Sims Support Page
Back Next

What goes where

Brief explanation on file format: IFF files are container files for code, images, sounds and possibly other things; they are binary files, and usually each IFF is one or more "objects" (where an object can be a fridge, but also a house, a Sim or a handshake). SKN files are 3D meshes in ASCII format, their binary format ends in BMF. CMX files declare one or more meshes to the game; they are also ASCII files, and their binary form ends on BCF. WLL and FLR files are IFF files with a different extension, for walls and floors. BMP files are of course bitmap files, which is what's used for all skins. These are the major file types used in The Sims. FAR files are any of the above file types lumped together in one archive; a bit like a zipfile, but without the compression.

After installation in the directory chosen, which will generally be C:\Program Files\Maxis\The Sims, the following basic directory structure presents itself:

         \Photo Albums
         \Web Pages

Directories added by expansion packs:

\TemplateDownTown etc. (templates for added locations)
\UserData3 etc. (one for each neighbourhood)

There may be more, but these are the most important ones.

In the root directory are found "sims.exe", the beating heart of the installation, and very many nonsense files which probably have to do with copy protection.

In the GameData directory and its subdirectories are found the IFF files that contain object data. The files are usually packed into big FAR files. These subdirectories contain one FAR file each, except Skins, where any additional skins go, UserObjects which is for fan-made objects (although I would sooner put these into the Downloads directory), Floors and Walls, because all the standard floors and walls are in "floors.iff" and "walls.iff" in GameData. The FAR files contain:

Animations.far - not only animations but also all the basic CMX files and meshes, in binary format.
Textures.far - all the basic people skins and skins for objects, like the trash bag and virtual reality helmet.
Global.far - global program routines called from IFF files.
Objects.far - all the Buy and Build objects and other objects like social interactions. They refer to animations, globals and skins in the above FAR files.

The Downloads directory is for extra objects downloadable from the Maxis site. The game will usually install this directory with many subdirectories containing all the extras available on the Maxis site when that particular release came out. It is also a good place to put fan-made downloads.

All directories with "ExpansionPack" in the name have been put there when expansion packs were installed. The "sims.exe" in that expansion pack knows it should look in these directories for the added objects, skins, animations etc. Looking inside these FAR files reveals subdirectories with names like "Skins" and "WallsAndFloors". The extras in the Deluxe pack are in a similar file in Deluxe\Deluxe.far

ExpansionShared and SkinsBuy are from Hot Date and after. The second directory contains skins that can be bought Downtown. They have different names from the basic skins, that is, they start with different letters.

Sounds and Music should speak for themselves. Music has subdirectories for all the stations a radio can play; these are added to by some expansion packs. Each station subdirectory contains a number of MP3 files. Players can add their own MP3 files. (Sounds belonging to an object may be stored with that object in its own file.)

TemplateUserData, and indeed any subdirectory with "Template" in the name, stores templates: base files copied from when creating something, whether a Sim or a webpage. This directory contains "backup" empty neighbourhood files. To create a new neighbourhood, copy this directory to "UserData[nn]".

UserData and all subdirectories UserData[nn] are neighbourhoods. Only UserData should have the Import folder, from where FAM files (families) can be loaded into neighbourhoods. The Export folders are for the FAM files generated each time a family is saved. The other directories speak for themselves.

So, where does new stuff go?

New skins (and meshes, and CMX files) go in GameData\Skins. They can't be put in subdirectories. (They can be put in FAR files, but there are complications; see below). Buyable skins (starting with letters F, L, S or W) go in the SkinsBuy folder. (I have put buyable skin files in Gamedata\Skins, normal skin files in ExpansionShared\SkinsBuy and textures of either in Gamedata\Textures, and they always loaded fine. But it doesn't hurt to organize one's files.)

New objects are best put in Downloads, another option being GameData\UserObjects. They can be put in subdirectories and/or FAR files. Skins, sounds and animations associated with an object can be packed in a FAR file with it. I once downloaded an object that came with many textures which the maker said to put in GameData\Skins, but I made an object with a texture myself which was bundled into one FAR, and the skin still showed. Yet another downloaded object required animation files, which I dutifully put in GameData\Animations - and it didn't work! Additional animations, like SKN and CMX files, go in GameData\Skins if they're shared by more objects (I've read they can also be put in ExpansionShared for the same purpose) and otherwise in the same subdirectory as the object under Downloads.

New walls and floors go in GameData\Walls and GameData\Floors. They can't be put in FAR files or subdirectories.

New families (downloaded from the Sims Exchange or elsewhere) go in UserData\Import and are imported from there.

New houses: if in a FAM file, treat the same as families. If simply "house[nn].iff", pick a neighbourhood where you don't mind that particular lot being replaced, and copy the file there, overwriting the existing file. (There is always a house IFF for every lot, even if that lot is nothing but grass and trees.) Beware over version differences; especially UL houses are not compatible with lower versions.

Sometimes, a whole neighbourhood is put up for download. This is because importing FAM files strips a family of its ghosts and neighbourhood relationships, and files from the Photo Album folder are not included in a FAM. The download will probably be a zipped UserData folder, and can be unzipped to a new directory UserData[nn] and, making sure to maintain the subdirectory structure. Warning: this may not always work! Copying a LL neighbourhood to a Deluxe installation causes no problems; copying a Deluxe neighbourhood to a LL installation makes LL crash, because from HD onwards the user IFF contains a lot of extra information that the Sims/LL/HP won't know what to do with. (If FAM files from the Deluxe installation are imported into the LL installation, everything works.)

Lastly, music: it is possible to have the game play one's own MP3 files by copying them into one of the subdirectories under Sound\Stations, and choosing that station when in the game. The game will only access its own "Station" directories, so it's no use making a directory like "Rockabilly" and expecting MP3s to be loaded from there. Yes, of course I had to try ^_^

(Even more wonderfully, it is possible to just put shortcuts to MP3 files into one of the subdirectories under Sound\Stations, so one needn't waste disk space duplicating one's MP3 collection. Having discovered this, I tried to do the same with skin files, but that didn't work.)

FAR files

After installing the Sims for the first time, I was the umpteenth fan to discover that the game doesn't load from subdirectories, and doesn't load from FAR files in any directories; Downloads being the only exception I know. It seems that custom downloads are doomed to be a mess of a million little files, rather than a number of organized archives. Since then, my knowledge of what loads from where has expanded a bit. For loading, it makes little difference whether a file is FARed or not, although some directories (notably Floors and Walls) are only for a certain filetype, and anything else in there, including files of type FAR, are ignored. The information below comes from a few tests in a Sims environment with all expansion packs installed, but I assume loading logic hasn't changed since the original Sims.

The special thing about Downloads is that the game searches it and any subdirectory under it for IFF and FAR files and, if it finds a FAR, loads all files in that FAR: objects, skins, meshes, animations, sounds. The test of moving an expansion pack FAR to Downloads proved that just as it won't load skins, walls and floors from that directory generally, it won't do so if they're FARed; there has to be at least one IFF in the FAR, and any other files it contains have to be referred to in the IFF.

The old, disused Gamedata\UserObjects is also searched complete with subdirectories, but from here the game loads only IFFs, FARed or not. Anything FARed with an IFF, like the accessory mesh with the Vivanco roses, is ignored. In case of animations this might crash the game, so it's best to never put FAR files here unless you've checked what's in them first.

The Gamedata\Textures directory holds just that: textures. Normal skins, buyables, even accessory textures; put them, FARed or not, in this directory and they're loaded. Sim skins (and possibly accessory textures) will also be loaded, FARed or not, from Gamedata\Skins and ExpansionShared\SkinsBuy, whether they're buyable or not; the game doesn't seem to care where they come from.

The Gamedata\Skins directory exists for those skin files that can't be loaded from Gamedata\Textures: CMX and SKN files. When FARed, these files must be in BCF and BMF format. Since mesh, CMX and texture can all be loaded from here, it makes sense to distribute Sim skins as FAR files, only: I don't know a utility to make good BMF files, and Maxis certainly doesn't provide one. CMX files referring to BMF meshes make the game unstable, so I guess the company prefers that skinners don't FAR up mesh files. As with textures, these files can also be loaded - FARed or not - from ExpansionShared\SkinsBuy, and here too it doesn't matter whether they're normal or buyable.

Surprisingly, CMX and SKN files (or their binary equivalents in a FAR) will not be loaded from Gamedata\Animations. Neither will animation files; any animation files are best put in Gamedata\Skins or with their own object. There is a problem with animation files in a FAR anyway; apparently they have to be loaded via a file called "animation.ndx" in the same FAR, but I don't know that file's format.

For problems encountered when making FAR files, see The joys of FARing.

Back Top Next