Controlling Your Cats & Dogs
BY GRANT RODIEK
Hi Simmers! We were thrilled to finally announce The Sims 4 Cats & Dogs*. It’s a huge relief to finally get it out in the open. One of the first questions the community asked after our big reveal: Can I control my cats and dogs?
This is appropriate, because it was one of the first questions we asked ourselves long before we started working on the game itself. It’s one of the most important design questions for the entire pack, so we want to dive a little deeper into what it means. Early on our team was almost evenly split and gearing for a creative fight. Folks (me included!) had (and have) VERY strong opinions on this topic. We knew it was incredibly important. In The Sims 2, you couldn’t directly control pets. In The Sims 3, you could. We went back and played the old games, read the forums, and conducted survey research on this topic specifically to fully consider every angle.
We went back and forth, and finally our creative director made a very important point. The question isn’t control or not control? It's what can we do with either solution, and why is one solution superior? What do we gain? What do we lose?
Before we continue this, let’s take a step back and examine other aspects. I’m a dog owner and have been almost my entire life. My corgi, Peaches, is often the focus for my weekends. My wife and I take her to the beach, throw her in the car to shop, and we read in the backyard so she can enjoy the sun. We dote on her.
I’m not alone in being obsessed with my dog or cat on the team. When discussing this pack, we tried to really dive deep into the essence of our pets and why we love them. Why they make us laugh. Why they make us angry. Why we photograph them constantly. We found out that we were all drawn to what made our pets special. How they sleep on their backs. How they always bark at a certain person. How they listen for the crinkle of a plastic bag as they know it’s a walk.
We knew our cats and dogs in The Sims 4 Cats & Dogs needed to be responsive, observant, and obsessed with the Sims. Their owners. Their companions. We also knew we wanted them to be surprising, to act in unexpected and delightful ways, and to be living creatures. We were guided by the idea that cats and dogs would be like Sims for your Sims.
This brings us back to control. There are many factors at play here, some technical, some design, but in a nutshell, if players could see and control every aspect of their cat or dog, it made it difficult for us to make them do surprising, fun, and unexpected things. When we compared all the options, we knew that our game would be the most fun if we didn’t let players select cats and dogs, but instead gave you other ways to interact with them. When we made this decision, it fundamentally opened up things we could do with cats and dogs that we can’t do with Sims even!
This doesn’t mean they’re wild and without control. Far from it. I’m going to give some examples, but before that, let me ask: How do you control your dog or cat in real life? How do you get them by your side when you want to pet them, or get them to sit when they’re misbehaving? The answer in your mind, it’s how it works in the game too. When your Pets need your attention to solve their needs, they’ll animate, act in certain behaviors, communicate with your Sims, and yes, the UI will tell you what they need. You can even ask them!
When they act badly, you can train them to stop. When you want them by your side, you can call them immediately over to you. But, like all good dogs and cats, there is a good chance they’ll be at your feet, walking along side you, or snoring on the couch next to your Sims already. If you want your dog to breed with another dog, you can instruct them to do so. When you need your cat to sleep in a certain bed, you can call them to do so.
In a nutshell, you won’t be frustrated by a lack of control. We’ve taken great pains to design, implement, and test an assortment of solutions and content to make sure that isn’t the case. But, we’ve also filled the game with unique behaviors and attributes for your cats and dogs so that you’ll be observing and telling stories for years.
We think The Sims 4 Cats & Dogs is the best pets expansion we’ve ever made, and a big reason for that is the freedom we were granted by removing control. Some of you may not agree, but don’t worry, The Sims 4 Cats & Dogs will be out soon and we’ll be talking more about it in the coming months. Soon you’ll agree that this is the most pawesome decision!
Until next time.