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Gaming: Sims 3 Generations makes the right noises

Here’s the trailer for the latest expansion pack for The Sims 3, Generations:

In my opinion this is exactly what Electronic Arts should be doing with the expansions for the game. With previous expansions World Adventures and Late Night they made what I consider a silly mistake, and which I covered recently in February’s gaming round-up:

The Sims 2 was crippled by loading screens every time you wanted to visit another home or shop or visit entire new locations, and while you were off the lot everything back home was frozen and each house lived in its own little time bubble. The open world of The Sims 3 was marvellous, yet in two of its first three expansions EA have added new locations entirely separated from the main neighbourhood, the first of which puts everybody else in a time bubble when you go on vacation and have to load the new location (which is at least an open world when it’s there).

Late Night is mostly focused on the new downtown location, and while I could have moved a copy of my family there it would have been uprooting them from a community of NPCs I’m familiar with (and some of whom are related to my Sims) so it wouldn’t have really been my family. Likewise, making a new Sim (which is what I opted for) makes it a spin-off story, something to play around with but which isn’t connected to what is the main part of the game for me.

For whatever reason EA keep making these new locations, locking areas away behind loading screens and undermining the biggest strength of The Sims 3, the open world. They cut you off from your main world, temporarily or permanently, and I’ll never get as much use out of them.

Each Sims 2 expansion added a new 'type' of Sim (robot, werewolf) but that's something that they seem to have dropped for Sims 3 (outside of vampires in Late Night). That's no bad thing as they weren't always that fun or appealing (such as the plant people).

The first expansion pack, Ambitions, was on the right track (which makes it ridiculous that I’ve never played it, given my issues with the other two). It added something players wanted – the ability to control your Sims while they’re at work (though only in special new careers) – and added it into the main world. That should be the goal, enriching the town players are controlling generations of Sims in, not shifting away to new places all the time.

What it also does though is something you can glean from the pack’s title, which is add things for every generation of Sim. The Sims 2 didn’t do that very often, with almost all the packs either being general ones that benefit everybody or ones that almost entirely benefit adult Sims. Other than new objects I don’t recall children gaining any substantial new features that were specifically tailored to them and elders were always essentially the useless, waiting-for-death stage of a Sims life (at least until I used a mod to improve things for them).

As far as I can tell Generations seems to have content tailored for every generation from child up to elder (the baby and toddler stages are brief and fairly unimportant), meaning it’s an expansion that improves things for the whole family and adds to the main town. More like this please, EA.

I do have one concern, which I already raised on Twitter:

Oh man, they’re bringing pranks to Sims 3. In Sims 2 every Sim was obsessed with pranks and NPCs made enemies every time you went outside.

You’d be out shopping and every AI Sim around you would be destroying relationships with other Sims. I had to get a mod to disable pranks.

Looking at the trailer though it looks like things might not be so bad. The pranks added in The Sims 2 University were one-to-one social interactions, and in their infinite wisdom EA felt that every Sim should default to them all the time instead of normal socialisation, but as Sims disliked being pranked by people they didn’t know very well it meant any social gathering was a recipe for disaster. The pranks as shown in the Generations trailer look like they might be general area pranks instead so I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt right now, confident that even if EA do mess it up again I’ll be able to find a mod that makes some sense out of EA’s often questionable design decisions.

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