How you create an interaction style for an entire world? Answer: Carefully. Do so by taking a look at what works in existing worlds (online, virtual, physical, and mental), and then extrapolating the good parts, but keeping it all coherent and simple in approach. In a sim-world, the interaction between world-creator and world isn’t supposed to be a puzzle game, but a transparent way to express God-like powers, letting the simulation be the object of interest. In this talk, I’ll tell you what’s worked for Sim-*, what hasn’t worked so well, and where I think all of this going.
Will Wright, Maxis’
Chief Designer, co-founded Maxis with Jeff Braun in 1987. Wright
began working on what would become SimCity—The City Simulator
in 1985. Using a complex technique, he found a way to bring
realistic simulations to desktop PCs. Previously simulations of this
sort were only available to the military, scientists and
academicians. But now, using an easy to use graphic interface, the
world of simulations opened up to consumers.
Wright has had a
lifelong fascination with simulations. His interest in plastic
models of ships and airplanes during his childhood in Georgia
eventually led to his designing computer models of cities,
ecosystems and ant colonies.
was released in 1989, and within a few months became a hit. The game
has since won 24 domestic and international awards. With Fred Haslem,
Wright co-designed SimEarth—The Living Planet in 1990, a
simulation of a planet based on the Gaia theory of James Lovelock.
In 1991, Wright and Justin McCormick designed SimAnt—The
Electronic Ant Colony, a scientifically-accurate simulation of
an ant colony. SimCity 2000, and SimCopter, a
helicopter flight game, are also part of Wright’s recent
repertoire. The latest incarnation of SimCity, SimCity
3000 Unlimited, the definitive version of 1999’s best-selling
game SimCity 3000, has continued in the tradition.
entertainment to its most personal level yet, Wright’s newest game
The Sims, puts players in charge of the lives of a
neighborhood of simulated people. Released in February of 2000, this
wildly popular title has become a cultural phenomenon, sold over 4
million copies worldwide and has received numerous "Game of The
Years" accolades. It inspired an expansion pack, Livin’
Large, which allows players to put their simulated families from
The Sims into new extreme situations and settings. Yet
another expansion pack, The Sims House Party was just
released this April. With new characters, activities, architecture
styles, objects, music and much more, this newest add-on give
players the chance to host outrageous parties for their Sims.
project The Sims Online™, scheduled for release in early
2002, will enable you to take your Sims to an online world where you
get to be yourself or whoever you want to be. In this world you have
your own piece of land to do with as you please. In this open-ended,
online world, you choose your role, your attitude and your destiny.
Wright has become one
of the most successful designers of interactive entertainment in the
world. In 1999 he was included in Entertainment Weekly’s
"It List" of "the 100 most creative people in
entertainment" as well as Time Digital’s "Digital
50", a listing of "the most important people shaping
technology today." However, his interests are not limited to
computer games. Each year Wright (along with his daughter) takes
part in the annual Battlebot competition which is broadcast
nationally on Comedy Central. His past robots, which do battle with
robots designed by other contestants, have taken top honors.
Interestingly, it was Wright’s interest in robots that eventually
led him into computer programming.