who was in favor of more reality and less of the magic and stuff. Talking of quests though, I actually though the stuff in WA a lot of it was quite well done. That's what I think EPs should be for - expanding the game's horizons, adding challenges. Adventures EP, Farming EP, University, Run a Hospital EP, etc. All the reality stuff like weather, ability to swim in world water etc should be in the basegame IMHO.

"You can do refraction by raymarching through the depth buffer" (c. Reddeyfish 2017)
Lab Assistant
#108 Old 26th May 2014 at 1:56 PM
That would certainly be great if all the normal aspects of everyday life were included in a base game, and I would accept much more that EPs stray away from strict simulation and reach out to adventures and less common activities. But we're not yet there since weather, seasons, pets and probably shopping and an advanced career system have been put aside for EP material. And who knows what's behind the gameplay packs A/B/C/... Z that surfaced in the surveys!

Rod Humble wasn't fan of the occult indeed, I remember this too. I have nothing against the man, if I recall correctly he was quite funny in fact. But I still believe he wasn't the right profile to take over the job of head of the Sims after Will Wright. Not something he bears any responsibility since he didn't self appoint himself in the job.
Field Researcher
#109 Old 26th May 2014 at 3:06 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by James009
Thats why he did Little Computer People.

Just a side note, but Will Wright did not make LCP, but he said it was an influence when he was creating The Sims.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inge
...pondering over what the especial challenges there might be of creating The Sims 3 specifically

I think the biggest challenge is simply trying to capture the subtleties of human behavior and interaction. We humans are wired to easily detect “abnormal” or odd behavior in others so crafting AI that produces something believable in a wide variety of situations and conditions is tough. I suspect that is one of the reasons why The Sims needs to use a cartoon-ish graphical style, so that the AI limitations are not as jarring.

  • Photo-realistic characters behaving oddly = “What the hell are they doing? Bizarre.”
  • Cartoon-ish characters behaving oddly = “Awww, isn't that cute!”

It will be interesting to see if the whole “emotions” aspect of The Sims 4 helps advance the AI so sims' behavior will feel more natural in more situations. In this game there are a hell of a lot of “edges cases” to consider where things can break down.

On the other hand, a development advantage that The Sims has is the comparatively large time budget available to process the game systems. In a game like Skyrim where the player directly controls a character, responsiveness is critical, so the frame rates and consistency are of huge importance in making the game playable. Developers tear their hair out trying to find optimal time slices for all the different game systems while still maintaining 30fps or more.

In The Sims, since we're not directly controlling the active sim, the devs can get away with all the stuttering, skipping through animations, and jerkiness you see on-screen, things that would make something like Skyrim unplayable, and then use that time to enhance the simulation side.
Retired
retired moderator
#110 Old 26th May 2014 at 3:14 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Klinn2
  • Photo-realistic characters behaving oddly = “What the hell are they doing? Bizarre.”
  • Cartoon-ish characters behaving oddly = “Awww, isn't that cute!”


Yeah, cartoonish is good. It at least keeps them out of the uncanny valley (where the pudding faces reside). I'm fairly certain though - given the depth and plausibility of the character creation in some other games - that the lack of a hyper realistic approach has a lot more to do with the fact that so many simmers have lower to mid-range machines, than with avoiding the uncanny valley.

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GON OUT, BACKSON, BISY BACKSON
Field Researcher
#111 Old 26th May 2014 at 3:29 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by kiwi_tea
Yeah, cartoonish is good.

IMO, cartoon-ish is good now, given the sort of AI that is feasible. But I hope that as advances are made in that area, the graphics can become more realistic without hitting that "What the hell are they doing?" situation.

Generalized AI is a tough nut to crack. Lots of very smart people have been researching it for decades.
Test Subject
#112 Old 26th May 2014 at 5:31 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by SimGuruGraham
Don't worry about posting honest feedback or constructive criticism... I welcome and appreciate it. There are always things we can do in the studio to improve, and players do influence the direction we take things. One of the things I enjoy the most about my job is being an advocate for our players and taking your suggestions back to the team (notice how the teeth textures were updated recently? yup... fan's comments influenced that).

I personally have two pet peeves which makes me drawn to topics like this like a moth to flame.
1) The term "lazy developers". I've worked on different games for different companies in this industry, and lazy is never a word I would use to describe the efforts that members of development teams give.
2) The idea that something is "easy" to add to a game. Thinking something is easy or difficult to add is usually completely missing the point. Instead it's a matter of complexity and time. Further, there's almost no correlation between something being "easy" to do in real life, compared to being "easy" to make happen in a game. Things that are actually "hard" to add to a game typically involve advancements in tech, which isn't really what people are asking for most of the time.

That said, I reflect on what I knew before I worked in the industry and what I've learned sense then and I understand where these sentiments come from.

If you really be considering what players are suggesting, I would like to make some suggestions.

I like the news hairs but some models look still so bad. I think the ends of the hair should be smaller and thinner. So it would be softer like the image below.



I also would like more detailed eyelashes.

Textures of the trunks, sheets, grass and wood in general more detailed. I know it is a art style, but the environment looks a little incongruous in relation to sims now. You'll know to analyze the relevance of my suggestions, because you can see the game and know how it is.
Alchemist
#113 Old 26th May 2014 at 5:49 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inge Jones
Well, it's kind of noticeable that pretty much no other (established) company seems to be doing anything like The Sims. There are endless almost identical car games, and almost identical train simulators, and city builders, so it's not like a company would be out of order making an almost identical family life game. I have no idea why it's not been done. Is there a good reason Bethesda don't do it *as well*?


Would you put up your money against The existing Sims fanbase? Not really good business in my opinion.
Instructor
#114 Old 26th May 2014 at 6:08 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by SimGuruGraham
Don't worry about posting honest feedback or constructive criticism... I welcome and appreciate it. There are always things we can do in the studio to improve, and players do influence the direction we take things. One of the things I enjoy the most about my job is being an advocate for our players and taking your suggestions back to the team (notice how the teeth textures were updated recently? yup... fan's comments influenced that).


It is greatly appreciated that you are listening to feedback. Unfortunately, how the teeth were "fixed" was poorly executed, which is what I see a lot in Sims 3. They do not look much better than the original due to the gums being too big for the teeth and slanted in the wrong direction and the teeth being too small. It is the actual execution of how things are implemented into the game that makes a difference, making it good quality on how it looks and plays IMO.

Is it not better to be counted among the strange rather than the incurably stupid? ♥ Receptacle Refugee ♥
Mad Poster
#115 Old 26th May 2014 at 7:51 PM
I was happy with the change of the teeth at first but yeah, they do look odd. I am not that worried, I know a incredible, talented artist in the CC community will make new textures, providing the game will allow it with ease and not have the teeth texture a default for every sim. I guess it's another wait and see. *sigh*

Resident member of The Receptacle Refugees
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Top Secret Researcher
#116 Old 26th May 2014 at 11:35 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by James009
Anyways, it's difficult making games regardless but certain companies like to stick with what they know and a particular genre.


Could have knocked me over with a feather when Paradox said they were making an RPG. Their strength is grand strategy games. (I'm very curious as to how this turns out.)
Theorist
#117 Old 27th May 2014 at 6:25 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by idtaminger
I feel like you've hit the nail on the head there. Before a game is even put into active development bureaucracy decides what is important to focus on and what isn't. Back in the purely Maxis days, they decided that what was important was making a great game, and we got a great game. With the EA suits what's prioritized is "optimal monetization", and so we get blatant money grab after money grab that alienates players more than appeals to them. The problem is skewed priorities at the top, not the game devs.

Blaming the individual developers for the end result is like blaming the foot-soldiers for the actions of the Emperor. Completely misguided and lacking respect for how much work the day-to-day folks put in on a regular basis.



THIS. This, this, a million times this! It is the people who control the money who are responsible for the travesty that the Sims has become.

I actually feel a little sorry sometimes for the people making this game because personally I would be damn embarrassed at putting out some of the crap they put out for TS3. Although they may not really understand how bad it really is, since each compartmentalized component is only designed with the base game.

The lack of money for development and bug fixes is exactly why I don't think the suits give a damn about the fans, either. The big shots have apparently decided that this is a kids' game and quality and functionality doesn't really matter because kids (and other addicted people) will continue to buy it regardless. Truth to tell, I suspect the devs make themselves feel better about the poor quality by thinking it's just a game for kids, so it's good enough. Otherwise I really don't know how they sleep at night knowing people actually paid for this game.

I know it's not their fault that they were given little to no money to fix bugs, but sometimes they are still making really dumb design decisions that are causing some of the issues, and I'm sorry to say that's a fact. A tight budget requires a lot of foresight, planning, and communication with everyone involved in making the game. Although I'm really unsure how much that would improve the game, if EA is not providing adequate funding even for that.

¢¾ Receptacle Refugee ¢¾ ~ Where are we going, and why am I in this handbasket!? ~
Laura's Legacy
One Minute Ninja'd
#118 Old 27th May 2014 at 11:39 AM
I'm not so sure it's a question of funding, but rather, the fixed release timeline they're given. Regardless of the money you throw at a problem, turning out a game as complex as the Sims is not going to run smoothly with a fixed release date that's set based on revenue stream forecasts, and not on game completion.

And I do understand you cannot supply an endless amount of time to development. Still, one thing other developers will do is be more flexible in their release dates, using the old fashioned "it will be released when it's ready", although with the growth of budgets required for big AAA game development these days, that's a bit harder to do than it was in the past. Still, I thing one of the problem that plagued TS3 was the "get the EP out the door" feeling that disillusioned so many players. It also explains the lack of proper beta testing before release, as they might actually budget sufficient funds for it, but if they fail to budget the time in their release timeline, it simply won't get done.
Mad Poster
#119 Old 27th May 2014 at 1:05 PM Last edited by gazania : 28th May 2014 at 11:22 AM.
Yes .... now I think we're getting more to the heart of the matter.

I'm getting two vibes from Sims 4, and I truly hope I couldn't be more wrong. One is a feeling that certain key aspects of the game aren't ready yet. This concerns me because the release date is in only a few months. (Around October, I believe. I would think that EA would want to release this in time for holiday shopping.)

The other is that that EA DID want the game online at one point, saw the results of SimCity 5 and the player responses, thought, "Oh, crap. We'd better revise Sims 4!" and did a massive revision. Yes. I admit the proof for this is really sketchy ... a few leaked tidbits from someone purporting to have worked at EA, and an emphatic general statement from an EA bigwig. And while I know I'm one of the few proponents of this, I still think that optional-only interactions with fellow players with whom you choose to invite might be really interesting, as long as it does not affect game play for those who choose not to partake in this. Nonetheless, this "damage control" vibe bothers me.

I think most of the devs at EA are inventive, resourceful, imaginative people. They would have to be to keep this series fascinating to so many players. But I get the impression that their efforts are hobbled by EA's insistence that they rush the product out ASAP. Deadlines are important, I know. Unreasonable ones screw the players. I wonder what type of game we could get if the devs are allowed more freedom to create without getting "bottom lines" shoved in their faces, and it saddens me that we will probably never find out.

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Field Researcher
#120 Old 27th May 2014 at 6:58 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by e.arth
If you really be considering what players are suggesting, I would like to make some suggestions.

I like the news hairs but some models look still so bad. I think the ends of the hair should be smaller and thinner. So it would be softer like the image below.



I also would like more detailed eyelashes.

Textures of the trunks, sheets, grass and wood in general more detailed. I know it is a art style, but the environment looks a little incongruous in relation to sims now. You'll know to analyze the relevance of my suggestions, because you can see the game and know how it is.

I really agree with this comment! This hairstyle looks so much better in the fanart version! The endings are still looking like TS4's endings (which is great!) but they're just better. I really love the idea of a hairstyle with layers but yeah, I'm not surprised that TS's community called it "The banana hairstyle". The idea is great, but they didn't executed it welll. I hope they WILL change it. If they do, this hairstyle will be a lot more useful!
Theorist
#121 Old 28th May 2014 at 4:43 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by eskie227
I'm not so sure it's a question of funding, but rather, the fixed release timeline they're given. Regardless of the money you throw at a problem, turning out a game as complex as the Sims is not going to run smoothly with a fixed release date that's set based on revenue stream forecasts, and not on game completion.

And I do understand you cannot supply an endless amount of time to development. Still, one thing other developers will do is be more flexible in their release dates, using the old fashioned "it will be released when it's ready", although with the growth of budgets required for big AAA game development these days, that's a bit harder to do than it was in the past. Still, I thing one of the problem that plagued TS3 was the "get the EP out the door" feeling that disillusioned so many players. It also explains the lack of proper beta testing before release, as they might actually budget sufficient funds for it, but if they fail to budget the time in their release timeline, it simply won't get done.



True, but time IS money, so when I say it's a lack of financial support, to me that includes the time allotted for development. Besides, the company apparently provided very little resources (like, practically none) for repair/maintenance precisely because they were so focused on cranking out EPs and SPs at a dizzying speed. Either way you look at it, it seems to me that the essential problem is a lack of resources to develop and support the game. I have very little hope that things will be a lot different with TS4. The only thing it seems to have that's an advantage over TS3 is that it's much less complex both visually and I suspect in design (I doubt that it includes an open 'hood on the same scale we have in TS3 for example). Time will tell if this results in a better overall gaming experience.

¢¾ Receptacle Refugee ¢¾ ~ Where are we going, and why am I in this handbasket!? ~
Laura's Legacy
Alchemist
Original Poster
#122 Old 30th May 2014 at 4:13 AM
I've been watching interviews on Youtube and thought I might share two videos with you guys. The first one is an interview with executive producer Todd Howard of Bethesda where he talks about Skyrim back in 2011. The second one is an interview with executive producer Rachel Franklin of EA where she answers questions about the Sims 4.

Personally, I sense a huge difference in the way they answer questions about their respective games. Todd mentions the things that inspired him and his team whereas Rachel makes it seem as if they're really "all about the fans" at EA. Todd uses specific gameplay examples about what players can expect in the game (e.g. dragon shouts, the world of Skyrim, the world as a "main character", storyline, props). Rachel talks more about customization and vaguely discusses the gameplay with the word "fun" thrown around a couple times.

Todd Howard Interview (Bethesda) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gfg4Sq4Fxvo
Rachel Franklin Interview (EA) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmlFb1ezhrk
Field Researcher
#123 Old 30th May 2014 at 1:50 PM
The biggest problem in the second interview is that the person conducting the interview rambled on and on! Rule #1: Ask a question, then shut up and let your subject answer. Let them provide the details, not you.
Theorist
#124 Old 30th May 2014 at 1:57 PM
And TBH toward the end of the Todd Howard interview, where he talks about how 'some players say it's all about the gameplay, but the visuals matter' (something to that effect) made me go YES! Visuals do matter. Obviously they matter more to some of us than others, but a good game developer knows that they matter.

I will also say that it does sound like he feels more "ownership", for lack of a better word, over his game.

¢¾ Receptacle Refugee ¢¾ ~ Where are we going, and why am I in this handbasket!? ~
Laura's Legacy
Field Researcher
#125 Old 30th May 2014 at 4:48 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by tangie0906
And TBH toward the end of the Todd Howard interview, where he talks about how 'some players say it's all about the gameplay, but the visuals matter' (something to that effect) made me go YES! Visuals do matter. Obviously they matter more to some of us than others, but a good game developer knows that they matter.

I will also say that it does sound like he feels more "ownership", for lack of a better word, over his game.


VIDEO game. Visuals matter a lot.
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