Sims 3 is the latest title in the Sims series, a tremendously successful money making franchise for Electronic Arts with over 100 million copies sold worldwide to date.
Many people aren’t even aware of the development of Sims 3 because everything relating to the game seems to have been kept relatively hush hush. Developer Maxis also handed the project over to EA Redwood Shores recently. It is actually quite a shock to learn that this title has been in development for around four years now. I was lucky enough to get a look at The Sims 3 when it was announced but recently I managed to spend some time in the new Sims town courtesy of EA.
One of the most important aspects of the game is the character development and the new sim creator has been overhauled to give a cleaner appearance as well as incorporating some new features – that said it will be immediately familiar to anyone who has played the games before. You get to choose the gender and age of your Sim and then get to play with various sliders to alter facial features as well as hair, clothes and colouring. There is a sense of development and refinement with the new editor and it is definitely a nice advancement over previous outings. The colour options are very sophisticated because you can adjust the highlights within specific colours as well as an array of other nice touches. Body weight and muscle definition are available for fine tuning but just like before there are no options for height. The age ranges vary with infant, toddler, child, teen, young adult and then adult and elder. Every Sim still ages so an infant will age and eventually grow old and die, just like real life. For those who want to be able to fine tune this, there are sliders to let you adjust the sims’ life span with the current maximum being around 1,000 days. Thats almost 3 years of real game time!
Those of you who like attention to detail will be pleased to hear that one of the new featuresets is the ability to create cloth patterns and even textures on the clothing and once created you can drag and drop them onto other clothes in your wardrobe. All your masterpieces can be saved and even shared with other people if you wish to do so. If you are a neatness freak you can even match hair styles to the clothing. In older versions of the franchise if your character had a different hairstyle or headwear (such as a hat) then this would appear with every outfit, even when it perhaps wasn’t wanted. Sims 3 lets the user associate various headwear or hairstyles to suit different outfits, so you can have a more sophisticated hair style for formal dinners, then make it more casual when you are out in a more relaxed setting.
All of these little aesthetic touches bring a nice sense of uniqueness to your creations and this is not the only area to get an overhaul. The developers have ditched the messy and neat sliders and have added personality options to the mix. You get to pick up to five personality traits for each sim and this will adjust their virtual behaviour in the future. There are a huge plethora of traits available, such as perfectionist, natural cook, romantic and even rather cool options such as bravery or evil. We were told that the huge array of personality traits were sourced from peoples user descriptions in online personal ads (I would hate to meet the person who described him/herself as “evil!”)
All of these combined traits means that the algorithms and coding adjust how the sim will behave in any given situation and it will also drive them towards their own desires and wishes. In the short time I had with the game I managed to create a sim who would have given Gordon Ramsey a run for his money in the kitchen.
After creating your characters you then get to drop them all in the game. Sims 3 when it is released will launch with a town called Sunrise Valley, this is a small attractive suburban setting located between the mountains and the ocean.
Sunrise Valley has a plethora of homes and a nice downtown area for socialising. When your sims move in you can choose to live in a home already created (and positioned) or purchase one from scratch in one of the many expansion slots in the hills. To make the experience less of a chore when you purchase a home you can choose to buy it with nothing in it or furnished. The furnished option, just like it would in real life, costs extra. Sunrise Valley has a nice array of entertainment and recreation areas such as a stadium and there are plenty of fishing holes tucked up in the woods and a cemetery to bury the dead (there are even ghosts for a nice supernatural aspect!).
In Sims 3 there are no longer load times because the whole setting is loaded simultaneously. This means that the gameplay is much more complete and diverse because the virtual life is no longer fixated on a single location. The sims I created were all able to call taxis or drive around the environment getting jobs in various locations as well as meeting other people. While this is happening from your perspective, life in the rest of Sunrise Valley is proceeding as usual, other sims are going about their daily business. You will witness birthday parties in certain locations as well as people going to the stadium to witness concerts or ball games and other sims going to the theater for entertainment.
In Sims 3 it really appears that the whole environment is at your disposal and you can literally go anywhere you want and interact with anything you see on some level. The AI deserves special mention because it seems that the Sims are now perfectly capable of looking after themselves when you aren’t in direct control of them. I witnessed my creation going to get something to eat, watching the television, taking a bathroom break and even having a shower, without any interaction from myself. Obviously as discussed earlier, their personalities will affect what they want to do so instead of just random actions in the last titles, this time around the Sims really do appear as if they are living out their lives as they (or you) see fit.
Sharing items in the game is handled by an in game content browser however at this time I wasn’t explained specifics relating to it. The whole concept is to let the individual player choose what he/she wishes to share and to keep specific items private.
Recording video is supported and just like Sims 2 you can record gameplay without a problem. A webpage interface allows you to edit, create and share your creations with others on video sites like Youtube.
All in all I was impressed in the short time I spent with the game, I don’t think its going to suddenly attract First person shooter fanatics in a way that the others didn’t but for fans of the series this is certainly shaping up to be the most fun experience in the series to date. There have been many enhancements, some minor and some more substantial, but the overall package is certainly going to keep the dedicated following of Sim gamers busy for many months to come.
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