The Sims 4 is officially coming out in 2014, and while I may not actually have time to manage a miniature version of myself, I always have a compulsion to build my current life in every previous Sims game and see what happens. I usually create myself and whatever roommates I’ve had, then build the houses/apartments in high detail. Then I play the game for an in-game week or two, laugh at how the Sims’ lives gradually become weirdly similar to my own, and then quit the game and make a neighboring family with really weird attributes that are much more fun to play with. Those characters are hugely dysfunctional in some way, and I build some sort of fantasy dream house for them to live in. And I’ll play for most of a generation until one of the characters has babies, and then I usually give up and move on to another idea I had.
And that’s probably what I will eventually do in The Sims 4. The best part of the game is the level of customization it contains. It appeals to my creative, architectural, and story-writing self. But then the gameplay is what it is: a time-consuming life simulation that I don’t enjoy as much as the creative elements of the game.
What I’m curious about in The Sims 4 is the level of customization. Characters’ features can now be molded much more dramatically, grabbing points within the characters’ bodies and faces to make them look exactly how the player wants them to look. Previous Sims games gradually included different things that could be chosen: the first game started with hair and faces, the second introduced sliders with a variety of choices, and the third allowed a wider array of sliders and customization choices down to fabric patterns and granular levels of hair color. It was cool, but over time, the actual Sims started to feel more generic, somehow. Their faces lost personality and uniqueness, and by the time I was playing Sims 3, the faces all looked like puffy-cheeked plastic dolls. I don’t know why… it actually felt like a step down from Sims 2 in some ways, caricature-wise. But Sims 4 seems to be really stepping up the game and offering the ability to give your character a lot of interesting physiognomy. I also do like that it’s slightly more cartoony, because it seems like it’s really easy to make your characters feel like nicely caricatured, Pixar-esque versions of people, avoiding the uncanny valley entirely. I could sit all day and create celebrities and friends and upload them to the Sims site for people to download, or populate my town with lots of characters and see what happens on autopilot.
I can see it now, I will create a character named Nandy Fussypotch, give her humungous knees, a mouth that goes from ear to ear, beady little black eyes, and make her a petty thief and seductress. She will be constantly pregnant and fill her home with the stolen items of her neighbors.
Time will tell about the architectural editing; it would be amazing to build homes and furniture in the same way, but I doubt that those features are as robust as the character editing. I see that there’s whole-room moving… but that could either be a hindrance or a benefit when creating really particular designs of homes. We shall see! I’m waiting for the next gameplay video to tell me if I’ll be dropping cash on this franchise again next year.