Well, The Sims Social is taking the FaceBook world by storm, allowing FaceBook members to create their own Sim, build, decorate and furnish a home, and then visit and interact with the Sims of their friends.
Back at Gamescom 2011, GGUK were fortunate enough to bump into Erik Reynolds of Playfish, the co-developers of The Sims Social, and we just had to ask him a few questions about the game. Here is what he had to say -
GGUK: Will we be seeing real-life brands in The Sims Social?
ER: We are already doing this in The Sims Social right now; we’ve already got a few brands already integrated into the game. In North America specifically we’ve got a number of brands that have global elements and really it will be on a territory by territory basis, whats really meaningful to the Sims fan in that territory. Right now, we’ve got Dunkin’ Donuts, we’ve got Toyota, Dr Pepper. We really listen to the Sims community and we are going to be open to, what are the brands that they interact with the most, what are the brands that want to reach our audience and the beauty of the Sims games is that, these are games where you play with life. So real brands don’t break that fourth wall and we can actually enhance the experience by bringing in real brands and giving them very light gameplay hooks that don’t break the experience, that don’t dilute what the Sims fan is really looking for.
GGUK: How much inspiration for The Sims Social was taken from The Sims Online?
ER: The Sims Online provided us with a lot of key learnings for what a Sims fan is looking for in a game and you’ve got to remember at that time the Sims Online was really leading the way in MMO. It was at a time when MMO wasn’t completely understandable and accessible to gamers worldwide. It was a niche of a niche and now it’s become an extremely large niche. The Sims Studio really took those learning’s and passed those along to Playfish and they came together to bring the world’s biggest PC franchise to the world’s largest social platform. We saw a huge overlap from there in the beginning and the interesting thing about this Sims Social is that there are natural contact points for really emphasising those social elements of FaceBook. We feel we are doing it differently than what’s currently available. I think we are putting the social back into social gaming.
GGUK: Will co-habiting ever be an option in The Sims Social?
ER: [laughs a lot] I’ll tell you about my Sims Social experience. The way that you interact with your friends and neighbours, when you start to elevate relationships, or even elevate rivalries, you’re going to feel a sense of true companionship to a degree. You’re going to be in their house and you’re going to see their Sims in your house. You’re going to feel them in the same room with you, even though they are not. We’re not ready to really speak about the next iteration of the game as we are just launching it live today. In the closed beta with one of the other testers, we elevated our relationship to inseparable status and I felt like i was always in her apartment. We were truly having a relationship were we would sit and watch telly together, listen to music or dance and rock out. It’s so charming in the way that it creates a touch point between you and your friends. It’s not just superficial, it made me feel funny and I have something interesting to talk about the next time I see her in real life. She was there and she was in that room with me, and I think that’s something that hasn’t been done in social gaming. I think, more often than not that you feel like your touching your friends faceplate, more than you’re actually interacting with your friends and I think The Sims Social breaks down that wall and really connects you to your friends in a way that hasn’t been seen before.
GGUK: Are there any ways of getting Sim Cash within the game without having to buy it with real world money?
ER: You can absolutely earn Simoleons in the game. I think the currency of the Simoleon is a more powerful free currency in this game, than it is in other games. I find that I can have a very rich experience completely free to play. I have a decked out house that I earned through basically composing songs. I find myself being very artsy. I’m one hell of a songwriter and a decent painter. I earned thousands and thousands of Simoleons and I can buy all the items I want and I can craft all the items I want from free to play methods. I don’t feel I’m missing anything by not buying Sims coins. But I’m also a very busy person and sometimes I’m an impatient person. So being able to occasionally buy through a quest or occasionally buy an item that is only available exclusively with Sims Cash, that’s something that appeals to me as well.
GGUK: When the idea first arose for The Sims Social on FaceBook, is there something you wanted to include in there but couldn’t?
ER: I think there are elements you want to put into a game that are really, really strong touch points to the Sims franchise and the thing is that we really want to focus on the great social games experience first that was authentic to the Sims franchise. So we can’t do everything that we can in the PC game in FaceBook. It’s just not the right medium for it, but I think as you see us iterate on the game, you’ll see things that are very familiar to you, if you’re a Sims fan. I think there is more to come for Sims fans and there’s going to be always constant gameplay features that will engage you and refresh the game for you, so that there’s always something to come back for.
GGUK: How long did the game take to develop?
ER: Because it’s a Sims branded social experience, we wanted to get it right. So we put a lot of time and effort into it and I can say based off my own games experience, we invested more time on this game, than I’ve ever seen on a FaceBook game, but it was still a very efficient process and the result was beyond our expectations.
GGUK: During the testing period, what was one of the worst things you done to your co-workers?
ER: [Laughs a lot] I think the worst thing that I ever did to my co-worker was… [pauses and thinks] Oh gosh, I really feel totally horrible about this too, I was just emotionally a rollercoaster to be around. My Sim is one day in love with you and the next day I’m picking on you and the next day I’m in love with you again. I’m just up and down. And really I was actually testing out the elements of what do I need to do in order to generate certain crafting items. How do I generate goodwill, how do I generate fury in order to purchase the items or craft the items that I have purchased, because some of them require a little bit of effort after you have purchased the item itself. I was really testing out the free to play options and what I found is that the more friends you have, and mind you we were in a small beta testing environment, I only had five friends. But in a true FaceBook game, I’ll have a few more than that. I think I will be more consistent with my friends moving forward. It’s the inconsistency that I feel completely ashamed of.
GGUK: What’s more important to advancing in The Sims Social, spending money to buy Sim Cash or having lots of friends?
ER: I think it’s the experience. First and foremost The Sims is about telling your own story. It’s about your own creativity. It’s about the unpredictability of life and watching it unfold in front of you. I think it’s the experience of the game more than anything. I don’t think making the most amount of money is really the object of Sims Social. Its having your Sims interact with your friends Sims and comparing notes and having fun.
GGUK: Is there going to be any expansion on The Sims Social on FaceBook?
ER: We are prepared to talk about how it is right now, you can go and play it right now. But, as we see with FaceBook development, there is always the opportunity to listen to the fans and iterate, and we look forward to that dialogue because the Sims community has always helped us craft the next game and the benefit of the social platform is that you can do that in real time.
GGUK: Can you tell us more about the crafting element of the game?
ER: In The Sims Social, crafting is a really strong element of the free to play experience. I’m going to use my Simoleons in order to purchase the Deluxe Couch. Each item will indicate if there’s an additional level of crafting you need to do to fully complete it, with the little hammer symbol in the top right and so when I buy the Deluxe Couch I may need to craft it using five fury and three goodwill and you will need to generate those items. They are random dropped items through your interactions through your Sim. One thing that I truly love about the game is that it’s not all based off your energy either. Sometimes you can do free actions that can generate these craft items, ingredients. With these random drops, you’ll collect them and they will constantly be in your backpack. You won’t even pay attention to what you really have on hand. It’s not something that you really have to manage. Its going to give you that extra level of pushing you through the story, pushing you through the experience and also giving you another reason to go and play pranks on your friends.
GGUK would like to thank Erik Reynolds for his time and for answering our questions. The Sims Social is available to play on FaceBook right now.