Early in 2000, with PC gamers engrossed in the worlds of Roller Coaster Tycoon and SimCity 3000, a new contender for the simulation crown emerged from the Maxis stable.
The Sims had sounded so mundane to early tester groups that creator Will Wright had feared his game would never make it off the ground. It would go on to become the biggest selling game franchise in history.
The following facts and trivia will enlighten even the most die-hard of Sims creators - but if we missed any amazing facts, be sure to share your own gems in the comments bellow.
It all starts with an idea...
Will Wright's first prototype of The Sims was built in 1993, seven years before the first game was released. Initially, it involved a single Sim moving around and interacting with objects. To see if the concept would be workable, Wright teamed up with programmer Jamie Doornbos to create a behavioural engine that would motivate players to interact with their Sims. A year and a half later, Wright knew the project was doable.
Polished to perfection
A key aspect to The Sim's success is the simplicity of its User Interface. Such was the importance of balancing the user experience, the UI went through 11 different iterations before it was perfected - each one built from scratch.
The development of Simlish
Simlish, the fictional language of the Sim series, was first developed for 1996's SimCopter. Will Wright feared that if the game's dialogue resorted to using English, set phrases would become robotic and present huge translation challenges when marketing the game to other countries.
Wright and linguistic expert Marc Gimbel found inspiration for their unique language in the form of World War II code speakers, who spoke Native American Navajo in radio transmissions to confound Japanese code breakers.
The resulting Simlish draws on fractured Ukrainian, French, Latin, Finnish, English, Fijian, Cebuano, and Tagalog. While it has a set vocabulary of recognisable phrases, it fails to qualify as a true language as it has no grammar or syntax.
It began with a toilet...
When building his first prototype in 1993, the only object Will Wright included for his Sim to interact with was a toilet. Players could clean it, use it and even leave the seat up or down. Wright felt that few other single items of furniture offered so many potential interactions and possible variables (but we're glad he added more to the full game).
The game that nearly never was
As The Sims was a new, unique experience, Wright struggled to convince his own team at Maxis that it would be a success. "I don't think they had an existing model in their head for what this game could do," he told Digital Spy. "Usually people look at games and say 'oh yeah really good graphics like Half-Life' or 'engaging gameplay like Civilization' or they have some model in their head where 'its like this.' But when you don't have a template to judge it against, its really hard to get somebody to share your vision." It wasn't until EA purchased Maxis that the concept found favour and wider support. EA even suggested that it was one of the key reasons they acquired the studio.
For a rainy day
Weather features were planned to make their first appearance in The Sims 2 (as shown by this early E3 demo), but issues with the coding meant that it would often rain indoors. The weather features were thus scrapped, eventually arriving three years later in the Seasons expansion pack.
The unlikely influence of Quake
When initially designing The Sims, Wright spent a great deal of time researching the fan community of the hugely successful Quake and Quake 2. "I was amazed at the time people were pouring into making their own custom levels," he told Wired. "So with The Sims, we wanted to make it possible to modify everything. Players could use it as a storytelling platform."
The original name
Will Wright's first title for The Sims didn't actually follow his long-standing "Sim -" format. The original name was in fact Doll House, as Wright saw his game as "a high-tech animated doll house with AI". However, test marketing found that the name didn't go down so well with young male gamers.
The book that started it all
While A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa and Murray Silverstein might not sound like the most stimulating of reads, this exploration of architecture with a physicist's eye was a key inspiration for The Sims - ordering interior design and architecture in a structured fashion.
In an interview with Gamastrua, Will Wright explained why Alexander et al's work was so influential: "Basically his book's interesting because it's like random access. He's got 256 patterns that are organized in these rough groups, but each pattern is really just a couple of pages. For every pattern he has some statement about humans and their needs, and human psychology. The patterns started from the very large, like how you'd place a city within a region, down to where do you put a bed in your room or a bench in your backyard."
The record breaker
The Sims series holds the record for the best selling video game series of all time, having shifted over 125 million copies of its core games and expansions. That translates to revenues of $2.5 billion - more than The Matrix trilogy, Titanic and Avatar. All from a game that was nearly dropped in early testing!
The hugely popular The Sims 3: Pets had voice actors for each of its animal characters. Click here to watch the immensely talented Jon Olson recording various parts for the dog.
In 2005, the French postal service La Poste commissioned a limited series of stamps entitled Heroes of Videogames. The Sims 2 was included among iconic heroes such as Link and Mario, indicating just how influential the series had become in five years.
What do Kung Fu Panda, Megamind, Monsters vs Aliens and The Sims have in common? The all feature the vocal talents of Stephen Kearin, one of the original voices of the male characters of The Sims. Female Sims were voiced by Gerri Lawlor, with additional voice parts recorded by Sean O'Connor, Laurel McCarl Kapros, Paul Rausmussen, Eli Sibley and Melissa Roberts.
Why your Sims like what they like
The basic structure of satisfying your Sims is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs - a theory in psychology that outlines common human motivations. Taking the shape of a pyramid, the most fundamental needs (breathing, sleeping, eating) form the base while self-actualising needs (being creative, behaving with moral integrity) sit at the top. Fulfilling the needs toward the bottom of the pyramid are essential to providing happiness - in both humans and Sims.
Given that The Sims 2 is the most successful video game in history, it shouldn't come as a surprise that 2006's The Sims 2: Pets is the most successful expansion pack ever made - selling over 6 million copies.
Such was the success of The Sims 2 expansion packs that Seasons, Bon Voyage and H&M Fashion Stuff were three of the ten best selling PC games of 2007, claiming the second, fourth and tenth spots.