Sunday, June 07, 2009


I'm playing Sims 3 (yes, legally). The Sims and I have a strange relationship, in that I loved the first games for about 30 hours and then couldn't ever stand them again. It looks like Sims 3 is much the same, although I may get 50-60 hours out of it.

Now, honestly, that's hardly a bad hours-entertained-to-price ratio. Cheaper than a movie. Cheaper than renting a movie. But at the end of those hours, I'm always left unsatisfied and irritated that I spent so much time playing such a shallow game.

Another interesting thing is that I can't play any Sims game at all unless I cheat. "Time management" is a central theme to the game and, frankly, I hate that stuff. I hate doing it in real life, I hate doing it in fake life. What I want to do is spend as much time as I want to on whatever it is I'm doing. If I'm fishing, I want to fish until I've mastered it. If I'm collecting rocks, I want to keep collecting rocks. If I'm trying to conquer the world, I don't want to be distracted by the pathetic need to eat and sleep and go to the bathroom, the needs that consume the Sims literally every hour of every day. Heck, it takes fifteen minutes just to walk up some stairs and knock on a door.

So I really like some parts of the Sims. Basically, I'm an edge tester. That means I don't much care for the day jobs, which progress at whatever rate they want, but instead I prefer the odd side jobs you can do, like writer, or stargazer, or rock collector. Or, ultimately, gardening, which not only gives you an insane amount of money but also lets go grow cool things like life fruit and steaks.

I'm always an edge tester, but its rare that I encounter a game so dedicated to torturing me when I try to explore those edges. Most games with edges either dole them out tiny snippets at a time (meaning I have to play the game to test the edges) or don't interfere with my edge testing at all. The Sims is the only game I know of where the active barrier between you and accomplishing all the stuff you want to accomplish is your never-ending need for bathroom breaks.

I understand that it's the foundation of The Sims. I just find it really irritating.

Also, somewhat comedically, while the Sims 3 radically enhanced the customizability of the characters, they enhanced it just to the point where I can't stand not having it go further. For example, you now have two scales of build rather than just one. However, why do that? Why not just give you sliders for every element of the body, like you do for the face?

Similarly, they let you customize the patterns and colors on your clothes... but just to the level where you wish they would let you customize more. Why can't I layer patterns, add decals, etc? Why are all the clothes (and, unforgivably, hair) static shapes instead of allowing me to adjust lengths and cuts?

Yes, yes, I know, that sort of thing is pricey to implement. But, to me, going halfway in these sorts of things is worse than not going at all. It peaks your interest just enough to make you irritable, like a man dying of thirst who sees another man, a dune away, squirting water in his general direction.

Anyway, the play of the game is very interesting: it offers ten thousand edges to explore, and then proceeds to be very irritating while you try to explore them.

And, for some reason, the faces are ugly as hell. Especially teenagers.

Have you played it yet? Do you explore edges like I do?

What do you think of the new goals system? I think one of the big problems I have with this type of game is that there is no sense of closure to tell you when you're done, but there's not enough depth to keep going forever. I haven't thought about the specifics enough to write an essay on the matter, but what are your opinions?

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