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Interview: Gordon Walton
Subject The Sims Online
Interviewee Gordon Walton
Details Gordon is VP and Executive Producer of The Sims Online. More information about The Sims Online can be found at http://thesimsonline.ea.com.
Interview Date Monday 17 February 2003

1. Many gamers find $10 each month quite a lot of money. Can we expect it to get cheaper in the long run?
I doubt the subscription will get cheaper in the long run. The costs of running an online service are substantial. The good news is the value for your entertainment dollar is quite high in an online game like TSO. If you only used it 20 hours a month (most people play 2-5 times that much), you would still only be paying $0.50 an hour and you would be hard pressed to find other entertainment choices that inexpensive.

2. Can you temporarily disable your account for a few months, and then play further again a few months later, for instance if you're out of money for a while?
Not really. After 30 days your Sim(s) are moved out of any properties they are on and after 90 days they are deleted.

3. How many people do you expect to get online at one moment, during peak hours?
We have seen well over 10,000+ players at peak times. As the game grows this number will go up.

4. In the future, can we expect Macintosh or Linux version of The Sims Online, or is it going to remain Windows-only?
Windows-only, there are no plans to support other platforms at this time.

5. Recently there have been rumors of cheaters ruining the fun for other online gamers in other games. Do you somehowblock users with certain patches, trainers etc. or how do you block cheaters?
Occasionally we have had a cheat crop up in the game. Players notify us of these through the tsobugs@maxis.com email address and we work on the issue immediately to remove any ability to cheat from the game. When we catch people cheating their accounts are closed.

6. Will there be moderators in the game to check (and block) profanity, or is it up to the players to report people being offensive?
Every player can use the built in block word filters and even add more words to it. If someone is being offensive in game you always have the ability to put them on ignore (you will not be able to interact with or hear them after that). In addition roommates can kick Sims off their property and/or permanently ban them from their property. If a player is particularly offensive or breaking the terms of service or user agreement, other players can report them using the in game help feature (the “?” button on the lower left of the game screen). Everything you have seen/heard in the last few minutes is sent to a customer service representative who will review the information and take appropriate action.

7. For the play test there were a few very big patches. Can we expect there to be more of those in the final version? For 56k players, will there maybe be CDs with a lot of patches combined on them for a small fee?
We continue to update the game aggressively and we know this can be difficult for modem players. We are looking at CD options for the modem players.

8. Will custom-made objects etc. from The Sims 1.0 (and expansions) be compatible with TSO?
While we are planning custom content, the items used for The Sims 1.0 will not be directly compatible with TSO. We will work on tools as part of custom content to allow players the ability to create content though.

9. Should we expect any expansion packs for The Sims Online like for The Sims 1.0, or will it all come in the form of downloads?
While we have no current plans for a retail expansion, I’m sure we will do one eventually. For now we are updating the game via downloads every week, responding to the players who are telling us they want MORE! :-)

10. If there will be any expansion packs, will players without such EPs be available to visit players' businesses of players with expansions?
Again while we have no current plans, massively multiplayer game expansions are normally not required for continued play of the game as it existed prior to the expansion. It is not unusual to have certain features or areas of the expansion not be available to players that don’t buy the expansion however.

11. Can we expect there to be children or pets in the game?
Pets, yes but don’t look for them in the near future, it’s a big job to add Pets as they would need to exist in TSO. As for Children, we have no current plans for this.

12. Will there be an increase in the amount of people currently allowed on a lot?
While we are not planning to do this anytime soon, I’m sure this like all limits will rise over time.

13. In the game, a player can have three Sims. Will there be a facility to allow a player to transfer funds from one of these Sims to another of these Sims?
No. Each Sim has a separate life on a separate city.

14. Can Sims change his normal clothes with a wardrobe as in the offline version at some time?
Coming soon. Clothing Racks and Dressers are in the near term plans. Please read about all our upcoming features in the Backstage area of our website at: https://player.thesimsonline.ea.com/mb_topics.jsp?cat=19

15. Will Wright said in the Gamespot "Behind the Games" feature he expected he would be working on TSO until the end of his life. Will you guys be working on the game until the end of your lives or are you moving onto different projects?
Essentially our entire team is still working on The Sims Online. While I don’t think individually all of us are on it for life, I’m sure we will working on TSO for years to come. This is the same for all online games, the players want us to continue to expand them and to make them more varied and interesting over time.

16. In the GameSpot feature it was mentioned that there are several gamer profiles. What type of players are there in the TSO team, and how many of each type are there?
I’m not sure we have figured that for TSO really. We understand the players of The Sims pretty well but TSO is a different game and we don’t have the same audience understanding level yet. Give us a few more months and we can probably speak to this more definitively.

17. Can we expect to meet Will Wright or other Maxis officials in the game, and will that be during working hours too?
You probably have met Will or other Maxis employees in the game since we all play. But we mostly do it anonymously, as our “official” presence would interfere with normal game play.

18. Has anybody of the team ever called in sick just to play the game?
I doubt it, we get to play at work after all!

19. Are Europeans able to get the charter edition without ordering it in the US?
I can’t speak for our European distribution groups on this, sorry. Each territory has their own sales organization and determines what and when they ship of all EA products.

20. Thank you for taking this interview. Good luck with The Sims Online and all the other games Maxis will make in the future.

Gordon Walton was interviewed by ChEeTaH.

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