Sims 3 & EA Origin Direct Download

In Japan, personal computer games is also an euphemism for games with explicit content. That was not at all the reason why I had a stack about as high as this one, though. They were strategy games, various simulators, and sword & sorcery roleplaying games. And expansion packs for The Sims, The Sims 2 and The Sims 3.

As I have told before, after my two moves there are no longer a couple hundred computer games in my home, but only a handful. However, the Sims franchise – pretty much my only games now besides City of Heroes – comes with a new expansion pack twice a year, as reliable as the seasons. I generally don’t buy them until the bugs are ironed out, as this disturbingly lifelike life simulator either has poor quality control (EA tries to save a penny where they can) or is just too complex to test.

This week, I had installed The Sims 3 again on the quad-core machine and found that with Windows 7 and a Solid State Drive instead of the main hard disk, it ran amazingly smoothly.  So I decided to throw at it one of the largest user-made worlds out there, Los Aniegos.  (Yes, that is a pun on Los Angeles, and the overall structure of the neighborhood is inspired by that area. Of course it is 10 000 times smaller or so.) This neighborhood needs the Ambitions expansion which I already had, but also the World Adventures and Late Night expansions, which I saw no reason to buy before. Also, they have now come down in price. Way down.

(A new expansion pack is out recently, called Generations. I assume my recent renewed interest for The Sims 3 may be in part due to the collective telepathic influence of hundreds of thousands of gamers being excited about the game again for a few weeks. A great disturbance in the force…)

(I am not buying it now, then. Waiting for the bugs to be found first, but also for the price to come down, and for some really good content to be made by users for it.)

(Disappointed to see that the Norwegian name is Generasjoner, which is a literal translation, or barely even that. The name should have been slekters gang, according to the voice in my head. Next time mail me before instead of making a boring translation. The voices in my head are always happy to share their wisdom with the world for free. That’s just the kind of people we are, the voices and I.)


After checking the Gamestop in Kristiansand (the city where I work) I also checked a couple online retailers. However, considering the price, the freight and the delivery time,  I ended up buying both of the earlier expansions directly from Electronic Arts, using their new “Origin” direct download service.

“Origin” is the continuation of the EA Download Manager, which has been around for a while.  It serves two functions:  To buy and download games without CDs and boxes, and to update existing games with patches. The name is somewhat ironic: Electronic Arts bought and closed down a famous software house called Origin, best known for its cult hit Ultima series.  It is uncertain whether they originally meant to close it down – they were not really competitors – or whether the clash of business cultures simply made it impossible for the Origin developers to continue doing their work. EA is famous for being extremely suit-controlled.

While the “Origin” download service is a cold comfort for the demise of one of the most creative software houses ever, it is actually quite good at what it does. I would have appreciated being able to choose what disk to install to, but on the plus side, it is very idiot-friendly. You just pick the games or expansions you want, click through a lot of legalese (telling you that you have no rights and Electronic Arts can do whatever they want without you complaining – standard contracts in other words), and the program downloads and installs on its own. When you come back from making dinner, it is ready to press Play. It seems great for the type of humans who “just want to have fun”.

You do not need to be online to play the game, only to install or uninstall it. There is even an unsolicited description of how to uninstall “Origin”, should you ever wish to.  That was a pleasant surprise:  The competing service “Steam” from Valve (yes, probably an attempt at humor, that name) would log on (“phone home” as we say) if I tried to play Civilization 5.  With “Origin”, you can play anywhere, at any time. Or at least that is what they say. You need to be online when you install and activate the games though. And you can only install each game on 5 computers. Simultaneously.

That is pretty generous unless you have a large family, I’d say. And if you decide to  get a new and better computer, you can simply uninstall (while online) from one of the old computers, and “Origin” will phone home to tell that you have a license to spare, which you can then use to install the game again on the new computer.

The problem arises if your computer – or at least hard disk – dies without telling you in advance. This is not uncommon.  By the time I gave up on my C: disk on the quad-core, it was probably too late to uninstall things from it.  And most hard disk deaths are more sudden than that. One morning you wake up and your computer does not.  So over the course of a decade or so, the 5 licenses are likely to dwindle to two or even one. At that point you will probably start backing up your whole disk, which gets around the problem if you buy the exact same type back.

Or, perhaps after 10 years you are not going to play The Sims 3 anymore. I mean, how many are currently playing The Sims: House Party, which came out in spring 2001? Such people may exist, but are probably not used for business decisions.

This seems like a good time to point out that the accelerating change of change acceleration is accelerating, or in other words, the way things change faster than before is changing faster than before. By 2021, if there is even a human world left as we know it (and I very much expect there will be), entertainment is going to be quite different from now. It seems unlikely that there will be sold desktop computers, or even laptop computers, at the time. Hard disks and heavy-duty processors will probably be online, and most interaction with computers will come from handheld pads or tablets with 3D projection. Sims 3 is unlikely to ever be optimized for that.