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The Sims 4 Neighborhood Stories: how the prototype story progression feature works in The Sims 4

What the Neighborhood Stories update adds, how the new features work, and glitches to watch out for

How do Neighborhood Stories work in The Sims 4? Patch 121 for The Sims 4 base game has introduced a new core mechanic, called Neighborhood Stories. Hailed by some players as the long-awaited story progression feature that will allow NPCs a degree of autonomy, this feature is in fact something of a prototype. With the patch installed, certain non-player characters will experience major life events not directly connected to the active household, but comprehensive story progression in the style that we enjoyed back in the days of The Sims 3 is still a work-in-progress.

Read on to learn exactly how Neighborhood Stories work in The Sims 4 and — crucially — how it will affect your existing and new saves.

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How do Neighborhood Stories work in The Sims 4?

Unlike Story Progression in The Sims 3 — which was an all-or-nothing affair with a simple On/Off toggle in the options menu — The Sims 4's Neighborhood Stories are starting off on a smaller scale. Simply put, only unplayed Sims who interact with members of your active household will be affected by Neighborhood Stories.

There are two major ways that Neighborhood Stories allow you to influence the lives of Sims outside of your current household.

Method 1: Phone Calls

The first way you can access Neighborhood Stories is via randomly-generated phone calls from Sims your active character has a relationship with. (It's not clear how strong that relationship needs to be — some people report only receiving these calls from their Sims' friends, while others say they're bombarded by them from every passing acquaintance — but if we figure it out we'll let you know more details!) The caller will ask your Sim's advice on one of the following life choices:

  • Whether to try for a baby with their partner
  • Whether to accept a marriage proposal
  • Whether to go for a promotion in their current career

A pop-up dialogue box will give you three options to respond with. The exact wording will vary, but the gist is always that you can either tell them a firm yes, an equally hard no, or encourage them to decide for themselves. The first two options allow you as the player to take direct control of the decision, while the third puts it in the hands of the RNG.

Two Sims sitting together in a bar, discussing having babies (represented by a bassinet icon).

Method 2: Direct Dialogue

The second way you can exert control over other characters is directly via dialogue options. When in conversation with a Sim outside of your household with whom you have crossed the requisite relationship threshold, you'll be presented with the following social options in the interaction menus:

  • Under Friendly, you can encourage the Sim to quit their current career and go for their dream job. This requires that you know their current career before it unlocks. The dream job in question appears to be randomly selected.
  • Under Friendly, you can also encourage the Sim to expand their family by having a child.
  • Under Friendly or Mean, you can use interactions found in the Other Sims sub-menu to encourage the Sim to build a relationship with a third character… or lower their relationship by trash talking them.
  • Under Friendly or Mean, you can also (in appropriate contexts) use interactions found in the Other Sims sub-menu to break up a romantic couple, or encourage two Sims with a growing friendship to start dating each other.

The major difference here is that while phone calls arrive randomly, these dialogue interactions are player-directed. And unlike the phone calls, in these conversations the Sim in question won't always heed your advice, and may politely turn down your suggestion. It's unclear at this point whether their relationship value or the emotional context of the conversation impacts this, or whether it's purely random.

It's also worth noting that these options will never be available to perform on another member of your active household, even if you meet the relationship requirements to use them on NPCs.

What can go wrong: known Neighborhood Stories glitches

The Neighborhood Stories update generally hangs together pretty well, but there are a few known issues for you to be aware of. None of them are remotely close to game-breaking and it remains to be seen whether they'll be patched out later, but just bear these in mind before you go meddling in the lives of your simulated neighbours.

Most of the weirdness seems to relate to the options that allow you to encourage Sims in other households to start families:

  • If you visit a neighbour who has become pregnant via Neighborhood Stories, the pregnancy might glitch out so that the Sim is no longer pregnant and the baby never arrives. This seems to mainly happen if you visit their home lot, but it might be linked to any in-person interactions during the pregnancy phase.
  • Couples who cannot become pregnant in ordinary gameplay (i.e. because of age or gender restrictions) may still call asking for advice on trying for a pregnancy. If the player responds positively, they will have what I can only describe as a miracle baby. This definitely applies to female Sims in the Elder life stage with male partners, but may override some gender customisation options as well.
  • If a neighbour is in a romantic relationship with a member of your active household and calls asking for advice on having a baby, responding in the positive will result in an automatic pregnancy for whichever partner can become pregnant, despite no WooHoo having occurred. This can be particularly jarring if it's your active Sim.

What are the new Neighborhood Stories Aspirations?

To help you get accustomed to Neighborhood Stories and give you some fun ways to play with them, the update also adds two new Aspirations: Neighborhood Confidante (Popularity Aspiration) and Villainous Valentine (Deviance Aspiration). You can set these Aspirations in CAS or using the Simology panel.

You don't have to use either of these aspirations to get Neighborhood Stories going. They happen regardless, and these new aspects of Simology are just an additional way to incorporate them into your gameplay if you choose to.

Neighborhood Confidante

Amusingly, Neighborhood Confidante kind of casts your Sim in the role of a typical Sims player. The aim is to be a nosy but benevolent micro-manager who, instead of working towards their own future, interferes in the lives of their neighbours, but ultimately has their best interests at heart. Of course, you largely have the freedom to decide what those "best interests" are, so we trust you'll use your powers wisely.

There's only one milestone to the Neighborhood Confidante aspiration, and meeting all its goals will earn you the Confidante reward trait, which allows the character to get to know other Sims more easily and avoid negative emotional buffs like Boring when in conversation.

To complete this aspiration, you need to:

  • Achieve Level 7 of the Charisma skill.
  • Have 5 Good Friends.
  • Successfully give life advice to Sims outside the playable household 20 times.
Three Sims at an outdoor café trash talking one another, as represented by thumbs-down icons.

Villainous Valentine

Villainous Valentine is something of an inversion of the Serial Romantic Aspiration that's been available in the game since launch. The key difference is that a Sim with this aspiration thinks that the break-up is the best part of any relationship, and wants to prove it by starting several serious romances just to run them into the ground. Not only that, but they aim to tank the love lives of everyone around them as well.

There's just one milestone to the Villainous Valentine aspiration, and meeting all its goals will net you the Twisted Heart reward trait. This trait allows your Sim to wallow in the misery of others much more effectively thanks to increased Social need gain when performing Mean or Mischief interactions, and decreased durations for Sad and Embarrassed emotional buffs.

To complete this aspiration, you need to:

  • Get caught cheating 10 times.
  • Have 5 Exes.
  • Break up 10 couples outside of the playable household by using the Mean > Other Sims > Break Up interaction.

How can I enable or disable Neighborhood Stories?

Right now, Neighborhood Stories are just a part of the game, with no option to toggle them on or off in your gameplay. Every save file in your game, whether new or existing, now has Neighborhood Stories included in its core mechanics.

There are pros and cons to this arrangement. On the plus side, Neighborhood Stories aren't a fully autonomous Story Progression like we saw in The Sims 3, a game which famously liked to pull exciting stunts such as moving your seventh-generation family out of town (and deleting them from your game forever) because you switched to another household for five minutes. You're much more free to curate your Neighborhood Stories experience, since you're always given the option to make the decision yourself.

However, a downside for many players will be the fact that this isn't really NPC autonomy: your Sims' neighbors will now be coming to them for advice on topics such as marriage, parenthood, and career prospects in perpetuity. If your Sim is popular, this can mean dealing with a lot of pop-ups as friends and neighbours figuratively line up around the block to pick your brain on what they should be doing next. Furthermore, the world isn't truly alive just yet, since households your active Sims don't know will carry on just as before, with no major life events happening within them.

The Sims team have said that there is a plan to add Neighborhood Stories settings to gameplay options at some point down the line. Proposed features include the ability to pick and choose what type of choices your non-played Sims can make autonomously, and to toggle Neighborhood Stories per save file (allowing every unplayed Sim in the save to act autonomously) or even per household (allowing you, for example, to give autonomy only to those households you never actively play). For now, however, we couldn't find anything in the Gameplay settings menu that allows you to tweak the feature at all.

For more on the latest free base game updates in The Sims 4, check out our guide to playing with the recently added Sims 4 Scenarios. We've also rounded up what we think are the best DLCs for The Sims 4 in a comprehensive buyer's guide to help you expand your game without emptying your wallet. Finally, we've got a whole page dedicated to The Sims 4 cheats and codes that you simply mustn't miss out on if you really want to tweak the game to your liking.

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Rebecca Jones avatar

Rebecca Jones

Guides Writer

Rebecca can usually be found working through her latest fiction-induced anguish by recreating all those lovely doomed characters in The Sims. More recently she discovered a fondness for Genshin Impact, which she pitches to bewildered friends as "Pokémon but with hot people instead of made-up animals". She also loves horror games and will play them at any opportunity, despite the fact that they make her so panicked she once threw her controller in a self-defence reflex. (The controller survived; Rebecca's dignity did not.)

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