Tobold's Blog
Friday, June 12, 2009
A depressing Sims 3 review

I always end up buying the main game of the various iterations of The Sims, albeit not the expansions. Not only is The Sims one of the most successful franchises in computer gaming, and I feel I need to know what it is about, but also I recognize a certain kinship with MMORPGs. Of course The Sims 3 is neither massively multiplayer nor online, but you do control a little avatar in a virtual world, increase his skills, collect gear, and do quests. But maybe this kinship is also why I usually end up not playing The Sims for very long: As I already got bored playing a fearsome warrior battling the undead armies of the Lich King, playing an ordinary person leading an ordinary life gets boring within few hours.

Like in previous versions, in The Sims 3 your sims spends the majority of his day with an extremely boring sleep - eat - toilet - shower - work routine that can't be avoided. You can speed up time, but even at the highest speed watching your sims getting a good nights rest takes far too long. There are basically two extreme gameplay modes, passiv and active, with everything in between possible. If you are passiv, and you've set your sims to a high value of free will, he'll manage most of the chores himself. He cannot however call a repair technician for $50, or pay the bills, so if you don't do anything, sooner or later everything in your house will end up broken or taken away by the repo man. Your input is also required for buying new stuff. But if you handle the money side, your avatar will get along with his life quite all right. Makes you wonder if that is the future of MMORPGs: With quests already being so easy, will we soon get an option for our characters to automate the repetitive process of "get quest - kill 10 foozles - go back and receive reward"? In The Sims 3 you already can, although in passiv mode your sim isn't terribly efficient.

In active mode you'll do a lot of micromanagement to keep all your sims' needs meters as full as possible. Being more efficient that way gives you some spare time to do what I'd call quests, little tasks that pop up randomly and are related to your sims' skills and situation: turn an aquaintance into a friend, raise a skill, get a promotion, or in the more "complex" cases of opportunities, bake cookies for the school sale and deliver them there. That all earns you lifetime happiness points, with which you can buy rewards that make you even more efficient. Then you grow old and die, unless you turned the aging option off.

Unlike previous versions, The Sims 3 was programmed by a group of obese game developers, determined to force their lifestyle onto the world. That starts with character creation, where pressing the random button in most cases creates a sim which is anywhere between merely fat to downright obese. And once you finally found a slim random sim, or used the various sliders to create one, if you don't buy the fast metabolism lifetime award or work out regularly, your sim is growing enormously fat over time. Is that supposed to reflect the American way of life?

If you follow the path of maximum efficiency and self-improvement, your sims is going to earn enough money to not only pay the bills, but also to replace his basic household items with more luxurious stuff. As for my first game I created a single sims and didn't turn off aging, I didn't get all that far in that process. By the time I was able to afford a car, for example, I was already retired and didn't really need one. Unless there is a cheat code for The Sims 3 somewhere, I guess I'll have to go for a family working two jobs to be able to afford anything really nice. Unlike real life kids apparently don't cost all that much in The Sims, and you can accumulate wealth by having successive generations inherit your house and money. That is going to take bloody forever, which is probably how it is supposed to work.

If you are getting too bored with the ordinary life of your sims, you can have some fun by doing the stuff that isn't socially acceptable. Sleeping with your boss to get ahead in your job is totally possible in The Sims 3. Even if your boss is of the same sex as you are, everybody in The Sims 3 is bi. On the other hand there is no teenage sex, no drugs, and violence and crime are limited to a comic version. So drama is limited to the soap opera kind of romantic entanglements and jealousy.

The Sims 3 has more different things to do than the previous versions. Your house is now part of a town, which you can visit, and which has shops and restaurants and places of entertainment. Talking with other sims has a lot more options than before, and there is a system where you can find out more about the other character, and improve relations by acting accordingly.

All in all The Sims 3 is a perfect doll house, a great toy, but still lacking very much as a game. There are lifetime goals and achievements, but if you are playing The Sims with achievement in mind, the repetitive and mundane everyday chores are going to annoy you pretty fast. There is a reason why you WoW character in thousands of hours never went to the toilet or took a shower: Those activities just aren't all that much fun to play!
That explains why Tauren always look constipated...

I find the biggest changes between II and III to be:

--> Sims can be spread out now. I.e. one member of the family can go visit friends and the other stay home and both remain accessible in parallel, a major change from the previous version imho.

--> It looks better, obviously. Although that change is not THAT spectacular.

--> Fears are gone.

--> All the other households in the neighborhood age when you are playing Household X. It used to be possible/necessary to play all households for an equal amount of time to get a neighborhood where everyone aged at the same speed, now this is automatic.
Seeing how I used to actually play the whole neighborhood before, I'm not sure whether I like this change. It kind of forces me to concentrate on a single family. But hey, with Sims 2 I was 'forced' to play the whole town because otherwise everybody stayed the same age, except the family I played.

All in all, I'd say it's, well, it's the Sims. More of the same, basically.
There are three types of people who IMO really enjoy Sims and get it.

1) Certain girls/women. A game about family life where getting a baby can be an achievement I know some women who would love it if only they could figure out what the mouse does.

2) Gay men. For them its all about matching wallpaper to sofa to drapes, awesome fun!

3) Architects. YES an architect or building enthousiast can spend days building house after house and decorating outside and inside with all kinds of goodies.

Don't get me wrong I don't hate or think anyone is wrong here. Some women are fascinated by family life, I don't get it but good for them! Some gay men love "nesting" I don't feel the same way but more power to them.

I may be too punky, anarchy oriented for Sims. They all looked to me like what the world would be doing if we were caught up in a Martha Steward nightmare.

EA call me up when you implement guns and bombs in the game going to work/toilet/sleep are boring enough in real life. Alternatively the Playboy mansion was a fun game :D if only it was as massive and polished as the Sims...
I played the original sims. But it couldn't keep me busy for weeks. Once I've done the whole life cycle, doing it again just feels repetitive to me. It's fun... for a while.

But it's one of those very rare games my sister seems to enjoy. Designing and decorating a house does seem to have its charms for some people.
Suggestion on how sims 3 can suck less for you:
1. chain commands. e.g.: when sim wakes up: toilet, shower, eat leftovers (that way you dont have to cook all the time), gussy up, brush teeth.
2. go to job after the above and your mood will be imba therefore job performance goes up much faster
3. spend money on becoming a partner in businesses in town. This is crucial for having both time and money before your sim is dead. A 7000 investment rakes you 1-1.5k each week for no additional work. Eventually, if you reinvest evertying you will get rich before you retire
4. learn to paint or write books. These two can quickly make you enough money to invest in businesses.
5. focus on money initially and fill up social bar only by socialising at work (choose chat with colleagues or similar)

Most important stuff: do not spend your initial 5-6k of money on items. Invest. That way you get a steady stream of money without having to work at all and get money *and* free time to spend with your projects/achievements.
Planning on writing my own review, but I can't help but notice how similar The Sims is to the sandbox/themepark difference in the MMO space. For me The Sims 3 has a ton of content and 'game' in it, it's just not organized in a list of achievements like a themepark. Intetesting that in the MMO space the themepark is the mass market method, while in the single player area The Sims is about as mass market as games get, yet it's clearly a sandbox.
Open the cheat menu (it even tells you how on the little controls menu card that comes with the game) and enter "motherlode" to gain $ 50K.

I've done this with all the Sim families I've played since Sims 2, and IMO it makes the game more fun. The starting amount of money they give you is just not enough. I've found it's a lot more fun to start off with more money - but control yourself to only do it once lest you make all the money-making aspects of the game irrelevant.
I wrote almost the exact same thing on my blog at yesterday morning. My wife forced me to buy the game and then when she got on it she played all night (literally, she came to bed at 5am, something I've never done). So I put the game in and tried it out before work. I only got to play for about an hour or so, but I noticed a LOT of things wrong with the game. The whole thing with the time going sloooooow was bad enough for me to not want to play the game anymore.
I LOVE The Sims until I started playing MMOs. All my girlfriends and daughters still play. They all have TS3 and are madly creating characters and having families.

My problem with TS3 is it's back to the vanilla game. We always purchase all the xpacs. My play style is business woman, which I was facilitating through hacks years before they added the Open for Business xpac. Now I'm back to not being able to run a home business so that sucks.

And starting yourself off with 50K minimum is a must. I start with a nice house and cool things, that's part of the fun. Then I work on my business to support myself and find a relationship. I never do the family thing (kids) too much micro-management. However, I have friends that do family legacies and they are very cool just not my style of play.
WTH. That post identified by that stupid long string is Saylah. I really hate that OpenID thing with Typepad. Half the time it doesn't work at all. Grrr
what mmo's do u play r u referin 2 free or pay and play monthly?
Having played TS3 for about a week now, my biggest complaint is that it takes too long to do things. By 'things' I do not mean character advancement, which if anything is a bit fast (especially if you disable aging), but rather common tasks like the dishes. I often do the dishes in reality, and it rarely (if ever) takes me five minutes to pick up a dirty dish and walk to the kitchen to wash it. But EA seems to think that is an appropriate speed for sims to operate.
"2) Gay men. For them its all about matching wallpaper to sofa to drapes, awesome fun!"

Speak for yourself. I'm a gay man and I find the game very dull.

And, do you know that the game is programmed so that you have to force characters to become gay by manually initiating 6 romantic actions toward a member of the same sex - per character?

So much for being fun for gay players.
Yeah I just wish that game was actually fun for anyone with a half-decent taste for games.
Boring, repetitive, crap.

Basically this game is just doing everything you normally do in a day... Toilet, eat, go to work, etcetera.

At least now with WA you can do things like go to Egypt and France where as most people will probably not go. Even still it is lacking enthusiasm however, with my focus still being aimed directly at Just Cause 2, Titan Quest: IT and Mass Effect 1/2 to satisfy my gaming needs.

Electronic Arts should be paying more attention on getting the Crytek team up to the best of their abilities. Very much looking forward to Crysis 2 :D
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