Player Created Content
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.
"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!"
Here's another more down-to-earth example of what you can do with OpenLaszlo:
The Dumbold Voting Machine for The Sims enables the simulated people in your virtual dollhouse to vote! It's an interactive "get out the vote" public service message, in the form of a free downloadable Sims object. This Sims object is an electronic voting machine that lets your Sims vote between four candidates: Kerry, Bush, Nader and Badnarik.
It turns out you can get a whole lot of The Sims 1 characters on the screen at once! But then you need some crowd control and coordination.
Here's an object that I'm developing for The Sims 1 as part of the Simprov wedding playset, and some screen shots of what it does.
This is the new "Crowd Sitter" object for The Sims 1. Donna and I came up with an idea for an icon to represent this magical crowd control object, which will only be visible in build mode. But for now it looks like an altar.
I named it "Crowd Sitter", like "baby sitter" but it's for all ages and lots of people at once, and it can also make them stand. It's an essential tool for orchestrating weddings, but it's useful for other purposes like parties and concerts and boxing matches.
When in play mode, you can turn a Crowd Sitter on and off with a pie menu, and it directs all people to sit down in front of it, or stand up facing it if there aren't any seats left. It has an effective radius of about 7 tiles (more now), with a quarter pie slice shaped footprint. You can strategically deploy as many sitters as you need, to cover all the seats you want people to sit in or areas you want them to stand (like rows of pews in a church or a circle of benches in a stadium). I made a special routing slot that has a maximum size 54 tile footprint (more now), based on the TV set's routing slot, but on steroids.
I stress tested it by making four of these Crowd Sitter objects, and facing them in different directions, to make people gather around the center in a circular crowd.
Then I made at least 8 * 20 = 160 people (Sim clones), and turned on all the sitters at once facing outwards, to make them all gather around the center! But of course if there are no seats to sit in, the poor people have to stand.
In the following scene, I'm cheating by using the faith based initiative "placebo field" (aka Fox News), which is a special effect built into the altar, that supernaturally makes everybody always happy, fills their tummies, drains their bladders, keeps them clean, etc, so they're willing to stand around tirelessly without complaining, for as long as I tell them to, and not questioning anything they're told, while totally believing their government is looking out for them.
This is a large project I'm developing in OpenLaszlo: creating a rich web application for browsing, searching, exploring, collecting, personalizing, shopping and downloading Sims content.
I'm working with SimFreaks to put their entire catalog of thousands of Sims objects and characters into this database driven catalog. I'm using Transmogrifier to automatically export pictures of all the Sims objects.
Besides simply searching the catalog for interesting objects, you can navigate and explore collections of objects, and even interactivally compose your own scenes.
It's like a cross between colorforms playsets, hypercard and graphical adventures, with Sims room backgrounds, objects and characters, including interlinked image maps and text annotations.
The front-end is implemented in OpenLaszlo, and the back-end is implemented in Python, using SQLObject.
It also includes an administrative database interface for browsing and editing the SQL database that is used to model the site, and keep track of the users, objects, collections, pictures, etc. It's extensible by plugging in customizable Laszlo widgets for displaying and editing special data types, like pictures, checkboxes, color selectors, date pickers, pie menus, OPML editors, etc.
I'm developing a reusable Laszlo component for browsing and editing SQL databases.
Currently it's up and running, built into the Sims Content Catalog Laszlo application, and it talks to a Python/SQLObject/MySQL back-end. But I'm factoring it out and redesigning it to work on its own, and support multiple back-ends.
Laszlo is ideal for implementing specialized user interface components for editing custom data types, like checkboxes, pie menus, color selectors, date pickers, OPML editors, picture viewers, map browsers, etc.
This is stuff about The Sims player created content.
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.
Game Developers Conference
Notes taken by Don Hopkins at the talk, and from other discussions with Will Wright.
IntroductionWill Wright started his talk by saying that he wanted to show this tothe game developer community first, before a commercial show like E3.
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.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.
Don Hopkins (dhopkins@DonHopkins.com)
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.