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Paralives, Vivaland, Project Rene: The Future of Life Simulation Games

Paralives, Vivaland, Project Rene : l'avenir des jeux de simulation de vie
Image Written by Nicolas Gauville on 03/26/2024

Co-founder of VirtualSociety - PhD in Computer Science
Founder of the VirtualSociety project, and is in charge of the development and communication of VirtualSociety
After a PhD in autonomous robotics at Safran Electronics & Defense, Nicolas started the video game studio Cats & Foxes.

Paralives, Vivaland, Project Rene: The Future of Life Simulation Games

Hi there! Do you also enjoy creating characters, building your house, and living a whole virtual life? From the early versions of The Sims to many more recent projects like Paralives, Vivaland, or Life by You, and the future of sims (Project Rene), each studio interprets player expectations for the genre's future in its own way. Today, we're going to take a look at how these games have grown with us and what they have in store for the future.

The Evolution of Our Expectations

Life simulation games are a complex set: everyone expects different aspects from them. Some focus on genealogy, others on construction with high demands for customization, all while wanting a super easy-to-use tool. When we were developing VirtualSociety Online, our former browser game, many of you gave us extremely positive feedback on certain details of our game, like the ability to open or close curtains, or the ability to resize furniture and freely choose their colors.

So, we tried to gather players' expectations of life simulation games into different key points:

  • Genealogy: Following a family through time, with stories that pass down, legacies.
  • Realism: Not just graphics, but behaviors and interactions that seem real, emotions that truly make sense.
  • Unexpected: The game's ability to create unexpected situations, like a fire, a burglary, or sometimes even a character's death.
  •  Customization: While many of us like to recreate, in part, our reality, we mostly want to truly customize everything, from hairstyles to doorknobs.
  • Stories: It's nice to follow a storyline, but what's even cooler is being able to create your own story.
  • Multiplayer: Many players don't want to mix multiplayer and life simulation. We discussed this with Luc Barthelet (former CEO of Maxis who worked on The Sims and The Sims Online) and the difficulty of having both coexist. However, a more "controlled" multiplayer is more appealing, like in Animal Crossing where you can invite your friends.
  • Platforms: We don't just play on PC or consoles anymore. Back in the days of VirtualSociety Online, many of you asked for a smartphone version of the game, to take care of your characters at different times of the day.
  • Mods, customization, and creator content: Let's not kid ourselves, custom content is as important as original content today. That's why we interviewed modders to try to create tools that meet their needs and thus facilitate and promote mod creation to the maximum.

Upcoming Games

For many years, The Sims were among the only ones offering life simulation games. Today, many studios are entering the field of life simulation games, such as Life by You or more recently InZoi. This new diversity allows everyone to explore their vision of the future of life simulation games.

Projet Rene
On the Sims side, it seems that the approach is to offer a multi-platform experience by merging tablet, phone, and PC experiences. Multiplayer is envisioned in the style of Animal Crossing, with the possibility of inviting a few friends to play together. Finally, in terms of customization, EA also seems to be following the path by integrating an unrestricted color palette for furniture, gridless movement, as we did for VirtualSociety Online, or as others have announced, including Paralives, Life by You, Vivaland, etc.

Life by You
On the Life by You side, extreme customization is the focus, while still remaining very much centered on life simulation. We were delighted to see a game offer an experience derived from The Sims, and which makes enormous efforts to meet all the community's expectations in terms of customization and open world.

Among the four games we're talking about here, Vivaland is the only one that has already let the public take control of its editor. By judiciously using objects from the Epic Games Assets Store, they were able to focus on editing functions and release a very smooth and advanced editor first. Like us, they focus on multiplayer and will offer a true "friends-focused" life simulation game, all while being a small team working hard to compete with the big players. We look forward to seeing their progress!

Finally, Paralives appears to be very close to The Sims vibe, with a slightly different graphical style, stylized with a paper effect. At their launch, they also offered more flexible tools than existing ones in The Sims, with curved walls, modular resizable furniture, etc. Today, they have succeeded in developing a sublime and unique artistic direction, and are making great strides in their project.

And VirtualSociety?

And what about us in all this? We have evolved significantly since our beginnings, and we now clearly know where we are heading!

Life simulation? Partially.
Compared to the four games we mentioned today, while we will go further on certain aspects, we won't do as much on the life simulation side.
Of course, we have a real roleplay aspect, lots of interactions, and of course, the ability to create the house and city of your dreams. However, we will go much less far than The Sims on many other aspects, including genealogy, the emotions felt by characters, etc. Indeed, these aspects blend less well with other aspects that we develop more, such as multiplayer.

Multiplayer: With and Without.
Regarding multiplayer, it's up to you! In VirtualSociety, everyone is free to create their own solo world, play with friends, or create an open world for everyone. In the case of multiplayer, each creator is free to organize as they wish: let visitors explore only, sell lands (with virtual money, never real), or let friends build whatever and wherever they want.

Artistic Direction: Cozy game!!
In terms of artistic direction, we chose to go for a style inspired by books, with a "hand-painted" effect. Our artistic director, Melissa, spent a lot of time finding a way to make objects easily modifiable (with real freedom in colors), while having a marked hand-painted effect, which we explained in detail in our article on the subject.

 Extreme Customization
In terms of customization, we wanted to make VirtualSociety an extremely customizable sandbox; a free color palette for all objects, non-gendered characters who can be anywhere on the gender spectrum, who can have prosthetics, curved walls, but also walls of different thicknesses (and even with a different thickness on one side than the other, or top and bottom), an in-game visual script editor, etc.

A Real Health Aspect.
We've talked about it many times: VirtualSociety is a wonderful tool for serious gaming, particularly in the health field. We work with healthcare professionals and research laboratories to make VirtualSociety a real ally to your health. In particular, we aim to help our players who feel lonely to reconnect socially, help people with phobias to face them and desensitize themselves, but also to help people with autism spectrum disorders to better cope with daily life.

I hope you enjoyed this synthesis! From your side, feel free to share with us your opinion and what is important to you or not in the future of VirtualSociety! You can indicate on our roadmap the features that interest you the most and discuss them with us on our social networks, Discord, and in the comments.

Image Written by Nicolas Gauville on 03/26/2024

Co-founder of VirtualSociety - PhD in Computer Science
Founder of the VirtualSociety project, and is in charge of the development and communication of VirtualSociety
After a PhD in autonomous robotics at Safran Electronics & Defense, Nicolas started the video game studio Cats & Foxes.

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