Maxis shares progress update and first look at The Sims 4’s custom pronoun function •

Maxis has shared fresh insights into the complexity involved in bringing gender-neutral pronouns to The Sims 4 as part of a new livestream update outlining the advances it makes in implementing the much-sought-after feature.

The developer originally confirmed that it explored ways to introduce extended pronoun options for The Sims 4 in May last year – following a community signature signed by more than 22,000 people – and its first livestream in 2022 has now offered a significant progress update sharing insights into the development process and including a first look at how The Sims 4’s recently announced feature for custom pronouns will work in the game.

As Sims 4 producer John Faciane explained during the livestream, Maxis’ goal with custom pronouns is threefold: to introduce greater representation for transgender and non-binary players, to allow greater freedom of speech for all players, and ultimately to create an experience who feels more welcoming and friendly.

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However, it is a feature that brings with it a significant number of technical and logistical obstacles – especially with regard to the fact that The Sims 4 is currently translated into 18 different languages, each with their own nuances when it comes to pronouns.

As location manager Veronica Morales revealed during the livestream, it’s a language challenge that EA’s location team is already struggling with, but one that is further complicated by cultural and regulatory considerations across each region.

“Some languages [such as Sweden and Spain] have officially accepted and are ready to use non-binary pronouns, “Morales explained,” but for other territories, pronouns are not included in their dictionaries. “But in some of the latter regions – including Germany, Spain and Brazil – local LGBTQ + communities have already adopted new non-binary grammar and syntax systems that they feel comfortable with, and these, although not yet officially recognized, provide the localization team with a useful touchpoint.

Morales also highlighted a third area of ​​consideration: the areas of stricter rules and laws “where the use of non-binary pronouns can be quite challenging”. For these regions, localization requires a different, more creative approach – perhaps by using the passive voice to avoid referring to the topic (‘the letter was sent yesterday’ instead of ‘they sent me a letter yesterday’) or to replace a pronoun with the actual name of the character – but regardless of the approach, says Morales, the solution must still “sound natural in context and it must feel genuine to the players and at the same time respectful”.

Given the complexities involved in finding grammatical solutions for all 18 languages, Sims 4 has currently been translated into, Faciane says, the first iteration of Maxis’ custom pronouns work – as it calls a “continuous learning” and development process “- will focus on English, with additional languages ​​to follow.

And as for how all of this work will eventually manifest in the game, Sims experience designer Alister Lee shared an early look at a revised version of The Sims 4s Create-A-Sim system.

An ongoing look at how customizable pronouns will be integrated into The Sims 4s Create-A-Sim system.

Its most immediately noticeable change comes in the upper left input field, which now reads: “Hi, my name and pronouns are …”, reflecting how a person may choose to present themselves in real life. From here, players are able to choose from more familiar pronoun options – including you, them / him / her and he / she / his – as well as fully customizable pronouns, all of which will be correctly reflected across the likes of tooltips and messages throughout the game.

In a final remark, Faciane confirmed that EA intends to implement a range of protections, including its existing swear word filters, to prevent customizable pronouns from being misused and to ensure that all players have a “safe and fun” experience.

As for when customizable pronouns will finally make their debut in The Sims 4, it’s still unclear. Faciane simply said that Maxis intends to continue its research and design – which it conducts with the support of LGBTQ + non-profit organizations, including It Gets Better – until it feels the feature is a great place to launch. “We still have a road ahead of us,” Faciane concluded, “and we will make sure to check in with you along the way.”

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