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Moving The Sims from PC to Wii

Zack Stern

At GDC, Maxis Game Designer Robin Hunicke spoke about her process of transferring The Sims to the Wii. Her team was excited to be working on a Wii title because of its new controller and Nintendo's history, but Hunicke's most important lesson was to stay true to the defining elements of a franchise instead of starting over for a new console.

Hunicke said, "The Wii is so cool ... oh my gosh. ... Almost everyone on my team is a Nintendo fan. Almost all game developers are Nintendo fans. ... We were really excited to build a [Wii] game." But since the team began work well before the console's launch, they only had tradeshow experiences and Nintendo ads to approach the MySims design.

Hunicke noticed the clean lines, family oriented approach, and tactile aesthetics of the early Wii marketing material. She followed those elements instead of trying to build the game around flailing controller movements. Hunicke said, "We wanted to bring The Sims to the Wii in a way that we could say we were at home on the Wii."

Gallery: MySims design process | 4 Photos

Hunicke described how previous The Sims releases on consoles have been more structured than PC versions, but MySims will still reward experimentation. Hunicke also wanted to remove much of the micro-management from the game because it didn't suit her perception of the Wii gamer. She initially faced some opposition, saying, "At one point, a sort of senior creative in the project came to me and said, 'It's not a Sims game if they don't pee.' ... [But] there's other things in life to do, too."

Focus groups have been important to Hunicke. She stressed those sessions' importance in making changes to an established property. Otherwise, designers just have arguments prefaced by their level of seniority.

While the design first centered on how the the goals of The Sims games match the Wii, Hunicke had to fit the controller into the experience. She said, "This controller for [MySims] is about being able to touch the world. ... There are so many ways to think about using these controllers in these very active manners. For us, it became about touching our space."

Hunicke likes elements of games like Rayman Raving Rabbids and WarioWare, but she wants more depth in the Wii controller. She said, "[With WarioWare,] there's adrenaline, there's excitement, there's a rush. There's a feeling that you've gotta get it done right now. ... We had to look for pacing over the long haul. ... Not to make [players] feel panic but to make them feel like, 'I'm the boss,' like they are in control."

Gallery: MySims | 12 Photos

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