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Interview: Jonathan Knight
Subject The Sims 2 / Maxis
Interviewee Jonathan Knight
Details
J. Knight

Held by Lucy Bradshaw.
Interview Date Saturday 12 June 2004

1. Hello! What's your name and what do you do on The Sims 2?
My name is Jonathan Knight. I'm a Producer on The Sims 2, working mainly in two areas: first, the new Aspirations feature, which involves a new simulator whereby Sims tell you what they Want and Fear (like, I want a baby, or I fear an alien abduction). Achieving Wants drives up your Aspiration Score, which unlocks rewards, and keeps your Sims happy and living long. Secondly, I'm supervising the shipping neighborhoods, which are all the pre-built houses, Sims, and stories that we're shipping with the game.

2. How did you become a Producer for The Sims 2?
After graduate school, I got my start in the industry as an assistant producer at Interplay on a big interactive movie. I worked on a lot of different games over the years, but about 3 years ago I was lucky enough to land an opportunity at Maxis, which is a studio I'd admired for a long time. I started out on The Sims 2, when it was just an R&D project, then moved over to the expansion pack team to help finish Vacation. I then produced the final 3 expansion packs for The Sims, and after we shipped Makin' Magic, I re-joined the Sims 2 team.

3. What's the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is working with incredibly creative people to imagine new stuff, and then see it come to life in the game. The process of going from blank canvas to implementation to ship is incredibly rewarding.

4. What's your favorite feature in the game?
Well, I guess it's a tie between two things. The gamer in me loves the new Wants & Fears, because they really give you clear short-term goals and cool rewards, while at the same time helping you tell interesting stories with your Sims. But the builder in me loves the Eyedropper Tool; I can build and decorate four times faster than I could in the original Sims. It's such a simple tool, but it's so powerful!

5. How do you come up with the ideas for the new game-play design?
I'm lucky to work on one of the most creative teams working in games today. In this talented group of programmers, artists, designers, producers… ideas can come from anywhere. We also continually monitor the fan sites for ideas and suggestions, so be careful what you wish for! Ideas can also come from unlikely sources. I met Bijoux Philips at a party once, and she pitched me an idea for an object: she wanted a bathmat to put in front of her showers to absorb the water from her sloppy Sims. I thought, “we should totally make that object!"

6. What are your hobbies?
My wife and I love to travel and cook, and we spend a lot of time fixing up our house. We're re-doing the floors in our house right now... and we sure wish we had that Shift-Click feature... :)

7. What's the first computer game you ever played?
Like a lot of people, the first video game I played was Pong. But the first computer game I played was Star Trek on the Apple II. I think it was about 1977, and we had to load the software from cassette tape.

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That game ruled!

8. If you could take 3 things with you to an island and had to stay there for the rest of your life, what would you take along?
The collected works of Shakespeare.
Civilization II.
Sunscreen.

9. What's it like working in the game industry?
I imagine it feels a lot like Hollywood must have felt in the 40's. Which is to say... incredibly exciting.

10. How many hats do you own?
I have no idea. But you can never have too many hats.

Jonathan Knight was interviewed by ChEeTaH.

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