Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Post of the day: Life simulation - the genre that's crumbling to pieces, or what's wrong with The Sims 3?

Hello all, like I said I'm going to be hosting some opinions. From now on I'll try to get one post a day in here (hence the post of the day bit), no more, no less. I don't want to spam you guys. When writing down my opinion I'll try to keep professional and respectful while arguing my points.

So then what's wrong with life simulation genre? Well it's simply dominated by one company and one line of products. Besides an odd Indie developer creating a small game like Kudos for the last 14 years pretty much all we've seen is Sims. Other genres previously controlled by one or two companies finally got some variety in recent years (flight simulators, city builder games), however life simulation remains untouched and EA remains unchallenged.

What's wrong with that you say? Well when a niche market is controlled by one company they don't need to try as hard anymore. If they chose to charge more, sell you less, add less effort into the game what will the buyer have to do? Choices are to abandon the genre or continue buying from the dominating company. What if you're really into life sims? Well if you did not find The Sims 3 appealing, you probably stuck with The Sims 2 and The Sims 1.

Well then, let's start. What is wrong with The Sims 3?

The lack of attention to detail.

look specifically at the lips and hair of this lady. What are those black marks on the lips? Why is her hair so shinny and stuck together? She looks like she has dirt on her lips and has plastic hair.

The same lady with her lipstick on. Notice how the lipstick does not cover her entire lips.

Let's downgrade to The Sims 2 now. 

The hair, while it doesn't look perfect doesn't look like plastic either and the lips are no longer dirty! 

You choose a lipstick and it covers the lips perfectly.

Now attention - a purely opinionated statement is incoming!

The women in The Sims 3 somehow look more male than in The Sims 2

Now this might be just me being bias, but I just feel this way. Maybe it's because women in The Sims 3 has less hips? Maybe because their lines seem more expressed? Maybe it's because of their overly broad shoulders? No matter how many characters I would make in The Sims 3 they would just feel off. You can't take points off for something purely based on opinion though.

Neighborhoods full of houses, but where can I add the expansion content to play it?

This is the way The Sims 1 did it. After you installed an expansion an extra part of your neighborhood just got attached to your current one. Without the expansion there wouldn't be any of the land on the lower right courner. Essentially everything that you see after you cross the bridge wouldn't exist.

And this is how The Sims 2 did it. On the neighborhood select screen you just attached the expansion cities to the neighborhood and your sims could visit those cities after driving a car there or calling a taxi to be taken there.

Now in The Sims 3 every single expansion comes with its own city, however you can't connect said city to the one you're currently playing. But what if you want to experience the expansion content without having to create a new family in a new town? Well get to building plopping! Yes, you can take an expansion building and just put it down in your neighborhood! What's the problem then? Take a look at the image in front of your eyes. Where is there any space to put down a new lot?

Flat terrain versus a varied terrain

this was what you would normally see in a The Sims 2 neighborhood. Very little cluster, flat ground, perhaps less appealing, however far more comfortable to play in. At the moment I can see at least 3 places where I could place a new lot.

A far more varied terrain. However what am I supposed to do if I want to play in a new lot? Even though you don't necessarily have to place lots in front of roads anymore finding a place to place them became so much tougher.

Where did my difficulty go?

I do understand trying to appeal to a bigger audience. There's nothing wrong with that. However people that want to challenge themselves should be allowed to do so. I decided to put down the biggest lot available in both games, create a new character, move them in and try and find out how comfortable (easy) would it be to set them up with limited money.

In The Sims 2 the biggest lot has cost me 18 500 simoleons. A newly created character starts with 20 000. I had 1 500 left for necessities of life. After building that small bathroom, I was only able to afford a bed, a toilet and a telephone. How will I survive with no fridge? What will I do when the air goes cold? I don't know. But that's the fun of it. You don't need the biggest lot and if you want it you can hoard riches while living a comfortable life in a small lot and later move to a big one, however players seeking a challenge can start out like I did.

A newly created character on The Sims 3 has 16 000 simoleons. The biggest lot costs 8 000. That left me enough money to build this lovely little house, fully furnished with everything that you might ever need.

Everything costs less. Here are some of the furniture price comparisons:

take a note how a mini fridge in The Sims 2 is nearly as expensive as a full big fridge in The Sims 3.

There are lots of extra examples how the game is easier, but I think that prices alone show my point and therefore I don't need to spam you with pictures.

Why shouldn't we charge extra for what previously we gave you for free?

Take a look at the lot in front of you. It's a pet shop. When you bought the Pets expansion you got this building that allowed your characters to go to the store and buy a pet.

Read the features list for The Sims 3 Pets. "Limited Edition includes a pet store filled with one-of-a-kind objects." Limited edition is limited and costs more than a regular one. Now you have to pay for what would have normally came with an expansion. Oh and you were late and couldn't get the expansion on release? Well limited edition is limited, no more pet store for you.

Why should we develop it if we can just turn into a rabbit hole?

this is the inside of The Sims 2 grocery store. The only way to get more food was for your character to go here and buy it or to order it on the phone.

The building with the number 4 next to it is a grocery store in The Sims 3. Like you can see the icon is red. That means that your character enters the store, but you can't see the interior of it. Why would one want to see the interior? Immersion. Realism. Pick a reason.

I'm going to stop my rant right here, though this is a topic that I can go on and on about. The newest sequel has its fanbase that likes it, I know that, however with no life simulation games on the market where should people like me go? People wanting difficulty, realism mixed with humour? The only reason why it even leaves such a bad taste in my mouth is because the genre is dominated solely by this franchise, so I hate to see it change into something that I simply can not like. I know that I was thought to develop for the buyer and not for yourself, however I wouldn't mind developers developing solely their own vision as long as they can bring variety to this genre. I know that one day I will attempt my own hand at developing life simulation, however I wouldn't want to wait until I myself make a big scale product just to play life simulation again. Therefore I must ask - developers, where are you? The audience is there, just please develop for it!


  1. I totally agree, i though the sims 3 was gonna be a huge improvement, then i bought it and i felt i got screwed. its because Maxis made sims 2 and 1 thats they were so much better, The sims Studio fuck the sims and the sims 4 is probably gonna be crap too

  2. I feel like EAs only goal is generating lots of profit.
    They eliminate the challenge for the gamer so that every 5 year old can play it.
    On top of that they are trying to charge the customers as much as possible for every little object.
    I have played Sims 3 for a long time but sometimes i catch myself thinking of the old ones...

  3. did my name is really important ?Monday, 16 June 2014 at 12:42:00 BST

    I really Agree. I have download sims 3 because i like sims 2,
    but I can't open sims 3 and cannot play the sims 3,
    I think EA Should update the sims 3.
    The sims 3 have a lots of error,
    I cannot play sims 3 because every time I want to play with my created sims I got and error with visual studio.
    If Someone could solve my problem, I will consider the sims 3.
    And the size, it's really big.
    I only can install base and supernatural.
    The loading screen is really slow and I heard the game is slow ?
    Why EA don't let me play sims 3 ?
    I make the sims family and then the game crashes ?
    And it's why I really hate the sims 3.
    Until now I only can play the sims 1.
    If I could play sims 3, how to make a neighbourhood/world ?
    The sims 2 is not so big, but it can make a neighbourhood/world ?
    The sims 3 is big but cannot make a neighbourhood/world.
    I really hate the sims 3 launcher, It's only says that sims 3 launcher is not work.
    And I cannot make a restaurant, shop in sims 3
    I agree with you about cannot see the interior of the shop.
    and did ea make the sims 3 for child/teen play or for my father play ?
    the price is expensive for me (if you think it's cheap, buy all the expansion :P)
    and ummm... am I right, english ? (I'm not so good in english) :'(