Simcity Blog: How we Sim our Sims

Via Simcity Blog

Hey everyone! I’m Jeremy Dale and I’m an Animator here at Maxis. It’s my job to make all the little Sims feel at home. Or at least act like they’re feeling at home. Or maybe if they don’t like their home, make them act like they don’t like their home. Okay, the important thing is I make sure that what the Sims are doing makes sense and is relevant.

There is a tremendous amount of data being transmitted under the hood with the GlassBox engine. My job is to put a human face on these transactions, and make them entertaining. From the lowly surveyors that you saw preparing for construction in Lead Designer Stone Librande’s gameplay strategy video, to the chaos of a foiled bank robbery shootout, I utilize our vignette system to expose the simulation to the player using Sims rather than pie charts.

As you may have read in Engineer Robert Perry’s previous blog post about physics, “what you see is what we Sim” is one of the core driving philosophies on SimCity In my case, it’s more “when you see your Sims, you’re seeing your Sims’ simulation.” It’s not enough to make a city feel alive. It has to be alive. If you see a Sim wearing scrubs walking down the street, that’s not some random “extra,” that’s a nurse heading home from a shift at the hospital.

When Sims are at home, what do they do? What do Sims do when they’re shopping at a boutique? How can I best leverage an opportunity to show what it looks like when workers at a warehouse are on break? To answer these questions, I need to look at the data in the simulation and find out how many kids are present at a residence, how many workers are in a commercial building, or how many executives a manufacturing operation might support. In this way, I can surprise an observant player with a fact-at-a-glance while wandering around the city as I have surprised myself when I saw an injured Sim standing in front of his home, hoping an ambulance might arrive to speed him away to recovery. As any good mayor would, I quickly built a clinic nearby, and he was quickly retrieved and cared for.

You might see some shabby looking characters huddled around the entrance of a park, which will prompt you to check the deeper data on hand to see the extent of your homeless population. Seeing a mob of Sims outside city hall might cause you to inspect your tax rates. If there are large groups of Sims gathered around bus stops for an extended period of time, you will know that you should add more busses to your transportation network.

Exposing the simulation with Sims; that’s just part of what I do on the team. There’s still a lot to do, and I’m going to pack in as much narrative as I can before we’re done.