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Afternoon Discussions
What about?
Besides presentations of the Sims 2 University (see the preview earlier in this special for information from that), there were quite a few discussions with the team in the afternoon. There were two groups of sessions, one for modders and content creators, and one more or less for fansite owners. Although everybody was free to visit whatever sessions they liked, I visited the fansite sessions.
Future of The Sims 2
The first session was all about what fans want in the game. There are several obvious things, including weather and pets, but also some less obvious ones. A few ideas were dropped and discussed, for example, following your Sims to work. While it's a bit like the Fame career in Superstar, it is a bit hard to think of what's so much fun about following your Sim to a 9 to 3 office job. Besides that, the game would have to be huge to cover every career level, of every career. What might be considered is making the chance cards more fun though, so you can actually see your Sims in action when you have certain chance cards. Talking about work, the option to create new careers popped up. Customisation is an important part of the Sims 2, and more careers can make the game more interesting. The community has already come up with some, but a tool to make new careers could make it something much better.

Of course fans also want quite a few objects from the Sims 1. Imagine spiral staircases, bathtubs for babies and toddlers, and generally more stuff for the little Sims. But that won't do for everybody - the story tellers and movie makers would like a Simposer tool, with which it would be possible to pose a Sim against a certain background. There are some objects, like the camera that came with the Sims 2 University, or the easel in the game, that already allow this in some way, it's not possible to pose them in whatever way the user wants. Another useful feature would be one to hide the plumb bob and the thought/speech balloons while playing the game. That way movie makers won't have to use any dummy Sims to try to avoid having them in the picture as much anymore. A ceiling will also be discussed, but it's not sure if it will definitely make it - which goes for everything that's being mentioned.

A big topic was a scenario editor. This can add some goal-based game play, but it can also be a great tool for movie editors. Using scripting you would be able to make Sims do what you want, instead of what they want (they're generally bad actors). On the other hand, you can create a level, and have certain events occur at specific times. Similarly to SimCity 2000 and 3000, these scenarios can add game play so you have to meet a certain goal in a limited time. There might be many players who will not use it - some don't even run the simulation - but it might also attract some new players who prefer more goal-oriented game play.

Many more suggestions are made, like new building options to create pools in shapes other than the plain rectangle (without using cheats or tricks), or something to make ground go straight down instead of in an angle. Using that, basements could become even better. And what about the classical music on the radio? And where are the restaurants? Many suggestions were made and new ideas were written down by the Maxis team members. You might expect some of these in a future expansion pack, others might not make it past Maxis' first meeting about it. Only time will tell...
Website Statistics
After the "what do you want" discussion, Maxis told about their own big fansite of the game. They've been extremely impressed with how many hits it got - several million visitors drop by every month (7 million in January). About one eighth of all 4.5 million copies that have been sold has registered the game and visited the official website, but only about 250,000 people (half of that) are repeat visitors. However, 1.14 Million unique EA accounts have attempted to login to the site. 2 Terabyte (Over 2,000 Gigabyte!) of disk space is already almost used up, and if Maxis didn't delete unused content from the exchange it wouldn't have been enough at all even after a few months. This immense usage was one of the reasons behind the purging of unpopular content from the exchange. Meanwhile another 2 TB has been ordered, and will be put to use soon if it hasn't been already. Meanwhile the Exchange has served over 36,393,957 Megabytes (Approximately 35 TB) in total. That's all from about 66,000 items, and 5359 movies.

The BBS is also a busy place, with 35,000 active users, and 102,774 posts a month. Some of the top keyword searches (over 28,000 in 8 hours time) are "sexy" (411 searches in the 8 hours the stats were checked), "nude" (345 searches), "punk" (246), "Victorian" (228) and "Goth" (192). People also like the MySim pages, with 318,362 of those created at the time the statistics were generated. Those are mostly owned by girls though. On those pages, 59,866 blog posts have been made, and one user has managed to have 905 bookmarks in their profile. All these stats were made the day before the SIMposium event.
More Changes
Besides adding more power to the website, some things will change (and have changed) too. On the fansites page the groups are now collapsed by default, so the lower categories also get a bit more attention. More categories might be added in the future. Other than that, the website URLs on the interviews from the Sims 2 University event have been changed into links so you can now more easily find them. Talking about interviews, Maxis held video interviews with the visitors of the SIMposium event (as you can see in the video obviously sponsored by nVidia) during the day. You can find that one on the University videos page.

Something else Maxis has already changed shortly after the event, is the navigation bar at the top. While the changes may not be too obvious straight away, they are useful and make navigation easier. If you now hold the mouse over one of the icons, the icon will no longer move away from the cursor, but instead the other icons will move aside. This should prevent you having to chase around the icon you want to click on. The text links that appear are now also underlined when you hover the cursor over them, so it's easier to see what you are about to click.

Besides all that, new changes are being discussed. All of these are merely thoughts though, and it's not sure if any of them will actually make it to the website. Although there probably won't be a floor/wall exchange since Homecrafter doesn't allow it, there are other things that might be introduced. One feature Maxis has looked into are the RSS feeds (we have feeds too!) for news. By using an RSS reader you can easily keep track of the latest Sims 2 news from the official site, or fansites could use them to show the latest news from the official site. It's unsure if and when this feature will be introduced, but with the growing popularity of RSS and ATOM feeds, Maxis can't really stay behind anymore.

Maxis is also looking into updating the fansite tool, so fansites can add a better description to their site's listing. The MyFansite Pages feature is supposed to make things even better: on such pages fansites can make a little portal, showing off their latest downloads, news, and more. They are similar to the current MySim pages, but focussed on fansites instead. Finally there is also the MyFriends list. This will allow you to set other members on the official site to be your friend, basically making it a buddy list. Private Messaging features might be included, but to prevent harassment it will take some time to work that out. These features too are all just thoughts from Maxis, and in no way guaranteed to see the daylight.

Those who have bought The Sims 2 University will probably also have seen something the web team was quite proud of. While of most games the website's address isn't on the box too prominently, the Nightlife add tells people to visit the official site for more information about the second expansion. At the time of writing there is no info to find there though, but the web team was still proud to find themselves in the box that way. They've had to fight for it though.
The End..?
And then the day was slowly ending. There was an after-party during which Gerri Lawlor, voice of many female Sims, sang some songs in Simlish, and were the attendees could have a go at The Sims 2 University. Maxis, Fansite owners and representatives, and other fans mingled, collected autographs, tried to find out more information, or held interviews... And that was the end of a great day at Maxis. Thanks to Maxis, the other fansites, fans, and everybody else who attended for making it worthwhile!
Written at 21:20 on Wednesday 23 February 2005 by ChEeTaH.

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