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Tools | Don Hopkins

Tools

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Player Created Content

This is stuff about The Sims player created content.

Sims Proposals and Documentation

Here are some proposals and documents I've written, describing the work I've done and projects I've proposed with The Sims character animation system, plug-in objects and tools. After four years, a great deal of useful information has been reverse-engineered by independent third-party developers and open source projects like The Sims Technical Library. I hope these ideas will inspire more tool developers to contribute their programming skills to the Sims community.

Will Wright's original vision was enabling creative storytelling, by allowing players to add their own characters and objects to the game, and encouraging developers to program new objects and create tools like Transmogrifier and RugOMatic. Before The Sims was even released, Luc Barthelet sewed the seeds of its success by providing fans with content and tools like SimShow, so they could start making web sites and character skins. By the time it was released, you could already download a wide range of skins from many different web sites!

Four years later, Sims Object hackers have taken it much further than anyone ever imagined. A third-party tool called "iffpencil 2" has taken the place of Edith (Maxis's visual Sims object programming environment) in the Sims object hacking community. Make money, play with buildings and people, or create natural disasters! One mind-blowing example is Slice City, which is an amazing game within a game: SimCity within The Sims! Your Sims can walk around and interact with a live, growing city like a Lilliputian scene from Gulliver's Travels. I'm not making this up: this actually runs INSIDE The Sims, and is ingeniously implemented by plug-in objects!

You start with a power plant, which gradually grows a whole city populated by swarms of insect-sized people. As the city grows, it spawns new objects including buildings (reprogrammed houseplants that the gardener still waters), crowds of people (reprogrammed cockroaches that you can still stomp to death), parks, marinas and monuments. You can go into build mode and rearrange them however you like, place roads (that get extremely busy at rush hour), and interact with the buildings through pie menus in play mode. There's even a tornado that comes through and knocks down your buildings. And you can download add-ons and pre-made cities!

Nothing like SliceCity was in the original design plan, but Will Wright credits all the creative players as the primary reason The Sims has become the #1 selling game of all time.

I believe the starkly contrasting failure of The Sims Online has a lot to do with the fact that it doesn't support player created content like the original Sims. One of the fundamental reasons that original Sims players have been disappointed with The Sims Online, is that Maxis never executed on the original plan to let online players upload and exchange their own skins and objects.

In order to help more fully realize Will's original plan, I wrote these proposals and documents to support the community of Sims artists, tool developers and object programmers like Bil Simser, Judson Hudson, Michael Watson, Rick Halle, Tom van Dijk, Dave Baum and Greg Noel, SimSlice, Paladin, MegaSims, Hacker's Resource, The Sims Basement and SimFreaks.

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.
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