This week marks the one-year anniversary of EA's The Sims FreePlay, and to celebrate the occasion, we caught up with producer Todd Hutchinson, who gave us some insight into the game's development and what players can expect next in an exclusive interview.
Can you give us some insight into how the Sims FreePlay has evolved over its first year on iOS?
With The Sims FreePlay, one of the main things our team has been focusing on is expanding and growing The Sims family. In recent updates, we've added the ability for fans to let their Sims get married, have babies, and watch babies grow into toddlers, and then pre-teens. Pre-teens can partake in age appropriate activities like going to school, as well as extracurricular activities fans can relate to like karate and ballet. We've added an array of new pets including cats, rabbits, and fish, plus hobbies like Fashion Designing, Fishing and Ghost Hunting. On top of all that, we've also added a ton of additional new content like clothes, hairstyles, furniture, & town map buildings.
Are there any gameplay features that didn't make the cut in the original Sims FreePlay release that you'd like to see implemented in the next year?
I think we actually managed to sneak in all the cutting room floor features over the last year. That being said, we've got some pretty awesome updates coming up that I think users will be excited to see, especially content we'll be unveiling in the first two updates of 2013.
Were there any major milestones that you witnessed among players over the past year that were particularly interesting or exciting?
From the game teams' perspective, the whole experience has been very exciting. In the past, we were used to traditional game development where teams typically worked on a game for about a year or so, released it and then shifted focus to the next project. The Sims FreePlay is one of the first games we've worked on where we had the opportunity to keep an ongoing conversation with our fans by providing a live service experience. This has been new territory and given us the opportunity to continue to improve one game for a year post launch which we've all really enjoyed.
While stressful at times, it has been really interesting developing fresh content and storylines, especially when we get to explore new ideas for a game that already provides the deepest Sims experience on mobile to date. It's really rewarding to be able to continue to engage with our dedicated fan base, as well as reach new consumers with each update.
With the development of The Sims FreePlay, how difficult was it to find a balance between a more traditional console/PC Sims experience and the social free-to-play experience of The Sims Social on Facebook?
This team has actually made three Sims titles for mobile prior to The Sims FreePlay (The Sims 3, The Sims 3 World Adventures, and The Sims 3 Ambitions). Our focus for The Sims FreePlay was really on how we could build upon our previous mobile experiences to offer something new and different. Once we decided to move to a real world time clock, everything just fell into place and made sense with the gameplay. We never made a point of comparing ourselves to The Sims on PC or The Sims Social on Facebook, we always knew that the real time element would make it feel like a very different game made for the mobile platform.
How did The Sims FreePlay team decide to focus on time-based tasks, rather than an energy system as in most other free-to-play games?
We did look at various energy systems, and we felt a time based system best fit the mobile consumer who tends to play in short bursts and sometimes while on the go. It was important to us that the free-to-play aspect did not hinder the user experience. When real time was first suggested, it was a bit of a light bulb moment. It made perfect sense for a game that is about simulating real life.
What were the major inspirations behind the development of The Sims FreePlay, as opposed to simply porting the Sims Social over to mobile (as an example)?
It really was just a case of the project evolving over time. When we started developing The Sims FreePlay and outlined our goals, we knew that we wanted to make an accessible and engaging Sims game for mobile that provided a more in depth experience than we have ever delivered before. The Sims FreePlay was initially conceptualized as an exclusive to iPad, because our previous Sims iOS games were never designed specifically with the iPad in mind. As the project progressed, we decided to make it a universal app, and eventually to make it free in order to allow as many fans to enjoy as possible.
Speaking of the Sims Social, will the two games ever truly connect in the future?
At this point, there are no plans to connect the two games. When developing The Sims FreePlay, we really worked to keep our team focused on releasing new content as quickly as possible in order to keep the user experience fresh and exciting especially for the long-time fans who have been playing the game since we launched a year ago.
Finally, could you give us a preview of things to come? What can players expect from the next year of The Sims FreePlay and beyond?
I can't really give away anything about specific updates, but to give you a taste of what's to come, we plan to expand on house customization, more hobbies, and we'll even let the pre-teens grow up. There is a lot of great content to come – the team still has a long list of features that we want to add to the game, as well as implement requests from our very passionate user base.
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