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What Happened to The Sims?

Lorna Reid | 10 Sep 2012 15:30
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While expansions can be a gamble and bugs are, sadly, to be expected, harder to swallow are the basic gameplay issues such as management of saves and Sim families, but the community's wrath seems to be primarily reserved for The Sims 3's most controversial inclusion, colloquially referred to as "Rabbit Holes". These are impenetrable buildings, into which your Sims will routinely vanish for work/coffee/a massage/shopping, leaving you with nothing to do but wait. They came about, ironically, thanks to the complaints of fans. During The Sims 2, players had clamored to be able to control their Sims while they worked, rather than have them vanish and return hours later. The Sims 3 proclaimed that you could do just that, which is partly true; you can control your Sims, but only through a small menu of actions, none of which you get to see played out. Players got what they had asked for, but not in the way that they had imagined. They weren't happy. They complained. Three years later, they're still complaining.

Sims fans are a passionate bunch, but, as with any large franchise, they are partly to blame for the current situation; they buy the game and expansions, regardless.

It isn't just the players who have been put out, either. EA's stand-offish (and often prickly) attitude, along with personal apathy and frustration, has inspired some fan site webmasters to walk away. One venerable site, SimsPrograms, announced recently that it was considering closing its doors - a true blow for the community, should it come to pass, and indicative of the strength of negative feeling towards The Sims 3.

It is hard to envisage where we go from here. It is possible that EA have shed so much goodwill that fans will stick resolutely to The Sims 2, or simply keep their backs turned altogether. Many of the issues discussed are too hardwired to be put right at this late stage, even if the publisher was willing, so it will be left to an inevitable fourth title to fix things.

Sims fans are a passionate bunch, but, as with any large franchise, they are partly to blame for the current situation; they buy the game and expansions, regardless. No matter how great the volume of complaints, they will always be dwarfed by vast sales figures, so EA can be forgiven for thinking that they just don't matter.

There are so many fans out there who are willing to settle, to overlook the problems, and to make apologies for EA, that it isn't worth the publisher's time addressing the issues, because the money has already spoken. Even I have bought the majority of the game's expansions thus far, therefore making myself a hypocrite and enabling the problems to continue, just like millions of others. I may complain, but those discs are still lined up on my shelf.

Players didn't come to The Sims 3 with the intention of hating it, and therefore haven't walked away from it feeling vindicated or triumphant, just sad and disappointed. They have tried desperately to stick by something they love and have been let down, and that is perhaps the worst part of it all. They won't matter to EA who will sell millions, regardless, but they do matter - they are, after all, the reason The Sims is where it is today. It is they who will carry the series through to the future, and therefore they deserve their complaints to at least be acknowledged.

There is hope, as the inevitable Sims 4could put things right, but flaws need to be banished, more meat hung on the frame of the next base game, and worthy expansions produced. Overall, a little more respect and far less exploitation would go a long way toward healing the rift between publisher and fan-base.

For all of the series' flaws, Sims fans want to remain loyal - they just need more of a reason than they are currently being given.

Lorna Reid is an Editor and writer for UK magazine site, GamingLives.com, where she spends her time defacing the office whiteboard and occasionally scribbling about games. Find her on Twitter @SketchStone.

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