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GameSpot Preview: First Impression The Sims Online

Sunday, May 20, 2001 - 23:00

While The Sims Online™ may seem just like a glorified Internet chat room, the game actually has many layers of depth, making the entire experience of controlling a sim much more exciting.

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First Impression The Sims Online

Find out what you can expect from the new online game based on The Sims.

Similar to the origins of SimsVille, the motivation for creating a new game based on The Sims comes from a widespread demand for other sims to be controlled by other people rather than just the computer. The Sims Online accomplishes exactly that as in it you're able to go online with your sim and interact with other sims controlled by human players. While The Sims Online may seem just like a glorified Internet chat room, the game actually has many layers of depth, making the entire experience of controlling a sim much more exciting.

As with the original game, character creation plays a large part in The Sims Online. You can once again manipulate your sims' physical characteristics such as hair color, build, and facial features. It's also possible to choose from user created skins as well such as Captain Eggplant--a superherolike character dressed as an oversized eggplant--whom Maxis used to demonstrate various aspects of The Sims Online. Of course, you also have to configure your sims' personality as well. Interestingly, how you configure your sims' personality affects other features within The Sims Online, such as a search feature that matches your sims' personality traits with other player's sims, in the hope that the two become friends. Moreover, entire neighborhoods can form based solely on the fact that all of the sims in the immediate area share the same type of personalities.

Constructing a house for your new sim in The Sims Online is incredibly easy. You have 20 different cities--typically known as shards in other online games--to choose from, and after you select the city, you can decide where you want to build your house in any one of the 50,000 lots that can support some form of construction. When your house is complete, you can invite your friends over to take a look or you can even ask some of them to be your roommates. Having a house filled with roommates opens up an entirely different element of gameplay that fans of the TV show Survivor should enjoy. Whenever you or other players living within your house become upset with another roommate, you can hold meetings and vote the disruptive sim out of the house.

The mini-Survivor game is just a small portion of the types of sub-quests or events that can occur in The Sims Online. Essentially, some players are going to play The Sims Online in a manner in which they can become the most famous or the richest sims in the game. In order to become famous, you must constantly interact with other sims by either just running into them in various structures or by attending parties. The richest sims will want to build the biggest houses within their cities and fill them with all sorts of objects just to prove that a large portion of money has been spent. Or you can construct a casino where you can manipulate the odds in card games, charge entry fees, or even setup pay stalls. Maxis considers these sub-goals to be small layers that make up the entire Sims experience, and without them, there wouldn't be any need for sim interaction. Of course, the card games are a little more straightforward and easier to deal with than attempting to become the most popular or the richest sim.

Player cooperation in The Sims Online is key, especially when trying to get a job. In one scene Maxis had shown to us, they placed Captain Eggplant in a small office area where two other players were waiting. Inside the office is a rather large device that you and the other players must operate together in order to get paid. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as just asking your sim to go to work, and instead, you must coordinate with the other players to find out what their specialties are, and then determine which parts of the device they're going to operate. After a few minutes, the three sims were moved into position, and the device began to operate. With a job well done, the sims briefly talk to each other, and then celebrate by dancing on the office floor. There are other ways to make money in The Sims Online, one of which is to take up the profession of gardener and get paid for looking after the gardens of other sims.

Visually, The Sims Online appears to use the same engine as the original Sims, but 64 new social interactions have been added. There are also eight different categories for sim interaction, each with sub-categories, giving your sim the ability to express more emotions. These things only scratch the surface of what you can do in The Sims Online, and it's certainly possible that Maxis will make a number of refinements or changes before the game's early 2002 release.

By Giancarlo Varanini

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