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We created Christine National in Create a Sim and moved her into her first starter home. It's a new and exciting time for a young adult Sim, and in order to navigate the confusing journey that is (virtual) life, she needs to understand how to go about functioning in the world.
The interface for The Sims 4 is quite a bit different from previous iterations in the franchise. There is more focus on whichever Sim you are actively controlling, with a proportionally larger focus on what the Sim is feeling while downplaying the rest of the interface. If you're a veteran of the series, all the functions are still within easy reach, but they may look a little different than you're used to. Luckily, almost the entire interface is displayed along the bottom edge of the screen.
We'll address each section of the interface from left to right, starting at the bottom before moving to the top-right bar.The Sims 4 does not feature an autosave! After you move in, you should immediately hit Escape and save your game, and routinely save every so often! Sims 4 is much more stable than some of the previous iterations, but saving early and saving often will prevent terrible outcomes.
The basic way to getting around the world is to interact with objects and other Sims. While a Sim is active, simply click any object, and a pie menu appears that shows all the possible actions the Sim can take.
If an action has a colored tip on the left side, that action is based on the Sim's current emotional state or moodlets. If an action has an icon on the left side, that action is based on the Sim's Traits. In the screenshot below, we see that Christine is interacting with her TV. Her Emotion is “Fine” (which is emotion-neutral, or no emotion), so we don't get any colored tips on the pie menu. She can watch a channel or channel surf, but she can also admire the TV since it's a new possession. That action has a little money pile, indicating that the action exists because we gave her the Materialistic Trait.
The most direct change is that the Sim's current actions and action queue is listed vertically in the bottom-left corner. The Sim's current actions are in the whiter area of the interface (the very corner), while the Sim's action queue is above it against a more transparent gray bar that grows and shrinks as necessary. In the screenshot below, we see that Christine's current action is to bake a cake, represented by an icon with chef's hat.
The blue color of the icon is important. If the Sim is feeling an emotion, the Sim may have access to commands that wouldn't otherwise be possible. In this case, Christine is feeling Inspired, hence the light blue background of her portrait; she is only able to bake a cake at her current level because she's feeling Inspired to do so. (For more details about emotions, please read the Emotions page.) Normal commands will have a white background on the icon regardless of the Sim's emotion.
Actions can be canceled by clicking their icons. Sims will immediately try to cancel them when you give the order, but they may have to finish their animation cycle first. They also will not wait for the action to be completed if possible, which may lead to problems. If we tell Christine to stop baking after the cake is already in the oven, she'll just leave it in there with the oven on, possibly burning down the house! If we cancel the icon after she pulls the ingredients out, she may just leave the ingredients on the counter. Some actions can be resumed; we can tell her to resume cooking if the ingredients are out. Otherwise, we'd have to tell her to throw it away.
The Sims 4 also introduces multitasking when it makes sense. In the screenshot below, we see that Christine is checking her smartphone while watching TV. Both actions are in the solid white bar, so both actions are happening at the same time. Also notice the tiny icon at the bottom indicating that she's sitting. This way, we can tell at a glance exactly what's going on with her even if we're not actively looking at her on the screen.
Sims can generally perform up to three actions at once. This usually entails interacting with one object, viewing a different object (such as a piece of art), and talking to a different Sim. In fact, Sims can speak to other Sims while doing almost any action, allowing the Social need to stay nice and high unless the Sim is a loner. We'll discuss the six needs further down this page.
Actions can be queued up and will be listed vertically. Generally, Sims will try to do the actions in the same order you gave them, though the order is not always precise. Also, note that if an action is canceled in a queue, you may not be informed if you're not watching the Sim personally.
EditFinancial and Personal Status
Directly to the right of the action bar is a large portrait of the active Sim. The background will change color as necessary to express the Sim's emotion; see the Emotions page for more details. Below the Sim's portrait will be the amount money owned by the household.
If the Sim has any moodlets, they'll be listed by icons next to the word description of the emotion, along with a colored background to express the effects. You will often be in a situation where a Sim has so many moodlets that many of them “collapse” into vertical bars without icons. You can click them to open them up, but the background colors are more important than the specifics.
Below is a complicated example. Christine is feeling Playful for two reasons; you can see two icons that have a purple background. The second icon from the left also has a green gradient, meaning that moodlet is making her Playful and Happy. She also has two collapsed moodlets, one pink that makes her Flirty, and one blue that makes her Confident. The scores are additive, so because the two Playful moodlets are more powerful than the total scores of everything else, she triggers the Playful Emotion.
Above the Sim's portrait are up to three Whims in thought bubbles. Whims take the place of wishes from previous iterations of the franchise; these are actions the Sim wants to do, and performing those actions will reward you with Satisfaction. You can view details of their Whims by mousing over them.
Taken together, we see below that Christine is feeling Flirty at a different moment from above. Her only moodlet is an icon of a television screen with a pink background; she is feeling Flirty due to watching the Romance Channel. Her whims are to give a rose to someone, find a collectable item, and meet someone new.
The leftmost Whim is always based on the Sim's current emotion. If Christine stops feeling flirty—perhaps because she successfully finds something cool in that rock she's digging at and triggers Inspired or Confident instead—then that Whim will disappear. Sims will never be able to keep an emotional Whim once the emotion stops.
The other two Whims are always more general. They are significantly affected by the Sim's Traits; Christine has Collector and Outgoing, hence her two general Whims. General Whims will stay locked in until they're fulfilled or manually canceled by clicking a red X that appears when you mouse over the thought bubbles.
Sims almost always have all three Whims active regardless of whether they can be immediately be fulfilled. If one is fulfilled or canceled, it takes only a few seconds before it's replaced by another. Because Whims reward Satisfaction (and the emotion-based Whim always rewards more than the general ones), you should try to fulfill them as much as feasible.
To the immediate right of the household funds is an icon of a house. Clicking this will bring the camera to focus on the current lot where the active Sim is standing. That doesn't necessarily mean the house, if your Sim is traveling around the neighborhood. To the right of that is the phone menu; click that to access all possible phone-based actions.
Christine's phone currently shows a short list. She doesn't know anyone yet, so options to call others and text others are missing.
To the right of the phone menu are smaller portraits of all the Sims in your current family. Right now, Christine is by herself, but you'll notice that you can see that the background changes color based on her emotion. If you have multiple Sims in your family, you can keep track of everyone's current emotion this way, and a simple left-click will switch the active Sim to whoever you click on. If you notice a Sim currently has an emotion you don't want them to, switch to them to figure out the problem.
Double-left-clicking a Sim's small portrait selects them and re-centers the camera on them. Right-clicking a Sim's small portrait locks the camera onto the Sim and will follow them, but will not make them the active Sim. Left-clicking the portrait followed by right-clicking the same portrait will select that Sim as the active Sim and lock the camera on them. If a Sim has the camera locked onto them, a small camera icon will appear in the corner of the portrait.
The center of the bottom interface bar is the four time controls, along with the current day and time. You can pause, or play the game at normal, double, or triple speed. These speeds are hotkeyed to both the number pad and the number row of your keyboard. Pressing 0 or the Tilde key will pause the game; pressing 1 will play at normal speed, 2 at double, and 3 at triple.
In The Sims 3, there was another speed control where you could press 4 to run at triple speed until the active Sim completed their current action, at which point the game would slow down to single speed. That control has been removed from the franchise; pressing 4 will have no effect.
The seven buttons along the bottom-right edge of the interface open up the various panels that list everything you could want to know for the active Sim. From left to right...
The Aspiration Panel, represented by a star icon sized slightly larger icon than the others, open information for your Sim's current progress toward their Aspiration. It lists all the requirements to achieve the level, and you can mouse over any specific line for more details. For example, Christine has The Curator Aspiration, and needs to collect things; later levels of The Curator reveal that some objects will only count if they remain in her personal inventory, though for now, just getting them is good enough.
In the Aspiration Panel, in the very top-right corner of the panel itself, there is a small button with a little gift box. You can click this to use Satisfaction to purchase rewards from the Rewards Store. Christine's current Satisfaction, currently as zero, is listed at the top of the panel.
Directly below the button for the Rewards Store is another tiny button with a star. Clicking this allows Christine to change her Aspiration. Remember that changing an aspiration means she keeps her progress toward her current aspiration in case she ever switches back.
The Career Panel, represented with a small briefcase, lists all the relevant information for your current career. It will list job level, hourly wage, job progress, and promotion requirements. It will also serve as the button to go to work if it's currently your shift and the Sim isn't moving on her own. In Christine's case, she doesn't have a job yet, so the panel only features a large button to help her find employment. We'll get her a job in the Getting a Job section. Note that the Career Panel only matters if you have a conventional career.
The Skills Panel, represented by a light bulb, lists all the Skills the active Sim knows. It will list the level, the progress toward the next level, and mousing over any of the lines will list what benefits the skill brings. Unknown skills will simply not be listed.
It doesn't take long to learn a skill for the first time. Christine already has triggered the first level of the Comedy skill just by watching the Comedy Channel, and her Cooking skill is about 25% toward Level 2 because she cooked lunch for herself and watched a few minutes of the Cooking Channel.
Skills cannot degrade, though some Sims may get upset if they go too long without working on them based on their Traits. Some skills, such as Cooking, are practically a requirement for all Sims, but it's unnecessary to teach all skills to all Sims.
Like in role-playing games, skill gain rates are scaled to the level you are trying to achieve. While it takes practically no time to learn Level 1 of a skill, and only a few in-game hours of dedicated study to achieve Level 2, it will take significantly longer to go from Level 9 to Level 10.
The Relationships Panel, represented by two Sims, list all relationships that the active Sim knows. The list can be filtered by everyone, friends, family, or romantic interests. The lists will be sorted alphabetically, and you'll see the relationship bars for everyone involved.
Christine doesn't know anyone yet, so her Relationship Panel shows her rather solitary existence...
...but just for demonstration purposes, here's a shot of her relationship panel later down the road...
The Inventory Panel, represented by a small box, opens the active Sim's personal inventory. These hold any items the Sim has found or items they put into their pockets. You can usually click-drag items from around the house into this panel; the Sim will not need to perform an animation to do this. A Sim's pockets are infinitely deep, so we can have Christine stuff her bed and refrigerator into her pockets if we wanted to.
For now, Christine found a Mysterious Time Capsule from that rock she was digging at earlier, and she's tucked it into her pocket now. She can interact with it from here by clicking on it, or we can just drag it out of her inventory and into the world. We could also drag it to the left side of the panel (into the small window with a coin) to sell it immediately.
The Inventory Panel also features a button that allows us to see the Sim's progress in finding collectable items around the world. Most Sims won't need to worry about it, but Christine will due to her Aspiration.
The Simology Panel, represented by a generic silhouette, lists the active Sim's Traits, including any traits you've bought from the Rewards Store or earned from completing Aspirations. It also lists the current age of the Sim, and mousing over the Sim's name will list how many more in-game days the Sim will remain at the current age. In the screenshot below, Christine is new, so there is no “bar” yet, but a green bar will move left to right behind her name to visually represent her age as it ticks by..
The button in the top-right of the Simology Panel takes you to the Sim's personal statistics screen. This has no use other than your own entertainment, as it lists the number of times the Sim kissed, Woo Hoo'ed, ate meals, peed itself, and other numerical information.
The Needs Panel, represented by a smiley face and a jagged upward-pointing arrow, is the last one and arguably the most important. It lists the Sim's six basic needs: Bladder, Fun, Hunger, Social, Energy, and Hygiene.
Under normal circumstances, the needs will constantly decay. The brightly colored bar and its color is the important feature. For example, in the screenshot below, Christine's lowest need (meaning most immediate) is Hunger. The dark green of the bar is irrelevant; the light green of the bar is only about two-thirds full, which means she's getting fairly peckish.
As the bar empties, its color (and the darker background) will change from yellow, to orange, to red. When a bar completely empties, the need “goes critical” and a consequence will happen outside your control. Using objects in the world will fill the meters. Generally, when any need is low, the Sim will draw a negative moodlet, and the background of the panel icon (the smiley face with the jagged arrow) will change background colors as well.
Bladder is the need of the Sim to pee, and is filled by using any toilet. If the bar empties, the Sim will pee itself where it stands, and will trigger the Embarrassed Emotion.
Fun is the need of the Sim to be entertained. Filling this meter varies based on the Traits of the Sim; a Lazy Sim will fill this differently than an Active one. If this goes critical, the Sim will mope about and be less likely or outright refuse to socialize, and will not do any stressful or creative activity.
Hunger is the need of the Sim to eat, and is filled by eating any food. Eating bad foods, such as spoiled food or food from the trash, will fill the Hunger meter but draw other penalties and consequences. However, that's better than starving: if the Hunter meter stays critical for too long, the Sim will starve to death. Eating good, high-quality foods will fill the Hunger meter faster, though overeating can lead to weight gain.
Social is the need of the Sim to interact with other Sims. The more powerful and significant the social interaction, the more the Social meter will fill. If your Sim has a significant other and a low Social meter, romantic-type interactions are usually the best option. If this meter goes critical, the Sim will be less interested in doing anything, especially creative works.
Energy is the need of the Sim to rest. Sleeping will significantly fill this, and napping will help, but both options can take several hours. Sim can also drink coffee, which will temporarily help, but caffeine crashes (and resulting negative moodlets) are possible. Still, for a quick boost, consider a cup of java. If this meter goes critical, the Sim will pass out where they stand, and can only wake up on their own after about an hour.
Hygiene is the need of the Sim to stay clean. Many actions will decay this, such as going to the bathroom, though if a Sim washes their hands (either on their own or from your orders), it can offset the Hygiene loss. Taking a shower or brushing their teeth will fill this meter. If it goes critical, the Sim will stink so badly that most positive social interactions will immediately fail.
If you need to quickly tell a Sim to deal with a problem, you can click the colored icon to the left of any meter. For example, if we click the crossed utensils, Christine will automatically seek out a meal for herself at the closest location with no further input from us. This is called "auto-resolving" a need.
When needs are auto-resolved, Sims will seek out the closest object that will help them: closest toilet, closest fridge, etc. However, they will still play to their Traits, so if a Sim is ordered to auto-resolve their hunger, a vegetarian will never start grilling normal hot dogs for example.
The interface features seven buttons across the top-right corner of the screen. These are minor interface buttons that will not be used as often as the ones across the bottom, and are more related to the actual game interface rather than helping your Sims live their lives. From left to right...
Build Mode encompasses Build Mode and what was known as Buy Mode from previous games. This pauses all the action on-screen and allows you to buy and sell household objects, change the house or terrain, and otherwise play architect while your Sims wait for you. We'll talk more about Build Mode on the self-titled wiki page.
The gallery accesses the official Sims 4 servers, allowing you to upload or download Sims, houses, room styles, and more. You can also vote and comment on others' creations.
The paired up and down arrows allow you to jump up or down floors. Even a single-floor home can use these buttons, and going up a floor lets you see the roof. This is for camera movement only, and they're hotkeyed to the Page Up and Page Down keys.
The Wall View buttons let you select how much of your home you see. Forcing the walls to appear help with screenshots and other such sharing. Keeping the walls down generally allows you to see more of the house and retain more control over your Sims. Raising and lowering the walls is hotkeyed to the Home and End keys respectively.
If you can't use your mouse's right and middle buttons, you can use this tool to pan, rotate, and zoom the camera.
This opens a panel showing all the notifications you have received. After 200, they'll start to drop off.
The three horizontal dots lead to the pause menu. This is accessible also by pressing the Escape key. You can view or change your settings, or quit the game from here.
One control that is not shown is the free camera. By pressing the Tab key, the interface completely disappears, and the camera can be mouse- and keyboard-driven. You can use WASD to move the camera forward, left, back, and right, and you can zoom in and out. The Page Up, Page Down, Home, End, and time control keys are all active. You can use them together to create perfect photogenic moments if you wish to get a specific screenshot without the clutter, or if you're trying to record machinimation.
To reactivate the normal game camera, simply press Tab again.