San Myshuno.

The more monstrous the real world becomes the stronger the lure of a virtual one grows. Electronic Arts will release The Sims 4: City Living, the third expansion pack in the series, on November 1. Though Electronic Arts and Maxis have briefly touched upon nightlife with The Sims: Hot Date, The Sims 2: Nightlife, and The Sims 3: Late Night, this new expansion pack for The Sims 4 will be the first time the series has stepped away from the comforts of suburban life to fully embrace the look and feel of a metropolis—the new world of San Myshuno.

The game successfully cobbles together elements of San Francisco, Tokyo, New York, and Seattle, each borough borrowing architectural elements from its patron city. As for the Sims who populate San Myshuno, Electronic Arts has pulled heavily from East Asian, South Asian, Caribbean, and West African clothing designers to outfit its digital citizens. The result is a truly global city like none other. Las Vegas would perhaps be its closest real-world counterpart, but even Las Vegas is decidedly American beneath its international façade.

Still, there are concerns. While the series has wisely jettisoned the gypsy matchmaker non-playable character, it has introduced a love guru with The Sims 4: City Living. Hopefully Electronic Arts has taken great care to avoid offending players by shirking any portrayal akin to one found in a ham-fisted Mike Myers vehicle. And while the new game places a heavy emphasis on street festivals, the lack of community lots prevents the full integration of all three expansion packs in a city environment. There simply isn’t enough space provided to have every lot type; some lots must be sacrificed. Hence, no book club meetings in a local library (as one would find in The Sims 4: Get Together) or a place for Sims to run a bakery (as one would find in The Sims 4: Get to Work). It is my hope that Electronic Arts rectifies this by adding a small companion commerce district to San Myshuno as they added Magnolia Promenade to Willow Creek. This would be a perfect addition for the next available stuff pack—or perhaps even a free update akin to Newcrest.

Unfortunately the new series has simply become too expensive to consider purchasing a new expansion pack on release day, but I definitely look forward to getting The Sims 4: City Living during the holiday season.


A pleasant view.

 

Sims 4 charactersA lot has happened in 50 years! Can the idyllic town of Riviera, a haven for youthful adventurers from far-flung lands (as well as the neighboring town of Pleasantview), quell rising tensions before friendly rivalries become all-out feuds?

Clockwise from bottom center: 

Beau Broke is determined to make it big in Riviera. A man of meager means, but rich in willpower, will Beau finally be able to reverse the Broke history of misfortune?

Lucy Burb dreams of recreating the idyllic family life her parents provided. Yet while Lucy fantasizes about white-picket fences and baby carriages, her suitor’s wandering eye may make her dream a nightmare!

Can Carlo Lothario break the Lothario curse as he has broken so many hearts—or is he doomed to never find true love? Could the mysterious mother who abandoned him be the key as to why he is unable to commit?

Tina Caliente is determined to succeed where her mother has failed: by hook or by crook she’ll marry her way into the Goth fortune! But how can she win Alexander’s heart if her mind is continually on Carlo Lothario?

Sullen and stand-offish, Alexander Goth has difficulty making friends, and has cut off all ties to his family. Yet, strangely, he is fond of the roguish Carlo Lothario. Can the brotherly bond between the two help Alexander come out of his shell?

Given her childhood as an orphan, Marsha Bruenig cannot help but cling to the new-found friends she considers her family. But will her pursuit of popularity only lead to the population of Riviera considering her a pest?

Chandler Platz loves robots, sci-fi festivals at the local cinema, and rockets. What he doesn’t love? The idea of romance with the ladies of Riviera! Can Chandler keep his head out of the clouds when he’s so focused on the stars?

Ollie Dreamer inherited his father’s artistic talents and his mother’s shy, sensitive nature. Can Ollie overcome his timid ways and win the heart of Sophia Gilscarbo? Can he follow in his father’s footsteps and romance the woman of his dreams?

Sophia Gilscarbo, the heiress to the Goopy carbonara sauce fortune, is Riviera’s resident party girl. Will Sophia be able to tame her wild ways and settle upon a culinary career before her grandmother cuts her off completely?

(Note: I just made this up myself. Not official information for The Sims 4, folks!)


Four got.

Earlier I discussed some of the features that I still hope EA/Maxis will add to The Sims 4. I’ve spent the time since my last post pouring over preview videos and I am absolutely floored by the gameplay. What I see is the game that I’d hoped The Sims 3, a completely lackluster experience, would be. The Sims 4 seems to be a reincarnation of The Sims 2, with simplified controls and improved graphics—exactly what I so desperately wanted.

Though as much as I lionize The Sims 2, the game isn’t without its faults. What is absent from The Sims 2 is an adequate level of customization. Players of The Sims 2 may scoff upon reading this, but the customization that we enjoy has been granted to us by the modding community, not game developers. I had to seek out darker player skins created by fans in order to have any hope of creating a reasonable facsimile of the actual neighborhood I once lived in. Later, I downloaded SimPe, a program that would allow me to alter character files, in order to make ten percent of the NPCs in my neighborhood gay and add new NPCs with bronze and ebony skin tones.

What I want from The Sims 4 is greater control over the appearance of my neighborhood. I want greater control over my neighborhood’s “story.” Allowing players to create NPCs in the CAS (Create A Sim) would be a huge step forward in achieving this. Let players make a grumpy nanny or flirtatious maid—or an entire neighborhood of green-skinned shopkeepers! Personally, I’d like the ability to prevent supernatural characters from appearing entirely. We shouldn’t have to depend on mods to remove them.

I hope that players will be able to alter not only a NPC’s personality and appearance, but her history as well. I loved the fact that the NPCs featured in the custom neighborhoods of The Sims 2 had existing relationships. In fact, I used SimPe to provide NPCs with family and friends. In my Pleasantview, the town thief was the husband of the maid and would prey upon her wealthy clients. The staff members of a popular bistro were all members of the same family. These stories existed apart from the tales I wove for my playable characters. I enjoyed creating them.


Four.

The Sims 4

I am elated by the announcement of the release of The Sims 4 in 2014! I still play The Sims 2 occasionally and am thankful that I didn’t waste money on the third incarnation of the series. Having sampled The Sims 3, I found the interface to be unwieldy in regards to building houses and altering landscapes. In addition, the characters themselves seemed less expressive than the characters of The Sims 2. The bloated “pudding faces” that characters from the third game came equipped with certainly didn’t help to sell me on the product.

No matter. In the teaser image provided for The Sims 4, the faces shown are reminiscent of the characters found in The Sims 2—a good sign. Now, I readily admit to being biased. I found The Sims 2 to be a near perfect game (once all of the essential hacks had been downloaded and inserted, of course). So, what would The Sims 4 need to possess to make me abandon my favorite game of all time?

The ability to drive as a selected character. I’ve often stated that I wish that I could find a game that was the perfect blend of The Sims series and the Grand Theft Auto franchise. My favorite activities in games are often world-building and exploring. Hopefully, The Sims 4 will allow players to drive through the streets they have assembled.

Useful neighborhood decorations or “rabbit holes.” As someone who prefers games with urban landscapes, playing The Sims 2 can be frustrating. I would love to have a bustling city overrun with skyscrapers. This cannot be built given the limits of the game. Since towers cannot be created, they should (and have) been provided by game developers. However, two or three buildings are not nearly enough. There should be dozens. I also find it hard to understand why developers for The Sims 3 provided “rabbit holes” for buildings that would have been much better served as playable community lots—for example, the diner, the bookstore, and the bistro. In The Sims 4, these non-playable structures should be reserved for the following: towers, office buildings, shopping malls, schools, police departments, hospitals, and fire stations.

Expansion packs focused on lifestyles rather than life stages. I do not want to see expansion packs focused on college life, childhood, career exploration, or retirement! This material should be included in the base game! I would prefer to see a simple suburban life presented in the base game, with a new type of environment provided with each expansion pack—urban, pastoral, futuristic, and magical. New environment-appropriate activities and characters should be featured in each world.

Characters of different heights. Something tells me this wish may be impossible, but I’m tossing it out here just in case!

Greater diversity in hairstyles. I really wish developers would not depend on fans to provide material that should be found within the base game—such as several modern hairstyles for kinky or tightly coiled hair.

That’s all, folks! As I’ve stated previously, it wouldn’t take much to bring The Sims franchise from good to great. I look forward to seeing what Maxis has in store for The Sims 4.


For the long haul.

“Given that times are tight, longevity is so important in entertainment. I still play The Sims 2 four years later. In regards to comics, a very important question comes up: can this book entertain me after it has been read? Has an online community developed around the book? Can I have a lively discussion about this book with others? Does the creator provide random content in installments during ‘down time’? (Sketches? Sneak peaks? Snippets of the creative process?)”
Cheryl Lynn Eaton

These are difficult questions for a creator. You can’t simpy fabricate a community. One must develop naturally. However, actively interacting with fans can help.