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Sims 4 Island Living – Developer Interview With Jill Johnson

GameByte spoke with Jill Johnson, Lead Producer for Sims 4 Island Living about everything the pack has to offer.

Credit: EA

When it comes to Sims 4 Expansion Packs, Game Packs and Stuff Packs, it’s very easy to go wrong. As with all DLC, people need to be 100% sure that when they’re purchasing extra content, it’s going to be worth their money. In the case of Sims 4 Island Living, I personally think it’s worth every penny.

Sims 4 Island Living, the latest Expansion Pack for the game, is one of the best Expansions the game has had in a while, offering up whole new ways to play in a setting that, frankly, couldn’t be any prettier.

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Credit: EA

Island Living introduces Sulani to the Sims, a paradise of sandy beaches, blue oceans and baby turtle hatching that I actually haven’t left since it launched earlier this summer.

GameByte chatted with Jill Johnson, Lead Producer for Island Living, talking all things Sulani and how the tight-knit Sims community has an effect on the choices of developers.

I wanted to know which new element of Island Living Johnson is most proud of, and her answer didn’t disappoint.


“Hands down, it’s being able to swim in the Ocean,” she said. “This seemingly straight-forward functionality was actually quite an epic technical undertaking that took tight collaboration across nearly every discipline on the team.”

Credit: EA

Ocean swimming is something that’s been a part of the Sims franchise for a while now, and some players of Island Living were left frustrated by the limitations in the fourth game. For example, scuba diving doesn’t allow you to see the world under the ocean, something which was ready to explore in Sims 3. However, there’s more to the technical requirements of ocean-dwelling than you might think.

Even just for wading, Johnson explains: “The world needed to work appropriately with various heights of Sims and animals to support each of their unique transitions from wading to swimming, With the addition of docking points and boats, we made some significant updates to our routing.

“We added some fascinating, yet subtle new VFX tech that detects water height so that as a Sim is wading deeper and deeper in the water, the ripples show the appropriate portion of their body, whether it be their ankles, knees or shoulders.”

She adds: “We updated the water shader so you could see the fish, coral and get that gorgeous teal blue water that you see in the tropics in real life. It was seriously epic and I am so impressed with how all the pieces came together.”

Credit: EA

Along with the stunningly beautiful new game world, Island Living introduced some fantastic new mechanics to the Sims 4, with new parties, careers and – of course – the new Life State that is mermaids.

One of the most interesting new features of the game is its conservation gameplay. Along with the Conservation Career, Island Living allows you to fish for sea critters that are negatively impacting the environment, as well as collect and dispose of trash around the island.

Doing so will turn green murky waters into their trademark turquoise and introduce new wildlife into the region. It’s simple, but it’s rewarding to see. I wanted to know just how seminal the idea of conservation was when creating the Pack.

“We knew from very early on that we wanted a way to let players impact their world,” Johnson tells me. “Having the world change dynamically based on what the player has done was a concept that felt really creative and Sims-y to us, so we were fascinated with the idea.

Credit: EA

“We also knew we wanted to add an element of conservation and preserving the island for this pack to help convey our love and respect of the area, while giving our players a way to make a positive impact too. It just felt natural and right.

“While we were still solidifying our final feature list for Island Living, our colleagues working on The Sims 4 Strangerville Game Pack were coincidentally laying groundwork for leveraging conditional world layers that could change much more than just a contained event space. We wanted to jump on that wagon and see what we could do to change and brighten the landscape of an entire island neighborhood.”

Those who haven’t yet purchased Island Living should have most definitely noticed a few tweaks to their base games by now, as a free update which launched alongside the game finally introduced Off The Grid to Sims 4. Off The Grid allows for Sims to live off the land, without plumbing, lighting and electronics, providing an extra challenge for veteran players.

“We know that players like to have some challenges in their Sims’ lives
to shake things up, so we figured why not give them a little more ease-of-entry to get to that playstyle,” says Johnson on Off The Grid. “We also knew that the off the grid and the live-off-the-land fantasy is one way of life that comes to mind for people when they think about living on a tropical island.

“We did not want to offer just one way of life on Sulani, so we dropped in a toolkit of features that let you craft your story in a variety of ways.”

Credit: EA

The Off The Grid Challenge is just one of hundreds of community-created challenger for the Sims 4. From the 100 Baby Challenge to Rags to Riches, there are endless ways for you to make your Sims 4 playthrough a little more intense, and I was curious to know if these community challenges have an effect on how the developers approach new DLC.

“Community Challenges are not necessarily the basis on which we design an Expansion Pack, but we do occasionally consider features to help support existing challenges or with an idea of a future challenge possibility in mind,” says Johnson.

Sims 4 Island Living is one of my all-time favourite Expansions for the Sims, and if you haven’t yet added it to your library, you can do so right here!

Although the Sims 4 Island Living is the most-recent Expansion Pack, the highly-anticipated Sims 4 Realm of Magic is the latest Game Pack to launch. Keep your eyes on GameByte for our first impressions of the new addition!

Featured Image Credit: EA

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