The Sims

50% (F) for Epicurean Excess

Here's an interesting Christian interpretation of The Sims from christiananswers.net. One of the reader comments makes a great point about Epicurean Excess! I wonder what people of other religions think about its "subtle teachings"? (Like reinforcing the "Urine Is Blue" myth!)

Sometimes a game comes along that catches you off guard. "The Sims" proves just such a game. I had read about it in the gaming press for some time. Being from the developer and producer of the famous "Sim City" games, the completion of "The Sims" was hotly anticipated. I was skeptical, as the premise of the game involved players developing simulated characters and controlling and manipulating their life. To me, that left too much room for the developers to work in worldly concepts and gratuitous situations. I'm glad to say for the most part my fears were unfounded.

[...] Comments:

"...This game is very subtle in what it teaches and probably a lot more dangerous than a blatantly occult or violent game. Because it is presented as such a normal suburban lifestyle simulation, kids can come to believe that astrology, materialism, and unrestrained sexuality are normal adult behaviors. This Trojan Horse packs a lot more deceit than any other game I have played to date and earns a 50% (F) for Epicurean excess."
--John Gocke, Al Menconi Ministries

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:

Designing User Interfaces to Simulation Games

Designing User Interfaces to Simulation Games.
A summary of Will Wright's talk to Terry Winnograd's User Interface Class at Stanford, in 1996.
Written by Don Hopkins.

Will Wright, the designer of SimCity, SimEarth, SimAnt, and other popular games from Maxis, gave a talk at Terry Winnograd's user interface class at Stanford, in 1996 (before the release of The Sims in 2000). At the end of the talk, he demonstrated an early version of The Sims, called Dollhouse at the time. I attended the talk and took notes, on which this article elaborates. I was fascinated by Dollhouse, and subsequently went to work with Will Wright at Maxis for three years. We finally released it as The Sims in 2000, after several name changes: TDS (Tactical Domestic Simulator), Project-X (everybody has one of those), Jefferson (after the president, not the sitcom), happy fun house (or some other forgetable Japanese placism).

At the talk, he reflected on the design of simulators and user interfaces in SimCity, SimEarth, and SimAnt. He demonstrated several of his games, including his current project, Dollhouse.

Here are some important points Will Wright made, at this and other talks. I've elaborated on some of his ideas with my own comments, based on my experiences playing lots of SimCity, talking with Will, studying the source code and porting it to Unix, reworking the user interface, and adding multi player support.

From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Further Reflections, By Henry Jenkins

From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Further Reflections, By Henry Jenkins

This is an interesting paper by Henry Jenkins that discusses how games appeal to girls, comparing the "Games for Girls" approach of Brenda Laural at Purple Moon, with the "System Simulation" approach of Will Wright at Maxis.

Before I went to Maxis to work on The Sims with Will Wright, I worked at Interval Research. I saw the research and work that Brenda Laurel was doing on games for girls, before Purple Moon spun off from Interval. I found it very interesting and enlightened, and hoped it would be successful. It's illuminating to compare the two approaches, and I think this article makes some great points by doing that.

The Bunny Wuffles School of Sims Transmogrification

http://www.strategyplanet.com/thesims/sas/bwsost/bwsost.htm

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!

ShowNTell ActiveX Plug-In for Previewing Sims Objects

I'm developing another Transmogrifier based tool called "ShowNTell", which is an ActiveX control for displaying a live preview of a Sims object file on a web page (or wherever you can plug in an ActiveX control). You can drag-and-drop iff files into the window to view them, change the rotation and zoom, and read the name, price and description. It also gives you control over the background color and grid, to match your web page and objects.

"What is ShowNTell for?", you might ask. I want to make it easy for people to distribute and download Sims objects over the web, as well as view and manage their own objects offline. Players should be able to quickly look at objects before installing them and restarting The Sims. ShowNTell displays a live interactive preview of a Sims object, right on the web page!

The Sims Transmogrifier 2.0, and RugOMatic

I'm working on releasing a new version of The Sims Transmogrifier 2.0, soon. The web site is: http://www.TheSimsTransmogrifier.com

It supports all 7 Sims expansion packs, up to Makin' Magic, and has a bunch of bug fixes and convenience features.

The Sims Transmogrifier 2.0 is currently undergoing unamerican outsourced quality assurance, and cruel and unusual animal testing, so it will be ready to release soon!

I've also developed an easy-to-use add-on to Transmogrifier called RugOMatic, which lets you create rugs by dragging and dropping pictures and text. It's much easier to use than Transmogrifier. RugOMatic automates the Transmogrification progress, so anyone can easily put their own pictures and text into the game, as colorful rugs. More types of objects will follow!

The custom rugs that RugOMatic creates have a special feature: you can read their text description in-game by selecting "Describe" from the pie menu, so rugs are useful for much more than just covering up the floor and decorating the room. You can use them to publish your own pictures and stories as objects within The Sims.

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