[Review] The Sims 4 (Series Snapshot – May 27 2017)

Developer: Maxis / The Sims Studio
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release: 2014 / 2015
Platform: Windows, Macintosh
Genre: Life Simulator
OFLC Rating: M

What are Sims?
Before the franchise debut in 2000, these were the pixel sized dots that moved on the sidewalks depicting the citizens in the game SimCity. Playing SimCity 2000, I learned that sims were quite fussy and only built no more than three spaces from any given stretch of road. Then we found out what these little fusspots actually looked like and just how fussy they could actually get with the introduction of The Sims. Sims are the simulated people who can be shaped from their appearance to their initial personalities. As for the game – it is many things to different people and could make for a good venatology report as no two reports would read the same. There are three main characterisations for defining what this franchise is. Firstly, a “Dollhouse” experience where players will tell stories through the sims they create and control. Secondly, this game is considered to be one of the guilty pleasures among computer games as players can experiment with all kinds of things – that kind that players aren’t necessarily comfortable sharing, let along talking about. Finally, The Sims is notorious for being an interactive torture chamber where only pixels are harmed in the making of one’s sadistic pleasures. One thing that many would agree with is that The Sims can be extremely addictive as hours will pass like seconds when players become deeply engrossed.

Technical

The Sims is also the franchise that released (arguably) the most expansion packs for any given game, each one adding to the overall experience. The original game saw a total of seven expansions. Then came The Sims 2 with the addition of booster packs that added extra content to game without necessarily altering the experience in any way, these were branded as “Stuff Packs” and retailed considerably less than the expansions. The Sims 3 was the first game in the franchise to feature downloadable content (DLC) delivery, used primarily for offering individual pieces official additional content from EA / Maxis. Eventually, this would be used to purchase and install all expanded and boosted content for the game. Then we have The Sims 4 carry on where it’s predecessor left off and introduced “Game Packs” that were essentially mini-expansion packs to roster of expansion and content delivery. Mods and custom content has existed since the beginning, but The Sims 2 introduced the ability to install mods with ease through mod management systems built into the game and introduction of the package-files (they actually used the extension .package). Initially, you could open them like an executable, then The Sims 3 allowed you to import them through the game’s launcher. Now, you simply drag and drop them into the game’s mod folder – “\Documents\Electronic Arts\The Sims 4\Mods”, The method for importing custom content on both Windows and Macintosh is more or less the same whereas the folder locations can vary.
The Sims has advanced with each new series – The Sims 2 introduced ageing, progressive life-states, The Angel of Death (The immortal sim who would collect the very recently deceased), facial expressions as well as desires and fears along in addition to their personality settings bound to the Zodiac that also determined a sim’s birthday. The Sims 3 overhauled personalities by redefining them with selectable traits. This series brought about a single persistent world that removed the need to load up between lots and allowed sims that weren’t being played to age. The Sims 4 however, despite making advancements to sim personality and multitasking as well as making stable game overall for both Windows and Macintosh takes a huge step back with by reverting to loading between lots but allowing unplayed sims to age through life states off-screen. Essentially, you’re getting a base game that feels like The Sims 1.5 with just how much has been stripped. Thankfully the expansion and game packs along with the major updates have helped to add meat to what was a bare-bones experience to begin with. But it is a shame that so much had be sacrificed to deliver a stable experience for all platforms in order to dramatically improve upon The Sims 3 instabilities – In other words, I’ve only ever had a single crash with The Sims 4 on my MacBook Pro to The Sims 3’s countless.

Gameplay

For those who’ve never played a series (base game and expanded / boosted content) in The Sims franchise, this one doesn’t really differ terribly from it’s predecessors. In the original series you had to issue commands via a point & click interface for every single one of a given sim’s actions. Essentially, The Sims (original) was a digital Tamagochi style game where failing to maintain any particular sim would impact negatively upon their health and wellbeing. The Sims 2 is largely responsible for shaping the franchise with the basic suite of features and sim autonomy that we’ve come to expect. Autonomy allowed sims to live their day to day lives, leaving players to focus on the bigger picture for a given household or neighbourhood. With autonomy, The Sims 2 introduced whims that impacted the game by adding greater challenge with fears and desires shaped by a given sim’s personality. The Sims 3 overhauled the personality system from one that conforms to profiles dictated by the Western Zodiac and shifted to model which allowed players to shape sim’s character through picking traits, a sort of strengths and weaknesses based system. The Sims 4 redefines the personality system to not only display whims, but also adds moods that react to events, people and surroundings impacting a sim’s behaviour when presently active. Like The Sims 2 the game will load up between lots. However, sims no longer have vehicles that provide those novel little transit animations instead simply disappearing and reappearing.
Okay, what do you get out of The Sims 4?
Like the first, the purpose is to maintain your sims’ basic needs on top of living their stories vicariously through their digital lifespans. These needs are Energy (or fatigue), Hunger, Hygiene, Social, Fun and Social. These are displayed with gauges reflecting positive and negative, maintaining these will mean the difference in a sim’s present emotional state. However, allowing both energy and hunger to reach critical levels of negativity can mean certain death if prolonged in said state. A sim’s happiness is defined not only by maintaining a positive condition levels, but also maintaining one’s mood through fulfilling their desires. You can have up to three at a given time, which are displayed as thought bubbles. Hovering the cursor over one will reveal a discard and thumbtack (keep) option as a sim’s desire will shift, unless you have that sim keep it. By having your sims complete a desire you are able to improve a moods and score points toward a sim’s aspiration. Aspirations (unlike The Sims 3) are interchangeable for any given playable sim and can be switched out at any time. Aspirations function as a bucket list of sorts, where sims would check off the respective accomplishments throughout their lives as opposed to the traditional reference of a checklist of everything you want to do with the remainder of your twilight years. Essentially these function as sets of challenges for your sims to beat – There is no real need to complete them all, unless you fall into the completionist category of simmer. Just as you have desires, your sims have fears and they are triggered upon an event that puts your sims in the respective negative mood state. A sim’s mood is displayed as a hued aura around that sim’s portrait in the bottom left corner of the game user interface and below are icons with corresponding colours. These will display the basic reason for that given mood – example, soiling one’s pants will result in an embarrassed mood with a yellow hue. Winning the lottery will likely give your sim a very happy mood with a green hue. In a positive mood, your sims will be more compliant when you are steering them in certain direction or just trying to get their conditions into a good balance.
At the end of the day (whenever that may be) every player is has a story to tell through their sims regardless of whether we’re actively telling one or finding ways to amuse ourselves, every experience your sims live through is just another scene in that story. If for a moment, you’re wondering about whether or not their’s more to this sandbox besides unleashing your inner architect, interior designer and / or fashion coach – There is. Don’t let all your sims die, otherwise your sims will get a rather amusing visit from the Angel of Death himself and you will be greeted with the infamous “Game Over” message window.

In a nutshell, The Sims is basically an epic marathon game of Lemmings in a dollhouse-style sandbox – But what extra stuff do you get from the packs?

The “Get to Work (Expansion Pack)” adds the Detective (Police Investigations), Doctor (Hospital) and Scientist along with self-employment careers that your can actively participate in with your sims as well as reintroducing aliens. The “Get Together (Expansion Pack)” adds the ability to join and / or create social clubs, and yes I have actually tried to make “Fight Club” – Whoops! I spoke about it. Anyway… The “City Living (Expansion Pack)” gives your sims access to condominium and penthouse rental properties, with the key difference of having full architectural freedom with a penthouse as opposed to an apartment. The “Outdoor Retreat (Game Pack)” will allow sims to go on holiday and grant access to national parks where sims to can camp out in chalets and tents. “Spa Day (Game Pack)” introduces massage therapy, yoga along with general relaxation and wellbeing related activities. The “Dine Out (Game Pack)” adds the restaurant dining experience for you sims to partake of and expands the self-employment options from “Get to Work” with the opportunity for your sims to become restauranteurs. Then there’s the “Vampires (Game Pack)” that reintroduces vampire sims in a whole new surprisingly satisfying way. The key difference between expansion and game packs (aside from the price), comes down to whether or not you get a new region to play around in along with the new experiences and content to customise your sims and lots with. Stuff Packs more or less themed content booster packs with one or two minor gameplay functionalities thrown in. Here in Australia, The Sims 4 in it’s entirety will likely set you back around AU$469.10 (Deluxe Edition $89.95 + EPs $49.95ea + GPs $19.95ea + SPs $14.95ea), and that’s not including new content promised for this year alone!
Are these packs really necessary? Electronic Arts would like to think so (obviously), and to a certain extent they are very necessary if you’re looking to put meat on a barebones experience.
Overall, The Sims 4 as a series is hit and miss – leaning to more toward decent hit with the packs installed or an “Airball” if you’re going to skimp out them.

Final Thoughts

DAMN YOU EA! I could’ve bought a new computer or console with the money I spent getting into and maintaining The Sims 4!!! FIVE BLOODY BICKIES!!! (Strine for AU$100s)
I can’t complain too much… Since expanding the game, I have had some good times and few to no crashes unlike the Macintosh build of The Sims 3. The Sims 4 has brought some good stuff to the table, but at the end of the day previous series have brought forth far superior experiences with fewer packs.

Is The Sims 4 worth it?

If you’re devout fan of the franchise, then that’s not a question I have to ask.
If you enjoy the dollhouse sandbox experience, then The Sims 4 will provide that enjoyment.
If you’re new to The Sims, you’re either going to have to purchase this series over time or… Well… Anyway, you get the picture.

Report Card

Quality: A
Gameplay: B
Content: C
Skill: A
Technical: A
Value: D
Audience: Youth

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Minecraft just got competitive…

I believe an interesting point was raised with regard to a competitive multiplayer format for Minecraft. One of the most popular mods that offered such an experience, is the “Hunger Games” (inspired and named after the popular dystopian action thriller novel and movie franchise) which receive similar treatment to the Magic: The Gathering community format, EDH / Commander. Magic’s Commander format started off as community development game using MtG and was eventually recognised by the game’s creators by printing official Commander decks. In a similar fashion, the Hunger Games has more or less been recognised by Mojang and 4J with the introduction of Battle as the first available mode for (Console Edition’s) Minigame suite along with a map pack made exclusively for this new mode.
So does this mean the Minigame suite is going to serve as the officially recognised competitive multiplayer formats for Minecraft across all console (XBOX 360, PlayStation 3, XBOX One, PlayStation 4, Vita and Wii U) editions?

It’s a very real possibility!

Anyway, if you’re hungry for Battle I will be playing my fair share on XBOX One, PlayStation, Vita and Wii U.

DooM: Past, Present and Future…

Doom – Whether you love it or hate it, this is a piece computer game history!
The trivia concerning Doom’s development is interesting, as this game originally started as project to make a game that would use the Aliens license. Instead, (creators) Id Software chose to make something original to allow for creative freedom. The game draws inspiration from multiple influences – The name alone, was taken from a quote featured in The Colour of Money made by character portrayed by Tom Cruise in response being asked what was inside his cue case. While abandoning a licensed tie-in for Aliens, that didn’t stop the boys at Id from using the movie as another inspiration. On top of that you have both the Evil Dead movies and Id’s Dungeons & Dragons sessions among the game’s major inspirational influences. Whilst you had a team full of creative minds behind Id Software at the time, the driving force came from both John Carmack and John Romero.
Doom itself is a highly controversial game on it’s subject matter alone, especially when you’re talking about Satanic imagery around religious folk. But talking into account that this franchise was one of the first to market violence in computer games prior to the introduction of game classification is another factor as to why Doom is so controversial. Controversy aside, Doom was the game-changer that perfected the first-person shooter and introduced the world to network multiplayer along with coining the gaming term “Deathmatch”.
Doom is a first-person action horror in a science-fiction setting that puts you into shoes of a Space Marine stationed on the Martian moon, Phobos. The whole point of Doom, is to clean up the mess of stupidly powerful corporate conglomerate (not to mention stupidly immoral and just plain stupid in general) after their experiments into inter-dimensional transportation quite literally unleashes Hell itself! So, you’re probably thinking the Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC – said stupidly powerful corporate conglomerate) sounds a lot like Umbrella Corporation… Here’s the thing, Doom was sporting a story (even though the first two weren’t exactly story-driven games) with a powerful and immoral mega corporation before Resident Evil / Biohazard (Japanese Title) ever did – But I digress.
Doom and Doom II: Hell on Earth focused purely on gameplay over narrative expositions setting the tone for the franchise. These games made use of clever level design that allowed the designers to hide secret areas and levels that could easily prove tricky to find. At the same time, the core action used lighting, traps and the idle sounds of your enemies ranging from (possessed) “Former Humans” to a wide assortment of demonic foes in order to create a terror-filled atmosphere. It was that terror that came from being ambushed while clutching onto a loaded shotgun by a blood-lusting demon in a dark corridor – Only for the terror to turn into rage in split second, providing you with a rather disturbing but potentially intoxicating adrenaline rush as result of pulling the trigger spattering said foe over any dimly lit decor. This terror exists even in a Deathmatches, as your opponents can come flying out of nowhere suddenly engaging them in a “Quickdraw” gunfight with rocket launchers! Whilst it’s possible to take up cover and pick off foes, you will quickly learn that Doom whether Solo/Co-op or competitive is a matter of “The Quick and The Dead”.
Doom 3, while not an actual sequel (but a reboot) it serves as the Doom “Trilogy’s” narrative exposition. The game is very much a rich story-driven experience in comparison to it’s predecessors, but still manages embrace the terror-factor that made the original games so awesome. However, the multiplayer component plays like an afterthought as it feels very bare bones with only four player deathmatch and no option to fight among demon hordes. Overall, Doom 3 is a rich single player game that provides actual narrative behind the games.
The standout feature behind the franchise is both it’s richly diverse user generated content and mod support along the community behind it all. From map-packs, texture packs, total conversions to mods like Brutal Doom that take the original game to the next level.

So with the new reboot coming out on May 13th, I will be honest about having mixed feelings about the game – So on that note, I am curious enough to give the game the benefit of the doubt. Initially having watched some E3 presentation footage of the single player experience, I found that the game resembled too much of Quake Live than Doom. Hearing that the original design for the Doom reboot was too much like Call of Duty and wasn’t “Doomy Enough”?
Not Doomy enough is basically saying the game isn’t terrifying and that’s what I currently think of the new game so far.

With that said, I will pick up a copy at my leisure and give it a go. If it plays like the homage to Brutal Doom as quoted by those to receive it more positively, then I may end up keeping Doom… Just don’t expect me to be playing the PC version, as I clearly will be playing Project Brutality instead.

Standing the test of time…

For those of you who’ve been enjoying a life of gaming since the 1980s will probably have witnessed new technological innovations hit the scene. For example the transitions from cassette media to optical media and floppy disks to various forms of flash media (eg. SD Cards, Key-Drives aka USB Thumbdrives, etc.) and the internet for the general public. But! There have also been technological flops, that been nothing more than passing fads.

I could talk about three dimensional entertainment, but that has come and gone so many times it really isn’t funny. However, I will give credit to Nintendo for there clever use of the medium as experienced from the 3DS systems.
Virtual Reality, technology that has existed since the late 1930s. Initially it was used for art and entertainment, but has gained deeper meaningful appreciation from industrial applications of the technology.

VR Entertainment something I saw in the old laser tag arenas setup with the arcade games back when I first saw it in action during the mid-1990s. Back then, VR gaming was primarily an experience for PC. With the new wave of VR, I cannot say I am overly excited for it as the technology only caters toward a certain niche of gamers and those marketing fail to understand that.
First off, lets talk numbers here – You’re looking at anywhere between AU$500 – AU$1000+ for a VR rig alone, and that’s not including any compatible software or hardware to be “VR Ready”!
Next up, is the niche – In a gaming capacity, VR is most ideal for some taking a hardcore simulation to next level offering some deep immersion for the enthusiasts who use and/or play them. Having said that, you’re looking at a peripheral that in the same league as other simulator apparatuses (eg. HOTAS, driving wheels, simulator cockpits, etc.). So looking at VR rigs that way you can appreciate the asking price as you would expect to outlay a fair chuck of change to build a simulator.
And Finally, the marketing is all wrong! – I appreciate having technology that offers an intimate viewing experience for a mainstream gaming audience, but I can think of better practical ways. But when the bulk your initial software lineup is nothing more than shovelware (eg. Glorified Tech-Demos, On-Rails Interactive Movies, sloppy implementations, etc.), you’re practically advertising your VR Experience as nothing more than a gimmick! Intimate viewing experience for gamers are why portable CES units (eg. 3DS, Vita, iPhone, etc.) exist!
Outside of interactive entertainment, Virtual Reality offers greater potential for industrial applications (eg. Education, Training, Tourism, Therapy, Remote Control, etc.) of the technology and comes across as “Wasted” when offered to mainstream gaming in comparison.

Do the words “There is nothing new under the sun” mean anything to you?

Minecraft Let’s Play Series Anyone?

How’s this for ideas…

I’m thinking, maybe starting a Minecraft play session series on YouTube.  I know I’m a little late to that party by jumping on that bandwagon – But what if I focused on spreading an entire “Hardcore” game across a season?
For those who know Minecraft on the PC, you can not only choose to play Creative and Survival, but you also have the Hardcore mode.  Hardcore plays like Survival, but when your character die your game ends and the world you built is deleted, pretty much what old-school gamer’s know to be “Ironman Mode” (one game save that automatic self-deletes if you “fail”).
So I if I go ahead with this, I will be playing from a completely random generated world (no seed codes) for an entire season.  Because of YouTube constraints I would like to keep episodes around the ten minute mark, even though the limit about fifteen.  Would Minecraft Hardcore mode play sessions for regular YouTube content work?

Anyway, let me know what you think.

Why Pay?

For those of you all too familiar with MMORPGs and having to pay a regular subscription to play them, you would also know that feeling known as “Subscription Fatigue”. Thanks to Microsoft and Sony, anyone who owns one their current generation computer entertainment systems (eg XBOX One or PlayStation 4) are required to pay a regular subscription in order to play online multiplayer. I can understand the discerning gamer having subscription fatigue relating to console multiplayer, as I myself have reached that point.
Initially, I bought into XBOX 360’s multiplayer scene just to see what it was all about. As for PSN Plus – Given how Sony introduced Plus, offering a VIP program with game rental (“Free” games) and members’ perks (eg discounts, exclusive opportunities, etc.) before it was mandatory for multiplayer on the PS4. I will admit that I quite liked what Sony were offering and thought it very clever of them to entice customers into wanting before they made it a necessity for multiplayer. With the recent hacks along with semi-frequent network outages, I have reached that point where I am questioning the value of actually having to pay for something I get freely on PC and Nintendo systems.

For around $70 (AUD) a year, I can get a bulk deal on my CES subscription service from both Sony and Microsoft. And yet, the only thing I have on PC of that nature is paying for a Minecraft Realm which is easier than paying for third-party server hosting.

Let’s face it, you can do damage-control for PlayStation and XBOX all you like. But it won’t change the fact, that PC users have never had to pay for multiplayer outside of MMOs or renting dedicated servers. You may very well look down on Nintendo, but with their current generation CES lineup (3DS & Wii U) you don’t pay a thing to play online multiplayer.
What I find funny, is that “Console” users refer to PCs as – The “PC Master Race”. As a PC user, we are anything but. If you look at the “Homebrew” roots of the PC, the abundance of choice and the fact we don’t pay for multiplayer like owners of a major CES would, PC is “The Underground” when you take all that into account.

I think I will slowly back away from renewing my subscriptions from here on out…
When that day comes you can either catch me on the PC or my 3DS and Vita if you’re looking for a game.

Back in action!

If you remember my previous work on GAMEGEDDON.COM, I managed to salvage all those review I thought I’d lost when the website crashed.
All my old reviews using the original grading have been updated using my current grading model.  I knew I planned on overhauling GAMEGEDDON.COM, but I no idea it would all go down this way.
A fresh start it is.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy my original content along with the new yet to come.

Later.

Magic: Changing Things Up…

It’s 35 Degree (Celsius) outside and I am having a mug of mead (finishing off the bottle) with a bit on my mind.  Anyway…

Since late last year I’ve been getting into proper Magic: The Gathering (first set – Magic Origins) and actually enjoy it.  I’ve been to a few Friday Night Magic sessions down at my local Good Games and I’ve learned a fair bit (from straight losses), but I am at that point where playing “Standard” has become financially exhausting in order to keep up.  However, rather than simple cash in my amassed collection I figured I’d take to playing the EDH (Elder Dragon Highlander) / Commander format of the game.  From what I’ve seen and experienced of Magic, I highly enjoy that solid mix of a thrilling challenge with good company too much to give up my newfound hobby.

So right now, I’m focusing Commander decks instead of regular ones and hopefully get into a game sometime.

Until then, I will be hitting the occasional FNM Draft matches in the meantime.

Hi Guys

For those of you who remember GAMEGEDDON.COM, I was that guy who wrote all the reviews and content for the site.  Mind you I wasn’t alone as I had help from my family and friends who helped me to keep things going.  Recently GAMEGEDDON.COM went down due to unfortunate technical problems – No it was not hacked!
The brand I was able to build up, was driven by my love for good games and to rather than try to rebuild the domain upon which the brand was built upon I chose to continue publishing my content independently.  So, here we – Welcome to my new blog.

Anyway, stay tuned for more reviews and other gaming related content.

Wolfy