What we thought
"Because much of the game concerns your management of time, you sometimes find there's hardly any left to do interesting things. You spend so long doing the boring basic tasks of life that there's little time for anything else."
What you said
- "I agree totally with the recent feedback regarding The Sims. It's outstanding and stands proudly alone in its own mini genre. The basic idea has never been considered in a game before and this is why it is so unique. My one and only complaint is about how quickly a Sim's energy level reduces, in some extreme cases they have to miss work and sleep all day to recover thus reducing your fun and social levels, which makes the Sim depressed. Other than this the game is great fun to play, plus downloads from the Internet will extend the already endless possibilities in the game."
- "Reading your latest issue, I noticed that you appeared to have only received positive feedback on The Sims, which seems very odd to me. I bought the game a few weeks ago, anticipating something special, and took it back within days. My reason? Sheer boredom. The game is tedious beyond belief. Do I really want to make people talk to each other 50 or so times, just so they begin to like each other? Perhaps creating new genres should be secondary to providing some gameplay, or am I alone in thinking this? Regardless of this technicality, no other game has bored me so quickly or so intensely."
- "After reading many reviews and hearing good things from friends I decided to get The Sims for my birthday. On my birthday, full of anticipation I ripped open the box and installed the game. Upon playing the game, however, I discovered that it was incredibly dull and repetitive. Their Al is also not very good and they have extremely bad bladder control. I would like you to note that this complaint comes from someone who normally enjoys games of this genre and is not a solid Quake-head or anything."
Amazing as it may seem, when Will Wright created SimCity a decade ago he couldn't find a publisher willing to license the game. Six million copies later, and those potential publishers were left looking like the man who turned down The Beatles. With no one prepared to take a risk on a game that couldn't be won or lost, and which focused on the unusual topic of running a city, Will founded Maxis. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now swallowed up by the behemoth that is Electronic Arts, Maxis have been churning out Sim games apace, covering almost everything bar the much-anticipated SimlceCreamVan. However, for all their variety and innovation, none of the games have yet quite succeeded in capturing either the critical or commercial success of the SimCity brand, now in its third - or three-hundredth - incarnation.
Step forward The Sims, a game that Will claims to have been dabbling with for the past seven years. He's purposely kept it quiet though, and the game only made its public debut at the recent E3 show in Los Angeles, standing out like a beacon of originality among the mire of sequels, not to mention games that had made more E3 appearances than the average freeloading journalist.
As the overseer of a neighbourhood of Sims, their lives are effectively in your hands. A predefined selection of Sims is provided, or you can customise your Sims' personalities, skills and careers to create your own unique family. The idea is to help them find happiness or, alternatively, plunge them into a moribund existence of bitterness and despair. For want of a media-friendly soundbite, it's SimCity meets Tamagotchi.
They need something a little more salubrious than a keyring to live in though, and homes for your Sims can either be bought, or designed yourself. In fact, the game began its life as an architecture program. It's developed a long way since then though, and the homes can be equipped with furniture, electronics, plumbing, lighting and other accessories necessary to keep your Sims happy. Once housed, Sims can interact with neighbours, form relationships, get married, and pursue careers in fields such as business, entertainment, the military and politics. They can even aspire to a life of crime, moving up the ranks from pickpocket to criminal mastermind.
Your Sims can fend for themselves, and don't simply stand around awaiting commands. With your input, however, they can live a much more pleasant life, and The Sims has been described as an interactive soap opera. It's not a label creator Will Wright is totally at ease with though: "A lot of people, when they see a game about people, think it's a scripted adventure game. And I really don't want people to get the wrong impression, because in fact it's an extremely open-ended simulation.
In fact it's probably a lot more open-ended than SimCity. It's more like a chemistry set or something." Relationships clearly play an important part in the game, but could Bob move in with Ted, for instance? "That was a minefield that we trod ever so carefully, but in fact you can establish homosexual relationships in the game. Men can fall in love with each other depending on some idnds of obscure variables, so not that many will but it's possible to do, and you can get two men to live together."
Nowt wrong with that - they're both over 21. However, even less orthodox domestic scenarios are possible, as Will explains: "I like bizarre, and it turns out the way we do our characters we were able to very easily import Quake skins. I can download Quake II skins off the Net and they automatically appear in the character select screen. So I can have a family of Quake II characters. These guys are all zero personalities, they're not very pleasant, kicking the shit out of each other."
Other downloadable items may include a football fully embedded with the rules of the game, and a funnel web spider which can escape and kill. As Will says: "I want to have a lot of weird, twisted things just like that in there."
So how much of The Sims is based on Will's own home life? "Well, actually that's my favourite part. I can put my family in and my house in, because to me that's the really bizarre thing. I noticed a long time ago that with a lot of people who play SimCity, about a month later they're driving down the road and they're starting to notice, 'Oh, industrial zone'; 'Oh, new freeway...' They start to view their environment differently. That's a pretty common thing with SimCity. But with this game, I've been playing it a lot, so now I go home and I'm starting to think, 'Hunger: negative 20'; and then I see my wife and it's, 'Hug or kiss? Hug or kiss?' It's funny, it makes you see your whole life differently. You're playing this real-time strategy version of your life, and also you start thinking of your everyday life as a real-time strategy game."
Now that is twisted.
Get up, brush my teeth and have a shower. Stumble over last night's take-away curry on the way out to work. Energy levels low. 8:35 AM
Have a female commuter's elbow lodged in my inner ear and develop a furious itch in my foot I can't scratch, due to train being vertically and horizontally packed.
But am still first one in.
Three PC crashes and four readers' phone calls (one prank call, two "the demo doesn't work on my PC" calls and one "asking for the wrong games mag" call) later, my hunger levels reach a critical level and propel me to the snazzy baguette shop.
A game called The Sims arrives. I announce my intention to review it. A fluorescent light bursts above my head.
Seven people have crowded around my computer, shouting things like "make him come through the back door" and "can he kill the neighbour?"
Arrive home, put dinner on, start playing The Sims again.
Smell fire in kitchen, put it out and go back to the computer.
Really should go to the toilet. But my sim needs it more. The icon above his head says so.
The Truman Show
We've all pretended to be a god at some point or another. We've had villages worshipping us as we cast down bolts of lightning. We've built colosseums and pyramids and watched huts turn into villas. We've constructed whole cities, with railway systems, hospitals and industrial areas, making off-the-cuff decisions that affected millions of people. But have you ever wondered what went on in those tiny little lives, what happened inside those rows of houses you erected in the residential area, or how they got it together to increase the population? The creator of SimCity, Will Wright, did. In fact, he was so obsessed with the idea, he spent seven years working on The Sims. And you'll spend the next seven years playing it.
This is a game of people (simulated people), and their lives, works and loves. They have personalities, feelings and needs. Unfortunately for them, they also have you to guide, nurture and destroy them. The gaming camera has zoomed right into the minutiae of their daily lives, turning your screen into a window to another world, your very own reality show, the greatest fly-on-the-wall documentary you could possibly imagine. This isn't so much a god sim as a voyeur sim.
The game begins in a neighbourhood with just a few houses, two of them already inhabited and the others waiting for your own creations to settle in. You can choose to start off with a pre-created family or make your own (choosing the traits that will determine their personality) before moving into one of the houses or building your own from scratch. Then you're forced away from your own life and into this new one, doing the things you should be doing for real without moving out of your chair.
Fitter, Happier, More Productive
Your sim (or sims if you choose to start with more than one person) has a set of needs you must look after at all times: hunger (you need to make your sim cook and feed itself), comfort (they can't stand up all day, you know), hygiene (even computer people need showers), bladder (self-explanatory, it also includes bowels), energy (it'll have to sleep or drink coffee), fun (watching TV, playing games, reading books), social (meeting people and building relationships) and room (nice furniture, decorations, clean floors). This is a Tamagotchi like you've never seen before. You need to find a job, invite people over for a chat, build up skills (like cooking and charisma) and buy all manner of things to make your house a nicer, better place to live in. To advance, you need to build successful friendships and romances and do well at work. And the sims will only do that if you keep them happy. But that's just the start of it.
In fact, there's so much you can do-we'd need to play the game for months, then write a whole book if we were to do a review that can truly do it justice. How do you review life? The Sims provides tools for endless possibilities (especially when you consider how much new stuff you'll be able to download from the Internet as people create their own neighbourhoods and mods). And, while we can assess those tools to a certain extent, you'll have to do most of the discovering yourself.
There are essentially three ways to play The Sims. 1) create a monster, a maniac, a veritable human wreck who works as a criminal, watches TV all day and eats pizzas; 2) invent a situation and try out things for the sake of discovering what will happen next (eg "I wonder what will happen if I just do this..."); 3) develop a happy, productive sim with a healthy social life and a nice home. Not nearly as much fun of course - in the short term at least - as the first one. Just take a look at the following example...
Case Study: Paul Calf
This Steve Coogan alter-ego look-alike was a sim-wreck from the moment we spotted him. Paul began the day watching children's cartoons in his pyjamas and eating a freshly ordered pizza. Instead of the much-needed kitchen table and bathroom sink, he bought himself a mini-bar and proceeded to get quietly drunk. Then the neighbours arrived to welcome him to the area.
After unsuccessfully chatting up Betty Newby, he invited everyone in and staggered into the kitchen. He tickled Mr Newby and almost got punched in the process, before deciding he would cook dinner for everyone. His cooking skills being somewhat lacking, the pan caught fire and began to spread. Paul didn't waste any time in calling the firemen, except for the 20 minutes he ran around like a maniac, screaming and panicking. After the flames had been extinguished, and thinking he wasn't making the best possible impression on his new acquaintances, he turned on the stereo and began dancing with Mrs Hyacinth Goth. After telling her a dirty joke that almost earned him a slap, Paul paid the consequences for forgetting to go to the toilet. Displaying all his alcoholic incontinence, he wet himself all over the kitchen floor and fell over in his own puddle. People began to leave the party...
The Game Of Life
Once you've finished arsing about though, you'll want to try your hand at making a successful sim. And it isn't as easy as you might think. Just taking care of their everyday needs can be a full-time job. Because much of the game concerns your management of time, you sometimes find there's hardly any left to do interesting things. You spend so long doing the boring basic tasks of life that there's little time for anything else. In fact, time soon becomes the real protagonist of the game. Just as in real life, having a job leaves little room for doing much else. You get up, go to work, have some dinner and go to bed. But somehow you have to fit in a busy social life, have fun and leam new skills.
It doesn't help that you can't do two things at once, like cooking and talking. You need to put each action into a queue, which is usually messed up by the need to answer the phone, sit down or take a dump. Other annoyances include not being able to open the door to let everybody in (instead having to greet each visitor individually). But, considering the depth to this game, these are minor grievances. We've barely scraped the surface here. We've not mentioned how relationships are complicated by unrequited loves, jealousy and fights. How you can have babies and how gay couples can adopt children. How you can move into a house with a swimming pool, a snooker table and a giant TV. How you can be a polygamist. How you can increase your logic levels by playing chess or your muscles by lifting weights. We can only suggest that you buy yourself a copy right now and discover it all for yourself. To miss out on The Sims would be to turn your back on one of the most significant steps forward PC games have ever witnessed.
To Kill A Sim
Feeling sadistic? What could be simpler than taking it out on your sim? But can you live with the guilt?
You may not be able to murder other people, but you can employ all your darkest sadistic skills in driving your sim to an early grave. We decided the wreck of a person that was Paul Calf didn't deserve to live. Whenever sims have a real pressing need, they perform the required action by themselves. Unless you stop them. We started by depriving Calf of showers until he could barely stand the smell of his own armpits, and preventing him from going to bed until he staggered around the room In exhaustion. Then we sold most of his furniture and blocked his way to the fridge. But that wasn't enough, oh no. We put him in the kitchen and walled up the doors, then got rid of everything in there except the rubbish. Every time he went to sleep we woke him up. After 12 attempts to call for a pizza we sold the phone. It was a pitiful sight. He finally gave up the struggle after five days without washing, four days of barely sleeping and three days of starvation, curling up in a comer to die. We're so ashamed, we've already started campaigning to set up a Royal Society For The Protection Of Sims.
Download The Sims
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
The Sims Screenshots and Media
- Airport Tycoon 2
- Airport Tycoon 3
- Sid Meier's SimGolf
- Sim Copter
- Simcity 2000
- SimCity 3000
- SimCity 3000 - World Edition
- The Tower
- Theme Hospital
- Theme Park World
- X-COM: Apocalypse