I’m in the jumping off part of the second screenwriting workshop I’m taking this summer. Gaming and blogging time have been sparse. The first of two student critiques provided some interesting food for thought and some laughs along with valuable feedback.
First was a marriage proposal since I’m a woman who loves sci-fi enough to write about, has a blog and plays MMOs. *Smile* Of course the proposal was said (written) tongue in cheek but it was quite funny. The same person suggested that I stop playing games and shut down the blog until I finish the screenplay. He said the he found it impossible to write to his potential while gaming. He probably has a point there. It’s something I’ve certainly considered. However, I’m trying to use discipline over extremes. To that end, I’ve spent very little time playing games the past couple of weeks. And when I did, I felt like I needed a real alone experience and turned to playing The Sims 3.
The second was more encouragement about the premise of my story and the uniqueness of some of the plot elements. That's always a good shot in the arm to help you keep going when you're tired and want nothing more than to slack off. I didn't do much slacking off but when I felt like playing The Sims, I took small steps toward building my little community and establishing my character, while learning the new and wondrous changes in The Sims 3.
Fundamental Changes to My Personal Game-Play
The Sims 3 changes some of the fundamental mechanics and constructs of its predecessors. My opinion on those changes and their impact to how I personally play The Sims, is too large for a single posting. As the title explains, I’ll be doing this in three parts. Welcome to part one.
Open Communities and Visiting Friends
One of the biggest changes in The Sims 3 (TS3) is the open community. You are no longer restricted to just your own property – the property of the family you’re currently controlling. No, you can walk around the whole neighborhood or hop in a cab to go a further distance. The car rides themselves are no longer transition screens/animations; you see your character in the vehicle and follow it as it goes. It’s nicely done. Perhaps one day they’ll let us drive the vehicles. I’m a bit surprised we aren’t doing that now. But I can live without being able to drive because for the first time ever in The Sims, you can enter friends and neighbors homes.
It’s really great to be able to ring my neighbor’s doorbell and be invited into their home if we’ve established a relationship. For players like me, who hand pick every household and member on the block where my main family lives, it’s a very refreshing change to be able to interact with them by going to their homes, versus waiting for the game to randomly send them my way. Or calling them on the phone to invite them to your house only to hear the "wah-wah-wah", no I don't want to come over to your house right now music. Followed by an immediate reduction in your friendships points with that person. And I never again have to hop on to the other people and make them go over to my main characters house to build up their relationship, which was time consuming and annoying. Now I can visit them myself - well, as long as their home and you'll know that by icons above the houses.
Life Goes On
The Sims 2 introduced aging to game play. By default, all Sims aged and had a finite lifespan. However, their lives and ages remained static if/when you weren’t playing that family. This means that your neighbors (Sims you created) stayed static if you didn’t play them. Your active family changed and aged, while everyone else was immortal. In TS3 the lives of all Sims, even the ones you’ve made but aren’t playing, continue in your absences. As long as the game is running, your Sims are living their lives - with or without you. This can be disconcerting for players that enjoy micro-managing every aspect of the game. I'm not one of those players. My games were often about watching how the families survived on their own, sort of like watching a sitcom, is how I play The Sims.
In TS3 Sims careers, relationships, marital status and procreation, all proceed without you. I have read people complaining about all the babies popping up in single player households – single guys suddenly have babies the next time they play them but no mother is identified in the family tree. I agree that's odd but other than that, it's fair game to me. I haven’t experienced that yet but yeah, life keeps rolling on unaided in TS3.
It's all Window Dressing
With great power comes great reward… err sacrifices… I mean lost functionality. Most of the community (commercial) buildings and properties are nothing more than facades now – window dressing. You can’t go inside the buildings to shop, meander or socialize. You click on the building and choose options from a menu. How droll. On the upside however, you can decide how you want to perform at work on a given day. Do you want to work hard, slack off or business as usual? It’s up to you to decide.
Similarly, no more generic food shopping. Gone are the days of filling up your refrigerator based on a dollar amount. You can buy select items based on what you want to cook or know how to cook. You can also save shopping lists. Sahweet! I can also buy books and magazines to read for pleasure OR enhanced learning. It felt like shopping online with Peapod. Man, I miss dong my own shopping that way. Unfortunately, there’s no Peapod in GA.
All Sims are not Created Equal
The game mechanics have changed related to what controls your Sims. It’s a seemingly subtle change. In fact, so much so, that the simplistic genius almost escaped me. That was until I realized why my Sim wasn’t balled in a corner every few hours wanting socialization. I kept waiting for the simalicous sobbing to begin but it never came. Thank goodness someone saw the light and realized that not all Sims are created equal. Until now, you could only select temporary wants, needs and broad stroke desires. Beyond that, all Sims wanted the same amount of food, sleep, socialization, exercise, etc.
In Sims 1 and Sims 2, it didn't matter if you as the controller, actually preferred a more lone wolf experience for your Sim, wanted to eat less because you’re like that yourself or eat a lot but don’t have to exercise much because you have a fast metabolism. As far as the game was concerned, you will want THIS now butt-wipe and individualism be damned!
Those days are over. Up to 6 defining characteristics can be selected for each Sim, which in turn, defines behavior and desires. For example, I can say that my Sim is a “loner”, “bookworm, “computer whiz”, etc. As a result, my Sim is happy being alone for long periods of time and there aren’t any Doctor Coo-Coo visits from her being in a fetal position wanting more friends. She can read a lot or work on the computer and be perfectly happy. Hmm, that feels rather familiar. Yes, it’s true. I play my Sims much like I live my life so why bother? They get the pie-n-the-sky version - Minus assholes, soul-eating jobs and the drudgery of doing laundry. So it’s like my life BUT NOT!
to be continued...