Sometimes first impressions can be
The first encounter with The Sims
Online, a PC release from Maxis and Electronic Arts, yielded a trip to the
‘romance district’ and exposure to frank conversation that one would hear in an
adults-only chat room.
Yikes. That is certainly not fit for a
child to see. You can, of course, lock in the parental control element, allowing
children only to speak with approved friends, and obscuring the nastier chat
room dialogues, but the problem with that is that the majority of the world
cannot be experienced, and there are some fine folk living in these communities.
The Sims Online is
somewhat akin to the regular single-person game. You create a character, build a
house (or, in this instance, get roommates to share an abode with), and then
micro-manage the details of your Sims life. There are needs that must be
attended to, like social, energy, hunger, hygiene and such, and you will have to
earn Simoleans (the currency) to maintain whatever lifestyle you have.
There are ways to earn Simoleans. You
can go into a home and do a variety of tasks, selling the fruits of your labor
for the money; or you can create a home that people will want to visit, and you
will receive currency for all those who drop by to see what you have.
The online game looks much like the
other regular version, though your Sims can emote much more and are generally
more expressive. But don’t count on building a home or jumping from Sim-to-Sim
with the rapidity of its non-online counterpart. You pick a Sim (and there are
many more customizable choices) and that is who you are. Each account is
allowed three playing characters.
Other ways this game diverges from the
single-player game is that you won’t burn down your home through cooking
mishaps, and you can’t be a thief, nor will your home be robbed. There are no
phones within the home to call up and order services. The free enterprise system
is alive and flourishing in this world.
Casual dress days extend only so far
as the phone booth outside your home. The phone booth acts as a portal to the
other areas of your city.
(And that mailbox is a hint of bills
You can create a friends list, visit
favorite haunts, and the whole aspect is one of socialization. You earn skill
points by practicing and training. Those skill points earn higher Simolean
rewards for your earning efforts. And, should a large group be making preserves,
the entire group will receive a higher wage. This is a case of the more the
The graphics are much the same as
other Sims games, with a fixed camera position above the action (it can be
zoomed in and out, but you won’t get a ground-eye’s view of the world). The
sound is also akin to the regular games. There are no NPCs (non-playing
The player interface is simple and
easy to navigate through. This is a point and click game, with keyboard hot keys
adding the action.
The slogan for this game is “Be
Somebody. Else.,” and that is precisely the opportunity this game affords
players. During the stay in this world, there were those who stated they didn’t
understand the concept of the game. What’s the point? they asked. One could ask
the same thing about chat rooms.
Consider the notion of the chat room
and you have one of the base pretexts of The Sims Online. This is a chat room
taken to a whole new level. Instead of simply type chatting, you have a body,
and can move around in a world. You can socialize, if you wish, or just try to
have the biggest, most elaborate home in your online community.
Like chat rooms, this game also
attracts some of those who are there only to rob from the enjoyment of others.
They insult, act obnoxious, curse and preach. They also likely swear, but thanks
to a good profanity filter, you don’t have to see that. It does seem that
anytime you have a massive world, with diversity, you will encounter them, no
matter the venue.
The Sims Online is an amazing
cross-section of people. It allows them to throw away some inhibitions and act
out in ways they likely would not do in real life. This is not a game for
younger children to play – regardless of the parental lock. This is an adult
game and some – not the majority – of social settings are geared for adults.
It can be routine, and you will likely
run into the same people asking and talking about the same things, over and
over. If the idea of chat rooms appeals to you, if the idea of stepping outside
yourself and trying on a different life and face (even a polar bear’s head) is
something you would enjoy, this could well be the game for you.
This game is rated Teen for comic
mischief, mature sexual themes, and mild violence.
The transitions from one neighborhood to
another are smooth. The game’s camera allows players to zoom in and out and move
around a mapboard. At this stage, the game does not seem to have much lag,
though even if it did – aside from the annoyance – it would not be a factor.
There are no life or death situations with monsters beating on you while you
move so slowly that it is only a precursor to death.
The game does have a wealth of character
creation choices but the animation is typical Sims all the way. The game is
bright and colorful and the antics can be amusing.
The sound kept cutting in and out on the
game, which is either a latency issue or an install/system issue. However, while
some of the sounds can be fun, overall, this game sports not that much that is
new to the Sims world.
The game is straightforward. There are no
difficulty levels, no puzzles to unravel, no treasures to battle to. The
challenge is in upgrading your home through earning enough Simoleans to do
precisely that, while working in a social setting.
This is a chat room come to life. Instead
of merely talking about dancing with someone, you can. The game does deviate
from the regular game, and has features that are exclusive to this title, but it
is mostly routine, and maintenance. The parental control can be useful, but it
blocks most of the world and limits the experience.
This is a game that is about
socialization, though it can be spoiled by a few malcontents.
You can be somebody else, you can manage
the facets of another’s life, you can build your dream home, and the developers
seem to be leaning toward throwing in seasonal-pertinent material, like the
recent New Year’s Eve party themes, to keep it alive and fresh. But boil it down
and you have somewhat-stilted animation, some adult themes, plenty of good
people having fun role-playing, new emotes, and chat, chat, chat. This is
open-ended play, filled with diversity. It can be routine, and it can be like a
daytime soap opera (looking through the Internet hourglass, so too are the Sims
of our lives).