The Sims 3

The Sims 3 development team are apparently taking tips from the forthcoming opus Spore, and are promising more features to appeal to so-called hardcore gamers. The first of these new additions will be a more open, seamless world for your Sims to inhabit. Rather than being trapped in a pit of your own virtual filth, with only a few token public areas (shops, parks and the like), you’ll now be able to wander across the lawn and have a peep through your next-door neighbour’s window. You’ll be able to freely wander through the Sims’ town, see other Sims walking around greeting each other in Simlish (the game’s gibberish language), driving cars, shopping, hanging round on street corners scaring old Sims - a real-time virtual settlement directly around your Sims’ homes.

However, The Sims 3 won’t be revisiting the failed Sims Online MMO project of a few years back. Instead of multiplayer, EA will be pushing the community side of the game, with features such as a Facebook-style social networking service. Here, you’ll be able to upload Sims to a homepage, where friends and other players can download them into their own towns.

Another major complaint about The Sims was the ‘hamster cage’ mentality of the previous games - that you spend too much time making sure your Sims don’t piss their pants rather than evolving their characters. The Sims 3 is much lower maintenance, removing the previous games’ mood bars, so rather than micro-managing your small-bladdered chum in the morning as he/she juggles a shower, breakfast and wee-wees, there’ll be a simple bubble that pops up stating that your Sim is hungry, and with a deft click, all the tasks will be taken care of. Long-standing features such as the ability of your Sims to work hard for their money will return, and they’ll have a range of jobs they can do to bring in the cash.

The major nods to the role-playing genre continue with the new inventory system. This allows you to(for example) pick apples and cook them instead of going downtown to buy a ready-made apple pie.Plus, if your Sim gets a kiss from his girlfriend, or is given a present, you’ll see an icon called a ‘moodlet’ - a classic MMO buff - to indicate your Sim’s state of mind after an important event. Further RPG elements include ‘traits’, which are simple one-word descriptors that can be applied to your Sims, such as genius, grumpy, frugal and evil. Six or so can be assigned to the little AI folks; so if your Sim is an insensitive, kleptomaniac, outdoors type of person, then watch your wallet if you go out jogging. On the reverse side, that particular Sim would feel happiest when shouting abuse and stealing personal property on a fun run. Probably. Anyway, if you can’t be arsed with all that character-creation stuff, you can also pick from a selection of pre-configured personalities - although angry Northern games journalist has yet to be confirmed.

Given that EA have ambitions to create a more fun, open ‘sandbox’ kind of game, rather than a domestic boredom simulator, The Sims 3 could be surprisingly great. At this stage, however, the only thing we can guarantee with certainty is that the add-on packs are already being planned.

Apr 21, 2008