They say that fame changes people - and in the case of the upcoming Sims 4 expansion, Get Famous, we can certainly see how it would. Legions of gushing fans, gaggles of paparazzi and mountains of fan mail can make your everyday life a lot more hectic than your average 9 to 5 job, and, at least in the world of The Sims, can make your Sim go a little cuckoo with power. This latest expansion, modelled along the same lines as the Superstar/Showtime add-ons for earlier Sims instalments, essentially lets your Sim become "famous" within the world of the game - intriguingly letting you become either famous in a good way, or infamous as a villain. We recently got the chance to go hands-on with the upcoming expansion pack at last week's Sims Camp event in London, and managed to pick up a few more titbits of information from the game's lead producer too.
Meet Renee Rush, named so because we were in a bit of a rush ourselves to get through as much of The Sims 4: Get Famous as we could in our two hour slot. A clumsy, self-absorbed glutton, she has the new 'master actress' aspiration, with dreams of becoming a big star some day, but like all things, she needs to start small. Moving her into the not-at-all-glamorous downtown Mirage Park area of the new Del Sol Valley neighbourhood, she sets about starting to make a name for herself by joining a small talent agency. Unlike most careers in The Sims 4, Get Famous takes a bit more of an open approach with its headline acting career, as Lead Producer Dave Miotke explains:
"I know [only having] one active career was definitely a question for people, but I think the more you poke at and invest in this pack, the more you see there's a depth of content there that's waiting for you. The acting career is the brand new active career, a ten level career that goes hand in hand with the ten level acting skill. It's also a unique career type. Previous active careers, and even the normal kind of careers you get in game, are all on a kind of set schedule. I go 9 to 5, get paid, I come home. This one definitely has a different, unique flow to the career, [and] we think this is definitely special."
He's not wrong. Being an actress is certainly a little bit different to your average Sims career, as once you're tied to an agency, you can pick and choose different jobs at will. For every job you decide to go for, your sim will first have to pass a quick audition, which often requires certain skill levels - handiness for a DIY advert, for example - and the better your corresponding skill, the more chance you have of landing a part in the final gig. In the case of Renee, her first job was a part in a Salty Suds commercial - a pirate-themed box of soap flakes. Eager to get a head start in the glitzy world of Hollywood (or at the very least, the glitzy world of soap flakes), we decided to invite the director over the night before to do some much-needed networking - or at least, that was the idea. In reality, Renee kept walking off mid-conversation to catch up on her TV programs, which didn't exactly stand her in good stead with her new boss. In fact, Renee was so enthralled in her stories that she also left her bacon and eggs on the cooker, which the director strolled over and started eating in her place instead.
Fast forward to the day of the commercial, and for anyone who's played any of The Sims 4's more 'active careers', your time as an actress is going to seem quite familiar. Essentially, you travel to the set with your Sim and have a range of objectives to complete within a set time frame - the more of them you do, the better your pay will be at the end. There's the usual getting into costume and having your hair and makeup done, and the more mundane, such as chatting to people on set or helping yourself to a slice of pizza for lunch. When it comes to recording your commercial - or indeed any acting job - it's all very similar, except you're acting out scenes on stage instead. In the case of Salty Suds, that meant steering the boat, swabbing the deck and doing the final product spiel to wrap up the advert.
Or at least, that's how it should have gone. However, Renee let her first time on set go to her head a little, and we spent more time messing about than we actually did working. Within seconds of hitting the studio, we'd roped a strange guy in a purple alien rabbit suit into acting out a romance scene, swooning kisses and all. After that, we did at least get our hair and makeup done, so we looked sufficiently piratey, but then ended up spending a bit too long posting stuff to Simstagram social media (it increases your Fame, don't you know), chatting to men in chicken suits, and otherwise amusing ourselves on set, to the point where we only realised that we should probably get on with the commercial at 5:58PM, just two minutes before they wrapped up for the day. Unfortunately, Renee only managed to set foot on the mocked up pirate ship before she was packed up and sent home - and even though they got no footage for their ad, they still somehow paid us more than half the money for the job regardless.
In celebration of our first acting job, Renee decided to splurge a little and try out a brand new interaction - the 'make it rain' (or, in our case, as we're poor and/or a bit of a nobody, a 100 Simolean 'make it trickle' instead) while standing at her kitchen sink, still in her pyjamas - because, let's face it, nothing says celeb like throwing money down the drain (literally!). The idea is that as you get more and more acting jobs under your belt, going from random commercials to a regular slot on Friends-alike sitcom The Urbz and beyond, your fame will start to grow, and The Sims 4: Get Famous' most interesting features start to reveal themselves - most notably how your new-found celebrity status affects your sim and those around you.
As Miotke describes it, "I think we've developed a very nuanced description of what fame is - you can have famous sims as well as infamous sims". Throughout your sims' career, you'll have to try to balance two aspects of their new fame rank - essentially how much of a celebrity they are, and what their reputation is. He continues "You can approach the concept of fame as how recognisable I am on the street, and reputation is then how do those people feel about me. So high fame and high reputation is basically an actor that can do no wrong, the world's darling, and then high fame, low reputation is going to be that infamous, fall from grace kind of story. I think that's super powerful."
As your sim goes about their day to day life, being famous can have certain advantages and disadvantages - which Get Famous has tried to replicate with its new quirk and perk system. "Perks are, as you level up your celebrity, you can unlock various advantageous boosts - maybe ti's to progress you through your acting career faster, maybe it's to make relationships easier." However, as too many perks would make the game too easy, quirks are slightly more negative behaviours that your sim will pick up during their rise to fame, turning it into a bit more of a double-edged sword. Our Dave was there to fill us in on a few examples "[So], you might get addicted to social media, and if you don't check your phone at a frequent rate or get on the computer, you'll always be wondering about your followers and fan level. That can get a little annoying, having to pull out your phone all the time to keep checking social media. You might get an aversion to touching - you've made it big and you don't like to touch the common sim any more, so touching socials might have a negative effect on you. What I really like about it is that you don't necessarily choose these quirks, as there are things that you do in game that have the opportunity to push them on to you - and the more famous you are, the more quirks your sim can have at any one time. So I would expect a high level celebrity to have some really advantageous benefits, but also have some really quirky idiosyncrasies that a non-famous sim probably doesn't have to deal with."
During her brief rise to stardom, Renee managed to pick up her own little quirk along the way, 'Vain Street', which made her increasingly tense the longer she went without checking her reflection in the mirror. We're assuming that this came from the fact that we'd spent so long practising our acting and charisma skills in front of the mirror that that need to constantly see herself kind of stuck. By the end of our time with the game, we'd also managed to pick up a few fans - obviously some people REALLY like Salty Suds adverts - and we'd started getting stopped for selfies and autographs, and even received our first piece of fanmail - a creepy zombie doll which we put in pride of place on our bathroom floor.
How you deal with fans and fame can also have an impact on your sims' celebrity status too, as the producer explains: "You're going to see fans that are politely gushing over you. You're going to find fans that are a little more fervent in their admiration, maybe trying to break into your home. They might be sending you questionable gifts in the mail professing their love for you - it might get a little weird. You might encounter paparazzi, and they might come in to ask you to strike a pose, take a picture. You could do that - it might even increase your reputation, but if they get pushy, there's various perks to defend against that, or you could try to bribe them to leave you alone or sweet talk them to get them to stop messing around with you. Or you could fight them. All of those have different outcomes, and they all result in different ends."
All in all, Get Famous is shaping up to be an interesting addition to The Sims 4, not just for its headline acting career, but perhaps more so for its surprisingly deep fame system. While we didn't really get huge amounts of time to play with it, how you choose to balance your celebrity level and reputation looks like it'll have lots of different effects on your sims, and the new quirks and perks seem like a fun way of playing with fame too. How exactly it'll all play out though, we'll have to wait and see, when the expansion hits PC and Mac next month, on the 16th November.