I’ve really been getting back into world building in The Sims 2 again lately (or ‘hood building might be more the more accurate term). Although I’ve written posts on how I create a custom neighborhoods and how I play integrated neighborhoods, I wanted to cover these topics more in-depth.
In this new blog series, I’m writing about ALL topics related to making a custom neighborhood. In this first part, we’ll go over planning a new ‘hood. I’ll be writing this series as I create my own custom neighborhood (again).
Since I’ve taken time off from Youtube, I’ve started to play The Sims 2 again for fun (not just to make content) and my passion for the game has returned. But, I realize I’ve become a little bored with playing Pleasantview for the hundredth time.
I want something different, so I’m creating my own stories. And in the process, I hope I can inspire you to find joy in creating your own worlds as well! 🙂
The Neighborhood Map
The first thing I do when creating a new ‘hood is find a neighborhood map. You have a couple options here:
- Make your own map in Sim City 4
- Use one of the maps already in the game
- Download a map created by someone else
I prefer to download a map made by someone else because I don’t have the patience for creating my own. If you really want to do everything from scratch, I highly recommend watching Jessa’s tutorials on creating a map in SC4.
I don’t like using the maps that came with the game because I think they’re far too large and spaced out for a custom neighborhood. You might disagree and that’s fine! There’s no wrong way to do this as long as you’re happy. If you like the in-game maps, go ahead and use one.
If you want to download a map made by someone else, my favorites are the New Medina Hood Terrains by simsample on Mod the Sims. I use Channelwood as my main neighborhood map, but they are all great.
I love that they all fit together, so you can use the other ones for a downtown or college ‘hood. But the best part is they are the perfect size – small enough to make a nice neighborhood but not so tiny that you feel you’ll run out of space.
No matter what map you use for your custom ‘hood, there are a few things you want to look for:
- Not too large. A huge map with lots of big, spaced-0ut roads will be difficult to fill up with your own Sims and buildings. A nice small map is faster to load and easier to play and maintain.
- Terrain only. I start out with a completely blank map containing only roads and bridges if necessary. I don’t want any décor, trees, buildings, etc. Part of the fun of creating a custom neighborhood in Sims 2 is doing all this yourself.
- Entrance and Exit. This is a personal preference, but I don’t like to play maps that don’t have a logical way for Sims to enter and exit the map. (For example, an island in the middle of the ocean) with no bridge leading off the map. This just doesn’t make sense. How do Sims commute or travel? Make sure your map has an entrance/exit off the map for realism.
Installing Terrain Maps
Once you’ve downloaded a map you want to use, install it by extracting the files to Documents > EA Games > The Sims 2 > SC4 Terrains. There should be six files for each map – a .png picture of the map, an .sc4 file, and four more pictures for concrete, desert, dirt, and lush.
After you’ve moved the files to the SC4 Terrains folder, the map will show up in the list when you go to create a new custom ‘hood in the game.
It helps at this stage to know which lots/buildings you need to get started with your neighborhood. You don’t have to start with every conceivable community lot you can think of. But I recommend starting with enough so that your residents can live happily in your world.
I am starting Channelwood with 24 Sims (more on that in part two of this series), and I’m playing semi-integrated, which means I need facilities and businesses for all these Sims to own or work in. I plan to start with the following buildings:
- City Park
- City Hall
- Police Station
- Fire Station
- Post Office
- Clothing Store
- Appliance Store
- Animal Shelter
- Housing for 24 Residents
This might seem like a lot, and it is. Creating a custom ‘hood is a lot of work, but I find it super fun and fulfilling. You don’t have to start with this many buildings if it feels overwhelming. You can start with just a park and grocery store (or whatever), and slowly build over time as you play.
Or you can download the buildings created by someone else, so you don’t have to build everything from scratch. I’ve done this in the past, but now I prefer to build everything myself. I love building, but not everyone does. You can still create a custom ‘hood using buildings created by others.
This is just the planning stage. At this point, I’m not worried too much about the logistics. I’m just creating a plan of which lots I want to start my neighborhood. I like everything to be as self-sufficient as possible, so that’s why I start with so many.
Now that you’ve chosen a map and made a list of starting lots, the next step is planning out districts on your map. Here’s an example of how I’m planning to setup Channelwood:
I just took a screenshot of the map, but you can also use the one from the downloads page. It doesn’t matter. This is only for your reference to help you with planning. It doesn’t have to be a beautiful work of art.
Then I opened the screenshot in paint and made a rough outline of how I want to layout the ‘hood. I added all the buildings I plan to start with and separated them into three districts:
- Business District – This is where all the city services and businesses are located including shops, police and fire, etc. This works well for my map (as you can see), but I could have also separated the shops from the services and made this into two districts if I were using a different map. Just do what works best for you.
- Entertainment District – This is where all the restaurants, bars, and entertainment facilities are located. It’s like my world’s “downtown” area (since I don’t add a separate downtown map to my worlds).
- Residential District – And of course, this is where all the housing for my residents will be located. You could further break this down if you wanted to poor areas and rich areas, apartments and homes, etc. I leave it loose in the beginning.
I also included the orphanage and animal shelter off to the side in their own little district. This is just a loose plan, and I can change it any time I want. But it really helps to get started if you have an idea of where you want things to go.
Now that I have a general idea of my custom neighborhood’s outline, it’s time to start thinking about the starting residents.
I prefer to start my ‘hoods with only single Sims so I can have them meet and choose their own partners. Of course, this isn’t very realistic. What neighborhood is only made up of single adult Sims and no families or children?
I enjoy partnering up my Sims so much that I’m willing to overlook this. But you may like to start with some families or couples. The choice is yours. But at this stage, it helps to plan out your households before you create them.
When planning your residents, consider genetic variety. I like to make sure I have a variety of skin tones, eye colors, and hair colors in my ‘hood – this way everyone doesn’t end up looking the same after a generation or two.
The reason I start with 24 Sims is because I use Lilith’s Honey Honey skin blend, which has 24 total skin tones including the defaults. Twelve of these are plain skin tones in a range from very light to very dark. And twelve of them are the same tones with freckles.
In this way, I can create 24 Sims all with a different genetic skin tone and freckles will also be genetic. (Four of the skin tones will be repeated due to the defaults using some of the same skin tones as the custom ones, but I’m okay with that. If it bothered me, I could start with 20 Sims instead of 24.)
If you just use the four Maxis skin tones, I would recommend creating Sims in multiples of four to make sure you can create an equal number of Sims with each skin tone. But of course, that’s your choice. I’m just explaining how I do it for inspiration.
I use Poppet’s Plain & Simple eyes and defaults for my Sims. I think these eyes look really good with the Honey Honey skin blend. It’s my preferred combination. This set comes with 19 eye colors (+1 for alien eyes that I don’t use on normal Sims).
I distribute the eye colors evenly amongst my Sims. The first 19 Sims getting a unique eye color, and then I repeat the five default colors once (for a total of 24). I love to breed my Sims and see which eye color the children get!
I only use the four Maxis hair colors of blond, red, brown, and black. How you distribute these depends on if you use custom hair colors or not. I do use default replacement and custom hairs, but I stick with the main four hair colors.
If you use a different hair system, just consider how many hair colors you use and distribute them as evenly as possible amongst your starting Sims for good genetic variety.
Planning Your Sims
I use a spreadsheet to help plan my Sims. This has been the easiest way for me because I can keep all my data organized in one place. Here’s how I planned out my starting Sims for Channelwood:
As you can see, I made two charts – one for my twelve females and one for my twelve males. In the first column, I distributed the skin colors evenly amongst the Sims. In the second column, I distributed the eye colors, and in the third column the hair colors.
I make sure that I don’t have the same combination of hair and eye colors for the few that are repeated. Even if you only use the Maxis hair, skin, and eye colors, you can still do the same thing. Just make a chart and start at the top, assigning each Sim a skin, eye, and hair color. Don’t repeat any combinations.
I also planned out each Sim’s role in my neighborhood and the building I need to create for them. This ties into planning out your starting builds as discussed above. Depending on how you like to play your ‘hood, this may or may not apply to you.
If you want to play integrated, you’ll need to create Sims to own all the shops and businesses. If you just want to play your Sims with regular jobs, you don’t necessarily have to plan out roles for them. Or maybe you prefer to do something in between.
If you want to create families instead of single Sims, you may want to create a column for families and plan who will be related to who, etc. The choice is yours, but it helps to think about how you plan to play your residents.
In the first stage of creating a Sims 2 custom neighborhood, I plan out my map, starting builds, districts and placement, and residents that will inhabit my ‘hood. This is a good foundation to build something you’ll be truly happy with (if you’re a planner like me).
Of course, there is no right or wrong way to make your own neighborhood. I’m just outlining the steps I use to give you some inspiration. We all have to find what works best for us, and you might come up with a completely different method for your own project.
In the next part of this series, we’ll move on to creating a clean neighborhood in the game with no townies – a completely blank slate that we can build from the ground up.
Sims 2 Custom Neighborhood Tutorial Series
Read more in this series below: