Wednesday, July 16, 2014

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The SIM-ple Life: Here's Why I'm Looking Forward to Losing Everything in the Transition to The Sims 4

Sims 4 CAS Demo  (11)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Fans of any series are surely familiar with the excitement leading up to the release of a new installment, and likewise the concern that somehow, at some point, the developers will mess it up. Maybe it won't be as good as the previous games. Or maybe it will be a million times better. It's an emotional push-and-pull that many Sims fans are experiencing right now, but with an added layer almost unique to them.

Between the base game, the expansions, the stuff packs, the store content, the mods, and of course the sim lives created, every game in the series can be a tremendous investment of both time and money. And then the new game comes out, and you're back at square one. Even though it is a brand new game, even though the older game doesn't go anywhere, it still feels like (and is most often described as) a loss. It's a huge mental hurdle for many players to get over, and one that I personally struggled with when The Sims 3 came out back in 2009.

But this time around, I'm not. I'm actually, strangely enough, looking forward to losing it all. Here's why:

Cora Mary Scrub Werewolf

The Sims 3 is a mess. Well, to be more accurate, my Sims 3 is a mess. With every expansion, several stuff packs, a couple store neighbourhoods and honestly way more mods than even I need, it takes forever to load up and is prone to the most bizarre bugs. And crashes, of course. The Sims 3 is notoriously unstable the more you plug into it. And then there are the load times... Even when it's running smoothly, the game itself is sheer chaos. A simple trip to the grocery store can lead to werewolf fights and paparazzi snaps and a curse from a witch and a close encounter with an alien who's parked their space car just around the corner.

It's funny at first, but eventually it's just a frantic, frenetic mess -- and all I wanted was some milk and eggs.

In the lead up to The Sims 4's release I've gone back and uninstalled all my expansions for The Sims 3, and started playing again. I've been adding things back in, one at a time, giving myself a little more time to savour what each one adds to the game. There are a lot of things that make The Sims work on a fundamental level, and sometimes it seems like the more you pile on top of them, the harder they are to appreciate. There's just something about the very first time your sim pees on the floor, you know? Playing "clean" like this has actually been significantly more enjoyable than my experiences playing "fully loaded" were, and that's made me feel a lot more positive in regards to the upcoming sequel, including the mechanical changes (i.e. the new traits) they've made to simplify it. 

It's a palate cleanser.

Sims 4 CAS Demo  (9)

It's true that many of my favorite things to do in The Sims will no longer be available to me -- at least not for a few years. For example, projects like Sim Downton Abbey aren't impossible, but they just won't work as well as I would like until there is more content tailored towards certain time periods and aesthetics. I mean, if I'm making Lady Mary, I'm not putting her in jeggings. But as annoying as those limitations will be, I think it might be nice to have some time to enjoy the absolute core elements of the series again.

... Especially knowing that it's only temporary.

Mixed reality iris 2013Iris 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.


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Shockwave yareach

If I was starting from scratch, buying the game and getting started would be fine. If I'd already bought the earlier version and suddenly all my inApp purchases were gone, I'd be furious about it. And it would be the last money I'd spend on said game -- losing all your paid-for merchandise for any reason is a fault, plain and simple.

Suppose you bought a house in RL. And the second half of the subdivision was just completed with a different style to the homes, say Tudor instead of ranch. And you came home from work, and found that the HOA burned all the first half of the subdivision down so all the buildings would be the same. Oh - and did they forget to mention that YOU have to pay for the new house to be built? And no, the insurance won't cover the losses...

Ares Shoreland

I think it's fine to start from scrath. I have recently re installed my sims games without most expansions, only with seasons and generations, and I'm liking it better that way. I'm looking foward to The Sims 4 as this means I'll have another chance of playing each expansion and the base game to its fullest, without being overwhelmed with lots of content that I don't know about. It will also be beautiful to see the mod community flourish again.


I feel like with three generations of Sims games behind us now, the pattern is pretty clear: The core Sims formula is immensely fun and solid, and the various bolt-on expansions end up with the... other stuff. Typically the vast majority of the important and well-considered game features end up in the core game, and the majority of the -good- features that aren't there make the first expansion or two. From there, it's just a variety of increasingly unsatisfying and fringe features that serve mostly to just make the game increasingly chaotic, pulling focus from its strong core. (Sometimes even directly, by taking up slots that would otherwise fill with more standard stuff.)

Arcadia Codesmith

The new stuff doesn't look particularly interesting and the stuff they're taking away includes some of the best innovations of Sims 3.

The core game is boring, as are, inevitably, the first few expansions. There has to be a certain critical mass of content before it's worth playing.

I probably won't bother with this cycle until it hits the bargain bin, and possibly not even then if they don't bring back Create-A-Style.

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