How rap music and family photos boosted Sims 4 rentals

The Sims franchise has always been one of the most advanced games. The first entry in the series, The Sims, was among them The first video games to feature same-sex relationships– Especially in such a way that the players play an active role in them. In recent years, The Sims 4 has repeatedly made headlines for its free updates that include strong gender customization, more variety in skin tones, and most recently, giving your Sims fully customizable pronouns. However, just as important as the advanced and large-scale updates is the company’s commitment to ensuring authenticity throughout the game.

The latest Sims expansion, For Rent, is no exception. Although its title may sound a bit far from any culture, Tumarang neighborhood has been inspired by Southeast Asian cities along with the development. The Sims team enlisted a musician and activist to help create their bustling night markets and create a meaningful connection between the package’s contents and the culture it seeks to represent. Jason Chu. GameSpot had the opportunity to speak with Chu about his work on the package and how his background in music, world travels, and passion for merging entertainment with authenticity came together to promote For Rent.

GameSpot: What made you want to work with the Sims team on the For Rent expansion? How was the process?

Chu: My manager put me in touch with this incredible cultural consulting team, SILA Consulting. They have worked with EA before and specifically with The Sims 4. Therefore, when [SILA] They heard they were trying to do this Southeast Asian inspired world, they approached us because they knew my work. And the rap and hip-hop music… it’s a very different atmosphere than The Sims 4. But I think they saw in my background and that I have this deep passion and interest in getting the culture right and doing the representation well while also understanding us. Remaking an entertainment product We’re making something that, hopefully, isn’t simple or dry, but can be fun and engaging.

We went in and they kind of showed me some of the work done and the art assets they were starting on. They clearly communicated to me that their desire was to create something that was authentic and grounded – not this kind of fantasy or exotic orientalist depiction of these cultures. But what they said to me at first was, “Let us know what it is basically.”

They made it clear to me that they wanted to make sure that people with backgrounds—with family heritage or even people who spent time traveling around the world to countries in the region—that this expansion pack accurately reflected their experiences. , their daily life and home culture. For me, it was just a great jumping off point because it wasn’t about trying to create something that didn’t exist, it was more about finding a way to translate something that was real, familiar, and authentic. The Sims 4 design language.

I think this idea of ​​cultural consultants is that “these are the people who come in and tell us what not to do.” And I think it was fun working with this team because it was the opposite. Instead of saying, “Hey, these are all our cool ideas. What won’t work? What would be too sensitive?” It was the opposite. They brought me in and said, “Hey, these are some avenues we’re thinking about. Let’s elevate it. Let’s add value to it. Let’s add value to the players.” Instead of saying what we can’t do, I’m saying how can we make it more real, even better, even more reflective of some of the experiences they may or may never have and do them. want to have For me, the highlight of this collaboration was that the team reflected the added value of having cultural competence at the table.

And what were the ways you translated it? I’m sure it’s a difficult balancing act, because you don’t want it to look almost seamless. How are you going to create that world and balance it?

We walked in and they were already talking about special features like the night market. You cannot travel to Southeast Asia without visiting a night market. And this is obviously the central part of this new world and this new neighborhood, Tomarang.

They showed me some in-progress art assets and I worked with them to get some reference images and also just talk about the energy and space – what’s real. [We talked a lot] About making sure the night market area in the new neighborhood really captures that buzzy, bustling feel. Obviously, with The Sims 4 game engine, only so many characters can be on screen at one time. So we talked about some pieces – some flavor of Thai night markets or other Southeast Asian markets – that we could put in to make the players feel like this world is really populated and really busy and busy even though it’s a limitation. There is a technicality about the number of characters we can have on the screen. So there are little flourishes that can make you feel like, “Oh, someone was just here and he just left and here’s some of his food,” or “Here’s his stuff that they put on a blanket.” I’m really excited for people to step into that neighborhood.

What I thought was really lovingly done was the fuse box style [added with the pack]. We talked about as much detail as the types of fuse boxes I see in Southeast Asian and East Asian apartments. We also talked about—obviously—crafting food, because cooking new recipes is a big part of The Sims 4’s appeal. We worked really hard on the list of recipes that will be included in this expansion. And part of it was that you can’t talk about Southeast Asian cuisine without talking about rice cookers. We actually pulled references for everything from “hey, this is what a college kid wants” to “here’s the best $2,000 model.” It was some of the stuff that going into it, they kind of pointed me in a direction and then let me brainstorm as much as I could. And it was really fun to see that reflected.

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How did your personal culture and musical background influence your work on the game?

So my family, we are ethnically Chinese. My mother was born and raised in Malaysia and my father was born and raised in Thailand. So I’ve spent some time traveling around Asia and visiting Thailand. And I think that kind of narrative exists [it’s either] Inclusion, diversity, and originality or mass appeal. You can choose one or the other. And what I loved the most and I felt really respected and appreciated by the team was the way they brought me in because they thought that I have this family legacy – the personal experiences that I have – that adds to the players’ welcome. . This adds to the realism and enjoyment that people can have in this add-on package.

There were even times when I was literally deliberating [using] Old family photos Recently, I think a year and a half ago, my father went back to Thailand to visit the areas again. [seen in our family photos]. He brought my sister and they had this three-week trip through Southeast Asia. And he photographed the areas where he grew up. And I was literally pointing to some of these photos and some of my family archives saying, “Oh hey, here’s some textures for the neighborhood. Here’s some styles of gates and doors that we’re going to let players use for use to build their houses.” And I would literally take them side by side with these family photos and say, “Oh, great, maybe if you change this texture a little bit or the shape of this gate, or the shape of this arch a little bit, then even It feels more in line.” It ended up being really personal, drawing not only on my personal narrative, but on my cultural heritage and family stories and injecting that into this work. And I think what I do as a musician is I always try to take things that are mine and make something out of them that everyone can enjoy, no matter how close or how different the world. We have experienced And I hope that comes to fruition with this expansion pack.

Are you already planning to turn around and show it to your family and say, “Look at this, can you see bits of us in this?”

I am super excited. When we were working on this earlier this year, I had no idea when the expansion pack would be released. So the fact that it’s going to be released in time for when my partner and I visit them this holiday? [I’m] It’s going to pull the expansion pack on Origin and show them, “Hey, this is some of the stuff I’ve been doing this year.”

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I know there’s a lot of focus on the night markets, the new city, and creating a truly lived-in world, but how did For Rent tie into that? How did you assess that and Southeast Asian culture and rent expansion together?

As they were introducing the overall design document and thesis for this development pack, I was thinking, “Okay, how do these two tie together?” But it makes a lot of sense to me, because a lot of Southeast Asian and Asian cultures are [value] Families who live together and have a community beyond the nuclear family. Obviously, with the For Rent add-on, these multi-unit homes they’re working on don’t all have to be single-family. It could be a landlord situation, it could be an Airbnb situation…all kinds of different ways to set this up. But it made sense to me that there was this kind of thematic connection to it. Of course, if you’ve traveled to Southeast Asia, you’ll know that you won’t find many detached houses like ours in the suburbs.

When I visit Asia, people live very close together. Whether it’s kids who live with their families until they’re in college, into their twenties, or until they get married, or when they become grandparents, or grandparents who age and move back home with their kids or grandkids. So for me personally, I thought it made a lot of sense to have that cultural connection.

And in general, this – like many other interesting features in other expansion packs – does not depend only on the world of Tamarang and this kind of world inspired by Southeast Asia. Sims from any culture or neighborhood can participate and really make it what they want for their playstyle.

Any other thoughts on how the final For Rent expansion will stack up?

I love that The Sims 4 already has such a great track record of handling realistic situations with humor and fun. I think that’s why we all play it, because if it was just like real life, we wouldn’t need it. I already have a landlord for my apartment, I already pay the rent and I need to change my light bulbs. But the fact that it’s like the real world with this extra layer of fun and relaxation, I think that’s what makes the piece not so stressful, but almost sad.

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