Saturday, 8 May 2010

How to save Sims 3

I don't hate Sims 3, in fact I played it for over an hour this evening. However I place its features on par with Sims 2, and at this stage it has much less to offer than Sims 2 and all its expansions. My experimentations tonight focussed on trying to breed some hidden traits, and it got me thinking about the potential to improve the trait system. Sims get 5 traits- 2 at birth, 1 each upon transition to child, teen and young adult. There seems to be a sliding scale of how traits are assigned depending on the quality of pregnancy and upbringing:
0- Automatically 2 negative traits such as insane, evil, unlucky or dislikes children.
1- Automatically 1 negative and 1 not very useful trait such as light sleeper or couch potato.
2- Automatically 2 useless traits
3- Automatically one useless one and one positive one
4-Automatically two positive traits.
5- Automatic positive and the option of choosing one.
6- Free choice of both.

This is just based on my experience and perception, it might be more random than this.

I have found I actually prefer purposefully doing a crap job so that traits are assigned as I tend to stick to boring good traits or choose the same fun bad traits like insane or inappropriate. I don't tend to go for boring traits like green thumb, neat, vegetarian or bookworm. Automatic traits forces me to play the game differently.
The thing with the automatic traits for an imperfect upbringing is that the traits do not reflect the particular failings of their childhood. Sims 3 would improve by leaps and bounds in my mind if traits addressed life experiences. Make a child whose parents divorce afraid of commitment or a hopeless romantic. Make a child overlooked because of being one of triplets dislike children. A child who does badly in elementary school might become a loner or a bookworm.

This could be built upon by having traits be assigned at any stage of life. A string of dates might result in gaining 'unflirty'. Working too hard for too many days in a row might make a sim stressed and gain 'hot-headed'. This kind of consequential gameplay was promised back when Sims 2 was in development, when I distinctly remember them using the example that a bad stovefire during childhood would result in a sim being forever fearful of cooking and being in the kitchen (no such gameplay is possible in sims 2, only an immediate aspiration meter penalty for a fire that will wear off as soon as positive life events occur).

I'm hoping this kind of use of the trait system is what was planned all along but as usual EA rushed the release and planned to improve it later in expansion packs.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Four reasons why I still prefer sims 2

1. Sims 3 all look the same.

Left: Sims 2 Right: Sims 3
The sim on the right arguably looks more realistic, but that loses its effect when every damn one looks exactly the same. All my sims seem to have the same facial features and the only variation is the skin, hair and eye colour. Compare this to my Sims 2 sims that had distinct and identifiable features. I could spot all 47 of Joaquin Phoenix's children by the distinctive droopy eyes (really my JP looked more like Jake Gyllenhaal but oh well). When all your sims look the same they become interchangable and you aren't fond of them as individuals.

Sims 3 promised more options for body shape and I recently tried to make use of this feature by creating a Precious Jones sim but I found that her large body disappeared 90% of the time for no obvious reason. What's the point?

2. More realistic genetics = less fun for mad scientists
The genetics of Sims 2 were half the fun for me. The principles of Mendelian inheritence were applied and allowed you to predict the possible phenotypes of your sim babies. I would consciously pair certain sims to ensure the occurence of certain traits in the offspring and eliminate others. If you created a sim in Sims 2, that sim would be homozygous. For example, create a black-haired sim and it is not possible for him to have a blonde child no matter who he marries. Sims 3 seems to start sims off as being heterozygous: hair colour (just about the only easily-observable genetic trait in sims 3) seemed semi-random. A brunette/blond couple might have brunette and blond children, but there could also be kids with red hair, reddish brown hair, even grey hair (yes, toddlers with grey hair).

3. Less hackable
I was never talented enough to create hacks for Sims 2, but I was an avid consumer. Here is but a small sample of hacks I used to make Sims 2 more enjoyable:
  • No limit on family size
  • Child support
  • No inheritence
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Teen marriage
  • Polygamy
  • No Jealousy
  • Autonomous Casual Romance
  • Home schooling
  • Boarding school
  • No $20K handouts when kids move out
  • Risky woohoo (gave woohoo a small chance of pregnancy)
  • Triplets and quads
  • Adoption shrub (to give kids up for adoption willingly)
  • Mortgages
These are just off the top of my head. I used many many more. Some of these hacks tailored the game to my playing style (what's the point in having Duggar sims if you can only have 6 kids in a family? Whats the point in having Quiverfull sims if I have to tell them when to get pregnant and there is no sense of fate of chance?) and some hacks made the game more challenging to reduce boredom (lets face it, after an hour playing any version of the sims you work out how not to let them starve to death and the game becomes simple).

Many of these hacks were developed within months of the base game coming out and were updated for each expansion pack. Sims 3 has been out for almost a year and there seems to be were few gameplay hacks available. So far I have found a teen pregnancy one but nothing as awesome as the ACR hack.

4. No leap forward.
Sims 2 was a huge improvement over sims 1. Sims 1 had no genetics and children never became adults and adults never died. For me this meant I played a couple until they were rich (as there was no biological clock ticking) then I made them have 6 kids. Then the family was pretty boring unless I burnt the kids in order to have more.

Sims 2 had awesome genetics and sims aged through life stages. There was a clear deadline that forced you to make choices. I could throw my sims into poverty and spend generations working their way up to middle class. I could have a workaholic sim slaving away until death is imminent, then desperately searching for a nubile young thing to sire an heir.

The big improvement of sims 3 was the neighbourhood. You no longer live mostly on your lot, having to load up another lot to follow one or more of your sims there as the other stayed frozen in time at home. Now in Sims 3 you can check in on Jimmy visiting the neighbours, Jane at the park after curfew, and John fishing at the lack without a lag.

The other claimed improvement of Sims 3 did not amount to much. The moodlet feature pretty much amounts to the same effect the aspiration meter from Sims 2, except the effects are temporary (to varying degrees) therefore it is actually easier to pull your sims out of their depression. In Sims 2 you had to achieve something on a grand scale like having baby or seducing the maid to improve your mood. In sims 3 you can just go outside or take a shower and that usually solves half the problem.

The traits feature had the most potential but somehow it left me wanting. The positive traits made gameplay too easy. The negative traits were the most amusing but were also pretty incompatible with the way I like to play. Many of the traits did not have a huge effect on the sims outside of moodlets, and moodlets are easily negated by fulfilling wishes.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Embrace the Cheese

My Sunday confession: I purchased the season one DVDs for 7th Heaven this week. Yes, I handed over 27 of my hard-earned dollars for twenty two episodes of pure American cheese.

7th Heaven was like a train wreck. It was awful, just awful, and yet I would catch myself watching anyway. The terrible acting, the anvilicious plots, the heavy-handed "morals" such as spying on your children is good parenting, half a beer is equivalent to heroin addiction, and the 'b-word' is an affront to God himself.

The show was never as popular here as it was in the US. Too American, too Christian, too earnest. It was only shown on TV here for the same reason that most bad shows are shown here: it was purchased as a package deal along with more desirable shows, and then stuck on during the non-ratings period. First it was the early afternoon replacement to PG-rated Oprah during school holidays when TV had to be G rated/kid safe all day, then it was stuck on at 6:30 Saturday during the non-football months. We never made it through a full season before football returned, and we were perpetually behind America. Eventually disappeared altogether before resurfacing years later on cable TV. Whenever I spot it on Foxtel it is always the late-season schlock with those horrible Schultz brothers, the less talented Duff sister, and all varieties of non-talent young actors and actresses with old fashioned names like Margaret and Joan spouting lines that no real person would say.

For all its plain awfulness, I found myself heading over to the DVD shop to see if they had any copies, and went home with season one in hand.

I watched all the episodes in a week. Best fun I had in a long time.

There are many reasons for me to love it, including the so-bad-its-good thing. But season one was much less horrible than the coming seasons when the focus shifted off the family and onto even more annoying peripheral characters. Ruthie was kind of cute and not so horribly precocious. The family members seemed to like and care for each other. The children were slightly rebellious and not so preachy, there was foreshadowing, and continuity, and friends that were featured for more than one episode. It was corny, but it knew it was corny.

More importantly, there was something in the show that reminded me of something I can hardly even describe. I grew in a fairly typical family: parents, 2 kids. My parents immigrated with nothing and worked very hard throughout my entire childhood, only really finding stability as I reached my early teens. My sister and I hated each other violently until we reached ages where we could effectively avoid seeing each other. Most of my childhood memories are just of me, alone, taking care of myself. Getting myself ready for school, walking to school alone, coming home alone, taking care of myself. Even when my parents came home they were busy: my mother studied for her Masters in the evening, my father usually worked a second job. There were no family board games or even shared time on the couch together watching TV.

I guess that is why I associate a working life- even my own which I enjoy- with a sense of drudgery. Day in, day out, no time for life while you work. There was no family life while there was a work life. That is, come Christmastime. In the second or third week of December my parents would start taking annual leave, and school would be coming to a close. Finally, my house came alive. There was someone there in the morning, and sometimes we even had a special cooked breakfast before school. There was someone to come home to, and usually family activities waiting. Walks to the park, late night shopping trips, planning recipes for Christmas Day itself. We no longer had anywhere to go, or anyone to be with. We were just us, together.

Season one of 7th Heaven is like a big, cheesey hug.

Saturday, 1 August 2009


I just drank a glass of milk that was one day past its expiry date.

I live on the edge.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Josh and Anna play hide the purple parsnip

Geraldine: So how's married life little Miss Coke Donkey? Everything alright in the bedroom?
Alice: Niiice.
Alice: We had a bit of trouble early on. Couldn't quite work out what went in where.
Geraldine: Well that's always tricky.
Alice: But you know once we got a wardrobe we were fine.

Heeee. You know that is totally how Josh and Anna Duggar's first few months of marriage were like. Well, that minus the humour and with a big dollop of shame thrown in.

But if the Vicar of Dibley taught us anything, it's that sexually oblivious people manage to be prolific breeders. Just as Hugo and Alice managed to conceive baby Geraldine on their honeymoon and then managed to have an additional nine children over the next six years, it seems like Josh and Anna have already begun their brood.

I had hoped that Anna might struggle to conceive for year or two, or even, *gasp*, use contraception for a couple of years. But it seems they have drank the Kool Aid and are eager to get their own spin off.

There hasn't yet been an official announcement that she is pregnant, but the evidence is stacking. A couple of posters on Television Without Pity spotted a commercial for an upcoming episode in which Anna mentioned taking pregnancy tests. Why would they show Anna taking tests that come up negative? That doesn't play into their storyline of "God loves us and showers us with gifts!"

The Duggars will be on the Today show on Monday to make an announcement. Put your money on a J'Grandbaby.

Monday, 6 April 2009

The Rastafarians were right!

Aside from the juvenile humour of giggling at how a banana is perfectly shaped and sized to fit the human mouth, and how the contents don't squirt in your face, I also have to wonder whether it would completely blow the collective mind of intelligent designers to turn the banana around to face the other way. It is no longer conveniently curved towards the mouth, shock horror.

Then there is that whole "God created the perfect food" argument. Um, no. The banana- the sweet ready to eat fruit as we know it- was cultivated from a mutated plantain tree by a Jamaican dude called Jean Francois Poujot in 1836. Either God created an imperfect fruit that was improved by evolution and selective breeding, or God is Jamaican.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Fundie Watch

Since the death of (modestapparelChristianclothing) Lydia of Purple (dressescustomsewing), I have been occasionally googling around to find another loltastic fundie website.

I generally stick together a few fundie hot topics like "modesty head covering submissive wife homesteading homeschooling DH DS DD purity ball" and see what turns up.

So far I have only really come across old favourites like the Prairie Muffin Manifesto, full of such feminist gems like "Prairie Muffins do not reflect badly on their husbands by neglecting their appearance", "Prairie Muffins prefer others above themselves", "Prairie Muffins place their husbands' needs and desires above other obligations", and "Prairie Muffins are fiercely submissive to God and to their husbands".

Better yet is the biblical argument for why women should not go to college. (Surprisingly it isn't because "it makes them uppity"). The argument is that the woman's sphere is the home, and that "those who pursue higher education are ill-equipped to fight battles in the real world" because they spend too long in "the artificial environment of the classroom".

I guess that ties into the whole homeschooling thing. Women should not be in the "artificial environment" of the classroom because they should be at home being fiercely submissive to their husbands and homeschooling their own dozen children. It seems that all fundies homeschool as a rule, although not all homeschoolers are fundie.

I have no moral objection to homeschooling, even though I am a teacher in an "artificial environment". I do have some problems with homeschooling in theory, but not in practice. It is kind of like high heel shoes. Why is it that women as a gender wear high heels, even though they are often painful, sometimes dangerous, and make it very difficult for women to run? Because they were designed by men to make our legs look nice and to keep us vulnerable. But is that what women are thinking when they wear them? Of course not. We wear them because they do make our legs look nice, and they make us feel feminine and attractive and can really set off an outfit.

Homeschoolers as individuals have a million good reasons to homeschool: their local schools are crap, their child has a learning disability that really benefits from one-on-one attention, they are geographically isolated, or they don't want their kids taught about sexual education and evolution. The individual reasons to homeschool are solid, but I think the homeschooling movement as a whole comes from something much more sinister. In years past, keeping house really was a fulltime job. Cooking everything from scratch, doing everything by hand. But with advances of technology and products and with the ubiquity of preprepared food it no longer is a fulltime job. I cook for 4 people 6 nights a week and am responsible for the cleaning of this 6 bedroom, 2 bathroom house and it really doesn't take that much work. Maybe ten hours a week at most. Not enough to keep a woman home fulltime. She could work part-time at least, or even juggle fulltime if hubby splits the domestic duties with her.

There needed to be a reason to keep women at home, and homeschooling a dozen children filled that gap quite nicely. And that is why every fundie homeschools. Well, that and not wanting their kids to ever hear the words 'dental dam' outside of the dentist's office.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Oy, oy, oy

3 things I like about Australia:
  1. Universal health care
  2. Secularism
  3. Tim tams
3 things I dislike about Australia:
  1. The heat (Tuesday night was the third hottest overnight low, only dipping to 28 degrees Celcius/82 degrees Farenheit)
  2. The inferiority complex. A celebrity making a positive comment about Australia is often headline news. Every interview with a visiting foreigner always has to ask what they think of Australia and Australians in general. It's not like they will say anything negative in an interview, so asking is just fishing for praise.
  3. Flagrant disregard for the correct pronunciation of names. Nothing will make me yell louder at my TV than a newsreader talking about "Barrick Obama" or "Opera Winfrey". You just introduced footage in which the name was spoken correctly several times and yet you still say it wrong! A proper noun is not something open to interpretation or an opportunity to add an Australian take on it!

Friday, 19 December 2008

The Duggars Hate Their Daughters

Consider the evidence:
  • Until very recently, the girls always looked like prairie muffins in their homemade potato sack dresses while the boys were allowed more mainstream clothes like polo shirts and khaki pants.
  • Each girl has the work of two or three small "buddies" while oldest son Josh had one buddy, adolescent Joseph, and John-David has one buddy: adolescent Josiah.
  • The girl jurisdictions include cooking for twenty people, doing laundry for twenty people, and cleaning toilets used by twenty people. Boy jurisdictions include changing the car's oil and mowing the lawn, because someone changing oil every 3 to 6 months and mowing the lawn every fortnight is equivalent to cooking and cleaning for 20 people every single day of your life.
  • Their sons get fairly normal names like Josh, John, Jason, Justin, Joseph, etc. The girls get horrible names like Jessa, Jinger,Jana and Joy-Anna and Johannah (they're practically the same name, people!), and newest victim: Jordyn-Grace Makiya. Yes, the Duggar's have welcomed baby number 18. At least they are trying out a new style for the girls' names. They have already done stupid and redundant, now they are going for stripperesque. Good luck with that, little Duggarette.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Yankie, Yankie, Yankie, Oy! Oy! OY!

Citizens of Australia react to an Obama victory: (click to enlarge)

And the daily Leunig cartoon that so often captures the feelings of despair and hopelessness, expresses uncomplicated joy: