Ridiculously excited

Screenshot anime

“I’m so excited!” OK, perhaps not quite SO excited, but still.

By midnight, I will be allowed to download the final expansion pack for The Sims 3: Into the Future! I am so excited! This is like my favorite expansion pack EVER!

OK, let’s back up here a little. I’m not normally this kind of guy. I have bought most of the expansion packs for the Sims 3 when they went on sale, months after their release, and even then I had a couple of them lying around for some more months before I installed them. The previous expansion, Island Paradise, I skipped completely. Even with the two previous Sims games, I did not preorder neither the game nor the expansions. So I was taken by surprise when I watched the trailer and producer walk-through for Into the Future and “fell in love”, so much so that I preordered it almost immediately. Since then I have counted the days till the official release (October 24 here in Europe) and now the hours (we can start downloading at midnight).

Of course, I do other things during those days and hours. It is not like I just sit around staring at the clock. But there is an awareness that intrudes in free moments. I suppose it is similar to human infatuation, which I have for some reason never experienced. I have had the same symptoms with computers though. ^_^

Judging from the trailers, the Sims 3 is really going out with a bang. It is a very ambitious expansion, delivering a new world that can be run in parallel with any of the earlier towns, where one or more sims can  travel freely back and forth between the worlds at their own choosing. The new technology is not simply a new skin on old functions (well, except for the hovercars and hoverbikes and some furniture) but completely new ways of doing things. And the variation of plumbots (Sims robots) that can be built is staggering, both in terms of looks (millions of possible combinations, billions if you count colors, trillions if you customize the colors) and the combination of qualities and personality trait chips.

But I think the reason for my excitement is not truly objective. There are others who are not particularly interested in this, including some who were very much into some of the earlier expansions. Rather, I think the game appeals to a part of me from my childhood. The future in the game is similar to that future I dreamed of as a child, not the future we actually got.

Don’t get me wrong, I love living in this future. I carry in my shirt pocket a library with over a million free books, and a bookshop with many more. It also doubles as a concert hall with millions of performances by some of the world’s greatest musicians. It also lets me watch HD movies, and of course it lets me look at photos and even take high-quality photos or record video of my own. It is a newsstand where I can read the news from around the world, most of it for free, and I can also buy magazines of all kinds. It is a telephone that lets me talk cheaply to people anywhere in the world, and a mailbox where I can send them letters or receive letters from them, and we can watch each other’s pictures and listen to music together if we want. It would have strained my imagination when I was a child that such a machine could exist, and I would have expected it to fill a room at least.

But the hovercars, the vaguely humanoid robots, the food synthesizer and holographic computers are the staple of my childhood and youth sci-fi, and it is the child in me that is excited. There is another part of me, which I now think of as my true “I”, who watches this with a sort of detached amusement and also some caution. Although the compass needle of my mind is moving eagerly, there are constraints on how far it is allowed to go. I am not going to where I was many years ago, when I fervently wished that Jesus would not return until after Christmas.

There is a sword that cuts soul and spirit, and the spirit is my true self, the one that belongs in eternity, undisturbed by the oscillations of emotions and desires of the mind. It is this true self that will one day, I hope, return to a Light brighter than any future that man can imagine.

Sims 3 in the future

Oasis Landing, Sims 3: Into the Future

Oasis Landing, Sims 3: Into the Future

The future isn’t going to be all bad, if Maxis gets their way.

The Sims 4 is scheduled for next year. I have not decided whether to buy it. Most of the expansion packs for The Sims 3 I have bought on sale months after they were released, not because I lacked money but because I felt they were not worth the full price. Even then it took some more months before I installed the last two. And the latest that is out now, Island Paradise, seems completely worthless to me. Less than worthless probably, as I hear it slows down the game more than the earlier expansions.

And that is where it could have ended, had not the Sims 3 developers decided to let the game go out with a bang. Their final expansion pack, to be released in late October, may be the most ambitious of them all: The Sims 3: Into the Future.

The name is a pun, in the sense that it is the last expansion for those who want to stick with this game into the future. But it is also a future-themed expansion where our sims can travel into the future and back, alter the time stream to bring about three different futures, and also make smaller modifications to each of these time lines by the things they do in the present day.

This is not simply a stuff pack that give new skins to familiar objects. Sure there are some, like the hovercar and hoverbike. But to a large degree, sims in the future interact with the world in a fundamentally different way. There is an Advanced Technology skill that is common to a great deal of the future objects. Not having it makes even everyday actions like showering or moving around difficult, but having it makes some other skills unnecessary (like cooking, as you can now get your food 3D-printed). The game also introduces vertical flight with the flight packs. (Even witches’ broomsticks in Supernatural were basically a motorbike with a new shape.) Even sleep has been scienced: You can now program dreams in some detail, to achieves specific effects.

The simbot (robot) from Ambitions has expanded into a myriad of forms and these are now known as “plumbots”. These can be designed in a great deal of detail, with a bot creator comparable to the sim creator. Their personality can also vary, from fairly simple to human-like to having unique traits and abilities only available to bots. Achieving the skills and getting the components to make the most advanced plumbots is a quest in itself, but luckily you can also buy bots at a specialist shop.

The world seems to be the largest yet, with a full town and a large surrounding countryside with desert and small habitations. Those who just barely get the game to go round now should probably save this expansion for their next computer. But I am sure we will know more when it is released.

The notion that actions in one town (the present) leads directly to changes in another town (the future) is new and intriguing. Even if you don’t opt to make the future into a utopia or dystopia, your life in the present will determine the fate of your descendants (if any), and you can visit them in the future and see the consequences of your life! I hope that this will have a positive influence on young gamers who play the game during their formative years.

Overall, the topic interests me more than most, and judging from the previews it is done with a solid unified style that gives a great sense of immersion in a future world. Supposedly it is set hundreds of years in the future, but the technology seems mid 20th century to me – just around the time of the Singulary. Perhaps we’ll keep playing this game until then? ^_^

Sims 3 University town won’t load

Screenshot Sims 3 University Life

Proof that the problem was solved, finally!

This post is for those who play The Sims 3: University and when their sim goes back to university, the load screen just stands just before the finish and it never completes. This happened to me. I even let it stand for about 10 hours and it never completed. I was about to give up and reset the whole neighborhood when I found this advice by Summerrainajk on the Sims 3 forum. I tried it, and although I did not get the same message, it worked!

What I did was before leaving for University, I pressed F5 and chose to edit town. Then I selected the University town in the upper left corner, and moved a house there. I am not sure it was necessary to go that far, I think just adding a new bookshelf in the library is enough, but since I did not get the message that all actions would be canceled, I went all out. Then I saved and returned to my game, and now my Sim went back to uni without problems. I was actually surprised by how fast it loaded, so perhaps there had built up some slowness during his earlier visits as well.

Hopefully most people will find this on the Sims 3 forum, but you have to log in to read there, and I suppose many people will have lost their password or may even have changed their email address, in which case they can’t recover the password. When I started the Chaos Node, I had an email address given by my Internet Service Provider. Then they were bought up, and you can guess what happened. So any place I did not remember to change my email address in time, or where they did not have a policy that allowed you to change your email address and keep the same account, I was locked out. Hopefully I can help someone this way. But it is all  thanks to Summerrainajk, and if you share this solution be sure to credit them and not me!


Oh, and one bonus not-really-cheat for Sims 3 University Life if you also have Sims 3 Seasons: The super Simmunity lifetime reward, which is fairly cheap at 7500 points, protects against nausea as well as flu and allergy. You can get freebie chocolate and soda at orientation, as much as you want, and they will feed you quickly when you are hungry, give you a sugar high positive moodlet, but without the nausea moodlet you would otherwise get. So it is a great snack! ^_^

Sims 3 Supernatural

Screenshot Sims 3 Supernatural (witch on broom)

Young witch Harriet Porter knows how to fly a broomstick! 

Supernatural was the other expansion pack for The Sims 3 that I bought on the big sale in March, but did not install until September. There was a reason for that, of course. In this case, the reason was the zombie apocalypse. From the early days of the expansion, there were numerous horror stories about the game devolving into a desperate struggle for survival as endless waves of zombies rose from the ground all day, all week, turning all the nonplayer characters in the game into zombies as well.

This turned out to be a bug caused by saving and exiting the game during full moon. (It is a game feature that zombies appear during full moon, although they are supposed to revert the next morning, and certainly not spawn continually until you move your family to a new town.) Evidently none of the beta testers had tried this… Anyway, EA later patched the game, but my skepticism remained. Besides, I had plenty to do in the game as it was, and I am not as much of a gamer as I used to be, I guess. (Well, if you don’t count the 2-3 hours a day I traipse around outdoors playing Ingress. But I count that as exercise, sounds more virtuous than gaming.)

Eventually, I decided to give Supernatural a chance, since the game was ruined anyway by Seasons. (This was before I turned off rain and thus the frequent thunderstorms which made it risky for my sims to go outdoors.)

Supernatural was a pleasant surprise! It actually makes the game easier, if you have a supernatural character in the household, but not so easy as to be an “instant win button”. Each of the supernatural races has its own benefits, and there is a new alchemy craft that is very powerful but challenging at higher levels. You can now also create three of the earlier supernatural types, which in the past had to join the family during gameplay: Ghosts, genies and vampires. Vampires are slightly improved from the Late Night expansion. New types are werewolves, witches and fairies. Alchemy is available for all sims, even the plain human type.

EA has done a good job of making alchemy different from the two previous liquid amplifiers, mixology (drink mixing) from Late Night and chemistry from Generations. Alchemy is generally the most powerful and varied, but requires special ingredients instead of just time and skill. Of course, if you have maxed all three skills, you are well into superhero territory. Actually since the drinks, concoctions and elixirs are sharable, you could have three members of the household work toward one skill each and all could enjoy the results. Even with these boosts, however, your sim is still vulnerable to lightning strikes and the occasional meteorite.

Werewolves are the least super, and most natural, of the new sim types (or “life states” as the game calls them). In fact, if you turn off the lunar cycle (which you can do in the settings panel) your werewolf could go through life thinking themselves a normal sim, just blessed with a hidden talent for athletics and a longer than average natural lifespan. (Much like my own family, now that I think about it…) But come the full moon, the truth can no longer be hidden: Your sim transforms into a shaggier version with an uglier face and bigger teeth, and starts loping around on all fours. You can also trigger this transformation at will once your were-sim is at least a teen, but you cannot transform back during full moon.

Werewolves tend to transform if angry and win fistfights reliably. They also have a bizarre “hunting” skill that is actually collecting. They can “hunt” for insects, gems and seeds on a particular lot. The outcome is somewhat random, but increases with their skill. They level up through transforming, hunting and howling at the moon. They can hunt in packs, but this is a lot of stress to organize unless you have a werewolf household. (Which you could get through normal breeding – the trait is inheritable – or biting your roommates to turn them into werewolves.)

There are few downsides to being a werewolf. Left to themselves they will occasionally rummage through the garbage bin, scratch the furniture and sniff other sims inappropriately, but it is a small price to pay for living 50% longer and dragging home many of the ingredients needed for alchemy.

Whereas anyone can brew elixirs, only witches can cast most spells. Your sim can be born a witch, or gain the ability through an elixir. They will learn new spells automatically as their power increases, which it will by casting spells or playing with magic, basically making small visual effects with their wands. Yes, witches need wands, and the quality of the wand influences their chance of success. So does having a familiar (cat or smaller animal) around.

The witches have a magic (mana) meter, much like mages in sword and sorcery games. The higher the reserve, the better their chance of success at difficult spells. If a spell fails, the result could be a fizzle or the opposite of the intended effect. For instance, the most basic spell is conjuring an apple, but a failure could cause a poisonous apple to appear. Luckily you can see the difference at a glance. And since your witches soon learn to transform any small object into another (random) object, the poison apples could end up becoming a gem, a seed, or even a fish in a bowl!

At the highest level, a witch can raise the dead as zombies. This sounds like a dubious activity, but luckily there is also a powerful healing spell that can heal zombie-ness. So with two successful spells, the witch can bring your dead sim back among the living. Of course, should the spells fail, the cost might be dire for the witch…

Zombies may not be fast runners, and not the brightest candle on the menorah, but it may not be a fate worse than death either. Apart from shuffling around trying to bite their fellow sims, they seem to more or less go about their lives, just more slowly. They don’t exactly kill their victims either, but there is a definite risk of becoming a zombie if you have one gnaw on you. Zombies can not be created in the Create-a-Sim, but can be created by elixir or spawned at full moon.

In contrast, vampires seem to enjoy their undeath a great deal more. They have all their superpowers from the Late Night expansion and more interactions, and you can now make sunscreen for them with alchemy. (If you don’t have Late Night, no worry, you can still have vampires with Supernatural.) There is even a lifetime happiness reward that make them immune to sunlight and stops their aging completely (they already age very slowly). This reward makes them glitter conspicuously, though…

The final new sim type is fairies, which has the five times longer adult lifespan of the vampire, none of their aversion to daylight, some spellcasting powers and the ability to run auras that benefit themselves and those around them. They also come with Green Thumb as a free bonus trait. Oh, and they can repair things without the handiness skill. Also, they can fly. All in all a pretty good package, offset by a tendency to play pranks on everyone unless you keep a close eye on them.

If you get the impression that fairies seem ridiculously overpowered, that is not far from what I try to say. The epic lifespan alone is a force to be reckoned with: Plop down a family-oriented fairy couple on a lot and go play another family, and after a few generations there are wings everywhere. Fairy children grow up as fast as other kids, but their adult lifespan lasts for generations. (So do the vampires, to be honest, and they also tend to take over town. But they have some pretty harsh drawbacks, while fairies have a great time and only irritate those around them.)

All in all, Supernatural adds a great deal of variation to the game, makes it somewhat easier if you “milk” the new features (and if you have patched it to avoid zombie apocalypse), and is as close as we come to a “superhero” expansion pack for those who develop their characters to the utmost. Surprisingly this expansion shoots up to one of my all-time favorites. Recommended!

Sims 3 Seasons

Screenshot Sims 3 Seasons (winter)

My self-sim built an alien snowman and a snow hut for it, but the aliens did not take the hint.

For a review, this is far too late. Even I bought the Seasons expansion pack months ago, but hesitated to install it. This was not a bad decision, as it turns out. Luckily I got it on sale, and after I have installed it and played with it a few days, I still would not recommend buying it at full price. Actually I am not sure I would recommend buying it at all, but if you get it as a gift and have a machine that runs The Sims 3 fast without hiccups, it does add some variation and realism to the game. Unfortunately for the new player, this realism mostly makes the game harder, not easier.

The expansion is centered on seasons (each with a holiday), weather and aliens. No, I have no idea either, except I think perhaps they could not fit aliens into any of the other expansions. Or perhaps they were worried people would not buy a mostly cosmetic expansion. Aliens came with the base game in The Sims 2, so there has probably been some demand for this. The expansion also adds some food recipes with a seasonal theme, like pumpkin for the fall. The recipes are available all year though. (As are the aliens.)

Now for the bad news:

If your computer was already working up a heat running the game, this expansion pack may be hard on it. Rain, snow, hail, fog, moving branches and falling leaves all put some strain on the video card. I am not sure how much of a problem this is, since any computer with enough memory to run the game without long pauses will probably also have a video card able to pull off the new graphics. But for the borderline cases where the computer is already struggling, this is not a recommended purchase. It adds more new graphics load than any of the others, since there is now much more movement on the screen.

If your sims are rural, back to nature types, you should be aware that gardening is now possible only approximately half the year, fishing a bit longer. (You can however change the seasons in the settings panel if this bothers you.) For outdoorsy types in general, there is now a risk of freezing to death in winter and catching fire in summer, so you should perhaps not leave them unattended as much as you could before. This makes the game more challenging, especially if you already have a lot of things going on and are taken by surprise. Save your game regularly.

Lightning is a risk in rainy weather regardless of season. Sims wearing an umbrella are more likely to get struck. Thunder and lightning are quite common on rainy days, so save your game regularly if you value your sims.

Alien abductions can now happen even if you don’t have a telescope. The deciding factor seems to be space rocks. If your sim has recently collected a number of these, they may be abducted in the middle of their daily (or rather nightly) activities. So if you don’t want your male sims to get pregnant, you should probably be careful about collecting rocks. I am still not sure why aliens have a place in an expansion focused on realism; I hear the game is made in California, though, so that might explain it. Anyway, avoid picking up meteorites if your idea of realism does not include male pregnancy and green babies.

New features:

The four seasons are each 1 week long unless you change the length in the game settings panel. As mentioned, you may want a longer summer if gardening is important to your sims, because both spring and fall include cold snaps of random length when your plants go into hibernation. It takes a bit more to freeze the ponds and sea, but winter will do it.

Near the end of each season, there is a season-themed festival. The sims will have the day off from school and work, and one of the public lots in town will become a festival lot for the duration of the day, where your sims can have fun and get some special stuff. You can also arrange parties with a seasonal theme on this day. There is also a small positive moodlet all day regarding of whether you engage in the festivities.

Summer is the first season when you start a new game. Many of the summer days are quite hot. You can have your sims change into bathing suits to avoid overheating, but sometimes this may not be enough. A parasol helps, and swimming and eating ice should also cool them down, although I have not needed these so far. Staying indoors should keep them cool as well. Summer is the only seasons safe from cold snaps, so get your garden going.

Autumn is visually appealing, with red leaves slowly falling. Unfortunately your garden may go dormant even early in the season if the weather is clear, bringing frost at night. If it rains, expect thunder. A Halloween-like celebration occurs near the end, complete with trick or treat and costume parties. Sims can woohoo in leaf if you rake it together.

Winter is the greatest difference. Snow falls frequently and covers the ground most of the season, radically altering the neighborhood view. Your sims can have fun building snowmen (different types can be discovered depending on their personalities) and snow huts that can be slept in. Sims can woohoo in snow huts. Flu is almost certain if you don’t get vaccinated, but there is also a super immunity trait that can be bought for lifetime happiness point. Finally, you can also freeze to death.

Spring doesn’t look all that different from summer, once the garden thaws out at least. But there are now wildflowers, a new type of collectible. I am not sure if they can be used for anything except selling. Probably. I doubt sims can woohoo in them though, there are just scattered individual flowers. Allergies are almost certain if you don’t get vaccinated or have bought the super immunity trait. The thunder is back. Save early, save often. Preferably get Awesomemod, since it has an autosave-feature with adjustable interval. I use half an hour.

The aliens have been strangely quiet in my game: I have played for about 3 generations and had only one abduction (a young teenager, no pregnancy) and one friendly visit (the game crashed while talking to the alien). I’ve heaped up space rocks, which is now supposed to be what attracts them, but they remain shy. So not much to tell about them. They supposedly have superior brain powers, so I wouldn’t mind try playing one.

Are the new features worth the hassle? For me as a highly skilled player with a fast computer, yes, but just barely. For a new player, the game can be hard enough without being harassed by lightning, spontaneous combustion, freezing to death or getting pregnant by alien abduction.


Edit to add: In the end, I was on the verge of uninstalling the expansion, but decided to actually open the game settings panel (F5 in-game) and look at the Weather and Environment tab. It allows some fine-tuning, but in the end I just turned off rain altogether. It is not realistic, but far more realistic than having to stay indoors a quarter of the time due to lightning. Well, I suppose the realism depends on where in the world you live. But here in southern Norway I estimate rain to take up perhaps 15% of the time and lightning 3% or so. My best guess for the game was around 30% and 25% respectively. At least that is what it felt like, and in a game that is all that counts.


Sims 3 university, 4: Juice, bonfires, comics & sexting

Screenshot Sims 3 University Life

“Vo gerbits!” The school cheer has returned!

Much like in the supposedly real world (if such a concept is even applicable to university life) the academic progress is not the only thing on most students’ minds. This is good, since if you take a light course load, you have all evening to explore the campus and surrounding area, meet interesting people and send them text messages of varying content.

(On a related note, I recommend buying a better bed as soon as you can afford to, since sleeping better means more waking time to have fun. The “meditative trance sleep” lifetime happiness reward also helps with this, but you may not have the life experience for that as a young adult. A sleep elixir from the chemistry set (Generations expansion) can cut down your sleep to a couple hours, whereas the Energy Drink from Mixology (Late Night expansion) can keep you running for much longer while tired.)

The students tend to at first fall into three distinct categories: Nerds, jocks and rebels. As a rule of thumb, the nerds tend to study science, the jocks sports, and the rebels art. But this is not absolute, and certainly not a requirement for your sims. Your status with each group depends partly on befriending and spending time with its members, but there are also activities that can gain status in each group. For instance, I discovered by accident that reading comics will give you crazy high status with the nerds. The first half a dozen comics I read gained me a reputation level each. I am not sure what the corresponding actions are for the other groups.

The jocks in particular are generous in inviting people to their bonfire parties, so this is a good chance to spend time with them. There is usually a keg of “juice” present, and getting “juiced” at the party will give you bonus rep with the jocks. Kissing, making out and having woohoo (sim sex) during the parties also appear as opportunities to gain reputation with them. Stereotypes? What stereotypes?

The rebels live on the edge of the law or just outside. Tagging walls, painting streets, inciting protests and selling exam cheats all bring the acclaim of the rebels. A less dangerous (but nauseating) opportunity is to root through dumpsters. This will occasionally appear as an opportunity, so wait until then. You must know some rebels first, but they are not hard to spot. (For one thing, the caste of a sim appears if you hold your mouse pointer over them…)

Over time some non-player characters gain levels in two of the social groups (or “castes”), while over the course of a generation there appears more and more locals who don’t belong to any group at all. I am not sure if the castes die out eventually when the playable sims ignore them, but there seems to be a marked reduction. Then again this could be a side effect of the StoryProgression mod that I use, which causes students to have more normal family lives, falling in love and marrying and having children. You’d think their children would pick up the social group of their parents, but it does not seem like it.

Gaining lots of influence in a group can give you new opportunities, in extreme cases unlock a new career. A high reputation can also give you an added personality trait. Unfortunately you cannot pick this – it is either the group trait or a random trait. (In contrast to the extra trait you get from completing your first major, you can choose that freely.)

Intertwined with this social life is another form of social life: Social Networking over the smartphone. Your trusty old cell phone has been upgraded to a smartphone, and there are a number of new options. At first these are pretty limited, but after surfing the Net for a while you unlock the first level of the Social Networking skill. There are also books to buy (or borrow at the library) which let you improve fairly rapidly in the skill. I find it ironic that these are physical books. On the bright side, if you (the player) have shelled out the 500 sim points for a MultiTab tablet, you can read e-books on it. And of course you can improve the skill by use.

From the start you can surf the net, text people you know and stream video. Soon blogging becomes available, and once you get blog followers you can beg them for help financially or academically. Followers are easily lost again, though. Later on there are more features, like the SimFinder app that lets you find a potential friend or date based on their personality trait, gender and age. Unfortunately, it seems this feature is local, so while on campus you won’t find people in your hometown or the other way around, much less the three foreign countries. I guess technology dictates this limit. You cannot even send text messages to your friends back home, although strangely you can still call them.

Most of the new Social Networking skills seem to be added for realism and have relatively little influence on your life, although the SimFinder is really handy if you are looking for that Special Someone with a particular personality. Of course, the ideal person may not exist, but you should come a lot closer than trial and error. And there is a mysterious power for the accomplished Networkers, to alter the relationship between other sims.

While social networking is not particularly tied to campus, college sports are performed in the sports hall and out of sight. These are very exhausting, so I recommend going there fully rested if you want to get home without falling asleep. On the bright side, they give you rapid advancement in the jock group, as can be expected. For a more controllable (and visual) sport, try the flying disc (basically a Frisbee). It can be started and stopped at any time, and while it is exhausting and makes you sweaty, it is also more fun to watch than the outside of a sports hall. And you can break it off at any time and get a shower before you collapse in bed. Not least, you can take it with you home from Uni and play with family and friends.

The kicky bag / hockey sack from The Sims 2 makes its return, more colorful than ever and just as fun. Sporty sims are likely to play with it on their own. Like the discs, you can snag a couple of them for free at orientation to bring home to your family after each semester.

Things to bring with you to college:
-A deathflower, if someone in your family can grow them. The grills and bonfires can easily get out of control, and it may take a while for the firesim to get there.
-A week’s supply of Sleep Elixir from the chemistry set (Generations expansion) if someone in your family has the skill to make them.
-Relevant skill books your family may possess. It seems like learning skills is faster in University generally, and skills related to your major is the most powerful form of studying.

Have a nice trip, and don’t stay up too late the night before finals!

Sims 3: University, 3 – classes and study

Screenshot Sims 3 University Life - sleepy students

Luckily morning classes are fairly rare…

Now that your sim is in the new and exciting world of Higher Education, it is time to attend class, study hard and make sure to graduate with the highest grade. After all, your future income depends on your success! Luckily, in The Sims 3, you have all the time in the world, or very nearly so. Your sim does not age while in university, and if you studied diligently in your youth and then picked the lightest course load, you should be able to breeze through the semester.

Each semester is one week, or nearly so. You arrive on Sunday, and go home late on Saturday. However, the study progress bar is only active from your first class on Monday to after your final exam on Friday (typically at noon). This is the time range in which it makes sense to study.

When you arrive at Uni, your first day will be spent getting settled and going to orientation. Your academic progress bar will not be visible until your first class, on the second day. Classes usually begin at noon, but some classes begin at 8 and some at 16 (4 PM). If you have taken on the challenge of a double course load, classes will not collide, but there won’t be much time to recharge between them. Pretty much run from one to the other. (This is where having bought the MultiTab gadget comes in handy, as starting to listen to a Tabcast gives an instant joy boost. Craziness drink from the Mixology skill (Late Night expansion) will also keep you from crashing your fun bar by working hard for two lectures in a row.)

Now, assuming you started with a normal course load, you should be fine no matter what. Since last we spoke, I have sent an almost completely unskilled Sim to Uni, and he still pretty much breezed through it. The academic bar starts at half full, and sinks very slowly as the hours pass and your sim begins to forget. But even listening normally during lectures will be enough for a passing grade and then some. If you actually read in a textbook occasionally, so much the better. You can also read on your smartphone for a quick boost. Each major also has its own special skill object (like a sketchbook for art) which you get for free when you arrive, together with textbooks. I don’t think even Norway coddles its students that much!

Perhaps the best way to increase your grades is to improve the relevant skills. When you do the aptitude test, you can see which skills belong to which major. Some are obvious, like painting and guitar for Art. Some not so much, like Mixology for Business. But raising your skills will now automatically improve your grades, and pretty fast too. In fact, you may want to keep your sim in check if they love raising their skills, so you don’t use up all this skilling in one semester. If you know your sim is crazy about a skill, this is one of the few times it might be an idea to take a double course load, especially if this is a skill that you can raise by having fun, like painting and guitar.

My recommended study activities, in order:
-Classes. You are only allowed to skip one, and not the final exam on Friday.
-Skilling, because you will need those skills in your job.
-The dedicated skill object. Even if your skill is maxed, using this will still raise your grades.
-Textbooks or smartphone.
-Study groups, a bit of a hassle for the player to organize.

Perhaps it is just because I am new to the expansion, but I found double course load to be the upper limit. You can pile on even more courses, but that just sounds foolhardy. After all, you don’t age while studying, so you can safely return to learn more another week. And there are many other things to do on campus. More about that next time, hopefully!

Sims 3: University Life, 2 – preparations

Screenshot Sims 3

If you want to get the most out of your higher education, you should make sure to study while you are a teen. Although it is not necessary to take it to extremes…

Unlike in The Sims 2, you can no longer send teenagers to the university: You have to wait until they become young adults. And even then, it may be a good idea to wait a bit, or at least not take it all at once. You can now stagger your semesters throughout your sim’s life, and there are benefits and drawbacks to consider.

But before you get that far, be aware that your simulated children can still prepare for college by increasing their skills and getting good grades. In fact, if you are really nuts about college, you may want to pick the right traits for their scholarships. Yes, personality traits now influence what scholarships you get. Want to study arts? You may want the artistic trait, or the virtuoso or even natural cook. The scientific studies call for handiness, and of course if you want something sports related you want to be athletic. In practice, these traits won’t be necessary unless you go to college really early and are broke. Skills alone should give you both scholarships and study credits (so you don’t start with an empty study bar).

The requirements are not so bad. I started with a teenager in a new neighborhood, and after a few years as a young adult she got more scholarships than she needed for tuition. In fact, she came home from Uni with more money than she had before she enrolled. She hadn’t maxed all the relevant skills either, but she had made a decent progress during her teen years.  (I have bought the official MultiTab gadget, which helps quite a bit with learning and fun; but on the other hand, sims born in-game can begin learning skills early on.)

Children as well as teens and adults can now get a bonus moodlet from having studied enough. There are new ways of studying too, which we’ll hopefully get back to next time.

Before enrolling in college, make sure to take the aptitude test. It is necessary to get scholarships and study credit. But you can also take it just to see what you need to work more on. It gives a detailed breakdown of your strengths and weaknesses for each major. The test is part of the university package you get from the Llama mascot shortly after the game starts with the new expansion. It is probably a bad idea to delete this.

The benefit of going to Uni right away is that you will jump into level 4 of your first job, if the degree is relevant for the job. But even if you get your degree after you have started working, you should be promoted accordingly (I have not tested that, but the game says so) and you will definitely advance faster at higher levels (this I have tested.)

Note that you can return to Uni later for another major if you decide to change your career later in life – or if you just enjoy streaking, juice parties and unethical experiments on plants, sims and combinations of the two.

How long time you want to spend on campus is largely up to you. You can take one or two semesters at a time, then you must return home. But you can enroll again at once, although you should probably consider going through your inventory and see if there is something you can leave at home.

Time does not pass on your home lot while you are away. (It uses the same mechanics as World Adventures, for those who have that vacation-oriented expansion.) It is possible to send one sim from a household to university and let others stay behind. Since there is a drive from your home to the point of departure, you will need to get a babysitter if you leave small children behind. But your family does not age while you are away.

On the other hand, the people in University town do age while you are home. Or perhaps that is the work of the Story Progression mod? I don’t think so, though. It makes sense that they should age with you. They didn’t do that in The Sims 2, though. Then again, nobody did, not even your neighbors.

I recommend starting with the minimum course load the first time. It is surprisingly hard even for a genius with maxed mixology skills to max the study bar with double course load, while it is quite easy with just one. And there are plenty of things to spend your time on. But try with 1 semester and a minimum number of study credits the first time, and increase later if it seems too easy.

As for the things to do in college, we shall hopefully get back to them next time.

Sims 3: University Life, overview

Screenshot Sims 3 University Life - jogging female student

Run – don’t walk – to buy the new expansion pack for The Sims 3! OK, perhaps not, but it is a backpackload of fun.

I have to admit that University was my favorite expansion for The Sims 2, but I know this is not a universal view. So I may be biased, but hey, it is my site and my review, so. Let me say it from the start: Sims 3 University Life is my new favorite. It has pretty much all the things that made the original cool, only more of everything. It does not add quite as much to the game, in terms of careers and advantages, but still plenty enough that your sims might want to go to university even if you had no other reasons. I hope to convince you that there are plenty of reasons.

So you did not play The Sims 2: University? What’s this all about?

The Sims 3 is a “life simulator” game. Like the two previous games, it lets small imaginary people go about their lives in your computer, and you can either watch them, help them or hinder them. For each version, the sims (the simulated people) have become more intelligent and more complex. Hopefully you already have The Sims 3, since it is a requirement for all the expansion packs; this is the 9th.

The purpose of going to university in the world of the sims is much the same as in the real world: Broaden your outlook on life and become a better, wiser person. Get a better paid job. Find a cute person to share your future with, or a lot of cute persons to share your present with. Get away from mom and the neighbors and experiment with things that would give them a heart attack. Meet people who share your interests. Overcome fears and insecurities. Have fun, lots and lots of fun. Any one of these, or several of them, may seems a compelling reason to go to university.

In the real world, higher education is becoming painfully expensive, at least if you don’t live here in Norway where most of it is tax-financed (and much of the tax is on the oil industry). As usual, Sim Country is more like Norway. There is a tuition fee, but is rather moderate. If you have decent skills before you go, you could easily get more in scholarship than you pay for a semester. Be sure to take the aptitude test first to get the scholarship.

What is new from The Sims 2: University?

Much like the base game itself, University Life has expanded the details. But there are also some fundamental differences.

-University is now for adults. No more sending teens to college. All adults, even elders, can attend. In fact, it may be easier to study if you have some work experience. Skills and work experience contribute toward scholarships and study credit. Be sure to take the aptitude test before enrolling, to get these bonuses.

-You can take several majors, one after another. As a result, you can spend a considerable time in college if you want to catch them all, or if you just want to live half a century longer. (You still don’t age while in University.)

-You stay in University for one or two semesters, then return to your hometown. You need to enroll again for the next year. This breaks up the stay at Uni, lets you exchange things in your inventory at home, and allows you to stagger your University experience throughout your adult life. But if you want to return to Uni immediately, you can just enroll again. Oh, and you can also work on several  majors before you complete any of them, if you for some reason feel the urge.

(This may in part be an effect of using the same engine for University as for the vacation expansion, World Adventures. You even need to “call someone abroad” when you want to speak to your dormies from home. University really is a different country! I knew it!)

-New studying. All use of skill objects that fit your major will contribute to your final score. for instance, as an arts student you will gain study credit for sketching, painting or playing the guitar. You can also read relevant books and even study on your smartphone, or do group study, but the fun and easy way is to do what you probably want to do anyway, use skill objects. Each major gives the student a portable skill object as you start, so there is no excuse not to. But you can still use other relevant skill objects.

-New social groups: There are now 3 “castes” or social groups: Nerds, jocks and rebels. The first two should be familiar to most, but rebels are mostly art students living on the edge of the law: Painting on walls and parking lots, instigating protests, and selling cheat sheets for the exams. Fame within a social group can give benefits, included an extra personality trait. (Unfortunately you cannot pick this trait – it is either random or typical of the social group.) It is also possible to unlock one of three extra careers this way.

-There are fewer majors, and no careers that are unlocked by study alone. You just start at a higher level and advance faster in the relevant career.

-Extra personality trait when you graduate successfully! And you get to pick this one! Yess!

-Missing: Extra want slots. Sorely missed. You can never have too many of those.

-Possibly missing: Secret society. Then again, with it being secret, I may just not have found it.

-Possibly missing: Getting good grades by socializing the teachers. They seem to play much less of a role this time. But again, I may be mistaken, since I don’t play overly social sims.

-Dorms are more homelike and less prison-like. There are bedrooms with one bed, two beds and a double bed. You can assign beds to playables and non-playables alike, and program doors to allow a list of specific sims.

-Sims now have smartphones! Social networking is a new skill, and sims can surf the Internet, blog and unlock new apps as they grow more skilled.

Sims 3: Me, family man

Screenshot Sims 3: a simple home wedding

Wedding day! For the first simulated time in my sims3ulated life!

I have played The Sims 3 off and on since shortly after it came out, although I continued to play The Sims 2 at least as much for the first year or so. Yet earlier this month when I decided that my self-sim would marry, I realized that this was something I had never done in the game before. Not just for my self-sim’s various lives in the various neighborhoods of The Sims 3, but at all for any of my computer-controlled character.

My self-sim has sometimes been a “townie”, a computer-controlled character. It amuses me to see how the computer would play someone with my personality, or the best approximation of it that I could make in the game. There have been some amusing moments where I would think “That is so me!” but also some facepalm moments, as the young people would say. One bizarre thing is that my self-sim always seem to end up married to unlikely prospects, probably simply because they were both single at the time. Needless to say that does not happen when I play him.

This time however I made an exception to the celibacy of my avatar. He is now happily married to Jenni, formerly Mrs Goode, born Jones-Brown of Twinbrook, and they have two children together. And one ragdoll. We’ll get to that. ^_^

Jenni is a family sim whose lifetime want was to raise five children. She was pregnant bearing Goodwin’s child when the game started, although I did not know that at the time. Their marriage also passed me by. I only noticed her when she asked my self-sim on a series of dates. At the time I was unaware that she was married – I mean, why would married people date someone else? That is a recipe for disaster, of various kinds. So when I found out, the dating came to an end. Self-sim dedicated himself to gardening, fishing and cooking, as well as writing a little now and then.

Jenni and Goodwin raised three children, grew old and died. Sim-Magnus, on the other hand, did not grow old. He had maximized his gardening skill first, and gathered special seeds. One of them was a Lifefruit seed, and by his late adult years he had enough of them to eat one lifefruit every day. Each fruit makes the sim one year younger (except for elderly sim, who grow rapidly older if they eat lifefruit. I assume it is vaguely based on the Tree-of-life eaten by the Pak protectors in Larry Niven’s “Known Universe” series, except for being a fruit and not a root. Well, they are probably both based on the book of Genesis, but the thing about the herb being poisonous to the elderly is a Niven thing.)

By the time Mr and Mrs Goode had passed away, Sim-Magnus had maximized his fishing skills as well and caught Deathfish, a dubious creature usually found in ponds in or near cemeteries. Combine lifefruit and deathfish, maximized cooking skill and a recipe as expensive as a small house, and you can make Ambrosia. Normally this celestial meal will reset a sim to the start of his current age (mature adult in the case of my self-sim), but if given to a ghost, the ghost will embody again. You can see where this is leading.

So the re-embodied but still elderly Jenni moved in with Sim-Magnus and they married. Next up was chemistry. Experimenting with the chemistry set will improve the logic skill but also from time to time lead to the discovery of new elixirs, some nasty and some nice. One of the last, which I believe requires maximum skill as well, is the Elixir of Youth. It is rather costly at §5000, but it will rejuvenate a sim from old age to young adult. (You can also buy it for lifetime happiness points, it costs 70 000 of those. Come to think of it, I probably had that many by then. Oh well.)

So there you have it. The ragdoll belonged to Marit, their firstborn daughter. She played with it constantly, and when she grew up from toddler to school child, the ragdoll grew up to a fantasy friend. The parents could see her playing and arguing with it, but she could see it as a child her own age. Another chemical elixir eventually allowed the imaginary friend to become real, and Trulte is now part of the family, although not a relative. This is a feature of the Generations expansion pack, and lets you double the child population of a house if you go that route. It seems a few children do not receive ragdolls in the mail, I am not sure whether this is random, but both of mine have. They don’t count toward the raising babies lifetime wish, though. Adopted babies do, but not adopted toddlers and children.

Oh, and both Sim-Magnus and Jenni went through a midlife crisis and replaced one of their incompatible traits with a trait from the other. Jenni changed from flirty to bookworm, and Sim-Magnus changed from unflirty to family-oriented. Thus the rash of children. They are now both stay-at-home authors, letting them keep an eye on the kids while earning a decent living.

The real Magnus is not immortal, alas, so don’t expect this to play out anywhere outside the game. Still, it amused me.