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The Sims Game Design Documents (1997) (donhopkins.com)
282 points by doppp on Aug 13, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 18 comments

MaxisSimRules.pdf is a gold mine of distilled wisdom all by itself.

Thanks for the heads up. You're right.

There are gems like,

"Players occasionally need to abandon long term strategy in favor of short-term success."


"Because of the interleaving data sets in the simulators, players may not initially understand why certain actions have unexpected effects. One of the compelling reasons to play is to discover and understand various causes and effects."

Good advice for any game designer.

> "Players occasionally need to abandon long term strategy in favor of short-term success."

That reminds me in a way of this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/28/opinion/28radosh.html

"Like cinema, games will need to embrace the dynamics of failure, tragedy, comedy and romance. They will need to stop pandering to the player’s desire for mastery in favor of enhancing the player’s emotional and intellectual life."

It's true, games often cater to this expectation of gradual, linear improvement without major setbacks. One thing that is nice about the Sims is that it allows for a longer developing series of ups and downs. It's kind of like feature movies (linear games) vs the more recent TV series in that regard.

I don't like the way it's phrased like an exclusive dichotomy, and that games must stop "pandering" to mastery to "embrace" intellectual life. This reads like someone who just likes film but doesn't like videos games turning their nose up at something they view as aesthetically inferior, as if their shitty aesthetic opinions are informed by universal objective truth itself.

Yeah, absolutely, video games that enhance the emotional and intellectual lives of the audience are better for it, but games that give the audience a sense of accomplishment and reward curiosity are also better for it. There is no reason to stop doing one to do the other. Video games don't need to be movies.


First of all, I was commenting on the quote out of context. That's why I objected to "the way it's phrased." I don't like the phrasing, whatever the context. There is no reason whatsoever that games need to give up mastery. None.

Reading comprehension, bro.

That being said, even in context, it's dumb. He's saying games need to stop "pandering to the player’s desire for mastery" to qualify as art. That's silly. I'm not an art relativist or anything, but this is an unnecessarily narrow definition of art: "a work must lack a specific thing to qualify as art." How stupid is that? The author just wants video games to be something they're not, and that's fine, but he is just saying whatever his judgmental gut is telling him to say, which is causing him to say stupid and patently incorrect things.

Neither the quote nor the article said that the games need to give up mastery, that's apparently your misunderstanding.

I'm also not your "bro", just for your information.

I'm using "mastery" as a shorthand for what he actually said, not literally quoting the man. It's normal human communication that normal humans do every single day and there is no reason I should need to explain that.

You know what? I don't think this is going anywhere.

Wow, this is super cool. I wish there were repositories of older, well known games and their design documents.

There was a site, gamepitches.com, that wanted to archive these types of documents but it only existed for a few years. Here's a Wayback Machine link to the document archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20150406082704/http://www.gamepi...

Some classic design documentation is available for Karateka and Prince of Persia by the creator: http://www.jordanmechner.com/backstage/journals/

Gamasutra postmortems are a good resource for modern games. They don't usually have design documents but they often talk about their plans and how they had to change during development: http://www.gamasutra.com/features/postmortem/

Wow that's a valuable resource; were you the author?

Sorry, no. I believe it was Gabriel Pendleton (@GabeTHEGeek).

The Infocom archive is really good for this https://archive.org/details/infocomcabinet.

The Deus Ex design doc was released http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/285520/Annotated_version_... along with some other in development Ionstorm games that never shipped.

Nintendo released some early design sketches for classic games like Super Mario Bros and Zelda which are interesting to look at. https://www.nintendo.co.uk/News/2016/December/Take-a-look-be....

Was on HN yesterday, see also for insightful comments: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14997725

These PDFs, as contrasted by the brevity of the Motive.c, is story greater than the sum of its parts.

Don is an active member of the HN community.

Hi, Don!

Interesting enough they considered implementing feng shui in Ch09-Architecture.pdf.

Feng Shui Analysis TBD.

Effectively, the Sims themselves are the Feng Shui analyzers, in the way that the layout and open spaces of their house and the objects in it affects the routing efficiency and creates flows and bottlenecks, which affects how much time they have for other more productive uses of time than walking across the house to the bathroom, queuing to walk through doors, navigating through crowds, which indirectly affects their overall happiness and other motives scores.

To show how happy your Sims are, the antlers of the Beaver Pelt Moosehead occasionally moves up and down to reflect the overall happiness of the family members!


If your Sims get really depressed, and have a Tragic Clown Painting on the wall, a real Tragic Clown arrives and performs annoying tricks that make you even more depressed, and he is very difficult to get rid of.


Awesome. Finally I know how to summon Satan (TheSimsPieMenus.pdf)!

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