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Trapper Zoid

The Sims: good and bad gameplay elements?

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I have realised that the game I am presently designing has many elements in common with The Sims (since this game is one of the most popular around, I don't think this is a bad thing!). As such, I would like to shape the Sims-like components of my design to capture what was good about The Sims, but to correct anything that the general consensus think was lacking. So I would like to ask your opinion about the game design of The Sims series (Sims, Sims 2, the console versions, the gazillion add-on packs): Why do you think The Sims gameplay was so popular in the market? What did you personally like about The Sims gameplay? What did you not like? I'm interested in any replies! Thanks for your help!

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Here's my answers to those questions, as a separate post so it doesn't hide the key questions.

Personally, I think that The Sims is popular for a number of reasons:

  • It offers a variety of different gameplay elements to appeal to different people, such as creating characters, building architecture, playing with social interactions etc.
  • It provides the gameplay dynamics of playing with dolls, but in a manner less embarrasing for adults than playing with a real doll set.
  • Different from any mainstream game before
  • Set in a real neighbourhood environment, so that it is recognisable to everyone
  • Having EA market it to death also doesn't hurt!


I quite like the customisability in creating characters, especially in Sims 2. I also like building houses and setting up convoluted character interaction structures. My usual method of playing the Sims is to set up my soap; set up various archetypical character types with numerous personality flaws (even if these are in my own head rather than encoded in the game), then play out the scenarios as they occur.

However, the Sims wasn't quite set up for this. Due to the nature of the interactions all the people in the game seem to have the same personality type, just slightly tweaked due to the stats provided. The game seems geared more towards the player who wants to live out their own fantasy life as successful as possible, because it is all too easy for a character to achieve their goals. It is very hard to role-play a soap villain in the Sims; they are limited to low level annoying acts (like prank calls or starting arguments) or high level evil (walling people up in your house, for example). The only reasonable scenario of conflict that can be created is the love triangle.

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I've just played S2 recently so I have some fresh ideas.

1. NPC growth. Have the NPCs marry, reproduce, and age along with your PC. Kind of like in Crusader Kings or Europa 1400.

2. Sometimes I just get pissed at the demands because they seem to get out of hand sometimes. My PC has to make so many bathroom trips in a day I think he might have a bladder problem.

3. Annoying PC needs reminders. When my PC starts complaining because his fun or environment meters are too low is just annoying. He refuses to do anything I tell him and the complaining lasts around 10 games minutes each time... :X

4. Friend requirements. It's hard enough to keep 8 people as friends but now my job needs me to have 10 friends. It's not very fun constantly calling your "friends" to keep their ratings up while your PC keeps getting hungrier and hungrier.

5. Why exactly can't I visit an NPC's house?

6. It'd be great to get perks for your job. Like in Europa 1400, your position in public office grants you specific abilities. These include changing tax rates, changing laws, summoning the inquisition, etc. I don't know if things like this really fit in with your plans, though.

Otherwise, S2 is a great game. ;)

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I think the dirty little secret of the Sims is that its a minute timer game. It's core game loop centers on strategically position your avatar(s) to be proximate to resource recharging points at the right time. If you added or removed the falling resources, you'd complicate the game.

That the avatar and these touch points have immediately recognizable form helps a lot. I also think your points, especially marketing, make this game.

For an interesting take on what it would be like to add more personality to characters and see how combat mixes in, try Firefly Studios Space Colony. There are elements I found that really worked (quirky characters who actually speak English instead of gibberish, fun base building, interior decorating and colony management). It's a fun game, but even better to study.

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I think the one element the Sims could benefit from is removing the game from the current timeline. Put them in space or back to be eaten by village monsters. The games need drama badly. I don't consider wanting to watch TV and use the rest room at the same time, drama.

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I also played Space Colony, which I thought was a fun [if short] game. Unlike the Sims, which I absolutely hated.

The main difference for me is that the Sims doesn't actually do anything. This is similar to the arguments about Sim City... no 'goal'; but with Sim City if I build a part of the city, and it does well, then I can ignore it for a while since it's "good". With the Sims, the sim just gets hungry/dirty/horny again. To me, this was just repetition with no reward. Space Colony was different. It used a similar 'needs' mechanism as a support system for the main, more goal-oriented strategy game rather than as the main game itself. The reward came by meeting the map goals, and the needs mechanism was just a means towards that goal; certainly more interesting and complex than resource mining too.

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I think what made the sims an instant hit was that many people though "man I wish there was a game about 'life'"... I don't know about you guys but it was something I was craving for at the time. Heck I was crazy about "Jones in the Fast Lane" which was basically a board game.

If you're going to make a sims like game I think you should make sure there's plenty of time for the things you want to do.

You should also be able to see what you do at work... maybe fast forward through the working part but then see your characters during lunch break and such so they can interact with coworkers and maybe even pull a prank on a supervisor... :D

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Is that why everyone liked it?

For me, I just wanted to try to pimp out my character with a huge mansion and marry all of the women in the neighborhood at least once. It was fun trying to progress the guy into a rich freak machine. But then that was it. Once you've become incredibly rich and obtained the fruits of opposite sex, the game shows how realistic it really is and becomes incredibly boring.

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I think it was because players could make themselves, however they pleased, ( from downloading mods ). They could live crazy or normal households, and lead a variety of stylish lives.
People can go out with the girl of there dreams. People can get an amazing job. Peole can have big houses.

It is also a very unisex games. Infact I think more girls like it than boys.

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I think it's hard to say what the virtues and flaws of Sims2 are because it's not clear exactly what the game was intended to do. There were rumors before its release that it would enable players to easily make movies using sims as actors, but that didn't turn out to be the case. It's often analogized as a 'dollhouse', but the primary function of a dollhouse is to facilitate making the dolls act out stories that the player imagines, but the gaming aspects of Sims2 (such as the automatic jealousy) interfere with making the dolls carry out the actions the stories call for. It doesn't tell stories on its own to replace those of the player it blocks, either. As an architecture/interior design simulator the original Sims2 suffered from a buggy roof building algorythm, a horrible color pallette, and a lack of coordinating sets of furniture. As a RTS it was okay, although as mentioned above there was a bit of repetitive micromanagement and no clear goals to aim toward or rewards for achieving those goals.

It sales success is probably based on the fact that the packaging and concept catch player's imaginations - but they promise a lot more than the game actually delivers.

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