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Q&A with Jill Johnson, Associate Producer on The Sims 4

The Sims 4: Island Living – With the recent release of Island Living expansion pack, we have contacted the guys over at Maxis to ask them a few questions, Jill Johnson Associate Producer on The Sims 4 for Maxis was wonderful enough to give us some insight. Check out our Q&A below:

Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How long have you been working in the games industry and what is it that you do now?

My name’s Jill Johnson and I’ve been in game development for a little over 12 years now. I started working for The Sims back in 2007 as a Production Assistant for the original MySims game. After the MySims trio wrapped, I worked as a Producer on The Sims Medieval before ultimately landing on the Sims 4 Team during early development of The Sims 4 Base Game. My current role is on The Sims 4 Expansion Pack team. I was the World Producer for both The Sims 4: Get Together Expansion Pack’s Windenburg and City Living’s San Myshuno. I had a blast working on Create a Pet for The Sims 4: Cats and Dogs, and most recently I got to try my hand at being the Production Lead of an Expansion Pack for The Sims 4 : Island Living.

What does it mean to you working on such a popular franchise?

It’s definitely surreal at times. When you get into the swing of things at work, your day-to-day is mostly just fun work. Whenever we release new packs, it really hits home just how far reaching The Sims can be. It’s amazing to see all of the team’s hard work and creative ideas coming alive in players’ hands. The best partit is seeing people from around the world smiling and really digging in to something that’s so near and dear to you. This was definitely the case back in June at EA Play when we announced the new Island Living Expansion Pack and opened it up for the public to play. So many people were at that event! It was crazy to see this game that had been so near and dear to all of us for so long finally getting shared with other humans!

The Sims 4 has been out for some time now, although you’re constantly releasing new expansions to expand on the original experience. What does the latest instalment, Island Living, have in store for gamers? And how has the game improved since its release?

Island Living offers a complete feeling of paradise and escapism for Sims players. In addition to the fact that the idyllic backdrop of Sulani is completely different than any other Sims 4 world, we’ve also given your Sims more freedom in how they choose (or choose not to) make a living through extending Part Time Careers and adding Odd Jobs. We worked to capture the easy breezy vibe of living on an Island through things like the Beach Life Aspiration, welcoming neighbors, and community events. The Sims 4 has added quite a bit in the almost five years since its original release. The obvious additions are all the Game Packs, Expansion Packs, and Stuff Packs, but outside of DLC, even the Base Game itself has improved so much since 2014. We’ve added Ghosts, Pools, Toddlers, extended CAS options, new careers and career types, new build features like Glass Roofs and most recently Stilt Foundations, CAS Stories – and plenty other free updates I’m sure I’m forgetting.

To get back on topic and finish things off, what is your favourite part of the new Island Living expansion, or what are you looking forward to most from its release?

Since it is the one feature I was able to produce myself and because I’m a huge occult fan, Mermaids are definitely my personal favourite part of the expansion. That was one of those features where you could tell that everyone working on it, from Design to Animation to Character Art to QA to Engineering really put their hearts and souls into it. The gorgeous new fishlike tails are definitely something our Art and Animation teams really outdid themselves on. We did a lot of cool preproduction work with the rig to make the movement less like bending knees and more like a graceful fish in the water. Our character artists got super creative with a whole bunch of shiny, scaly textures. We even have a full suite of colour variants with this lovely bioluminescence shader. Through gameplay and through visuals we also made sure we supported a range of different kinds of Mermaids. You can play a sweet, nice Mermaid who gives other friends special gifts through her powers or if you want you can make a scary siren that preys on unsuspecting Sims by pulling them under water. And this is a subtle thing, but I love the way that you can keep this fiction of discovery and if you don’t cheat, you can probably make quite a project out of trying to find out who the few secret mermaids are in Sulani. Every time I hear their goofy little chitter, I crack up. I feel like saying “ Excuse you!”

To check out what we thought of the expansion check out our Island Living review HERE. To check out our gaming news click HERE. Don’t forget to have a peek at our Borderlands features with the release of Borderlands 3 fastly approaching.

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