But we still got plumbbobs!
For 14 years, the “sims” – the small computer people invented by Will Wright at Maxis – have been the more or less constant companions of me and many others around the world. At a time when computer games was seen as a boy thing, girls and grownups embraced the ever more complex life simulation that was The Sims, The Sims 2 and The Sims 3, each of them adding more content with a stack of expansion packs as well. It did not surprise anyone that there would be a Sims 4. It did not surprise anyone that the base game – the starter pack, if you will – would lack much of the content from the previous games. But gamers have grown a bit cynical about this over time, and with the announcement that the game would not have toddlers, a wave of disdain washed over the Net.
There are no toddlers in The Sims 4. The open town from Sims 3 is also a thing of the past – now you once again get load screens if you travel to community lots or visit other sims, although you have a block of up to 3-4 houses (depending on size) that are always loaded like your home lot. On that note, it seems that the “story progression” has also bitten the dust, the engine that kept the rest of the town living some semblance of a normal life, marrying and having children before growing old and dying. At a glance, it seems as if the game is shrinking, except for the price. And of course there are a bunch of bugs. The reviews have been less positive than at any other point in the series’ history.
I, on the other hand, am quite impressed. To me there seems to be a relentless progress in the underlying direction of the game series: To portray human life in as much detail as the current generation of computers can handle.
This time, the sims have been given emotions. They were not entirely without them before, at least indirectly: Your sims could make enemies, have a nervous breakdown, or enter “platinum mood” where they functioned at peak efficiency, more so than usual. But now there are a list of emotions to literally color their lives. (The various emotions are color coded, such as pink for romance and red for anger. Perhaps in order to map the moods onto colors already associated with them, the spectrum is not evenly populated.)
You can see the dominant color of a sim at a glance, but their portraits are also more expressive and give a fairly realistic facial expression and stance for the mood they are in. The emotions are not simply for decoration: They influence what sims can do, and how well they can do it. Social interactions tend to go down the drain when sims are angry, and this emotion tends to spread in a group because people who get insulted or shouted at take it out on others again. On the other hand, the romantic mood opens a bunch of new interactions and lends more powers to romantic options that are open more widely. Confidence also stands out as opening a fairly wide range of interactions. Some colors will improve your sims ability to learn the corresponding skills – the “focused” emotion is pretty much all about this, and is quite valuable for learning logic and programming but not for socializing. Aspies are going to feel at home in this one.
The sims have two “whims” at any one time. These are wishes that follow from their life aspiration and personality traits, or from skills they have acquired. If your sim has started getting the hang of cooking, they will start rolling whims to make food, to make group servings, and eventually to make specific dishes. But there is also a third whim, which deserves its name even better. It is only active when your sim has an emotion, and only for the duration of that emotion. If a different emotion breaks through – for instance because of some bodily discomfort – the whim is forgotten, and any effort toward fulfilling it will not give any perk points. (Fulfilling whims accumulates points that can give sims some pretty powerful benefits if you save up long enough, including some degree of rejuvenation.)
In addition to the whims, there are now separate requirements to fulfill for your sim’s lifetime aspiration. You level up toward this by doing related tasks, which may or may not also be whims, usually not. A similar system applies to jobs: In order to advance, you need to fulfill certain requirements on your free time. While most of them can be gained reliably, there are some that require luck so you will have to just keep trying till you get it. While positive emotions improve your chances of a good outcome, they are not enough and not strictly required.
One amusing detail is that emotions have a fairly strong influence on your sims’ stance and how they walk. You can set a default walk, but emotions tend to overrule it.
Not only the emotions of the sims have become more detailed, their bodies are also slightly more realistic and easier to shape in the create-a-sim module. You can zoom in and drag or push details like eye shape or ear size. Unfortunately I am too left-brained to benefit much from this, although I have learned to use the brand new butt slider. Strangely, the sims don’t react to this at all, and not to the breast slider either, which is inherited from one of the Sims 3 expansion packs. Oh well, perhaps in Sims 5 they will notice! It should be out around 2019.