Posted in The Sims

Sims 4: The story of Gorp and Jetta

I’ve been neglecting my retro gaming during my lunch break this past week in favor of getting some Sims 4 time in. The idea of creating a new dollhouse and maybe actually playing it for any length of time is appealing, especially considering how much content that I’ve unlocked so far.

So here’s my new family: The Grizzles. Gorp here is an aspiring writer who’s a bit childish and is totally not based on any internet-famous bloggers you might read. Not in the slightest.

Gorp’s wife is Jetta, who is a neat freak criminal mastermind. I liked the idea of making her stylish in contrast with Gorp’s laid-back flannel life. Oh, and I gave them a dog:

Meet Kip, the Boston Terrier! Check out that amazing scarf!

My first stab at building them a house (not pictured) was terrible. I couldn’t figure out a good theme, the design was bland, and I ended up so frustrated that I trashed it and started over. This time I’m going with a 64-square (for the bonuses) spooky-ish victorian mini-mansion. No lights in here except candles, no sirree!

Figuring out the layout is always the hardest part for me, because you *have* to have certain types of objects and make sure that there’s enough room for all of them. I ended up with the above five-room design that incorporated a front hallway, a small living room, a very small bathroom, a fairy light bedroom, and a dining room and kitchen that connected via arches. That’s the meat-and-potatoes right there without any of the touches. Heck, I don’t even have flooring and paint up yet!

I added wallpaper and paint. I don’t normally like darker houses, but here it seems appropriate and goes well with the candle sconces. I went with a purple print wallpaper in the hallway and dining room, a lighter purple for the bedroom, dark blood red for the bathroom, and a lighter (yet olde fashioned) wallpaper for the kitchen. I used curtain fringes for the front hallway to make them a little more claustrophobic.

At this point I started working room-by-room through the house. First up was the tiny bathroom, which I tried to give some personality without overloading it. Some cracks in the walls and a creepy portrait over the sink seemed to be the right touch.

Well, it’s a start at least!

Posted in The Sims

Sims 4: Making teeny tiny homes

The Sims 4 seems to be really popular in our household at the present. It’s one of those games I feel fine setting my kids loose in, because it’s much more about creation and experience than rampant destruction and violence. For me, it scratches that itch of wanting to create the perfect virtual abode and see how the computer people go about living in it.

This past month, Sims 4 released its Tiny Living stuff pack to feed into the huge Sims tiny house community. I think it’s more fun designing small houses anyway, with the added challenge of making everything fit and functional. It is tough, and perhaps the toughest part is coming up with an idea for a home that works. I’ve been noting some other creations to draw elements from, but I did want to see what I could do under my own steam.

So this here is my first micro home (as defined by being 32 squares or fewer). You get the most buffs from it but have the least space, so it’s not really something you’d want more than a couple of folks living in.

It may not look like much on the outside, but I am still proud of it. I incorporated columns, turned a wastecan into what looks like a pseudo-well, and lined my walk with a dozen or so tea light bags.

Inside, the home definitely shines. It’s a two-room house (the bathroom always needs to be separate or the Sims freak out when they have to use the toilet). I’m electing not to use the new Murphy bed in my tiny homes because of their tendency to kill Sims, so I tried instead to pick furniture that would look at home in a lodge.

The centerpiece of the house is the fireplace. Initially I was reluctant to put something that large into the space, but it really gives the place character — especially when a fire is lit. There’s the bed area, a TV/entertainment area, and what I think is a pretty cozy kitchenette. The counter can be used for both food prep and eating, which is a neat trick that I saw somewhere.

To make this all work, I definitely had to fine-tune it with the “moveobjects” cheat code. Some rooms and objects — like the toilet — wouldn’t work unless they were scooched over just a bit. I also love the fact that someone showed me how you can put up different kitchen cabinet options. None of those are functional, but they really do look great even in a packed home.

I’m not quite done with the house; I’d like to add some more clutter and decorations where I can fit them. But for the most part, it’s done. The yard is going to need a lot of work, but that’s for the future.

I never have completed a full year of a Sims 4 household, so maybe that needs to be next. It’s just that building homes is something way more entertaining than living in them.

Posted in The Sims

Do MMOs ruin single-player franchises?

Last week, EA actually confirmed what everyone had been expecting, that The Sims 5 is very much in development. Kind of has to be, considering how old The Sims 4 is at this point. But what wasn’t quite expected were some not-so-oblique hints that Sims 5 will include multiplayer or some sort of online play. In fact, The Sims Online — the MMORPG that ran from 2002 to 2008 — was mentioned a couple of times during an interview with EA’s CEO.

Personally, I’m all for this. I think it’s a natural progression for the series to step online — or more online, I should say, considering that the current Sims community does a lot of online connecting and sharing of created content. It’s a very social and chatty community, and I can see multiplayer neighborhoods (if done right) being right up many people’s alley. And since I do love MMOs, I’m all for seeing more pop up in the market.

However, not everyone was quite as pleased with this quote…

Yes, there be some really, really grumpy people out there who are having kittens at a possible multiplayer Sims. We should mention that actual details of if and how this would work in a game haven’t been shared, it’s merely the specter of online play that set off an emotional wail among some fans.

I parsed a lot of the responses, and it seemed like those who were dismayed by this news shared the same sentiment: “I like the game series as it is and don’t want to see this kind of major change to the format. Also, microtransactions suck but buying a million stuff packs is A-OK.” In other words, if there has to be change, it should be small, incremental, and completely in line with what came before. If a franchise is single-player, it should ALWAYS be single-player.

A few choice quotes from YouTube’s thoughtful comments section:

  • “I fear that multiplayer would force everyone into the same play style”
  • “For me, making sims and households is a form of escapism, and I really don’t think I could adjust well if the game was just randomly turned into a multiplayer platform.”
  • “If there are micro transactions I WILL NOT purchase the game. End of story.”
  • “I remember when Sims 4 was announced and they mentioned that there would be a strong online element people were furious but it turned out to be the gallery and now we can’t be without it.”
  • “How can I make my own world if I have to incorporate online strangers into it?”
  • “I respect some people may want a more MMORPG feel and it can be fun sometimes if the game grows a bit dull to play with friends. As along as the multiplayer feature isn’t forced for everyone and optional then I’m okay with it.”

Again, we don’t know how this would work. Or even if EA is being serious about this or just testing the waters for some sort of alternative mode. But hearing the reactions and reading into it the sentiment that MMOs ruin a good thing, I have to ask myself… is there some truth to that?

We don’t have to go far for a good example to fuel people’s fears. Fallout 76’s move online was handled so poorly, with minimal social features and a horrid cash shop and a laughable subscription. The trade-off for online play meant that some key features, such as VATS and reloading save states, had to be changed or cut entirely. And that trade-off never seemed worth it because Bethesda didn’t think the multiplayer through enough.

If EA required all Sims 5 players to always be online and always be subject to interaction with other players, then there will most certainly be issues. It would be too harsh of a trade-off, cutting out the ability to pause/speed up the game, build at one’s leisure, and the like. But I think there are many ways an online Sims could work, mostly by being a hybrid title that would be MAINLY single-player but feature a multiplayer neighborhood that would let you import a house and characters (that you created in your own space) and then have them run in real time in that pocket dimension.

It’s all in how well or poorly a multiplayer version is crafted from a largely solo series. It can be done well — just ask Final Fantasy XIV or World of Warcraft. It can be done poorly. But all of the time it will raise a lot of anxiety among fans before the final product is seen and experienced.

Posted in The Sims

The Sims 4: Tiny living might make my tiny house fantasy come true

One strange obsession I have that hasn’t been discussed on Bio Break is my weird fascination with the tiny house movement. I’ve always loved small, cozy spaces, and ever since discovering that tiny houses were a thing, I’ve been hooked on the fantasy of downsizing to a small, compact, and cozy home. I lurk on the Tiny Houses reddit and peruse floor plans and watch videos and generally indulge in a fantasy that I could never achieve. At least until my kids all grow up and graduate, and at this point, that’ll put me at 59 years old. Which is not an exaggeration.

Now I’ll be able to take that fantasy to a virtual level, thanks to the upcoming Sims 4 stuff pack, Tiny Living:

Actually, The Sims 4 has a rather passionate tiny house community already, which was probably why EA Maxis decided to go this route. It’s the smallest of that game’s DLC tiers, so we’re not talking a massive gameplay shift, but there’s some cool stuff here. The idea is to build houses on these new tiny lots of no more than 100 tiles, forcing compact and ingenuity. There will be some new toys to help with this effort, like the the murphy bed and other two-in-one items.

The community isn’t pleased that there weren’t — to our knowledge — the much-desired bunk beds, pullout couches, spiral staircases, or ladders, all of which would be ideal for this type of home. Still, it’s fired up my imagination. Our home is pretty Sims 4 crazy right now, to tell the truth. I’m going to have to take some pictures of the homes my nine and ten year old created, because I’m pretty sure that these would be ideal chambers to drive normal people insane.

I did have some fun designing a small — but not tiny! — house using a split-level technique that I picked up from a YouTube guide. It’s not nearly as decorated as it could be, but I’m reasonably proud of it for an evening’s work. Tried to rely more on country decorations for that feel, but I know I have a long way to go to really making a place stand out.

Posted in The Sims

The Sims 4: The new Addams Family

One thing that I’ve liked in sandboxes like The Sims 4 is that you can come up with a vision and attempt to see how closely you can execute that vision in the proper game. For instance, if you wanted to make an Addams Family-like house and family, could you?

Turns out, yes, you could. Finger snaps and all.

I didn’t go with a straight-up copy of the Addams Family for my Graves fam, but there are inspirations. The father is a romantically-inclined dapper gent with a moustache while the mother dresses very fancy and mopes around the house. The girl Lydia is more inspired by Beetlejuice’s character of the same name.

I hate the initial money limitations, because I really couldn’t build the full house that I had imagined. I did get a nice parlor started up there with a long floor rug that led to a fireplace. Everyone seems to enjoy dancing more in that room, which does not help propagate the gloomy reputation of such haunted houses.

If Sims 4 was a cheese cracker commercial targeting goths, I’d have it made.

Anyway, the family is coming along so-so. The mom and dad get way too gooshy on each other, much to the disgust of their eccentric daughter. I didn’t really have much money left for entertainment, so mostly it’s dancing and snowmen-making right now. They did celebrate Christmas by singing together…

…and trying to burn the house down, because that’s a tradition for my Sims Christmases.

Anyway, I thought I’d quickly discuss one of the reasons that I have a hard time sticking with any Sims game. There’s a great start to it, what with creating characters and building the houses, but then comes the day-to-day flow. And that’s fine, but at the start it’s also kind of limiting because of funds. Nobody’s making much money, so after food and bills there’s very little left to add on to the house unless you made it really small to begin with. So it ends up being day after day of trying to rush Sims through routines and work schedules with the hopes of making enough money for expansion.

It just feels like a lot of set up and then very, very slow execution for a while. Maybe I need to start even smaller, leave a larger nest egg or something.

Posted in The Sims

The Sims 4: A Christmas story

Upon the advice of counsel — which is a term that I’m using for “internet friends” — I did pick up the Seasons expansion for The Sims 4. This brought my grand total of Sims expansion packs ever purchased to (drum roll) one. I’m pretty happy with the purchase, since seasonal changes and holidays add a lot to the feel and flow of the game over time. It also makes for some interesting stories.

My neighborhood right now is pretty small; I bulldozed every lot except for a couple of small houses and families that I’ve created. My daughter asked to make a house with just me, so that’s her and me sharing our little four-room pad up there. One day after moving in, Christmas (or whatever The Sims calls Christmas) arrived, which set my virtual daughter off like crazy.

While I didn’t have much money left (or a job, for that matter), I did splurge on a tree and a small pile of presents. We opened them, she sang off key, and we tried to get into the spirit of the season as a blizzard raged outside.

I noted that there were icons representing what my character loved best about the holiday, and one of those for myself was making a great feast. Why not? We might starve tomorrow, but we’ll eat like kings and queens tonight! I set to making it.

So. Two problems. I have virtually no cooking skill and really shouldn’t have been trying to make a big dinner, and I forgot to install a fire alarm. Quickly, a fire burst out of the oven like it was transforming into a dragon, and we hightailed it out of the house and into the blizzard.

I did try to extinguish it, but I didn’t have that option (yet), so all we could do was freak out while standing in the snow. Burning or freezing to death? We might do both before the night was over!

Then, Sims Santa shows up and starts freaking out about the fire as well. I thought that maybe he would go in and save the day by putting it out, but no, he just started yelling and gesturing like the rest of us.

After a while, though, Sims Santa got bored of that and wandered into the house to add some presents to the pile. Good thinking, Santa — that fire was in danger of going out!

Really, I had no idea how a fire in this game works, so this is what I found out: It kind of burns up an area and gradually goes out as it moves along, leaving behind damaged and unusable furniture and a big mess.

Finally, I had the option to rush in and extinguish the fire. Seeing as how it was now 3:00 a.m. and all of our meters were bottoming out, I figured it was the best course of action.

Naturally I set myself on fire, because that’s how this day was going.

I extinguished myself, extinguished the fire, and looked at the sad ruin of our brand new little house.

My daughter was so exhausted that she couldn’t even make it to my bed — hers was burned to a crisp — before collapsing on the floor. Merry Christmas, everyone!

P.S. — My actual kids were watching all of this and were absolutely transfixed by the story that was unfolding, laughing and shouting non-helpful suggestions. It made for a nice bonding moment over games.

Posted in The Sims

The Sims 4: All of this costs HOW much?

When my computer’s hard drive barfed back in May and I had to reload everything onto a new one, I had forgotten at the time to reinstall The Sims 4. It wasn’t until the recent Seasons expansion patch that I even remembered that I had it, at which moment I went, “Oh YEAH, that would totally hit the spot!” and I returned to the evil lair that is EA Origin to get it.

It actually does hit the spot, especially for those evenings when I want a very casual house-building experience. Hey, MMOs, I’d be building houses in you if more of you would just have them, you know. The other interesting thing about The Sims 4 in our household is that it’s kind of a party experience. When I boot it up, all of the kids rush over and start telling me what characters to make and how to decorate and a thousand other backseat commands. We have one household that was built by committee and it is the goofiest thing ever.

So when I installed it, I figured that I might for the very first time in my life splurge on an expansion pack or something. I knew that The Sims franchise was infamous for how many expansions it pumped out to keep milking money from its fans, but I had never been in so deep as to feel the allure there. But I figured, hey, the older expansions had to be cheaper now, so why not?

HAHAHA Syp you’re so naive. This is EA we’re talking about. If someone at EA mentions a sale or discount, a marketing person is sacrificed on an altar next to the snack machine.

At least through Origin, nothing looks to be on sale unless I buy three different tiers of expansions together and get $20 off. That’s right, The Sims 4 has TIERS of expansions. There are five full-fledged expansion packs ($40 a pop), six game packs ($20 each), and 14 “stuff” packs ($10 each). So if I purchased them all separately, not including the core game, I’d be looking at $460 to patch up the game with everything.

$460. That is insane.

Now true, not everyone wants all of these expansions and packs, so you’re going to pick and choose what interests you. And there is that bundle deal where you can get one from each tier (three total) for $50. So say you get five of the $50 bundles ($250), then you’d be left with one game pack ($20) and 9 stuff packs ($90), bringing it to a slightly more reasonable but still expensive $360.

Maybe there are better deals out there. I know that EA jealously guards The Sims franchise, so it doesn’t appear on GOG or Steam. But there’s no way that I’m going to spend that kind of cash on a game unless it’s the only game I’m playing — and I’m paying for that piecemeal.

This all said, I’m not going to buy anything right now. This is becoming the Summer of Trying Other Games Out for me. I can’t remember the last time I’ve played so many non-MMOs, and I’m finding the variety enjoyable. If, say, I get to August and I’m cruising around in Sims 4 fairly regularly, sure, I might consider buying one of the bundles after doing some research as to which is the best one. I hear Get Together is a pretty great pack, although everyone seems to be really liking Seasons right now.