Thursday, June 18

Unhappy about Sims3 Shop

I'm unhappy with the Sims3 Shop.

For once not because of wierd ass Dollar / Euro exchanges. 1000 Simpoints go for 10 dollars or 6 Euro. That seems fair. I'd have to check if they get the Brittish Pound Sterling correct to though.
I'm unhappy for another reason. For that I have to explain about Sims 2.

Sims2 came out with a nifty little feature called "The BodyShop", this was essentially a Sim and Sim-clothing viewing cabinet with the means of exporting and importing items using a simpackage fileformat. These simpackages would consist of one or two textures, dubbed recolours, and a mesh which is used to depict bumpmapping and transparency. Not that different from the way Unreal or Quake skins are set up, if you are familiar with that.
What this allowed you to do was make your own clothing and hair for Sims2.

This was done, a lot.

What Sims2 created was what's probably the best argument in favor of User Created Content.

Several big sites popped up around the BodyShop feature, with litterally thousands of Victoria Secrets alike lingerie sets and probably a few dozen Calvin kleinesque trunks as well. It didn't stop there though. Hair ranging from better mohawks all the way to hair that Goldilocks would get jealous at. The modding community, already firmly established took up the challenge of regulating all of this additional content. One out of ten items you'd download would be missing a mesh, but soon crossreferencing between sites was a fact and tools were made to keep your download directory semi-clean.
The best of the best content ended up on "Premium Sites" which usually worked with a subscription or a pay-per-download bussiness model The original game was 6.5 Gb in size with some content added through the belatedly launched Sims Exchange. My Downloads folder peaked at 32 GB at which point I threw everything out and started from scratch as it'd gotten polluted with broken meshes e.t.c. It later stabilized at around 26 GB.

Besides clothing you could also share whole families and housing plots. People got very creative with that, to the point where a circular staircase, including the required animations was made for this game which firmly believed in straight-line stairs. A tie in with Sim City 4 allowed you to create whole additional city-scapes (well, ground and roads anyway) for use in Sims2. I suspect I actually spent more time going through this User Created content and picking out what I liked the most for my own games than I did actually playing the game.

It's only natural that with Sims3 EA/Maxis decided that:
A) they wanted the bigger slice of that pie
B) they didn't want all the tech-support issues they had to deal with from people with Sims2 client modded by little brother, big sister or themselves that wouldn't work anymore.

Sims 3 doesn't come with a Bodyshop anymore. Instead everything in the game is "skinnable" using "patterns". This has the benefit of making it easy for everyone to make horrid color combinations and uploading them through the new exchange.
The Sims 3 Exchange is set up a lot smarter than the old Simms2 one. The game comes with a launcher that puts the "highlights" in your face prior to starting up your game. You can download new stuff with a few clicks on the mouse, then you have to confirm that you saw it being added with another couple of clicks (Sims 3 is very fond of you clicking confirmations for some reason) and you can make recommendations, which are like votes for the items. You also can't modify city maps anymore. In fact, you can't even add plots beyond the predefined number and shapes anymore. A trade-off for the "Living City" I bet.

This is User Generated Content. Not User Created Content.
I know that Richard Barttle is all in favor of User Generated over User Created content but that applied to MMORPG's and I don't fully agree with him in that genre either.

They blithely reused the votes system used by most of the independent sites, except without the distinction applied by those sites. Nor should they. They really ought to have put something along the lines of some "which of these two do you like best" votes during launch. It's quick, it's easy, it's non friend-biased. And if they do it without a confirmation pop-up to click to confirm you saw that the game saw that you voted, it'd not be annoying. it'd allow them to "feature" the top 2% which is all you really want to see anyway.

Essentially the Exchange right now is loaded with crap. Most of it is low data content as all you're really storing in the new packages is the number of the Maxis made object-meshes, the 1-4 patterns per mesh and the 1-4 colors per pattern. For anything but a sim itself which has lots of postional data for physical attributes, except a boob-slider for some reason, that's under 1KB.
But you can't add your own actually created stuff. I tried a third party site for some custom patterns (e.g. Snoopy for t-shirts kinda) but that's far from working well right now. Adding custom made clothing is going to require not just modding, but hacking skills.
As I said, it's very easy to create crap using the pattern system. So if you're at all miffed about the User Created Content lock-out, that's exactly what you do as it's real easy and a lot less time consuming than say painstakingly apply an overall colourscheme to a small bathroom.

In other words, Sims3 Exchange has the usual 98% User Created Crud and the 2% who'd actually be making beautiful stuff are adding their own crud out of resentment. I already noticed that the few gems I found on the Sims3 Exchange were first available through one or more of the third-party sites I have bookmarked since Sims2 days. But I was going to complain about the Sims3 Store, not the Exchange.

The Exchange allows you to share your creations, screenshots video's and stories with your fellow sim gamers. The Sims 3 Shop allows you to buy additional item meshes (hair, clothes, furniture, e.t.c.) My problem isn't that they're offering a single matching furniture / wallpaper combination for a third of what the game itself costs (20 vs 63 euros). Nor is it that there seems to be no correlation between in-game worth 9which is arguably subjective) and Simpoint cost.
No, my problem is that every three or four downloads of the previously mentioned crud is going to result in an error message saying you're missing necessary premium content. Note that this could be a single wall-hanging in a very big plot as was the case with a very nice cabin I uploaded to the Exchange and no-one could get because they hadn't downloaded that (a freebie btw) particular item.

The "free as in included in the purchase price, not free as in beer" free 1000 Simpoints everyone gets at first ensure a nice spread of these premium items which is of course a sneaky way of enticing people to spend more money on Simpoints so they can download that hot item from the Exchange. However, the warning gives absolutely no clue as to what item you might be missing!
Again, a single lightbulb in a huge mansion might be the problem. You can't opt to use a lot without that particular piece of content either. That'd lead to tech support calls from people who don't understand the concept of consequences anymore. It's almost enough to start spamming that Exchange with crud yourself even though you're not personally gimped in your creative desires.

Most of the active modder sites have a strong "Boycot the Exchange" streak going, a leftover from the times when people'd download high grade packages and take credit for them through the Sims2 Exchange which was the only one without any source tracking at all. They're now boycotting for pretty much what I ranted about above and I think I'll join them.
As it is, the upload/download manager thinks I'm logged out even though the site doesn't think so and I'd need tech-support to get it solved. I think I'll go the way of the modders instead.

I can understand them wanting to have less "problematic" User Created Content.
I can understand them wanting to make a buck from micro-transactions
I can even understand them trying to keep the User Created Sims Porno to a minimum.

What I don't understand is how they manage to shoot themselves in the foot so thoroughly while completely missing the fact they can't really prevent the last point as long as the client remains in the hands of the enemy.

I am still having fun with the game though.
That "Fertility" Trait you can buy as a Lifetime happiness reward so you have a better chance at getting offspring?
You really don't need that as a Young Adult. My first family oriented Sim dropped 6 of them (5 girls, one boy, one set of twins). She probably would have dropped more, she got pregnant every time hubby so much as looked at her, but 8 is still the maximum number of sims on a plot. And there's a reason for that.
In order to regulate breakfast & shower traffic they ended up living in a trailer park with a central "sanitation" wagon with lots of showers and, er... No not that way.
By the time I managed to have teenagers turn into young adults leave the nest she'd aged to mature and was near retirement. I also discovered that if you spend the afternoon e-mailing Phè the AI will keep going and your lesbian couple will adopt a child without your intervention but leave the naming up to you (and a confirmation click).

1 comment:

  1. I'll try to break up that wall of text with some pics when I get home :-)