Interview: Grant Rodiek Discusses The Sims 3 Late Night

After having my addiction for The Sims 3 rekindled by the latest (and arguably the best) expansion pack, I was excited to have the opportunity to speak with Associate Producer Grant Rodiek about this latest installment to the game. Read on to find out what he had to say on the inspiration for the vampires and celebrities, his thoughts on some of the new features in the game, whether or not there are any clues to future expansion packs embedded in Late Night and what’s being done to patch up some of the glitches.

The Sims 3 Late Night offers players plenty of new opportunities, including allowing their Sims to hit the bars and clubs, join a band, become celebrities or meet (and become) vampires. It adds new interactions, new amusing moments and new ways to enhance your enjoyment of the game. If you’ve been holding out for that one must-have EP for The Sims 3, I think this is it. (To read more about the Late Night expansion pack, check out our review, here). As a fan of the franchise and this expansion pack in particular, I was grateful that Grant was able to take time out to speak with me about the game. His enthusiasm toward the project was certainly understandable given how well the game’s been received by fans and reviewers.

Where there any things that you wanted to do with the expansion pack that ended up not working out or that maybe you were holding off for something bigger later on?

We never think of things as like: We’re going to held them back. Typically, if it doesn’t make it into this game, it’s probably not going to make it into another because really, we design things for Late Night or Ambitions or World Adventures. We design things that are great for that pack and we want to really focus and deliver a quality experience based on those things. Every game I’ve ever worked on and every game I will ever work on will always have things that [I say], “Man, wish I could’ve done that. Wish we could’ve done that.”

I guess, some examples of things… We thought maybe we might dig a little deeper into apartment life-type game play for Late night. We thought we might do stuff like a celebrity entourage. But really, we did a lot of stuff on bands, we did a lot of stuff on celebrities to begin with. We really nailed the city scenes. We’re really happy with that turned out.

I don’t really have any regrets. Obviously, every developer always wants more time, but I probably would’ve made the same decisions I did.

As far as hints for future expansion packs, I’ve seen some people on the forums looking around for things. Was there anything put into Late Night that can give us any kind of clue as to what you might be working on next?

You know, it’s always funny. Our players have always thought that we place hints throughout the game and it’s not true now and it’s never been true. Our players, I guess have always been chasing at windmills. It’s kind of funny.

What’s in Late Night, we put in there because our artists thought it was funny or somebody wanted to put in a joke, but people are always looking for hints and they’re just not there. We’ve never put the hints in. We don’t want to give away any secrets or potential things and frankly, we’re not that devious.

Are there any hints that you can give me now? Are you allowed to talk about anything that you guys are working on now for future Sims 3 things?

Right now, we’re pretty excited to watch Late Night. We’re pretty excited to listen to the community and see things that they like and didn’t like, and things we can improve and things we can add in the future. Right now, we’re pretty focused on that.

It seems kind of evident that you guys have a pretty good sense of humor when it comes to designing the game and putting in these little funny scenarios.

Late Night was an especially funny pack for us. We added the breast slider and there were so many funny meetings where we were trying to think of just horribly ridiculous headlines and puns we could use around that feature.

If you look at things like, if your Sims have a drink of juice, they can then start dancing on bars and bar tables and that’s absolutely hilarious. It’s just so ridiculous and over the top, and the new dance animations are so funny. We put in the “Stride of Pride” and the “Walk of Shame,” which have special, unique animations based on how well your Sim does when approaching men or women based on his/her gender or preferences.

We try to think of things that we love from movies, and from our own experiences in college and high school and things like that. Late Night was over all a very funny pack to make.

I’ve seen some new dance moves, especially on the tables and bars. Were they inspired by anything specific or were you guys just messing around with different kinds of moves?

One of our designers found this really cool dance video that she forwarded along to the animators and they looked at some of those and picked their favorites and made some of their own. Our animators do everything by hand. There’s no motion capture and they’re really some of the best artists in the industry. The amount of life that you see on the expressions on the Sims. It was a little bit of inspirations from other people’s dances and our animators just making it their own.

They also go in the hallway and film each other doing reference and things and that leads to some hilarious and awkward things as well. There’s a video of me biting into a red plastic Dixie cup to get the expression for biting into other Sims’ necks.

Were there any celebrities that you took inspiration from as far as creating the different scenarios for celebrity Sims in Late Night…

We were making a game with a big celebrity focus. We definitely looked at who has the biggest headlines, who was always making the biggest splash, who has the most entertaining story and who also has a story that we can make in our game. This wasn’t like a marketing driven thing or something like that. We weren’t running data. We were just looking at stuff that we as common people found amusing or interesting. If you look in our game, you’ll see rap moguls, and hip-hop stars. There are some pretty funny comparisons there.

If you look closely, you’re like alright, this is a music household, who’s this one scrawny dude here? Or you look at the sports family, there’s very clear parallels with some real world celebrities. But at the same time, we wanted to make sure that we weren’t just ripping off classic headlines. That we were sort of making our own. So you’ll see some of our thoughts and you’ll see some jokes in what traits we picked for people and the names we picked. And our fans love the names we come up with. Our world-building team’s really funny.

The same question for the inspiration for the vampires…

For the vampires, we wanted our vampires to be cool, hip and sexy. Overall that was the real theme for the game, entirely. We didn’t want to be campy. We didn’t want to be this cliché or stereotype. The thing is, also is that vampires are huge right now. Twilight’s a big deal. Not too long ago, Blade was a big deal. One thing we knew, is that we knew we didn’t want to do Twilight-sort of the sparkles and weirdness. But, what we did like from Twilight was that some of their vampires have cool powers, like the ability to read minds and things like that and you see that ability in the game. One of our producers suggested that. She’s a huge Twilight fan.

But we wanted our vampires to be powerful – these awesome creatures of the night. We wanted them to be passionate. The fact that they could pick a woman at the club that they thought was just beautiful, read her mind, make her think of him, use their powers and their wiles, to influence them and have a successful outing. We were more driven by them to be sexy and hip than we were by some particular fiction, but we knew that our players would either love it or freak out based on Twilight so we wanted to make sure we didn’t go that way, to make sure we didn’t alienate one group or another and it turned out that they were panicking that we were going to do Twilight. It was really funny.

I don’t know if I just watch too much True Blood but their ability to drink blood from the fridge made me think of the True Blood vampires.

That’s a good parallel. I haven’t watched True Blood myself. We designed that for an easy way for the vampires to fill their thirst motive. Whenever you have something in the game like thirst, or else the vampire will die, we wanted to make sure that there were really easy ways to access nourishment. So, we put in plasma-packs in the fridge, which, there’s no real game-play benefits other than you stay alive. We also put in the fact that if you’re a gardener and you like doing that, you can grow plasma fruit. And then finally, the hardest way but also the most satisfying way from a game-play experience is by drinking from other Sims, but again, if you don’t have a huge reservoir of people to drink from, that would be overly difficult. The plasma fruit was actually in our original design as purely a mechanical thing to make it possible for Sims to drink but that’s definitely a good parallel and I’m glad that such a parallel exists. I think that’s awesome.

As far as some of the glitches that are popping up (the butler disappearing, the excessive vomiting)… Is there an update coming up?

I don’t have details or specifics but I will say, and if you look at our past, this is true, we’ve always supported our games. We’ve supported every launch with updates and fixes. That’s both after the game is released and also when we release new games, we always give new features, new content and new fixes for past expansions to our players for free.

We’re committed to that. We want to make sure that you guys have an awesome experience. We want to make sure that we fix these things and you know, sometimes stuff gets past us but that’s not an excuse. We’re going to find ways and we’ll fix it.

We’re actually looking at the vomiting bug today. We follow the forums, we have a huge community team, not to mention the producers and designers are watching the boards and reading stuff and trying to figure it out, so I don’t have details on specifics but if you look at our past, we’ve always supported our games and we will always support our games. That is a corner mark of who we are. We want to make sure that we’re not just going to sell a game and abandon our players.

I actually think the vomiting one is kind of funny.

It’s funny for a bit but it’s only entertaining for so long. The most important thing about the Sims game is that it’s about your story and about your experience and if your story is being compromised by something weird that our game is doing, well then we need to fix that because that’s your story. That’s not our business. We’re going to take care of stuff. We’ll make sure our players are happy when all is said and done.

Was there anything that stands out the most with this expansion pack for you that you feel improves the game the most?

What I love about Late Night is that, I feel like its this awesome set of features that really compliment each other. For example, you can be the vampire band leader and if your band’s good enough, that then leads into celebrity but you don’t have to do those things. You can the solo bassist who plays in the subway or you can be the creepy guy who lives in your apartment and looks out over the city. And if you happen to have Ambitions installed, then you can be the Private-eye who lives in the city and looks around and spies on people while he plays the bass.

I really love how, as we add more expansions and more experiences – not only that but they’re new. They’re different from Sims 2 - As a player, I’m really in love with how well they pair together. There are even some hilarious things like, if you have really high martial arts skills from World Adventures, you don’t have to be a celebrity, you can teleport past the bouncer to get into the best part of the clubs. Little things like that that are starting to pop up that we didn’t design, they’re just there. Originally they’d surface as quote “bugs,” and I’m like, that’s not a bug. The fact that I can teleport past bouncers is awesome.

Now that we’re three expansion packs in, I really love how the game is just starting to get so big, and so interesting and so varied. That’s the one thing about Late Night, is there’s so much variety and so many ways that you can approach it. I find that really exciting as a player, for me, the best games are the ones that allow me choice and creativity and ways that I can tell my story, whether I’m in an RPG or a shooter.

Kelly West
Assistant Managing Editor

Kelly joined CinemaBlend as a freelance TV news writer in 2006 and went on to serve as the site’s TV Editor before moving over to other roles on the site. At present, she’s an Assistant Managing Editor who spends much of her time brainstorming and editing feature content on the site.