The life sim genre, loosely defined, has taken many forms. Stardew Valley supplemented the farming aspects with building relationships between the townsfolk. Animal Crossing: New Horizons brought Nintendo’s charm and approachability to an island escape. Second Lifetrue to his name, consisted of a virtual world where you can create an avatar, interact with other players and build 3D models. But for all its loose criteria and vague labels, no series is as monolithic in its category as The Sims; For 23 years, the god perspective of AI characters going about their daily lives has become virtually synonymous with the genre. Life through youParadox Tectonic’s recently announced life sim, is ready to compete, with a deeper focus on language, memory, and role-playing between your created characters.
That’s not to say role-playing is new to life sims; far from it. The Sims 4‘s recent expansion Grow together added a slew of likes and dislikes to characters’ emotional palettes, increasing the likelihood of dramatic encounters and emerging storylines. (Polygon’s Cass Marshall got into a feud with a baby.) But Life through you goes even deeper into role play. You can customize your entire city. You can change your belongings, right down to the material of the furniture in your characters’ houses. More importantly, characters speak in real languages, as opposed to the fictional language of The Sims.
“We tried to expand the gameplay on every level,” said Rod Humble, head of Paradox Tectonic and lead on Life through you, said Polygon last week during the Game Developers Conference. “And language in human interactions plays such an important role in all the stories you want to tell. Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” And I’m getting into that a little bit. You need your characters to express themselves directly – to each other and to you.
Humble said the game will feature English when it launches in early access in September, while Spanish, German and French should be localized by the time the game fully launches. After that, Paradox Tectonic hopes that modders will jump at the chance to add any number of regional dialects or entirely new languages to the game.
Life through youThe protagonist is no stranger to the life sim genre. Humble is the former head of Electronic Arts’ The Sims label and the former CEO of Second Life developer Linden Labs. It’s hard to imagine a designer with more varied experience in this arena.
“Game designers can be whatever they want, of course,” he said. “Some prefer to be more artsy. For me, I prefer to play the role of the game designer as the architect. You make this beautiful building, even though you have no way of knowing what people will be doing in every room in the future.”
Life through you‘s character creation will be limited to one “household”, which Humble said will be about 8 or 10 people. However, you can right-click on any character you see in the world and instantly access them: their memories, their likes, their dislikes. From there you can follow them through their lives. I am reminded Watch Dog Legion‘s character change.
Characters in it Life through you will remember what Humble calls “observables.” In fact, these reactions will affect how characters, as well as their extended social, professional, and romantic circles, perceive someone over time. Humble gives the example of a character who wets his pants, or, to a lesser extent, shows up late for work. A co-worker may notice their tardiness and comment on it later that night at a dinner party to a friend who happens to be the latecomer’s boss. Although the boss has never really seen his employee being late, his opinion can be changed anyway. This, in turn, can affect the employee’s chances of a future promotion.
Between Humble’s expertise and the resources, insight and knowledge pool of publisher Paradox and its studios, who have routinely released quality games with years of subsequent DLC and expansions, Life through you seems to have a better chance of attracting dedicated Sims players than any other contender in recent years. This isn’t even the first time Paradox has entered an arena already dominated by a Maxis title: Colossal’s excellent Cities: skylines was released not long after from SimCity disastrous launch in 2013.
“As a team, our emphasis is on openness,” said Humble. “If you see a barrier, we want to give you the keys to unlock that barrier.”
Life through you will be released as an early access title on Windows PC on September 12.