Tag Archives: The Sims

A Flirtation with The Sims

After about a week of pondering, my daughter came to me and told me which game she wanted to play instead of World of Warcraft.  The choice of a summer game was at hand.

Then she said, “The Sims!” and I went, “Huh?”

Specifically, she had decided on The Sims 4 based on something she read somewhere on the internet.

Just in case you need a picture

Just in case you need a picture

I had to ask if she was doing this because she read something about murdering Sims by trapping them in basements or pools or doors without rooms and, if that was her plan, could I watch.  That did not appear to be her plan at all, but her response made it clear that these were things worth looking into.  A proud parenting moment, where the values of one generation are transmitted to the next.

To my somewhat mild surprise, The Sims 4… and the evil of Origin that is required to play it… were both available for Mac OS.  I didn’t think EA still did anything on Apple products, aside from horrible iOS apps that you have to pay for up front and which then still show you ads.

And, as it turned out, The Sims 4 had been marked down from its original list price to something approximately equal to the three month World of Warcraft subscription, which made the math easy.  I told her she would be giving up WoW for at least three months and using that subscription money to buy The Sims 4.

She was fine with that, so off we went.

First I had to create an Origin account, which proved to be awkward.  EA has apparently somehow come into contact with every single email address I have ever used and had set aside a pre-made account for each.  Seriously, a couple old addresses I hadn’t used in years came up with, “You cannot create a new account with that address because we have already absorbed it into the Origin Collective! One of us! One of us!”

Not creepy at all EA.  I know you’ve tried to meld everything into your evil plan.  I’ve run across these account merges before.  But seriously, I had never before downloaded the Origin software or specifically created an Origin account.  It might be nice to at least make me think this was my idea or something.

Eventually I picked an email address, went through some password reset hoops, downloaded the software to the iMac, and had everything setup short of entering my credit card information.  At that point I asked my daughter one last time if she was sure.

She was sure.

So the deed was done.  The Sims 4 was purchased and downloaded and she began to play.

And play she did.  I have to admit she threw herself into The Sims 4 and played it to death.  She would have taken all her meals at her computer and stayed up all night playing if she had been allowed.  That went on for three days when she suddenly approached me and told me that she absolutely NEEDED to get the Get to Work expansion for the game.

Best expansion name ever

Best expansion name ever

I explained that she had used up the house gaming subsidy for the quarter, which only covers a video game subscription to WoW or other MMO or the cash equivalent.  She understood that and was prepared to spend her own money for this expansion, which ran $30.

I made her hand me the money before I would even get out the credit card.  This made my wife roll her eyes, but I wanted to be very solid on the fact that she was paying for this… plus I am bad at debt collection, so I want cash on the barrel head.

So the cash was forked over and the expansion purchased.

She immediately went to town on that for another day or so.  At one point I came over and found her designing the most efficient eight person sweatshop possible, a veritable North Korean work camp without the political indoctrination, and wondering how long the workers would survive.  A true child of Silicon Valley, where we are all big on fair trade coffee and work/life balance until we’re put in charge and every expense comes out of the bottom line.

The next day I came home from work and she said she had to reboot the iMac for an update and needed me to log back into Origin for her.  I said I would be over in a bit, but she didn’t seem in a hurry.  When I put my stuff down and wandered over to see what she was up to, she was playing Minecraft on some PvP server and didn’t really want to pause.  I came by a couple more times that evening, but something else was always going on, Minecraft or drawing or looking at cat .gifs on Imgur.

Days passed and I kept offering to log her in.  Eventually I checked while she was away and saw that Origin had actually been logged in the whole time. (Don’t remember telling it to do that, but you know, EA.)  So I asked her why she stopped playing.

She said the Get to Work expansion had been a disappointment and did not really open up the game the way she thought it would from the description.  The base game was still okay and she liked some of the creative aspects of it, but the lack of an open world limited the game’s appeal over time.  Having read some follow-up items on the web, she felt that she might have been better off with The Sims 3.

There was clearly some buyer’s remorse, enough that she wasn’t ready to spend her own money to jump into The Sims 3 despite it being only $20 on Origin. (At that point it was even cheaper on Steam, but only the Windows version was available.)  Still, she got quite a few hours out of the game.  If it hadn’t been for the expansion, the cost/hours ratio would have probably put it ahead of what we get out of a lot of gaming purchases.  And I am sure she will revisit it at some point.

But that was sort of how we ended up playing Minecraft on Father’s DayThe Sims were off the menu for a bit, but Minecraft was still there for her and for us.

And The Sims Shall Continue to Rule Them All

I haven’t seen an Entertainment Software Associate sales chart in a while, so I was keen to see their new 2015 Essential Facts publication that includes a couple such charts.  The big news, The Sims still dominate the chart when it comes to PC gaming.

 

The Sims and a few of the usual suspects

The Sims and a few of the usual suspects

Yes, the source is NPD, whose data collection has flaws.  But some data is better than no data I guess.  They say they are better at collecting data on digital distribution in any case.

Blizzard is pretty well represent, with World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, and Diablo III all hitting the charts for both base games and expansions.  And you can see the hole that The Elder Scrolls still has on gamers.  It is also nice to see Civilization V on the list.  But 8 out of 20 on the list for The Sims is pretty funny.

On the console list, which holds less interest for me, I will note that Mario Kart 8 made the cut for the Top 20, which I am going to guess means that every single Wii U owner bought a copy.

And then there was how we buy games.

Digital vs. Physical

Digital vs. Physical

Digital sales are clearly the bigger slice of the pie now, though if you look at that footnote as to what counts as digital, that casts a pretty wide net.  For what NPD counted, physical still looks like a force that cannot be ignored.  I guess GameStop won’t be going out of business any time soon.

Anyway, the report is an interesting little glimpse at video games in 2014.  Game Informer sums it up if you don’t want to look at the PDF.

A Sad Day for Sims

Upon seeing the news about Maxis yesterday, I realized that I had probably not sat down and really played a game from Maxis this century.

I bought a copy of SimCity 2000 from GoG.com for some tiny price back when EA/Maxis was busy shooting itself in the foot with the latest SimCity.  That was the last game in the series I could recall having played.  And I put SimCity 4 on my Steam wishlist and a reader actually bought it for me. (Thank you again!)  But I never managed to sit down and focus on playing either for any real length of time.  The crude graphics and the awkward interfaces of both chased me away pretty quickly.  Minecraft seems more palatable to me these days than either of those.  And I certainly wasn’t going to give EA any money for their latest version.

And without SimCity, what is there when it comes to Maxis?

Well, I guess there is The Sims, the best selling game series ever and probably the one reason that there is still a Maxis left to shut down in 2015.  EA seem dumb, evil, and heartless… often on the same day… but they do love the sound of money.  It’s just a good thing they haven’t figured out how to make money via malware or we would… oh, wait, I forgot about Origin.  Never mind.

However, I never played The Sims, aside from a brief dalliance with the Facebook version, back when that was how all game companies were going to get rich like Zynga, and we saw how that turned out.

And your father smelt of elderberries...

My usual interaction options with Tobold… we flirt shamelessly

And if I understand the history correctly, EA had already brought The Sims into their Redwood Shores lair, placing it directly under their control before letting it return to the Maxis logo, creating a taint that explained to some why The Sims 4 seemed like a step back from The Sims 3 in many ways.  So that wasn’t going to keep Maxis viable any more.  EA could just snatch The Sims back any time they felt like it.

Fun Created Here!

Fun Created Here!

And without The Sims, that left Maxis with… um… SimCity 2013 and… Spore maybe?  Talk about a couple of titles that failed to live up to expectations.  I didn’t even know that Spore had a follow-on game, which was even more poorly received.

So I suppose the real question is why it took EA so long to finally shut Maxis down and close their no doubt pricey digs across the bay in Emeryville. (I had a job interview right around the corner from Maxis back in 2010, with another company that is no longer around.)

Still, I feel some lingering nostalgia for Maxis.  I remember back when the original SimCity came out, when it was something new and different and people were struggling with the idea of it being a game because there was no obvious win condition.  Some were insisting we call it a computer “toy” or some other ambiguous title.

SimCity back in the day

SimCity back in the day

Back then I played many, many hours of SimCity.  Likewise with SimCity 2000 (which like a lot of games of its era, was much better on Mac OS).  I would let my city run while I was in the other room or at work (with disasters turned off naturally) to build up a tax base and then spend the evening expanding my domain and fighting off fires and alien invasions, all while trying to keep my ungrateful population happy enough to not flee the city.  I’ll tax you little bastards back to the stone age!  I remember the music especially, the jolly, bouncing, honky tonk tones of a happy thriving city or, more commonly, that trudging, day-to-day, we’re just getting by melody.  Is the SimCity 2000 sound track available on iTunes?

I am pretty sure I also bought SimCity 3000, but can only recall a mild sense of disappointment.  Plus it came out in 1999 when EverQuest pretty much owned my play time.

A bunch of other “Sim” games came from Maxis over the years, none of which really appealed to me.  Looking at the list of Maxis games, there are a lot of titles there that I let pass on by.  I think Maxis might have been ahead of their time in some ways.  SimFarm, as an example, was never a hit back in the day, but Farming Simulator has sold millions of copies on Steam.  Gaff can’t get enough of that one.  The simulation craze came too late for Maxis.

The only other Maxis titles I can muster much nostalgia for are RoboSport and Marble Drop.

RoboSport was a simultaneous move, multiplayer combat game, something of a precursor to the Combat Mission series of games, where both sides give their units instructions during the orders phase, then both sides act on those order at the same time during the combat phase.  For a season, when we were not playing Full Metal Mac or Bolo or NetTrek, it was the after work game of choice.

Then there was Marble Drop, which was probably the last Maxis game I purchased.  It apparently got poor reviews, but I recall it as being a fun little puzzle game that I played all the way through… though time may have fuzzed the edges of those memories.

A level in Marble Drop

A level in Marble Drop

And that is about it for the history of Maxis as viewed through the prism of my experience.  They mostly made games which I did not play.  Then they were acquired by EA which kept them around a lot longer than some other studios they have purchased.  But now Maxis has joined the list of the departed, along with Mythic, Origin, Kesmai, Westwood, Pandemic, and Bullfrog.

You can argue over whether Electronic Arts buys studios that were destined to die anyway or, if by buying them, EA destroys them on its own.  Either way, there does seem to be a pretty strong correlation between being bought by EA and being shut down by EA.

But the world of video games is volatile and it isn’t like the only studios that shut down are the ones owned by EA.  So we say farewell to Maxis and wish good luck to those who are now out there looking for a job.

I feel like I have been writing a lot of these nostalgic/memory/milestone/obituary posts lately.  What is up with 2015?

In Which I Feel the Power of the Dark Side… of The Sims Social

Facebook games and I have a cycle.

There is a short initial cycle of interest, usually accompanied by a burst of activity, followed by a period of peak interaction with friends/neighbors, followed by a quick decline in interest leading to me telling Facebook to not allow a given game access to post any more messages or notifications.

The whole cycle can last anywhere from minutes (CivWorld) to months (The Agency: Covert Ops), and the list of games I have played is almost embarrassingly long.  But they all end up the same.  Or at least the ones that don’t fold up shop while I am still playing do at least.  I’ve had that happen to me a couple of times.

But usually it is interest, a quick peak, and then wishing the whole thing would shut up and go away.

And so, it was just a question of time before The Sims Social peaked and became a chore.

Frankly, I have never been very interested in The Sims in any case.  I was a big Sim City fan, back in the day, but down at the individual Sim level, I get bored.  I am not much on decorating and such.  And so, while I cleared most of my yard, my home remains pretty close to the starting point.

Watching the neighbors…

And as amusing as it is to imagine relationships as selecting from a menu of options like “Gossip” or “Express Appreciation,” the whole thing wore off pretty quickly.

Talk about writing with Tobold

Even my sim wasn’t feeling it.

Tell us how it is

Soon I was getting notifications on my wall about friendships in danger because I had not bothered to visit.  Needy bitches!

I decided if I was going to wrap this game up and block it off, I might as well explore all routes.  So I figured it was time to hit the insult button.

Tobold, as it turns out, is pretty thick skinned.  I guess our relationship was pretty solid, as even implying his mother was a llama did not seem to phase him.

And your father smelt of elderberries…

Of course, I have to imagine if there has been something about his bathroom decor choices, it might have moved him more.

Pink!

But no, I could sit there and insult him until I ran out of energy and there was no change.  There even appeared to be benefits from rudeness.

Clearly enjoying my work

I am not sure what a bad mood potion does… or why it requires, among other things, left overs… but now I have one.  And my guy is clearly enjoying himself as he checks off insults from his notepad.  Insults work for me.  It must be that Oscar the Grouch, happy when I’m angry, angry when I am happy thing.

How… uh… unlike me

I guess that it makes sense that apologize is on the list of options once you go the insult route, but flirt?  Is there some sort of “make up sex” dimension here?

Anyway, insulting Tobold was turning into work, so I went searching for other victims.  I quickly found a relationship that was almost on the rocks as it was.  One insult was all it took!

New Status! Ex-Friends!

As with everything else, there is an option to share the news of your new ex-friendship with the world!

Being an ex-friend doesn’t seem to change much.  Sure, there is that gray frowny face, and the insult options are up by default when you interact.

Revive Old Argument!

But the door is still open.  I can still walk around his house, use his shower, and so on.  I cannot sleep in his bed now, only take a nap.  Among the other options

  • Patronize
  • Cat fight
  • Remember the bad
  • Belittle
  • Mock
  • Sneer
  • Insult haircut
  • Mock their dancing

I am so going to scratch you!

You can also wander around their home and retune the TV channels, change the pre-sets on their stereo, re-arrange the keyboard on their computer (set to Dvorak I guess), steal their food, and place a fish in their bed.

I am not sure what this is all in furtherance of.  Is there some sort of negative relationship tree to climb here?  Can I become somebody’s arch enemy?  Will that unlock some evil decor options?

Anyway, that kept me playing The Sims Social for at least one more day.

Epilog: If you imply that Tobold’s mother is a llama, he will eventually unfriend you on Facebook.  He seemed thick skinned, but I guess that skin just holds in all his deep seated resentment.

The Fortitude of Older Games

Last Friday Massively had a post up about the Nielsen ratings for PC video games for January through October of 2008.  The post itself pointed to a Kotaku article that listed out the top ten games for that period with statistical rankings.

They were (sans details):

  1. World of Warcraft
  2. Call of Duty 4
  3. Halo: Combat Evolved
  4. The Sims
  5. The Sims 2
  6. RuneScape
  7. Diablo II
  8. Team Fortress 2
  9. Counter-Strike
  10. Counter-Strike Source

The point of the articles seemed to be to remind us that we play a lot of World of Warcraft.  Massively did note that there was a massive title on the list besides WoW, namely RuneScape, but otherwise the list seemed to reinforce what we all suspected.  As one commentor put it:

How every you not need to read this crap to known that World of Warcraft was the most played game of 2008! base on the sale numbers alone!

You tell ’em!

But for me, the amazing/amusing part of the list was Diablo II.

Eight years after release, and seven years after the last expansion,  it makes it to the list.

Yes, Diablo II got a nostalgia boost this year when Blizzard finally got around to announcing Diablo III, but that alone does not account for the popularity of the title.  After all, if you go look at the X-Fire statistics every month, you will see Diablo II listed under “Top 10 Other.”

But then, a good chunk of this list is older games.  The Sims, Counter-Strike, and Halo are all PC titles over five years old.  Even The Sims 2 is four years old, making it as old as… well… World of Warcraft or the current version of RuneScape.

When it comes down to it, only Call of Duty 4 and Team Fortress 2 are really “new” games, and even they are based off older titles.

What does it mean?

Do new games just suck?  Is Nielsen fundamentally flawed?  Is PC gaming not dead, but just not done with the stuff it already has?