Clothing = Skin? Not anymore!
The first tool that'll be available for download will be CaSIE (formerly known as SACAS and CAS). With this separate tool, you can create new Sims and skins. This is not the CAS that's in the game itself - that's used to actually create the Sims with name, personality etc. CaSIE is there just for the looks of a Sim. You can also use it to create custom clothes. The interface is quite simple and basically anybody can make skins now. For the more advanced skinners, there will now be more options to create better looking clothing - and not just because it's 3D.
Something you'll have to keep in mind in The Sims 2 when creating Sims, is the difference between skins and clothing. The skin is the actual skin of the Sim itself, and nothing else (except some underwear, to cover the private parts). The clothing is what the Sim wears, and is put as a sort of layer over the skin. That means that if a Sim now chooses to wear something else, you won't have the problem of the skin tone changing because it's different in the file that provides the clothing.
Create that Sim
Once you downloaded and installed CaSIE, you can run it as any other program. You'll get to see an interface similar to the in-game CAS. You can choose between creating and packing a Sim. Packing isn't much more than putting the stuff you made together in one file, which you can offer as download. Creating however, is much nicer. First you'll see your previously made Sims in the SimBin. You can choose to edit one of those, or to create a new Sim. Of course if you haven't made any Sims yet, you'll have to create a new one. On the left you choose the gender, age and fitness (just fit or fat at the moment). Those are the big buttons you've probably seen on the screenshots. You can choose the specific option at the right of the buttons, or just click the button to cycle through the options. Remember that if you want to make a full set, you'll need to create several skins for all clothing types for all ages.
The skin itself can be modified every way you want it. The first thing to do is to modify the genetics. You can change things like eye, hair and skin colours, as well as the haircut. You can select what you want by just clicking the thumbnails on the screen. If you want your Sim to have a hat, you'll have to select it as haircut. However, it'll work a bit like an accessory, so your Sim will take it off in the shower.
The second step is to select a template face - an archetype. This is a face made by Maxis, which will be the start of your Sim. It defines the basics of your Sim. It's best to choose it to be as close to your wishes as possible, so you don't have to change as much later - in the next step. You don't have to click all the names to find the face you want of course. Instead, there are thumbnails, where you can see what your Sim will look like already. Step three is editing the face's details. You'll again see many new thumbnails, with sliders under them this time. You can simply drag them the way you want to modify the face to make the prettiest (or the ugliest) Sim. Anything can be adjusted, including the size of the eyes, the position of the eyebrows, forehead, the cheeks.... there are very many sliders, so you can change every little detail of your Sim. Even as you adjust your Sim, you'll still see the expressions on your Sims' faces in the game. They're not as statisc as before anymore, but very dynamic in fact. All the thumbnails show the outlines of the part of the face the slider will change, marked with white (the rest of the face is grey).
The next step is to change the make-up and accessories on the face, like glasses, earrings, lipstick, and more. You can combine them in several ways. Of course you can't select two types of lipstick, or two different glasses, but combining glasses with lipstick is easily done. It works like you're putting layers over each other. You can even make your Sim a mime if you want to. Wrinkles are also made using make-up.
The final step is to change your Sims' clothes. You can completely dress up your Sim any way you like. If you don't like the clothes in the game, and you'd rahter design your own, you can export the textures. Once exported, you can edit it using your favourite paint program, like Photoshop. There will be several files, of which 2 will be important. The first is the actual texture, containing the colours, which is what you'll actually see. The second one is the alpha-channel, which can be defined using 256 different greys (including black and white). The whiter a pixel is, the more opaque that pixel of the piece of clothes will be shown. Black means you won't see clothes but skin there. Note that making the alpha-channel completely black won't get you really nude Sims (if you want those...). They will still wear underwear in the game. The other exported bitmaps contain bitmaps for more advanced artists who want to bring even more details to their Sims. Think of bump-maps as one of them, so you can make your clothes hang a bit loose from the skin of your Sim. Most people probably won't use them though.
Back in CaSIE, you can easily see the changes you made by clicking a "Refresh" button. It'll immediately load the updated textures, you don't even have to close CaSIE. If you want to select the rest of the clothes, you'll have to select them for every type of clothing (like formal, swimming etc.). There's one type of clothes that you can change in more detail than the rest: every-day clothes. You can select both top and bottom for these. As the shoes are still tied to the trousers (which might change in the future, probably in an expansion pack then), you'll see it's stuck to the bottom. Selecting top and bottom separately gives you more choice and variation. There will also be one-piece clothes, like dresses. That is also the case with the rest of the types. After you dressed your Sim, it's finally time to place it in your SimBin, after which you can export it to your game.
The files created with CaSIE will be pretty big. If you create a full Sim, all ages including all the clothing types, you'll have 21 files in total, which is a set. A set contains 21 'skins': 1 for toddler (who can't have special clothing), and 5 (regular, formal, swimming, PJs and lingerie) for the rest of the ages (child, teen, adult, geezer). Packed up and zipped, such a download will be about 4-5 Mb in size. Maxis is looking into reducing this size, as it might easily kill some sites because of bandwidth issues. Of course it's up to you what you package - you can also choose to pack just one age (e.g. teen or adult, because that's what you'll end up playing with the most), or even just one skin. Of course that'll reduce the download size a lot. You won't have to worry about having to place your CaSIE-made Sims in the game manually. It'll use the same folders as The Sims 2, so there's nothing to move around.
CaSIE will probably be available as download mid-december. It'll also be translated to the 17 languages The Sims 2 will be released in, but those translations won't be available immediately. In the course of time, the look of the interface has changed pretty often, as you can see in the (old) screenshots above. Hence the design of the interface might not be exactly the same as we know it now, but it'll be similar. If you have a simple dial-up internet connection, make sure you have enough coffee before downloading - it'll take a while. There will probably be several releases, like was done with SimShow. One download with just the program (exptected size is about 7 Mb) and some basic textures and sliders, one download with all the extra content, and a download which has both in one. It would be nice of EA to pack the full version of CaSIE with The Sims as optional (or separate) package, so those without a broadband internet connection will then still be able to customize their Sims entirely. Publishing them on the internet will still be a problem for those users because of the big files, but then they can at least have them for personal use.
The initial version of CaSIE probably won't be the final one either. As Luc Barthelet recently pointed out to us (after The Sims 2 University), they're planning to release an update later, which will allow you to export and import models, allowing you to change them using a 3D program. CaSIE will be one of the biggest tools to create custom content for The Sims 2, and it's not even the game itself! However, the program does have the same system requirements as The Sims 2.
Written at 22:50 on Tuesday 18 November 2003 by