A bit of history
As you've read in the previous articles in this special, The Sims 2 will be more customizable than The Sims 1. Maxis never expected that there would be so many websites and fans creating custom objects, walls, floors, and more for The Sims. Players from the first days might remember the limit on the amound of custom files you could install. This quickly turned out to be a problem for many players, and it was solved with the version 1.1 Patch. With The Sims 2 you won't need a patch, it'll just have a very high (virtually unreachable) limit on the amount of files. In The Sims 1 the amount is currently still limited to the amount of time you have - the more files, the longer it takes to load. That's also been solved in The Sims 2, and it'll load within a few minutes at the most (depending on the quality of your system of course). Finally, quite many users had problems with conflicting item IDs in The Sims 1, which has also been fixed by making the ID in the files larger, which makes more possibilities, which again means a smaller change of getting conflicting files. In short, The Sims 1 wasn't made for (much) custom content, but this new version definitely will be.
As before, Maxis will allow artists to show off their creativity using several tools. I've already discussed CaSIE
on the previous page, and I've also shortly mentioned a possible new HomeCrafter (which is not a definite name whatsoever, bytheway). Unfortunately we didn't get to see HomeCrafter, nor did they tell us much about it. Most likely it'll be similar to HomeCrafter for The Sims 1: You design your wall or floor using your favourite paint program, import it in HomeCrafter, add a description and price, and voilà, you have your walls and floors in the game. I don't know if it'd be possible to export the textures of walls/floors, so you can edit them if you lost the original file - it wasn't in the original HomeCrafter. However, it would bring copyright issues with it, as it might make stealing of walls/floors easier, with the 'thief' claiming he made it. Perhaps a 'Lock file' feature could solve this problem, so the original texture is removed from the file, or at least exporting it to a bitmap is disabled.
I'm guessing that roof textures will be plain bitmaps again like before - but I'm not sure. If so, it won't be hard to create new roofs again. If not, then perhaps Maxis should include them in the HomeCrafter tool, so it still won't be very hard. The version that was shown in San Francisco still didn't have many roof textures. It's hard to find new ones on the net (they're probably the least popular download), and so the variation might be very limited if you have many homes, all with the same roof texture.
Making objects won't be as easy as skins using CaSIE. It will be about as hard as skins in The Sims 1 though, if you want to create the so-called recolors anyway. All you have to change this time is the texture - no more messing around with Transmogrifier. The texture will then be wrapped on the 3D model like a skin. The player can then easily change the look of the object in-game by choosing a different 'skin'. The textures of objects now support bump-mapping and transparency as well. This makes it possible for you to create better looking objects more easily. Because the objects are now in full 3D as well, you won't have to create several sprites from several angles anymore. For designers, it would be useful if Maxis creates a simple preview tool at or before the release of the game, in which artists can load an object and a texture. After making changes this tool should be able to refresh the preview with a click on a button. Such a tool shouldn't be too hard to make for Maxis, since they already have most of the technology, and it'd make the life of object creators a lot easier.
Creating brand new objects will be impossible from the start. Of course hackers will find out how to change some things pretty quickly, but a 'proper' tool won't be out for 6 to 12 months after the release of the game. If you remember the first months of The Sims, then you might also know that Maxis had planned to release (a simplified version of) Edith to the users some time. This has never happened because the tool is simply too complicated for most users, and the learning curve is long. It is indeed a graphical tool, which uses 'flowcharts' (boxes and arrows) to define how an object behaves. But still it seemed to be pretty complicated. Instead of Edith, Maxis will release a different tool to create new objects, or at least to import 3D models to make an object out of it. The problem with custom shapes at the moment is that because of the more advanced objects in The Sims 2, you'll need to create different animations as well. Maxis is working on it though, and those problems should be solved sooner or later. 3D models can be created using Maya, and the tool should make it possible to import it. Real Maxis fans will have to learn two 3D programs now: gMax (a light-version of 3DMax) for SimCity 4, as the new BAT will use that, and Maya for The Sims 2...
There isn't much else I can say about custom content at the moment. New objects will unfortunately be rare in the early beginning, but skins, walls and floors (and perhaps even roofs) shouldn't be too hard to make, and those will be the first items to be released quickly. Anybody can create houses as well, so those won't be very rare either. There are very many websites, some of which are already focusing on The Sims 2. Most of these will probably have The Sims 2 content as well once it's possible to make it. But the architecture for The Sims 2 is much better, and it'll support custom content a lot better. The fans will be happy with that, as the amount of problems should be smaller.
Written at 22:50 on Tuesday 18 November 2003 by