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The Sims - Breathing New Life Before The Sims 2
Welcome
We're at that point now where there's only so long to go before your pre-ordered copy of The Sims 2 will come through your door in mid September wrapped in nice neat "amazon.co.uk" packaging to boot. You've seen all the screenshots, read all about the nice new features, listened to that nice Mr Wright speak about how The Sims 2 is going to be the best thing since sliced bread and you cannot wait.

But what to do between now and then? With six weeks to go, you might as well play The Sims 1. But do you get bored with the same old routine and the same old objects day in and day out? What's that? You do? Oh good. So instead of playing something else, why not change the objects in The Sims yourself? You don't have to download from other sites; with a few tools and what not you can do it yourself.

There are a few things you can customise in The Sims, from how you lay your house out to whether your Sims live in luxury (or poverty). To an extent, the more game mechanicals are limited to whether to have shadows or not, free will or build web pages on saving. Nice but limited.

There is more you can do though and all you need is a computer and a copy of The Sims 1, then these: Career Creator 3 (downloadable from http://www.thesimsworkshop.com), ScriptStation (download from http://www.hackersresource.info), Transmogrifier (downloadable from http://www.thesimstransmogrifier.com), some sticky-back plastic, an empty washing-up bottle and some time (sticky-back plastic and washing-up bottle optional). Some coffee would be nice as well.

Change The Music

Customising the music is easy - just dump a few MP3s into the right folders and Bob (Newbie)'s your Uncle!

The simplest way to revamp the game is to change the music both in terms of mode and what is played on the radio or hi-fi or in external areas like Vacation Island and Downtown. This is easy to do and makes a nice change:

Just go to C:\Program Files\Maxis\The Sims\Music\Modes and drop some new MP3s into the appropriate folder. So if you don't like the piano tunes that come with Build Mode, feel free to move them out of there and put your own in. Any MP3 will do. The game will pick one at random from the appropriate folder when you enter that mode. Same goes for C:\Program Files\Maxis\The Sims\Music\Stations which determines what turns up on the Hi-fi/radio. Note that some of these though may also turn up in locations where you put a DJ turntable.

Change The Colours

Eric isn't too fussed that his new green flamingo only cost $7

With a copy of the Transmogifier, you can clone an object and then export it to repaint it. If you download the program, it comes with a tutorial to make a green flamingo that you can put on the garden lawn. The same idealogy there works with most objects that you clone.

One tip is that if you put your cloned object back in the folder with the FAR file it came from with the same filename as that in the FAR file, it will replace it in the catalogue. Note though that this will generate a "missing objects" message though because the cloned item is not the same as the one in the FAR file.

Change The Daily Routine!
Okay, grab a copy of Career Creator 3, install it and run it. One thing with this utility is to change the careers (but you can't add any - you are limited to 10 career tracks with the original game, 5 more are added with Livin Large and another 5 with Unleashed. Therefore to add a new career you have to change an existing one).

Things you can do with this utility to add a bit of variety to the game: Change the chance cards, working hours of each career, the requirements (how many logic points needed for example) and number of friends for the next promotion, as well as the wage, description and motive decay speed. Note though that in the game, if your Sim is at work and you change the clocking off hour to one earlier than it is in the game when you last saved it (ie, it is 2:10pm in the game and you change your Sim's present job clocking off time to 2pm) then you won't see your Sim again until the new clock-off time!

Two more things to explore in this utility: File->Global Texts. At least one of these will appear on a daily basis. Edit them as you wish (inject a bit of humour!) but don't touch anything with a $ sign or two in front of it as these are replaced in the game. What these change are self-explanatory. Try these for example:

Car Pool Warning: "The car pool for $Object will arrive (traffic and roadworks pending) in about an hour."
School bus warning: "A School Bus will arrive (probably) in about an hour to go to a school that doesn't exist."
A++ Bonus Message: "I got $$Local:1 from Grandpa for my good grades. I also found some dead moths in his wallet."


Career Creator 3 does more than change the careers - fancy sending sim kids to night school?

Finally in this section, in Career Creator 3, go to File->Global Options (dialog above). Now this is fun to fiddle with; you could adjust the difficulty level of the game so far as the kids go by upping the "Minimal mood for higher grade" value a bit and by upping the "Maximal mood for lower grade" value. In this case you could set it up so that grades fall if the kid's (maximal) mood is below 80 but won't go up unless (minimal) mood is over 60, making it harder for you to keep kids in the game as their survival is now more crucially tied to how well you sort their motives out in the morning.

Elsewhere in this section: Try altering the school day hours (or set it up for night/evening school), the "good grades" bonus and how often it occurs. For example, a 1% chance to earn a $250 bonus (although the more kids you have the more chance of a bonus being given anyway). Or just turn it off full stop. Also up for adjusting: Chances of the chance cards and the promotion bonus.

By the way, don't go over midnight for school hours as shown above else you'll end up with this sorry situation and your kids won't be very happy either:


By setting school hours to run over midnight we end up with three buses beeping away at twenty to five in the morning.
Change The Interface Text

Even deeper customisation can be made by digging deep into the guts of the game files

Okay, we should just say at this point about the stuff pointed out from here on in - if editing something and you don't know what it's supposed to do - leave it alone!. Good.

Buried in the C:\Program Files\Maxis\The Sims\GameData folder are a few .IFF files, most of these can be read with ScriptStation (bear in mind that this program has a bug in it which means that when you save in it you have to exit the program as well else nothing is saved). What you could do is change some of the strings to make different things come up on the screen.

(some of the #XXX values may differ depending on which expansion packs you have installed. Those mentioned here are correct for when all expansion packs are installed).

For example: in ScriptStation, edit the UIText.iff file and find, in the SimAntics strings section, "#155: splashprogress", double-click on it. You should recognise the phrases as they scroll across on the loading screen. You could change these for one thing, see the screenshot above.

One useful thing is #161: LocalKeys. The Sims doesn't have a "redefine keys" option but poke about in here and redefine as you wish.

Something else that may be of interest is "#166: Help". One ingenious use for this is to alter this set of strings to be a bit more helpful to somebody who is new to the whole Sims game so that the help system to them is more relevant (you could, for example, alter the spiel about the camera to include "the camera can be used by pressing F4").

One other thing I will point out to you while we're here: Careers.iff and "#4097: Grade Strings". If you are a British reader, you could change these to those used in the British education system - A* down to G and U and drop a few +'s in on occasion to fill out the gaps (B+, C+, etc) to pad it out to 16 levels. Perhaps the U grade (which is unclassified) is good enough to pack your brat off to military school.

And there's another idea; with the Scriptstation program and Career Editor 3 program, you could make this game more British like not only by editing simple stuff like the grading system or writing graffiti all over the school bus but maybe putting British humour into the text as well. Watch British movies like 'Love Actually', 'About A Boy', 'Four Weddings And A Funeral' or 'Notting Hill' to see typical examples.

Some might say making The Sims British is easily done by just dumping a bit of rubbish in the street and graffiti on the walls. Just go that little bit further with the following checklist: Small cramped pokey house with ludcrious price tag; mailbox by the front door (not by the road), trashcan by the back door; sod all in the way of post and drive on the left (select the carpool with move_objects and turn it round if you don't want to move the car portal). Don't forget to stock up on Sky Sports, alchohol and work until you drop, go downtown and get drunk (closing time: 11pm). Thank you. :)

Hacking

Hacking is the ultimate way to completely change an object and is the most complicated method of the lot. Therefore I will refer you to hackersresource.info for all the ins and outs of this.

And that's about all I have to say for now. I hope you enjoyed this article and that you customise your Sims game to the moon and back. Yes, why decide whether to have shadows under your objects when you can decide whether to have sarcastic messages everywhere instead? :)

Written at 02:41 2004n Sunday 1 August 2004 by Neil.
Last updated at 01:13 2004n Wednesday 11 August 2004.

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