A couple months ago I saw that the Sims 3 had come out with a new town. Ordinarily I don’t bother with anything on the store—why would I when I can get excellent free content elsewhere? But this one caught my eye—it was called Dragon Valley and it was nothing short of gorgeous. When I learned there were dragons involved as well I was pretty much sold. The town was just what I had been looking for as I was about to start my own version of the Legacy Challenge—but with elves. So I bought it. The aesthetics alone were worth the money to me. But the dragons? What a joke. Nothing but fancy cheats.
The Sims 3 has never been one to shy away from cheating, which is something that to a degree I rather admire about it. Not only are the testingcheats easy to use, but the game itself makes life easier for you with Lifetime Happiness rewards. Some of them I refuse to use (like No Bills Ever, Clone Voucher) because I haven’t found a circumstance in my story for them to make sense (No Bills Ever may be taken by my 6th or 7th generation, however, when my Sims have effectively become the Liege Lord and Lady of the village), so for now I just stick with things like Meditative Trance Sleep, Attractive, Multi-Tasker, etc. Others like Moodlet Manager seem game breaking to me.
In a way, Lifetime Rewards can be viewed as cheats since they help you surpass various obstacles of the game that you may not like dealing with. But really is it any different from gaining buffs or higher level skills or weapons? Mmm, no, I don’t think so. Isn’t that what we enjoy about playing games? That as we progress all of our hard work pays off with meaningful, worthwhile rewards? I’ll admit that I’m a little on the fence about some specific rewards; I’m a masochist when it comes to gaming. I like to immerse myself in my characters and world, so I don’t take rewards that feel at odds with the story I have. Which is perfectly fine as I just don’t use them.
But recently I have noticed something of a trend with new Sims 3 content. It feels as though rather than boast about really cool, really neat storytelling ideas, they feel the best way to sell new content now that the game is nearing its end is to give players the most OP abilities they can think of.
And this brings us back to Dragon Valley. Remember those dragons I mentioned? Well their backstory is fairly neat. It used to be common for the poor inhabitants of this beautiful village to be terrorized by giant, cruel dragons, pushing the elfin Mithrilen family to create and maintain a strong military to fend of the beasts. Eventually they succeeded and the village thrived.
Until the O’Connell’s came to town. These humans managed to tame some of the dragons and keep them in a permanently baby-sized shape. They believed that these tamed creatures could make excellent pets and companions and have ensured the people of Dragon Valley that there is nothing to fear from these tiny inhabitants.
Clearly the dragons have quite a significant role, yes? As one might expect, players have the ability to get dragons of their own by finding eggs and talking to them. Depending on how you talk to the eggs you will get either a green, red, or purple dragon. Each type has a different set of abilities. Green dragons find treasure and help with your garden by blooming and harvesting your crops. They also take care of your hunger and bladder concerns when out. Red dragons can be used to set your enemies on fire, and their “Mark of the Red Dragon” takes care of your energy and hygiene. Lastly the purple dragon can find you friends, make your parties successes, and maintain your fun and social.
So let’s review—the dragons in this village can run your garden for you, find and improve your relationships, and keep your needs from depleting. Leaving you to do…what…exactly?
Surely you can do something else with these cuties to make them more worth the $20, right?
Nope. I mean, you can play with them and have them fly around, but not much else. They’re pretty much reskinned parrots; they have no personalities, cannot interact with other pets, and won’t move from the spot you put them (though when they sleep it’s kind of adorable…)
Basically, unless you’re like me and ecstatic by a beautiful town populated by elves, you’re spending $20 on cheats. Cheats that you already have access to for free… Hmmm…
Given that Dragon Valley was a store city I’m willing to give it some leeway. Store items are always a bit gimmicky as opposed to proper expansions. Perhaps they thought the architecture alone woudn’t draw enough people in, so they aimed to entice us with some fancy little cheat monsters. In and of itself this seems like an odd marketing idea. We know you hate doing various things in our game so here, take these dragons and don’t bother with them ever again! It seems a bit silly to me to assume that most of your playerbase wants to cheat. And maybe they do. Like I said, I’m a Sims masochist, so who knows.
But what came as something of a shock to me was the recently released, final expansion to the Sims 3: Into the Future.
Let me start by saying that this expansion looks amazing. I mean, it actually looks like a worthwhile expansion. There was a lot of work put into it and it changes the game in a huge way. It’s not for me as I’m not a sci-fi, futuristic kind of person, but it’s something I might consider getting in a few years just to see what it’s like.
What Into the Future brings to the Sims franchise is pretty freaking cool. You can travel back and forth between the future and the current time, allowing you to learn future technologies, see what your children will look like, genetically engineer your own child, and play with time and how that affects your future in ways we’ve never seen before.
Pretty cool, huh?
So why did they feel the need to include pointless little cheats to it that it didn’t need. Why not just let it stand alone as an amazing concept and say “Hey! This is a really cool expansion! Don’t miss it!”
While I haven’t gotten this expansion, I noticed when I updated my game that it affected me anyway. Gone are the endless, static loadscreens after selecting your family. Now they are endless interactive loadscreens! Basically you play a “find this object” game and each object that you correctly select gives you lifetime happiness points.
Why? Why did the game feel the need to give me happiness points for doing pretty much nothing. Is this what they think we want? Random rewards for doing nothing?
This is nothing, however, compared to what players got if they chose to pre-order Into the Future. Simmers who preordered received the Quantum Power Chamber (essentially a cryogenic chamber) which stops aging and needs indefinitely for sims that you want to put on hold. You also got the Quantum Power Suit which allows players to teleport themselves and others to any place in the world, scan the world for collectables, and “bio-stabalize” (read: freeze needs) any Sim wearing the suit.
Really? You created a potentially fascinating expansion with so many new features, but the way you intend to get your preorders is by giving people objects that will allow them to bypass half of the game? Why? Are you afraid your playerbase is so sick of expansions and stuff packs that they won’t buy the expansion this close to the release of the Sims 4?
That’s a pretty valid concern I suppose. People are fed up with the Sims 3 and they’re looking forward to a (hopefully) less buggy game with 4. Why would they want to spend more money on this disaster when they know they should be saving for the next installment?
But this leads me to wonder an even bigger question. Developers wouldn’t necessarily attempt this method of sales if they didn’t think there was a market for it. So the biggest question of all is: why are we so obsessed with getting cheats? For me personally it’s hard to understand. I don’t quite get the point of playing a game if you’re only going to play half of the game, or only the parts you like about it. I understand that it’s your fun and your money and you can spend your time however you wish in a single-player game, but I want to know what causes people to play like this.
The Sims gets put down as a “fake” game or a “game for girls” fairly often, and I’ve never understood why. Currently I have a family with eight sims and two pets and let me tell you—that isn’t easy. A 5-man dungeon in World of Warcraft is easier to me than trying to micromanage 10 Sims’ lives. It finally got so intense that I bought Generations in the recent Origin sale so that I could send two of my kids to boarding school (and because I always thought Generations should be part of the base game and so wasn’t willing to spend much on it). Even after getting rid of two Sims I’m still juggling grades, work, babies, romantic interests, skills, social relationships and the overarching storyline I have going through my head.
Not exactly a walk in the park, but I really wouldn’t want it any other way. Sure, sometimes I beat my head against the desk, wanting desperately to age up my toddler early, but that would be like opting out of a boss fight in Zelda. Just because I don’t enjoy a particular aspect of a game, movie, or another work I don’t believe gives me the right to not experience it as it was intended. So long as I like the overall experience, what does suffering through a bit I’m not overly fond of hurt?
There seems to be two ways of thinking when it comes to games.
1) I’m paying for it, it’s something I do for fun, therefore I should be able to decide which parts of it I choose to enjoy. If I don’t like the Needs system in the Sims, I shouldn’t have to use it.
3) By suffering through the less fun bits in our leisure activities, it reinforces us in other aspects of life and reminds us that if we want awesome, sometimes we have to go through less awesome stuff to get there.
Ultimately I suppose it doesn’t really matter. If you’re like me and aren’t interested in using fancy cheats, then you just won’t (I’m in my third generation and haven’t raised a single dragon). What ultimately bothers me is that they’re selling themselves short and potentially undermining themselves. If you have good content then the content itself should be enough without having to resort to cheating gimmicks.