Who could have foretold that The Sims would become such a huge, singular hit? It has had few worthy competitors in its self-created genre, and Maxis looks set to repeat this chart-topping accomplishment with its people-managing sequel.
From the first few moments of chatting, flirting and interior decorating, The Sims 2 is delightful.
The process of day-to-day 'living' boasts considerably more depth and diversity than the previous incarnation. Each Sim now has a set of wants and fears that will guide their mood within the parameters of an overall life-building aspiration.
The Sims' immediate goals need to be addressed each and every day if they're going to feel successful. This might be as simple as having a chat with someone on MSN, or it might be more difficult - having an affair with a local beauty, for example, or being able to afford dazzling consumer luxuries.
The range of options for providing for these needs, the actions the Sims can perform, the interactions that are possible, the careers that can be undertaken and the furnishings that can be purchased, make up a bewildering array of possibilities.
The Sims are all genuinely endearing, and this attachment makes all the labour of managing their lives seem worthwhile. It's been said before, but the soap opera content of The Sims can quickly become more entertaining than anything daytime TV can invent.
Within moments of playing with one of the pre-built neighbourhoods, the father of the family is juggling his relationship with his wife and his affair with the maid.
The Sims 2 simply drips with additional functions and features - not least of which is the movie-making interface, which allows you to record and edit moments of Sim life to be kept as a video file and played back later.
With all the arguments about videogame violence in the mainstream press, it's always pleasing to note that the biggest-selling modern PC game has been non-violent. Quietly rolling onwards with a highly accomplished project of sophisticated and emotive gaming, The Sims 2 looks set to ensure that it stays that way.