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?