The Townie Project – Part 1: First Thoughts

First Thoughts

It began early one morning. I woke up with my simmies on my mind. Something was missing. Okay, I know. A lot of things are missing from Sims 4, but that’s not what this is all about. Something was missing from my storylines, and I needed to do something about it.

I first played The Sims soon after the release of the original game. For over 15 years, I’ve been creating pixelated people, setting them into a fictional world, and letting them live their lives and tell their stories. They have often inspired me, surprised me, and distressed me. From them I’ve learned a lot about myself and the real world.

For me, simming is a creative tool. It’s a resource I use to keep my imagination active and operating at its highest level. It serves as an exercise in practical creativity, the ability to develop ideas and solutions for specific problems.

Unfortunately, with Sims 4, many of the storylines that evolve are somewhat generic. With only 40 traits to choose from, a mere 10 broad categories of aspirations, limited career choices, and whims that reflect a sim’s moods, our little people’s lives quickly become routine. The game, people complain, gets boring and dull.

Like many other players, I wanted something more.

Comedy-Tragedy-Masks

Drama comes through conflict, and the parameters of The Sims 4 allow very little drama. Sure, we have the story of the romantic young woman searching for a soulmate but finding a non-committal fellow who wants nothing to do with marriage.

We can play out the story of the family-oriented man who wants a house filled with children only to fall in love with a woman who hates the little darlings. We can play an “Odd Couple” scenario, and pit a neat sim with a slob. We can pair up good with evil, a foodie with a glutton, or throw a loner into a crowd.

And then what? After we’ve used up the standard stock-in-trade situations, where will we go with our sims? Consider, too, that many of the traits are almost meaningless in terms of how our sims behave, and it’s easy to see that the ability to build dramatic, interesting, and suspenseful storylines is not inherent in the structure of the game.

To get more out of my game, I realized, I would have to put more into the game.

Thoughts whirled around inside my head. The gears turned a bit. My little world of “New Simeria” didn’t reflect real life. As a realist player, it’s important for me that my sims face real world challenges. That means more than simply growing up, finding a job, finding a spouse, having a family, growing old, and dying.

Everyone does those things, or at least, most of them. We each do them a little differently though, and as we’re doing these things — in other words, as we’re living this thing called life — a lot of things are happening outside of us. The world around us plays a huge role in who we are and what we do.

That world wasn’t reflected in my game, and that’s what I set out to change. I wanted my sims to live in a world as much like the “real world” as I could make it. The real world holds dangers and “things that go bump in the night”. Bad things do happen to good people, and sometimes the reverse is true, too. Good things occasionally befall very bad people. The real world has a dark underside. Drug dealers, sexual predators, and even killers lurk in the shadows of our consciousness. Accidents and illnesses strike people down suddenly and unexpectedly.

I wanted and needed these aspects of life in my game, and so, I set out to create them. How? By bringing in a cast of characters representing people from all walks of life — not the basic career choices provided by the game. I wanted characters who ranged from purely innocent to wickedly evil. I wanted the best and the worst of society.

I found this all — and more — in my townies. Of course, I had to use a little imagination to make it all happen.

Continue to Part 2 of “THE TOWNIE PROJECT“: Who is Sergio Romero?

 

 

 

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Hot Summer Nights

June

Another year of school is over, Jonathan Evans is excelling in all his classes, and now it’s time to turn his thoughts to love. Or lust. Either one works for him. He just wants to find the right girl.

Kat Phillips with her sister, Emily Sue.
 Kat Phillips with her sister, Emily Sue

There’s Kat Phillips, of course, although she’s been a little cool toward him since she accused him of flirting with Fiona Patterson. Hey, he’s a guy, and guys tend to flirt back when girls start flirting with them, and yes, she flirted first.

 

Fiona Patterson
Fiona Patterson

But, if Kat wants to play hard-to-get, maybe Fiona would be a little more, uh, accommodating. She’s been seeing Benjamin Brooks, but it’s not like they’re really committed to each other.

Hattie Mae Richards
Hattie Mae Richards

There’s also Hattie Mae Richards. That gal has got the curves! She’s a bit on the shy side, it seems. Rather a prim and proper sort.

What’s Jonathan Going to Do?

He’s going to play the field, that’s what. He’ll spend a little time with each of his prospects over the next few weeks, and it’s going to be a hot summer. He’s even started composing a song called Hot Summer Nights. He’s ready for a little excitement in his love life.

Have fun!

 

 

Characters: Fiona Patterson

01-28-16_5-28-05 AM (2)Fiona Patterson is another student at the Academy of the Performing Arts. She has many classes with Jonathan Evans, including a string theory class.

Fiona plays both cello and piano, and she’s hoping to someday play for the National Simerian Orchestra. Her favorite cello pieces include the cello concertos by Antonin Dvorak and Edward Elgar.

She and Jonathan have had quite a little flirtation going. Even though he’s gone out with Kat Phillips a few times, he’s still quick to flirt back whenever Fiona flashes those crazy eyes at him. Just don’t let Kat find out about it.

Like Jonathan, she’ll be graduating from the Academy in 1033.

 

Fiona is originally from Willow Creek. Her father, Ray Patterson, is also in the performing arts doing repertory theatre in the city. He performs mostly comic roles. Fiona’s interest in the stage no doubt comes from her father.

In addition to her love for music, she’s very active physically. She enjoys jogging and working out at the gym. She spends her time between classes at the Academy, ensemble rehearsals, and attending recitals. She especially enjoys the recitals and master classes given by Bennett Rizzo.

Fiona Patterson is available for download at the Gallery.

Aspiration: Leader of the Pack

Traits: Active, Music Lover, Ambitious

 

 

What Do You Do With Townies?

Townies. That’s what they’re called. As Sims players, we know them as those randomly-generated, and usually unfashionably-dressed people who populate our towns when we’re not looking.

Townies. They’re everywhere!

My personal relationship to townies is one of love/hate. Here’s how it began:

Way back in the days of The Sims — the original version — I was fascinated by townies. If I recall, townies had only a first name, nothing more. We couldn’t call them or visit them in any way. We could only interact with them if they happened to show up on a lot where our sim was located.

At that time, I had a lovely sim named Lisette Lejeune. Sims were either adults or children, remember. We had no toddlers, young adults, or elders. Sims didn’t age or die. So Lisette was a lovely young woman in my mind, and like most lovely young women in my games, she was looking for a good man to marry. She found him in the form of a townie named Daniel.

safari - Copy

I thought Daniel was the most exciting sim I’d ever seen. He was dressed in a safari suit, and my mind immediately spun off a story for him. Daniel, the adventurous wildlife photographer. I imagined him doing photo shoots for the likes of National Geographic, traveling the wilds of Africa, the rain forests of South America, the frozen tundra of Siberia. What an interesting life he led.

Lisette, of course, wanted to marry this incredible fellow. I had no idea how to make it happen. Obviously, she would have to propose to him. Would he accept?

Yes, he did. My heart was racing as Daniel moved in with Lisette. The first disappointment came when he was listed as Daniel Lejeune. He had to take her last name. I hated it, but I accepted it.

Then came my excitement as I delved into his character. I couldn’t wait to see how this townie was put-together, so to speak. In my mind, he was such a skillful and successful man, I was sure he would excel in every way.

Wrong. He had no job. He had no skills. He had nothing to offer.

What had I expected? It was at that point that I began to hate townies. They weren’t real people. They weren’t even real sims, at least not as far as I was concerned. They were mere shells with nothing inside.

Over the years, the townie situation changed somewhat as games progressed. Townies had first names and last names. We could call townies. We could invite them over. We could go on dates with them. It made life easier — if you liked townies. I didn’t. After that horrendous let-down with Daniel, I wanted nothing more to do with any townies.

Of course, today’s townies are a little more sophisticated. Many do have careers, and they do develop skills in some areas. Townies have their own unique personalities. Too bad they still don’t have any fashion sense.

Even so, I’ve maintained my dislike of townies, even insisting that my sims will not marry townies. Actually, many of them have since the early Sims 4 social interactions seemed to leave something to be desired. No matter how many sims I created as potential romantic prospects, the only ones showing up at bars and clubs were those awful townies! As before, I hated it, but I accepted it.

Now, my entire approach to townies is undergoing a major change. If you frequent the Sims 4 Forum and have seen my recent posts, you already know that I’m doing a major “Townie Project”. The results have far exceeded my expectations, and I’ll be posting more about the project in coming weeks.

Basically, I’m learning to love townies again. I’m finding creative ways to weave their personal stories into the lives of my own sims. Working with townies, I’ve discovered, gives me much greater freedom than I feel with my own creations. I can easily make townies into despicable creatures, like Tristan Luke who, in my game, is now awaiting trial for the brutal murder of a beautiful young model. Another fellow — who appears to be a decent family man — has actually been molesting his two teenage daughters for years.

Oh, yes. I’m uncovering long-buried family secrets, seeing a darker side of life, and venturing down pathways I would never take with my own personally-created sims. Townies, I’ve learned, can be very useful.

What do YOU do with Townies?

 

 

 

Sims 4 Tutorials

Although I’ve been playing The Sims since the original game appeared in 2000, and I began playing Sims 4 when it was released in 2014, there are always things I don’t know how to do. Here are a few of the helpful links I’ve found.

Cow Plant

Happy Simming!

 

 

Are Musicians More Sensitive?

Jonathan pours his soul into his music.
Jonathan pours his soul into his music.

Jonathan Evans, as you know, is a gifted musician. He picked up the violin when he was only a child, and it became his world. He loved practicing, listening to music, and learning to express himself through the songs he played.

Like Jonathan, I, too, am a musician. I began playing piano at age four and went on to study at the Conservatory of Music in Kansas City. I also loved practicing, listening to music, and expressing my thoughts and feelings through music.

Are musicians perhaps more emotional and more sensitive than other people? That’s a question I’ve been exploring recently as I’ve been watching Jonathan’s story unfold. His father, Edgar, brought up the question one day as he pondered his son’s recent behavior. Jonathan, it seems, has become a bit of a player, and not in the musical sense. In other words, he’s doing a lot of skirt-chasing, getting emotionally involved with several young women, and no doubt charming them right into his bed.

Here are the thoughts going on inside Edgar’s head:

And Jonathan? Well, that boy is so busy he doesn’t even call. Being a musician is a fine profession, but maybe it doesn’t provide the right amount of structure for Jonathan. Maybe he’s too sensitive, too emotional, too passionate. In other words, maybe he’s spending too much time chasing after love. Or lust. More likely lust.

Edgar’s thoughts sparked a bit of curiosity. I could identify with thoughts of being too sensitive and too emotional. Is this common among musicians? For an answer, I turned to one of the reference books on my shelf: The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein, Ph. D.

Although her research suggests that musicians are generally introverted and unadventurous, reserved and sober, she also indicates that, indeed, musicians can be more imaginative than others and much more emotionally sensitive.

The “introverted”, “unadventurous”, “reserved” and “sober” traits hardly apply to most well-known musicians. No one would ever use those terms to refer to Metallica’s James Hetfield or country music star, Blake Shelton, or many other popular musicians from a variety of genres. In fact, most successful musicians are extroverted and out-going. They love showing off and performing on stage.

In that regard, Jonathan seems to have much in common with many of the greats, yet he definitely still has that sensitive, imaginative, and passionate side to his nature. He’s also learning to use it to his advantage as he charms the young ladies he meets.

Music speaks to us. For those in the performing arts, music also speaks for us. It can express thoughts and emotions that can never be put into words.

music-quote

Just for Foodies: 50 Ways to Grill Your Cheese

Grilled CheeseWhenever I play The Sims, I get hungry. I love to cook, and most of my sims are very good at it. Even so, sometimes the greatest meals are the easiest. Who doesn’t love a good grilled cheese sandwich?

 

 

 

Check out these great ideas for making your next grilled cheese the best you’ve ever had.

 

 

    50 GRILLED CHEESE RECIPES

Do Your Emotions Affect Your Sims?

It’s all about emotions. That’s what EA tells us. Our sims not only have free will and personality, they also have the ability to experience a variety of emotional states.

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Our sims might get angry, or embarrassed. They can be gloomy and sad, playful, energetic, or downright flirty.

In reality, our sims aren’t feeling anything. Despite our beliefs to the contrary, they’re not real people, only collections of pixels and computer code. It’s much more fun to pretend otherwise, of course.

But what about US, the players? We are very human, and our emotions are quite real. Not only are we capable of experiencing genuine feelings as we watch our sims live their lives, we also bring many different emotions with us each time we come to the game.

Sometimes things that happen in my game do have a noticeable effect on my moods and emotions. When I see one of my married sims having a not-so-innocent flirtation behind a spouse’s back, it might upset me. When one of my sims gets up the nerve to propose, only to be rejected, of course I feel his pain. Unlike the sims themselves, I am very human.

What I’ve observed over nearly fifteen years of “simming”, is that not only do my sims affect my state of mind, but also my moods can have a definite effect on the lives of my little pixelated people.

If I’m feeling frustrated with a project or if I’ve had a disagreement with someone, I might well turn to my sims for a bit of escape from the real world fun. Fun? For me, yes. For my sims, not so much. If I’m in a bad mood, I might just let awful things happen to my poor, unsuspecting sims.

When my mood goes sour, I’m more apt to:

  • Force my sims into relationships that aren’t really right for them
  • Let little disputes turn into major confrontations between sims
  • Cause separations or divorces
  • Allow married sims to embark on affairs
  • Cause “accidental” pregnancies
  • Make sims quit their jobs
  • Create illnesses or accidents
  • Let sims suffer and die prematurely

Yep. When I’m feeling bleak, I take it out on my sims. My storylines take unhappy twists and turns as my families struggle against sudden, unexpected challenges. Later, as my mood improves, I can work with my sims to help them find ways out of the problems I’ve created for them.

During my happier times, I give my sims moments to remember:

  • I let them fall in love
  • I give them beautiful weddings
  • Couples wanting children get their wish
  • I help them move into bigger and better homes
  • I find cures for illnesses
  • Court cases are happily resolved
  • I give them accolades on their jobs and occasionally cash bonuses to go along with it
  • I let them indulge in whims — new swimming pools, artwork, whatever their hearts desire

So, it works both ways. Bad moods create bad moments in my stories, but then good moods create good moments and often serve to counter the havoc and unhappiness I’ve created.

How do YOUR personal emotions affect your game and the lives of your sims?

 

 

Lessons from a Master

September 1030

Bennett Rizzo performs a difficult passage from a famous violin work.
Bennett Rizzo performs a difficult passage from a famous violin work.

As classes begin again at the Academy of the Performing Arts, many exciting new opportunities are arising for violin prodigy Jonathan Evans. He’s been accepted into a master class taught by Bennett Rizzo, formerly first violinist with the National Simerian Orchestra.

Kat Phillips has now expressed an interest in the violin, too, so she often accompanies Jonathan when Mr. Rizzo conducts workshops. Jonathan enjoys being with Kat, but he’s not letting the relationship take any serious turns. He still wants to enjoy his new-found freedom and get to know some of the other young women at the Academy.

He’s especially interested in Fiona Patterson. Although she’s a cello major, she also attends some of Mr. Rizzo’s classes on music theory. He’s a true master! Or maybe she just likes being around Jonathan. They do seem to have a lovely little flirtation going on between them, at least when Kat’s not looking.

Jonathan Evans helps Kat Phillips learn a few violin basics while Fiona Patterson watches.
Jonathan Evans helps Kat Phillips learn a few violin basics while Fiona Patterson watches.

Jonathan doesn’t plan on giving his heart away too easily. Along with Kat and Fiona, there are many more romantic possibilities to explore. He’s found that flirting is great fun, especially when the girls flirt back, and most of them do, you know.

Of course, he’s got his violin, too. Making beautiful music is almost like falling in love.  Oh, the emotions that can be conveyed through a beautiful song. Music truly does have its charms, and Jonathan is learning to use them to his advantage.