The Sims Online is Addiction Squared

Sims Online
Gameplay
graphics
audio
value
fun
Genre
Reviewed On
PC
Available For
PC
Difficulty
Easy
Publisher(s)
Developer(s)
ESRB
ESRB
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Adding online playability to the immensely popular Sims series is like throwing gasoline onto a bonfire. For fans of the game, it is an excuse to permanently enter the ranks of the addicted.

Maxis has created an inviting and friendly online world, more so that I have ever experienced before. The world’s rules are completely stacked to foster cooperation between players. The end result is that it is unlikely that you will have a bad experience when you start playing.

When you first begin your Sims experience, you will have to first create the person, your avatar if you will, that will represent you in the online world. There are over 100 faces and even more outfits to choose from for both men and women. You can be silly, like a giant polar bear, or sexy like a dominatrix, or just an average-looking, though completely stylish, person. After that, you choose the city where you would like your sim to reside. Due to the popularity of the game, don’t be surprised if you find that many of the cities are closed due to overpopulation, though EA seems pretty quick to bring new cities online to alleviate that problem.

With a single account, you can have up to three different sims. Each sim has to reside in a different city, presumably to keep you from cheating and transferring all your money between characters.

When you drop into the game, you are given a satellite-like view of the entire city. All the houses in the game where people live and are currently online will be blinking red dots. Those are the properties where you can visit.

When you arrive at a property, don’t be surprised to be greeted warmly. The main key to The Sims is that property owners get money at the end of the day based on how many visitors show up at their house and how long each person stays. So it is in the home owner’s best interest to keep you happy and hanging out at their pad.

Like in the standalone versions of the game, you have to keep your characters eight "needs" meters in the green. For example, when your sim has gone a long time without eating, their green meter begins to get red. To bring it back up, you need to eat. Thankfully, most home owners are more than happy to cook you dinner, or provide a buffet table with good food for you to munch on. Other wants include empting your bladder, socially interacting with other sims and having fun. The social need is the only one that requires interaction with another sim, but it is enough to prevent hermits from thriving throughout the land. Eventually you will need to play a game with another sim, or actually have some type of physical contact, like hugging. Since this is a universal need, interaction is relatively easy to find.

Unlike the standalone game, you don’t have to go to a job to make money. It would be unfortunate if you had to leave the game for eight hours to earn a pay check. Instead, you make money by using job objects. Some of the objects like the workbench let you build something, in this case gnomes, for cash. Others like the pizza oven have higher payouts, but require four sims to operate, so cooperation is again stressed. The amount of payout you get is also dependent, even on the single items like workbenches, by the number of people in your immediate area performing the same task. So if you can convince 10 other people to jump onto unused workbenches at the property in question, the value of your individual gnome will skyrocket. Again, the emphasis is on cooperation.

You also have to build your skills, which increases the money you can earn from related job objects. For gnome building, you use mechanical skill. This is mostly done by studying, and again, your rate of increase improves if lots of people are interacting with you. So form a study group or join one in progress.

The game runs fine with a 56k dial-up connection. I played The Sime Online with both a 56k dial-up line and a T1, and there really was not much noticeable difference. There is a limit to how many people can be inside each house, so this helps to eliminate server lag.

If you find a nice place in the game, you can ask the owner to make you a roommate. When you become a roommate, you the same visitor bonus each day as the owner (it’s not split, it’s mirrored) and lets you buy objects for the house. The owner gets the advantage of having the house online more, since more people live there. Plus there are some smaller bonuses, like cheaper construction costs for houses where a lot of people live. If you no longer want to be a roommate or are kicked out, all the objects you bought for the house go into an inventory so you don’t end up losing anything. Simply place your stuff down in the next place you inhabit.

If you find a nice empty lot, you can purchase it and build your own place. Then you can experience the joy of being a host or hostess yourself. This is the best way to make money in the game, but you need to build a place that lots of people will want to attend and hang out at. On crowded cities, it’s harder than it sounds to set yourself apart from the crowd and should only be attempted once you have a lot of cash and a firm idea as to what you want to make.

I saw a lot of the same people online at the circle of places I visited, so it’s obvious that Sims fans are having a good time and that the game has staying power. However, I have to say that there were a lot of times when I thought the game was a bit dull. Constantly having to study to improve your skills (they degrade after a time) was annoying. It was not very fun just watching my sim read a book for hours on end, with occasional rests to use the bathroom or eat food. You will spend a lot of your time just standing around fiddling with a guitar or with your nose in a book, especially when you are just starting out.

I saw a lot of the same people online at the circle of places I visited, so it’s obvious that Sims fans are having a good time and that the game has staying power. However, I have to say that there were a lot of times when I thought the game was a bit dull. Constantly having to study to improve your skills (they degrade after a time) was annoying. It was not very fun just watching my sim read a book for hours on end, with occasional rests to use the bathroom or eat food. You will spend a lot of your time just standing around fiddling with a guitar or with your nose in a book, especially when you are just starting out.

It’s interesting to note that the game seems to appeal more to women than men, at least if most of the people I met were playing sims of their same gender. Getting to know a lot of them, I suspect they were.

The social and cooperative aspects of the game are genuinely appealing. It’s worth the $9.95 a month to interact in an online world where everyone seems genuinely nice, and you don’t have to worry about a player-killer doing you in or stealing your stuff. In the month I tested the game, I only ran into two people who were rude and obnoxious. In both cases the home owner at the place I was visiting kicked the offensive person out and banned them from returning, a power of the owner and their roommates to keep the peace. My guess is that the rude people did not try the same things at a new house. Perhaps they learned their lesson.

Maxis has done the impossible. They found a way to make their already addictively fun Sims series even better. If you play the standalone version of the The Sims, give yourself a real treat and get The Sims Online. If you have never played in a virtual online world before, I can’t think of a more nurturing and supportive environment to start.

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