Gameplay-driven vs Scripted Stories In The Sims

In this episode I talk about how we Simmers experience stories in the game organically through gameplay and how we can use the game as a tool to tell stories we’ve already come up with. I explore how The Sims offers us a lot of freedom to be creative.

Listen to this episode if:

  • You find yourself playing the same narrative over and over again.
  • You’re a storyteller looking for a stage.
  • You’re curious what will happen if you let go of the reigns.

Resources mentioned in this episode:


[00:00:00] Gloria from Yellow Llama Co.:

Welcome to Sentimental Simmer, a podcast made for emotionally attached simmers and storytellers with wild imaginations. I’m your host, Gloria, and I run Yellow Llama Co., a planner shop made to help simmers play with purpose. Every week, I talk all about things, sim life planning, storytelling, and memory keeping. I’ll also brainstorm new ways to obsess over our pixel people, whether they be in the Sims or another live sim game. And now let’s get into it. Yellow back to the Sentimental Simmer podcast. Today, I want to talk about storytelling, in particular how we, simmers, tell our stories in the game naturally, organically, the way the game is intended, or even how we use the game as a tool to tell stories we’ve already come up with. A lot of us simmers play with the intention to experience story in the game.

Gloria [00:00:54]:

And there are 2 different types of stories in this sense. So I like to divide it here between gameplay driven stories and scripted stories. So a gameplay driven story would emerge when we play the game, when we just go with the flow and interact with the subtle direction the game already gives us out the box. It’s kind of like if we were talking about writers or, you know, creative writing, there are pantsers and plotters. And a pantser is somebody that just writes off the cover of their hand. They just go where the story takes them in the moment. They don’t outline. They don’t pre plan.

Gloria [00:01:28]:

And I guess if we wanted to combine the 2 worlds, the gameplay driven simmer would be a pantser. So that’s that kind of version of storytelling that they’re also experiencing. They don’t know really what’s gonna happen. They just go with the Yellow, and they’re just there to enjoy the ride. Whereas scripted stories, as the name implies, they’re more prepared and thought out before we jump into the game, and we’re pushing a certain narrative. And even just using the Sims as a tool to stage our stories rather than actually play them, so to say. Both styles are fun. And sometimes it’s not even easy to divide the 2 because I feel like most of us play a mix of both.

Gloria [00:02:06]:

Like we have an idea that we wanna play out. We give the game enough control to actually be that improv partner. But then of course there are clear areas where it’s solely the game moving the story or you’re coming in with a story premade and the game is literally just your tool. So I just wanna chat about that and dive into that because I think it’s a really fun topic that I’ve experienced both ways. It just shows how expansive the game is. It’s not just one way to play, obviously. I think in in so many aspects, there’s not just one way to play this Llama. And there’s also not just one way to experience story with the game.

Gloria [00:02:43]:

So with gameplay driven story, as I said, it’s where you’re going to the game and you go with flow. If you wanted to do a strictly gameplay driven session where you really let go of all of the control, which I guess, in theory, that’s not really either how the game is intended because you are the watcher and you are really god in the sense. So I guess the game is also intended to give let you have control. But let’s just say you’re you’re giving away all the control. The game has free rein, and you want to let the game be full on improv partner, maybe even to the point where a game calls the shots. And you just do what the game tells you. In this sense, what the sim maybe tells you what they want to do. So this would even be called once based gameplay.

Gloria [00:03:25]:

It’s a fun way to let that more gameplay driven story emerge and unfold naturally when you pick the next move based on what your sim is telling you what they want to do. So in the Sims 2, 3, and 4, the sim can have once. And the sims 4 was called whims at first, but they’ve changed that to once now as Yellow. And little, like, thought bubbles or little it depends on the game you’re playing, what the interface looks like. But the sim can tell you, hey, I would really like to meet Susie, or I’d like to quit my job, or I’d like to do this and that. And then you can play just based off of that. I don’t know if she invented it, but I know Pleasant Sims has a lot of guides on how to play this way and some really fun tutorials. So definitely check that out.

Gloria [00:04:08]:

I’m going to leave a link to that in the show notes, especially because I feel like if you’re playing the Sims 4, it’s not actually easy to play this type of gameplay. In the Sims 2 and 3, I felt like the types of ones your Sims got were more varied and also more unique to their personalities. Whereas in the Sims four, it’s they’re more, like, detached really from the sim. They they won’t really feel, like, special to them, so to say. So it it I feel like you’re gonna get a really fun gameplay driven, one space driven story from the Sims 2 and Sims 3 rather than the Sims 4. You gotta put a little bit of work into it. So, again, Pleasant Sims has some great recommendations for mods that you can add to your game if you play with mods to create more relevant wants for your Sims so that it actually is more fun to play that way. Because I think even on in the Sims 4, the amount and different types of ones you can get is limited in comparison to the Sims 3 and Sims 2.

Gloria [00:05:05]:

It doesn’t feel like there’s enough variety and to actually create a lot of different stories. So in Sims 2 and Sims 3 is the case. And in Sims 4, with a couple of choice mods, you can really get some rich, wants based driven gameplay. And it’s just really fun because it makes the sim feel more real because they’re kind of calling the shots. Right? And they are determining their own destiny even if it’s like their own demise depending on what they’re wishing for. So I think one fun part of what makes the game so immersive is you’re, you know, getting emotionally invested in your sin because you’re guiding them through life, because you’re making choices for them. I think if you just let them go and and do things based on what they want, it makes them feel a bit more real as Yellow. And, like, obviously, they’re not in our minds.

Gloria [00:05:49]:

Okay. We’re playing pretend. It’s also a great way to have story unfold that you would have otherwise not have done. And it also helps you explore new ways to play because your sim might be asking you to do something that you maybe wouldn’t have done naturally because you lean to certain actions in the game. Like, you’re a homebody. Maybe you your son never leaves the house, but they have the want to go to the cafe or go dancing or explore or connect with Sims that can really also push your own gameplay into places that you may not have gone on your own. An extreme form of gameplay driven stories or of play in in general would be to give your Sims free will. Well, that’s always recommended anyways or else Co, like, die of starvation because they just stand around and don’t do anything.

Gloria [00:06:34]:

But you can give them full autonomy and let them loose without touching them at all, like nothing. Like, not even doing what they want for them. Like, not even quoting up anything. You just put them into a situation and you let them loose, and you just see what happens. I’ve seen some funny things online on YouTube, how simmers put their sims in, like, an underground dungeon and with a moat around it. And I think, Plumbella, she had, like, a livestream where and she wasn’t even there. It was just like a 24 hour livestream of her Sims in this I think it was some sort of underground basement. I don’t remember the details.

Gloria [00:07:12]:

I just remember they were basically uncontrolled. She wasn’t there. She wasn’t steering the ship. She was just and then I guess she comes back after 24 hours and sees how many survived and where they are in life. Like, did they, you know, get married and have kids? Did they skill up somewhere? You know? Did did they fall and, I don’t know, die? Yeah. It’s it’s hilarious. I just think it’s also a fun way to play. It’s get you can kinda, like, live out your voyeuristic tendencies and play big brother and just let the Sims do whatever and which they will.

Gloria [00:07:44]:

And, usually, that will create chaos in some form. I’m sure a fire will start, and that’s when things get juicy. And I think that can this kind of gameplay, just watching your Sims, can lead to the most spontaneous and funniest stories even. There’s also another side. It can be wholesome. So there’s this Simmer called. They created this really lovely story of Alice and Kev. This is another great example of how letting go of control can really lead to a wonderful story.

Gloria [00:08:16]:

So Robberghi basically placed a single dad and his daughter in the Sims three world of Sunset Valley to live a homeless life with no money or land to their name. And I quote, as Roberti states, a surprising amount of the interesting things in the story were generated by just letting go and watching the Sims free will and personality traits take over, end quote. This is a great example of how if the game already has strong features that give Sims personality, then that can really move the story that you’re playing in the game into places that you never would have thought. So that’s really the Sims 3 emergent storytelling at its best. Like, the traits were so spot on. Again, really check out that GEC talk. I’ll actually so the last episode I mentioned GEC talk with Matt Brown, he was speaking on Sims 4, but there’s a really great talk on the same channel about how AI works in the Sims 3. And there were also mentions of how the traits work and how based on your trait, you are at certain places in the world or based on your trait, you have different interactions with other people.

Gloria [00:09:17]:

And it’s just so in-depth how the trait system in the Simmer worked. And I think that really attributed to these great stories that we were able to create and experience with the game, with that in that Simmer storytelling engine. The story of Alice and Kev, since, you know, we’re working really let them roam free and just see what happens, I think that really shows how much fun you can get out of of that kind of gameplay driven experience. And I think also if you play, just letting the the game decide what comes next, if you really go heavy on the yes and take on all of the suggestions the game throws at you, I think that just lets the game beat its goofy self. I think, the the Sims franchise has always been known for its quirkiness, its charm, especially the Sims 2, unmatched. And I think if you lean into what the game is telling you, it it might actually lead to more funny interactions than if you were to control everything and and do the and maybe, you know, I think we tend to when we control everything, we we have our own preferences in the way we play, like the stories we play, the places we go in the game, the things we use, the way we build. And so I think if we are always in full control, it could lead to maybe the dreaded same story syndrome, so to say, kinda like same face syndrome in cast where, you know, you always use the same eyes and Simmer whatnot. And I think the same can happen to you in gameplay.

Gloria [00:10:42]:

So I think if you let loose a little bit and let the game make suggestions and really take on those suggestions rather than, controlling everything, it can actually lead you to discovering and exploring new things. Now in terms of scripted gameplay, I think this is where the game becomes less of a game and more just the medium in which story is told. And we’re talking, like, strictly scripted here where you come in with a clear storyline. You know exactly what you wanna do. And it really just shows how, like, this game is free at this point, and you can get so much out of it. Like, even if you don’t even wanna play the game, you can literally stage a whole darn movie with this game. The game is really not only great in terms of immersion storytelling, you know, by playing it as intended, but it’s even flexible enough and open enough to allow you to visualize stories that you’ve created independent of the game. So in that sense, the the game really becomes more of a tool to create art.

Gloria [00:11:39]:

You know, that could be just, you know, screenshots that tell a story, that could be a machinima, that could be a comic, that could be anything. I just I think it’s so fun, and I think everybody should try to explore it. It does come with some work, obviously. It’s, I mean, it’s not just having your story in mind, but it’s also a learning curve. You can’t jump into the game like you would when you play it. It’s a a whole another type of control you need when you’re playing or you let’s not use the word playing. When you’re using the game as a tool to tell story, but it’s worth it because you really get everything you need to be a director and of your own story. So you have an entire set in the palm of your hands that you can shape as you wish.

Gloria [00:12:18]:

You know, you can build entire homes. You can decorate them as you need. Depending on the game you’re playing, you can even design the world, the way you want, or, you know, also, there’s a plethora of custom worlds out there for the Sims 3, for example, where you can have, like, a sci fi world. You can have a a normal suburban town. You can have, you know, anything you want. And even in Sims 4, you can’t customize it super a lot, I mean, unless you have the tool mod, but there are a lot of beautiful worlds that you can use as backdrops. At this point, you can create quite a few different scenarios, whether it’s supernatural or, you know, a normal contemporary story. And, of course, you have endless amount of actors, any type, even aliens that you can, you know, out at your fingertips.

Gloria [00:13:03]:

And you can really create any character you can imagine, and they will be the actor in your story. And they will do everything you say. You can manipulate as you wish, and you can capture scenes. You can zoom in. You can zoom out. There’s even a video, you know, option or feature in the game that you can use to film with, lets you be creative with the way you create shots in the game and the way you capture your scenes. But as I said, there is a a bit of work connected to this. For example, it’s a bit tricky to get the Sims do exactly once you want, maybe at all times.

Gloria [00:13:34]:

So it’s useful to use things like animations or poses to get the Sims in the exact position you want. Hot tip. The WikiWims mod actually has a posing feature to it that lets you turn Sims in all sorts of ways, unless you get them to exactly where you want them, which is quite useful if you wanna be, the ultimate puppet master. And there are also, of course, other mods that help you tell story. I’ll link that in the show notes. I I swear there’s I think it’s called a storytelling mod or something like that. It’s also useful to have mods that help you control time in the game or weather Co you can really get the atmosphere, the exact atmosphere you need for that particular scene. I actually explored Machinima myself years ago years years ago.

Gloria [00:14:19]:

It’s gonna be, like, 7 years ago at this point. I created a music video parody directed to EA. I was basically pleading for more curly hair in the game. It was hilarious. I had rewritten the lyrics to I like them girls by Therese. I think that was probably the funniest part. And then I had my Sims dance around and prance around. I think that was when that nightlife pack came out or something like that, get out, get together, something like that.

Gloria [00:14:46]:

And that was when the whole group dance thing was new. I haven’t played with it since. I really should get back to that, but that was a lot of fun. And I also made a short machinima about a girl that lost her sister. And at least for me, I think this is also something. I think if you get into machinima or this kind of, you know, visual storytelling with the help of the Sims, you’ll end up developing your own style or your own preferences. I could tell early on, I really like creating story with music, and I might get into this again. I’m a have a comeback of my Mishanima era, but I like to have a a piece of music that inspires me, that evokes a certain emotion.

Gloria [00:15:23]:

And then based on that comes a story, so I actually don’t go in it usually with a story. And then I create the scenes and the story based on the music. So the music has a certain vibe, a certain theme, and Co that’s my story that I have a revolve around that. And, also, it keeps things simple because music usually doesn’t go longer than 3 or 4 minutes. Right? So you do not have a lot a lot of work on your hands with I mean, it’s still a lot of work, but it’s definitely a lot more manageable than a full on, like, hour long, movie. Right? So because it is a lot of fiddling around if you’re gonna create in the game because you have to revisit it, create lots and lots and lots of different clips because in the end, I can tell you, most of them aren’t usable for whatever reason. Or even if they are, you have to sort them through. You have to cut them correctly.

Gloria [00:16:12]:

And I mean, I was just at the infancy of my editing game. Like, I think at this point, I didn’t even use DaVinci at that time and but now I use DaVinci, and I I know my way around the software more. I feel more comfortable with it. So maybe it would be less taxing at this point. But still, it’s a it it’s not just coming up with a story. Let’s put that way. And I think that goes for even if you’re creating even if it’s just screenshots, you have to perhaps edit them and make them look good. You have to collect the right ones based on your story, and you just don’t wanna take any screenshot.

Gloria [00:16:44]:

You want it to have a certain vibe or have an artistic angle to it. Right? So there’s a bit of work that goes into it, but I think it’s worth it. I think the Sims is a great tool to use to visually tell your story. As a creative, as somebody who likes to tell story even without the game, it’s so nice to be able to use the game, something you’re already comfortable with. Use it in a different way than it was intended to have it mold to your idea and imagination. So if you have a story lingering in your mind, I definitely recommend getting into or telling story with with screenshots. It’s really fun, and it might help you actually learn more about the game as well and stress test it. Of course, you could also just do both.

Gloria [00:17:30]:

Right? You could have a story in mind, a rough idea of where you want things to go for your Sims, but you let the game fill in the details. I think that’s how a lot of let’s plays usually pan out. Simmers go in the game. They for example, if they’re playing a new expansion pack, when Horse Ranch came out, I think a lot of Sims that came in with a backstory of their Sims, the Sim had a goal maybe to take on grandma’s ranch and be successful, but the in between was still open. And I think having a set of of goals or plans for your Sims that can act as guideposts throughout your gameplay can be helpful, but then how your Sim gets there isn’t set in stone. So there’s some gameplay driven story that still can emerge, but you have a bit of direction. So that can also keep you interested because you’re actually looking forward to that goal that you’ve set for your Simmer that that plan. And, also, maybe even depending on how things go in the game, you end up tossing, you know, that idea you had in your mind and go a different route because the game, your improv partner, the Sims, gave you an idea.

Gloria [00:18:32]:

You’re like, hey. You know what? Let’s go with that. Yes. I will have them cheat on their wife and leave town and start a new life. I don’t know. This the the game can sometimes suggest some wild stuff. But, you know, it is how it is. Yeah.

Gloria [00:18:45]:

That’s just why I love the Sims so much. It’s so flexible. It can do anything you want in this game. You can play it as is. You can push it to be a a storytelling tool and anything in between. It’s literally I don’t know why more haven’t caught on, especially now that Sims 4 is free. Like, I’m still trying to get my sister and my my girlfriend to jump on board, but I’ll get them there. I totally am wanting to create some machinima now.

Gloria [00:19:12]:

How about you? I hope I’ve inspired you to play maybe a bit different. I hope I’ve showed the maybe positive aspects of both ways to play if you haven’t explored either one to in its entirety. In the next episode, I’ll be talking about what we are very notorious for, wholesome versus chaotic gameplay. We’ll be exploring those types of stories. Until then, Happy Simming!

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