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October 07, 2004

Comments

Eric Lulie

Re: neverending stories ultimately being boring -- I don't know if I entirely agree with that; some people don't seem to tire of experiencing the same characters doing different things in the same world. Witness the popularity of MMORPGs; to a certain extent the games are very much the same at heart, the effects of the characters on the world tends to be minimal or superficial, and (if you watch a MMORPG long enough) you will eventually discover a devoted core o' folk who all know one another, at least tangentially. And yet, these people have no problems spending hours upon hours with the games...

Despayre

I was never much of a fan of the original Sims. it all felt rather pointless to me. However, my wife was completely addicted to it as it allowed her to express the interior designer lurking inside her. She rarely if ever actually played with the Sims, but instead just built house after house after house.

I got her the sequel, but find myself playing long after she gives up and goes to bed. The aspirations are great additions as now you can have a definable goal to accomplish if you want that style of gameplay. I do wish they had included a few more unique objects even though being able to change the color of the objects is a nice touch, but of course EA cant do that as then they would be taking away from their expansion pack content...

Benjamin Graner

I like comparing The Sims to a toy, sort of like Lego. There's no real point/story with Lego, but it's still fun.

BTW have you noticed that if your Sim is really untidy, when they go into the shower their bladder and hygiene both go up? Genius!

Frank Ward

I would argue that the fault lies in thinking of the entire game as just a 'story'. Instead you'd have to think of it as a collection of short stories.

You could obstensibly divide it up into one sims life span, or you could divide it up into smaller portions with the sims goals.

The sim gets an idea, the sim does what it needs to accomplish the goal, the sim achieves its goal. Beginning, middle, end.

Think of a series of books that shares the same protagonist(s). Tom Clancy's a good example. The same characters appear across a span of books, each book is its own story, but the characters are always who they were in the last novel and have that knowldge of their prior adventures.

Lowell

Hey, I'm a college student, I just wanted to say thanks for keeping this blog, it's great to see the games industry from an insiders view. Hopefully once I graduate I'll be fortunate enough to find a job in the industry as a programmer. I'll definitely be reading this blog regularly now that I've stumbled on it.

David Kozlowski

I worked at Maxis during the development of the Sims Online (I had previously spendt years working at EA and Origin on and around a variety of games). The consensus amongst many of the TSO dev team was: the Sims is a single-player experience and TSO threw away most of the cool single-player aspects in lieu of creating a new game dynamic. Sadly, that dynamic was never realized and the Sims Online (which cost over $40 million to develop) will probably never recoup its initial investment - EA mgmt believed 5 million people would pay $19 a month to play Sims Online (I recently I heard maybe 50,000 are actively playing TSO now). EA has long sought to repeat the success of Ultima Online, but has failed time and time again (Motor City Online, Majestic, Earth & Beyond, EA.Com).

I think games like Ultima Online and Everquest retain their core audiences because many of these players have invested so much time and effort (and dollars) they can't bear the thought of walking away - not because the game experience continues to hold any magic for them.

patternjuggler

I've always thought that the sims would be great if it they licensed the engine to people making more traditional games- you take your characters out and fight and move an overarching story forward, but along the way, you can acquire skills and develop relationships that have effects back on the battlefield (or wherever the actual game focus is)- while at the same time predetermined plot points would alter the characters in ways dependent on their prior development. It would be great to be playing X-Com and have one of your soldiers flip out and frag the fellow squad member who stole his girlfriend, or have soldiers react differently when close friends are in danger. The game would still end with the final boss fight at the end, but these little personal stories would have added a lot of depth and character that would be entirely different on another play through.

Dave M.

A never ending story could be boring, however, a never ending story where you can start over again, change the parameters of the story, change the environment that the story takes place in, just to see how the characters react... That may not be so boring.

One of the things I find intersting about Sims 2, is the ability to experiment with situations and see what the outcome is. The idea of marrying someone, then drowning them in the pool over and over again to gain wealth is a pretty cool idea. You could to the "Arsnic and Old Lace" story and see how many people you could bury in the basement. Of course, someone would have to make an item "Arsnic" that could be used in the preparation of food for that to work the way the movie went, but at least it's possible...

My problem with Sims 2 is, well, the amount of time it takes to play these kinds of things out. I find my self spending *WAY* too much time at the computer playing Sims 2 and not enough time doing other things like getting outdoors, doing household chores, etc... The game is like Civilization, you just want to try this one last thing before going to bed/stopping...

Steve

Of course people enjoy never ending stories. This is why soap operas are so popular. The trick is in reaching some sort of mini-closure to smaller stories every so often.

paul haine

I disagree that the 'holy grail' of gaming is a neverending story; often, a short game with a definite ending is more appealing than something that drags on - Pikmin, Prince of Persia and Beyond Good & Evil, for instance.

The length of a game can vary, and can be extended via the means of side quests and distractions, but ultimately, the best games are those that tell a story, a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. A game that truly never ended would just feel pointless and boring, and people would move on to play other games.

Dyerbrook

Just as the air really seems to be leaking out of the tires at TSO, there's the magic of Sims2, and now TSO is a chat room about what you make in Sims2, a help desk, a place to complain about how the Exchange won't upload, a forum for sorting out where the really good movies and skins are from Sims2. It's a great symbiotic relationship, so you even forget that they will never take Sims2 online.

Somehow, I put down Sims2 when I wandered over to Second Life, which has an almost identical "appearance" function to build the avatar's face and body -- but Sims2 has more expressions, I think. What's annoying about any Sims game -- and Sims2 is maybe even worse in that regard! -- is that it *gets in the way* of making your own narrative. The Sims is just a kind of lightbox to make your own theater, with props and costumes. You want to be enabled in that activity, not hindered. But just when you have a story going, a sim pees himself or he has to have dinner or he's getting some girl pregnant -- not elements of YOUR plot line. In the old offline Sims, a club of ours called SimAlbums developed work arounds for all these pesky interruptions of the free narrative. New ones have to be devised for Sims2 -- like the cheat for turning off aging is already out, etc. For some people, having a pre-packaged narrative that they walk through, with motives, and jobs, and aging, is just great. But it's a frustrating, unbeatable game, where your Sim is never green enough, never happy enough, and never really caught up on his sleep. He gets away from you, and flirts with the maid...It would be interesting if the developers would make an open-ended game without all those prepackaged narratives, so you could be totally free to make your own. The frivolous sim language...the silly gestures...they all get in the way...Sims2 is far, far better for building. But I find myself yearning for the old simpler Sims games to make stories. They had better furniture, too.

Willy

Perhaps Sid Myers's The Movies will be more in tune with what you are looking for?

yoyo

I really like this site, it's so intriguing to see other people with similar oppinions to me (only more coherent and smarter).

Back to the Sims...
I go through bouts of addiction to this game, but it all seems so depressing to me.
It's as if life there evolves round reproducing and consuming, You've not completed the game objectives untill you've had kids and own the nice big Mansion.

Damn the Sims. Damn them.
I lock them all in a small room with too many fur rugs and a cheap fireplace...that'll teach them to burn dinner!

Chris

hi all,

the holy grail is always a good subject. Here's how i see the two sides essentially breaking down. On one hand, you have total narrative, like books, film, etc. You give up all control over the story, and are (let's just say for simplicity's sake) taken for a ride. on the other hand, you have total interactivity, do what you want, no narrative, something more like reality, where anything is possible, and you're controlling all the action. Narrative is retroactive... events happen, and then they're put in an order later and meaning is assigned to them. What makes this the holy grail is that these elements seem to be on opposing sides. You've gotta give up some freedom, be confined in some way to be told a story, and you need some sense of interactivity to feel like you're participating. Finding the perfect balance here, I think, would be the holy grail. Maybe something more like the grand theft auto series, which gives you a story, but also gives you an environment that you can do what you want with.

Here's another school of thought from critic Julian Kucklich from a Gamestudies.org article: “It is the player’s desire to become the model player of the game that enables him or her to identify with the avatar, and thus to interact with the game world and make progress in the game, which in turn is perceived as narrative development." So the two are really interconnected. Maybe games get boring when they player becomes the "model player" (best possible player), and have mastered the game. Maybe (for the player) the narrative stops when the gameplay's been fully explored?

Grail on...

runaway

Should I buy the Sims 2 or do you think its best not to get "addicted" to it? It sounds really really cool. Do you think it is possible to use self discipline to control my playing time in this case or would that be really hard?

island

I actually don't find the prospect of a neverending story boring if it's got the right setting. There are some works that have awesome backdrops; it's easy to see why a reader could get attached to those settings when you realize the degree of care, creativeness, and attention to detail that went into creating them. That's not even taking into account any memorable characters that lend extra meaning to those imaginary places.

As far as The Sims games, I remember when I finally gave into the hype and bought the first one. I got bored with it within two or three days. It was just way too tedious, and it wasn't the "ant farm" experience that I thought it could be. I just wanted to the set up the environment and watch, but the little people were too dumb and dependent on the player.

I resisted buying The Sims2 until last weekend. I gotta say so far it's been kind of fun, as far as customizing the different sims, and seeing how their "genetics" get passed on. It's still sort of tedious, and I wish they would make the gameplay more customizable for people who want their sims to be totally autonomous. It would also be nice to have the option to turn off any needs you want, so you can focus on what you want them to do. That would make it more like the "toy" that EA/Maxis claims it is.

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