Edith, The Sims Book and quelching the rumors

Argh. You know, I find it somewhat amusing that the wheels of the internet slowly grind away while you’re sleeping, working and whatnot. Little rumblings gyrate behind the scenes without your supervision and all the time people making up fancy tales that are based on speculation, having no real resemblance to truth. Like I’ve said before, the crutch of the matter is that you can’t ever proove anything on the internet. You stand at the top of a mountain proclaiming something grand, and everyone hollers and dances then pulls back the covers wanting proof. And how does one proove ones claims in this anonymous ether we call the net?

Okay, enough of the pathetic attempt at literature. I’m rather irked by all the rumblings going on regarding Edith, The Sims book and whatnot. I thought I’d do this post to try to set the record straight, but thinking about it, it really doesn’t matter because even if Will Wright himself sent everyone a personal email saying “Everything Bil Simser says is true”, some still wouldn’t believe. In any case, I’ll take a stab at some of the major issues here.

Some claim that the whole Edith thing is a farce. To what end, they can’t say, so why would Maxis say they’re going to release it only to yank that hope away from you sometime in the future? It does them no good. True, eons ago someone from Maxis claimed that Edith would never be released to the public and it would be kept privately. Times change. When the book idea came about, the concept of releasing a version of Edith came with it (not sure how this really manifested itself as I can’t find the exact thread in my emails with Will). In any case, here’s an email from Will regarding Edith:


I talked to Jamie D. last night (he was the creator of Edith and is now living in Barcelona, Spain). We’re going to put him under contract to modify Edith into the player version. I’m still collecting suggestions from the internal programmers about what we want to change (if you have any ideas please send them). I’ll know more in a week when I present the ideas to him.

We’re still a go.


So yes, they are putting the original author of Edith under contract to build a watered down version of Edith. Don’t get your panties in an uproar right now though. It will still let you do tons of cool things, they’re just removing a few of the more nastier primitives and making it a little easier to use.

Now onto the book itself. There’s no official announcement on Maxis’ site simply because a) we haven’t thought about it yet (the book is still in draft form and far from completion) and b) it’s still undecided who the publisher will be. This is a message from Maxis regarding the publishing:

Hi Bill,

Good news. The folks who published our Sims strategy guide (Prima) have given their verbal consent for your proposed book. Our legal and OEM people are drawing up an addendum for Prima to sign to make it official. We should be seeing this sometime next week. I’ll let you know as soon as it’s a “done deal”. Let me know if you have questions or concerns and thanks for your patience with this matter.


Later, I got the “official” word from EA/Maxis in this email:

Hi Bill. Well, we’ve finally received the official go ahead for you to proceed with your Sims book. Consider this e-mail official approval from EA. Thanks again for all your patience with this process.


So it’s up in the air right now about who is publishing it. I’m talking to Maxis/EA now to figure that out. It might be Prima, it might be someone else. Hence no announcement on Amazon.com or other book dealers. At some point (hopefully in the near future) I’ll send off a few drafts to people, everyone will sing and dance and perhaps Maxis will make an announcement on their site. I just haven’t got that far yet.

Now there’s the question of the whole deal itself. A lot of people seem to have it out for me, no matter how well liked I am (okay, maybe I’m not THAT liked). In any case, Maxis did NOT approach me on this, I did, and it was the result of an inquiry from a fan. It started with this email (edited for length):

Hello Bil,

My name is Lisa Herschbach (Arctic Frost) and I couldn’t help but notice who you

are in the Sim’s community.

I would like you to consider writing a book on object creation for The Sims. I

have resources that could help you get the book published, although I haven’t

published any books myself. I have only been part of interviews for books

written on online communities.

Thank you for your time,

Lisa Herschbach

Thus it began and a flurry of emails to Will started:

Hi Will,

Just wondering about something. A few people have read some excerpts from my game programming book that I’m having published right now and asked me if I would create a book on object creation for The Sims. It sounds like a neat idea (I’m not sure if there’s enough there to spread it out to an entire book though so I might have to cover other Sims creation topics). Just wondering what you think about it, what legal ramifications there might be for an “outsider” writing about this and what kind of support I might get from Maxis on it? Thanks!


And the initial response:


I just read this (I’ve been out-of-town for a while. I’m forwarding it around to see if there are any problems and I’ll get back to you soon about it. (I like the idea myself)


After a couple of months of emails, the official word (above) was given and work began on it. Now the immediate question is how can a guy like me pull off making money from a product from Maxis? The answer is simple. Go visit your local bookstore and look at all the non-Microsoft books written about Microsoft products. Or the game books not written by the game companies. It’s just typical of the market. Maxis has the resources to focus on games, not books. Perhaps there were some people at Maxis that contributed to the strategy guides you can see as there will be certainly people contributing to the product, but the effort comes from me. How can I profit from such a thing? Devoting hundreds of hours of working on it should have some payback. Writing a book is nowhere near the effort of reading one. Just because you can tear through a book in a weekend sitting doesn’t mean it can be put together that quickly. So I’m looking for some payback, but the money isn’t the important fixation here. It’s the content. I know how complex The Sims is from a programming aspect and I know that Maixs would like to get this information out to the public. They just are too wrapped up in writing the games instead of documenting them. Look at any game company and ask them for internal documentation on how games work. Most of them have nothing except a few skeleton text files and the rest you learn if you’re involved in the project. In any case, the situation here is that given the complexities of The Sims and Edith, I saw a need for a book and decided to give it a shot. Also note that the book isn’t just Edith. It covers all aspects of the Sims including file formats, reading and writing game content, how files work and interact with the game, third party tools (gotta toot my own horn sometime) and of course, Edith.

Well, hopefully that wraps up some questions you had about this. I’m sure there are hundreds more. Sorry, there is no X-Files conspiracy here. No hidden agendas and no magic bullet. Rather than spend countless hours spreading rumors and mistruths, just fire off an email and ask. I’d be glad to answer whatever question you have. I’d rather people know what’s going on from the horses mouth instead of other peoples opinion (some that have nothing to do with the project). Even with the emails I’ve posted here, there will still be some that will not be convinced until they have it in their hot little hands (and even then, they’re still not convinced) so for you types, I’m sorry you don’t have a more open mind about things but ce la vie.