originals\ Sep 27, 2011 at 3:58 pm

The Sims Social Experience


Last month, EA Games put their Facebook-based Sims title into an “open beta.” Despite being referred to as a beta, The Sims Social already feels like a sizable experience. There is still room for improvement, mainly in item variety and stability, but it sets a strong base of core mechanics. I have avoided sinking my teeth into any of the myriad of Facebook games that have popped up over the past few years, but as a casual fan of The Sims I thought I would give The Sims Social a shot.

The first thing I began to notice about The Sims Social was how it felt like other titles in the franchise but with a lot of the monotony stripped out. My typical Sims experience starts strong and with a lot of promise. Then, it winds up becoming very stagnant as I try to manage my Sim’s social relations, occupations, wants, and needs. Once the multitasking becomes too much and my money isn’t rolling in fast enough to calm my rabid addiction of furnishing my home, my options are to walk away or find a cheat code to skip the mundane and stressful elements. This Facebook installment of the series forgoes the entire structure of finding a job by tying money to the advancement of hobbies and quest lines. The process of making your Sim happy is much less time-consuming as well, and it takes only a handful of minutes to max out upon entering the game. Overall, this installment removes the mundane to get you to the fun parts faster.

The best thing about The Sims Social is the ability to visit your friends’ houses whenever you want. As much fun as it is to craft your own humble abode, it’s equally fun to visit the homes of fellow Sims addicts as they rush to fill their rooms with items they feel reflect themselves. There’s no direct multiplayer if two friends are online at the same time, but the ability to see what your friends have done with their homes is arguably more fun overall. It’s fascinating to watch as others build their dream house over time, whether that includes a hardcore gaming room with a giant TV and a comfy couch, or just a completely detached cabin consisting entirely of pink bunnies. As with any creation tool, the final product winds up reflecting each person’s unique sense of style and design. Having a game that provides an easy outlet for creativity is very welcome.

The Sims Social employs an energy mechanic that I believe helps prevent players from burning out too quickly. Certain actions, typically ones that advance quests or skills, require a point of energy to enact. Sometimes you can earn bonus energy through completion of missions or meeting new friends, but you will almost always run out before finishing your session. This might get on certain people’s nerves at times, as it can be a frustrating limitation to advancing your home, but I found it to be a great way to facilitate a stopping point to the experience. Playing the game in short, ten to twenty minute chunks felt a lot more fulfilling than the typical hour-plus sessions I would put into normal Sims titles.

It's important to remember that this is still a free Facebook game at heart and has certain elements that are designed to extract money from the player. The most obvious execution of this is SimCash, which is a currency that can only be earned through paying real money. While most of the room items can be purchased through the currencies earned in game--Simoleans and Social Points--some are locked behind the barrier of SimCash. Additionally, SimCash can be exchanged for Simoleans or Social Points to make getting higher end items on those scales much easier, but you cannot transfer them the other direction. The limitations of the energy system can also be superseded by paying for items that increase it, but I felt the experience was rich enough without requiring that purchase. Obviously there has to be some way to make money from this product, but it’s unfortunate that some items will forever be locked away from the people who don’t want to pay real money.

The last Facebook connection that permeates throughout The Sims Social is requesting friends to join the game. As I mentioned earlier, having a robust friends list in-game is some of the most fun you can have because it allows you to watch your friends slowly furnish their homes. Having a group of five or so acquaintances in-game is more than a moral booster, though; It’s basically a requirement. Many larger objects in your home require assembling, which will in-turn depend upon assistance from friends who are also playing The Sims Social. Additionally, any extensions to your home require a group of Facebook pals to help you assemble the new room. Without a moderately sized group of friends all playing together, the current Sims Social experience might feel lacking.

I’m not the type of person who loads Facebook up to play games, and The Sims Social hasn’t really changed that. Even in open beta, I feel this game offers a fun Sims experience that is toned down in a lot of smart ways. It’s unfortunate that a handful of items are locked behind a paywall, and the item selection in general is rather limited, but there is a lot in this Facebook release to enjoy. If you have a handful of friends who are into the Sims, I would say you should give this game a shot. However, if you can’t wrangle five or so friends to help each other expand your homes, the experience can feel a little shallow. It’s not going to change the world and may not hold your attention forever, but I think The Sims Social is more than enough fun to look into.

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