February 20, 2015

Reading between the tines

Uh oh, now Mariam has a fork stuck to her hand.  It's even more interesting when she tries to do other activities with that hand...

Hmm, maybe I can mass market a fork as a bookmark... Oh, wait, it's already been done.

February 19, 2015

Sleeping in the bathtub

Loren has been working pretty hard the last few sim days.  Having three children and a fourth on the way can make a sim go to work less than clean and arrive home completely filthy.  But if there's one thing that modern sims do, it is multitask, so Loren takes a nap in the tub, satisfying both energy and hygiene needs at once.

I guess the tub has built-in features to prevent sleeping sims from slipping underwater and drowning, but I don't see how the tub's bubble jets can really get her clean if she doesn't move around much.

February 18, 2015

The strange case of the sliding wall door

One of the big upgrades in build mode with The Sims 4 is the ability to move around and plop down fully made rooms.  I tried using this feature to build a house only from premade rooms, but something still isn't quite right...

The door from the dining room to the kitchen didn't update the wall well enough.  This house was built only with premade rooms that are preinstalled with the base game, so this isn't a custom content issue.  On seeing this, I tried moving the door and furniture around, but it wouldn't display the open archway correctly no matter what I did.  The sims living here didn't seem to mind since they walked through the phantom wall section without any problems.

February 17, 2015

Come inside and see my painting...

Christie is still very involved in getting her painting done.  Now she's trying to convince a townie to come inside to see her painting, still with the brush stuck to her hand.

The brush might not stick so thoroughly if she was actually using paint instead of paste.

February 16, 2015

Painting her lunch

Christie is a collector.  She wants to collect everything, but knows that she has to create the paintings before she collects them.  But she's mixing the cooking skill with the painting skill when she eats...

The paint brush got stuck to her hand when she went to make lunch.  Maybe she wants to slather some barbecue sauce on her meat...

February 15, 2015

A two-fisted drinker?

It looks like Mariam's loner trait isn't that much of a problem, but there might be something else brewing that could be.  While entertaining guests she poured two for herself.

There seems to be something a little sinister with the mixology skill...

February 14, 2015

Strange shadows in the bedroom

I tried watching for a fun screenshot opportunity that would be appropriate for the holiday today, but didn't see very much that I would consider bonk-worthy.  The best that I got in the last couple months of simming is this curiosity (which I would classify as a lighting bug) showing some unusually shaped shadows near the romance light.

The lighting system in The Sims 4 has always seemed a bit dark, but I don't see anything in the room that would cast these triangular shadows under the window, especially when the baseboard on that wall is compared to the baseboards on the two adjacent walls.  This scene was captured in the default the large corner bedroom of the Parkshore house in Willow Creek.  I only added the romantic reward light from TS3 Late Night to the room.

February 13, 2015

Glued salmon

It seems that sims will often carry things completely wrong.  Here, one of the sims I created, Piper Wilkins, has a plate of grilled salmon she's just prepared.

She's supposed to have it in her left hand, but it got stuck to her right hand instead.  Good thing she used the extra-sticky oil to grill her meal today.

February 12, 2015

Light a fire under it

When The Sims 4 was released, like many other simmers, I spent a lot of time playing different families and learning the ins and outs of the new version.  As a bit of a foodie IRL, I made a foodie sim and leveled her up through the basic and advanced cooking skills.  One of her dishes turned out to be hot enough that the stove burner followed it around the kitchen.

It's a little hard to see, but that bright blue circle under the counter is the stove burner animation.  I was half expecting the kitchen to erupt in flames from this.

February 11, 2015

The magic floating rocks of Oasis Springs

The sims I am playing right now live in Oasis Springs.  I built a house for them on the vacant lot there, and when they're not busy with skill building or off at work, I have one of them run around the neighborhood on a collecting spree.  Off at one corner of their neighborhood is this unusual rock formation...

Those three rocks are floating above the ground.  I don't think this is a hint at future expansion packs; EA probably isn't going to resurrect the Harry Potter Makin' Magic pack, but you never really know...

February 9, 2015

Ariana is not impressed

Wow, it's been a while since I last posted.  It's also been a while since I've had some free time for simming.  My sims did not disappoint as we see here. 

Ariana Wilkins, a family friend of my current sim household, stopped by to hang out.  Manuel is not making a very good impression on her today...

She's just missing the crossed arm pose, but she got the smirk right.

October 3, 2014

A month later, how is The Sims 4?

So now that it's October, and most of us have had about a month to play The Sims 4, how does it hold up?  Many others have said that this version feels more like an update to The Sims 2 than it does as an update to The Sims 3 (I wonder if that was part of the reasoning for making The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection a free download last month).  For me, it's mostly good.  There are a few things I miss from earlier versions, a few new features that I like, and there are a few things that I absolutely detest.

My top picks on features that I miss from earlier games, are these:
  • Open world - The Sims 3 had the open world done right.  Once a world was loaded, my sim could travel to any location and go into most buildings.  There was a lot to explore, and I didn't have to wait for the game to reset everything when my sim visited a neighbor or went to the beach.
  • Vehicles - This goes right along with the open world.  Sims needed ways to get to the other end of the world, and they were able to use the most appropriate vehicles to get there.  The Sims 2 handled cars a little better in that sims actually opened the car door, got in, backed out onto the street and drove away, and The Sims 3 let us follow the cars (or bicycles or even witches' brooms) all the way to their destinations.  But in The Sims 4, all of the vehicles are just background scenery.
  • Playable careers - The Ambitions expansion pack for The Sims 3 added some careers that included some extra gameplay during a sim's work day.  The ghost hunter career was my favorite and the traits that enhanced this career path are the ones that I would more often choose for my sims.  While The Sims 4 does include some "homework" in the gameplay in order to get promotions, and they are more appropriate than just building up your friend list like it was all the way back in The Sims 1, a sim at work in The Sims 4 is simply non-playable.
  • Basements - I grew up in Los Angeles where basements were exceptionally rare, but I moved to the Midwest about 20 years ago, and around here, it's rare for a house to lack a basement.  The basement is often used as an extra living space, but can be converted into almost anything that the homeowner wants.  In The Sims 3, the basement tool was an invaluable tool that I used to expand the living space on every sim house I made or had my sims purchase.  I made wine cellars, theaters, gyms, art studios, servants' quarters, trophy rooms and garages, among many other room types.  The basement was an easy place for me to stash the extra skill-building items that didn't fit into the usual house decor.
Okay, so what do I like?  Well...
  • It works! - More than anything else, I love that I can play The Sims 4 on my current computer.  I'm using a refurbished laptop that is a couple years old now.  The game installed and worked wonderfully out of the box for me, and got a little better when I turned on the "laptop mode" option (with this option turned off, I actually had my computer automatically shut down due to overheating, but have not had that happen yet with this option on).
  • Visual style - I wasn't too keen on the more cartoonish features when the early screenshots were released in Spring and early Summer, but I've gotten used to them.  Touching on the fact that the game runs on my computer, the reduced detail on game items that is most noticeable in the characters' hair, reduces the computing complexity.  Every object in the game seems to fit its environment, and there are lots of little details to find (like the fact that the curtains will subtly wave back and forth as if blown by the house's air conditioning).
  • Conversations continue - I love that I don't have to queue up 80 different interactions when my sims are in conversations.  They will usually keep going with smalltalk between the interactions that I ask them to do.
  • Reusing birthday cakes - In earlier versions, getting multiple sims to age up at once was nearly impossible.  It was a little easier in The Sims 3, but I was still stuck with waiting for each birthday interaction to completely finish before aging up the next sim, then I had to buy a completely different cake for the next sim and go through the whole process again.  In The Sims 4, I can have a sim make one cake, add candles to it, and then add candles again and age up the next sim, and the birthday interactions are much faster than they were in previous versions (and there is finally a birthday song in the game too!)
  • Multitasking - I am continually surprised with the tasks that sims choose to combine.  My sim will change clothes on the way to getting breakfast out of the fridge, chat with other sims while repairing or upgrading objects, move to the ambient music while sitting and performing other actions (like writing a book on the computer or eating a meal and chatting with other sims in the room), and I finally saw one of my sims make a phone call from the toilet.
  • Build mode roof tool - Finally!  Now I can really put the roof pieces the way I want them without all the hassle that were roofs in the previous versions.
  • Sim path selection - I love that a sim in a small bathroom will not be blocked in by another sim at the door any more.  The two sims will be able to get past each other even in very small spaces.
I mentioned that there a few things that I absolutely hate in The Sims 4, and I would be remiss if I didn't list at least a couple of them here.
  • Loading screens - Every time I send a sim to a different building, no matter where it is, I have to sit through a loading screen.  Even going immediately next door forces me to wait for another loading screen.  Sure, having exactly one active building at a time can reduce the computing complexity, but this is overkill.
  • Unreadable text - My vision isn't quite what it used to be, and as a professional photographer, my computer screen is correctly color balanced to help me ensure that I am getting the exact colors I need on my photos and that they will print with my correctly color balanced printer profiles that let me print out exactly the same color (or as absolutely close as possible) that I see on my screen.  That means that my monitor's brightness and contrast are adjusted away from the defaults (which are way too bright).  The Sims 4 user interface is usually a very light blue or light green text, sometimes even yellow-green, against a white background.  This is almost impossible to read.  The notification wall does it right by using high-contrast colors, but the aspirations and job homework text, where I need to read the text more closely to decide on my sims' next actions, does not.
For my style of play, where I try to follow one sim from birth through adulthood and then continue the line by following one of the sim's children, The Sims 4 lets me play.  I remember the big uproar from The Sims 2 to The Sims 3 when players found they couldn't play multiple families concurrently any more, but this was less of a change for me because I've always played in a one-sim-at-a-time manner.  I was never the player who built death trap houses, and although toddlers in earlier versions provided an almost consequence-free time span for skill building, for the most part, The Sims 4 is fun enough that I'll keep playing.

This week's update that added ghosts is a welcome addition, and I look forward to the pools that are coming in next month's update and the new careers in December's update.  It is likely that this game evolution will lead me to stop playing The Sims 3 just like that step led me to stop playing The Sims 2 before it, but I am confident that the game will continue to improve and that I'll find a way to either tolerate or mitigate the shortcomings.