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.

September 2, 2014

May the fork be with you

Okay, it's September 2, 2014.  A large portion of the simming community is playing the new release of Sims 4 today and probably staying up pretty late to continue playing.  My copy arrived around 4:00pm today (I prefer getting a disk over just a download, and I needed to get some work done before I could play today), so I've only had a few hours of Sim 4 time.

But, it didn't take long to get my first bonk from the game.  The seated sim in this screenshot is Amy Moore, a sim I created in the Create A Sim demo (and shared to the gallery).  Here she has just told her husband Harvey about the results of their recent woohoo.  It seems he was so excited that he held onto his fork from his most recent meal - it's the white-ish looking thing stuck to his right hand...

My sim is so excited to hear the news that he held onto his fork

I don't know what he intended to do with that fork, but after a few more interactions and another meal or two, he's not holding the fork any more.

That's enough play time for tonight.  I've got work to prepare for, and I'll put together a more complete post later with more detailed thoughts and analysis of the new version soon.

August 15, 2014

What is your Sims 4 personality?

Earlier this week, EA made the Sims 4 Create a Sim demo available to everyone with an Origin account.  If you haven't downloaded it yet, open your Origin client and grab it.  I was pleasantly surprised at the performance of the demo; it was responsive and there were no lags that I could see on my laptop (which is a couple years old now and a refurbished model at that).

Today there is a new video among all the other teasers that links to a quick quiz...



It's a typical "socially shareable results" quiz that has an oh-so-convenient link to instantly share your results on Facetube.  Rather than posting my result there, I'll put it here where readers are more likely to appreciate it.


Considering that my professional life is now that of a photographer, this isn't too far off for me.  Now how do I create that personality in my simself (which I am fiddling with and will share [my username there is Slmbo42] as soon as I am satisfied)?

July 26, 2014

A sim's personal space

So now that The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection is a free download this week (assuming you have an Origin account and can find the place to enter the I-LOVE-THE-SIMS redemption code), I decided to reload it and play it again. It's been a fun stroll through the memories of playing an older game, but as usual, it was not without its own problems.

The game downloaded and installed perfectly fine on the first try, and I was able to start and play the game as well, albeit with a very long wait as it built the folder structure and neighborhoods for a new game. The computer I am using now is much better than what I had used the last time I played The Sims 2 so I expected a better experience this time.  In general I was right to expect this.  Everything looked better except for one thing...


Everyone who entered my sim's home had this black rectangle appear under them.  The rectangle moved with the sims through the home and spun around to orient itself with the sim it was following.  I guess they had Wendy sew their shadows to their feet before they visited...

July 12, 2014

Misc tip – The fastest way to learn to drive

The Generations expansion pack adds some new interactions at various life stages.  When it’s time to teach teen sims to drive, there is one tip that I like to follow every time.  I can usually get my adult sims to fulfill their lifetime wishes before their children become teens, so I will almost always have one of them use their lifetime reward points to purchase the Motive Mobile van and then make it that sim’s default vehicle.  I direct my teen sims to ask that parent for help learning to drive and just let them go at it.

learning-in-motive-mobile

Normally when a teen sim is learning to drive, the fun bar tanks for both the teen and the adult instructor during the lesson.  Using the Motive Mobile, all the needs for both sims are constantly fulfilled so they can stay out longer.  I usually find that they will continue until the teen has reached level 2 before they stop the lesson, but then I direct them to start the lesson again and they complete level 3 and the teen learns to drive very soon, almost always within 12 sim hours of starting the first lesson.

Even better with this vehicle is that I can send them out after dinner and have them working on this skill overnight while the rest of the family sleeps, and they are also both ready for work and school in the morning with no extra effort.  And since the teen sim is out with parental supervision, she doesn’t get caught for curfew violations.

July 11, 2014

Not the footwear that I was expecting

no-heeled-shoes

When my sims age up, I usually let them pick what clothes they want to wear and what hairstyles they want to show with them.  It’s pretty rare for me to take time out of playing my sims’ lives to adjust their decisions, but sometimes I have to step in.  In this case, Michelle chose a pair of shoes that have invisible heels.  I like seeing my female sims in casual heels, but I couldn’t let Michelle go on tiptoes all the time with no support.

I forget where I got these shoes or even if they were an official EA release or not (I’m sure one of you will be able to tell me in the comments…).  They kind of look like shoes from Into the Future, but even with heels, they didn’t quite match the Generations top and Island Paradise skirt (at least I think that’s where the skirt comes from).

I did change the rest of her outfit too, but it was the shoes that got me to take her through CAS on her birthday.

July 10, 2014

A little more “eternal rest” for this sim

What do ghost sims do when they get tired?  They stop and take a nap, just like any other sim.

napping-ghost

Bit I’m still wondering how ghost sims get tired in the first place.

July 9, 2014

When zombies get bored

If your sim is in the middle of an action when the zombies appear, the zombies will usually wait around for your sim to finish the action before they launch their zombie attack.  My sim kept fishing long enough for the zombies to get bored, so one pulled out her umbrella to wait a little longer and another chose to fly around with his jetpack for a while.

jetpacking-zombie

I’ve also seen zombies reading, eating and going potty (unlike mummies).  What have you seen zombies do?

July 8, 2014

Fishing prevents zombie attacks

My sim likes to fish and is working on his lifetime wish to have the perfect home aquarium with 13 perfect specimens of different species.  On one trip to the future, he landed just before a full moon, and you know that means that the stupid zombies will soon appear near my sim.  The thing is, if my sim is busy doing something, the zombie attack action can’t be performed because the zombie patiently waits for my sim to finish his action first.

fishing-prevents-zombie-attacks

Eventually the zombies will get bored and leave on their own or 6:00 am rolls around and they recover back to regular NPC sims and go home.

July 7, 2014

Driving the invisible monorail

Traveling to the future introduces your sims to a new form of public transport, the invisible-track monorail.  I was curious to see what it looked like inside the monorail car, so I zoomed in to try to see.  It works for other vehicles in the game, so why wouldn’t it work here too?

driving-invisible-monorail

I guess the expansion pack developers didn’t think we would want to see the inside of the monorail car because it looks like they didn’t build it.  But I wonder what my sim thinks he’s driving here.  At least he’s sitting down.

July 6, 2014

A ghost to watch over me

Rather than moving the dead butler’s remains to the cemetery, they buried her in the backyard (okay, I wanted to get some ghost interactions in my legacy family, so I put it there).  So far my sims aren’t afraid of her, even when they know that she’s using the rocking chair right next to them.

a-ghost-to-watch-over-me

Maybe in a future generation I’ll have one of the family members take the remains to the science lab to resurrect her…  or not…

July 5, 2014

Paparazzi shift change

When a sim starts out on the path toward becoming a five-star celebrity, the paparazzi start following the sim around.  Usually there’s just one NPC sim who watches, and takes notes and photographs, but there are times when that first paparazzi gets tired and hands off the watching duties to another NPC.  I often see their work periods overlap with two of them following my one-star celebrity like this time when my sim went fishing in Shang Simla..

papparazzi-shift-change

No matter what worlds and traveling expansion packs you have installed, the paparazzi will find your celebrity sim whenever and wherever he travels.  The advantage here is that a celebrity sim is more likely to get the “In the limelight” positive moodlet during a shift change like this.