Next in Sims series: A soap opera

The Sims game sets to bring family life to the computer screen -- attracts attention at E3.

LOS ANGELES -- It was one of the most common questions at the Electronic Entertainment Expo here: "Have you seen the Sims?"

While still being developed by Maxis, a division of No. 3 game publishers Electronic Arts Inc., The Sims is attracting attention at E3.

"It's like a modern version of Little Computer People," said Randy Casey, a graphic artist with NovaLogic, referring to a Commodore 64 title from yesteryear.

Casey had joined ranks overflowing into the convention center's aisle to get a look at the game.

"I think I'll get it," he added.

A day in the life of ...
The game -- like others in the series -- puts you in control of your own virtual people in a computer-generated world.

With the Sims, you control a single person and, eventually, that person's family.

"It's about making good relationships, about getting a big house," said Chris Trottier, associate producer for Maxis.

In short, it's about life.

"The family is kind of like a Tamagotchi," she said. "They have needs that you must take care of. This is a game where you actually run their lives."

Good life, or bad?
Users can have an upstanding man, a punker girl, or a career-oriented woman -- then take control of their lives, driving them toward success ... or utter ruin.

Like a soap opera, users watch and control every aspect of their lives -- opening up some comic scenes. When the Sim people hit the loo or jump naked into the hot tub, the game fuzzes out any show of obscene anatomy.

Sim people that are left alone will make the worst decisions: They won't bathe, they'll eat pizza, and then just watch TV. To make them successful, you have to get the virtual character to get a job, meet the neighbors, propose to one and then have kids.

Not every outcome is a good one, however. Sim characters can get in fights, become depressed, and, in general, turn out to be a mess.

The game -- due out by Christmas -- will also throw a few curves. "We are looking at situations that can fall into their laps to shake up their lives a bit," said Trottier.

Family life on the Internet
Another interesting aspect of the game is its Internet features.

When you save the game, it creates a Web page users can then post. Others can then look and see how the family is doing.

It's not just about information, however. If the user likes any of the posted families, he or she can download one or more and turn them into new neighbors in the Sim world.

There goes the neighborhood.


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