The release of The Sims 3 is still a year or so away, but Maxis recently announced some of the new core features of the game, which has got everyone buzzing. It's the first real release of information since the game's development was announced - so forgive us for getting a little excited.
The general theme of things with The Sims 3 is, shall we say, the Apple-ification of the game. Things are smooth, they look good, and the emphasis is on playing, rather than fussing around with stats.
To begin with, everything in The Sims 3 will happen in real time. While you're playing with one Sim, every other one in the neighbourhood will develop and grow, age and form new relationships. This will happen on a town-wide scale; no longer will the player have complete control over everything that goes on: Pleasantview will be a seething mass of changing relationships.
As well as relationships, the neighbourhood itself will have a lot more flow. Sims can step outside and wander around the neighbourhood. Loading screens won't exist; you can zoom from a neighbourhood-level view, to the familiar Sim-level view.
Character creation too, has a new look and feel to it. The characters themselves are a lot more life-like; you can go for the really chubby or über-athletic shape now, and faces look rounder and less cartoony. In addition, personality traits have also been streamlined: rather than using the clean/messy sliders, players choose five traits (from a pool of around 80) - things like paranoid, clumsy or inappropriate.
'Moodlets' have replaced many of the other meters (yep, no more bladder-monitoring). Now, if a Sim needs to go to the toilet and is stuck doing something else, he or she will instead receive a 'de-buff' that will affect them in a negative way, until they relieve themselves. Likewise with a Sim's first kiss, which will have positive effects that can last a while.
Wants and fears have also been given the heave-ho, and are now replaced with Dreams. Dreams are very similar to wants and fears, though I suspect there is a bit more complexity to them (in many ways the wants and fears model did feel rather arbitrary at times). A player can let a Sim's dream fade without suffering any penalties, but if they choose to turn a Sim's Dream into a Promise, then the Sim will suffer a negative outcome if they fail to realise that Promise.
Customisation will also be key in the game, and while the details of sharing between gamers has not yet been finalised, it seems that players will be able to drag patterns and colours from object to object: if you like that bedspread cover, you can stick the pattern on the fridge! I'm hoping I can make my first full-purple-paisley mansion without too much trouble.
These cool new features seem to indicate The Sims 3 is preparing to take players on yet another huge leap into gameplay history. Stay tuned to NZGamer for further details!