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The Sims 4 Producer Azure Bowie-Hankins Interview

The Sims 4 Producer Azure Bowie-Hankins Interview

The Sims 4 has had its critics - mainly for lack of simple features like swimming pools and ghosts. Yet, to Maxis' and EA's credit, many of the community's niggles have been worked out in free patches since the game was released in September last year.

We got a chance to interview one of The Sims 4's producers, Azure Bowie-Hankins, whilst testing out the game's first, brand new expansion pack - Get To Work. The community involvement is exactly what drives The Sims forward as a series, especially with The Sims 4.

Azure:

What I really, really love about Get To Work and even what the team has done since the game launched is our philosophy is that we tell ourselves that we want to be a ‘Live’ service. What that means specifically is that we have been listening to our community - we have been on forums, we have been talking to people about what they want in the game and listening to their feedback

Every month since the release of the base game we have been releasing free content for players. We’ve had pools and ghosts, family trees and more careers and what we’re trying to do is have this relationship where we are listening to what these guys are saying and then actioning on those things

Azure told us that the community is exactly what got Maxis to make the Get To Work expansion in the first place.

Azure:

...we looked on the forums and sent out polls and surveys and when you take active careers and retail it was the number one thing players were asking for. So we said, okay let’s make it. It’s fun to do that because people get excited.

There’s such a huge appeal to The Sims as a series. From 20-something guys looking for a different pace from fast and action-packed shooters, to a younger audience who like playing with Sims as they would a doll house; the audience has no boundaries. We asked Azure what she thought the reasons were behind this:

Azure:

For me, and this is kind-of a personal answer - because the game is so broad, you can play in a bunch of different ways. When I first started playing The Sims, I was a builder and that was all I did, I would barely play the actual ‘game’ part. Now, I rarely build, I am just a storyteller and if you want to be a nice storyteller and make Sims that look like you and just be nice to your Sims then you can just do that. If you are the type of player that likes to put them in a pool and wall them off and kind of torture them then I guess you can do that too!

Err, none of us do that, do we? We know of no soulless individuals that have ever locked Sims in a small, exit-free room with nothing but a bunch of poorly placed TVs and a fireplace to keep them company.

Azure:

We try to make it broad enough where we aren’t going to stop players from doing that in their game. We want there to be enough of something for everyone, where you can customise your own gameplay style to the actual game.

In recent times, a game widely regarded as the Mii equivalent of The Sims, Tomodachi Life on the Nintendo 3DS, was under-fire for not including same-sex relationships within the game, something that The Sims has made possible for the entire 15 years one way or another. It was incredible to find out just how much this small feature could influence real-life situations.

Azure:

There has been some times where I have met a player and they say that: “I was playing The Sims before I came out [being gay] and it was awesome as I could play as me.” From our standpoint it’s just about player freedom and it would probably take more work to put the code in to say you couldn’t do that [have same sex relationships] - so why not? If players want to do that then we want to give them the freedom to do what they want.

Going one step further, we asked about clothing that wasn’t gender specific and if that would ever make it into the game.

Azure:

We’ve actually heard a lot of feedback about that from the community and I think it’s interesting because it’s something we’d not actually thought of before but it’s not something we’d be closed off to. We don’t have any plans to do that right now but it’s definitely worth keeping in mind.

Maybe some sort of universal wardrobe pack could be in the works, with a variety of clothes able to be worn from different gender Sims.

With Get To Work bringing a host of additions in April to the already bulky core game, we asked Azure what her favourite thing was about the expansion.

Azure:

My favourite thing is the Scientist career and I did not work on it so that is an unbiased answer! I worked on the Skills - so, photography, baking and I did a bunch of the gallery features that we added too.

The gallery feature allows users to share photos using the new Photography skill found in Get To Work.

Azure:

If you take a bunch of pictures and put them on your wall, uploading that [to the community page] will allow users to be able to view photos that you’ve taken in the game.

Although Azure didn’t want to comment on whether The Sims 4 would be making its way to any other platforms, it is safe to say that this isn’t the end of The Sims' lifecycle. We asked about how the closure of Maxis Emeryville impacted The Sims’ team.

Azure:

I can answer this honestly and say that it’s always really sad when a studio closes. Although we weren’t in the same location we had a lot of friends over there who used to work on The Sims but it doesn’t actually affect our plans for The Sims 4 at all.

The future looks bright for The Sims. With free monthly content updates and a lively community, many of which are happy to pay for each and every expansion available, it is unlikely we will be seeing less of The Sims for a while yet. The truth is some people love playing ‘happy families’ and others enjoy playing ‘cause as much havoc as possible’ and The Sims caters to all, adding exciting adventures and stories to unfold and a humorous dialogue to-boot.

The Sims 4 is available now on PC with the Get To Work expansion coming 2nd April. Keep an eye out for our hands-on preview.

You can read the full transcribed interview below:

GameGrin:

What’s your favourite thing about the Get To Work expansion?

Azure:

My favourite thing is the scientist career and I did not work on it so that is an unbiased answer! I worked on the Skills - so, photography, baking and I did a bunch of the gallery features that we added too. If you take a bunch of pictures and put them on your wall, uploading that [to the community page] will allow users to be able to view photos that you’ve taken in the game.

GameGrin:

The Sims 3 had about 11 expansion packs and many more stuff packs. Are we likely to see a similar trend in The Sims 4 with frequent expansion packs after Get To Work?

Azure:

We have nothing to announce at this time.

GameGrin:

How do the Expansion Packs differ from the Game Packs that are available?

Azure:

Because they are new, the way that we tried to explain the Game Packs is imagining that if you are familiar with Stuff Packs in The Sims 3 a Game Pack would be something between a Stuff Pack and an Expansion Pack. Game Packs have gameplay content, new objects and has a lot of things in it, but isn’t as broad as an Expansion Pack. Expansion Packs can completely change the way that you play the game but the Game Pack just adds a little something extra.

GameGrin:

Why do you think The Sims series has such a wide audience appeal?

Azure:

For me, and this is kind-of a personal answer: because the game is so broad, you can play in a bunch of different ways. When I first started playing The Sims I was a builder and that was all I did, I would barely play the actual ‘game’ part. Now, I rarely build, I am just a storyteller and if you want to be a nice storyteller and make Sims that look like you and just be nice to your Sims then you can just do that and If you are the type of player that likes to put them in a pool and wall them off and kind of torture them then I guess you can do that too! We try to make it broad enough where we aren’t going to stop players from doing that in their game because we want there to be enough of something for everyone where you can customise your own gameplay style to the actual game.

GameGrin:

Tomodachi Life was a big hit on the 3DS but got negative press for the disregard of same-sex relationships. Do you consider Maxis' outlook on same sex couples and equality in general within The Sims to be beneficial to the popularity the series has had?

Azure:

There has been some times where I have met a player and they say that: “I was playing The Sims before I came out [being gay] and it was awesome as I could play as me.” From our standpoint it’s just about player freedom and it would probably take more work to put the code in to say you couldn’t do that [have same sex relationships] - so why not? If players want to do that then we want to give them the freedom to do what they want.

GameGrin:

Following on from that, Do you think this equality and modern thinking will expand into non-genderised clothing for The Sims' characters?

Azure:

We’ve actually heard a lot of feedback about that from the community and I think it’s interesting because it’s something we’d not actually thought of before but it’s not something we’d be closed off to. We don’t have any plans to do that right now but it’s definitely worth keeping in mind.

GameGrin:

How much has the community been a factor in changes to the game?

Azure:

“What I really, really love about Get To Work and even what the team has done since the game launched is our philosophy is that we tell ourselves that we want to be a ‘Live’ service. What that means specifically is that we have been listening to our community - we have been on forums, we have been talking to people about what they want in the game and listening to their feedback. Every month since the base game we have been releasing free content for players. We’ve had pools and ghosts, family trees and more careers and what we’re trying to do is have this relationship where we are listening to what these guys are saying and we are actioning on those things and actually for the first expansion pack specifically, we chose the theme because we looked on the forums and sent out polls and surveys and when you take active careers and retail it was the number one thing players were asking for. So we said, okay let’s make it. It’s fun to do that because people get excited.

GameGrin:

Any plans to bring The Sims 4 to other platforms?

Azure:

We have nothing to announce this time.

GameGrin:

With Maxis Emeryville closing, has it put a few people on edge around The Sims 4 team and do you expect The Sims 4 and the series to expand in the same ways since the news of closure?

Azure:

I can answer this honestly and say that it’s always really sad when a studio closes. Although we weren’t in the same location we had a lot of friends over there who used to work on The Sims but it doesn’t actually affect our plans for The Sims 4 at all.

GameGrin:

What would be your things you’d like to see in future expansions to The Sims 4?

Azure:

There are definitely things that I would like to see in the series personally because I am a fan, but I don’t think answer that question. Just because I like something or would like to see it in the game, doesn’t mean that it will actually be in there and I wouldn’t like people to get too excited!

James Bralant

James Bralant

Staff Writer

James spends his time playing almost anything. Talents include: having a socially-awkward hair colour and getting far too angry after losing

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COMMENTS

Emseypenguin
Emseypenguin - 03:23pm, 20th March 2015

Really nice to hear that they're open to the idea of non gender specific clothing. 

Reply
TGK
TGK - 08:08pm, 30th March 2015 Author

She was really surprised when I asked about it - but seemed to like the idea!

Reply