Have You Played… The Sims 2?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

The Sims [official site] are having a mid-life crisis. What started as an experimental house-building and life sim game has become something entirely different. The Sims 3 introduced experimentation of its own in the form of open world neighbourhoods, which met with mixed response, and The Sims 4 is a lighter, happier take on the formula, stripping back on neighbourhood features to focus on the Sims themselves.

Looking back, The Sims 2 may have been the game that found the sweet spot, with enough complexity to make every life a little different and with characters that weren’t quite so removed from reality as the weird cartoons of later entries in the series.

The important thing to keep in mind when discussing The Sims is that it may be a life sim, but it is not simulating human life. That may have been the intent, to some degree, with the first game, but since then the Sims themselves have become a species. They’re fictional creatures, loosely based on a certain type of suburban American, and they live (and die) by their own rules.

In The Sims 2, there are all kinds of supernatural gimmicks to support the aspirational core of the game. Money trees, anti-aging potions, a Grim Reaper willing to accept bribes – that sort of thing. Some of that carries over from the first game but some of it is new. On the whole, The Sims 2 is the first game but bigger and better, which marks it out as a different proposition to the apparently failed experiment that is The Sims 3.

I say ‘apparently failed’ because the simulated neighbourhoods have been removed for the most recent sequel, which once again focuses on single family units at any given time rather than trying to follow the antics of the wider world. The Sims 4 also removes some of the struggle, skipping much of the difficulty of child-raising and often seeing Sims stuck in an seemingly endless loop of joy and contentment.

Despite the improved creation tools of 4 and the bold invention of 3, The Sims 2 is still the ideal of this particular brand of life sim.

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18 Comments

  1. Kefren says:

    I spent most time in Sims 1, which I loved. Sims 2 put me off a bit – I think it was elements like having to choose life goals and so on. I didn’t like being restricted that way, I wanted to set goals whenever I liked (or none at all), not be restricted by the game. I didn’t need notifying if I’d won or failed at them. I KNEW I’d got a good job if that was what I aimed at; or had lots of friends; or a successful relationship; or set up a brothel; or murdered all the other sims. As soon as a freeform game tries to build them in as trackable goals it takes half the fun and imagination away. It’s probably why I detest inbuilt “achievements” in games and have them turned off. I have quite enough imagination to set my own goals. After dabbling in Sims 2 for a while I then felt I’d had enough, and would be more interested in how someone other than EA dealt with the same ideas.

  2. Ejia says:

    Yes, and probably too much – my custom content folder had about 10GB of files in it at its peak. It’s also the main reason why I didn’t mind 4 going back to small-scale, as I never got into 3 very much.

    One interesting thing I really liked is that Sims 2 neighborhoods used SimCity 4 maps, and you could design your neighborhood’s terrain in the latter before importing it into the former and filling it with lots. A huge problem TS4 has is that you cannot just plop empty lots anywhere and build away, unlike in 2 and 3.

  3. DORKSMAN says:

    The biggest problem The Sims had for me is how in handles generations, insomuch that it doesn’t handle them at all. Children are born into the exact same world that their parents were. Just seems so terrifyingly static.

  4. CartonofMilk says:

    did i ever…

    Hundreds of hours. I never really “finished” any of my games, i always made sure i kept drinking the anti aging elixir. That meant epic long storylines though. I had one “main” character representing me (good likeness too) who was a total asshole (when i picked his life ambition as romance i was unaware it meant sleeping with as many people as possible, that’s not romance!). I wanna say he slept with pretty much 90% of the female population in town. At some point he had something like 20 mistresses. He was married once with a kid but that didn’t end well of course. Then he moved with one of his mistresses and that’s when i decided i was gonna build a crazy huge mansion with her……which…i never finished. Eventually that relationship fell through too and he moved downtown with his newest flame (this one now based on my real life partner of 8 years, though at the time we had just started going out). Then i had another amazing project for a big house in the city with her…which i also never finished.

    Meanwhile i concurrently had a game with “my daughter” who had since grown to go to college. That was fun. She lived in a house on campus with two other girls. Being on campus meant having people barging in your place all the time which annoyed me so much i turned to serial killing to deal with it. I built a sinister basement with all kinds of arcane stuff down there including a pentagram. i would lead my victims into this basement and then lock them in (meaning removed the door). Sometimes i’d go down there to feed them so i could prolong their suffering. But eventually i’d leave them to starve.

    Her and her roomies also had a band. They played the local club for pennies whenever they could. Eventually she dropped out to go live and work in the city. I built her apartment block to be an almost exact replica of mine at the time. Then she opened a bakery/art gallery on the bottom floor. Making a living selling pastries and her paintings. That was great. Finally working didn’t mean just watch the clock while your character was gone off map. however i soon found out that to make good money i had to bake and paint every waking hour to the extent she didn’t have much time to do anything else. Much like real life!

    Some of my happiest not just gaming but it seems LIFE memories are of when i played sims 2. I have to say, i started playing in 2004 which for unrelated reasons is to this day the happiest year of my life so that might have something to do with it. At the time i was a sort of “prominent” member on a local forum and i included a lot of my friends in my game. I started posting entries about our sims life and it caught on so much with the whole forum, i ended up starting a livejournal documenting our lives. It’s funny how people who didn’t know us in real life got very into the storylines and shenanigans my sims were up to. Last i checked that journal is still out there but unfortunately the image links have long been dead.

    Having learned my lesson with sims 2, i waited for sims 4 to come out before i even bothered with sims 3. this way i was playing with all the packs and expansions from the get-go. It is true that the open world neighborhoods had a lot of good and a lot of bad. For one getting ANYWHERE took way too long. It was hard to try to plan even a date. By the time i got there my character was either too tired or the date had been waiting for so long, they had left. Turns out that while it WAS weird in sims 2 that time froze for anyone not on the current map, it at least made coordinating things outside of the house much easier. Anyway i played maybe 50 hours and then dropped it.

    I think by the time i played sims 3 there had been a lot of other games that allowed you to build your own house and while i’m not sure any of those had been quite as deep as sims house building, the fact remains it wasn’t as much a selling point for me anymore.

    I haven’t touched sims 4 because the reviews on release were not very good but i looked it up recently and found out a lot of the expansions have remedied to some issues people had with the game originally so I don’t know, i may yet give it a shot.

  5. Warlokk says:

    I had my first experience with serious modding with this game… I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours on a huge project to bring diversity to the female body shapes for the game, which became a bit of an obsession. It was probably the closest I ever came to being “Internet Famous” for a while there, with over 2 million downloads from one site alone. I learned a lot about 3d meshing and textures, and even made a little money on donations there for a little while. As for actually playing the game, I really didn’t do very much of that after the first few months, other than testing, but my favorite parts of it were always the creative aspects anyway.

    It was a good experience overall, even if it did consume an inordinate amount of my life for a while there :)

  6. bishmanrock says:

    The Sims got a bit too fantastical for me. I thought it was at its best when my guy was curled up in the corner of the room eating beans straight out of the tin.

  7. Freud says:

    I have. I got bored rather quickly but it’s not a bad game.

    It’s not hard to see why these games sell so much. They are simple to play and cater to non-hardcore gamers. I’m sure it acts as a gateway game for some casual gamers who want something with more substance.

  8. Sin Vega says:

    First game diary I ever wrote, and ended up having to uninstall it as it was too dangerous. Great fun though, at times extremely creepy. The monstrously ugly babies were the best.

    Also the first game I can remember having sliders to design a character’s face, even then being fairly flexible, enough to completely nail a self-portrait one, something I’ve never bothered with since. Easy to take that standard feature for granted now, but it was a huge thing back then, especially for a game like the Sims.

  9. Tyrric says:

    I’m sure the simulated neighbourhoods will be back in the sixth expansion pack: “Sims 4: SimHoods”.

  10. malkav11 says:

    I think I played more Sims 1 than Sims 2 (and certainly more Sims 2 than Sims 3), but yes, I did. Ultimately my problem with every Sims game has been the same: I want to make a few macro-level decisions for them, and then watch the simulation run with occasional similarly macro-level input. And the AI is nowhere near good enough for that to work, so I end up holding their hand for every single need-filling activity and it becomes an endless hell of busywork instead of a funny systemic soap opera sort of thing. And so I quit and uninstall.

    • P.Funk says:

      Definitely agree. In the Sims 1, which is what I played the most, it was so annoying to realize that there was so little time in a day and your character would never prioritize their own needs. You could barely rely on them to eat dinner together and get the necessary daily socializing in.

  11. Barberetti says:

    Yeah I remember this. Picked it up because I heard it included a decent house designer/creator/builder whatever (it does) and I needed that for a project I was working on at the time.

    Cut to a month or so later, and I’m in from the pub on a Friday night, pc booting up while I pour a beer, and I decide to play the game for a laugh.

    The next thing I knew it was 5am, the girlfriend had moved in, and I’d murdered a guy because he’d burst into my house and accused her of spying on him with the telescope I had on my porch.

  12. zbeeblebrox says:

    The Sims were a franchise I always appreciated but never personally enjoyed. I’m the kind of player who would sit down and obsess over the house building, then get bored five minutes into the actual game. For that reason, I probably spent the most time in Sims 2 because it had the most building options. But even then, not very long.

    In theory I should love it – having a life simulator that you get to watch unfold – but every mechanic has always felt just a little too off from what I’d actually want to see, and it never connected for me.

  13. Cropduster says:

    After The Sims 3 I can’t really go back to to the non open world style. I liked to build the every building in the town, even down to the workplaces (for using with the mods where can actualy go to work), And play as nearly every household over time.

    It was super time consuming and mod depandant – each new install would take nearly a whole work day of downloading and configuering mods. By the end I was actualy spending more time in the create a world tool than the game it self – which was terrible and dull, but the only way I could get the town I wanted (then my hdd died and my 3 half finished lovingly crafted neigborhoods died with them and I’ve never installed the game again).

    I did similar stuff in 2, but it was much more limited and I was over the moon when 3 released.

    The moment I saw the diddy little town menu for TS4 I knew that it wasn’t going to be for me. I really hope another dev makes something Sims3-like at some point.

    • geldonyetich says:

      I can hardly remember Sims 2 because Sims 3 so utterly outperformed it in every way. My brain only has so much memory, and has largely overwritten the irrelevant.

      Sims 4 isn’t writing to my head ram. Does not compute.

  14. Pico says:

    I played all of The Sims games – actually, I still do, though I play the original game only rarely and mainly for nostalgic reasons; I still find it the most charming and also the hardest of them all.

    TS2 was, in my opinion, the best one. It brought two essential innovations, 3D and the life cycle, and many smaller ones. It’s at its best when played with mods: the “no mosaic” one was probably the first to be made for any of the games but the “no friends needed for careers” was even more important for me because I hated the concept of sucking up to people just in order to get a better job. And then there is the CC, tons of it; enormous CC folders (followed by enormous loading times that only became bearable with the latest machines) were/are the norm. The custom made TS2 Sims are still the best looking of them all (thanks to Warlokk, among many others) and are one of the reasons I am still playing the game; the other is the fact that all the parts of the game stick and function together as they should. Some parts of it, especially ‘hoods, are graphically outdated, but that doesn’t matter all that much to me.

    TS3 *should* be the best one but it’s not, because of EA greed and incompetence. Open ‘hoods were a great idea but also a typical example. It was nice that your Sim’s neighbors lived lives of their own but EA “gurus” forgot that they should have kids of their own too; obviously, they noticed the oversight at the last moment and so tons of babies suddenly began appearing in single Sims’ homes. It took a modder, Twallan, to solve this and a ton of other problems – mods, his and others, are essential if you want to play the game at all, end even so, it is and it will remain extremely unstable.

    The less said about TS4 the better. It was designed as a multiplayer game, changed to single player at the last moment, and it shows badly. EA should wrap it up and sell the franchise to a competent developer but they won’t – too big a cash cow.

    • Cropduster says:

      Yeah Twallan’s mods saved that game for sure, I know that I would have left it sharpish if it wasn’t for those mods.

      Story Progession was was basically essential, and that was just the tip of the mod iceberg.

  15. April March says:

    I picked it up… when it went free. I never really did sink my teeth into it as I did with the first game, though. I might just be too old for that kind of timesink.

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