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The Sims Online

Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Maxis
Media: CD/3
Players: Multiplayer
Genre: Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

Almost 4 years ago, the creators of Sim City introduced a new level of cultural simulation. Earning its name from its ancestor, The Sims magnified the social level in 'Sim games' by allowing players complete control over the activities, behavior, and life span of the inhabitants of Simsville. It was one of the most surprising success stories in video game history.

Today, The Sims has become the most widely purchased video game in history alongside earning a household name among video game fans. The developers of The Sims hope to repeat that amazing act by implementing the current epitome of 'sexy', massively multi-player. The Sims Online, throws much of The Sims' best features and turns the tides on players, no longer relying on computer operated citizens. Every character in the game represents a real human being sitting somewhere in the world at his own computer in the same virtual world as an entire 'Sim' population.

Even in 2000, the graphics in The Sims were hardly eye opening or masterful. A push towards highly detailed 3D graphics was on the rise with the popularity of games such as Quake and Unreal. Nevertheless, the graphics were accepted and to some even glorified for their simplicity. Still, there were distinct problems with the graphics system, and as time went on it has become even more dated. Repeating the steps of every Sims add-on or expansion pack, The Sims Online does nothing to improve on the now standard graphical format found in The Sims. We are still forced to view our Sim citizens in a two dimensional view. Characters still appear rigid and oddly animated. There is a definite separation from popular multiplayer games such as Everquest, which thrives on its 3D graphics capabilities.

Why would The Sims Online keep a low key, less than glamorous, graphical product in its repertoire? Sometimes, it just makes sense not to mess with tradition. Hardcore Sims fans have overlooked the poor graphics in The Sims, citing feelings of nostalgia and simplicity. The altered look definitely separates The Sims from its 3D competitors, and the same goes for this new online variation.

Characters wobble clumsily, buildings appear static yet customizable, and interactions are lively and animated. Everything that visually personifies The Sims remains constant. Audibly, The Sims Online makes good use of the surroundings and environments. Even though there are no remarkable effects, and the music is not altogether amazing, the subtleties in The Sims Online's music and audio lures players into realistic auditory situations. Sounds change depending on location and range from chopsticks from pianists, to chit chattering Sim-citizens.


Gameplay:

How would you describe reality? Better yet, how would you describe the reality that you wish you could live in, but know that you can not? According to the developers of The Sims Online, you probably yearn to be something completely different. Perhaps you want to be a rock star, or you aspire to become a great moneymaker and bargainer. It's these desires, and many others, that The Sims Online sets out to appeal towards. Without any storyline or implied path, The Sims Online is entirely what you and an entire population of people make it.

The Sims Online is a massive world built by an amalgam of different peoples, all real, with their own goals and aspirations to get out of the game. This takes both the simulation genre and the online genre in completely different directions. For the simulation, you no longer have complete control over the events and surroundings of everyday life. You are restricted to only the character you create and play as. That character becomes a representation of yourself, and it is up to you to make your character into whatever you dream. Online is also in for an awakening. The Sims Online is marketing itself as the socially acceptable way to reinvent yourself without hurting anyone. The norms of Net Etiquette seem to fly out of the roof, with a few general exceptions.

The organization and structure of The Sims Online is entirely too complex to figure out completely. It is set up so every player should be able to find something he or she enjoys about the game and excel at that. Features which creep into The Sims Online from its non-online form, The Sims, include character generation, household furniture and appliances, and the insistent need to pamper one's self and communicate for survival. Each Sims Online account can own up to three avatars at a time, though only one can exist in the Sim-world at a time. Avatars are fully customizable and include such body features as a polar bear head to a muscle clad skinless body. Household items are constantly evolving with more items being available each day. Some standard items such as beds and mirrors help to facilitate regular functions, where specialty items such as the McDonald's Kiosk and french fry stands add a feeling of immersion. One of the first things a newcomer to the Sim world might recognize is the large amount of work gaining skills and learning trades to gain money. The largest problem with The Sims Online is the large amount of time one must spend if he or she wants to be a truly successful Sim-citizen and not just an average Joe. Nevertheless, people find ways to make it interesting, and there's hardly ever the lack of skill gaining parties which consists of multiple people working on acquiring the same skill set. Skills include: Logic, Body, Cooking, Mechanical, Charisma and Artistic. As skills improve, often you will start making use of those skills. Money making items allow citizens to use a skill to earn revenue.

In the original Sims game, there always seemed to be a substantial amount of money in your personal accounts to allow you to build, manage, and destroy buildings and architecture. In Sims Online the only way to succeed at building a home with commodities that appeal to guests is to gain friendships and roommates. Your roommates work together to build homes by linking each other's funds together. Homes can be equipped with charge services or free-for-use services. A number of different methods are used to capitalize on home owning.


Difficulty:

Difficulty in The Sims Online is determined expressly by what the player puts in to it. Simple actions such as finding a room and common discussion come as easily as doing so in any chat room environment. Finding roommates could pose problems, especially if your goals involve Sim domination. Keeping a home furnished with enough items to satisfy guests and keeping a steady income all require a strict level of dedication to the game world through constant upkeep and interaction. Individual satisfaction is less difficult, but time consuming. The act of building a skill takes significant time away from interactions and other events in Sims Online. Remarkably, everything is entirely subjective here. A good handle on time management and a dedication to the environment could lead to fun and interesting results. If only real life could develop so well.

Game Mechanics:

Since you really only control one citizen in The Sims Online, the mechanics of the game moves to a more personal level. Your character can come and go to your heart's content among any location inside your avatar's respective city. Characters respond to interactions chosen from interactive menus. Your navigation of houses mimics the same format of other Sims games. Characters can move in any direction inside of a home, and mostly interact with every item, piece of furniture, and tool in the home.

But at the heart of The Sims Online, quite honestly, is the ever present multi-user chat environment. Since there are no direct goals or missions involved throughout the online world, satisfaction comes through valued interactions with other Sims. Though The Sims had a feeling of omnipotence and it was often fun to 'trick' your basically unintelligent Sims in a variety of tasks, with The Sims Online, that aspect is simply not possible. Acting like an arrogant, rude person will likely get you tossed out of a home. Etiquette now plays an important role in being a Sim. Nevertheless, if it is your goal to aggravate and annoy real human beings to see how many homes you can be kicked from and how many players block your comments in as little time as possible, the rewards can be, well, interesting.

Could the merger of Sim-world and Multiplayer gaming thrive in the current state of online gaming? After all, The Sims Online plays more like a visual chat room than a multiplayer video game. Multiplayer games today involve missions, teamwork, and strategy. While you can gain a feeling of success in The Sims Online, and most people will enjoy the ability to reinvent themselves as the person they always dreamed they could be, many main events or plots just aren't there. The Sims Online depends 100 percent on the players' contributions. It relies heavily on millions of people actually believing that their Sim-lives are more important than their real life. Nevertheless, with an already ever present population, and promises of added functionality and events, The Sims Online just might grow into an extremely believable virtual world. Who knows, in time, The Sims Online might become more believable than the real world.


-==Boy, GameVortex Communications
AKA Kyle Prestenback

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP/ME/98, 500 Mhz Intel Pentium III or AMD Athlon, 128 MB RAM, 4x CD-Rom, 1.6 GB Free Disk Space, 2 MB video Card, Internet Connection
 

Test System:



AMD Athlon 1800+, 1GB RAM, 16X DVD-ROM, Geforce 4 TI4200 3D Accelerator with 64MB VRAM

Windows Star Trek: Starfleet Command III Windows SpongeBob SquarePants: Employee of the Month

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated