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?

 

 

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First Dinner Date

Have you got Dine Out yet? I downloaded and installed it yesterday and immediately went into the game to check it out.

Yes, of course I was disappointed that we didn’t have a new neighborhood, so I had to delete an existing venue in order to place a restaurant in my game. For now, I used the pre-made from Maxis, but sorry, folks, while I enjoy llama jokes as much as anyone, I don’t need an elegant restaurant with a name like Chez Llama.

I’d planned to name my first restaurant Blossom Hill after a restaurant I included in Sims 2. I changed that plan, though, when I finally placed the new lot. It’s in the Magnolia Promenade area, so I named it Magnolia Blossom. I’m just going to pretend that Blossom Hill was sold, and the new owners changed its name.

Once I had the restaurant open, I headed for the next family on my rotating play list. It was the household of Dalton Vaile. His girlfriend, Janis Melanson, is living with him, and the relationship is about to get very serious — in a good way. I was playing from her point of view, and she was eager to go out to the elegant new restaurant that was having its “grand opening”.

A bit of quick backstory. Dalton Vaile is a starving artist and single father. His ex-wife is now serving time in jail for repeated shoplifting offenses (this all comes from my townie project). Dalton has struggled financially. Most of the time he and Coleman have barely had anything to eat or money enough to pay the utilities. When he met Janis, he knew he had little to offer. She didn’t care. She was happy to move in with him, and that helped ease the financial burden a bit. When tragedy struck and Janis lost both her parents in an accident while they were off on a safari adventure (another bit that comes from the townie project), she received a nice sum of money as an inheritance. Her relationship with Dalton has deepened considerably since. Now, that’s not to say that he only loves her for her money, but it sure does make life easier.

Since Janis could easily afford the cost of dining out at Magnolia Blossom, she and Dalton dressed in their finest and went out to dinner. Her treat.

Dining at Magnolia BlossomAs far as dates go, it was all right. There were, however, a few little problems. When they arrived at the restaurant, one of their first “successful date requirements” was to be seated at a table.

I wasn’t sure how to do it, but I saw what looked to be a hostess or maitre’d and instructed Janis to speak to him. She did. She hurried into the restaurant while Dalton stood out on the street by himself.

Really, EA? This was a date. You know. Two people going out together.

I was relieved that Dalton did join Janis. Now, how were they supposed to order? Somehow I clicked the right place and a menu appeared. Honestly, the whole “ordering process” confused me. I stumbled around with it and finally ordered drinks and salads — the same for both of them — and I intended to order a main course. Oops, the menu disappeared.

Note: I did post a question about this on the Forum – Ordering Food

Apparently we have to order in stages. But it’s a moot point, perhaps. My sims got their drinks, but nothing else. And that’s when the musical chairs began. Instead of spending time with Dalton, lovely Janis was up and about, drink in hand, chatting with diners at other tables. I had a terrible time getting her to sit down and have those deep conversations she and Dalton needed if they wanted this date to be a success.

The “to-do” checklist also told me my sims should “socialize about meal”, but I couldn’t find any options for that, probably because the meal never came…which, of course, was because I never had a chance to order a main course!

Before I knew it, the date was over. Janis and Dalton received flowers as a reward — not sure what date-level that is — and I took them back home. For what it’s worth, they were both in a most romantic mood, and Janis is now expecting a visit from the stork. I’ll probably have them get married, and Dalton is thinking maybe they should get a bigger house. Yes, it’s good to have a little money in the bank when you need it.

But, back to Dine Out. So far, I’m not wildly enthusiastic about the game pack, but neither do I totally hate it. Based solely on my experience — with one household and one restaurant — here are my likes and dislikes:

Likes

  • Getting a table was fairly simple.
  • We can set “dress codes” for a restaurant.
  • The drinks my sims ordered arrived promptly.
  • The restaurant had lots of other sims dining — in different age groups.
  • Family sims did sit together.
  • We can choose the name for our restaurant.
  • We have customization options for the staff and for the menu.
  • Dining out is reflected in the “checklist” for a date.
  • Paying for the meal is convenient.

Dislikes

  • We have limited choices for restaurant type.
  • Ordering food is confusing and/or not working as it should.
  • Sims are socializing more than dining.
  • No new neighborhood included in the pack.

That’s my quick assessment, but that’s based on a very limited play experience. Later today I’ll go into the game again and “dine out”.

For me, the biggest problem is the lack of a new neighborhood. I’d love to have a diner or two, and a seafood restaurant would be nice — that’s one of the choices we have. But I have nowhere to build any additional restaurants. For my sims, the new Magnolia Blossom restaurant is their only dine-out option. That’s a disappointment.

What have your experiences been? Are you enjoying the new game pack? What are you likes and dislikes? Found any bugs in the food?

 

 

 

Dining Out

Only two days remain before the release of the next Sims 4 game pack, Dine Out.

TS4_674_GP03_LIFTS_08

We’ll be able to build restaurants for our food-loving sims and actually run them as businesses. Families will have opportunities to dine out, celebrate birthdays and special occasions, and young sims in love can add dining out as another date-night activity.

At least, I think we’ll be doing all those things. To be honest, I’m always a bit skeptical until I get my hands on a new game pack or expansion pack. I need to see for myself what we can and can’t do. Sometimes, I’ve found, EA’s promotions and promises aren’t quite all they seem.

That said, let’s look at the reasons why EA says we should be excited for this new addition to the game.

Experimental Food

Oh, boy. I’m not sure how I feel about this one.  A “Jungle Moss Egg with Lavender Wisps”? OK, if you say so. Honestly, I’d rather have a game that lets me create my own experimental foods or add my own recipes, but some of these dishes could be fun. They’re “photo-worthy” according to Grant Rodiek, and our sims will be able to take pictures and hang on the walls. Great, I guess. Not something I do in real life, but this is a game, after all. What bothers me, though, is the note about “collecting” all these dishes — another achievement to be earned by having a sim try out every experimental food item. I’m not a fan of this style of gameplay. But we’re also promised new moodlets and new social options. Experimental foods will be interesting, to say the least.

Dining Experiences

Grant also assures us that we’ll have “varied dining experiences”, and that would be a definite plus — especially for a simmer like me who plays multiple families. I need variety in the experiences the game provides for my many sims. In addition to the new moodlets introduced in the game pack, there will also be new activities for kids. I don’t know if these will be available only in restaurants, or if any of these activities will carry over to other venues. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Customizable Restaurants

Now, this aspect of the game pack has definitely piqued my interest. What I love most about simming is the opportunity to put my creativity to work…er, that is, to put it to play. For me, The Sims has always been a creative outlet, and I love the idea of making restaurants my own. We can choose names, choose the sort of ambience we want, dress the staff as we choose, and set our own menus. It sounds great, and now I’m wondering how many perverted fellows out there will be designed restaurants with naked servers. Hey, it’s possible!

Ownable Restaurants

Now, here’s the one I’m not too wild about. Oh, it’s not that I don’t like the idea of my sims becoming restaurateurs — I love that idea — it’s just that I’m not sure I’ll like EA’s ways of implementing it. Electronic Arts tells us that we can hire, train, and inspire the staff, and even compensate customers for bad service. They then go on to compare owning a restaurant to careers from Get to Work — which is not a favorite of mine. The retail system in Sims 4 leaves a lot to be desired. My personal feeling is that owning and operating a restaurant in the game will most likely be very frustrating. I want my sims to enjoy owning a restaurant. I want to be able to enjoy it, too.

New Objects

This game pack will provide us with a lot of new decorative content, and that’s always fun. I haven’t yet seen a list of items, but I’m hoping they’ll be available for use not only in restaurant venues, but also in home settings. If not, of course, I’m guessing there will be cheats to make them buyable for every location.

Pre-Made Restaurants

We’ll have six pre-made restaurants we can add to our game, and this is great for those of us who aren’t good builders. I’m sure I’ll make use of these lots. Of course, the talented builders from our simming community will have lots of great restaurant lots on the exchange. It will be exciting to see them. I’ll be showcasing restaurants from time to time. I know there will be some great ones.

So, it sounds interesting, but there are a lot of questions in my mind. Will we have a new neighborhood? If not, where are we going to put these new restaurants? Will using fresh vegetables and herbs increase the quality of food served? Will we have new NPCs — such as the “restaurant critic” some have suggested? Will we be able to use restaurants for “club activities” in Get Together? Will different types of restaurants generate a different type of “townie clientele”? Will restaurants have “dress codes”?

Each time a new game pack or expansion pack is released, the simmers in EA’s forum go wild with speculation, imagining this, that, and everything else in the upcoming pack. Usually the reality falls far short of their expectations. Over the years, I’ve learned to pay little attention to EA’s hype and to avoid thinking too much about what I’ll do in the game until it actually arrives and I can see for myself what the new pack includes.

Still, I am excited for the release of Dine Out. How about you? Will you be getting the game pack on release day? Or will you wait to read the reviews from other players before you spend your hard-earned dollars?

 

The Medieval Mistake

Ok, so I’ve been on a medieval-themed kick lately. It started when I found Esmeralda’s medieval music mods. That was all I needed to get myself off on a 14th or 15th century tangent. Actually, to be precise, the medieval period — sometimes called the Middle Ages — is considered to begin in the 5th century AD and extend through the 15th century.

I love medieval music, as you’ve probably already noticed, and like many other history lovers, I’m fascinated by the art, architecture, fashion, and politics of those long-ago times. It’s understandable that fans of The Sims franchise would clamor for medieval-themed content, and consequently logical that game producer Electronic Arts would attempt to capitalize on the idea. It probably could have been a real money-maker for them…had they listened to what the players wanted.

SMInstead, as EA has done so often in recent years, they told us what we wanted. Or, at least, that is, what they thought we wanted. The result was The Sims Medieval. Was I excited when they announced it? Oh, yes, of course. Although I had never added medieval elements to my existing game, I would have gladly plunked down the money for a chance to have a separate “Middle Age” world. Yes, EA, I would have bought this new game and enjoyed it had you stayed with what “simming” is meant to be. But, no, you had to step in and take away the elements that we love our sims.

Earlier today I looked at the “features” included with The Sims Medieval, and there, in black and white, I saw it. The medieval mistake. The reason why the game did not succeed was clearly spelled out.

The Sims Medieval is an epic new game from the makers of The Sims. It combines the life simulation of The Sims, takes it to a dramatic new setting, and adds features that change the way you play.

Did you catch those last five words? EA was going to change the way we play. But…why, EA, why? We simmers loved playing our game in our way. We had asked for a medieval concept for The Sims — not for a half-baked role-playing game designed to look like The Sims.

Limited CAS, children who aged to adults only if a parent died, an emphasis on achievements and quests, and an ultimate “win or lose” status took this game far afield from what “The Sims” has always been. And like a slap in the face to players, EA tried to sell us this game and tell us how much we were going to like it.

The game’s senior producer promoted the game as being “more dangerous for Sims” and listed an intriguing number of interesting possibilities: plague, peasant revolts, wildlife, poisons, duels, and more. But then, we learned that — unlike any other sim game — The Sims Medieval had a definite beginning and an ending. Players would be “scored” on their game performance.

What? Keeping score in a life simulator? Oh, wait! The Sims Medieval isn’t a life simulator. That’s not how we’re supposed to be playing our game now according to EA, and they should know, right? Seriously, we’re just the players. We obviously don’t know what we want.

The game was first released in March, 2011, and one expansion pack — Pirates and Nobles — was later produced. Today, The Sims Medieval is available as a download from Origin as Electronic Arts has discontinued the DVD version. It can, however, still be purchased through third-party sellers. You’ll find it listed at Amazon. There are problems, though, running it on operating systems other than Vista or the no-longer-supported Windows XP. Work-arounds for the problems do exist.

Some players praised the game when it came out, but others soon lost interest in it. A reviewer at Amazon said it had “very little play value,” and explained:

If you’re the type who likes to check off tasks one by one, you might like the questing aspects. There is no creativity involved here. The quests are a series of tasks like “Go to the town marketplace and get water from the well.” Very boring to actually play. I would have liked to back-burner the quests to do a little free play, but you are punished for that with a severe drop in mood. You are also punished if you skip your daily chores. Seriously, chores! Others have addressed the lack of ability to actually build your town. Talk about no outlet for creativity or imagination.

Creativity and imagination are the foundations upon which “The Sims” was built. Creativity and imagination are the hallmarks of the typical sims player. These are the essential elements that EA took away from the game. In doing so, they turned a great concept into a huge disappointment — for the fans and for them as well. The Sims Medieval never became the big money-maker they’d expected but simply turned into one more big mistake.

 

 

 

What Kind of Sim Are You?

result_16_excited_aristocratWell, not sure I agree with my results completely, but the latest fun quiz from EA tells me that I’m an “Excited Aristocrat” when it comes to simming. In other words, I’m a happy snob. Me? Really? That’s not exactly how I see myself, but it was a fun quiz all the same.

If you’ve missed the quiz, you can find it here: What Kind of Sim Are You?

For the record, I do have a few “happy snobs” in my game. Benjamin Caldwell and his family come to mind. Most of my sims, though, are ordinary, hard-working folks whose lives center around their growing families.

Mostly I have a lot of creative sims.  My sims love to cook, write, paint, and make music. What a coincidence! So do I.

It’s fun to see what we have in common with our sims, how our game play reflects our own lifestyles, and the ways in which our game differs from who we are in real life.

Do your sims reflect your personal interests? Do they share your career and your interests? Have they developed similar skills? Do your sims have traits similar to yours? Or do you create sims who are the total opposite of who you are?

Fun questions to think about, and I’d love to hear your answers. And do take the quiz. Even if you don’t agree with the results, it’s fun to read.

result_06_playful_creative.pngUPDATE: I went back and took the quiz a second time, gave it a little more thought, and changed a few answers. Now I’ve come up with “Playful Creative”. That sounds more like who I really am. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Looking Ahead

I’ve been in a nostalgic mood recently, and I’ve shared a lot of things from the past. Today, though, as a new week begins, I’m doing an about-face and looking toward the future. What’s ahead for our sims?

Last week — and here I am looking backward again — was an interesting one on the Sims 4 Forum. The discussion boards are always filled with rumors and speculations along with pleas to Electronic Arts to divulge a little information or answer a few player questions.

Forum members were excited when word came down from SimGuruDrake that EA would soon be sharing information about new content “in the works” for the game. That brief message was quickly spun off into talk of a “big announcement” coming. As usual, folks turned on the “hype machine” and countdowns were underway, ticking off the hours until the big event.

If you checked the message board on Tuesday morning, April 19 — the promised day — you probably saw the “leaked” video. A quick 15-second clip showing screenshots from a restaurant-themed game pack, and from a children-themed stuff pack.

Oh, but that was from Sims Latin America. That meant nothing! That couldn’t be right. Once again, rumors were flying, but SimGuruDrake stepped into the fray and posted the simple truth. Yes, that was the news.

I want to make things clear: I stated you would get information (not an announcement) regarding content in the next couple months (not a year). Also this was supposed to be a surprise, I simply informed you earlier due to incidents out of my control. – SimGuruDrake

The official “news” post is here:

A Look Ahead for Spring/Early Summer 2016

Of course, if you’re an avid simmer and forum member, none of this is news to you. You’ve probably followed this story all along. Maybe you’re excited about the new content that’s coming up, or maybe the entire “announcement/trailer/news” was a big disappointment.

Either way, this little incident once again shows an ever-widening gap between EA and the players. While players beg for information, the game developers remain closed-mouthed, uncommunicative at worst, condescending at best.

It’s devolved to a horrible state with players pitted against the gurus and developers. Who’s to blame for the mess? Is it our fault — meaning we, the players — for wanting not only new content but some input on the game we love? Are we responsible for the anger and disappointment on the boards when we share our thoughts about toddlers and other “missing content”? Are we wrong to be disappointed when EA ignores not only our wants but our questions, too?

Or should we put the blame on Electronic Arts? Don’t they owe their players something? Wouldn’t they gain greater player loyalty — and win new Sims fans — by being more open about their plans for this game?

When questioned, they become defensive. They speak of legal restrictions and give reasons why they’re not allowed to speak out about upcoming game additions. Meanwhile they seem to think it’s fun to “bait” the players with teasers, hashtag games, and hints — all of which lead to rumors, speculation, and hype.

A vicious circle? Indeed.

The situation has become so divisive that a lot of players are falling away — from both the forum and the game. When I look ahead to the future of the sims, I sometimes wonder how much longer the franchise can endure. The frustrations are growing. I worry that unless EA is willing to listen and respond to player concerns, there won’t be enough players left to make it worth the time and effort it takes to keep the series alive.

What do YOU think?
When you look ahead to the future of The Sims, what do YOU see?

 

A Little Sim History

The Sims burst onto the PC game scene back in 2000, and for a time, nobody knew quite what to make of it. It wasn’t exactly a game so what was a player supposed to do with it? Previously, we’d been introduced to Sim City — which was in a similar vein — but this was different. In Sim City there were little scenarios — in-game challenges you could play and win. With The Sims, all we had were people in houses in a tiny little neighborhood.

Some gamers didn’t get it and found little of interest in the day-to-day lives of ordinary people. They set the game aside and moved on. Others, however, saw the freedom and fun of a gaming experience that had no real rules to follow, no pre-scripted storyline, and no pre-ordained end conditions. We realized, in fact, that there was no end to the game. We could play as long as we wanted.

And, for the most part, we could do whatever we wanted. Sure, there were certain limitations. We’re talking about a computer program. In the early days, our sims couldn’t do a lot, and our choices in creating sims or building houses was somewhat limited. Yet within the structure of the game, we could make our own choices. We didn’t have to follow a pathway through the game. We didn’t have to “level up” or amass experience points. All we had to do was have fun. And we did.

By Official GDC - Game Developers Choice Awards @ GDC 2010, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9783149
By Official GDC – Game Developers Choice Awards @ GDC 2010,

Today, we look at Will Wright — creator of The Sims — as a creative genius who knew what we wanted before we did. How did he conceive of this “virtual doll house” as it’s often been called? The story behind The Sims is a fascinating one, so sit back and enjoy this look at how it all came to be.

I won’t go into all of Wright’s life story here, although it’s an interesting one, to be sure. I’ll pick it up in 1986 when his daughter, Cassidy, was born. Will spent a lot of time caring for his daughter, and that’s when the idea of an “interactive doll house” first came to his mind.

 

I went around my house looking at all my objects, asking myself, ‘What’s the least number of motives or needs that would justify all this crap in my house?’ There should be some reason for everything in my house. What’s the reason? – Will Wright

The story took a disastrous turn in 1991 when Wright awoke and smelled smoke. The family grabbed what personal possessions they could and evacuated the house. They returned three days later to find that everything had been destroyed. The only things left were a few lumps of melted metal — the remains of a second car they’d owned.

In the following months, as the family set about to replace their belongings, Will began thinking about the different things people need in life.

I hate to shop, and I was forced to buy all these things, from toothpaste, utensils, and socks up to furniture. – Will Wright

Little by little, these life experiences coalesced into the beginnings of a game. As the idea developed, three books helped Wright with his design ideas.

  • A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander which identifies 253 building “patterns” and shows how these patterns are used to create comfortable and satisfying living spaces. Alexander promoted the idea that the value of architecture could be measured by the happiness of the people who lived in it.
  • A Theory of Human Motivation by Abraham Maslow. This paper, written in 1943, introduced “Maslow’s Pyramid” to explain the hierarchy of human needs.
  • Maps of the Mind by Charles Hampden-Turner which compares dozens of theories on how the human mind works.

Gradually Will Wright formulated a model by which he could quantify happiness for the people in his “doll house” by evaluating their status, their popularity, their career success, and by the quality of their environment. And thus The Sims was born.

I don’t believe any one theory of human psychology is correct. The Sims just ended up being a mishmash of stuff that worked in the game. – Will Wright

When Wright took his idea to the Maxis board of directors, they thought he was crazy.

The board looked at The Sims and said “What is this? He wants to do an interactive doll house? The guy is out of his mind.'” – Jeff Braun

Later, in 1997, Electronic Arts bought out Maxis. They were much more enthusiastic about The Sims. The game was released in 2000, and as they say, the rest is history. The Sims went on to become the best-selling PC game of all time. It’s been released on many other platforms now, and we’re currently in the fourth edition of the series.

Are there problems? Yes. The game in its latest iteration lacks a lot of what made The Sims so successful, but let’s not lose hope yet. Simming has become much more than a game for many of us. It’s a creative outlet, a satisfying hobby, and most of all, a lot of fun. It might not be perfect, but there’s nothing else out there quite like The Sims.

 

 

 

 

The Townie Project – Part 8: Final Thoughts

Part 1: First Thoughts
Part 2: Who is Sergio Romero?
Part 3: Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker
Part 4: What’s Your Style?
Part 5: Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men?
Part 6: Who Killed Titania McTeague?
Part 7: So Long, It’s Been Nice Knowing You

Working on my Townie Project has been an interesting experience, and I’ve enjoyed sharing it with fellow simmers.

Today, it’s time to wrap it all up.

Final Thoughts

In the end, my Townie Project proved to be much more involved than I’d initially thought it would be. That’s because as the project continued, I discovered new ways to “use” my townies, came up with more ideas for their backstories, and ultimately got more “personally involved” in the lives and loves of those folks in my household management bin. Even though they’re marked “unplayed”, I’d come to know them almost as well as I know many of my active CAS sims and “born-in-game” sims.

Story progression is a very sore subject for me. I wasn’t able to play Sims 3 because of its “story progression” mechanics that changed the lives of my sims while I was playing different households. Theoretically, I like the idea of story progression — for townies. Not for the households I create and play in my rotation. In a perfect game — which will never exist — I’d be able to play my sims without worrying about them changing jobs, getting fired, or making other significant life changes during the rotation process, and then, once each rotation I could “turn on” a story progression toggle that would quickly and efficiently update the lives of my townies. Some single sims would marry. Some married sims would divorce. Babies would be born. Elders would pass away.

The current system, of course, is far from perfect. Culling makes it all but impossible for the game to utilize any story progression system since townies are “here today, gone tomorrow” with no logical reason.

So, I did what I usually do when I want something the game doesn’t provide. I used my imagination and improvised a way to make it happen — in so far as I could.

Now, my townies’ lives do change. They marry. They divorce. They have families. The process of implementing my own story progression is a tricky one, but I’m finding ways to manage it.

At the start of every rotation — which is January in my game — I do a quick “marital status” check. I roll a die and if it comes up “6”, that means big trouble for the couple. I go to CAS, divorce them, and set them up in separate households. Later, one or both might get culled, and that might be all right. I’ll still have them in my “extra” bin — my library — so I can decide whether or not I’ll let one move on in life and make a new beginning elsewhere.

In June of my rotation — a suitable time for love and marriage — I go through the single sims on my townie register. If I can find a suitable match for a single sim, wedding bells ring in CAS. I join them together in holy sim matrimony, edit them to be husband and wife, and after saving the new household to my library, I wish them well as they begin living happily ever after together.

Each in-game month, I also check to see which sims — if any — need to be aged up, and I roll a die for young adult female sims who are of child-bearing age. And, I’ll be honest here. Even though I don’t use any “in-teen” mods in my game, I do have a couple of teenaged townies who are promiscuous. I roll a die for them, too. If it comes up “6”, they’re in big trouble. So far, those girls have been lucky. No babies yet.

The sims who do “conceive” and temporarily placed in the game. I have a house furnished with the bare necessities. I move the procreating couple in, have them try for baby, check the results, and then move them back to the bin. If the sim doesn’t conceive, that’s fine, too. They tried. I do keep a computer in the house, so in the rare event that the two sims aren’t getting along well or don’t want to woo-hoo for some reason, I have them use the computer to quickly adopt a baby. Any baby who comes along is added to the register, assigned a future occupation and personality style.

Whew! Yes, it’s a lot to keep track of. In addition to putting my own sort of story progression into play, I also have to check the household management bin each in-game month. I note which townies have been culled, decide if I want to declare them “deceased” or not, and I add newly-minted townies to my spreadsheet.

Is it worth it? Is all my time and trouble really making the game more enjoyable for me? The answer is unequivocally a resounding “Yes”. Do I wish there were an easier way. Again, “Yes”. For my game, my love of sim-storytelling, and my need for creative expression, I love having neighborhoods filled with people who have real lives, real families, real problems, and real drama going on. Many of the sims who come and go will probably never be important to the game, but those who are — such as Sergio Romero, Dr. London and his not-so-lovely wife — are adding immeasurable pleasure to my simming experience.

Thanks for sharing The Townie Project with me.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

The Townie Project – Part 7: It’s Been Nice Knowing You

Part 1: First Thoughts
Part 2: Who is Sergio Romero?
Part 3: Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker
Part 4: What’s Your Style?
Part 5: Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men?
Part 6: Who Killed Titania McTeague?
Anne Sorensen thought she'd found her "Prince Charming", but the game culled him away.
Anne Sorensen thought she’d found her “Prince Charming”, but the game culled him away.

Long before I began “The Townie Project”, a lovely young adult sim in my game went strolling in the park one day. There she met the man of her dreams. His name was Lyle Youngblood. He was a townie. Despite my general dislike of townies at that time, I was happy for Anne. She’s been looking for love for a long time. After graduating high school, she moved in with her brother, an arrangement that works well, but which neither wants to become permanent. Anne dreams of finding a prince charming, falling in love, getting married, and making a home for a husband and the children they will have.

When she met Lyle Youngblood that day in the park, they seemed a perfect match. He was a rugged outdoorsman. He was handsome. He enjoyed sky-gazing with Anne. Oh, yes. She’d found the right man for sure.

As a rotational player, I moved on to another family after spending a little time with Anne. But then a warning flashed in my brain. If I wanted Anne to develop a lasting relationship with Lyle Youngblood, I’d better grab him — fast! If not, he might well be “culled” from the game. I exited to the “Household Management” screen and began searching the townie bin. Alas, Lyle Youngblood was already gone.

So Long, It’s Been Nice Knowing You

I could almost hear Lyle Youngblood’s rich, baritone voice saying those words. I was devastated for Anne. How could I go back to her and tell her I’d carelessly allowed the game to take away the man she loved?

I scolded myself. I should have known better. At the first signs of their budding relationship I should have jumped in and taken steps to “protect” Lyle Youngblood from the merciless game mechanic known as “culling”.

What is culling? Why does it happen?

I’m far from an expert on the game and how it works, but basically culling is a process by which the game ensures that data remains below a certain limit. The “sim limit” I’ve heard was 180, although I believe that’s been increased to 210 now. Either way, it’s a fairly small limit for rotational players like me. What it’s supposed to mean is that my game can only handle a maximum of 210 sims — living and dead. Yep, that’s right. Dead sims count against the total.

I currently have 110 living sims in my game, plus about ten deceased relatives. That should allow me to keep another 100 townie/NPC sims in my household management without fear of culling. Not so. There are obviously other mechanics involved, such as generating NPC sims to fill a variety of in-game roles, such as librarians, gardeners, and maids.

Sometimes the game culls a lot of my townies, and at the same time, generates new ones. For a long time, that made no sense to me. As I’ve gone through my “Townie Project” and have watched a bit more closely, I see the game creating new “NPC” sims to be in-game yoga instructors, or to perform other game occupations. I’ve learned to assign them the same “occupation” the game has chosen for them and then more or less leave them alone. It’s one way to deal with the culling problem.

Note: There are actually two types of culling. Sim culling and relationship culling. You can learn about both in this helpful post at the forum by member Halimali1980:

From Sim Culling to Relationship Culling – What is Going on at EA?

In the earliest stages of my Townie Project, I did lose a lot of townie sims. As I reported in my previous post, it was easy to say good-bye to many of them. Elders died. I was all right with that. Some of the more adventurous sims — flight instructors and sky-divers — died, too, but from accidental causes. That seemed logical. Titania McTeague, as you know if you’ve been reading the project series, was brutally murdered.

But what about all the other sims — young adults, adults, families — who simply disappeared from the game due to culling? How could I best handle the fact that no matter how much time and effort I invested in creating life histories and background information for my townies, a good part of it would go to waste?

My first thought was a reminder that losing people is a fact of life. We’ve all had friends who have moved away. The thoughts and feelings involved could easily become part of a sim’s story, I saw, as I dealt with another unfortunate loss. My “difficult” teen sim, Liam Madrigal, seems to have a destructive streak. Soon after his first crush “moved away” — in other words when her family was culled — he set fire to the house, single-handedly destroyed the family computer, and created much havoc for his frantic parents. Fortunately, since I had several psychiatrists and psychologists in the game — thanks to my Townie Project — he was able to get help.

But Liam’s case was an unusual one. Plain and simple, I didn’t want losing friends and having lovers “move away” to become a regular part of my sims’ lives or part of my usual game play. There had to be a better way.

Here are the simple strategies I’ve devised for dealing with culling in my Townie Project:

  • Safe Houses. I learned early on that if I wanted to ensure a sim’s presence in the game, it was wise to place him, her, or even an entire family onto a lot or move them into a house. Doing this didn’t mean I had to play the household. I still keep my “safe house” sims marked as unplayed. So far, the game has always skipped over these sims during the culling process.

 

Anne finally found true love when her brother's friend, Greg, moved in with them.
Anne finally found true love when her brother’s friend, Greg, moved in with them.
  • Family Guests. Much like placing a sim into a “safe house”, I will occasionally place a “necessary” townie with a family I routinely play. If a young adult sim — such as Anne Sorensen — meets a townie and a relationship seems to be developing, I’ll quickly find a reason to move the townie in. Right now, for example, Anne and her brother, William, have taken in a new roommate: Greg Hoskins. He’s a friend of William’s. He’s now, not surprisingly, also become very good friends with Anne. In fact, they’re looking for a place of their own, and wedding bells will soon be ringing.

 

  • The Library. The best way to deal with sim culling is to save each townie household to my library. Each time I make any change to that household, of course, I have to re-save the family. What this does is to create a cast of “extras” for my sim dramas. Even when they’ve been removed by culling, these sims can remain on my townie list, and I can recall them when I need them to fill a particular role. Dr. London, for example, is a psychologist several of my sims were seeing for therapy. He was culled by the game, but when one of my sims seemed in need of psychological help again, I called him back into the game. As part of my Townie Project, I’ve now given him a wife, and they are expecting their first child soon. I wrote more about this in Part 5: Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men? Wish them well. Their marriage isn’t the happiest, but that’s life, right?

Note: It’s also possible to use “mods” to deal with the culling issues. Although I don’t use mods in my game, many players do. The most popular is deaderpool’s “MC Command Center” which will reduce or stop culling. You can learn more about it — and find a download link — here.

In the next — and last — installment of “The Townie Project” I’ll be sharing a few final thoughts about the lives and loves of the townies in my bin, my safe houses, and my library, and those who are currently guests in the homes of my active households.

Thanks to The Townie Project, my townies now have lives of their own, stories of their own, and they’ve added new dimensions to my game.

Coming Soon: Final Thoughts

Why Sims?

A lot of people — including my family and many of my friends — just don’t “get it” when it comes to The Sims.

The_Sims_CoverartYears ago, after I began playing, I purchased The Sims for one of my grown daughters. I had so much fun with the game, I thought she would enjoy it, too. After about two weeks in which I’d heard nothing from her about it, I finally asked how she liked it. She admitted she didn’t care for it. There was nothing to do, in her opinion. Her remark was:

“I mean, you get up, you go to work, you come home, eat, and go to bed.”

I had to chuckle. I knew a lot of people who felt that way. Never mind that her quick review left out a lot of things — like building skills and making friends. To her, it was a boring, repetitive game in which “pretend people” lived boring, repetitive lives.

For me, however, simming has never been boring nor repetitive. I’ll admit that the current version — Sims 4 — does have a few boring and repetitive elements with its linear gameplay, but as much as possible I can play around its limitations and still find hours and hours of enjoyment.

I’m a creative individual, and I’ve noticed that many of the people who are drawn to The Sims share creative traits and interests. We’re artists and storytellers. We’re architects and designers. We find creative possibilities within the game. It fulfills a need for us. Simming keeps our creative wheels turning even as we relax and have fun.

There are many different ways to play the game, and at times these different play styles lead to rancorous discussions on EA’s Sims Forums. We don’t all agree on how the game should be played. Actually, there shouldn’t be one particular way. There is no right and wrong with how we choose to play. That’s how it was always meant to be, I think. Now and then, however, game developers seem to be pushing us in directions of their choosing, not ours. Again, it often leads to heated discussions among players.

Even with the occasional disagreements, the bugs, the patches, and the fixes, simming still provides a great deal of satisfaction for millions of players throughout the world. We come in all shapes and sizes, all ages and genders. There is no “typical” player, and that makes for interesting conversations and opportunities to make friends with people we might otherwise never get to know.

If you enjoy making new things, using your imagination, and seeing your creations come to life, The Sims might be for you. It’s not a game that anyone ever “wins”. There aren’t hard and fast rules, and nobody is keeping score. It’s a game where you choose how to play, where you’re free to make your own decisions, and where you can live the lives of many “pixelated people” — bringing them joy and happiness or utterly destroying their hopes and dreams. It’s all up to you, and that’s what makes simming so much fun.