Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
Sims Downton Abbey is back this week, by popular demand!
Last week I wrote about the ups and downs of establishing a virtual Downton Abbey in The Sims 3, and the response to that post has been much stronger than I expected. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised though, considering how strongly most viewers feel about the show itself; when it comes to Downton Abbey, you either love it or you haven't seen it.
If you want to know what's been going on in my game lately I'll summarize it in three words: Shit's going down. Matthew Crawley moved into the neighbourhood during a full moon, and Mary might be the least of his worries. Keep reading for no spoilers, plenty of pics, and lots of in-jokes:
I decided to finish decorating Crawley House and move Matthew (the heir to Downton), Isobel (his busybody mother), Molesley (their valet/butler), and Mrs Bird (their cook/housemaid) into the neighbourhood a little earlier than I'd originally planned. The main house family is massive, and a bit overwhelming to play, so I thought a smaller group would be a better way to ease myself back in to things.
And doesn't Cora look thrilled to see Matthew?
The smaller household is much easier to manage, that's true, but things don't exactly start out smoothly at Crawley House.
I try not to be to micromanage my Downton sims because I'm much more interested in seeing what happens, and how they behave, naturally. I've tried to shape their personalities (through their character traits, ambitions, and genetics) to be as accurate as possible, and although they're far from perfect there has been a lot of interesting overlap.
For example, Isobel alternates between heckling her housemates and "brightening their days" randomly, while Molesley keeps accusing her of impropriety, which... Doesn't seem all that far off to me. I suppose it's unlikely that Molesley would be so confrontational, but then again he had taken a bartending (sorry, "Mixology") class earlier. He seems normal enough, but who knows what he got into in that class.
Molesley's also has the "Unlucky" trait, meaning that Isobel's heckling has a habit of jinxing him. He can also just plain wake up jinxed.
Once again, fairly accurate.
Every now and then while I'm monitoring someone else in the house, I'll hear him scream in anguish a few rooms over. Sometimes I'll focus the camera on him and he's perfectly fine, sometimes he'll have broken something, and once he was inexplicably sopping wet (I'll let you know if I ever figure out why.)
Since all these Sims are brand new, the house cook Mrs Bird is starting out as a beginner. I gave her the "Natural Cook" trait to help speed things along, but she still spends most of her time fussing over macaroni and cheese or waffles (depending on the time of day.) I decided to send her to a cooking class to expedite the process even more, even though the combined cost of all these classes for the house's staff is taking a serious toll on the family funds (which are much more limited than those of the main family.)
There's very little in the way of income, for that matter. With no legal career available, Matthew's a low-level "Podium Polisher" in the Political career track... And now that I think about it, that sounds like a made-up job title for something incredibly inappropriate.
By the way, don't mind the smoke in that otherwise handsome picture of Sim Matthew. He'd just finished putting out a minor house fire, which were just as much a scourge of Edwardian life as they are of Sim life. What do you expect when you put potted plants immediately beside a lit and unattended fireplace?
For the sake of historical accuracy/hilarity, I've also banned fire alarms from my Downton houses. Good luck guys.
Anyway, true enough to the series my Sims version of the Abbey is out in the countryside while Crawley House is in the heart of the town, across the street from an enchanting little bistro and next door to a modest little park. When I sent Mrs. Bird to her cooking class at that particular bistro, I happened to notice that Robert (the Earl of Grantham), Cora (Lady Grantham), Mary (their beautiful and shrewd eldest daughter), and Violet (the Dowager Countess) were all on an outing there. No sign of the rest of the family, but all the key players were present. It was the perfect opportunity for Matthew to introduce himself (or for me to make Matthew introduce himself.)
I sent him sprinting recklessly across the street.
This first introduction was vital, because if Matthew builds a bit of rapport up with a few family members it's much more likely that he'll visit them even when I'm not forcing him to.
Once again, very true to the show.
Let's pause the story for a second.
Please take a moment to notice the dowager countess herself, in full formalwear, photobombing my lovely snapshot in the upper left by totally side-eyeing another wealthy member of the community in the background.
If you have at any point doubted the ability of The Sims 3 (or even myself) to create virtual characters that could both accurately and absurdly reflect the original characters of Downton Abbey, that should be all you need to see. Moving on.
I should have taken it as a bad omen when a werewolf in scrubs exited the bistro, lunging at Cora before feinting left and dashing off on all fours. The sun was setting, it was a full moon, and I had forgotten to purge all the supernatural sims from the neighbourhood. Honestly, I didn't think it would come up much if the families kept mostly to themselves. In retrospect that was an incredibly dumb assumption to make, because sims never keep to themselves. They meet friends at work, on the street, at the store, and public areas are always eager to populate themselves with fresh faces.
So yes, it was a bad idea to place Sim Downton Abbey in a neighbourhood full of fairies and werewolves with PhD's just because the local architecture was the most appropriate.
In spite of that unsettling werewolf encounter, Matthew and Mary seemed to hit it off. Hearts flew around their heads -- signalling love at first sight -- and they had a spirited and friendly conversation as the sun set on the little bistro. So romantic, and just in time for Valentine's day!
My mistake (and Robert's, on many occasions in the show) was to assume the pair would be fine if I left them alone while I controlled someone else's life for a few minutes. Okay, that's not at all fair to Robert, but you get the point.
I focused elsewhere, sending Mrs. Bird back home to start dinner and telling Molesley to gather up the laundry, and by the time I returned to the young couple Mary had said something to offend Matthew. Or, to be more specific, she humiliated him. Ugh, Mary, I can't take you anywhere.
His humiliation was having a severe negative impact on his mood, but Mary's attractiveness was at least balancing it out. If you're not familiar with The Sims 3, I should explain that every sim has a mood level that's influenced by everything from being hungry to driving a new car. Of course negative social interactions, like being publicly humiliated by a pretty woman in front of half of her family, also effect a sim's mood. Even though I've tried to avoid controlling these sims too strictly because I love seeing the natural actions and interactions that their genes, traits and surroundings lead them to, this time I step in for a little damage control.
And then the sun sets.
And I zoom out and notice something.
I guess Robert's a zombie now, you guys.
And Cora's fainted.
What the fuck happened?
I think I need to turn this supernatural stuff off.
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Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.