March 2009

No SecureROM for The Sims 3

The Sims 3 team has announced that the game will ship without the controversial SecureROM which plagued the release of Spore. Instead, The Sims 3 will be released with the usual disc based copy protection, which requires players to enter in a code which is printed on the disc itself. The SecureROM controversy with regards to Spore effectively started with this infamous Slashdot thread, and quickly spread to the rest of the internet. Hundreds of users gave the game a negative rating on Amazon, citing SecureROM as the reason for the bad rating. SecureROM installs copy protection deep within your computer's system, without giving any notification. This is particularly surprising, given that the Federal Trade Commission ruled that these actions are illegal in their case against the Sony BMG rootkit. Aside from privacy issues (users should know what is happening on their system, and why), SecureROM has caused severe computer problems for some people.

Will Wright and Montessori

Kotaku has a fascinating article about the link between Montessori education, Will Wright, and Wright's games (the Sims and SimCity franchises, and Spore). Will Wright attended Montessori school when he was a kid, and the article features several quotes from him where he draws the connection between his early education and his game design ethic. The article is interesting and thoroughly researched, but for me the biggest take-away point was all the ways in which Spore falls flat. Wright describes his ideal game as an infinite playground where players, in interacting with the game, learn about the nature of life. He mentions that the failure space is often the most fascinating part of his games. (As opposed to a traditional game, where death just sends you back to the beginning of the level, and the player grinds through endlessly until they finally break through to the next level.

Music in The Sims 2 and The Sims 3

Although most of the background music in The Sims was provided by noted soundtrack artist Mark Mothersbaugh, Maxis has a long history of tapping up and coming recording artists to lay down Simlish versions of their tracks for the game. Most of these came bundled with the expansion packs University, Nightlife, Pets, and Free Time. CNET has a great article from 2005 about the process of finding artists to create in-game songs, and on the artists' process for singing in Simlish. (Having read it, I feel a bit bad about turning off the in-game music option, but seriously, that Salsa station was driving me absolutely insane. My Sims would change the radio station whenever I asked them to, but somehow it always got changed back to the Salsa station. Oy.) One of the most popular songs, both in real life and in the game, is "Pocketful of Sunshine" by UK pop singer Natasha Bedingfield. The second single from her album of the same title, "Pocketful of Sunshine" hit the top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Sims 2: Hidden Skills

I briefly mentioned "hidden skills" in yesterday's post, and I wanted to expand upon that today. As the player, you already have access to a lot of the skill levels, and can make some good assumptions about how your Sim is going to behave. For example, if your Sim's personality scores towards the high end of the Neat to Messy scale, they are likely to spontaneously clean things. (One of my Sims is 10 for Neat. Every morning when he wakes up, the very first thing he does is take out the trash. It always makes me smile!) They will also clean things faster and more efficiently than a Sim who is messy. Furthermore, a messy Sim will frequently cancel your action out of their queue if you tell them to clean something (and you have Free Will turned on, of course). Other skills are more obvious. As your Sim maxes out their Creativity by using the painting easel, they will gain the ability to paint better paintings, and to paint custom sill lifes or portraits. However, if you take that same Sim and have them use the guitar (an object that boosts Creativity), they will start out by playing badly.

The Sims 2: Parenting Skills

Aside from all of the skills that you know about (like Cooking), there are dozens of "hidden skills" in The Sims 2. A lot of clever people have dug into the code base for the game, and discussed these hidden skills online. One clever person even created an in-game object that you can use to see some of your Sims' hidden skills! The usual caveat regarding cheats and custom content applies (to wit: back up your files early and often.) One hidden skill which I haven't found discussed is parenting behavior. I started thinking about this issue when I watched my newest Sim, Makoto, display parenting behaviors that I have never seen before. This particularly surprised me because Makoto is a Romance Sim, and Romance Sims aren't usually known for their excellent parenting abilities. Makoto is really good about feeding the baby. In fact, he is a little too good.

Sims 2: Babies For Same Sex Couples

The Sims franchise has always been egalitarian regarding same sex couples. Unfortunately, there is no way around the simple biological fact that boys can't make babies with boys, and girls can't make babies with girls. Here are the options, if your same sex couple wants to have a baby: 1. Adoption, the obvious choice. Have your Sim pick up the phone and call Service -> Adoption Agency. If your Sims meet the adoption agency's requirements, a youngster will be delivered to them the next day. When you adopt, you get to choose between Baby, Toddler, or Child, which is nice! 2. Plantsim Spawn If you have the Seasons expansion pack installed, you can turn one of your characters into a Plantsim. It's not easy to turn your Sim green, since the change is related to the number of times your Sim sprays his or her garden plants and fruit trees.

Sims 2 Strategy: Meals

Keeping your Sim properly fed can feel like a challenge sometimes. And of all the Needs, Hunger is the one which is most lethal, and least-likely to self-correct. A Sim low on Energy will collapse and fall asleep on the floor; a Sim low on Bladder will wet themselves. But a Sim low on Hunger could easily keel over and die. I've seen it happen! Because it is so lethal and because hungry Sims don't have an easy fail-over option, Hunger is the need that you want to monitor most closely. Before your Sim engages in a long-term activity like studying or going to bed, check their Hunger level first. If it's getting low (less than 30% remaining), have them fix something to eat first. Meals are more filling (which means your Sim tanks up more quickly) when they are cooked by someone with high Cooking skill. Of course, your high-Cooking Sim isn't always around when you need them.

Sims 2 Strategy: Skilling

If you want your Sim to hit the top of his or her career ladder, the first thing you need to do is get their skills up as quickly as possible. Once your Sim takes a job, there will be precious little time for skill building, so start them early! Your work as a slavedriver begins when they age to Child. Obviously they need to keep their homework done enough to prevent the Social Worker from showing up. Focus on having your child Sim do just enough homework to maintain a C or B grade. This will leave them with enough free time to engage in skilling. I find that trying to get child Sims to boost any skill other than Creativity is often an exercise in frustration for both of you. Plant them at a musical instrument or painting easel and let them Creativity the hours away. Some child Sims may enjoy boosting their Logic skill by playing chess or looking through the telescope. If your child Sim protests or gives up on these activities, don't push it.