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Player Created Content | Don Hopkins

Player Created Content

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FauxCast on Freedom: SimFaux as Open Source Software

Somebody asked me about SimFaux:

This is pretty funny as it stands, but can it parody things Libs don't like to talk about like Dem politicos that flipflop every other speech, or Lib talking heads that forge news on the fly?

Of course SimFaux can parody liberals as well as conservatives, but the fact of the matter is that it's the conservatives who are fucking up the country right now and sending kids to die. The liberals are powerless and aren't the ones to blame for the horrible calamity that Bush has caused. So it's important to call the people who are causing the death and suffering on their lies.

The conservatives had their chance with Clinton's blow job, and they totally blew it with their self rightious indignation over harmless consentual sex. Talk about flip-flops: Where is the furious anger and relentless calls for impeachment now?

It's high time to impeach Bush for going to war based on lies and deception, sending thousands of Americans to their death, killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, leaking classified information about a CIA employee out of revenge for her husband telling the truth, breaking the law and subverting the constitution by spying on American citizens, his miserable failure with Hurricaine Katrina, his deep shameless corruption with Haliburton and Abramoff, etc. If you think none of that is any worse than a blow job, then you're a part of the problem.

I just started programming SimFaux at the beginning of this month, and the HuffingtonPost Contagious Festival has a 15 meg limit on size. But after the festival concludes, I'll host it on my own web site without any size limitations, put up a whole lot more content like characters, sound bites and videos, and release the source code as Open Source Software so you can modify it and put your own stuff in. But right now I have to cut it to the bone to stay within the 15 meg limit.

"FauxCasting" is a cinematic leap beyond podcasting and blogging, because it integrates keyword tagged text, video, sound bites, simulated characters and interactive widgets together in a way that the viewer has control over what they see and hear. You can experienced the joy of telling Bill O'Reilly to Shut Up and Go Away! The keyword tagging enables the characters and videos to interact with each other, and results in surprizing juxtapositionings, like Frank Zappa and Dick Cheney finding common ground by using the same cuss word that begins with F.

I'm inspired by ideas like Will Wright's "Designing for Emergent Behavior" and Chris Trottier's "Tuned Emergence" and "Design by Accretion", where the more content you put in, and the better you tune it, the closer you get to a nuclear reaction.

Sims Designer Chris Trottier on Tuned Emergence and Design by Accretion

"If a game isn't tuned, it's a drag, and you can't stand to play it for an hour. The Sims and SimCity were "designed by accretion": incrementally assembled together out of "a mass of separate components", like a planet forming out of a cloud of dust orbiting around star. They had to reach critical mass first, before they could even start down the road towards "Tuned Emergence", like life finally taking hold on the planet surface. Even then, they weren't fun until they were carefully tuned just before they shipped, like the renaissance of civilization suddenly developing science and technology. Before it was properly tuned, The Sims was called "the toilet game", for the obvious reason that there wasn't much else to do!"

I will soon release the source code and content of SimFaux as Open Source Software, so you can see how it works, create your own characters, sound bites, video clips, talking points, surveys, games, etc. If you want to do that yourself, you should become familiar with XML, and you should start learning OpenLaszlo, which is the free Open Source XML/JavaScript based language it's written in.

Here's another more down-to-earth example of what you can do with OpenLaszlo:

Have fun!

Player Created Content

This is stuff about The Sims player created content.

The Future of Content - Will Wright's Spore Demo at GDC 3/11/2005

The Future of Content

What I learned about content from the Sims.
...and why it's driven me to procedural methods.
...And what I now plan to do with them.

Will Wright
Game Developers Conference

Notes taken by Don Hopkins at the talk, and from other discussions with Will Wright.

See also: Pictures of Will Wright's Spore from


Will Wright started his talk by saying that he wanted to show this tothe game developer community first, before a commercial show like E3.

SafeTMog: Safe Transmogrifier Plan

Don Hopkins (

SafeTMog will be a version of Transmogrifier restricted to safe graphical and textual modifications of standard objects.

I propose to upgrade Transmogrifier into SafeTMog, whose purpose is to improve the stability of The Sims by supporting only a safe restricted set of modifications to the original objects from Maxis. It will safely import an xml file and graphics into a fresh clone of a standard build-in object. So users and third party tools will be able to import, export and exchange safe, compact modifications to stock objects, without including or modifying any proprietary Edith code or other data.

SafeTMog and other tools (such as a server side content management system) will be able to work together by importing, exporting and validating objects in SafeTMog exchange format (a zip file with xml and bitmap files: pure data, no code). It will not be necessary to distribute any Edith code or other delicate data, just xml and bitmaps. The original objects (from the game, expansion pack or server) will be required in order to import and install them into the game. The SafeTMog xml file format will be simple and extensible, so it will be possible to add new safe content types in the future (like skins, character animations, meshes, custom sounds, midi music, mpeg video, rich text, html, url links, and other content types).

SafeTMog will enable the creation and distribution of safe custom objects, without any possibility of viruses, Trojan horses or stability problems. It will enable the distribution of user created content libraries and third party tools, while protecting Maxis' intellectual property rights and the integrity of the game. The ability for users to safely change the graphics without changing the behavior is an essential step towards enabling safe user created objects for The Sims Online.

A Proposal to Develop Third Party Content Authoring Tools for The Sims

This is a propsal I wrote to Maxis after The Sims was released in March 2000, outlining some of my ideas for third party content authoring tools that I could develop. This led to The Sims Transmogrifier, but it touches on several other interesting tools and projects that Maxis never got around to.

A Proposal to Develop Third Party Content Authoring Tools for The Sims
by Don Hopkins, March 2000

Problem Definition:

  • There is a strong demand many from third parties who want to develop their own custom content for The Sims, including characters and objects.

Proposed Solution:

  • Update, clean up and document the content creation tools, so third parties can make their own characters and objects for The Sims.
    • Port the tools to the latest version of 3D Studio Max.
    • Make the tools self contained so they can be run stand-alone, by removing all dependencies on the Maxis environment and expensive software packages: Character Studio (Biped, Physique), Access, SourceSafe, MKS Toolkit (Korn Shell).
    • Document the content creation tools with an overview, examples, tutorials, and a reference manual. Write down the folklore that has been passed by word of mouth. Read over the code and document how it actually behaves.
    • Provide consulting, training and content creation services to third parties who want custom content authored for The Sims, but don't want or know how to do it themselves.
  • Develop a Sims Content Authoring SDK, so it's possible for third parties to create specialized content creation tools, like FaceLift.

RugOMatic Documentation and Tutorial: Drag-and-Drop Sims Objects

I've written some documentation and a tutorial for RugOMatic!

RugOMatic uses another tool called The Sims Transmogrifier 2.0 to create Sims objects. It's a lot easier than using Transmogrfier directly: you just drag and drop images and text, and press a button! Soon I'll release RugOMatic along with The Sims Transmogrifier 2.0, as soon as Maxis's legal department finishes reviewing it (soon now, I hope).

The Sims RugOMatic lets you quickly and easily create rugs for The Sims, with your own pictures and descriptions! Simply 'drag and drop' a picture, name, price and description into RugOMatic, and press the 'Weave My Rug' button. RugOMatic automatically manufactures a new rug, with a text description that you can read in the game!

RugOMatic also writes a web page describing your rug, including the name, price, description, a picture preview, and a link to the downloadable "iff" object file, to help you keep track of your objects, and share them with other people on the web.

The Sims Exchange

At Will Wright's talk for Terry Winnograd's User Interface class in 1996:

There was some interesting discussion about using SimCity as a medium for story telling: encouraging people to imagine far beyond the bounds of what the computer is able to simulate. You can build cities to empathise with, and tell stories about them, about their people, culture, buildings, and history. A class of students could label different parts of a city, and each person could tell a story about a different part, that interacted with the stories going on in neighboring parts of the city. Then they could make a web site with the downloadable city, and an image map of the whole city, linking to all the stories on web pages, with screen snapshots of their neighborhoods, and lots of hypertext links between each story. This way each student could colaborate with several others to write a web of interconnected stories, all about the same city!

That pretty well sums up what The Sims Exchange is all about -- like a specialized blog built around a simulation game with built-in storytelling and content creation tools, for publishing stories as well as live downloadable user created game content:

The Bunny Wuffles School of Sims Transmogrification

Here's a great site with helpful information about using The Sims Transmogrifier:

Here, I offer complete step-by-step tutorials in the first principles of object making for the complete novice in both Adobe Photoshop and The Sims Transmogrifier, and some special guest tutorials - one off tutorials in specific tasks - not necessarily Transmogrifier - written by guest tutors, along with some masterclasses on key skills in Photoshop & TMog and some stand-alone workshops on specific tasks for complete beginners to TMog which improve gameplay. The workshops assume little or no previous knowledge in either Photoshop or Transmogrifier, so as to be of use to you whatever level you are at.

One thing I have learned is that different people use different methods in their object making. Some know short cuts that others don't; some use different programs or sources of textures to others. These tutorials show the way I make my objects, and as soon as I learn a new skill, I am anxious to pass it on! But by no means am I trying to imply that these are the definitive and only ways of making or amending objects; just an easy way to start off.

The tutorials have all been tested by people with no previous experience in the skills used to complete success - in fact, the first brown chair one was written for me when my flamingo was still safely pink and my unopened copy of Photoshop 5.5 was covered in long gathered dust and woefully out of date.

Finally, my tutorials are really meant to be done in the same order they are presented as I often refer back to skills learnt in previous ones using terminology I introduced in them earlier. A brown chair may not be the most exciting thing in the world to you, but doing that tutorial will teach you how to mask off parts of an object while colouring another - an essential thing to know!

Great stuff! Lots of cool tutorials for beginners to masters, and links to useful resources.

RSS 2.0 Sims Module, and MySim tool for Radio UserLand

Thanks to the guidance and patience of Dave Winer, I'm designing an RSS 2.0 module for describing The Sims objects [[Download mySims.root], which will make it easier to advertise and distribute Sims object online, and enable the development of automated tools for assisting in this process.

The first tool I'm developing for blogging Sims objects is the "MySims tool" for Radio Userland. It lets you drag and drop a Sims object into a directory to publish it on your blog. It automatically creates a preview and a description, pastes the text into a blog entry, and uploads the preview and Sims object to your blog along with the descriptive text, so people can see, read about and download your objects.

Naturally I will integrate this with the ShowAndTell ActiveX control, so you can view live objects on blogs, and other tools like RugOMatic, so you can easily create object by dragging and dropping text and images, then automatically publish them online!

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