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'The Sims' comes to Facebook

Players start off by creating their Sims, giving them a personality and building homes for them to live in.
Players start off by creating their Sims, giving them a personality and building homes for them to live in.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "The Sims Social" transforms the life simulation game into a social experience
  • Friends in the game can help develop your character
  • If a game relationship goes sour, the game offers ways to get even
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(CNN) -- What do you get when you combine the top-selling PC game franchise of all time with the world's biggest social network?

A whole lot of people living the "life" they choose and sharing it on Facebook.

"The Sims Social" takes the classic life simulation game and transforms it into a social experience that allows players to interact in ways they could never do before in "The Sims" franchise.

John Buchanan, vice president of marketing at EA Play (Electronic Arts), said PC gamers could always share elements of the game with their friends, but could never actually play with their friends.

"For a community that is as social as 'The Sims' is, to be able to now let them play 'The Sims' on the No. 1 social platform in Facebook, it's just a perfect marriage," Buchanan said. "Then you realize how popular it is from a community standpoint: With over 7 million Facebook fans, it is a perfect opportunity to create an experience for those fans out there."

Developers at Playfish Games wanted to bring an authentic feel to the social network game. As in "Sims" games of the past, players start off by creating their Sims, giving them personalities and building homes for them to live in.

The change in gameplay occurs when your Sim begins exploring the world, building skills and going on quests. Now, friends in the game can be involved in helping (or hindering) the development of your character.

Through Facebook wall posts and feeds, everyone can see what's going on with characters Are they falling in love? Are they breaking up? Did they put a spider on someone's toilet seat?

Relationship building is one key element that was made easier by bringing the game to the social platform. Sim characters can become friends, fall in love, get married and break up, which helps the characters develop and increase in levels.

Buchanan said players can show off quests they complete with their Facebook posts. Characters can work toward personal goals, like building the most beautiful home, and highlight the player's creativity and expressiveness through their in-game choices.

"You can also build your skills by becoming an artist, being a musician by playing the piano, or becoming a writer," Buchanan points out. "These are different skills that let you explore life and level up your Sim as they go about their lives in ways that your friends are going to be able to explore with you."

However, not all friend experiences may be friendly. Buchanan said they expect players to get emotionally attached to their Sim and the events their Sim goes through. So if a game relationship goes sour, the game offers ways to ... get even.

"It's going to offer me an opportunity to have some fun, to have some pranks," he said. "I might put a spider in the bed. I might turn my relationship into an enemy or into an archenemy, and then we turn into frienemies and we might have a boxing match."

Buchanan quickly points out that the pranks are never permanent and are just to have some fun and an opportunity for competition between real friends. This, in turn, will create interaction off Facebook with the chance to talk about what is happening in-game and compare Sims characters between friends, leading to what Buchanan hopes is a richer experience with "The Sims Social."

Technically, the interface for the Facebook game will be different from the PC version, but Buchanan said it should be familiar for PC players.

The game interface had to be changed to fit within the Facebook platform, but developers still wanted it to be easy to use.

With more than 140 million copies of the PC game sold in the past 10 years, it would seem there is a ready-made fan base for "The Sims Social."

Buchanan said the attention, even before the game launched, was amazing.

"We already have over 1.3 million fans of the game (on Facebook). One would say yes, they've been clamoring for the game and are incredibly excited."

Buchanan said they are also developing an app that will allow players to take "The Sims Social" experience on the go. "The Sims Social" is free to play on Facebook, and there is an opportunity to advance your skills faster by using micro-transactions to pay for skill points.

Sim Cash enables players to accelerate their gameplay, but it isn't necessary to play or advance. In case you were wondering, yes, your Facebook Sim will have access to a computer in the game, but no, your Facebook Sim will not be able to play "The Sims Social" in the Facebook game.

But Buchanan said that was a pretty good idea.

"The Sims Social" is available only through the Facebook social network. There is no ESRB rating for this game. It will be released Thursday to the general public.

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