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Date Posted: 7th Dec 2010 at 3:17 PM

"1337 people have said thanks to orangemittens for this download."

It is so sad that I loved this sooo much when I stumbled onto just now.

At any rate, I'm working on a broad resource for CAW users and anyone who is interested in contributing is welcome to wander across and contribute like crazy:
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Where's WA version Niua Simoa gone?

Date Posted: 28th Jun 2010 at 5:27 PM

I'm fixing this and prepopulating it. It's basically done, just in testing, and no issues so far.

It should be rereleased very soon. Edit: In fact, now it's done. Czech out my channel.

Thanks for the patience.
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Terrain Painting

Date Posted: 16th Apr 2010 at 7:31 AM

I've continued schooling myself in level design as well as in previous sims titles. I've been having fun with TS2, the loading screens are infuriating, I can see why they ditched them. I've been learning sims lore, and I'm in the early to mid stages of remaking one of the original TS2 neighbourhoods for TS3. Which one is it? I'm not telling yet. It's looking fantastic so far, better than I imagined. A LOT better than Niua Simoa, which feels less and less up to scratch as time goes by (I may remake it completely eventually, but I think I'd rather do a whole new Pacific Island). This one is still months off release though. I plan to hold it back and incorporate Ambitions content into it.

To better my CAW skills, I've been on the official forums again. There's a really horrible culture of attacking critics there, which means there's not much point me sharing my WIP with them. All I'll get is praise and, at best, half-hearted criticism. Maybe nice for my ego, but it sure won't improve my world. Instead, I've been rabidly downloading as many good-looking WIP as I can and checking them out. Considering what works and what doesn't. I really can't stand the modular bridges across large stretches of water. Some people pull them off okay, but they never look good, that's the problem. So I'm vowing to avoid them. I'm more anti-CC in worlds than ever now. It's such a hassle having to install packages for every world I download. I'm simply never going to include CC or store content in any world unless it's a very small one (like the one currently sitting in the modding queue, which includes store content).

One thing every single world I've downloaded so far fails on is terrain painting. (I expect this to change when I finally get Overlook Bay into my game tonight: It looks beautiful!) There's not enough blending going on. People aren't taking their time with it, or they're getting held back by the 8-per-chunk limit and not realising the versatility you can actually get out of 8 terrain paints. With this in mind, I've committed myself to painting dirt under every tree in my latest project. OMG. Why? Why am I such a masochist? So far I've spent two hours on it, and I've probably haven't even placed a third of trees yet!

I'm going back to it. I may be some time.
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Rawr Island: A Project on Hold.

Date Posted: 30th Mar 2010 at 2:25 PM

So, while procrastinating with my essay, I was fooling around with my project Rawr Island which, unfortunately, was exporting from CAW with weird errors. Well, it turns out that since CAW updated, that is no longer the case. It's a living project again, which makes me happy. HOWEVER: Seeing as I have so much school work and CAW-work to do besides Rawr Island, it's remaining on hold. I'd also like to save it for when Ambitions comes out, so that I can tweak it and release it with to be compatible with that and to utilise some of its features. (Notably the caveman costume in the trailer, and the caveman mysterious mr gnome in the new tattooist pic).

An important problem with the world, too, is that home worlds without roads don't function properly. NPCs like repairmen, etc, cannot come, and this causes all manner of messes. So I plan to fix up Rawr Island with some prehistoric-looking roads in the built up areas on the mountain eventually. If you want to see how the project is looking, and if you want to make suggestions, here's the page in Creator Issues:
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Date Posted: 22nd Mar 2010 at 5:20 AM

If you have ideas, criticism, requests, let me know. No guarantee I'll take them up, but I love to draw from and improve from other people's opinions.
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Designing Maps

Date Posted: 22nd Mar 2010 at 5:11 AM

Between ridiculous amounts of semolina pudding (because I'm lazy and poor), I've been trying to school myself in disciplines that will directly or indirectly help when designing worlds. The most direct and obvious of these is studying level design in other games. Searching around World of Level has been fun, and it's got me critiquing previous projects. One of the principal criticisms that I have of Niua Simoa is about the road layout: Tapuwhai Town's road and lot-placement is very inelegant. The roads are too straight, too organised and inorganic, and it tooks awful. If anyone reads this and knows other map-building and level design sites and resources, please spin me that way.
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Italian Port Town for Tectonic Sims CAW group.

Date Posted: 20th Mar 2010 at 12:19 PM

This is a real labour of love, lately. I'm trying to make a beautiful world here with very specific traits and I'm finding that planning really does get in the way with CAW. In part this is because I'm inexperienced with the tools, more and more I will understand what I can do before I do it, but currently I can't make accurate predictions. This is definitely happening with the textures I've been using on the Tectonic Sims' work-in-progress. I'm making big mistakes. The layering of the textures is simply top of the list to bottom in the CAW window, with the base layer at the lowest priority and thus the hardest of paint over any other layer cleanly. Painting should go on layer by layer starting at texture one and moving upwards in number, with only very careful mixing during each successive layer. No mixing at all is preferable. This is not painting like I am used to. I am pretty madcap with paint, and so the really rigid non-mixing textures are tough to work with. In Niua Simoa, I worked with barely any mixing, save to accentuate some features. In this latest project, just the right kind and amount of mixing makes the perfect terrain. I want this perfect terrain, and not to use tailor-made but limiting textures. But getting just that right kind and amount is VERY difficult, it seems. One hill might turn very ugly in the process, even though the last turned out perfect.

Basically, in the shortest terms possible: Grrrrrr!
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Reflecting On CAW So Far.

Date Posted: 19th Mar 2010 at 6:41 AM

Create-A-World is a great tool. It's not nearly as complicated as I feared it would be, but it is difficult nonetheless. I doubt EA will ever develop the tool beyond the Beta phase, but it has potential to become extremely powerful and to add to the gameplay dynamic of the World Adventures expansion pack enormously. If, in the future, CAW becomes capable of building vacation worlds, the doors would open up to genuine holiday areas. Niua Simoa as a vacation/adventure hood for Sunset Valley? That was, in fact, my initial idea until I learned of CAW's current limitations.

From a builder's perspective, CAW is great outside of Edit In Game (EIG) mode. The graphical issues are minor. The tool allows users to manipulate roads and fundamental terrains brilliantly. The worlds are necessarily emergent, so I have learned that specific plans for worlds simply cannot work. One must let the tool push back, and this is to the creator's advantage: The world then looks more natural. Areas around the roads are, literally, eroded away by the tools. The sometimes useful, other times terrible rubber-banding of the landscape can be used to a creator's advantage - it destroys a lot of our plans, a lot of our hard work, but it also draws the landscape back and back into a realistic proportion. The rubber-banding is, however, hell for lot placement. One rule is clear: You must NEVER edit landscape after placing lots if you can at all help it. Rubber-banding means that the lots will often pop out of the ground or sink below it leaving the horrible edging we've all come to recognise. Some degree of this edging cannot be avoided, but it's not the great handicap we think it is looking at a bare world. EA's China World has lots and lots of badly edged lots if you look around closely, but these are hidden well with vegetation.

EIG mode is graceless and slow as soon as your first expansion or stuff pack is installed. Fine before. I avoid it at all costs, doing all my building in exported versions of the world, and adding them later. There are temporary and fiddly fixes for this, but I'm yet to give them a go.

It's worth mentioning that lots of the EP1 spawners simply don't work outside of their native EA worlds. None of the EP1 beetle or butterfly spawners work in built worlds (including Riverview and Sunset Valley). The geode and septarian nodule spawners work, but none of the other gems or metals do. So what happens when you place these spawners? EP1 beetle spawners turn into cockroach spawners and moth spawners, although occasionally you'll get an uncommon basegame spawner instead. EP1 gem spawners make an EP1 gem, but it's always just quartz. EP1 seed and fish spawners all work fine. I'm really not certain why EA included so many non-functional spawners. It's either a glitch, an oversight, or at best, a hint of things to come with the CAW tool. I doubt it is the latter, but I can hope.
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Stories set in Niua Simoa

Date Posted: 19th Mar 2010 at 6:21 AM

Before I go on to muse about the CAW tool, I thought I'd quickly share some of the stories emerging out of Niua Simoa, the first of my worlds. I've really enjoyed KarinL's adventures because he/she's done exactly what I hoped people would: Found interest in the trivia and easter-eggish Pasimfic Island culture I distributed around the island. His/her blog is Another blog I've seen that sets itself in Niua Simoa is here: It will be fun to see how characters diverge from my imaginings. I'm on the lookout for any other pictures and stories set in the world, half the fun is seeing what people do with an open-ended storyline, if they pick it up at all.
Mood: Luff
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Art and Games: Making Niua Simoa - Part Two (cross-posted from Facebook)

Date Posted: 19th Mar 2010 at 6:12 AM

[...cont from previous post]

The Sims really is the best current vehicle for spawning emergent and engaging narratives in the gaming world. The Sims 3 is a buggy and badly supported game, but the creation tools it offers to players eclipses its many issues. This is at least partially because the game is not developed by Maxis Studios anymore, instead it's developed inhouse at the abominably arrogant and destructive Electronic Arts. EA's idea of implementing a micro-transaction system, The Sims 3 store, apparently means charging customers the same amount as for the game itself to get a handful of digital furniture and clothing. There's nothing 'micro' about it at all. Thankfully, after a decade in existence, The Sims franchise has enormous third-party support from players and modders themselves. With luck, in the next twenty years or less, we will see player creations from these sorts of games that are not just amusing, but that are serious artistic statements. I once saw that a player was recreating Auckland in Simcity 4. It would be a great and simple statement if she or he had made the city in two versions: One simulating the current Auckland transport system, and another with an efficient public transport system. This would be, by no means, an accurate simulation of real Auckland transport, but combined with images of the pollutions stats and quality of life standards generated by the game, it'd be a playful and artistic jab made in an accessible medium. In the longer term, we might hope to see serious artistic statements akin to great films like Yojimbo or Chinatown, but with emergent, unpredictable qualities to them - a variability that would make for very different 'game-going' experiences to our 'film-going' ones. The question is really, how can such games exist under Capitalism, where the educated market is always going to be small and snobbish rather than broad and mainstream as it could potentially be under Socialism?

All of this is a long-winded introduction to the fact that I made an island for The Sims 3 during spare time over the Summer. It was a project with lots of problem solving using difficult, beta-quality tools, and to be honest the final version still has some serious kinks that players have pointed out to me. I decided to make something I knew, so the world I've created draws on the Pacific and its cultures, but like my sandcastle, the medium has made it substantially different. The initial idea was that this would be a coral island, like Tonga, with no hills, but the romantic and familiar structure of volcanic landscapes got the best of me. I thought of Ruapehu and of the volcano that erupted in the ocean off Tonga last year, and ultimately I compromised. Niua Simoa, a composite title of 'Niua' from the Tongan island group, Sim from the gaming franchise, and Samoa, would be a volcano with a reef formed around it. As you can see, a new island is forming off its coast.

Niua Simoa download thread.

In some senses, it's the sandcastle I would make if I had more malleable sand. I often dream of landscaping an entire garden into a little world, with outlandish islands and oceans and animals. Due to the medium, the only animals I could put on Niua Simoa were humans, but I vowed to make each individual and yet open enough that the players who downloaded and played my world would not feel boxed in. I made a king based loosely on Tonga's Tupou legacy, Henry Tapuwhai I. I wanted to weave more than just Pacific landscape, so there is a weird fusion of Pacific languages in the island's culture. Tapuwhai was a name composed because it was a backdoor for hinting at animals in the world, stingrays being a regular motif in Niua Simoa if players ever cared to look hard enough. The island is not a democracy, it's a somewhat crazed monarchy. I tried to make the king's daughter something of a Pacific Island Paris Hilton just for fun.

The scope for characterisation was much broader than I had anticipated, and I constantly had to hold myself back from making excessively restrictive and clear storylines. At every juncture I had to remind myself that the island and its population was a vehicle for other people's stories and not just for ones I wanted to tell. Everything needed to be open ended. Margo Tumeke, above, is a personal favourite of the island's inhabitants. She's an alcoholic, or at least I hint at it in the island's flavour texts. The ability to add descriptions to each Sim in the game is invaluable, and there are plaques you can hang on walls that will display short text for players to read, about the length of a tweet, meaning you can create an incredibly rich sense of history. I aimed to educate players, who are quite an international mix, about the Pacific Islands, but keep the experience light-hearted and cohesive. Players are introduced to concepts like tapu, very gently, and also to essential material elements of our culture as Pacific Islanders like pounamu, tapa and fale. It was very difficult to make passable fale in the game. Really I think I failed, most of them look like boxy, plate-roofed monstrosities, but the concept is there and now those who have downloaded and played the world will know what a fale is. I consider that alone a small success.

It's easy for anyone to read this and decide I'm some crazy dude with too much time on my hands, there's still a serious stigma about interacting with people and/or creating through games in any serious way. I have to remind myself that it's NOT mortifying at all to see my mother on Facebook requesting pieces for her Farmville stable, there's nothing wrong with that. It's healthy and I'm glad more people are gaming openly. There is such creative potential in games, and sure they are time vampires, but they're cheap to create with and they don't require great deals of space. Ultimately, it's the game developers themselves who are making the medium who need more freedom and more respect. Here we all are on Facebook, and there are whole groups dedicated to opposing the Facebook games culture. I want more of the opposite. I'm glad to see intelligent people are gaming shamelessly, and in public, many people who I previously wouldn't have suspected. Game critically, with a mind for challenge and artistic merit, even if that leads just to Bejewelled Blitz because the only other options are two-dimension farming simulators. Of course, it shouldn't take over our lives, and any creative and competitive endeavour can, so on that note, I'm off to a cafe to do some reading and writing in the sunshine.
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