As a world builder, you probably always wait until your project is completely finished before play testing it. But did you know that there is a better, more efficient way of play testing a world? If not, then check out this handy guide from The Sims Depot, which will show you how!

Best Practice: Play Test Early–And Often!

If you’re building in CAW for the first time, it’s only natural to think that the best way to play test a world is to wait until after you’ve finished completing it. Although this seems pretty logical, this isn’t necessarily the best option. Why? Because 9 times out of 10, there will have been so many errors, glitches, and routing problems introduced along the way that by the time you play test, you’ll find yourself having to go back into your world and tear large sections of it up. If you put a lot of loving detail into your world, you can imagine how heartbreaking it would be to go back and take out a perfectly placed lot or an area you sculpted to perfection.

Luckily, there is a better method of play testing to help you avoid all that. Rather than wait at the very end to test, you can start play testing at various stages of completion so that you can catch problems as they happen. That way, by the time your world is complete, you will more or less have fixed every problem there is to fix without having to go through the heartache of going back into a world and rebuilding parts of it from scratch.

In case you’re still hazy on the concept, below is a guide of the phases of when you should test a world. Keep in mind that the ones listen below aren’t necessarily etched in stone. You may find these phases perfect or you may even find ones of your own to add. The whole point of the guide is to give you a general idea.

Phase One: 30% Completion

The first time you should play test your world is when it’s about 30% done. This would be when you have a “rough draft” of your world, as in: you’ve sculpted enough terrain and placed enough empty lots and trees to know where you’ll be placing everything else later.

At this phase, you want to check if your sims are routing around the world okay. Besides making sure that they can reach every destination, you will especially want to test routing along shorelines to make sure that they’re standing in the right spot when you ask them to fish or swim.

▲ This world is far from complete but that doesn’t mean it can’t be play tested for routing and other issues.

Another thing you’ll want to look for in this phase is to see whether the terrain sculpting looks good from your sims’ eye level. The reason is that sometimes you can get carried away sculpting terrain in CAW thinking it looks great, but then when you actually play it, you’ll see that your hills are way too high or that the shoreline doesn’t look right. Below, you can see a screenshot of what a shoreline looked like during play testing. It looked cool in CAW but from the sim’s perspective, it looks unnatural.

Sim fishing in weird spot of CAW world
▲ A sim fishing in a weird spot of CAW world.
Phase Two: Tricky/Special Structures and Locations

You might have a few lots or locations that are a bit tricky or special in terms of routing or game play. For example: a) staircase that has been built into the side of a hill, b) a pier that hangs over water c) an island that connects to the mainland via a bridge d) a special EP-specific lot (like a tomb, seasonal lot, houseboat lot, etc.).

When you’ve got something like this finally put in place, it’s a good idea to test it in terms of routing or just to see if it’s in working order, even before fleshing out the rest of your world. For example, when I built Cascade Plaza for Pottersville, I spent a large amount of time exporting, testing and tweaking this area when the world was only 20% finished. I had to make sure that sims could navigate up and down the staircases without any issues. Otherwise, I’d have to tear the entire area down or give up on the world altogether.

Cascade Plaza
▲ I had to test this area of a WIP before moving on to the rest of the world.
Phase 3: 70% Done

At this phase of world building, you may still have a ways to go to completion. However, this is a perfect time to test your world. What you want to do is see if your apartments, seasonal lots and venues are working properly, if there are any bugs in routing and whether NPCs (mailman, bouncers, mixologists, proprietors, etc.) are being generated properly. If you have subway stations, you want to make sure that you have enough of them in the right places so sims aren’t going through a ridiculous song and dance just to get from one place to another.

Another thing you want to do is see how the scenery looks from various locations. For example, in the screenshot below, I am testing what the view of the city looks like from a riverside park. As you can see, a lot more landscaping can be placed across the water to make the view look prettier and less boring.

▲ Checking out the view from a park during play testing. It’s so-so.
Phase 4: Routing Paint

Routing is a very important part of world building, because it determines how your sims get around. When you’ve laid down most of your routing paint, test your world to see if you may have placed it incorrectly or if you need to lay down some more of it.

Routing paint in CAW
▲ A perfect time to test your world is right after you’ve laid most of your routing paint.
Phase 5: 90% Done

Yep. Believe it or not, even though you’re a hair short of completion, you will still want to test at this phase. Why? Because this is where you can look for those little gaffes you may have missed in earlier phases of testing, such as: a) Not enough streetlights b) Sloppy terrain painting c) Public stereos on community lots set to the right radio station d) Areas that still look unfinished e) Lots you forgot to name and put a description for.

There is also a small chance at this stage in the game that a lot may have become corrupted or that for whatever reason, you are suffering from lag or a new routing issue you never had before. If you find something going wonky, this is the perfect time to track the problem down.

Testing, Phase 6: 100% Done

Yeah, I know. You’re pretty much done at this point and have ironed out all the kinks. So why play test?

Well, what you want to do at this point is play your world as if you are a player, and for at least one sim month or one sim year (if you have Seasons). While playing, you want to get a sense of how game play feels. Does your world feel cool, fresh and exciting, or just plain flat and boring? Is game play okay or is there something missing, like another venue or two or another park? Is it easy for sims to get around from their homes to various places or does it seem to take a frustratingly long time?

As you play, you may find other issues that could be tweaked from a game play standpoint. For example, you will find that your world needs more starter houses for your poor sims, that maybe one of your rabbit holes are a little too far away or that your town could use another venue. You may also find that there’s something neat you can add to make your world more fun to play or that your seasonal lots could be spruced up a little bit more.

Once you’ve tweaked your world enough so it feels fun to play, you’re good to go! Simply click, “Export!” and congratulate yourself on a job well done!

I know that playing your world early kind of takes the excitement out of playing it for the first time when it’s complete, but trust me–this doesn’t compare to the crushing pain you’ll feel when you realize that the world you thought was perfect is so broken that you’ll have to spends weeks, if not months, tearing up and rebuilding entire roads, neighborhoods and landscaping to fix it all. So, I repeat, test early and often. Don’t wait until the very end to export and play test your world.