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E3 – The Sims 4 Hands-Off Preview

Out of all of the games on the E3 showfloor, The Sims 4  was easily the one I was most excited about. The Sims 4 is the latest game in a simulation series that has been letting gamers control, manipulate, and experience the lives of virtual families since 2000. This newest game in the series is taking the ideas of the last three games and lets them run absolutely wild in the best possible way. Unfortunately, the time I spent with the game only included a hands-off demo, but even watching a scripted presentation of the live gameplay had me excited for the game’s eventual release.

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The demo started off right were most players start their simming experience; the Create-A-Sim. This time around, as we’ve seen in trailers in the past, the CAS has received a total overhaul. Gone are the days of using complicated categories and sliders to change the appearance of your would-be sim. Instead, features are now changed directly by clicking on the sim’s face or body. The area being affected lights up ever so slightly to let you know you’ve selected it and then you’re free to drag to your hearts content to alter the shape your sim.

This new CAS interface opens up sim creation to whole new lengths. I was almost able to get hands on with the CAS, but in the end it just didn’t work out. Before I got kicked out of the Create-A-Sim room a second time, I was able to sit down and look at the interface directly we’ll be using to create our legacy in the future. I wasn’t able to see much, but I was shown the new templates starting sims would be built off of. In the past, features could be selected from preset faces and then customized into whatever you wanted them to be. Most of the faces you had to choose from in The Sims 3 were largely the same, but in The Sims 4 presets are much more diverse. All of the shown starter face models were distinct and diverse. A ton of different races were visually apparent in the templates shown.

After dragging and pulling body parts to create the sim’s appearance, the presentation moved forward to play with the things that will make your sims truly unique: their personalities. The motto for The Sims 4 this time around is “Smarter Sims, Weirder Stories.” All of this really shows through in the personality creation for the upcoming game. First, you choose a lifetime wish for your sim. The lifetime wishes include all your usual suspects, but with a few new twists. Now, when selecting a wish, you’re prompted with two sub-categories of that wish category that reflect your sim’s true, focused desires. Picking a lifetime wish also locks in a special trait for your sim, unique to that life time wish. If you’re making a geeky sim with a geeky life time wish, you’ll probably get a unique trait that reflects that geekiness such as one that helps you level skills faster.

After you give your sim a reason to live, you naturally give them a way to live it. The presenters of our hands-off preview were very keen on reminding us that, this time around, your sims are “3D on the inside.” All in all, if you’re familiar with The Sims 3 you’ll be seeing a bunch of familiar traits in The Sims 4. The new (and cool) thing, is the way these traits interact with each other and help your sim shape and experience the world around it. Sims actually have personalities now, and not just a list of traits. These personalities and characteristics all fuel the real life blood of The Sims 4: emotions.

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The world now affects your sim as much as you affect it. Right away, this was apparent in the demo. One of the characters was in a enraged mood, which affected everything he did. He had special, mood specific interactions with people and his environment because of the mental state he was in. And unlike The Sims 3, this time around the mood actually made a difference. A mad sim will look mad. A bored sim will look bored. Moods are a central part of The Sims 4, but aren’t purely aesthetic. For example,that enraged sim I mentioned earlier will be able to work out more effectively because of his mad and pumped up mood.

Sims are now more three dimensional and alive than ever, but that mode is only a third of the game. We didn’t get to see much of the actual build or buy modes, but we did get to see how The Sims 4 lets you download rooms, sims, and houses instantly and directly from the online Gallery. The Gallery is a core feature of The Sims 4 and seems like a less crappy version of how they tried to implement the online store into The Sims 3.  At literally any point in the game you can open up the Gallery, pick a creation, and drop it directly into your game. This includes sims, entire houses, and even just a single room.

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The ability to pull pre-made rooms from The Gallery has to be my favorite new build feature announced for The Sims 4. As someone who absolutely hates building new houses, this is a godsend. The build tools seem to be overall simplified for people like me who are inept at combining walls and making a home. In addition to The Gallery, the build tools we were shown made the building process loads earlier. You can now raise and lower walls and foundations, just by grabbing and dragging. Rooms can also be sized after they’ve already been placed. Simply grabbing and dragging a wall will extend the whole side of the house, moving all affected objects with it.

The Sims 4 already looks amazing. Though the footage was from an early build of the game, the interactions between sims are like nothing we’ve seen before. Oh, and if you’re a nerd for Sims lore like I am, the preview showed us young versions of Dina Caliente and Don Lothario, which confirms some suspicions of where this game lands in the twisted timeline that is the Sims games.

The game comes out in September of this year and I’m praying to god that my computer will be powerful enough to run it.

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