With The Sims 4 only a couple of weeks out from release, EA has granted early access to the game’s upgraded Create A Sim (CAS) mode, one of the three significantly overhauled features of the series’ latest instalment. Here’s what a few of us at PUG have to say about our experiences with the demo:
Austin Flynn: You know, I haven’t extensively played the Sims games before, but I have dabbled so I was no stranger to making a new character. The first aspect I noticed about the Sims character creator, or Create A Sim demo as Maxis and The Sims Studio have so “creatively” named it, is the amount of minor tweaks you can make to the characters. I tinkered with my avatar for a good 30 minutes and I still felt like I could do more to improve what I had. Not only does the program come with presets, but after a player chooses a face or body type he/she likes they can click on minor features like the cheeks or hips to enlarge or minimize the selected area. It was a nice little touch that seemed to give more control to gamer’s who are all about making that picture perfect avatar (you know who you are!). Beyond that there is an option for facial hair, clothes, tattoos and much more. After my 30 minutes of work this is what I came up with:
My friend Josh, who has very limited play time with the Sims, also decided to try his hand at making a mini him. The experience was fairly entertaining and as you can probably tell (sigh) we didn’t use source material for these characters. The demo also came with the option to personalize your Sim’s walk, hobbies, personalities and life goals. Even if I didn’t care much for the creator itself, the character abilities dictated by a Sims’ personality made me curious as to how they will translate to actual gameplay. Although I’m not sure this was enough to ignite a burning passion inside me for The Sims 4, I absolutely didn’t hate the experience. So to put it into perspective… I might not go out of my way to buy this game, but if a buddy asks me if I want to try out their copy, I wouldn’t turn my nose up to it.
Taylor H.: The Create A Sim demo for The Sims 4 is fun. It features a range of options previously unavailable to game players: for example, players can choose a base body shape and then manipulate individual parts. These include arms, calves, thighs, buttocks, and feet, all of which could not be altered in past versions of the game. The ability to change body parts independently allows for a great variety of body shapes. Facial features can also be altered with greater precision and the game has many skin tone options. The graphics are fantastic and do not take long to load (loading time will probably be different with the full game, though). I am most impressed with the hair and clothing. Although the demo only gives a sample of what the base game will offer, they both look much improved from previous versions. I often stuck to a few styles for my Sims because most of the choices just looked ridiculous, but I can tell that The Sims 4 will be better in this regard.
However, I did have a few problems with the demo. Unless I somehow did not see the correct button, you cannot create your own colour. You can only select from the swatches you are given. I certainly hope this is not the case in the full game as I like to give my Sims highlights and funky-coloured eyes. The demo also did not let me choose favourites for my Sims and when creating relationships within a household, the demo only gives three options: roommate, brother/sister, and husband/wife. In addition, my cursor got stuck in a sort of rotate mode. When I went to click on something, it changed into a video camera icon and would only let me rotate my Sim. I couldn’t do anything or how to get the normal cursor back. I couldn’t even exit the demo normally. To fix it, I had to use the Windows task manager to force an exit and then re-enter, causing me to lose the entire household. This has only happened once, though, and I have used the demo several times.
Overall, I really like the new Create A Sim. I think it will enrich the game and allow players to create unique Sims and situations. Experimenting with the demo has made me excited to play The Sims 4.
Owen Atkinson: For all the hype and big claims, The Sims 4’s CAS doesn’t seem to me that much of an improvement over the previous game’s offering. The Sims 3 split facial and body features into multiple categories filled with sliders, each keyed to a different physical attribute. The Sims 4 has tried to replace this with a more organic system that lets you simply click on a body part and manipulate it at will. However, with each body part comprising so many smaller parts (e.g., nose bridge width/depth, nose height/width/length, nostril size, nose curve, etc.), you can’t really map all that to a mouse that can only move in two dimensions. To remedy this, you have to go into the fine detail mode to individually manipulate each feature. Even so, it can be hard to know exactly how the body part will react when you move the mouse one way or the other until you try it. For example, moving the mouse up on the lips could just as easily move the whole mouth as it could just thicken the lips, so a bit of trial and error is required. The result is that this CAS still feels like you’re manipulating sliders, only now they’re hidden within the face itself.
I can’t decide if the personality options are deeper or shallower than the previous game’s selection. On the one hand, traits and aspirations are much fewer in number, most of which being linked to one skill or another. On the other, traits are designed to work in conjunction with the new emotions; for example, Sims with the Bro trait will become confident when near other sims with the Bro trait, as well as gaining unique interaction options. Happiness is no longer the single ideal state, either, as other emotions can boost certain skills – sadness and creative skills, for example – which means that it is now much more feasible to make flawed Sims. See, little Sim? I’m not tormenting you just for the fun of it; it’s also to help you finish your book!
I agree with Taylor in that while upgraded technology makes for much livelier and less generic-looking Sims than in The Sims 3, I still really felt the loss of the Create-A-Style (CASt) tool. So often in the Sims 3, articles of clothing wouldn’t quite match, or wallpaper and floor tiles wouldn’t look quite right. The CASt tool let us circumvent that, finding our own creative solutions without relying on the developers to think of everything. It also meant that if I wanted to give my Sim a cowboy hat made of galvanised steel, I could. Hopefully CASt will be added to the main game somewhere down the line either as a free update, or (more likely) paid content.
My general impression of clothing and hair styles is that players seem to be getting funnelled towards creating stylish and partying Sims, which seems like the kind of market EA is looking for (if the licensed tracks in Need For Speed: Most Wanted are any indication). Clothing options are surprisingly few – the rest apparently unlocked by in-game achievements – and the ones currently available seem to feature a disproportionate number of “going out” clothes. As someone who tends to dress my Sims in paint-splattered overalls or the most comfortable-looking track pants available, this feels like a sign that the series’ demographic is not only expanding, but shifting. While The Sims has always catered for creativity and wish fulfilment, now it seems the latter is overpowering the former. I just hope that when the full game ships, those of us who have grown accustomed to playing as eccentric time-travelling inventors wearing perfectly colour-matched wooden outfits will still be able to realise those dreams.