The Sims 4 preview: Hands-on with character creation, eyes-on with build features and gameplay

The Sims games may not appeal to everyone, but there is no doubting their worldwide success. Now The Sims 4 is in development and Pocket-lint got the chance to be taken through some of the gameplay aspects, the all-new house building tools and even dabbled in a spot of Sims creation ourselves at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany.

Simplicity of use is a main part of the latest in the series, with developer Maxis opting to build the creation tools within the game from the ground up. The build mode, for example, is much easier to use - so much so that it could well encourage those who usually avoided making their own homes to give it a go.

Plenty of new architectural tweaks are available, including alternative wall heights for the first time, but the main element that simplifies the building process is that you can just drag and drop rooms, resize them by just grabbing corners with the mouse and even have the game furnish them automatically and dynamically for you. Every part of the build is done this way and within five minutes of the demo, we were treated to a fully furnished, decorated house, with doors, windows, patio and full roof. Even the foundations can be set after you finish the house - something not possible in previous iterations.

You can choose to redecorate or decide on the designs of whole rooms while building through a new feature which presents items in a glossy magazine-style photo. These are curated by designers and you can drag and drop them straight from the picture to your home. The original menu bar options are still there for traditionalists, but this made it a much more speedy process.

Character creation has been changed too, and this is where Pocket-lint got to try out a pre-alpha build itself. Instead of using sliders, as in former Sims titles, you can manipulate body, face and features shapes by just left clicking and dragging the mouse over them. There are also basic skeletons to choose from, which you can then craft around, and the possibilities and personalities you can assign to the new Sims are seemingly endless.

We were given reign over our Sim for 10 minutes or so and we ended up creating a decent looking character in seconds. The body shapes are far more realistic this time around too, and you can alter the way they act in certain circumstances by assigning new animations to happy, sad and angry settings.

But the main part of our Gamescom demo centred around the gameplay. While we couldn't play ourselves, we were treated to a live display of how emotions add a hugely important new mechanic to the game. This time around Sims will be able to feel emotions, and will display their moods openly. And that emotion will determine how they will interact with other Sims and objects. For example, a furious Sim would be brilliant at exercising as it would help blow off steam. A depressed Sim might not feel like talking much to anybody. And a Sim that's feeling flirty can basically become the local virtual sex pest.

Manipulating those emotions using other characters or items in the surroundings will be a huge part of achieving goals and succeeding in challenges and it's nice to see the game add something more than career paths.

Other new features now include Sims' ability to have multiple conversations in groups and different careers, including spaceman. Oh yes.

The Sims 4 will be available on PC and Mac in 2014.