I have loved The Sims since the original. I’ve nagged my parental units year after year for each game and expansion until finally The Sims 3 came out and I paid out my entire savings to have the collectors edition delivered the SECOND it was released.
Shortly after The Sims 3 came out Electronic Arts released a fabulous tool called Create A World, or CAW for short. I tried it when it came out but I just ended up frustrated and mad, and tossed it aside as a failure. Since then they’ve updated it, a few times in fact, and they’ve fixed the things that rendered it useless to me. So once I got over the hurdle of how to handle it, I began designing.
What? You heard me. I designed a world, and you can too! In fact, I urge you to get The Sims 3 and familiarize yourself with it. Once you’ve played the game for a while and have an understanding of its dynamics, you’re ready to start designing your own world like I have.
At first I was inspired by the Abandoned Pod Resort I’d read about while trolling the internet. I wanted to create a world with rounded homes and windows….which would be quite a feat in itself. I was going to make curved windows and doors to make my vision happen.
So what happened? I Started with the land mass first, which you can see in my Hunaki Facebook album, then I started building roads and painting. I soon realised my world was way too small for what I had envisioned, and I would be recolouring a tonne of content for the game to make trees purple or a similar colour…and eventually the project collapsed. But the idea didnt.
How to CAW Like A Crow
After I failed, I learned from my mistakes, my achievements, and everything else I happened to do, see, and read on my adventure. Now it’s your turn.
Inspiration is the key. You need to have something that inspires you to create a world around it. The Pod Resort inspired me to begin with, and when my imagination flared I found myself creating teen hangouts, secret hideaways, scenic roads, and other stuff in my head. Once you start imagining how your town will look, you’re read for step two…
If you need help with this, think about places you like, what you like about them, and what you’d like to see in a sims neighbourhood. Most of my world ideas come from what’s not in one of the other worlds.
Understand What You Can and Cannot Do
The tragic flaw for my plan was that I dreamed a little too big, and couldnt achieve the goals I set before myself…like the original builders of the Pod Resort.
Part of the reason why I suggested familiarizing yourself with the game is for this reason – some things you just cannot do. I would have had to do a LOT of work to achieve my goals and I didnt have the skills, time, or in the end patience to achieve them…even though I really did want to. So yes, you do need to play the game for a little while before jumping into things so you can understand the basics.
Think about what you’re wanting to do and make sure you’re able (that means you have skills, tools, time, and patience) to create it yourself if it’s not availiable. For example, if you need moon terrain, church windows, furry skintones…what ever, make sure you can either do it yourself or you have a backup plan. You’ll need to keep reminding yourself of this step as you go along too.
So What Can’t I Do?
Here’s a short non exhaustive list of things you can’t do (and don’t skim, cause some arent 100% cannot do’s). It’s important to note that some of these things you’ll just have to keep in mind, because you wont figure them out until you start using CAW. Some you can pick up just using the game, others are things you learn from experience. Luckily, I’ve included as many of the hurdles I can think of in this list so you wont run into them as you gain experience:
|What you can’t do||Why||What you can do instead|
|Cartoon cliffs (a cliff that curves inwards slightly).||Game limitation.||Instead you can do a sharp, square drop. Or you can have little ledges all the way down, that looks neat.|
|Round houses.||Game limitation.||You can only use straight lines for walls, and all the available windows are straight, so consider an octagonal house. If you’re hellbent on it you may be able to create a wall object that makes diagonal walls look rounded, but you wont be able to use paint on it.|
|Roofing like in The Flinstones.||Game limitation.||You can create a slab object to sit on top of the roof as a decoration. Remember to use floor tiles though because decorations arent seen as roofing. The Sims only does generic roofs, and some specialty types (dome, cone, octagon, etc). Know these before you build!|
|Thin rivers (occasionally).||Game limitation (creates water in large squares).||See my topic on Mod The Sims for tips on eliminating "invisible water".|
|Nice dirt and some custom road intersections.||CAW and game limitation (EA stupidity).||The corners on dirt and some custom road intersections will ALWAYS fail. They will appear to be backwards or in the wrong direction. Unfortunately there’s no way to fix it and even EA has the problem. You can paint terrain paint underneath them though if you need.|
|Go crazy with terrain paints.||Game loading issues.||There’s a technque that will be covered in the next part to this, which will explain how to know when you’ve got too many different terrain paints in an area, and how to deal with that. Essentially you should use no more than 8 terrain paints a chunk – see part 2 for information on chunks.|
|Build houses into mountains.||Game limitation.||When you try the terrain will flatten out, or the foundation will be level with where ever you started, making a massive brick wall.|
|Paint over lots.||CAW limitation.||Once a lot has been placed, you cannot paint over it. It wont let you. Make sure the painting is done before placing lots.|
|Sculpt in lots.||CAW limitation.||It’s there for a good reason, but it should work when the lot is empty. It doesn’t, so make sure your sculpting is done before placing lots.|
|Move some lots in CAW.||CAW limitation.||No it’s not all bad, you just can’t move a lot from a mountain to a flat area because you’ll create a big gap in the ground, or an indentation that’s huge. Best to delete the lot and start again or work around it. Alternitavely there is a flatten lot and conform edges button, but these arent exactly fabulous and I would not trust them.|
|Build things outside of lots.||CAW and game limitation.||Sometimes you want a fence on a cliff. Or a fence by a beach, where the lot doesnt reach. Or maybe a decorative shed? Either way, you cannot build walls, fences, etc outside of a lot. You can place trees and decorative objects, and some fences are available as decorations. The fences placed as objects cannot go down hill though – they’re made for flatened areas.|
|Have roads or footpaths going through lots or over each other (even partially).||Game limitation.||Unfortunately, the game treats lots and roads/paths as different objects and they cannot exist together. For this reason, you cannot have a path going through a lot – it will have to terminate at the edge of the lot and you will need to use terrain paint inside the lot to simulate a path. Also, overlapping roads/paths will cause sims or cars to jump into the air instead of using the road.|
|Change the look of the "base road" or roads which have already been laid.||CAW limitation.||If you lay base roads down you cannot change them to custom roads. You also cannot change the look of the base road. You can lay custom roads and change the look of them at any time though, but you cannot change the type of road once it’s laid (ie, you cannot change custom road 1 to custom road 2, you will have to redo the road).|
|Have "one way" or half size roads.||Game limitation.||It’s just not the way things work…however you CAN make a road look smaller with custom textures. I find that dirt roads tend to look narrower. Your "back alleys" will have to be hand crafted on lots.|
|Roads under bridges.||Game limitation.||The game cannot deal with more than one level of routing at a time.|
|Edit the size of your world.||CAW limitation.||
Sorry, you can’t edit the size of your world without extensive pain. So PICK THE RIGHT SIZE BEFORE YOU START!
|Have lakes above sea level.||CAW limitation.||There’s a few workarounds: Build a lot, use a CAW object (ugly), or import some resources to work around before you begin making a world.|
|Multi-level worlds.||Game limitation.||The game cannot deal with more than one level of routing at a time.|
What CAN I Do Then?
Here’s another list of some of the things you CAN do that people like asking about:
|What you CAN do||More info!|
|Have custom rabbit holes.||Yep. You can build custom rabbit holes.|
|Multiple rabbit holes of the same type.||Is your town so huge you need two grocery stores? Maybe two hospitals? Never fear, you can!|
|Multiple rabbit holes on the same lot, like a plaza.||This question was common before Late Night, which actually produced single rabbit holes with multiple functions (ie the corporate building also has a resturant in it), and a couple of lots that had two buildings per lot.|
|Make your world a "city".||You can make your world a city quite easily, which will increase traffic and townies.|
|"Blend" terrain paints.||Use the opacity option to make the paint blend a little. If it’s not working try blending them the opposite way – ie if you’re blending grass onto rock and you’re getting a splatter effect, try blending the rock onto the grass.|
|Use custom terrain paints, road textures, sky’s, and water.||You can make your own or download some from places like Mod The Sims, which have whole sections dedicated to CAW resources and tutorials.|
|Have custom roads.||You can use the roads interface in CAW to create custom looking roads|
|Have bridges.||You can make bridges, and if you can link multiple bridges to make longer bridges.|
|Give names to your streets and roads.||You can assign addresses to lots, which will effectively give names to your roads.|
|Have custom sims (sims you make) in your world.||If you want to share your world, you CAN have sims you make and families you’ve made, or downloaded even, included inside the file you share. That will enable you to share your world and the sims in it.|
|Custom "fly overs".||You can create a custom fly over or import one from a previous world. Basically a fly over is the way the camera drifts into the world and shows it off.|
|Have effects like fog, waterfalls, etc.||Check out the CAW effect spawners.|
|You can edit your terrain and height maps in other phorgams.||See here and the CAW manual for more information.|
Create a (Hi)story
You need a story to create a history, and that’s exactly what you need to do. You need to think about who’s living in your world, where they live and hang out. You need to think about how their lives play out and who they are. For example, maybe you have a super star who’s a little insane and lives in a mansion. Perhaps down the street is a family of shy loners who never come outside, but they have a son who’s a charismatic party animal who’s always outside? Perhaps there’s an evil old man who lives in a shed, and he lives next door – which would only make the other family stay indoors more! What if behind those shy people there was an alien family who were trying to get into the political career so they could take over the world? Think about families and their quirks as you work on the design of your town.
Some good things to think about also are: If you’ve got sims who are party animals…where do they party? Where do your vampires like to go? Where do the flirty sims go to meet people? Where do the children play? Where do sims study? Eat? Hang out? What do the elderly sims do for fun? Are there any celebrity spots?
Your sims make or break your town. Their personalities and (hi)stories will shape the town and bring it into being.
You Can’t CAW ‘Till You Draw
Draw things. Even if they’re crap like my picture above! Draw your ideas and draw streets and show who lives where. Draw the shape of their house, pools, gardens and fences. Anything important. You can draw them sketchy like above, or you can draw them to scale if you want (or a bit of both). What you see above is my “concept art” for a teen hangout spot, and a lighthouse.
Drawing to scale works best if you have graph paper or can divide the paper up into squares mentally. I usually use a centimeter to a square rule, so I can use my pinky to measure with if I need to, and that way I can see the size of things in comparison. This makes it easier to know if a house is a 6 by 6 square, or if a tree is 1 square or 4. This helps put things into perspective of a sims world too – especially since the furniture is all the same size. All beds are 1×3 or 2×3 squares for example.
Don’t forget to think about roads and community buildings like parks, the grocery store, town hall, and the other rabbit holes. Rabbit holes are buildings your sim disappears into (like the school, town hall, most work buildings that arent professions). Also think about custom community lots like a pool, junkyard, and just general hangout places like beaches, ponds, lakes, nature trails, libraries, plazas, salons, galleries, etc.
Once you have ideas for different streets try to put them together to make a map. You can always fill in gaps with main roads and empty streets for businesses and other sims. It’s a good idea to have a bunch of extra room/lots for adding lots from expansions or expanding your neighbourhood as your families expand. Think about whether they’re flat or going up/down a hill as you do so and make notes if you need.
Most of you will skip this step. If you can keep notes in your head and good mental images, then you should be okay to skip this…but it will help you organise things and run into less hurdles later.
Keep an eye out for the next part, where you’ll start creating your world in CAW!
Next part here