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Problems In Sims

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I've found the Problems in MMOs thread very helpful, so I wanted to do a similar thread for sims. [smile] The rules are the same, try to describe the problem well enough that people can understand it without having played any particular game, and try to give examples of games which have that problem. Boredom/Grind - One of the most mysterious issues in designing a sim game is how can you tell what gameplay the player will actually enjoy, and what they will consider a boring grind. I was thinking about this when playing the free trial of Virtual Villagers yesterday because this is the game's major problem - I kept thinking that if the game ran 4 times as fast, or if it took 1/4 as many repetitions to accomplish each goal, it might actually be fun. So I'll try to break the big problem of grinding boredom down into more manageable subproblems: --- The Player is Waiting for the Game - I would go so far as to say that the player should never be just sitting there waiting for the game to catch up with their orders. Why do I have to sit here watching the same thing happen 50 or 100 times? Why does the character have to spend 30 seconds or more doing nothing more interesting than trudging between two places in the game? --- The Player is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again - Having the player watch something happen for a long time is a problem, but having the player repeatedly click to make that thing happen for a long time is just as bad. Doing the same action repeatedly can be okay if the results aren't always the same - mining that produces different ores, fishing that catches different fish - and it's essential that this difference is visual, possibly accompanied by a special visual effect or sound effect. It has to make a different impression on the player's senses in order to keep the player from being bored. --- Not Being Able to Do Multiple Things or Small Things - The real way to avoid boredom is make sure they player always has more things they can be doing than time to be doing them in. Let the player set their own speed by playing as fast as they are comfortable doing so, and make sure that the game does not reward doing the same thing all the time or for a long time in a row, but instead rewards alternately doing 3 or more things, preferably one of which is taking advantage of randomly occurring bonus opportunities.

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Well, I'd think Lack of a Goal is the big issue. Pretend I had a sim where I manage a South Korean Internet Cafe' and I'm supposed to keep the World of Warcraft players alive by reminding them to go to the bathroom and eat some food regularly. How do I know when I've won? If the only end condition is when everyone dies, then this is all just an exercise in micromanagement.

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I'm assuming you mean management sim games, rather than vehicle/flight sims?

Quote:
Original post by Inmate2993
Well, I'd think Lack of a Goal is the big issue.

But having no set goal is one of the defining features of sims; listing this as a problem to me is comparable to complaining about the viewpoint in an FPS [smile]. I think of sims as a big sandbox that lets you do what you like. You can set an objective, but that makes the game more of a mission-based genre (like an RTS) than a sim.

Some problems I can think of off the top of my head:

Lack of feedback information: - It bugs me when I can see my sim is languishing somewhere, but there's no easy way to see where the problem spots are. If I have a production chain that isn't going anywhere, I'd like to highlight the relevant components in a simple fashion to show me exactly where I need to make improvements. An example I can think of is in the original Theme Park, where the advisor would say something like "Due to your poor park planning, someone has got stuck. Find them and fix the problem", without actually showing you where the poor stuck guy actually was.

Unhelpful Advisor: - Many sims have an advisor character that helps you manage the game. The advisor needs to provide helpful information whenever something important crops up, but not so much that he becomes a pain. It's a hard thing to balance.

Inability to Recover from Mistakes: - particularly with building resources in a mangement sim. Often it's hard to know where you are placing an item or a road. If a road is in the wrong spot, it's a pain if you lose money if you have to shift it within seconds of placing it down. If a game has that property it penalises you to play around with building.

Lack of Freedom in Gameplay: - if there's only one sensible way to build your base/village/business/whatever in the game, then that's all the players going to do. It's not much fun as a mangement game. Also a problem if there's research if only one new facility is introduced at a time, and in a slow trickle.

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Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
Quote:
Original post by Inmate2993
Well, I'd think Lack of a Goal is the big issue.

But having no set goal is one of the defining features of sims; listing this as a problem to me is comparable to complaining about the viewpoint in an FPS [smile]. I think of sims as a big sandbox that lets you do what you like. You can set an objective, but that makes the game more of a mission-based genre (like an RTS) than a sim.

I think Inmate's hitting on something related but more salient: lack of inducement for players to set their own goals. A "keep the WoW-addicts alive" sim would have no goals the player could set for himself; it would lack the expressiveness for the player to define a goal, and (possibly) the wiggle room for him to achieve it.

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Right, what I meant to say is that there's no Highscore or MacGuffin for me to try and achieve. In the example, say I could keep all of my players alive long enough that they reach level 60 (is it 70 now?) then that's some kind of goal to achieve.

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Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
I'm assuming you mean management sim games, rather than vehicle/flight sims?

Quote:
Original post by Inmate2993
Well, I'd think Lack of a Goal is the big issue.

But having no set goal is one of the defining features of sims; listing this as a problem to me is comparable to complaining about the viewpoint in an FPS [smile]. I think of sims as a big sandbox that lets you do what you like. You can set an objective, but that makes the game more of a mission-based genre (like an RTS) than a sim.


I'd have to agree. I would consider most sims "toys" or "sandbox" games, where the experience is whatever the player wants it to be and goals are subjective as opposed to objective concrete goals defined by the game. However, in some sim games such as Sim City for example, there are scenarios where the player has to complete specific objectives like reach the status of Capital by the year 1920, or reduce crime by 20%, or rebuild the city to its original infrastructure level after a disaster, etc.

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Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
I'm assuming you mean management sim games, rather than vehicle/flight sims?


Yeah, I was thinking of the kind that are like realtime strategy games, where you're keeping creatures alive or building up an empire, any economic/resource/unit management activities that aren't combat.

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huh,

I would have to say I'm the opposite of most people here in that I feel lack of goal is the big failing in most sims. I enjoy the sim games very much but unless I have goal and reward system to aim for I quickly become bored with them.

I'd personally like to see alot more story base sims where the outcome is based on how I played.

Lack of variation between replays is also something that I have found lacking in most sim games. Having say 20 different problems, goals, and mini stories in a game but having only 3 or 4 chosen at random experienceable in sinlge play through would significantly boost the variations between plays and number of times I replayed it.

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Quote:

To me RTS's is controlling and directing units directly, while the Sim part is about controlling certain aspects of otherwise autonomous systems. Not a very clear distinction really, but basically a rts unit halts when orders are up, while it's sim counterpart might decide to get a beer all 'on it's own'. I believe you could have a goal in a sim as well.

Posted the above (slightly modified) in another thread, but it holds even more relevance here I think.

Now, many RTS games have units that are in some small parts autonomous, such as armies automatically firing on enemy units. By my (hastily put together and scientifically unproven) taxonomy, this means the game has some aspects of a sim as well as a rts.

Having the goal to get X amount of money in The Sims makes it no less a sim in my opinion.

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