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"live service" explained

Hey everyone, in the course of replying to someone on twitter yesterday, I see my comments have kicked off some lively discussion here on the forums. Twitter isn't a great format for detailed information on complex subjects, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to post here and shine some light on what I was chatting about.

To start with - The Sims 4 has always been what we call a live service. I was a bit surprised to see this blow up on the forums today, as I didn't say anything that conflicts with our approach to The Sims 4 since the game launched. Nothing about what I said was intended to indicate we're in the middle of changing the way we operate, or that there's any new process being introduced that'll affect you, the players. What I was conveying is that The Sims 4 is the first game that our studio is handling in this manner. The transition I spoke of involved changing our approach to development and to the ongoing support that we provide when we moved from active development on The Sims 3 to The Sims 4.

So, what does being a live service mean then? All it should really mean to you is that The Sims 4 gets more frequent updates to address issues, as well as ongoing free content additions so that players are interested in checking back in and seeing what's new from time to time. It's an opportunity for us to have a more engaged community that's aware of upcoming plans for the content our studio is creating.

The biggest change is for us internally, with the way our studio approaches development. If you look back at The Sims 3, we weren't nearly as responsive to issues, or nimble with shuffling pack resources as we can be with our current approach. For most of its life, The Sims 3 had one expansion team, and one store team - each group fairly siloed in the content it developed. For a period of time a second expansion team in Salt Lake was added, but the flexible schedule we have currently wasn't possible then. Back then we would develop our pack, they would develop their pack, and occasionally we would combine our code & assets together. Patches were relatively infrequent on Sims 3 - if there was a problem in an expansion pack, it wasn't uncommon for it to not be fixed until the update for the following expansion pack. That problem was exacerbated with the addition of the Salt Lake team, where alternating expansion packs between the teams meant it could sometimes take a year for an issue from a pack to be addressed.

Operating as a live service removes a lot of those challenges I described in The Sims 3 for us. We have an expansion team, a game pack team, a stuff pack team, and an engagement team (engagement = the free content in game updates). We all sit together intermingled in the same studio, we develop multiple packs simultaneously between our teams, and our code and assets between those packs are integrated together daily (super important for facilitating simultaneous development of different packs). Some people in the studio even work on a few of those teams at the same time (that's actually one of the major things we've been trying to adjust to and create better development practices for.) We're able to be far more responsive to unexpected issues that crop up... the most recent example being we released Dine Out in early June, released a patch with fixes for Dine Out in mid June, and then included even more fixes for Dine Out in the Kids Room update that came out in late June. The gallery is an important feature to us as well; maintaining those servers so that they're always up and running to support sharing between the community requires ongoing attention.

For a producer like myself, treating the game as a live service can be a huge help. When we're planning a pack, production is like taking oddly shaped puzzle pieces and trying to fill up a box as much as possible without spilling over. In this metaphor, imagine that the box represents our schedule & budget, and we're filling the box with features and the people that will build them. In the past, the size of that "box" had to remain very rigid - as we filled it up, we couldn't easily make it larger if we felt it needed a bit more. With our live service approach, all of those resources are much more flexible in how we use them. If we get surprised by an issue and need to get an update out quickly, or if we feel that an upcoming pack could use a bit more added to it, we can divert resources in sensible ways so that we can release great content as well as being responsive to the live game that you're playing.

On that note, let me also try and dispel some misconceptions... Operating our development with a live service mentality has nothing to do with which types of packs are released or the cadence of their releases. Being a live service also has nothing to do with which themes or features get developed - the selection of content is completely unrelated. Finally, being a live service isn't related to how you acquire content, or how it's delivered to you. Your choice to purchase a digital copy, a retail disc, or a retail bundle isn't impacted by this.

Certainly the biggest change for us compared with past Sims titles is the addition of Game Packs. Stuff Packs evolved to include game play, which means they also draw additional resources when developing them. The engagement team is another brand new thing for us, and they create their own fully realized features to add in free updates. Expansion packs, game packs, stuff packs, engagement features, and other outside factors all impact how we allocate internal headcount (who develops what, and when they do it), and where we fit each of those pieces of content in a yearly release schedule. Adding game packs and engagement features to what you've traditionally expected from The Sims has been an ongoing learning experience for us - both in terms of our development process, and in terms of understanding how each of these offerings are valued by players. Relatively speaking, a year and a half is a small sample size to fully see the impact of what are fairly significant changes for us at the studio. We'll continue experimenting, trying new things, and listening to your feedback, which is why some of you will recall me saying in the past to not look for patterns in the content we release.

Hopefully that helps clarify what a live service is to us!

Comments

  • Colton147147Colton147147 Posts: 10,019 Member
    edited July 2016
    Wouldn't mind having this thread stickied so more people can know. o:)
  • KelleygirlKelleygirl Posts: 470 Member
    edited July 2016
    Totally needs to be stickied and thanks Graham for coming in and attempting to clear up a bit of the confusion, chaos and pandemonium. :p
  • starcrunchstarcrunch Posts: 636 Member
    Thanks for taking time out of your job/day/night/life to respond to concerns. Loved the recent stuff packs and stream!
  • NeiaNeia Posts: 3,858 Member
    Thanks for this very informative thread !
  • FairyGodMotherFairyGodMother Posts: 6,676 Member
    Thank you for explaining this. Seems I was in so many threads and reading so many different opinions, I thought I was going crazy :D
  • Ravager619Ravager619 Posts: 3,213 Member
    We need this stickied somewhere. I spent a few minutes reading some of the threads while watching American Gothic, and I'm still trying to figure out how one tweet became a debate on monthly fees to play The Sims 4 in the future.
  • cameronw209cameronw209 Posts: 1,416 Member
    edited July 2016
    Thank goodness this fiasco is cleared up.

    Now people can stop jumping to conclusions.

    edit: commented on something, but I see Graham covered it in his OP.
  • Rflong7Rflong7 Posts: 33,910 Member
    Rflong7 wrote: »
    Actually, not really. It isn't anything because it's just for more updates? That's it...updates? Quicker response- I could say lots of things to the rest of what you said but I'll keep my "negative" attitude at home with me~ It keeps me warm.

    Happy Sim-making.

    This was completely unnecessary but glad you got that off of your chest?


    Anyways, thank you for addressing this issue, Graham.
    I figured it was blown out of proportion as per usual on this forum.

    More thaan you having to quote me to say that. Glad you got it off your chest. And... Please don't start things in this topic.
  • Jessvera1Jessvera1 Posts: 36 Member
    This is awesome. Now these fear-mongering negative people can stop spreading rumors and complaining. JUST KIDDING. That won't evr happen.
  • Marley VMarley V Posts: 930 Member
    More or less what I thought it was until I the forum went crazy, thanks for clearing it up @SimGuruGraham
  • stilljustme2stilljustme2 Posts: 19,096 Member
    edited July 2016
    This helps a bit -- I'll try and digest it a bit more when I'm completely awake (getting near time for me to grab a shower and shut-eye). But as one who suffered through the many bugs in Sims 3 that modders could fix faster than EA could/would (I remember how something in a later pack completely broke excavating in World Adventures, for example), I really appreciate the frequent updates (even if it means I have to check my favorite mod sites for updates more frequently as well). I like some of the short term challenges -- I guess those would be from the "engagement team" which sounds more like getting us ready for Sim weddings B) -- but I prefer the sitewide challenges like Woohoo XX number of times or the Team Trick/Team Treat from last October over short-term challenges like the Growfruit or egg hunts that unlock content, just because if I switch households there's no way I can complete that challenge with another household until those challenges are available again. (I don't always want to cheat my way to what I want!)

    @SimGuruGraham -- you're one of the Gurus I really respect and admire...even if you are a Panthers fan. (Go Sharks!) B)

    ETA: Just a few more thoughts before I finally sign off for bed -- I think the more we know about the process, the greater assurance people will have that Sims 4 isn't being killed off in favor of Sims 5 (or even that the Sims are ending altogether). I remember @SimGuruSteve had a post in another thread that talked a little bit about the pack creation process which also helped a lot. We used to have the Ask a SimGuru monthly discussions -- I can understand people breaking the rules and asking for news on future content (toddlers! pets! seasons!) and that sort of doomed the concept, but if there was a way for those to come back, or even a monthly blog post about the inner workings of EA, that might reassure a lot of those who are worried about the future of the franchise.

    Okay, I'l see everyone in the morning... (insert sleeping emote here)
  • DivineHysteriaDivineHysteria Posts: 702 Member
    But anyways, I'm look forward to the free content lol.
  • cameronw209cameronw209 Posts: 1,416 Member
    But anyways, I'm look forward to the free content lol.

    Same. I'm all about anything free - especially since becoming a poor student :'( (not that I haven't been making excuses for paid content).
  • PolyrhythmPolyrhythm Posts: 2,774 Member
    I actually wasn't expecting an answer lol, good to get a nice in-depth one from a guru (though I appreciate the insight some others gave as well)
  • Writin_RegWritin_Reg Posts: 23,830 Member
    Good to hear it is not about that Origin or EA Access then, as those are live services and looked like we were being tossed into the fro in the midst of Sims 4 development with all that was being said today. Glad you are confirming that is not the case. At least that is something good to hear in relation to this series. Thank you.
  • elanorbretonelanorbreton Posts: 9,163 Member
    Thank you for explaining. I was totally confused before.
  • TwiprinTwiprin Posts: 144 Member
    Indeed, thank you for the super detailed response! It's deeply appreciated.

    So essentially my guess was on the money: we're basically leaning towards a buy to play model, but with some tweaks to suit the Sims 4 needs. I'm pretty okay with that. I think a lot of the confusion sprouted because it doesn't seem like Live Service wasn't mentioned much before release (and if it was, it wasn't advertised much after release).

    Looking forward to see where this goes. ^_^b I also vote this thread get stickied.
  • NeiaNeia Posts: 3,858 Member
    I'm really pleased with this live service approach. The "no pattern" is a bit hard to get accustomed to, especially for EPs, though teasers have made it easier. Earlier notice for patches would make it easier to update mods too.
  • KeyserFnKeyserFn Posts: 1,343 Member
    I didn't understand a word of what he said it was all technical babble to me lol
  • Callum2000Callum2000 Posts: 742 Member
    Thanks for clearing this up Graham! I was a little confused at first too, and it would be great if you could sticky this somewhere :)
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