Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
Even though I wanted to keep this week's installment of Sim Downton Abbey (find the first and second installments here and here respectively) light for people recovering from the last episode, it was as plagued with problems as ever. Between the dramatic characters, my own technical issues in running the massive main house, and all the different ways that the game itself seems to want to sabotage me. I'm still haunted by my inability to purge all Supernatural elements from the neighbourhood, leaving Matthew to use the offbrand tardis network set up in town to arrive promptly for his dates with Mary and forcing Mary herself to defend her family against vicious bistro-loving werewolves.
At least no one's died, right...?
One thing you should know about The Sims 3 (if you don't already) is that it's a notoriously unstable program: RAM is the bag of marbles to The Sims' Hungry Hungry Hippos, and everything gets much much worse depending on how many mods and how much custom content you have installed. Needless to say I have a lot of mods and custom content. That's just how I do.
So here's the real problem: The main family (because of the number of members, the size of the house, and the sheer volume of shit they both have and do) almost always crashes my game. My available memory dives into the single digits when I so much as look their way. However Matthew, Isobel, Molesley and Mrs. Bird's much more reasonably-sized household plays like a dream by comparison.
Don't despair, I do have a memory upgrade on the way which will hopefully solve the issue, but until then I'm hanging out with the lesser Crawleys... And it's been much more fun than I expected.
While I thought being limited to the smaller family would bother me it's actually been a surprisingly interesting spectator experience. The town has a fairly low population it's never hard to find a couple Crawleys out at public venues like the Corsican Bistro, the market, or the arboretum, and since I'm playing as the other family I can't directly affect or influence what the main family members choose to do. In a way it's a lot like watching the show; for the most part I'm much more interested in seeing what happens rather than making it happen myself. Isobel, Matthew, and even Molesley are often spectators themselves to the goings-on of the main house, so it's been a pretty good fit.
It's also a good way to recognize certain... Problems... That are getting out of hand.
For example whenever they're sharing a lot, Thomas constantly picks on or fights with Mary in any way he can. One evening I sent Isobel to the flower market and, although she was more interested in petting a nervous deer nearby than she was in the Crawley sisters nearby (which was totally adorable by the way and I don't blame her), I caught Thomas (in jaunty his exercise outfit) sneaking up on Mary to startle her while she was in the middle of a surprisingly amicable chat with Edith.
Of course it was absolutely hilarious to watch, especially when Edith flatly turned her back to her distressed older sister, but Thomas and Mary's relationship has clearly snowballed since that slap fight in the kitchen within the first hour of moving in. Things are moving well beyond the limits of what's appropriate (especially since Mary has been doing alarmingly little to get back at him) and I'll likely have to step in.
There are slightly more pressing issues to attend to in-house. Like Molesley, who's gotten in the habit of disappearing into the servant's dining room to read his favorite book, "More Bawdy Tales", even when laundry is ungathered and beds are unmade upstairs.
But the real problem is this particular house is Matthew. Where to even begin? I gave him a low-level political career just to give him something to do. He's been "Proposing a new Course of Action" there which is quite risky, but could put him on the fast track to promotion. It might help even more if his work uniform wasn't shorts and a horsey shirt, though.
Of course, work gets him so stressed out that when he comes home all he can think about are pillow fights and karaoke. Non-stop. The "wishes" to pillow fight and go sing karaoke keep popping up, no matter how many times I dismiss them. It's all he can think about. He is a man wholly consumed by pillow fighting/karaoke fantasies. I suppose we have no way to know how true to the original series that might be, but I suspect not very.
But there's one more big problem with Matthew.
He's developing a romantic interest in Mrs Bird, the somewhat haggard middle-aged cook.
Love is a many-splendored thing and all but that's not happening, man. Not in my game. Not after that finale.
I immediately made Matthew call Mary and invite her over, and thank god she accepted. Their relationship level was still too low for him to ask her out on a date, but my hope was that a little buttering up in the driveway would be enough to get them there.
Matthew's attractiveness bonus (along with Mary's innate attractiveness) gives both of them a good Mood buff that helps keep the conversation going smoothly without my intervention. More or less.
I noticed that Matthew was "Sharing his discomfort about crowds" over and over (since he has the "Loner" trait), and Mary was getting intensely bored with him, so once again I intervened. Here's a tip for all the romantics out there: If you're after a girl like Mary, don't go on and on about how cool it is being alone. Maybe ask her what her sign is, or where she went to school. Really, anything that's about her will probably do the trick.
And if you're curious, Sim Mary attended Smuggsworth Prep.
So after some careful guidance Mary was finally willing to go on a proper date with Matthew. Knowing that she's a horse-lover, I send them to watch an Equestrian competition together, a very expensive date but hopefully one that Mary of all people would warm to.
I was surprised when Mary then got into a cab, while Matthew strolled to the park next door.
... And stepped into a phone booth.
... And then of course...
This didn't shock me as much as it did the first time I saw it happen, when Isobel used a booth inside of a Consignment shop to get home from the market. I've been trying to remove this pseudo-Tardis network as part of my plan to normalize the neighbourhood, but there are unassuming little booths all over town and I've clearly missed quite a few of them during the cleanup process. One more thing for the to-do list.
Matthew teleports to another booth, closer to the Equestrian centre, and dashes over to meet Mary for their date. Unfortunately the event takes place inside a building known as a rabbithole, meaning that it's basically a big hollow place that your sims can poof into and you can't follow or see what they're up to inside. I wait outside like an overprotective dad at prom, listening to horse sounds and applause (a bit less like prom) until the pair finally emerge.
Matthew even presented Mary with some flowers just outside, and seemed entirely unphazed by her horrifyingly overjoyed expression. What truer sign of love could there be? Time to seal the deal and take her out to a fancy restaurant (or the trusty old Corsican Bistro) for a slightly late dinner!
Except Mary's not having it. She politely excuses herself. It's late, had fun, ttyl, peace out.
Of course Mary says all this after Matthew is already en route to the restaurant (thankfully by taxi this time) and when Mary doesn't meet him there he heads inside to eat alone. Outside, Robert and Cora seem to be on a date of their own. Cora sweetly passes Robert a bouquet of red roses, and he grabs her arm and pulls her in to a chaste kiss.
The good news is that he doesn't seem to be a zombie anymore, so whatever the hell happened to him last week seems to have been no more than a makeup-related bug. Phew!
The bad news is that I still need to get rid of all these damn creep werewolves.
After last week's close call with the Doctor Scrubwolf, you'd think I would have made that a top priority. Using a mod I have I could just wipe every supernatural sim off the map in one fell swoop, but I haven't been able to bring myself to do something that severe. Even though sims are little more than numbers and silly voices, virtual genocide is just too unsettling a concept for me to execute... Even though I have no problem walling a sim in and watching them pee themselves to death.
So instead of using a supernatural massacre to normalize the town, I've been un-supernaturalling the locals as I come across them, one werewolf/fairy/witch/vampire/djinn at a time. Like the teleportation booths, this is still a work in progress.
Thankfully I might have help. Mary, who totally said she was tired and had to go home and lied, showed up at the restaurant to take on the old man werewolf on my behalf. Or maybe she said something mean to him for fun. When it comes to Mary it's hard to tell.
This particular werewolf is actually the patriarch of all of the Moonlight Falls werewolves, yet somehow Mary manages to take him down in a matter of moments. Never underestimate Mary Crawley, she's far more capable than she might seem and her sim self is no different.
That didn't stop Matthew from stepping in to defend her after the fact, but I guess it's the thought that counts.
So what's next for Sim Downton? Mary may have been spending a lot of time with Matthew, but she dreams of climbing the sim social ladder to become a proper socialite and local celeb. Celebrity has its costs however, including paparazzi and scandal potentially looming around every corner.
Meanwhile, dear Sybil has a serious case of wanderlust. With no activism, war or political unrest to pursue in The Sims 3 I haven't been sure what I should do with her, so travel and adventure seems like the best option. She might talk the family into a trip to the beautiful region of Champs-Les-Sims, France where Robert, Cora, and Violet can enjoy the sprawling vineyards and Mary and Edith can make a few local love connections... All while Sybil herself is on a proper adventure, instead of just killing time at home trying to find the cat.
I also recently received The Sims 3 Seasons expansion pack, which adds seasonal festivals and weather effects. I have no idea what the Crawleys would wear for Halloween, but I'm pretty excited to find out.
If you're a fan of Downton, the real one or the sim one, let me know what you'd like to see more (or less) of in the comments below!
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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.