Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sims 3: My Take

edit: I decided I should preface this review by saying that I was looking at the game from a creator's point of view, and not a gamer's, since I was at EA in January working with the game, specifically for machinima purposes. I do think the gameplay of Sims 3 is great, and has a lot of improvements over Sims 2. But as a creator's tool, it will take some custom content to improve the aesthetic of the game, which, unfortunately, is what I found lacking. Regular gamers will probably not be as bothered by some of the things I discuss, here.


Like so many others, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of the third version of the Sims series on June 2, and sat around waiting for UPS to deliver, yesterday. The game came at around 4 pm, and suddenly I found myself feeling entirely UNDERwhelmed by the whole thing. Maybe it's because I'm a little frustrated with EA in general, right now, after my account was hosed a few months back, and I can't log in or do anything on the official site. (For those of you who have sent me friend requests, I cannot access them. I am waiting to hear back from EA about fixing this mess). Or maybe I was certain that installing it would bring up some error that would inevitably frustrate me and ruin my night, because I'm temperamental like that. Whatever the reason, I put off installing it until today. And, nope, no errors, except that I can't install on OS X without upgrading to Leopard. So it's a Windows install, and a temporary one, at that.

I finally got a chance to play the game and, after having some fun with it for an hour or so, I exited and put my Sims 2 disk back in. I hate to admit it, but I'm a bit disappointed.

Here is my initial impression, just after creating the four Bogus sims and putting them in an unfurnished house. As posted on my forum:

"So I've been playing a bit, and it's fun. Not a replacement for my TS2 game, but I've been saying that since January. This is an entirely different game, and one does not exclude the other.

I tried to recreate my Bogus sims, and they look nothing like them. There is a desperate need for custom content, here.

The movements are still jerky, and not fluid like TS2. Better than they were in January, though, but they still do that stupid idle stance, with the hip slung to the side.

So, I'm standing by my statement that this is something completely different from Sims 2, and I will be firing that up, later. Right now I'm actually playing Sims 3 - as in, real gameplay - something I haven't done in a while. And it's fun, in its own way.

Scott and Val are married. Val is pregnant. She wants a massage. I have no idea how to do that.

Since I don't have the huge extended family, I had to make Jory, who is really Shep and Scott's cousin, their brother. He's grumpy, and he and Shep pretty much hate each other. They've been fighting non-stop. Shep is a hot head, so he's complaining about every little thing. Val is an absent-minded, clumsy, artistic type, so giggles randomly. Scott can't decide on a career. The athletic career pay wasn't enough to buy a new kitchen table, so he is in the science track. Just temporarily. Then he'll go back to athletic, probably.

Because they have no kitchen table, I caught Shep eating on the toilet.

Jory is in the law enforcement track, and his lifetime wish is to become the Emperor of Evil.

Shep is in politics. (He's a political science major in my TS2 game.)

The house is crap, I had to sell one of the beds to buy a sink, so Jory now sleeps on the couch. He's constantly miserable."

Yes, it was fun, and I had quite a few laughs at my sims' collective expense. Yes, this is much improved since January. Yes, the neighborhood looks purty. Yes, the traits are nifty. But somewhere down the line, a step backward was taken. The animations are stiff and jerky, reminding me of a console game. The idling animations are virtually non-existent, and the sims just stand around with their hip thrust to the side when free will is off. When free will is ON, there's chaos, but it is entertaining, I'll give it that. I normally prefer to play with free will off, now, since I started doing machinima, and need absolute control over everything. But with this game, I prefer to leave free will on, and at the highest level, because I simply cannot stand the idle stance.

I do enjoy the game-play aspect of Sims 3. It is similar to the console games, in that regard. Very goal-oriented. But there's not much room for creativity, ironically, despite all the customization tools and sliders for Create-a-Sim, and buy/build mode. All my sims look frustratingly alike. One could argue the same was true for my Sims 2 sims, but that's because they were all related. The putty-like appearance from the early screenshots is still there. It improves somewhat when you set the sim detail to high (which now requires a restart), but it still looks very Toy Story-ish.

The HAIR. Wow. I was really hoping new hairstyles might be added since January. The selection is so limited, especially for the males. I gave all three Bogus men the same shaved hairstyle. And, yes, hats.

The eyes, how they shine! Much better than the default flat maxis eyes of Sims 2, but no less cartoon-y.

I will make machinima with this game, but from the looks of things right now, it will be a blending of Sims 2 and Sims 3 footage.

I'll give this another shot when I'm in a better mood, and not so tired. And, hopefully, when the custom content creators can get working on new skintones, hair and eyes, this game will vastly improve in appearance, at least. I'm not sure about those jerky motions, though. Can that realistically be fixed?

Until then, I'm very happy with my Sims 2 game and will continue to make machinima with it. As for Sims 3 machinima, yes, I'll take on the challenge and hope some improvements will be made.