As we reported earlier this week, alongside The Sims 4 officially becoming a free-to-play game, Maxis also gave a sneak peek of Project Rene, the next incarnation of the Sims franchise. We're all calling it The Sims 5, but the vagueness of the reveal means it could be some kind of... platform? MMO? And personally I think 4 being free-to-play means bets could be off on it being a new standalone. But what do I know? It's very early for Maxis to be showing it off, a point hammered home by VP of franchise creative Lyndsay Pearson as she talked about it. And the fact that it is so early makes it look even more like a bid to stop player eyes wandering over to newer pastures...
Paralives has been in quiet development for a while now (I interviewed the project lead a whole two years ago, in fact), and offers small tidbits and updates every few weeks. And when you look at Paralives, it’s basically trying to offer the kind of control and customisation that Simmers have wanted for ages. Curved walls! Modular furniture! Control over colours and patterns on fabric! You can even have modular floors within one room. And the character customisation? Just look at it!
For a while now, it’s felt like The Sims was a few steps behind its own community. Absent official ways to make balconies, split level rooms, or properly cluttered shelves, players share complex and specific ways to clip objects or use debug commands to make exactly what they want in build mode. You might somehow render the stairs unusable for sims - which then necessitates you moving everything on the walls of the kitchen until you figure out it’s a light you moved off the grid that is somehow interrupting the pathing - but by God your interior decorating vision will be on point. And modders are like unpaid angels, making everything up to and including functional bunk beds for the game before an official version ever came out.
Meanwhile, the official game packs over the past few years have been… mixed. I was a fan of Cottage Living, for example, and Rebecca really liked the whole werewolves thing, but the Star Wars one was almost universally hated - the more for being almost a textbook example of how to do a soulless franchise tie-in badly. And whether they're good or not, they bring a host of bugs every time.
Meanwhile, Paralives’ Patreon is drawing over $40k a month. That’s a lot of people putting their money up for an alternative to the Maxis juggernaut. People are paying attention to it, and honestly? This early tease for whatever Sims 5 is going to be smacks a bit of Maxis waving a cocktail sausage in front of a distracted dog. The individual cushion placement and modular building that Maxis showed a snip of just… well, it looks a lot like Paralives. I’m not the only person who noticed the similarity, either.
That isn’t a bad thing, in the sense that competition is good. The existence of AEW, for example, has reinvigorated WWE, with wrestling once again approaching something of the energy of the Monday Night Wars. The Sims could probably be improved by cribbing a bit from Paralives, because a bunch of their players are vocally excited by it. Two good lifesim games are better than one, after all. But Paralives Studio have the advantage of a) being quite open about their development and b) regularly showing off loads of it. From facial hair to tattoos to beautiful loft flats, it has more to get excited about than Project Rene, which mostly has a sofa and a bad name.
Plus, c) Paralives doesn’t (yet) have the spectre of free-to-play monetisation methods wafting around in the background. Why, just the other week the Paralives team dropped a sneak peek at some summertime interactions that included daydreaming and smelling flowers. You can literally stop and smell the roses. Adorbs! If you ask me, Maxis should have waited until they had more to get excited about. Because right now Project Rene just looks like a less fun version of its direct competition.