Tuesday, June 9

My incomplete Sims3 review

So I did order that UK version of SIMS3 last week.
It was delivered on Saturday afternoon and I played it for most of the weekend until early Monday morning and some more briefly last night before collapsing on my bed.

Let's start with:

The Rant:
The first thing I learned after installation was that Electronic Arts' Sims3 joins the ranks of august products like iGoogle, Microsoft Games for Windows, MSN, Microsoft Live and others in believing that if you pick English for "Language" on your UK edition of the game and 'the Netherlands' for "Location" you apparently mean to say you want everything except the game's controls to be in Dutch, despite your ridiculous claim to a preference for the English language. Big corporations know best. Your IP address lives in the Netherlands so therefore you must want Dutch content . In the case of Sims3 , the website they want you to spend additional Simpoints (aka Euro's, British Pounds Sterling or Dollars) on.

This annoys me to no end for several reasons:
A) Why even ask what you language preference is if you're going to blatantly ignore it?
B) The site content is the same for the UK and the rest of Europe. Heck, the Exchange holds user generated content from Slavic countries I believe.
C) It's rather jarring to have Dutch content within English controls. Luckily the game is English internally.
D) Sims3 humor is ok, except in its translated baby talk Dutch form which the EA kids department is capable of achieving.

For a brief period I had to actually play Sims2 in Dutch because I'd messed up an install.Luckily I was paying better attention during my Sims3 Install so now my game is in English but I'm restricted to the Dutch language version of the European Sims Exchange. More about the site section of the Sims3 experience later. Let's talk about the game first.

First impressions:
Upon installing Sims3 it becomes immediately obvious that the EA team took a good long look at the kind of art (for lack of a better term and actually pretty accurate in many cases) the player community had been churning out for Sims2.
Literally hundreds of thousands upon thousands of lipsticks, blushes, eyeliners e.t.c. were made by the remake-famous-people-as-sims sub-community alone. In Sims3 there's advanced makeup controls allowing you to add triple shaded plaster if you so wish.
Slightly wavy hair has improved as well, though not as lavish as the make up stuff. That makes sense as make up is just a texture, with alpha layer whereas hair means a mesh with alpha layers and a texture on top of that. Also, Electronic Arts wants you to buy additional hairstyles through their Sims3 Shop for Sim Points. Effectively the Sims3 avatars are by default of the same graphical quality as the best the modding community could do, except that of course the sims are back to being dress-dolls. I wonder how long that'll last. Still, there's a lot of ingenuity you can express through the available basics. To wit, my first download through the Exchange was a very good likeness of David Tennant's The Doctor. And yes, he got Lani pregnant before going of who knows where.

Clothing got a great upgrade. Default meshes can be customized using gray-scale textures and color palette choices on top of that. Up to 4 different colors can be used in a pattern, like a floral one on a dress for instance. Maybe you can go beyond that but I haven't seen that and I suspect that'd be too much, not for your system necessarily but for most people's ability to make tasteful color choices :-)
Sims 3 Dressing up has become very close to City of Heroes/Villains. better in several respects even. Though fans of that game will be disappointed by the short supply of spandex in Sims3, though there's plenty of shiny leathers and rubber.

The "Style" system, the combination of patterns and colors applies to everything in the game, from clothes to furniture to walls and is really awesome.. Flora and fauna is excempted for the most part. They must leave something for the expansions.
One thing that slightly disappointed me about Sim Creation was that the initial available number of sets was to my perception not much better than those of Sims 2. Certainly not any more imaginitive. The extensive customizing options do a lot to compensate though and I did get stuck for several hours tweaking my first sims every day, formal, sleeping, swimming and athletic wear. Another change is the loss of the somewhat confusing udnerwear/pajama's distinction of Sims 2 and the additionof hairstyles per wear-style. So my Lani sim has her hair up in formal attire and pillow hear in sleeping wear.

The SIM ilarities:
Huh huh, I made a funny. Most of the basic game elements remain the same:
  • Dress up dolls in Sim Creation and the change appearance / Plan outfit features.
  • Resource management game in trying to get a family through the day while keeping everyone well fed, well rested and in a good mood.
  • Juggling 'needs'. I.e. keeping your sims entertained, their stomachs full, their bladders empty e.t.c.
  • Dollhouse building with all the myriad styles for objects and architectural shenanigans.
  • Story telling through all the relational options there are. Though since all the Sims 2 mods don't work anymore there's no teen pregnancies anymore. I haven't found the all-present jacuzzi's from Sims2 yet.
  • Screenshot and movie sharing online. Not something I did much of with Sims2, but it's in 3 as well.
  • Creating and / or sharing user created plots, clothes, sims, furniture e.t.c. with other players.
Relearning to fly:
Gameplay is similar yet different enough from Sims2 that you're continuously being jarred out of old patterns that don't quite work anymore. I mean that in a good way by the way.
As advertised you no longer play on a single plot, though that is where most of the 'action' takes place. Your Sims will go to work and you can follow them there, though not inside most of the buildings. Community plots are visitable though and that works through a, on my system anyway, smooth zoom-in/out effect, which is rather important if you have more than one Sim in your household who's having an active work and social life as you'll be swishing to and fro between them, not from just the living room to the bedroom or bathroom, but from the bathroom to the Bookstore and an acquinatance's plot one of your Sims is visiting.

Other things that have changed is the goals for Sims3. Rather than the old professional Aspirations you now have Life-long wishes which are partially determined by Traits. Traits are personal attributes you get to pick. These range from "Light Sleeper" to "Flirty" to "Bookworm" and you can pick a lightly sleeping flirty bookworm who's a Workaholic as well. These traits affect how well you respond to things occurring in the simulation.

The old system of wishes and fears has been ousted for wishes and moods. Effectively fears have become invisible and are expressed as negative mood modifiers. Wishes are still selectable and targettable. In addition to these you have several equally invisible mood benefits from such things as well decorated rooms and a good night's rest. Dark, unclean environments give negative bonusses to your Sim's moods. Traits in turn effect how strongly your Mood is affected by this as well as give you additional options during conversations.

For instance a flirty Sim has more flirt options earlier into a relationship. A real shocker that. A Family Oriented person has more conversation options revolving around family and is less liable to become grumpy about having to get out of bed to feed the baby. Stuff like that. At first all those "invisible" mood modifiers seem negligible, but soon you learn that there's actually logic behind them and that they do matter.
It matters because Mood means Happiness and Happiness turns into Lifetime Happiness Rewards, which aren't the old placables for some reason but instead you get to buy additional Traits of a more definately beneficial streak.

Skills have been expanded to include things like fishing and gardening and so have the ways of acquiring them. Books play an important role in skill acquisition, as do other factors like thaving the tools, enough friends (Charisma) and other "stuff". The Careers have got a similar upgrade making being at work more involved with work-styles and Job Opportunities.
I haven't really plumbed all those options yet so I'll just mention them.

Missing with Bella Goth:
Some things are missing from the game as opposed to Sims 2.
You can't import SimCity 4 maps it seems. Which by extention implies there's no wholesale town building like you could try in Sims 2.
Also missing are a lot of the things that came in the Sims2 Expansions.
Though you can go out on the town, I don't think it's quite as expansive as Nightlife. I can't say for sure as I only ever bought the University expansion. Pets aren't in (yet) either and you can't choose to live in an appartment or go to college for all that I know. The Young Adult age class that appeared between teenager and adult with Sims2 University is still there though, so who knows.
P.s. Tip: Get a car before becoming pregnant. Women in labour should not be forced to bicycle to the hospital.

Sims3 feels more single household oriented to me. It's funny that even though in Sims3 you are no longer constricted to a single plot, or a lot of frequent plot-loading, the game doesn't let you switch between households easily either.
Where you'd spend minutes reloading Sims 2 plots because you were playing two sides of a developping romance that crossed households, it doesn't quite work that easily in Sims3. You have to go through an "Edit Town" mode and from there change your Active Family. This is accompanied by triple warning pop-ups that you will loose outstanding wishes and the like. That's mostly yadayadayada and stop bugging me with additonal mouseclicks put in to satisfy the lawyers, but since non active families actually remain active (i.e. keep going on the same timeline) you could potentially switch to a different household for a while and come back to a dramatically changed situation later. Personally I think that's great, but the whole path through "Edit Town" with a collection of bins that have copies of your households in them along with all the warnings do break immersion a bit.

The Money Grab:
One thing that was astounding about Sims2 was the sheer amount of user generated content created. Everything, from Sims to fully built mansions on plots to families to sexy lingery to skins (with all the bits) could be imported and exported from the game and shared through the Exchange and, more interestingly, other websites. Some peple even made good money selling their haute couture creations through pay-pall enabled sites.
So naturally EA decided that they wanted that pie. Not just a piece of it. So in addition to overcharging the European playerbase by 60% they instituted Sims Shop, where you can supplement the 20 something goofy default hairstyles provided with the game for your gender and age-group with more hairstyles, costing around 75 - 150 Simpoints each.
To be fair, you Get 1000 Points free to start with, which is the equivalent to either 6 Pounds Sterling or 6 Euro's, I forget which. A complete matching furniture set goes for $20,- and I have yet to see what kind of echange rate is used for Simpoints to Dollars and if EA persists in ripping of European mainlanders as they did with the box price.
I'm curious if in addition to this mkicro payment scheme in the trend of XBLA (which, in other news, will be dropping their simMicrosoft Points scheme in favor of local currencies soon) EA will be doing their Christmas Content Packs (around 25 euros as I recall) and expansions as well.
Something I do like about the Exhange is the free "sponsored" content like the Fanta Fridge in the picture. I have some Orange (Telecom company) t-shirts for instance.

User Created Content:
It'll be interesting to see whether EA will actively discourage third party "Exchanges" as they considered doing. Sims 2 should have tought them that their players by and large aren't that into localized Exchanges. They'll put up with the whole enforced local language based upon location rather than user preferences thing, but the bigger Sims2 cotnent sites that were more popular than the Exchange itself were single language, English, yet served the whole world. or that part of it which sunk time into Sims2 anyway.

You can bet these sites will sport "nude skins" like they did for Sims2 within a matter of months. A mod to remove the censor blocks on Sims when in the shower or on the john was out before the game was officially released.Personally I'm happy with the current look of the sims, I did use the censor removing mod, mainly because the censoring is annoyingly large and just plain childish giving what it hides. Nothing. I don't miss drawn-on nipples or penisses. They'll make their way into my game eventually through some downloaded user creation or other eventually. When they appear EA will be sure to jump on the media/press bandwagon to appease worried parents while knowing that such mods will boost sales a bit as well along with providing free publicity.


  1. Nice review. EA is teh evil, but they do know how to make a solid game.

    I have mentioned a few times that I think too many games are about killing stuff. And wondering if it could be possible to make an MMO without that. So here is Sim3. And after reading your review I think I won't play it :)

    I think my problem with the Sims is that it is too close to real life. Creating and dressing up a new character is great. But making a home, finding love, and earning a living is too close to the real thing. I want my time behind the screen really be a fantasy life. I want to live out things I can't do myself, and be in a world away from reality.

    Maybe I will get it just to proof my own views, but I think I will get bored, and my sims too, shortly after creation.

  2. Aye, those are valid concerns.

    For me, a bachelor without the cash to buy a new mansion on a weekly basis in real life, the whole find love - found a 10 generation family - strike it rich - etc gameplay isn't that much closer to my real life than say flying around in spandex tossing fireballs at Carnies. So I get a dose of escapism from it anyway :-P

    Nothing like a really exotic world of course.
    Immersion in game mechanics is a form of escapism in itself. The sad truth about those exotic worlds is that over the last decade you by and large have to choose between being a genocidal maniac in exotic worlds according to rather unimaginitively similar combat systems, or have interesting gameplay like building houses, managing resources e.t.c in closer to real life environments.

    For me it's simply a nice change of pace. I'd love a Sims3-Telon or Sims3-Typhon or Sims3-Morrowind, but I like plain Sims3 as well. Maybe I just get inundated with Fantasy/Sci-Fi stuff sometimes.

  3. Check this blog, it's about how to play Sims 3 in a way that's really very remote from your own life.

  4. lol that blog made for great reading!

  5. Great review too lani but the sims isnt my cup of tea, always get bored pretty quick, dont have the patience to bring up a virtual family.