This Is The Modern World: Sims 3 Specs Up

By Alec Meer on January 5th, 2009 at 6:10 pm.

Aiiee! 128Mb of video memory!

Stretching, yawning, RPS emerges from its brief hibernation, scrabbling through inboxes and RSS feeds in search of nutritious PC gaming info-nuggets. But is there much, if anything, for this small beast to feed upon in these desolate Winter weeks? It sniffs the ground disconsolately. There, a futile-looking Wii-style controller for PC. Here, a flight sim sequel. Satisfying to some, perhaps, but nothing of substance.

Aha! The shivering creature’s tired eyes finally catch a glimpse of something more fatted, juicier. It’s definitely a decent info-nugget – not the tastiest kind, but it will do. RPS takes a bite and finds…

Mmm. Official specs for the Sims 3.Yeah yeah, system spec stories are usually as invigorating as visiting Cumberland Pencil Musuem, but it’s different in The Sims’ case.

No matter what you may feel about the game, what EA have deemed its specs to be are likely a minutely-researched reflection of the average modern PC really is. EA want to offer a game that’s playable by almost everyone who’s even thinking of buying it – and, as we well know, that’s a very broad Anyone. In other words, forget about the Sims, and think about what these numbers tell us:

128 MB GeForce FX 5900 or Radeon 9500 graphics card
Pentium IV 2.0 GHz or Athlon XP 2000+ CPU (2.4Ghz/2400+ for Vista)
1 GB of RAM (1.5Gb for Vista)

EXCITING DELICIOUS NUMBERS.

In the simplest terms, that’s the equivalent of a pretty decent gaming PC circa 2004. Except it’s just not as simple as that, because there probably aren’t many average Sims players with GeForce FXs and Radeon 9500s, as those were reasonably high-end components at the time. (As was 1Gb RAM – I remember most of us RPSers being flabbergasted to discover we needed that much memory for Planetside. A whole gigabyte? Impossible!) More likely, potential Sims 3 purchasers own a more recent PC with some sort of integrated graphics, and as such these specs are thoroughly unhelpful to them – and to us, as armchair analysts. I would guess that the more recent Intel integrated chips, the GMA X3100 and beyond, can just about muster Radeon 9500-level performance so long as the shader demands aren’t too intensive. I would definitely say something like the integrated GeForce 8400 that’s cropping up in a fair few affordable laptops can handle it. Older integrated stuff? Probably not, but we’ll see. At a guess, most PCs that are two years old or less will be fine with the Sims 3, but anything that wasn’t ever a pretty decent gaming machine from before then will be left in the cold. Which seems reasonable, but given this game’s audience, there’s bound to be quite a few folk left behind.

Even so, I’ll bet it’s been a hell of a struggle to get the game running on that sort of system and still able to look suitably lovely on better rigs. That this is a pure-PC game, and one with doubtless a collosal budget, is noteworthy – it’ll have benefited from levels of careful optimisation the average also-on-console FPS could only dream of, so is possibly a better reflection of what a low-end PC can really do in optimal conditions than any other game. The dual core era isn’t truly here yet, because the Sims says it isn’t. Out of interest – who here doesn’t have a PC that meets those requirements?

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65 Comments »

  1. Frosty840 says:

    Is anyone actually using the Windows Vista computer ratings system thingy?

    Does anyone know theirs offhand?
    I would have thought that it would be easier for most Sims-type players (the… ugh, “mainstream”) to find out if they meet the numeric rating rather than doing the half-hour or so of research that a newbie would need in order to find out if they meet those specs.

  2. Pags says:

    The best thing you can say about the Cumberland Pencil Museum is that it’s the most fun you can have in Cumberland.

    Out of interest – who here doesn’t have a PC that meets those requirements?

    The worst computer in this house, ie. the one I’m on right now, just about meets the minimum requirements. I believe that even my brother’s laptop is slightly better, though it’s running Vista so it needs to be. Plus I’m not entirely sure how decent the integrated graphics chipset is on it, but it’s a new-ish Dell and it musters up enough to play L4D on semi-decent settings, so it should be enough for Sims 3.

    Actually that brings me to an interesting point; for people who aren’t exactly tech-savvy and don’t want to pay extortionate amounts for pre-built PCs, laptops are becoming an increasingly common replacement for desktop computers. Not that those people are likely to pay attention to specs on the back of a box anyway.

  3. Pags says:

    Ps. any chance Tim Stone will be doing a write-up of Strike Fighters 2? $19.99 is semi-tempting if it’s a decent enough sim.

  4. Vandelay says:

    I got a score of 5.5, because of RAM speed. Processor and graphics card are given a 5.9 rating, the highest possible.

    BOW BEFORE THE MIGHT OF MY E-PENIS.

    Seriously though, that shows how hopeless the rating is, as my computer isn’t particularly anything special (Q6600, HD4850, 3 GB RAM.) There are just too many variables for such a simple numbering system to work, at least until hardware manufactures pull their fingers out and sort out a sensible way of releasing and naming their products.

    I think laptops have been more common then desktops for a long time, at least among none gamers. I’m certainly unusual at Uni for taking a desktop.

  5. Pags says:

    @Vandelay: Q6600s aren’t exactly common. But yeah, those numbers can be misleading due to the emphasis on RAM speed.

  6. Sum0 says:

    Last year laptops outsold desktops worldwide, and I’m not surprised. I can only think of one person I know who has a desktop, other than my fellow PC gamers (and a few of them primarily use laptops anyway). Hence, the “average” PC for the “average” user these days is probably a laptop with integrated graphics.

    Vista gives my PC a 5.6, although everything but memory gets 5.9. Of course, it’s useless for any sort of real comparison, but given that it does a decent job of simplifying system specs for the bewildered mainstream, I have no idea why it hasn’t been more popular with publishers. Even “Games for Windows” don’t use it on game boxes.

  7. Larington says:

    I’m somewhat concerned about the possibility of folks with integrated graphics laptops trying the game and discovering they’d need a completely new laptop. I stupidly made that mistake myself when buying a laptop just under 2 years ago… and I should’ve known better.

  8. MozzerV12 says:

    I like the creature metaphor that you used. I imagine RPS to be some kind of badger/platypus hybrid. With a sniffy nose and it sort of waddles when it walks. :D

  9. Noc says:

    . . . with four brain-jars grafted onto its bulbous, mutated head.

    Hideous and adorable!

  10. cliffski says:

    Vista gives me 5.2 Thats the memory limiting it. Graphics is 5.9. 2 gig of RAM.
    I’ve yet to find a game that taxes the system tbh.

  11. Steve says:

    the… ugh, “mainstream”

    You’re totally against the grain and unique, Frosty840.
    Are you seriously suggesting that videogames aren’t mainstream? ;)

  12. RichP says:

    Laptops outsold pre-built desktops; those numbers say nothing about custom-built PCs. Not exactly mainstream, but plenty of people still buy hardware and build their own rigs, gamer or not.

    I use a laptop and desktop, but I’ll take a 24” widescreen and spacious keyboard over some fragile, tiny-ass notebook.

    In any event, the best-selling games always target lower-end systems. I’m still amazed that TF2 is perfectly playable on a 128 MB Radeon 9800pro.

  13. Nezz says:

    My card is called Radeon 1650. I have no idea whether that’s better or worse. I just don’t care about this technical mumbojumbo anymore.

  14. Gap Gen says:

    You never played Crysis, then?

  15. Biscuitry says:

    Hm… I think my laptop might fall behind those specs a little. On the other hand, the Sims series has always run well on low-spec machines. I’ll be honestly surprised if it doesn’t at least chug along playably on minimum graphics settings.

  16. Dolphan says:

    No such thing as Cumberland these days. And the pencil museum is highly underrated.

  17. The Hammer says:

    Weren’t 6600s all the rage in 2004? I remember being jealous of gamers with them, having had only my half-arsed 5600 to play with.

    It’s great to see a high-profile game go for these kinds of low specs, by the way. It’s always depressing to see ULTRA HIGH-RES EXPLOSIONS games being playable by roughly 0.01 percent of the world’s population. EA aren’t shooting themselves in the foot here – they know their audience.

  18. LewieP says:

    Yay! I meet them specs.

  19. Pags says:

    @The Hammer: Q6600s = processor, 6600 = graphics card. Unless that was a snarky comment intended as an offhand reference to the discussion on how snark can confuse meanings. In which case bravo!

  20. The Hammer says:

    Yikes, I meant the graphics card! No snark intended, just sheer ignorance instead!

  21. Vandelay says:

    @Pags – Yeah, I know they aren’t common but they are also a long way from the best processor you can get. If 5.9 is the highest rating you can get then according to the Experience Index a q6600 is as good as a qx9775.

    Hammer inadvertently just highlighted the other point I made in my last comment though. The problem is the naming of all these hardware products is so complex that it is impossible to determine what you need without spending weeks researching before hand.

  22. RichP says:

    Someone should compare these minimum specs to the latest Steam hardware survey. That would be damn interesting.

  23. Nick says:

    It was just better when you had a voodoo 2.

  24. redrain85 says:

    @Vandelay:

    Seriously though, that shows how hopeless the rating is, as my computer isn’t particularly anything special (Q6600, HD4850, 3 GB RAM.)

    Most people would strongly disagree with you, there. Your rig is tending toward the high end. Most will still have dual or single core CPUs, probably around a Radeon 1950XT or GeForce 7900GT level video card, and 2GB tops.

    @Sum0:

    Vista gives my PC a 5.6, although everything but memory gets 5.9. Of course, it’s useless for any sort of real comparison, but given that it does a decent job of simplifying system specs for the bewildered mainstream, I have no idea why it hasn’t been more popular with publishers. Even “Games for Windows” don’t use it on game boxes.

    This is still something I cannot fathom. Microsoft loudly proclaimed that game publishers would be putting the Experience Index numbers on game boxes, to help make the decision to buy the game easier. It’s definitely far from a perfect system, but the basic concept was sound. If Windows gives you an Index number bigger than what’s on the box: your system should run the game well.

    I imagine that Vista’s poor reception is what scuppered the whole plan. But, still. They should have gone through with it, anyway.

    But then, we all know the Games for Windows program has been (and continues to be) a joke. Microsoft is still not serious about the health of PC gaming. Otherwise, GfW Live would be much further along than it is. And GTA IV would never have passed GfW’s certification process, and allowed to be sold. They’re still taking baby steps on the PC side, while they’re running a marathon on the 360 side.

  25. Alex says:

    Vista throws a mighty 3.5 my way. Brand new laptop (and admittedly its just the graphics card) but 3.5. You can tell I’m a dirty console type, can’t you?
    Anyone wanna challenge me to go lower?

  26. MrFake says:

    Circa 2004? I only just edged above that mark last January and all I use my PCs for is gaming. Poor Mr. Fake. So late to upgrade.

    I do remember Sims 2 being quite a bit heavy with the requirements at the time too, at least for me. Even on my shiny, new, space rocket of a computer it stutters and whines sometimes. EA (or does Maxis still call some shots?) does tend to overshoot the target market.

  27. Larington says:

    “They’re still taking baby steps on the PC side, while they’re running a marathon on the 360 side.”

    ROFLMAO, I just pictured that, ickle baby stumbling along on both feet less than a meter away from the starting line in soft focus with a marathon runner in full focus… Guess which one is wearing the 360 tabbard.

  28. Junior says:

    I get a 5, because of my disc transfer rate.

    What wonder disc devices are you 5.9 scorers using?

  29. Jim Rossignol says:

    I’ve been to that pencil museum.

  30. Aorawn says:

    The Vista ratings are not accurate. Maybe for games circa 2006, but not today. I love the concept, don’t get me wrong, but there is no way that a 7600 GT (what I have) is a 5.5/5.9 in today’s market. By this reasoning, I should be able to achieve 60 fps+ maxed out in Gears of War. It also has other flaws, like assuming you’re running at a resolution of 800×600 (I’m running at 1680×1050) and doesn’t take into account that few games support multi-core processors. Everything else on my system scores a 5.9 except disk transfer rate, a 5.6. With no AA/AS and a res of 1024×768, I get about 25-30 fps on otherwise maxed settings with Gears. But that resolution on a 20″ monitor = gross.

  31. Dan Lawrence says:

    I’m afraid I just had to post that my PC has the almighty 5.9 overall rating from Vista. It was a ridiculously over the top custom-built present to myself amidst over time madness, but boy does it do everything I want it to just as fast as I want it to. I love you PCs!

    Dirty filthy Specs:

    CPU: Intel Q9450 @ 2.66Ghz
    Graphics: GeForce 280
    Memory: 4GB DDR3 (gasp!)
    Hard Drive: Samsung HD103UJ (1TB)
    Mouse & Keyboard: Glowing blue beauties (yes it is slightly distracting but I can type in the dark if I like!)
    Gubbins: 5.1 Surround & just a regular ViewSonic 17″ Flatpanel Monitor (the money ran out).
    E-penis: Tiny, because with a system like this I’m clearly compensating for something.

    Glad to have got that shameless boasting out of my system.

  32. Aorawn says:

    edit: Also. Sims 2 ran 60+ fps max settings on first install on my rig. Seven expansion packs and several stuff packs later, 2GB just isn’t enough memory to store all that crap.

  33. Dolphan says:

    My laptop has an 8600M GS. No idea how that compares to those specs, but I’d imagine it’d work out alright – It runs Far Cry 2 pretty well.

  34. Premium User Badge phuzz says:

    I thought the Q6600 was pretty prevalent among enthusiasts right now? Out of the four or five people I know who’ve bought a fairly beefy computer recently everyone but me has gone for a Q6600, it’s a great little chip, £150 for quad core and tends to overclock pretty nicely by all accounts.

    Anyway, I recon I could build a computer to meet those specs for about £200, ish.
    that’s pricey just to play the sims in my book

  35. flo says:

    Well, my old Samsung Laptop probably could have run it (Samsung R50 2000, ATI Mobile X700 128 MB, 2 Ghz, 2 GB RAm, bla bla) but I managed to just sell it on ebay after using it 2 years, running 24/7 at times, before it broke down … (at the end it would always shut down on 3D stuff) and now I have a MacBook Air (1st gen) as my main machine, and honestly, anything with 3D is just bound to be unplayable … no matter whether on os x or windows. But then ofc it’s not meant as a gaming machine … just saying.

  36. Jeremy says:

    I’m not even sure why they have that rating system, its not like a developer or publisher could throw a 5.2 on a game and have that guarantee someone who scores a 5.2 could play it. Or maybe they could, who knows. At any rate, the only thing they’ve successfully created is a peer to peer rating system. I seem to have a 5.7 on my computer, also slightly hampered by my old fashioned disc spinner, strange way to rank a computer’s performance.

  37. Pags says:

    I thought the Q6600 was pretty prevalent among enthusiasts right now?

    Indeed, but we’re talking about the entire potential Sims customers; of those people, you can expect Q6600 owners to be a rarity.

  38. Down Rodeo says:

    Dan: I am jealous.

    I managed a mighty 3.2 or 3.3 WEI score on my laptop, this being slightly over a year old. That was before I ditched Vista. I now have Linux meaning my general performance has gone up but game performance has been destoyed, obv. Apart from World of Goo.

    The desktop upstairs… I’m not sure what its score would be. I need to chop and change the RAM a bit as some of it is not running at the speed it could. Also a processor upgrade is desperately needed but for that I need a motherboard upgrade too. I have an X1650 (ATi) but this is just to keep the desktop in the game until I build a custom PC. I can play Crysis, surprisingly. At 800×600. On lowest settings. Smoothly, but, I’ve yet to get far. So presumably there are plenty of performance-destroying moments for me to crash into.

    And finally I think I have been to that museum. Long time ago though but I have childhood memories of big pencils.

  39. Leeks! says:

    I think I have an extra stick of ram somewhere that should get my GF’s PC into fighting shape come launch (I think she meets those specs very closely, but more ram never hurt anything). She will be pleased.

  40. Alaric says:

    There is absolutely NO reason to use a Q6600 over a E6850, for the simple reason that there are only two or three games out there that are capable of taking advantage of the quad-core. Supreme Commander and a few others I think. As for the rest, E6850 would be much faster.

  41. Vandelay says:

    @phuzz – Are they really still that popular? I got mine well over a year ago, and that was not a custom build (I can get discounts on HP computers, so it worked out only slightly more than doing it myself.) Has nothing been released to compete with it at that end of the market yet?

    I’m sure EA know what they are doing with these specs. There is absolutely no way they would want to demand too much from a computer considering the target market for the series. I wonder if it is actually possible for a company to figure out what the most common PC spec is. I would have thought Steam was a bad measure, as it would mostly be made up of enthusiasts and people who only play CS. A quick look at the stand machine from PC World (or equivalent) from 2/3 years ago would probably be there best bet.

  42. Kadayi says:

    My present machine mocks those requirements (GTA IV forced me into some significant upgrading). Though personally I’m slightly skeptical as to how well Sims 3 will play using the stated specs when it comes to the game resolution and graphical knobs and whistles options. Nothing worse than having to play a game at a different resolution than your monitor to make you acutely aware that an upgrade is begging….

  43. Erlend M says:

    Jim Rossignol said:

    I’ve been to that pencil museum.

    Is it all it’s cracked up to be?

  44. Dizet Sma says:

    Jim Rossignol said: I’ve been to that pencil museum.

    Was there a point? b’dum crash. Aye thang yew.

  45. Shnyker says:

    Wow, my old computer could by no means handle that. It had some Nvidia 64 mb card and only 256mb of RAM. Processor? Don’t make me laugh, it was so slow I think it ran on reflected sunlight from Pluto.

  46. Jetsetlemming says:

    My computer’s under those minimum specs, as my video card died recently and I’m on an integrated intel chip the equivalent of something from the mid 90′s (Fuck you, Intel). Most advanced game this rig can handle now is Civ4, and only at slideshow FPS.

  47. Famous Titles for 400 says:

    My PC meets those minimum spec. It scores a 5.5 on the vista-tard-test, which as someone mentioned above, it cos of the clock speed of the (4gb) RAM. I don’t envisage playing Sims 3 on anything other than “deity quality”. Presumably it won’t take a £2000 machine to max these settings out? My midrange media rig should eat it up like tapioca pudding.

  48. Anthony Damiani says:

    “I’m not even sure why they have that rating system, its not like a developer or publisher could throw a 5.2 on a game and have that guarantee someone who scores a 5.2 could play it.”

    The PCGA is certainly hard at work to make this a reality.

  49. MrDeVil_909 says:

    Alex says:

    Vista throws a mighty 3.5 my way. Brand new laptop (and admittedly its just the graphics card) but 3.5. You can tell I’m a dirty console type, can’t you?
    Anyone wanna challenge me to go lower?

    3.1 Ha! Suck it bitches! :p

    Of course this laptop isn’t my gaming PC. It’s fine for 2D games, but nothing more taxing than that.

  50. clive dunn says:

    So anyone get a lower score than 3.1?
    My dell XPS 1330 gets 4.2 and will run most things competently. My ‘rig’ has an old AGP 1650 and currently groans (yes, literally groans) when i boot it up. Hence it is just gathering dust until my laptop starts to struggle with new games and then i’ll get quad thingymajigy rig and then when that starts to gasp and splutter i’ll get a new laptop and when that gets old i’ll…….blah blah blah