Vampires – Should I Bite?

This should probably be an easy decision for me. As a “realistic” style Sims player, I don’t care to have vampires — or aliens, or plant-sims, or werewolves — in my game. And before you ask, yes, I’ve tried those different life forms. They’re not for me.

While playing Sims 2, I did create a few vampires, mostly to see what all the excitement was about. I tried it, I didn’t like it, and afterward, I simply ignored the whole concept of vampirism in my game. I didn’t have a choice, you see. Electronic Arts included vampires in an otherwise fantastic expansion, so like them or not, I had to live with them. I decided I could easily work around — or, well, actually play around — the idea of vampires by considering it a dreadful, deadly disease. Should any of my sims be turned, I would simply declare them to be fatally ill, and that would be the end of the poor sim.

I never had to use that strategy, however, because it never happened. Apparently sims don’t become vampires unless they want to — meaning, of course, unless the player decides to play that way.

During Sims 2, I also had aliens in my game for quite some time. I had, in fact, an entire Alien-Earthling war. We earthlings won, and having decided that I didn’t really like playing aliens, I banished them all back to their home planet far, far away, never to be seen or heard from again.

Plant sims? Werewolves? No thanks. I can do without them.

I did have a few witches in my Sims 2 game, and while I didn’t do much with ghosts I did have a few “Knowledge” sims who loved ghost-hunting. It was actually rather amusing.

But let’s get back to vampires.

They’ve come to Sims 4 in a big way, with an entire game pack devoted to their nocturnal activities.

Sims 4 Vampire

They bring along a new world — Forgotten Hollow — and a few other new things for the game. The complete list of items included can be found HERE as part of the Sims 4 Vampire Guide at VIP Sims.

As I first read through the new gameplay additions, I cringed a bit. Truly, I did.  It’s all about vampires…nothing else! But, what else should I have expected from a game pack called “Vampires”?

New traits include:

  • I Am the Master
  • Regained Humanity
  • A True Master

Nope. Nothing of interest to me there.

How about aspirations:

  • Vampire Family
  • Good Vampire
  • Master Vampire

No! I would never use any of these for my sims.

Lot traits, clothes, club activities, and hairstyles. You guessed it. All designed to complement the vampire life. And as a new skill, sims can learn “vampire lore”. That might be somewhat interesting, but for my sims, probably not.

So, it would seem that this new pack has absolutely nothing — repeat, nothing — to offer me and my sims. It should be easy to “just say NO” and forget about the pack. But, I can’t.

Am I crazy?

Part of it is the fact that as a dedicated simmer, I like my Sims collections to be complete. Whether I personally like a new addition to the game or not, I buy it. That’s how it’s always been in the past. And without exception, I’ve always found something to enjoy with each new expansion, stuff pack, or game pack.

But…vampires? Nothing but…vampires?

Wouldn’t I be wasting money to buy a pack that has nothing I want to use? Well, I could always use a few new lots, and the idea of having a new world is appealing. But then again, I’ve heard that Forgotten Hollow isn’t much.

I had just about made up my mind to forego this game pack, but temptation kicked in again when I saw it on sale. Still, the thought of getting a game pack, installing it, and then hating it makes me nervous. I’ve started questioning my sanity.

Another factor is the “Verdict” from the game review at Sims VIP which says, in part, that while the main point is vampires…”there is enough included that it will be a welcomed addition to your game regardless of how you play.”

The reviewer also allays another concern by assuring players that…”NPC Vampires don’t take over your game and Vampires won’t turn other Sims into Vampires.” In other words I don’t have to worry about any “deadly diseases” infecting my precious simmies.

All of which means I’m back on the fence again. I’m tempted. I’m very tempted. But I’m scared, too. Should I take a chance and purchase Vampires?  Or should I just accept the fact that this game pack isn’t for me and that my game won’t really be lacking anything if I don’t buy it?

I’d love to hear from players who already have the game pack installed. Please, help me make up my mind!

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Builder Showcase: Wrayth Manor

Some finds must be shared, and when I came across this gorgeous manor house built by edwardianed, I knew I had to post it here.  I long ago gave up attempting to build any houses in my game. Even a basic “starter house” is beyond my abilities. I’m very grateful to the talented creators in the community who have put together incredible homes like this one.

MTS_edwardianed-1503470-SouthFace

What I like even more is that the builder has given the house a story.

Built in 1893 by industrial logging magnate Sir Montgomery Ashford, Wrayth Manor is an ostentatious monument to a time gone by. Constructed for his late wife Lady Maria Ashford (nee Wrayth) twenty years after their arrival in Sim Nation from the Old Country, Monty wanted a house that would be the envy of everyone who stayed there; and for a time it was the grandest house Willow Creek.

Constructed with the latest in modern conveniences of the time including hot running water and a swimming pool, from all local resources (i.e. no custom content), the house was finally electrified in 1915. Sadly Sir Montgomery was also electrified that year and died leaving his entire estate to his son Edward. Alas despite the considerable family fortune, Edward lost the house in the great Sim City crash of ’29, upon which it was auctioned to the Willow Creek Historical Society.

Now this celebrated piece of local history is back on the market following a nasty law suit brought against the town’s pre-eminent historian; and it can belong to your lucky Sim (provided they have the enormous funds required to maintain it).

You can see the complete floor plan and download this scrumptious Victorian manor at Mod the Sims.

Wyrath Manor

What’s in Your Sim Box?

TS4_KeyartI first asked this question many years ago on the Sims 2 forum, and it was fun to read the answers. Of course, I’ll need to explain what I mean by a “Sim Box”.  Of course, in times past — when we had to actually buy PC games at the store or have them shipped to us through the mail — The Sims came packaged in colorful boxes.

I suppose they still do, actually, but most players take advantage of the convenience of “digital download”.  So, I no longer have a nice little collection of boxes with cover art and disks.

But back in that day, I did keep all my disks and boxes — and all the info booklets and promotional flyers that came with them — neatly arranged in a plastic tub. You know, the kind you buy to store things in. That was my “Sim Box”. But it held a lot more than games.

I used to always buy Prima Guides, too. At times when I wasn’t able to play the game — while traveling, for instance — I’d still enjoy simming by reading the guides and imagining all the things I’d do with my sims the next time I opened the game. I kept those helpful guides in my Sim Box, too.

BlueprintsBuilding homes and community venues has never been a strong point for me, but in the past, I used to try. Yes, I’ll admit, I even bought books showing house plans in hopes of building suitable residences for my sims.

Even with the illustrations though, it still wasn’t easy for me to build houses that actually worked well in my game. They were too big, had too much wasted space, or just didn’t “play well” for one reason or another.

To make my building more successful, I bought pads of graph paper and spent hours drawing out house designs based on plans from the books. The books and the graph paper — along with pencils and erasers — found a home in my Sim Box.

With Sims 4, I no longer have Prima Guides, game boxes, or house plans. Like so many others, I’ve opted for digital downloads, and I’ve given up on building my own houses or other structures. There are too many lots available at the Exchange for me to try making my own. I’m just not good at it. As for the Prima Guide…well, I found a used copy available at Amazon, so I ordered it. It will arrive sometime in the next few weeks. I was actually surprised to find it. I thought Prima had gone the digital route, as well.

Despite the lack of game boxes, guidebooks, and building plans, I do still have a Sim Box, however. I have notebooks filled with game information — lists of traits, lists of careers — and I have notes I’ve downloaded from sites like Carl’s Guides. Of course, once my Prima Guide arrives, I’ll be able to toss a lot of those notes into the trash.

Another little treasure I have in my Sim Box is sheet music for the Sims 2 theme. That was a special offer from EA years ago, and being a musician, I jumped at the chance.

The most important item in my Sim Box today is small and simple. I single six-sided die. I love throwing “random factors” into my game. As storylines develop, I use the die to follow the story in whatever direction fate takes it. When I have “turning points” in a story, I’ll come up with a list of options and then roll the die to see where I’ll go with the story. I use the die to decide whether or not my sims should “try for baby” among other things. As silly as it sounds, I couldn’t play my game without a die close at hand. Even though there’s “Random.org” to help with random choices — and I do use it a lot — it’s much easier to roll a die while I’m actually in the game.

And, for long playing “binges”, I’ll sometimes throw a few snacks into my Sim Box. Then, with everything I need nearby, I can settle in for an afternoon’s enjoyment. Or longer.

So, what’s in your Sim Box?

 

 

Free Perks!

It doesn’t take long for the modding community to go into action once a new game pack or expansion pack is released for Sims 4. Dine Out hit the market on Tuesday, June 7, and the following day devilgirl introduced the “Simstopics Free Restaurant Perks” mod. Let’s just say that my ears “perked up” at the sound of this.

It’s available at Mod the Sims and will allow your restaurant owners to cash in on the in-game perks. You must have the Dine Out game pack, of course.

1625311.largethumb

For me, running a business in any sims game has always proved difficult. I don’t have any restaurant owners yet, but when I do, I’m definitely going to consider this mod to make their life — and mine — much easier.

Getting Ready to Dine Out

Since I’m not a builder, I’m already happily browsing restaurants in The Gallery in anticipation of tomorrow’s Dine Out game pack release.

This creation from Ranczer01 caught my eye. I’m sure others will enjoy this fine dining experience, as well.

Restaurant by Ranczer01
Restaurant by Ranczer01

To download, you can visit the Gallery, or just click here to go directly there. This 30 x 30 lot is currently listed as a “Lounge”. I’m sure once the new game pack is released, this beautiful venue can be easily converted to meet “Restaurant” requirements.

Today I’m thinking a lot about my sims and their communities. Although I’m still wondering exactly where I’ll put any new restaurants, I’m sure I’ll figure something out. I know my “master chef” Craig Dennison will open up a new restaurant. He had one in the past, but working around the game limitations to make it seem like a “real restaurant” was a problem. Hopefully running his restaurant will be more realistic after tomorrow.

I love having restaurants in my game, and in the past I’ve included everything from little ice cream shoppes to elegant restaurants serving fine cuisine. I’ve had little “Mom and Pop” burger bars, all-night diners, and fun little sandwich shops.

To add a more realistic flair to my games, I’ve always given names to the venues in my neighborhoods and worlds — even ones that didn’t really exist on the map. I like knowing where my sims work, you see, so many  of my “culinary” career sims were employed at Blossom Hill. I always imagined it sitting atop a gentle slope, surrounded by apple trees, cheery trees, and peach trees in bloom. Of course, fresh fruit pies were their specialty.

Tomorrow, once I’ve downloaded and installed Dine Out, I’m going to open a new Blossom Hill restaurant. I think I’ll situate it among a grove of blooming trees, and yes, I’ll include lots of fruit on the menu. I won’t know until then, of course, what other choices I’ll have. I’m looking forward to the “grand opening” of this fine dining establishment.

I’d love to hear about your plans for dining out!

So You Want to be a Writer?

In many years of writing, I have heard over and over again how hard it is to write, how much a writer must sacrifice for his or her art, how we must bleed upon the page if we hope to call ourselves writers. Of course, I’ve heard, too, of that most-lamentable condition called writer’s block. It’s one more of the perils that face those who dare to pick up paper and pencil and express their thoughts.

Whenever I hear complaints such as these, one thought quickly comes into my head. If it’s so hard for you, why do you do it?

Let’s look at geometry for a moment. In school, I made good grades in geometry, but I hated the subject. It involved so much tedious measurement! Today, in art work, I still don’t like geometry, so I avoid drawings that rely heavily on architectural perspectives and those dreaded angles. In other words, geometry is a useful skill for many, but one I use only if I must.

Why should it be different for writing? Just as I would never want a job that required me to use geometry on a daily basis, why would anyone who finds writing difficult ever want to be a writer? Now, please, don’t tell me that I don’t understand what writing is all about. Trust me, I do.

Writing CareerIf you really want to suffer for your art, go right ahead. But just remember, it doesn’t have to be that way. Writing can be — and in my opinion, should be — a lot of fun. Especially with Sim-Lit. After all, this is a genre based upon playing a game. If that’s not a recipe for fun, I don’t know what is!

The trouble a lot of struggling writers have comes from taking themselves too seriously, and from worrying too much about getting the words right. If there’s one simple secret to writing, it’s this: the more words you write, the easier it becomes, and the more words you write, the greater the likelihood that you’ll find the right ones.

Don’t ever be afraid of writing badly. Why not? Because bad writing can be improved. You can’t do anything with a blank page, however, except stare at it. The problems you face in writing can usually be corrected by writing more.

Huh?

Sure. Practice does lead to improvement, especially if you’re truly passionate about what you’re doing and are willing to learn from your mistakes.

But what should I write about? Where do I start? How do I know what to say?

Anything.

Anywhere.

You don’t have to know what to say when you start.

The point is, if you want to write, sit down and do it. Don’t worry about choosing the right word, just write every word that comes to mind. Put down a dozen different thoughts. You can sort them out later, once they’re on the page. Forget about spelling, and for the moment, don’t even think about grammar. Spelling can be checked; bad grammar can be corrected. Unnecessary words can be removed, and jumbled thoughts can be put in order.

I know, you’re not convinced. You’re still shaking your head, mumbling that I just don’t “get it”. It’s not easy to write, you have to be inspired, you have to have some ethereal muse hovering about, tormenting your soul…or whatever it is that people think muses do.

Hate to burst your bubble, but writing is easy, you don’t have to be inspired to do it, and if you want to be a writer, you have to become your own muse. Tormenting your soul, by the way, is not part of the job description.

A writer’s job is to write. Oh, sure, there’s a little more to it than just writing, but that’s where it begins. You sit down and you write. About what? About anything. You write, you explore your thoughts, and you put your imagination to work.

You write silly things. You write bad things. You write the most outlandish, ridiculous things you can think of. Sometimes you even do it deliberately…because it’s so much fun. You write fast, you write furiously. You wander off on tangents and fall into gaping plot holes. Oh, well. It happens. You just keep writing.

Don’t know where to go next? No plot? No problem. Grab a dictionary, open it at random, and take the first word you see. Find a way to use it. Got a book of story starters or writing prompts? Take an idea and make it work for your story. Indulge yourself in a bit of stream of consciousness writing — just sitting down and writing whatever comes to mind.

Play with words. Play with writing. Make up creative exercises, such as describing twenty ways a character might walk: he ambled, he sauntered, he limped… Or try listing as many “dialogue tags” as you can: she postulated, she opined, she posited. Note: Once you’ve come up with these awful tags, throw them away. The best dialogue tag is still “said.

Write from different points of view. Write in present tense. Write from your memories or write from your dreams. Just write, and keep on writing until you can’t write any longer. Stop, take a break, and then come back and do it all over again.

Here’s a little challenge for you. Sit down today and take a look at the time. Write down the time, in fact. Then start writing about anything and everything that comes to mind. Just ramble on for as long as you want. Stop, look at the time, and write it down. How long did you spend writing before you ran out of words? Five minutes? Fifteen? Two hours? It doesn’t matter how long you wrote. This is only the starting point. Just make note of the length of time you spent.

Tomorrow, sit down again and repeat the exercise. This time, however, add five minutes to the previous day’s writing session. Set a timer so you’ll know when to quit.

The following day, add another five minutes. Repeat this every day until you’ve doubled your original time. In other words, if you wrote for one hour on the first day, continue until your session reaches two hours.

You might also want to check out Stream of Consciousness Saturday, a blogging challenge which provides participants with a weekly prompt. No rules, no word length minimums, just writing purely for the joy of it.

Yes, writing should be joyful. It should be fun. So, if you really want to be a writer, learn now how to make writing the most enjoyable thing you do each day.

 

 

Fresh Strawberries

Just had to write this post so I could show off a few of the beautiful berries we’ve been picking from our strawberry patch!

Berries

We’ve been picking — and enjoying — dozens of these strawberries every day. We’re definitely having our best crop of berries ever!

I do enjoy gardening, and I’m glad it’s a skill that my sims can learn, too. Not every family in my game has a garden, but many do. Some of my sims are actually quite passionate about the fruits and flowers and vegetables. I even have sims who make a living from their gardening abilities.

Strawberries in the game are, unfortunately, an uncommon fruit — which means that they’re a little more difficult to find. You can’t purchase seeds in starter packs, so if you want fresh berries, you’ll have to go out looking for them. According to Carl’s Guide to Gardening, you should be able to find strawberries growing in Willow Springs on the “Garden Essence” lot.

Gardening was first introduced to The Sims with the Unleashed expansion pack, and it’s been part of each game since. Personally, I think the gardening skill in Sims 4 is the best it’s ever been. And just as in real life, gardening skills and cooking skills can go hand in hand.

Your sims can use fresh strawberries to make lots of delicious dishes:

  • Strawberry pancakes
  • French toast with strawberries
  • Strawberry cobbler
  • Strawberry and yogurt parfait
  • Strawberry cheesecake
  • Monte Christo sandwiches with strawberries
  • Strawberry baked Alaska

I make many of these dishes in my kitchen, and with fresh fruit, they are delicious!

If your sims haven’t been having fun in the garden, why not get started today? My one frustration is that children can’t learn gardening skills, but the rest of the family can enjoy the activity and gain health and happiness benefits from eating the fresh produce.

And don’t forget about the new Dine Out Game Pack which will be released on June 7. Happy eating!

Dine Out

More Medieval Music

MTS_Esmeralda-1621346-Miserableoutdoorconcert2I recently shared Esmeralda’s “medieval lutes” for Sims 4, and she’s continuing her creations of more instruments for our musicians to enjoy. Today I’m happy to share her “Vielle”, a medieval violin. You can bet that Jonathan Evans is eager to get his hands on one of these finely-crafted beauties.

The Vielle can be downloaded from Mod the Sims, and you’ll find complete installation instructions there.

To complete your musical orchestra, you might also want to check out Esmeralda’s Medieval Piano, also available at Mod the Sims.

Enjoy making music with these fun creations.

 

 

Busy as a Bee

BeesRemember the bees in Sims 2 Bon Voyage? Of course, bees have been around since the advent of Makin’ Magic in the original series. In Sims 3, players with the Supernatural expansion pack could become beekeepers, and in Sims 4 we have bees as part of the insect collections.

But this isn’t really a post about bees or beekeeping. It’s a post about cliches and the importance of avoiding them in storytelling.

A cliche is an over-used expression or idea. Many of the similes we use have become clichés.

  • Busy as a bee
  • Pretty as a picture postcard
  • Blue as the sky
  • Sweet as cotton candy
  • Hot as fire

We could go on and on with that little list. A cliché can be a handy little thing when we’re communicating and need a quick and easy way to convey a thought. Cliches have become over-used precisely because they’re convenient.

In storytelling, though, it’s best to forego convenience in favor of originality. Don’t be in a hurry when you’re sharing your sims’ stories. Take a little time and choose words and phrases that catch your readers’ attention.

One way of avoiding clichés is by writing more description, showing the reader instead of telling. Instead of saying Susan was as busy as a bee, take a little time, add a few more words, and show how busy she actually is.

Susan pushed the ledger aside and groaned. With one look at her desk, she knew she’d never get the reports finished on time. In addition to auditing the books, she still had to review expense accounts, look at the credit card expenditures, and approve the invoices marked for payment. How had she fallen so far behind?

Doesn’t that give you a better understanding of Susan’s predicament than simply saying she’s busy as a bee?

The same principle can be applied to the other clichés on the list. Don’t tell the reader that a scene is as pretty as a picture postcard. Instead, show what makes the scene so beautiful and breath-taking.

Don’t simply say something is as blue as the sky. Describe the hue and how it makes the character feel. Remember, too, your characters have five senses, so don’t rely on one-dimensional clichés.

A light blue blanket covered the bed. Susan reached out and touched it, loving its softness. As she gently ran a fingertip along the edge, she thought of spring days, delicate flowers blooming, and birds singing their songs. She would like it here, she knew. Even though life would be different now, she would have this room, this bed, and this well-worn blue blanket to comfort her.

Another thing to avoid, however, is going too far in looking for original expressions. You don’t want to end up with a ridiculous simile like this jewel:

She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes
just before it throws up.

I found that one at Painful Similes and Metaphors, and now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to jump quick like a fox, hop like a bunny, and flit like a butterfly over to that website to read the rest of them. You should, too. They’re hilarious!

 

And the Winner Is…

Today’s the day, folks! The day I hand out the first ever “Edgar Evans Award for Community Service“.

Award

And the winner of this prestigious award is Liev Capra, created by Simmer RosemaryMarie for her Sim Blog Noble Doubt. Be sure to stop by, read her stories, and congratulate her for Liev’s “community service” award.

Liev Capra with Memphis Noble - Photo courtesy of RosemaryMarie
Liev Capra with Memphis Noble – Photo courtesy of RosemaryMarie
Dear ladies and gentlemen!
I am extremely honored to be receiving something as important as the Edgar Evans Community Service award. I am earnestly grateful for the recognition I have received because I am very sure that every other nominee for this award was as adept, if not more so, of winning this award.

I have faced many challenges on my way to this moment, both personally and professionally. But each one of them has only built up my character; making me the person I am today. Winning this award would not have been possible without the encouragement I have received from my family, colleagues and community all for whom I have the deepest respect, and from whom I have received the strength to challenge myself.
I sincerely thank Jonathan Chronicles for inspiring me to reach a stage where I can proudly hold up this award as a symbol of my accomplishment. Thank you!