Ever since Electronic Arts decided to get into the business of social gaming -- the big question has always been -- when will the company's most popular PC game -- The Sims -- be making the jump to Facebook? Looks like the answer to that is 'soon.' Today, EA announced that The Sims will be coming to Facebook and will be titled The Sims Social. See the game's debut trailer below.
In The Sims Social, players will create and customize their own Sim person. Instead of populating that Sim’s environment with other Sims controlled by artificial intelligence, Karp(pictured in Sim form) says that The Sims Social will be entirely populated by a player’s friends in the form of their Sims. The idea is to play The Sims with your friends in a synchronous mulitplayer experience, which is a new concept for the series. Karps says fans have been asking for multiplayer for a long time, which is part of what motivated development.
As for the more complex social interactions between Sims that make the series famous (up to and including “Woo Hoo” – the game’s term for sexual intercourse), Karps says they can expect to see some of it in The Sims Social. For example, they could take their Sim to another Sim’s house and play a prank on them — such as peeing in their yard. This creates a negative relationship balance between our Sim and our friend’s Sim, which could escalate to a “rivalry” relationship.
Karp says that all relationships in The Sims Social will be consensual between players past a certain point. This means that while they may not need their friends’ permission to pee in their lawn, they do need their permission to pursue a romantic relationship with them if they choose to use a flirt interaction on them. A rejection of a flirt will close the romance socialization pathway between players, while an acceptance could lead the relationship all the way to the point of Woo Hooing. Pregnancy, while a significant part of gameplay in The Sims series, is not a planned feature for The Sims Social at this time.
As for monetization, Karp says they can expect to see familiar free-to-play conventions built around monetizing premium decoration or customization options. He also hinted that there would be quest completion items, but could not specify what form quests might take in the game, as its still in the very early stages of development. They know that while gameplay is non-linear, there will be a levelling system for each player’s Sim. Players may also be able to “start over” with a Sim as part of gameplay, or for a fee, which is similar to the character re-specialization feature in Dragon Age Legends.
Some of the questions EA is still struggling to answer for The Sims Social include how they will build a synchronous gameplay experience that still supports asynchronous activity. For example, Karp wasn’t sure what would happen if they flirted with his character while he was not online — would we have to wait for him to log back in to accept our advances, or would the AI guess his character’s reaction for him? Would his character even appear in our game if he weren’t online at the time? While accepting my friend request allows our Sim to enter his Sim’s house, is there any way he could temporarily lock us out if, say, he were sick of us peeing on his lawn?
Another significant challenge for The Sims Social is breeding the unpredictability that makes The Sims series so popular. In The Sims and The Sims 2, for example, players can make Sims look through telescopes, which creates a random chance of alien abduction (and later, alien pregnancy). Karp says that EA means to bring that element of spontaneous fun to The Sims Social, but it’s not immediately clear how that will play out and whether or not there will be AI-controlled Sims in the game, which could add to the overall unpredictability.
“The think they’re most excited about is bringing something new and unique to Facebook,” Karp says. “With this game, we like to say it’s alive… and unpredictable.”
The Sims Social is being designed in collaboration between EA’s internal Sims Studio and EA Playfish. It’s due out “soon,” with Karp telling us to Like the game’s Facebook page in advance of more news.
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