Sim personality and background in Apple Valley has undergone a few changes since I've been playing.
Obviously in TS1, when it was still Greymount, there wasn't aging (except for the occasional child growing into an adult). I loved that the stories were deeper and richer, I knew so many details of my simmies. Jack Daniels search for love and mother to his twin daughters, and his struggle for wanting a romance filled bachelor life. Margurita and Alfonzo Herendez and thier trials with immigrating to Greymount from Hacienda Bay, her modeling career that she left to raise thier children and his career as a science geek (classic beauty and the geek). Starr Grey and Alisa Crawston's famous careers spent touring other SUN hoods and living the celebrity life. They had favorite colors, favorite foods, rich details in thier dating lives, everything! Time was on my side as I played these sims year after year, adding more and more details to thier lives.
TS2-The Early Years
Then TS2 came out and with it came aging and genetics and I also lost a lot of details. Aging seemed so quick! Even though all the sims in the hood aged at a consisent rate, it still was too fast! Within a year, the same babies born would die as elders. Much too fast to have any real details in thier lives.
I had to find them a spouse and get them pregnant before they turned elder. No more dating around, more and more sims married thier high school loves. No more career hopping, whatever job you got on the first day-you retired from that one. I no longer knew my simmies. I wondered, who is this and why are they so boring! Needless to say, a lot of simmies moved out the hood/died because of boring lives. I hated that! I wanted to return to my detailed simmies and thier rich lives.
TS2-The Middle Years
I started experimenting with keeping detailed records of my sims backgrounds. This large document kept track of the max number of skills they could learn, aspirations, would they ever marry, ever have children, vegan or not, favorite attire style, everything! Then I added Simmerville's trait system as well. At first it was fun...then it bogged me down and I stopped using it. Too much upkeep doesn't make playing much fun.
Aging was slowed a little as RL became more hetic. I knew my sims a little better, but it was too cumbersome.
With the annoucement of TS3, I knew that I wouldn't be leaving my TS2 behind. RL is very busy and I barely play as it is. Instead I will continue to play and enjoy all the aspects I hadn't seen yet-such as the Genie lamp, playing a frat, getting all the vacation tokens. However, one aspect of TS3 intriguied me-traits.
Finally, something to make my simmies more interesting and is much easier than a HUGE document. I played around with my random generator files until I was satisified that I had the right combination of traits and in game behaviors to make truly unique sims.
Since now my sims age about one year every 3-4 months, I can spend more time on the details and by limiting the amount of details, I am no longer bogged down. My current trait system has 6 traits and I am going more in depth with the tools MAXIS already gave me.
Apple Valley Trait System
My current trait system is as follows:
Primary Aspiration: assigned upon teenhood
Secondary Aspiration: assigned upon adulthood/young adulthood
Favorite Color: either randomly assigned upon toddlerhood based on the random generator document or based on the color of the clothes they age into.
Trait #1: randomly assigned upon birth
Trait #2: randomly assigned upon birth
Trait #3: randomly assigned upon birth
I keep the notes on each sim in thier bio (except for aspirations). This trait system allows the sim to "grow" into thier selves.
I decided to use what the game gave me instead of creating so many extras that bogged my playstyle down. MAXIS gave us aspirations (two if you have FreeTime), interests, personalities, hobbies, and turnon/offs. Since I rarely create new sims in my game (so many of the sims are born in AV) then interests/personalities and turnons/offs are randomly assigned by the game.
Deeper MAXIS Personality
I haven't really given MAXIS personality much play. Yes, my sims have it, but since I can control them even messy sims clean up thier homes. Recently, I've been looking at the traits in depth and really thinking what each one entails. So in addition to what the game programs them to do, I arranged for the personality traits to give me clues about various other traits (such as glasses/weight/career choice and aspiration/etc).
Neat: organized, neat-freak. This sim would color code recipes, clean up immediately and freak out over messes. Pays bills as soon as they come in, always remembers birth control. Clothing is neat and ironed.
Messy: disorganized, cluttered. This sim would have more clutter, lose bills and forget payments and birth control. Clothing is wrinkled, mismatched, barefoot. Wears PJs most of the day.
Outgoing: Attire is more trendy and skimpy, more likely to wear lots of jewelry, dyed hair
Shy: More likely to have glasses, hairstyle will be such that sim can hide behind, attire is more conservative
Active: Wears gym clothes most of the day, more likely to be fit
Lazy: Wears PJs most of the day, more likely to be overweight
Playful: Will play on playground equiptment to increase fun, chose play with interactions to increase fun, will wear hats and face makeup, attire is more trendy, dyed hairstyles
Serious: genetic disposition to wear glasses :P attire is more conservative, more likely to be designated "genius" and allowed Smart Milk during toddler years.
Nice: More likely to perform errands for others, give gifts, easily influenced, will have an easier time making friends.
Mean: Likes to torment, argue. Will have a harder time making friends and will become easily furious with other sims.
Deeper MAXIS Hobbies
Based on a sim's one true hobby, I decided that they would have a corresponding skill strength. This means that they will learn that chosen skill faster (mostly through the Thinking Cap from the aspiration rewards). Some hobbies will also have a boost in talent badges, meaning that they will start with a bronze badge (of thier chosing if multiple badges are available) even without studying.
Arts & Craft: Creativity/Pottery, Sewing, Flowers, Toys Talent Badge
Film: Charisma/ Sales Talent Badge
Fitness: Body/ Restocking Talent Badge
Games: Logic/Toys Talent Badge
Music & Dance: Creativity
Nature: Cleaning/Fishing, Gardening Talent Badge
Science: Logic/ Register Talent Badge
Sports: Body/ Restocking Talent Badge
Tinkering: Mechanical/Robots Talent Badge
Based on thier personality, wants as a child, interests, traits and OTH-if known-, I assign aspirations as follows.
fortune: mostly serious, not lazy or shy sims.
knowledge: mostly serious, shy and neat sims. OTH: Science, Nature, Tinkering
family: mostly nice sims, not lazy sims. OTH: Culinary
popularity: mostly outgoing and playful sims. OTH: Sports, Music & Dance
pleasure: mostly playful, lazy sims. OTH: Games, Sports
romance: mostly outgoing, playful and nice sims.
grilled cheese (secondary aspiration only): mostly lazy sims. OTH: Culinary
The traits are a list of 54 personality traits-most taken from TS3 list, others from personality profiles and myself. Things like grouchy and sweet were removed since the ingame personality/zodiac signs takes care of that. Also, I added things like witchy/vampire/etc to indicate if the sim would like to become a creature. I also added fertility, sexual preference and body type.
Trait #1 is reserved for 18 non personality (fixed) traits, ie: barren, bisexual, fat, genius, vampire, drinking problem, sickly, etc.
Traits #2 and #3 are reserved for (18 each) personality traits: frugal, big spender, insensitive, workaholic, worrywart, traveler, activist, etc.
Traits in Action
How does this all work? Let's follow a bit of Jane Smith's life (how original :P). She was born with the traits: fat, traveler, worrywart. Upon becoming a toddler, her clothes were bright yellow.
Favorite Color: Yellow
T2: Worry Wart
The in game system tells me her:
top three interests are animals, money and politics
OTH is film & literature (and skill is charisma)
personality is neat 6, outgoing 7, active, 6, playful 6, nice 7
turnons/off are: facial hair/fatness and stink
Based off this, her PA is popularity.
Favorite Color: Yellow
T2: Worry Wart
Jane goes through high school as the star of the debate team, editor of the yearbook, homecoming queen and voted most popular. She nurses a dream of becoming an animal rights lobbyist or an investigator journalist focused on the true nature of breeders and how simnation supports them (based on her interests and aspiration). She is always worried about something, if it's not grades, then it's her neverchanging weight that she's coming to terms with or how over protective her parents are, or how the ozone layer will disappear and kill us all or how the number of strays in the hood-well, you get the picture. When Jane enters university, she is assigned fortune as her SA (based on interests and personality).
Favorite Color: Yellow
T2: Worry Wart
Finally free of overprotective parents, Jane decorates her dorm room in her favorite color-yellow, dyes her hair yellow and black and finally wears that patent yellow mini-skirt and corset she found in an upscale boutique. Jane spends a year abroad her junior year and meets Hugh, a handsome blond with a goatee and size 46 pants. He reminds Jane of her father (except for the stinkyness-thank goodness). Hugh's her first true love and they promise to keep in touch. But like most long distance relationships, Jane and Hugh lose contact. Her senior year, Jane wins a grant to make a documentary about the native llamas of Fruitia (thanks to her lucky yellow hat). She learned so much that she is offered a job as animal linguist which offers a great salary and frequent trips around the globe, but worries if she will be giving up on her, if that's the right job for her, what if the animals refuse to talk to her and-you get the picture. A few years into the job and Jane decides a career change is for her, now will it be an animal rights lobbyist or an investigator journalist? She worries as picks up her mail and notices a bundle of letters from Hugh...
EDIT: How do you ensure that your sims are unique? Do you rely on MAXIS tools only or do you incorperate your own things?