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SimCity BuildIt: Re-Defining City Building for a New Generation Mobile Players

Two weeks ago EA announced some of its upcoming mobile games. I was excited that there was a lot of interest in SimCity BuildIt. Ahead of its upcoming launch I wanted to share more about the game, how it came into being and start to introduce the talented & passionate team in our Helsinki Studio that created it. I’d also like to address some of the questions that came up: Will it be like the PC game? Will it be free? Will the game be playable offline?

SimCity BuildIt lets you create and manage your own unique living, breathing city from the ground up while balancing the needs of your Sims to keep them happy and your city thriving.If you’re a mobile gamer, but have never played a SimCity game before, you’re in for a real treat. You can expect a gorgeous, engaging city building game that is both incredibly rich in terms of gameplay, but super approachable and designed for how you play games on your smartphone or tablet.

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If you’re a SimCity fan, you’ll immediately recognize many iconic elements from the PC series. These have been reimagined for a uniquely mobile-first design…this is not SimCity “lite” for mobile, it’s a new/different SimCity experience compared to what you’ve played on the PC.  And while many of the coolest features do require an online connection – just like many mobile games – SimCity BuildIt does have an optional offline mode so folks can keep playing even if their internet connection is lost.

In bringing SimCity to the latest generation of mobile devices – and to a new generation of players – the team realized early on that they were going to have to take some risks. To be successful, we had to deliver on the things that make SimCity SimCity, but in a way that’s easy to pick up and play, satisfying in much shorter play sessions, and free.

From the outset we’ve been engaged in a dialog with our players…sharing our vision while getting to the core of what they love about SimCity and understanding what they’re looking for – and expect – in a new, uniquely mobile expression of this legendary franchise.

Die-hard fans will immediately recognize aspects of the PC game that inspired us, but these familiar reference points have been streamlined to make the experience more fun and manageable on touchscreens. There’s still a rich city simulation “under the hood” that drives the game…it affects the happiness of your Sims and the development of your city based on the choices you make. There are Zones, Roads and Traffic, Services, City Specializations and Data Layers. There are Disasters and Landmarks.

The game is rendered in gorgeous, real-time 3D with tons of attention to the little details along with the humor and whimsy you’ve come to expect. Into all of this, we are introducing something new: Crafting. Just like in a real city, players manufacture, consume and exchange all kinds of goods which enables their cities come to life, expand and thrive.

Over the next few weeks (when they are not heads down putting the finishing touches on their game) you’ll hear from the exceptionally talented folks that brought a unique & compelling vision to life. They’ll share more about SimCity BuildIt and why we think you’re going to love it. Stay tuned…

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SimCity: Half Price on Origin

SimCity, among other EA games, has had it’s price slashed in half for a limited time only! You can grab the game for just £14.99, which is a steal compared to the £40 I paid at launch, or the digital deluxe for £19.99.

Show the world what a real mayor can do! In SimCity you’ll take control of a living, breathing town, full of citizens who have their own identities and ideas. Setting up your city is deceptively simple; the real challenge—and the real fun—comes from managing the complex, robust environment you’ve created.

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Visit Origin

 

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08-12-14_5-00 AM

The Sims 4 Review: A beautiful, addictive addition to The Sims franchise

I have been a fan of The Sims franchise for almost 13 years now so it is only natural that I was excited for The Sims 4 when it was announced in May 2013. Following a preview of the game in August, I said that The Sims 4 is “the best Sims game yet” and after playing with the game again I still stand by that comment. The Sims 4, in my opinion, is the best base game so far. It is not a perfect game but the potential is huge.

Create A Sim

As you probably know by now, the new and improved Create A Sim allows you to fine tune your Sims with ease. Sliders are non-existent (except from weight and muscle sliders) as now you edit your Sims by directly pushing and pulling them. There are plenty of pre-set body parts to select from to give you something to work from. The new Create A Sim does take some time to get used to but once you get used to it you’ll find it hard to go back to The Sims 3.

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You can create Children, Teens, Young Adults, Adults and Elders in Create A Sim and, of course, customise them to your hearts content. Each life stage has a selection of clothing and pre-set colours/patterns to choose from. The ‘Create A Style Tool’ is no longer present in-game however Maxis do offer a large variety of colours, especially for hairstyles, which is nice. And while toddlers are no longer present at launch, babies are still in-game with more interactions and legs too!

Aspirations have returned to The Sims 4 and give you something to work towards when you play with your Sims. Adults and children have different aspirations they can work towards; you can change them at any time. So if you decide you want to work towards something else, then you now have the option to do that.

Traits have also returned from The Sims 3 and there is a large selection to choose from. Like The Sims 3, they affect your Sims’ behaviour and their emotions. Your Sim can have 3 different traits and completing their aspiration also gives them a new trait. You can not randomise traits but this is because they are more important as they influence your Sims emotions. For example, if you’ve made a romantic Sim then they’re more likely to become flirty.

The genetics tool in Create A Sim is fun to use and you will end up generating Sims who share features with the Sim they’re based off of. You can create a Sims child, sibling or even parent, which is fantastic for storytelling.

Another new feature to come with Create A Sim that I really enjoy using is ‘Styled Looks’. These are updated regularly by Maxis and give you a range of clothing to select for your Sim. If you are like me and want to get through CAS fast or you’re looking for inspiration, then it’s for you.

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Create A Sim in The Sims 4 is user friendly, extremely fast and smooth and great fun. From the Create A Sim Demo alone, people have been creating unique Sims and this will continue as Simmers utilise this tool in The Sims 4. However if you’re not a CAS fan I don’t think the new one will get you hooked on it, however I do spend more time creating Sims now.

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Worlds

The Sims 4 launches with two worlds right out of the box – Willow Creek and Oasis Springs. Both of these worlds have different Sims, lots and environments and very detailed (most of the time). The world system has been greatly improved compared to The Sims 3 as you no longer have to exit the current world to load another and lose your progression. They are integrated and you can click and travel between any lot between these worlds, thanks to the addition of loading screens.

The open world is no longer present and it is kind of a mix between Sims 2 and Sims 3. There are quick loading screens, often quicker than Sims 2, and means that we can switch between these worlds and that the active lot is.. well, active. In The Sims 3, the world always felt empty whereas in Sims 4 something is always happening where your Sim is.

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The world is divided into 5 separate neighbourhoods and your sim can walk about this area but you must load to enter another lot. Some may view this as a step back however it’s worth it as you no longer have to wait for objects to render, for sims to travel and the game is much smoother as a result. Plenty of Sims from the world will appear wherever you are so you have opportunities to interact with them.

08-12-14_3-52 AMMaxis have also added a secret location to Willow Creek and Oasis Springs which you can discover as you play. Within Willow Creek you need to view the tree at a nearby community space several times and eventually you will gain the interaction to view it’s leaves. This will take you on a text adventure and if you successfully complete it you’ll be on your way to the beautiful Sylvan Glade. Alternatively, once your Sim reaches the level 10 handiness skill they can head to the Desert Bloom Park in Oasis Springs to discover the forgotten grotto. The secret locations are a very rewarding feature of the worlds and stunning to look at.

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It is important to note that the worlds are smaller in The Sims 4 and the maximum lot size is 50×50. This means there are only a few free lots to build on (many of which are smaller than 50×50) so some builders may feel a little claustrophobic. I also noted that worlds are very detailed ‘most of the time’…. In some areas you can see that some houses are messily placed around the world to make the world feel larger – maybe a future patch could tweak this so we can’t zoom as far back?

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Build/Buy Mode

I have always felt intimidated by build mode in previous Sims games. The Sims 4 introduces redesigned, user friendly build tools that makes building much more fun and easier. Rooms are now like blocks which you can pick up and move at any time, meaning that it’s pretty difficult to make a mistake. In previous games if something didn’t go to plan you had to rip apart the house and start over. The fantastic thing about this is that you can pick up rooms – or the entire house – and move it. It’s a fast and smooth process, no waiting about.

BxHlz1vIIAAqnGVSome fan requests have also made their way into the new build mode. You can set the height of walls as short, medium or tall on each floor and even add/remove foundations at any time using a slider. Little details such as roof sculptures, the ability to change the tile colour of individual roof pieces, spandrels and exterior trims tops it all off. But probably the biggest addition that fans have long-awaited is curved fences which I have used so many times when building in-game. These features, among many others, allow players to customise their Sims’ homes even more.

Maxis have also added ‘Stylised Rooms’ which allows you to place down pre-made rooms created by Maxis or player-made rooms from the gallery. This is ideal if you are not a fan of creating interiors and want to get straight into playing with your Sims. Another time saving feature is the ability to search for specific items of furniture or categories, which saves you having to endlessly search through buy mode. I have been using these a lot while playing the game and after spending some time with them you think “how did we manage without these in previous Sims games?”

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Pools and terraforming tools are not currently present in the base game and that has sparked some complaints among players, but there is a new fountain tool which is beautiful for landscaping and looks like a pool, so it does the job for now. It would be nice to see some terraforming tools in the future too as all lots are currently flat. Advanced builders may also miss the ‘moveobjects’ and ‘constrain floor elevation’ cheats aswell, but while they’re not currently in the game I’m sure we will see them return in a future patch.

The new build mode has made me extremely interested in building homes in The Sims. I have actually been able to make some ‘decent’ places for my Sims to live and even if I can’t, I can still have a tonne of fun making ugly homes.

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Emotional Sims

Emotions have been spoke about a lot since The Sims 4 was announced and it is one of the biggest game changers for this generation of The Sims. Our Sims’ behaviour is now influenced by their emotional state and this will affect a variety of things such as interactions available, the way they walk, facial expressions and much more. Much like some of the build tools, emotions are something that we’ve been missing for three generations of Sims games.

Sims have ‘Whims’ which can change depending on their current emotion. For example, if your Sim is inspired they may want to go and write something or if they’re flirty they may want to kiss a Sim. I quite enjoy these as they offer short-term gameplay which can be rewarding as fulfilling a whim gives you points.

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Emotions are unpredictable and influence all Sims living in the worlds. In the neighbourhood surrounding the active lot, Sims will walk by expressing their emotional state. You may see a Sim walk by who is extremely happy with a bounce in his step or a Sim hunched over with a quivering bottom lip as they’re sad. They can also influence the outcome of a social situation between Sims. If your Sim is sad or angry then they’re less likely to get pregnant when they Try for a Baby, whereas flirty Sims will get the best results.

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The work that Maxis put into emotions paid off. They are great fun, despite Sims transitioning between them a little too fast at times, and allow your Sims to express themselves like never before. A phrase we threw around during the EU Preview event was “Sims are now 3D on the inside” and that is true. Prepare for more unexpected situations now that your Sims have emotions.

Sims Are Smarter & Can Multitask

Another huge thing in The Sims 4 is the addition of multitasking! Your Sims are no longer limited to performing one action at a time and as a result you can save time and experience some funny things in-game. I didn’t truly appreciate the multitasking feature until I played with Sims 4 after the game released.

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One example of multitasking is that in previous Sims games you would have to watch TV, talk to Sims and use your phone at different times. Whereas in The Sims 4 you can watch TV (perhaps the cooking channel to skill up?), talk to other Sims in the room (increasing your Sims social need) and use the phone (look for a job, browse the web, etc). My Sim went to the bathroom and continued to slurp their drink they made at the bar. These small details make you laugh, smile and, combined with the emotions system, makes your Sims more realistic than in previous games.

Sims are also a lot smarter and aware of their environments, which is one thing I love to death in Sims 4. Routing is a lot better most of the time, Sims can all go up stairs at the same time and they don’t shuffle about for ages before they perform interactions, leaving more time for you to do other things with your Sims.

At times the multitasking system doesn’t go to plan, sometimes my Sims will be too busy “multitasking” that they don’t stop what they’re doing to perform other interactions. However, most of the time, multitasking is a pleasure to have in The Sims 4 and has brought some funny, unexpected moments to my game.

User Interface

One huge change with The Sims 4 is the new user interface and it is a radical departure from previous Sims games. The UI only takes up a small percentage of the screen and information, such as your Sims’ needs, hides away until you click to view it. You can clearly see that it has been greatly been inspired by SimCity (2013)’s UI.

The traditional blue colour for The Sims has been ditched for a refreshing white, transparent white. At first, I did feel a little overwhelmed and lost with the new user interface as it is completely different to older Sims games. But after a while, once you start learning your way around it, you fall in love with it and so much space is saved for you to see more of the game.

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Probably one of the biggest additions to the UI is where your Sims’ emotions display and where the actions queue has been moved to. The Sim will change depending on the emotional state they are in as will the colour behind them to reflect it. I highly recommend trying out the Steelseries accessories as they change colour at the same time as the game.

Music & Sound Effects

I am obsessed with The Sims 1 soundtrack by Jerry Martin and The Sims 2 soundtrack by Mark Mothersbaugh. Sadly I felt that The Sims 3’s soundtrack was weaker in comparison to these.

The Sims 4 soundtrack is composed by Ilan Eshkeri and he was the right person for the job. The soundtrack gets stuck in my head after playing the game and it changes, like in SimCity, depending on what you’re doing. If you zoom into detail mode in Create A Sim then less instruments are used and when you zoom out they return.

In my hands-on preview I mentioned that I found the emotions sound effects irritating. These sound effects have grown on me since playing with the game more and experiencing new emotional states (as different sounds play). But I still believe an option should be present to disable these sound effects if we don’t want them – especially if our Sims keep changing between emotions…

The Gallery

The gallery replaces the web-based exchange that The Sims 3 had and is now integrated into the game itself. This is a robust system that allows you to find new Sims, lots and stylised rooms or upload your own in just a few clicks.

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You no longer need to go to the website, open the launcher, download and install all of the files. Instead, you can open the gallery and import something straight into your game or send it straight to the gallery. I’m in love with this feature because I can bring Sims into my household as I’m playing, I can quickly download a house and it’ll be playable in seconds, and I can use custom stylised rooms when I am building or want to extend my house.

There are a few minor limitations that come with the gallery, though. There is no easy way to export houses out of the game and there is no web-based version to view creations if you’re not playing the game. But overall, the gallery is a faster and more efficient system that The Sims 3 exchange.

Final Verdict

The Sims 4 is the most beautiful and addictive addition to The Sims franchise to date, despite a few of the ‘missing features’ that were in prior base games (toddlers, pools, create a style). I have been playing the game everyday since release and I don’t see any signs of that changing as I’m having a blast.

The game itself is buttery smooth, thanks to the studio focusing on performance, making the game more accessible to players with lower computer specs and enjoyable. The creation tools have been simplified but are more powerful than in prior Sims games – I have even been spending a lot of time in build mode which I have never really been fussed with in previous games. And finally, emotions and multitasking are huge improvements to how our Sims behave and when I now struggle to play Sims 3 because of this. Sims are aware of their environments, behave better in social situations and emotions add a whole new level of realism (even though they can change a little too often for my liking at times).

I am also pleased to see the return of loading screens as we now have a world thats ‘in between’ The Sims 2 and The Sims 3. A short load now means better performance and active lots, so if we ever get a Nightlife/Late Night expansion we can expect bars to be PACKED as community lots are full of life. This means there are more opportunities for you to meet and interact with other Sims. You can also switch between Willow Creek and Oasis Springs without a long load like in Sims 2 and especially Sims 3.

But as with any game, there are a few minor shortfalls with The Sims 4. The tutorial system is handy if you have never played Sims before but it is very intrusive to a stage where our first Sims 4 tutorial was “How to disable tutorials”. When you are doing things it keeps popping up and sometimes will not go away until you do what it says. I think there needs to be an option present in-game to disable them instead of an Origin command.

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In addition, worlds are a little too small at the moment although it has been confirmed that they can be expanded upon in the future. It would be nice to see more empty lots, especially for those who enjoy building.

Overall, I love The Sims 4 and it is the best Sims base game to date and therefore I’m giving it a score of 90/100.I highly recommend purchasing this game if you are a fan of The Sims or even if you are a newcomer to the franchise. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go and play Sims 4 some more :)

As of writing this review, my Origin play time for The Sims 4 stands at 85 hours. You can purchase The Sims 4 in physical format from all good games retailers and digitally from Origin.

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A Look Inside A Day In The Life of The Sims 4 Studio

SimGuruRiley has recently shared a new blog talking about what a day at The Sims Studio looks like for an animator.

 With The Sims 4 now launched, I thought it would be fun to show you what my typical day is like as a Senior Animator at the Studio!

Early Morning: Arrive at EA

First order of the day is to check email for any issues, concerns or requests, while I am syncing down the latest build of the game.   I look over my calendar to see if I have any meetings to review design or implementation plans.  If I don’t have any meetings that usually means I will be animating, testing or refining our work in the game.

Mid-Morning:  Stand Ups, Reviews and Prepping New Animation

The animation team usually has a quick meeting in the morning. It’s like a roll call.  When our name is called out we declare the work that we will be doing that day.  A one sentence statement about the overall feature and how much we have completed usually does the trick.  As a team it is advantageous for us to understand who is working on what assets.   Informal and quick, the meeting rarely lasts longer than 5 to 10 minutes. We return to our stations and continue work.  For the next hour our Animation Directors will meet with each of us to review our animation for quality. The team is large and the Directors have split us in half to help focus the review time. We are, affectionately, Red Team and Blue Team.  During the review with a Director we will look at the first pass of blocked out animation, shoot reference video, talk about how a feature is going to work in game,  receive feedback on animation or discuss technical issues we have.

Lunchtime: 

I like to go out with my Animation Pod.  I mentor three animators and we try to get off campus and go out to lunch together once a week.  Each time it’s a new place – the hardest part is trying to get all four of us to decide where to go.

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SimCity BuildIt Announced

EA and Maxis have announced a new mobile version of SimCity, called ‘SimCity BuildIt’, coming soon to the App Store and Google Play.

Whether you’re a savvy city planner or a strategic mastermind, take control and have fun wherever you are. Coming soon to iPhone®, iPad®, and Android™ devices, this is an all-new SimCity game like you’ve never seen before, designed for gamers on the go.

The choices you make evolve your city in a variety of ways. Meet your citizens’ needs to keep them happy, or make questionable choices and feel your citizens’ wrath.

Pinch, zoom, and rotate 360 degrees as you manage your city in the palm of your hand. With countless buildings and vivid, 3D-quality graphics, it’s the most advanced mobile building simulation game.

From the screenshot below, it looks quite similar to the 2013 game.

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08-12-14_5-04 AM

The Sims 4: Patch Notes (9/9/2014)

Today EA/Maxis released a new patch to address other issues within the game. Check out the list below for the fixes.

Update: 9/9/14

  • New decorative object! The High-Rider Gnome has journeyed long from his hidden grotto in the tropics to join you in The Sims 4.  He’s eagerly awaiting your arrival in Build Mode, ready to grace your homes with his feats of stationary flamingo bronco busting!
    • Look for him in Build Mode in the Outdoors or Decorations sorts, or type Gnome in the search box.
  • Sim and object highlights can now be toggled on/off by entering hovereffects on/off in the cheat console (this will eliminate the white border on a Sim or an object when you hover over it to interact).  In addition, you can add -nohovereffects to the Command Line Arguments.  In order to add the argument:
    • Open the Origin client, right click on The Sims 4 game box art, select “View Game Properties”, click “Game Properties”, enter -nohovereffects into the text box, and then click Apply.

Bug Fixes / Issues

  • Fixed an issue with some gallery downloads that were causing the game to hang.
  • Fixed several bugs that would result in incorrect relationship states between Sims.
    • For players using the “cas.fulleditmode” cheat to go back and adjust Sims after they’ve been created, note that using this cheat will still allow you to manually select invalid relationships. Please exercise caution when changing relationships while using this cheat.
  • The automated filtering used for Gallery uploads was unintentionally blocking the words “gay”, “homosexual”, or “homosapien”. It has now been fixed and these terms will not be blocked or prevented.
  • Fixed a crash that would result if a block without walls was saved as a room.
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Origin Features Work Great with The Sims 4!

The official Origin blog has shared a post about how you can utilise some of Origin’s features while playing The Sims 4.

The Sims 4 is here! In addition to all the fun of the new creation tools and emotional depth of the game itself, playing on Origin gives you features to enhance your play.

Chat with friends. The Sims 4 is an inherently social game. You don’t want your creations to exist in a vacuum. Origin changes this by allowing you to chat with people without ever having to leave your game. Simply start Origin In Game by pressing Shift + F1, open your Friends list and pick who you want to start speaking with. You can share tips and tricks, announce a new item in the Gallery or share something hilarious that your Sims just did. The Sims 4 is just better with friends.

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Continue Reading

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The Sims 4: More Cheats For You

Hi Simmers. As you guys know, we like to provide a variety of cheats for you in the game. Some of you play by your own rules and we like to encourage that. Well, in addition to all the cheats we KNEW we shipped, it turns out we shipped a bunch of cheats that we didn’t necessarily intend to ship. Oh well! More fun for you. Introducing a few more cheats for you to use!

For some back story, these cheats were created to do daily “Smoke Tests.” We had to put in these cheats so the game could run on its own (OH NO SKYNET) without human intervention. Essentially, we run these smoke tests in the wee hours of the night while we aren’t at work using our computers.

Quick Disclaimer: Cheats are cheats. You’re going outside the standard flow so you may hit a hiccup or two. But, we’ve used these cheats extensively in development. For all of these you’ll need to open the command console (Ctrl + Shift + C).

Automatically Pay Bills: Do you hate bills? Fret no more.
|households.autopay_bills

Want to automatically answer dialogs that pop up on screen?
|ui.dialog.auto_respond

Do you want to complete your current Aspiration Milestone? Either because you don’t like it, it’s too difficult, or you are stuck?
|aspirations.complete_current_milestone

Career Cheats – We have quite a few cheats for careers.

Want to add any career to your Sim?
|careers.add_career<name>

Want to get a demotion?
|careers.demote<name>

How about a promotion?
|careers.promote<name>

Want to quit?
|careers.remove_career<name>

For <name>, type the name of the career.

Want to speed up crafting? Or, something? This one’s not entirely obvious, but it speeds up crafting (painting, woodworking).
|crafting.shorten_phases

Want to fix everyone’s needs?
|sims.fill_all_commodities

That’s for just one Sim.

|stats.fill_commodities_household
That’s for the household.

Want to add a specific amount of money?
|sims.modify_funds <amount>

<amount> is the amount you want.

There’s also
|motherlode and |rosebud AND |kaching

Want to get rid of your Moodlets?
|sims.remove_all_buffs

Want to spawn random groups of Sims?
|sims.spawnsimple<#>

<#> is the number you want. BE WARNED: If you put in a crazy number, the game will break.

MOVIE MAKERS. Want to disable headline FX? Note that this doesn’t remove plumbob.
|headlineeffects <on/off>

Via. SimGuruGrant on The Sims Forums