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The Technology
Very Customizable
The technology behind The Sims 2 is much more advanced than The Sims 1. Where for instance the original version wasn't really made to be expanded as much as happened, The Sims 2 is prepared for that. Maxis never expected so many users to create custom content for The Sims 1 as what's happened in the past years, which made the game sluggish, buggy and unstable after many expansion packs. That's changed now The Sims 2 will automatically detect new (custom) content you installed in the game automatically when you load it. As The Sims 1 needed to check what was installed every time it was loaded, the loading times got very long once you installed more custom objects, skins, etc. The new game won't have such a long loading time, and it won't take more than a few minutes. Expansion packs are also installed in folders in the installation directory. Removing just one expansion is now as easy as deleting one folder from the game, and that's it. That means you won't have as much trouble reinstalling The Sims 2 and its expansions anymore.

One messy desktop, isn't it?
More than before, Maxis is now supporting the community, which they also showed by inviting us to The Sims 2 University. They will be releasing several tools to make custom content like Walls and Floors (Perhaps called "HomeCrafter 2"?), Skins ("CaSIE") and Objects (No, not Edith). CaSIE will be released soon, and you'll read more about that later in this speical. The new HomeCrafter tool, or whatever its name is going to be, will probably be released some time around the release of the game itself. The Object tool won't be released for 6 to 12 months after the release of the game, but until then people can always create new textures, like skins in The Sims 1, to create recoloured objects. As the game will ship with sofas, couches, beds etc. in plenty of shapes, there will be enough variation to create new objects.

The whole directory structure of the game has also been improved a lot. If you've had problems with installing downloads to the right folders before, than that's no longer a problem. You simply have to unzip a file to one download directory, which is in the default My Documents folder. After installing a download, you can import it in the game even while the game is running. Quite definitely there will be tools to help you unzipping the files again, just in case you can't work well with WinZip. One of those will probably be a second version of my The Add-On Handler (I can't promise anything yet though).
Conflicts? No more!
In the past there were many problems with conflicting Object IDs. Installing one object could cause another one to stop working if they shared the same ID number. Instead of just a few bits that were used in The Sims 1, the Sims 2 will use a 128-bit ID. These identification numbers, which the game uses, can now be so big, that there can be 3.4 x 1038 combinations in total. The chance of two people creating content with the same ID in the entire lifetime of The Sims 2 is now so small, that it won't really trouble anybody.

Another common problem in the past was that you often needed a specific expansion pack to be able to use a certain object in The Sims. After asking Maxis if anything was done about that, they said they didn't have a solution at the moment yet. However, they will look into it and hopefully such problems won't occur again. Even if it's just a message in the game saying you need a specific pack, it's already more clear to most users who don't know about the problem.

A downside of the new technology is that the new custom content files are often a lot bigger than now. A complete skin pack, which contains one Sim in all ages, and all different suits (Regular, Formal, Swimming etc.) will take about 4-5 Mb, zipped. Maxis is currently experimenting how to reduce these sizes.
Ooh and Aah
Will Wright
As you probably know, the graphics and sound are completely new in this game. Music and speech will be redone completely, and nothing from the old Sims games will be used. Of course the graphics are completely 3D, and the camera can be moved around freely. You can zoom in and out smoothly, so no static zoom-levels anymore. The same goes for rotation, you can easily go around your whole house with ease. Most movements can be done with both the mouse and keyboard. You will have to get used to moving it around a bit though, as you might sometimes have some trouble getting the camera in the right position. It's a disadvantage of 3D games, but you'll get the hang of it quickly. I'm not sure if there will be a tutorial again with the Newbies - something I consider quite likely though - and using the camera shouldn't be skipped in that. Another thing you'll notice in the game is that the grid doesn't always show. It's only on when and where necessary, a bit in SimCity style. You will see the grid a couple of squares around the cursor, but not if it's not necessary.

Some of the graphics are now also more realistic. Imagine real mirrors, which actually reflect what's going on. With all these details, your graphics card will be the most important when it comes to performance. If you want high performance in The Sims 2, you might in some cases be better off buying a new graphics card than buying a new CPU. The minimum specifications, which you will need to run the game with the lowest details, are posted at TheSims2.com. The brand new version also makes use of several DirectX 9 features. That means you'll need at least DirectX 9.0 to play, but as with most games that will most likely be put on the CD as well. If you don't have it, or don't even know what it is, don't worry about it as it'll automatically be installed.
In the end...
You will need a bit of an up-to-date PC to be able to run the game. That may put off some people from buying it, but Will Wright thinks the game will eventually sell even more than The Sims 1. The reason why he thinks that, is that the group of players of the game will increase by the year. The gaming industry is growing, and he expects that more people will buy and play the game over the course of time. As you probably know, it'll take a long time before The Sims 2 comes even close to the sales figures of The Sims 1, which has sold million of copies worldwide. And I shouldn't forget: The Sims 2 will be translated in 17 languages again, just like CaSIE. That will make the game more accessible to those players who don't speak English. I forgot to ask if SimLish is one of the 17 languages. If not, perhaps they'll translate it to that as well, as 18th language? I doubt it, but it would be fun.
Written at 22:50 on Tuesday 18 November 2003 by ChEeTaH.

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