All of us at EA want to make sure everyone in our diverse community who plays our games feels included and has the ability to express themselves as they play. No game exemplifies this kind of player choice like The Sims, a game with a long history of allowing player freedom and expression.
With The Sims 4 updating Create A Sim to expand the gender customization options, we sat down with four members of The Sims team: Maxis General Manager Rachel Franklin, Producer Kevin Gibson, Senior Producer Lyndsay Pearson, and Designer Lakshmi Howe to find out how this new update came about and what new choices you have in creating your Sims.
Q: How did the team start talking about the expanding the Create A Sim customization options?
RACHEL FRANKLIN: We always look at the kinds of Sims our players want to make and strive to make sure that what they see in everyday life can be reflected inside of the game. Then we provide them with the tools to create any Sim they choose.
KEVIN GIBSON: The Sims is a simulation game that should reflect life. Expanding Create A Sim to support a broader range of stories that include diverse characters was a natural extension. We all felt it was definitely time to make this addition.
LYNDSAY PEARSON: Our team started working on a cool prototype based around what would happen if we could let any Sim wear anything. We started seeing female Sims in sweater vests and a Curvy Darth Vader, and we got really excited about the potential to unlock a huge amount of additional customization.
LAKSHMI HOWE: It was really cool seeing the team come together to find solutions that allowed us to make so many Sims we’ve never been able to make before.
Q: How long did the process of adding the update take, from beginning to end?
RF: We started talking about expanding Create A Sim around a year ago. There was a big art effort involved, in addition to some technical prototyping, as we also wanted to make sure that the hands-on body manipulation looked great on any kind of body type. Not to mention, given the assortment of stories this update can facilitate, the team also worked very closely with GLAAD to assure that the update was authentic and respectful to the transgender community.
LP: It’s something we started doing little bits at a time and started work in earnest about six months ago.
Q: How important is it for Sims players to have choices in how they represent their Sims?
KG: The Sims is about the player. It’s a sandbox game, and our goal is to give as many tools as possible to play in the sand. Without choice, it’s not a sandbox. It’s not The Sims.
RF: Exactly – The Sims is all about choice and self-expression. The first thing most people do when they start playing The Sims is make themselves and everybody they know. So if you can’t relate to the Sim that you are creating, we haven’t done our players justice in being able to provide them the tools they need to play the way they want.
LH: We are constantly trying to think of ways to create new types of Sims, whether that’s adding new traits and clothing or creating new systems to express their differences. We’re always working to allow players to better create themselves, someone they know, or someone for a great story.
Q: So, what does this update mean for those who play the game?
LH: We opened up clothing, makeup, accessories, voices and more to the opposite gender. With these changes, players have the opportunity to explore more gender fluidity than we’ve seen in The Sims before.
RF: Now you can customize, create or modify your Sims with any kind of body type or clothing style.
LP: Players will be able to select almost any piece of clothing or accessories for their Sims, regardless of the initial gender setting. They will also have even more direct control over their Sims’ frame and body shape.
Q: What are some of the ways that players can make their Sim even more personalized with this update?
KB: Players can modify their voice and are not restricted to the original set of three and we have opened up the clothing catalog, including hair, which is a huge gain for player personal customization.
LP: I personally like trying out all the new hair options! Hair can add so much character to my Sim.
Q: What part of the update is the Sims team most proud or excited about?
RF: I think this is an update that means different things for different people. We each have our own favorite features or capabilities. I think it’s awesome that everyone can wear whatever they want in the game.
KG: The whole thing! It’s been a labor of love and we want to give players all of it and see what they do with it.
LP: The tech required to make this change – to allow assets to be worn across both genders – was pretty deep and cool. It was also really experimental.
LH: I think we’re just excited to give players more flexibility in how their Sims appear, to allow them to express different backstories and personalities for those Sims.
Q: What does it mean for you to have this update available for players?
RF: We have a deep respect for our players no matter who they are or where they come from. For us to be able to give them more control and freedom of expression is the heart of what makes a Sims game so special. And supporting that makes me personally honored to work here.
LP: The Sims is an extremely personal game. Our players use it to play out challenges, try out new things or tell their stories. The reason I’m so happy to provide this update to Create A Sim is because we’re removing some of the gates that might previously have been on those stories.
LH: I’m really excited that we’ve opened up the stories our players can tell within the game. It’s always been important to me that we support a large variety of ways to define and play with your Sims, so I’m very proud that we managed to remove some barriers to creating Sims that defy stereotypical gender definition.