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.