Thursday, September 04, 2014

Revisiting The Sims and the state of Simming

Yes, you read that title correctly. No, I'm not missing a number there. Today I got my trusty CDs out and fired up The Sims, the original game released by Maxis in 2000.

The original The Sims cover

The Sims 4 released this week to mixed reviews from the fans. Some people love it, some people hate it. Personally, I'm not convinced yet. The features most people seem to bring up, such as the loading screens and removed features, don't really bother me all that much. 

Quaint little home.
Though I adore The Sims 3 open neighborhood, I do recognize that it fails to deliver a sense of community as sims are spread out over way too many community lots, half of which are rabbit holes. In TS4 this is solved by open neighborhoods, but gated worlds. My computer would surely be thankful for that. 

As for toddlers, pools, and babies? I never really used those features. 

I really miss food carts.
What is keeping me away from TS4 is the lack of charm. The Sims Studio tried to bring back some of it by making the Sims more cartoony with exaggerated animations (especially compared to TS3), creating more social interactions and diversifying skills. They even brought the cow plant back. It still doesn't come close to the original The Sims.

Childish glee for cotton candy!
I thought I might have my rose-tinted glasses on, so I decided to return to The Sims. I was 13 when I last played the game. My memories spoke of an unbalanced, yet charming and fun game, especially after all the expansion packs were added. My memories were right.

The Sims is a poor game by today's standards. The graphics look great for 2D, but a lot of quality of life features are missing. Time goes by too fast, needs fill up too slowly and then go down too fast. You are either chasing the needs, or ignoring them for more fun. The pathing sucks.

Population: more than one.
Yet everything else, from the sheer amount of activity objects, to the things we see and do in the several downtown worlds introduced after Hot Date just oozes attention to detail and original Maxis wacky humor. 

As with all franchises touched by EA, The Sims has become a cash cow, focused on maximizing profit, always connected online (share this on your wall! Buy from our store! DLC! Stuff packs!), always grabbing for the extra dollar. Expansion packs have barely been worth the name since The Sims 3. 

This is all scratching the surface, of course. I could talk about Origin, the bugs, the poor patching, the sims store, the soulless gameplay. But I won't, I've only been able to watch Lets Plays so far. From what I've seen, I don't think I will be buying TS4. 

Community lots.
This isn't to say that TS4 doesn't have potential, or that it doesn't get some things right. The new Build Mode is amazing and tactile. Sim multitasking is interesting and populated lots are a delight to see. I just feel that the problems outweigh the good and make for a mediocre game barely worthy of The Sims franchise.