This fact will probably surprise Tim & Peter immensely, because they brought the game round on Sunday, I installed it, and spent the first hour screaming "AAARGH! STOP SCROLLING!" every few seconds. This was apparently very stressful to witness. Turning "Edge Scrolling" off solved half the problem, but then the camera kept zooming in when I didn't want it to, and rotating so much I felt dizzy. I eventually set the rotation to "Sims 1 style" and learnt how to use the weird cordless USB mouse, and that sorted out the rest of it.
I have mentioned on many occasions how I used to be addicted to the first Sims, but eventually got bored with it, and couldn't get to grips with any of the console versions. Finally getting The Sims 2 - after not having had a computer capable of playing it - is like... some tortured analogy about re-meeting one of your childhood best friends and becoming best friends again as adults, or re-meeting your college sweetheart at the age of 50 and falling in love all over again. It's like falling in love with something entirely familiar that's also new and shiny at the same time. In short, The Sims 2 breaks nothing I didn't want changed, and fixes everything I did.
The problem with the original Sims + expansion pack scenario was that no one ever thought it would get as big as it did. Although the game was always intended to have user-created custom content, they only built in a certain amount of allowance for it. No one ever foresaw me having to buy a new hard drive because my 4GB drive was literally full with 2.5GB of Sims content (and I was ruthless with throwing away downloads that didn't work properly or I didn't like) ;)
Popular demand meant that expansion packs got released, with features that people wanted that were missing in the original game. Like the ability to throw parties, have pets, and LEAVE THE HOUSE. (I remember just taking my sims on date after date after date for the sheer excitement of being able to take them somewhere). But the problem was, not all the Sims players had unlimited real-life cash, and Maxis, being less evil than the rest of EA, weren't going to release new EPs that assumed you already had a previous one. Each of the EPs was a bolt-on to the original game. Thus it became rather stupid towards the end of The Sims' shelf-life, when you had the original neighbourhood + Downtown + Vacation Island + Old Town + Studio Town + Magic Town - each of those places with their own supposed theme. I just ended up putting all the Downtown stuff in Vacation Island, although my poor old laptop struggled with the game plus four expansion packs, and the Vacation area had a habit of freezing for a few minutes or crashing altogether (and that was with all the graphics options turned down to minimum). Unleashed fixed some of the most glaring bugs in previous versions, but added a bunch more - someone had set a variable wrongly so sims got tired far too quickly in Old Town, so that really limited the amount of time I wanted to spend there. Also, major retrofits (like the new options in Hot Date and Unleashed) meant people who had those games wouldn't be able to trade items & families with people who didn't (and, boy, do I remember the Hot Date compatibility war!).
The advantage of starting again from scratch is that options that we've been asking for since Livin' It Up/Living Large (the first EP) can be included. So now we have:
- Babies growing into children and then into adults.
- Houses with more than 2 floors - you can go up to 3 easily, and even 4 if you include the roof. That's a sensible game limitation - any more than that, and they'd be too hard to navigate.
- More building options - porches, and different-shaped roofs. Though I don't desperately need them.
- Objects come in a variety of colour options - so I'll no longer need to keep 10 user-created objects that are just recolours of the originals. I think it's probably easy to add extra options to the defaults, although I haven't looked into it yet.
- Sims can have their pyjamas, swimwear and formal wear assigned to them when you create them - so there's no need for hacked objects or fan-created sim editing tools (with their attendant risk of messing up your game).
- Sims can change their appearance with the mirror and dresser - again, no need for sim editors.
- You can assign relationships between sims in the family when you start. So, families start with relationships - not like before, when all sims would start off with a relationship of 20 and you had to spend the first 2 days of sim life just desperately trying to get a married couple to like each other enough to share a bed. And there's no risk of Oedipus-style Greek tragedies, as you can specify that people are children or siblings of each other.
- Gay marriage! In the original Sims, only opposite-sex couples could marry. Same-sex couples only got the option to "Move in". Now all sims that are in couples are described as "Married/Joined", and the only distinction between opposite-sex "marriage" and same-sex "union" are in the sims' own memories. And it's just the word that's different - the relationships are functionally identical, just as real-life gay marriage activists have been wanting.
- Talking of memories, the Photo Albums are orders of magnitude easier to manage now. You can also include photos from other families' albums, to create a story.
- The Eyedropper tool. Oh my God, I am in love. A tool that lets you hover over an object to find out what it is! No more 15 minute sessions of searching through every floor you own in an attempt to match it!
- The neighbourhoods are much larger, and like Unleashed, lots within the neighbourhood are zoned as residential or commercial. I believe the new dating expansion will add a new area again, but I don't think they'll let it get to the point of the 25 billion side areas.
- You can choose whether you want your sims to live in a grassy area with lots of trees, or in the desert.
- You can choose the layout of your neighbourhood, right down to the placing of the houses and decorative items!
- Let me repeat, you can put lots of any size wherever you like (as long as they meet the road properly, and don't overlap).
- The idea of missions in the console games, which annoyed the hell out of me with missions like "Advance to job level 4" and "Get married" (what if those aren't your ambitions in life?) have been replaced with Wants and Fears. You get bonus cool items if your sims realise aspirations, but the aspirations are (mostly) easy to achieve and are completely non-intrusive - you can choose whether or not to follow them. Plus, I have to be amused by a game that has "Have 3 loves at once" as an aspiration worth 8000 points.
I'm going to have to get back into the whole download thing - check out the sites I used to use and see if they have Sims 2 stuff. Hopefully my user account on the various Sims forums still exists...
The only thing I don't like is the aging process - it happens far too quickly in terms of sim days. (My most-played families in the original Sims were all over 100 days old, and some of them 2 or even 300 days old). I also think that the option for Aging On/Off should've been included in the Control Panel, rather than you having to press ctrl-shift-c and entering "aging off". But I do like the way that aging on/off can be set individually for each family, rather than being a universal setting.
I think those are all the things that I needed to talk about right now. I'm sure there'll more later :) I'm even playing the original sims that were included in the neighbourhoods with their existing stories, which is something I've never really done much before. (And I've only played one neighbourhood - so it could be there's more to come later. Hot gossip welcomed.)
Oh yeah, meeping & gerwinium - you wanted ideas for birthday presents. Get me The Sims 2: University, and I will love you forever :D Not that I don't already...