The Kerbal Sims Program: The Sims 4

By Adam Smith on June 30th, 2014 at 11:00 am.

I’m writing this because I care. For a while now, The Sims 4 has been showing signs that it might be on the verge of a nervous breakdown, the sort that would end with it covered in its own waste fluids in the middle of an executive meeting, babbling about the Keen rocketship that it’s building using old tin cans. We’re told that this game is a well-rounded emotional being and an architect – a partytecht, if you will*. It has a robust yet fluid Build mode and enjoys social engagements, but it cannot plan a pool party because it’s incapable of building a pool. Observe.

No pools (or toddlers), and yet it can build rocketships in its shed and grow giant carnivorous plants. It’s as if this particular architect showed up to a building site without any blueprints but hoped it could distract everyone with a comedy tie, or by doing a kerrazy dance.

It’s not that I expect unlimited resources to be spent on the game. Some content will be held back for expansion packs – that’s the way of it in a series that is never shy of piling on the pounds post-release – but the focus on the weird and wacky in the base game may well be at the expense of the ordinary construction features that were once the heart of The Sims. I’ve been unfortunate enough to play the previous game with every expansion pack and it’s a bloody awful mess. Too many ideas clash and it’s impossible to make an autumn salad without being distracted by several thousands types of collectible object, a time portal, robot butlers, zombie hordes and (golly!) an alien judge. Maybe not the last one but my point stands.

If I want to zany up my neighbourhood, I’ll gladly buy expansions that add magic and monsters, but the fantastical appears to be taking over the neighbourhood. Maybe it’s silly to complain but, as I said, I care about The Sims. I think there’s great potential for emergent behaviour and storytelling in a simulation of something approaching the soap opera of modern life, but when I see a rocket flying over the neighbourhood, I think of a player grinding skills and construction.

There’s more oddity in the strange interactions between intelligent entities, whether articially so or not, than in a canned animation that happens to involve a Rube Goldberg machine that makes pies. I hope The Sims 4 hasn’t lost sight of that.

The sad truth is that I’ll probably be fairly pleased no matter what else has changed as long as the pathfinding really is improved. I’m easily won over in the few spheres left with little competition. The Sims 4 may not be the soap opera sim I’m looking for but for all its wackiness, it might still be the closest thing.

*you really shouldn’t

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46 Comments »

  1. Tony M says:

    The Sims is, as you say, a soap opera. Its probably the only game in existence that is not improved by the addition of wizards.

    • SirMonkeyWrench says:

      I liked the wizards.

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        Jackablade says:

        I would like to posit the theory that there are few soap operas that would not be improved with wizards.

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          Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          Only the addition of evil wizards would improve them.

        • katinkabot says:

          “Passions” was improved about 100x by wizards(or a witch to be specific).

        • The Random One says:

          I am Brazilian. Our soap-operas sometimes have wizards in them. I have found no correlation between the presence of wizards and the quality of a soap-opera.

      • rexx.sabotage says:

        I loved every single occult type, the trick being adjusting your demographic options for your neighborhood to allow/ disallow the types you deem appropriate for the story you’re creating.

        I turn off all my celebs & freaks and manage their allocation manually, in-game with potions, opportunities ect.

        Also; Master Controller + nraas Story Progression or you’re doing it wrong.

    • Kraizk says:

      Are you a Wizard?

  2. Noviere says:

    They also decided to make teenagers the same height as adults, and got rid of the open world that was used in the Sims 3 and went back to having loading every time you enter a new lot. Oh, and the world is made up of 5 mini neighbourhoods, each with 5 or less lots on them… so instead of a town with 70+ lots like in the Sims 3, you have a world with less that 25 buildable lots.

    • Evil Pancakes says:

      First smaller city sizes in Sim City and now this? Maxis must really believe that less is more.

      • Dread Quixadhal says:

        Who’s taking bets that EA will come up with some flimsy excuse to require this game to also be “always online”, now that they’ve learned they have to be more subtle than they were with SimCity?

    • SirMonkeyWrench says:

      In fairness not everyone particularly liked the open world structure of 3.

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        RedViv says:

        Loading a nice scenic open world for five minutes and never visiting 95% of what will use up resources and make it hiccup after a few hours regardless, despite rabbit holes and various means to save it from breaking down, or splitting the world up into smaller bits that each have a distinct flair and neighbourhood feeling with still very much open outdoor areas, but which has to shortly (previews say a few seconds for lots and 15~30 to travel between ‘hoods) load new lots and neighbourhoods. That’s the choice here.

        It seems like a good compromise between TS2 and TS3 to me. Sims outside of the currently active neighbourhood will still be simulated, so… It might be the not-quite-best-but-close of both worlds.

        • socrate says:

          its good yes but really the thing is they don’t really offer anything new thats actually interesting its more of a “1 step forward and 2 step back” when you talk about the sims game at this point…its just a way that they just remake the game over and over and over again with the same dumb expansion and even more DLC with each one..ive lost interest a long time ago at this point since you end up spending a shit load just to play the actual badly coded game they offer you with the same dumb thing you have to re-buy

      • dE says:

        I didn’t really like it. Personally I really appreciate a focus on small neighbourhoods. But perhaps that’s just because of how I play. The loading times of Sims 3 kinda support my interest in small areas though. A game should absolutely not take around 5 minutes to load when fired up from a SSD in a high-end PC.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Wait, what? If this is in any way true you’ve already partly killed the purpose of my long winded post below.

      :(

    • Baines says:

      5 neighborhoods of 5 lots or less? Has the GlassBox Engine struck again?

      Or are they holding back because they expect the engine to be creaking at the seams by the time they release ever how many expansions they’ve planned for?

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Well, that would be what happened with The Sims 3.

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      The initial map has 5 neighborhoods. There’s no reason why later maps can’t have more neighborhoods. Also, AFAIK, the 5 lots per neighborhood is for residential lots only and does not include public/community lots, stores, restaurants, etc.

      Making teens the same height as adults is actually a very good idea. Before, if you wanted to make your own clothing models or textures, you would have to do clothing sets just for teens because their models were just a little bit smaller. It’s kind of silly, especially considering a lot of teens in real life are almost as tall as their parents and the height difference of the models was very minimal.

      • Noviere says:

        The 5 lot limit includes residential and community lots… They are essentially the same thing, just flagged differently. Public space, which is not the same thing as a community lot, is separate and uneditable.

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      “and got rid of the open world that was used in the Sims 3 and went back to having loading every time you enter a new lot.”

      Wait, seriously? They’re doing that? Wow. Good thing I already wasn’t going to be getting The Sims 4, or else I’d have been extra special disappointed, having somehow missed that particular bit of news until now.

  3. Tei says:

    I need to buy a waterproff smartphone and try that “pool” thing people talk about.

  4. TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

    The new tools are something great, and the emotion system might very well be the best step in a while.

    Let’s be honest, the Sims always wanted to let you be the master of everything, yet you still sort of played ( without cheats ) a “campaign” in which you had to obtain what you wanted first.

    That was either no solid campaign and no good creation sandbox, because you couldn’t just RP a certain family from the start if you first didn’t pretend that what you did in game in order to “grind” to that level simply never happened.

    At least this time around there’s the potential for added believability to your “campaign”, more obstacles and more things to consider rather than just keeping your sim always in the top of the green bar, with this especially being true to all the rest surrounding you. The tools for a proper, real god simulation always lacked to a degree, if we still need to babysit our sims as the only way to obtain what we wanted for our characters, might aswell go for something that feels more organic and believable.

    It really wouldn’t hurt to ask for clarification though, for example what they mean with “not on september”. Do they mean a patch, or do they mean DLC? Mind you, i’m perfectly aware that they’ll nickel and dime us to death, but i’m still not tacking for granted that pools are surely going to be paid for.

    I’m obviously not putting it beyond them either, but something in me wants to believe that they don’t want another PR disaster. Maybe.

    Eitherway, what’s the deal about toddlers? As far as i know they did omit them when talking about the various “ages”, but did this happen on purpose or was it just a slip that wasn’t further investigated later on?

    • penryn says:

      I fully expect there to be a “Pool Fun!” stuff/expansion pack, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if the build mode tools (i.e. the ability to build pools) are added in a free patch even if you didn’t buy the pack. There’s plenty of precedent for that in TS3.

  5. Neurotic says:

    Speaking as a long-time, very happy Sims fan, I predict the following: Sims 4 will launch. The AI will be an improvement on all previous Sims AI. We’ll all be reasonably happy/grumpy and get stuck in to the base game, with all of its plusses and minuses. After a while, someone will release an AI/behaviour mod that totally makes a mockery of the Sims’ base behaviours and half the playerbase will install it and swear by it, and half won’t give a monkey’s.

    In other words, exactly as it happened with 2 and 3. :D

    • rexx.sabotage says:

      except Twallan ain’t around to do it this time

      everyone saw this train-wreck cash-grab for what it is the second it was announced including the Mod Father himself who immediately proceeded to say,

      “F this ish”

      dropped the mic and walked out.

  6. Premium User Badge

    JamesTheNumberless says:

    Can I be alone in liking this? I always played the Sims first and foremost to build a nice house with lots of cool stuff in it, secondly to try to get the top of my profession and max out skills like cooking and playing musical instruments. When I get there though, it feels as though there’s not much more to do. I always felt it was a shame that after reaching the top of the science profession there wasn’t the opportunity to embark on some crazy science project, like building a fusion reactor in my basement. I’ve never bought an expansion pack and I’ve never once built a pool.

  7. UpsilonCrux says:

    Golly!
    An alien judge… *look of annoyed confusion”

    • The Random One says:

      Notice the alien judge is killing an alien criminal with a huge, non-alien [debatable] gun. It’s Alien Judge Dredd.

  8. Janichsan says:

    “…a Rude Goldberg machine that makes pies.”
    I somehow can’t imagine a Rude Goldberg machine that is anything but NSFW… :P

    • Bull0 says:

      I had a chuckle at that too, it’s been cheekily fixed now. :P

      Generally this iteration looks to be an inferior product to the previous one, speaking as someone who owns each of the previous core games and a good smattering of expansions I’m yet to see any reason to get this one. :(

  9. tehfish says:

    Personally, i just want them to rebuild the core game engine into something that isn’t quite so clunky.
    Despite having a PC way beyond the recommended specs, you still get game loading times far longer than any other game i’ve ever owned, strangely having the game on a SSD or HDD makes little difference. And once it does load, you get severe stuttering if you decide to go anywhere in a car as the game unloads and re-loads textures and models constantly (I’ve watched a GPU monitor, it never uses more than 500-600MB GPU RAM on a 2GB video card)

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      TS3 is the bane of those who are stressed about their SSD’s write cycles and longevity.

      Eitherway, the comments above may answer your concern. They’re being far more clever this time around about it, even though i too wish they would manage to improve on it without resorting to kill the seamless experience.

      And yes, i understand it wouldn’t be an easy task.

  10. QA Bot 47 says:

    TS4 apprently only has a 32-bit exe. TS3 is what made me most pessimistic about TS4; for all that was good about it, the list of things ranging from somewhat crap to staggeringly awful was huge. Combine that with how much money they wanted you to spend on it, and I would describe it as disgusting.

    The Supernatural expansion was my favourite though, and the timing of it’s release was pretty much perfect I thought. Had to turn off autonomous Love Charms as that was nuts.

    Did notice a nifty emotion type addition to TS3 towards the end of it’s dev cycle: Truly happy sims would smile instead of having a neutral expression (no effect during animations that affected the face) – which by contrast looked miserable. For a while I found keeping a married couple or something smiling to be one of the most challenging and interesting things in the game. Never saw anyone on the internet mention this though.

    TS4 comes with a mod folder structure out of the box, so there’s some cause for a little hope. There’s a lot of limits to what mods (something that at times seemed to be saving TS3 from unplayable status) can achieve though.

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      “TS3 is what made me most pessimistic about TS4; for all that was good about it, the list of things ranging from somewhat crap to staggeringly awful was huge. Combine that with how much money they wanted you to spend on it, and I would describe it as disgusting.”

      The Sims 3 wouldn’t have been nearly so bad if they’d have just devoted at least one of those expansion pack development cycles (Island Paradise, say, or maybe Into the Future) not to making the expansion pack but instead to going back and fixing the thousands of little bugs that had been introduced even as far back as the base-level game that weren’t necessarily game-breaking but were cumulatively annoying enough to make the game a gargantuan pain to try to play. Even with fanmade mods the sole purpose of which are to try to fix what EA never cared to bother to fix, the game is still a horrendous slog at times.

  11. Kraizk says:

    I wish people would stop supporting this business model of EA. The first time around all of the expansions made sense. Now the Sims is nothing more then a cash grab simulator…

    • noodlecake says:

      How does that work? They made sense in the first game because the expansion packs added features and depth to the game?

      Now optional expansion packs that add massive features to the game are suddenly evil because?

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        To me the Sims 2 felt like a complete game, the Sims 3 base game in comparison felt barebones, it definitely felt more like a pre-meditated content release cycle designed to cost hundreds of dollars. The in-game store does little to help the feeling that you are constantly being gouged in the Sims 3, I didn’t have that feeling with the first 2.

      • machineageproductions says:

        I think he’s saying a game needs thirteen years of full-time development prior to release for it to be worth his sixty dollars. Anything else is a cash grab.

  12. noodlecake says:

    I don’t care about pools or toddlers. They are fairly minor features that aren’t necessary to make the game fun and I don’t mind that the company didn’t spend lots of time implementing them and focused on other new features instead… BUT they have also removed the ability to customize all the objects and clothing items, which is probably the second greatest feature to be added to a new sims game, next to having a fully simulated town. It added so much creative depth to the already powerful creative tools of The Sims franchise.

    This makes me sad. :(

    • Tikanderoga says:

      Yeah, now you have to build a wall around people and let them starve to death as opposed to make them jump into the pool and let them drown.

  13. lee66 says:

    Like the man says, I hope they do something about the pathfinding logic, especially when it comes to two sims trying to talk to each other- they have to align themselves so they’re face-to-face, just so. It’s like watching two spacecraft docking sometimes (sticking with the Kerbals theme).

    And for the love of Mike, quit pestering constantly with all the mundane needs. “I’m hungry,” “I’m sleepy,” “I have to pee.” It never stops. You set them up to go to a party, a date, whatever, and before you can do anything, one is bailing because they have to go to work and the other is passed out asleep. Then the pizza finally arrives, but the only one that enjoys it is the repo man. And while you’re busier than a one-armed trombone player trying to balance all these needs, you’re no longer friends with Snuffy Smith because you haven’t called him in the past five minutes.

  14. AmirBan says:

    The Sims 4: Pool Party DLC only 13$

    • Megakoresh says:

      Exactly. And most likely they just cut it out so they can sell that feature, like many others they will undoubtedly milk customers for. It’s EA after all.

  15. SkittleDiddler says:

    I wouldn’t call anyone who’s willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a game and its expansions packs a “casual”. Obsessive, maybe, but not a casual.

  16. pipman3000 says:

    true hard core gamers pirate their games because they’re too busy chugging mtn dew and pwning noobs in call of duty 7: GHOST OPS to get a job.