It seems the Edith discussions are starting again and there’s a flood of email about it, mostly by people who are confused over what it is, what it does and why all the hubbub about it? So I thought I’d take a bit to explain everything from what I know to set the record straight.
Every game company relies on some tool to create it’s game content. The usual routine is to rely on 3rd party tools like Adobe PhotoShop and 3D Studio MAX to produce the content but this is rarely enough. 3D Studio by default doesn’t know about Quake levels for example, and PhotoShop images don’t have information about how an object will behave in a game. Also the files produced by these programs isn’t very efficient for use in a game. So a proprietary format is created or adopted for the game files. In The Sims, they created SKN, CMX and CFP files for defining the character meshes. These are generated from 3D Studio (via custrom-written exporters) and put into a format that is focused on the content. IFF files are massive collections of information including the bitmaps for display an image, instructions on how those images are displayed, scripts to handle the interaction of objects within the game, and autonomous routines to keep the objects going on their own (for example keeping track of how old a fish tank is and when it was last cleaned). Obviously no 3rd party program can handle these formats off the shelf so tools are created to handle these formats.
This brings us to Edith. It made perfect sense to build into the game the ability to create, edit and otherwise mess with objects. After all, if you have the game environment running you have all the tools at your disposal to access your game objects (if the game can’t display/manipulate them then you need to rework your design!). So the evolution of a set of tools (dialogs and code to support them really) embedded into the game was created and eventually became Edith (after going through a few name and platform changes). What is Edith? It’s the tool that is added to the game that allows for complete manipuation of objects, characters and environments in the game. The Sims objects all have what Maxis calls SimAntics code in them. Instructions telling them to turn on or run an animation. These are the behaviours of the objects and are edited using the Edith tool. Edith really isn’t a separate tool like PhotoShop, but an integrated development environment that is embedded into a copy of The Sims (creating a new executable that is The Sims+Edith or SIMSE.EXE). A developer who wants to manipulate an object or test a character animation in the game can use the dialogs that Edith provides to step through, debug and create new SimAntics code (or tweak the existing code), always streamlining an object until it meets the requirements of what it was supposed to do.
So that’s basically it in a nutshell. There exists a lot of speculation and controversy about Edith and if Maxis will release it but I’ll leave that topic alone since nobody can say for certain what the future holds. The current ideaology from Maxis is that they are keeping Edith in-house and not planning any public releases (as far as I know but I could be wrong). One more point is that of new objects. You cannot (from what I know) just startup Edith and say “I’d like to create a brand new object please” and press a button and voila it spews out a new object. A Sims Object is made up of not only the images to display it but the code to drive it and the supporting functions that help it be real in the game. These are generally done outside of Edith, using a template or dummy object to start the ball rolling. Images are added to the object, character animations are created and linked to it and the object is brought into Edith/The Sims to edit properties (like hunger values). So it’s an involved process that brings together many tools and files to make it happen. The goal of blueprint is to reduce the tools you need and complexity but there are some caveats to this like having to clone from an existing object and not being able to edit EVERYTHING about an object. For the most part though, bp will allow you to change what you need. Of course, there’s always the future…