Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Life With My New Sims

I've been working hard at creating my new Sims 2 university and it's turning into quite the college! I decided to build my first dozen or so ideas and then create a household of 6 random young adults to start populating it. This way, I have plenty of room for new buildings but these people have plenty of places to visit as well.

As the theme of this particular college is "Big State School" I made a lot of ivy-covered buildings with tall columns and lots of brick, inspired to some extent by my own college visits of long ago. The main campus buildings include a library and student union as well as a bunch of "academic" buildings focused on particular hobbies and areas of study, like a performing arts center with lots of musical instruments, a ballet studio, and so on. There are also two sports stadiums, an outdoor one for soccer and an indoor arena for basketball (I also plan to build a "hockey" arena even though the skating rink is definitely more for figure skating).

Hopefully this will make my new Sims graduate with skills beyond their college requirements. This is the ragtag group that will be responsible for populating the world. I tried to make them diverse, from the money-loving blonde snob to the goth chick who (somewhat surprisingly, I think) wants nothing more than to start a family to the pleasure aspiration hippie dude who just wants to create fun for everyone. They all started out in a dorm together, but now that they've finished their freshman year I split them up into groups. The guys will start a fraternity (I'm building their Greek house right now) and the girls are moving into other dorms according to their interests.

What I find rather funny is their preferred hobbies, some were so surprising! The goth girl loves cooking above all, not what I was expecting but it's a fun twist. Luckily, the nerdy one is into science, couldn't have planned that better! She even wants to be an oceanographer, which dovetails quite nicely. Her logic is already at 6! In practically no play time!

Not too much happened during their tenures as freshmen, I let them have a bit more free will than I usually do and just watched their personalities and learned how I can guide them in the future. They also started some good friendships together, which I plan to exploit like crazy later.

I think I'm having more fun with this game than I did before TS3 came out, it's like the new game made me appreciate the old even more. I do get a little confused at moments, though, forgetting that some of the features of TS3 are NOT in TS2. I also miss the ability to turn objects diagonally. Oh, well, it's worth missing those things to play the overall better game.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I'm Trick-trick-trick-trick-trick-trick-tricky!!

Another Sunday/Monday, another chance to have fun with the ol' PS2. I finished Castaway again and moved on to SSX Tricky. Oh, so fun! I used to rock that game and it was a little frustrating at first to try to remember all the controls and then it took awhile to make them work like they should. This game has quite a bit of nuance, I forgot that after it became easy when I was playing it a lot.

Which begs the question: Will there be an SSX for PS3? I've seen much speculation and even news of possible teasers for it, but I (wisely) don't trust rumor and speculation. It was a highly successful franchise for PS2 and, while playing Tricky on PS2 I can't help but marvel at how beautiful it could be in HD.

There aren't that many games I care about bringing to this gen, there are too many bad sequels about already and the only thing worse than a favorite franchise being killed off is when the sequels suck. On the other hand, there are a lot of lame snowboarding games and having a great one in this gen would be simply marvelous. SSX is the only snowboarding franchise that I would bet on making something worth the money.

I am proud to say that I did get the hang of it again pretty quickly, and had a lot of fun blasting through the World Circuit (made it through to Tokyo Megaplex in freestyle and topped that off with a few gold medals in the early races). My loud cheering for myself even eclipsed my boyfriend's football cheers! I didn't have as much time to play this week as I spent most of Sunday at a street fair but quality beats quantity every time, and this is a quality game.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Revisiting My Past

Ah, the PS2! You have been neglected lately, living in a drawer in the bedroom under the old TV we rarely use. You were the first expensive present I gave my boyfriend and you helped us bond over so many wonderful games. You still work perfectly but have to compete with two shiny new-generation machines and even a couple of handheld systems and my phone and computer. It's a sad fate for something that has been practically a friend over the years.

But wait! It turns out that you have more use being in the "other room" than you did just a year ago, when you were our best Sony system and attached to the plasma. The first hints of autumn bring football and fantasy football and take the big TV and the computer away from me quite a lot. Now, you are my savior! I'm not avoiding football, I'm gaming!

A lot of people have complained about the PS3 not having backwards compatibility but I'm almost glad it doesn't. I can't imagine playing even my favorite games from the PS2 on it, there's just too much fun to be had with my PS3 games if it's available. As a backup console on a backup TV, though -perfection.

Plus, there's something pleasant about not having to go through menus and stuff. I wouldn't give up a single feature of the PS3 to make that happen, but it's just a nice change. On the other hand, the load times are DRIVING ME CRAZY!

So, okay, I've been laming out on Sims 2 Castaway (which is fun to play again now that I've forgotten EVERYTHING about it), but I am definitely mapping out an awesome queue of games to get me through February. It's the first time I've been excited about the start of football in years, used to be a big fan but I guess I outgrew that and have started to dread the season. Oh, yeah, it may be because I lose my computer and big TV and even boyfriend to it... hmmm?

Still, I feel I must add: GO GIANTS!!!

What can I say? I'm a mess of contradictions.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gone Simming!

Sorry I haven't written much lately. I have this stupid Christmas present crafty thing I've been working on (I know, I know, I'm nuts, it's only September, but it's a HUGE project) and every other spare moment has been dedicated to playing The Sims 2 again. Well, also playing some PS2 again, but that's a topic unto itself.

As I mentioned in my last post I decided to start fresh with a whole new neighborhood of my own creation in every way. This means a LOT of building and planning if I want the neighborhood of my dreams.

One thing I always felt like I did wrong in the past was create adult Sims after I got University. I mean, not everyone needs to go to college but the perks of those extra want slots is a good way to go with a new Sim. Not to mention that creating my founding Sims as young adults will let them get some skills before entering the job market, as a Sim born and raised in the game would have skills before becoming an adult.

Therefore, my first move this time around was to create the base neighborhood (of course) and go straight to creating a university. The neighborhood is named "Polansky" in honor of NASA Astronaut Mark Polansky (who tweeted his way through STS-127 as @Astro_127 and helped get me re-addicted to following the space program). The university is the completely uninspired "University of Sim State" because I wanted to build that style of school and play on "Sim State University". A stupid inside joke with myself, I realize.

Going with the huge state school style means building some huge fancy buildings, though, so it is taking awhile. I'm trying to gear the school towards a diversity of interests and thus am creating at least one building that covers each skill and hobby. There are the campus staples like a library, a student union, a "quad", and even a basketball arena and soccer stadium. I also made some "academic" buildings for visual and performing arts and plan to make a culinary center, science building, and an agricultural center. Then you have the fun stuff like bars, a beach club, dance clubs, fishing holes, and stores where they can pick up nearly everything.

This is before I even touch the whole residential situation!

It will probably take a few more weeks but when the campus is ready for it's first Sims I will take some screenshots and post them. I think my Sims will like it a lot, though, and be able to graduate from college with much more than just the perks that come with a diploma.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Newer Does NOT Equal Better, Part 2

I LOVE The Sims 2. Frankly, when I heard they were coming out with a 3rd version of the game, I was a little skeptical. The improvements between 1 and 2 were vast and obvious, they took a great game that became unplayable after a time (simply due to the lack of aging as it got boring to play the same exact family for too long) and turned it into something I had hardly dared to dream of at the time. Sure, there were still things that could be improved upon, there always are, but it was a solid game that could be played endlessly.

I like long-term value in a game. Even if I had a lot of money I'd prefer having a few games that entertain me for months or even years than every hot new title to come down the path. A great game is much like a great book except even better as each "read-through" yields a different story.

I've created giant families in TS2 with detailed and involved storylines, towns filled with houses that I would kill to live in, and built business and real estate empires that would be the envy of real titans of industry. I love each of my little digital people truly like a god should, for their quirks as well as achievements, even when they wreck my carefully-laid plans. I almost never play with houses or Sims created by others, I invest the time and build from scratch, a very rewarding effort.

The problem is, I have a laptop that's old and doesn't have a very large hard drive and you can't put Sims files on an external. My TS2 files are over 7 gigs, even without all the downloads and junk! So, I just can't have two different Sims games on it at the same time. The day my copy of TS3 came home I dutifully uninstalled all of TS2 (carefully backing it up, of course) and loaded the new game, even though I wanted to cry at the loss of everything I had created.

As mentioned in Part 1, I then discovered that I don't like TS3 nearly as much and decided to go back to TS2. So, much of my weekend ended up being a lot of re-installing. The weird thing was, I also decided to not re-install all of my downloads because I just don't have the drive space anymore, which meant going back to my old towns would be a pain as they are full of downloaded objects. I'm glad I went that route, the game is far faster and works better in every way without them.

The upshot is that I am starting from scratch again. I deleted all of the pre-installed towns and have a nice clean version of the game with exactly one neighborhood, where I plan to build every single building and create every playable Sim (unless the ones I create fall in love with townies, of course). All of the information about this town will be logged in my brand-spanking-new database that I've always wanted to create for this game. I guess you could say I renewed my commitment to TS2 in a very big way.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Newer Does NOT Equal Better, Part 1

Over the weekend I did something I never would have expected, uninstalling The Sims 3 and re-installing The Sims 2. I tried really hard to like TS3, but it just didn't work out.

I don't hate the game, it was amusing for a bit and a few aspects I even fell in love with. If I had the hard drive space for both games I could see playing it occasionally. Being able to choose patterns and colors for all objects and clothes was creatively freeing, working towards happy moodlets was inspiring, and being able to have different Sims having different adventures outside of the house at the same time took care of a few of the odd timing problems with the older versions of the game. It was also quite neat to have the whole neighborhood aging together, a bit more realistic and handy in creating life-long relationships. The problem is, at what price do you get all of those features?

My most basic issue with the game is the inability to develop your own neighborhoods or even customize much within the neighborhoods provided. I can understand that some of the new buildings, like the ones that provide jobs, would require some sort of extra structure to the game, but did they really have to make it so I can't just plop a lot anywhere I'd like to? I wanted to build a home by the shore for one family that still wasn't too far from the school or their jobs but there weren't any existing lots like that.

Another basic, yet all-important, gripe I have is that you can't play multiple families without undoing all the work you've put into one. When kids grow up I'd like to be able to move them out of their original households AND still keep track of them. The one time I sucked it up and switched households, to a now-adult that my Sims had raised and I had developed to be an ambitious workaholic scientist, it turned out that he hadn't bothered to go into work since he'd moved away! If you are going to get to set personality types the Sims should actually live up to them, at least to some extent. After all, what's the point otherwise?

Not helping the game at all is the absolute patheticness of it's Prima Guide. I have their guide to every single Sims game and expansion pack and have found them immensely helpful in the past. I believe Greg Kramer wrote all of the older ones and I was dismayed to see his name missing from the new one (yes, I have become a fan of a game guide author. A little scary fact about the person I've become). As it turns out, my fears were well-founded. Every single question that cropped up in my head went unanswered in favor of the author, Catherine Brown, doing things like talking about Sims she created and their experiences. Seriously? That didn't help me at all, and certainly not as much as having basic details like what day and time the symphony performs would have. Guides are for charts and facts and details that are very hard to find without help from the people who designed the game, not prose.

I'm not thoroughly dismayed that I not only bought the game but sprang for the collector's edition (especially since I really like the included USB flash drive), but have absolutely no problems waiting for the day when I have built my new gaming desktop to play it. I just don't have the same kind of cravings to play it as I do with TS2. Oh, the cravings!

More on that in my next post, though.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Hi my name is CraftLass & I'm the live-in girlfriend of a PixelJunkie. What's worse, is I fear I may become one myself.

We downloaded the demo of PixelJunk Eden awhile back and played it a lot. It was a bit pathetic how much we played that demo before I decided we really should buy it. After all, a $10 game that gives you more than 10 hours of fun is a great value, right?

The thing is, I've barely even gotten to play it (or anything on our main entertainment system) since then. My boyfriend has become thoroughly addicted. It's at the point where he is claiming to hate the game because it's gotten a lot harder at his current level and he is quite frustrated, yet he still plays it so much he's even missed a lot of pre-season football (he's in a fantasy league and generally watches pre-season more avidly than the real season to try to spot the surprise new players that would be great for fantasy).

Meanwhile, I'm on the 5th spectra of Garden 1 still. I meant it when I said I've barely gotten to play at all. If it weren't for my PC and his PSP I don't know if I'd get to game anymore!

I'm glad he's so into the game, I really am. Yet, I can't help but wonder if I created a monster. The trouble with a two-gamer household is that it's hard to share, especially when multiple consoles are on the same TV. It's also easy to both forget about things like cooking, eating, drinking water, and sleeping. You know, that mundane stuff that's a requirement for being alive and healthy?

So, thank you and damn you to all the folks at PixelJunk, for making such a silly little game that is so darn compelling!