While I enjoy a ribald round of exploding things by pointing other things at them and pulling the trigger, there’s always been a huge part of me that loves to build and create — two aspects that are woefully underrepresented in many of today’s MMOs. So don’t laugh TOO hard when I say that I eagerly popped down to Target yesterday afternoon and picked up a copy of The Sims 3 (Collector’s Edition, natch) to fill that need a bit.
I played Sims 1 a bit back in the day, messed around in the beta for Sims Online (blech), and could never get into Sims 2 even with its much-vaunted move to 3D. The Sims appeals to people for different reasons, but you have to be okay with a lack of huge things exploding to tolerate it at all. One of my big turnoffs is that starting a household in these games is a struggle — you’re underpaid, underfunded, and as a result, you have substandard stuff in your house that makes daily living for your Sim a lot more of a struggle. Sure, the promo videos always show huge parties of sims and everyone getting into pillow fights or whatever, but my sim always ends up mopping his pee off the floor and crying about it because I have a broken toilet.
My wife and I had a bit of fun last night creating our virtual selves (even choosing five personality traits — like bookworm, computer nerd and hopeless romantic — that we both have), and watching them to see how they’d function. Again — really crappy house, no money, a bit of a frustration. But I stuck with it, and the hours melted away as my wife’s avatar became a chef (promoted first day on the job, due to her workaholic trait) and my own avatar started writing as a side job.
It’s really amazing when you think about it — The Sims has probably more of a right to call itself a role-playing game than many of the RPGs/MMOs we play. In those, our role is usually “killer”. Sometimes “healer” or “crafter”, but that’s about the limit. Sims 3 is all about the wide variety of roles in life, some interesting, some not, but many attainable. You have quests (goals that, when achieved, award Lifetime Achievement points), character customization (skill training, and perks that you can buy with the aforementioned points), acquisition of new gear/loot, and so on. Approaching it from the perspective of a MMO gamer, it’s not that foreign to me.
I’m still struggling with figuring out all the little tricks of the game, including how to make your Sims happy enough so that they’ll start accomplishing things instead of merely existing. My virtual wife and I have a lifetime goal of raising 5 kids from babies to teenagers, and we’re so poor we can’t even afford one yet. I also haven’t figured out whether or not I can create and play other households in the same neighborhood, or if every other household is computer controlled, whether I create them or not.
A bit point of contention about Sims 3 is its RMT factor — they want you to open your wallet and purchase lots of virtual items/clothing/hair from the Sims 3 store for your game. And it isn’t cheap, mind you; 1000 Sims points = $10 real money, and a full themed household construction set costs from 975 to 2500 points. In other words, they want you to pay HALF of what you just paid for the game for a few additional features. So the cost of the RMT stuff is way, way too high, and I get the feeling that they deliberately skimped on the items/clothing/etc. in the game so that people would feel compelled to purchase RMT crap and the expansions.
I haven’t talked about RMT much on this blog, mostly because I’m in the middle about it. I like the concept behind it — pay for what you want, no more, no less. But it doesn’t tend to work out that way — usually you get frustrated if you can’t have ALL the options in a game, feel angry that you’re being coerced into buying them, and they tend to cheese a game’s quality. My general feeling is that players shouldn’t be able to use their wallets as an artificial crutch to get ahead of other players — substituting skill/effort for money, in other words. It covers a game in a sticky, greasy film that never washes off.
That said, it is nice that they are offering a few items and even a whole town for free, and I hope EA continues to throw freebies players’ way from time to time.