After selecting an area to build on, it's time to actually build that house of your Sims' dreams. New to The Sims 2 are the foundations, which will allow you to build on hilly terrain. In The Sims 1 hills caused a lot of problems when you built your house, but that's no longer an issue. Simply place blocks of foundation - either straight or diagonal - anywhere on the lot, within the available tiles anyway. The foundations will be placed a bit higher than the ground itself. Because Sims don't like to take high steps, you should also place some modular stairs. Because the stairs and its railings can be placed manually, you're able to create many different stairs, with no, 1 or 2 railings, in any combination you like.
Besides just changing the foundations, it's of course also possible to change the terrain of the lot to anything you like. The game will allow you to make tropical, desert, snow and many other areas. If you want a terrain that's not in the game, you can always create your own, or download new terrains. Changing the terrain is simple: it works in a way similar to the grass tool in The Sims. Select the terrain you want to have, and click and hold your mouse while you move it over the terrain. Everywhere your mouse goes, the terrain will change. Using this, it's possible to create a lot with some snow in the middle of a desert. Because it's now a terrain instead of custom flooring, you will finally be able to put those palm trees in the snow as well. Of course having them in a desert will do as well - it's all up to you.
After placing the foundations - which isn't necessary but highly recommended on slightly hilly terrain - it's time to build those walls. This is all pretty similar to The Sims 1: you can have straight and diagonal walls. Although you can now do more with diagonal walls, like placing windows and doors in them (more about that later), it's still not possible to place any objects against diagonals. You can build the walls as you wish. With the help of the foundations, you can even create a nice patio, by simply putting no walls around it. Also, walls with sharp corners (like |\ from top-down view) seemed to be a possibility in the version we were watching, which is a nice add-on.
The decorating of your rooms is still pretty similar to The Sims 1. Walls haven't changed much at all, but there are some changes when it comes to floors. For instance, by using large (up to 1024 by 1024 pixels) textures, you are now able to create beautiful carpets which don't look as symmetric as in The Sims 1. That's because those textures won't be shrunk to the size of a tile in the game, but instead it'll spread itself over several tiles. That means that if you place the floor on just one tile, you'll only see a small part of the texture. Placing the same floor on connecting tiles will make it all connect seamlessly, without the repetition. Of course, after the whole texture is displayed, it'll repeat again, but even then the amound of repetition is small. Beautiful patterns are the result. This sort of option might be included for walls too, but that seems to be a bit unlikely, but of course it'd be a nice function. At the moment it wasn't included and Maxis isn't sure about it.
Pressing Shift when placing a floor will - as before - fill up the entire room with that floor. However, when I played the game for a bit, I noticed that a small bit was left out. It was a little extension of the room. If that option is going to make the final game, you can now more easily create multiple rooms without doors between them, and different flooring. Filling one part with one floor, won't cause the other part to change. The final new option is that you can finally place floors outside the tile limit. No longer will the boundaries limit you with placing your floors.
The Roof is on Fire
After building up to 3 floors, it's time to add the fourth: the roof. Instead of just selecting how steep you want your roof to be, you now have to build it manually. This may require a bit of extra work, but it means you have again many more options on customising your house. In the Sims 2, it'll finally be possible to have gable-end roofs as shown in the original intro in The Sims 1. You can also add special items on your roof, like chimneys and windows. Chimneys are very special now: once your Sims want to get a little warmer, and light the fireplace, you'll see some smoke blowing out of the chimney. Just like in the Sims 1, you can choose how steep you want your roof to be, and which texture the roof should have. Unfortunately the amount of roof textures in the game that I saw was limited to 8. Although you can add custom textures later, it'd be nice if the game would ship with more than that.
Besides all the above, there are many new building options. For instance, you'll be able to place doors and windows on diagonal walls. Also the 2-story windows bring light to two floors instead of one. The light will of course be more realistic in The Sims 2, so just placing a bunch of windows on one side of the room will still keep the other side in the shade. When it comes to balconies, there are a few changes. First of all you'll be able to choose from a wide range of columns to support the balcony. Unfortunately though, you will still have to place a lot of columns if you want a large balcony - the support will still be no more than 2 or 3 squares around a column. Fortunately you don't have to place them all separately though. You can just build a platform, and the columns will be placed automatically.
On the Sims' homes, you will find the usual mailbox and trashcan again, but they've been redesigned to match the Sims 2 graphics properly. They look a lot nicer. I don't know if it's possible to move them around this time (without causing any problems), but that would definitely be nice. Something else that is brand-new, is the top-down camera view, which gives you a nice overview of your house. That makes it easier for your to see which flooring you have in a room, or how the walls are placed exactly. If you don't like top-down, you can always use the regular camera, which you can now rotate freely around the house. You can now check out your designs in even closer detail than before.
Written at 22:50 on Tuesday 18 November 2003 by