Live mode is one of the three main modes in The Sims series, the others being buy mode and build mode. It is the default mode when the player loads an occupied lot. As the name suggests, it is the only mode in which the simulation runs and plays, where Sims live their lives and can be controlled, and where time can pass. The user has control over the time in most circumstances and can adjust the speed at which time passes.
Improvements to a lot generally cannot be made while in live mode. The player must enter buy mode to purchase new household items, and build mode to make architectural changes. The lot grid used for the placement of objects is not visible in live mode. However, starting with The Sims 2: Nightlife, the inventory system allows players to move objects around, or into and out of inventory, without leaving live mode.
Players can switch to the next Sim by pressing the Spacebar, or individually selected by right-clicking on them or by left-clicking on their portrait icon. The currently selected Sim will have a plumbob over their head. Left-clicking on the portrait icon again will focus the camera onto them; right-clicking on their portrait locks the camera on them, and will follow them around as they move. In addition, pressing down the "View My Sim" button from the control panel or clicking on the map tag of currently selected Sim will shift the focus to them.[TS3]
The live mode panel will display the following information about the currently selected Sim or lot. Different parts of the panel, as well as the entire user interface itself, can be expanded or collapsed.
The live mode user interface will change depending on what is currently active. For instance, if the selected Sim is on a scored date or outing, a separate panel will appear displaying the score of the event.[TS2:NL]
In The Sims 3, live mode is the only mode where map view can be accessed. Map tags will appear in map view, allowing the player to distinguish between lot assignments and rabbit holes. Sims in the current household are shown by their own map tag, or a plumbob if they are on a lot.
Selecting a Sim will cause the plumbob to appear over their heads, allowing the player to issue them commands. Clicking on a Sim or object will provide a pie menu where different interactions can be selected. If the Sim or object does not have any user-directed interactions currently available, the pie menu will not appear.
When a Sim interacts with or is being interacted with another object or Sim, the interaction will appear in an icon at the top-left corner of the screen, known as the queue. Multiple interactions can be queued up, up to a maximum of eight actions in The Sims, The Sims 2, and The Sims 3, and six actions in The Sims 4. Once the queue is full, no additional interactions can be queued until existing ones have been completed or cancelled. Players can cancel any interaction in the queue simply by clicking on its respective icon, and can also attempt to cancel the current interaction.
The player can choose to enable or disable free will for the Sims in the actively played household. When free will is enabled, Sims will still respond to player-directed commands, but are capable of making decisions on their own. Non-selectable Sims will always have free will enabled.
The Sims did not feature differing days of the week, so every day was treated as a weekday and all Sims are required to attend work or school every day. The Sims 2 first introduced the concept of a seven-day week to the series, with differing work and school schedules depending on the time of day. In college and vacation hoods, time works differently; instead of weekdays, the time left before the Sims must leave is displayed on a countdown.[TS2:U][TS2:BV][TS3:WA][TS3:UL]
New households are always greeted with a welcome wagon, if the neighborhood has any other Sims. In The Sims: Makin' Magic, newly moved in household receive the MagiCo Magical Starter Kit. In The Sims 2: Freetime, a recently move in household receive a special computer that includes a video game of The Sims 3. Sims are also met with challenges and other events, such as popups and time portal landing.[TS3:UL][TS3:ITF]
In The Sims and The Sims 2, time passes when Sims visit community lots or other places, but when those Sims return to the home lot, little if any time has passed on the home lot; in The Sims 3 and The Sims 4, time passes in Live mode while outside the household, such as when a Sim visits a community lot, a rabbit hole, another household, or is simply around the neighborhood.
Time does not pass while outside of Live mode, and can be paused while in Live mode. In Live mode, the game will automatically pause while a message, prompt, or dialog requesting user input is on-screen, so time will pause when viewing things such as the Rewards panel or a Sim's inventory.[TS2] In The Sims 2, Live mode will stay active after all Sims from the household have died, until the Grim Reaper or the deceased Sims' spirits have left the lot.