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Now Playing: The Sims Medieval

You know, I don't hate the Sims 3 at all.  It's just that I was left feeling that I had done everything.  I had raised sim people with all the professions worth doing in Ambitions.  I made my sims immortal in Generations.  I had seen all the foreign lands in World Adventures.  I played with all the expansions, dabbling with all the life states, from robots to imaginary friends to genies.  Come to think of it, I didn't bother to raise a baby to an adult, maybe I'm just too emotionally insecure for that?  But, in any case, I got everything out of Sims 3 that it had to offer which I wanted to get out of it.
Along comes The Sims Medieval, and it's essentially a whole different game.  Deep down, it's still The Sims 3, they just replaced the neighborhood with a medieval countryside.  However, they did away with the majority of the needs meters - now all your Sim needs to do is eat and sleep - and instead most "moodlets" just affect the "focus" level of your current hero.   Focus translates to bonus points in completing your quests, albeit these points are accrued slowly throughout the quest and cashed in at their completion.  That completion of quests is the central focus of the game is a night and day difference from the Sims 3.

If you come to The Sims Medieval expecting to play The Sims, you'll find it to be a bit of an odd duck.  You don't create whole families, you just create a single hero at a time.  You don't build or modify houses anymore, structures are prefabricated (although you can can furnish the building interiors in a largely identical manner).  Sims don't age anymore, and can even challenge each other to a duel to the death!  Not to mention the game takes place in medieval times.

Perhaps the biggest difference is that The Sims Medieval is not nearly as open-ended as The Sims 3.  To get into the game, you must first choose a prefabricated quest and a hero to perform it, and you're perpetually driven to complete that quest.  You're usually only controlling only one hero at a time, as opposed to a whole family in Sims 3.  Quests usually involve knocking about the kingdom interacting with other villagers.  The ultimate goal is to grow the kingdom by completing quests and accruing quest points, and then spending those points to erect new buildings.

An introspective moment in The Sims Medieval:
Who knows how many of our great grandmothers spent
their nights passed out on a tavern floor?
I like The Sims Medieval, mostly because the story feels a lot more compelling to me in the small vignette format the quests play out in.

In comparison, Sims 3 excelled at being a sandbox, but it was so open-ended that it lacked a bit in compelling narrative.  As far as stories go, there generally was none, just the individual sims with their traits, means of income, and relationship levels with other sims.  Things happened to them (some stranger than others) but those same things could happen to any other sim.  The development goal may have been that the players can come up with their own stories for their sims, but this requires a certain suspension of disbelief.  In time, mine eroded, and these characters became utterly interchangeable automatons.

The Sims Medieval improves the situation by introducing a great deal of actual in-game story content.  True, like in Sims 3, you might decide how your monarch (or knight, or spy, or blacksmith, ect) looks and sounds and what their strengths and weaknesses are.  However, each type of hero has a story waiting to be told, and each quest you undertake is a chapter in that story, and consequently they feel less easily replaced.  The individual sims never leave your kingdom, so you will come to recognize seeing them around while you're playing other heroes, it sort of has a 22 Short Films Of Springfield feeling to it (or maybe that's just me).

Overall, it goes to show that there's a balance in all things, and that includes procedural generation sandbox mechanics when it comes to telling a compelling narrative.  Completely procedural stories are trite and meaningless, but if you implement enough hand-crafted content to support them, then the story can hang together reasonably well while still maintaining some variables that tell a different story every time.

I believe I'll get some fun out of the structured experience offered by The Sims Medieval, but I think I'm done with Sims 3 because it's become a massively unstable mess of spaghetti code originally intended to be run on computers made 4 years ago: the last time I played it, I spent almost as much time wrestling with its technical problems as I did playing the game!  The Sims 4, which is already announced to be in development and slated for a March 2014 release, has my attention for this very reason: it might be a great game again if they started with a new, stable foundation.

Development Progress: So slow, life is passing me by.

Little by little, my dream game is being made for me.  I've just learned about another cool game being developed, project title, Mighty Tactical Shooter, which has a lot to do with what I had been dabbling with in GameMaker: the idea of taking a space schmup and giving the player a role other than moving with a joystick and firing with a button (albeit my implementation was very different and not nearly as refined as this).

Funny how a lot of the concepts I thought might work but had not been made before actually seem to be getting produced and demonstrating that they do, indeed, actually work.  Combine a 4X game with a space shooter?  Bam: Drox Operative.  A space-colony game that plays like Dwarf Fortress?  Bam: Rimworld (and Maia).  Alright, what if we do a top-down space game in which you place automated drones to repel enemies?  Bam: Fleet Buster.  Apparently, this brain of mine is capable of recognizing a cool new concept that works when I conceive it, and I need to give it more credit.

Am I bitter about getting my thunder stolen?  Some small, petty part of me is, I'm sure.  But look here, petty me, you should be glad somebody is capable of producing these things, because I've sure demonstrated a lousy track record along those lines.  If any of these turned out to be vaporware (and it's a possibility in any pre-release game) then I would be very disappointed, because I'd like to play them.

Not only that, but my thunder technically hasn't been stolen at all, because these are nothing like what I'd make: there's a billion little details that go into producing a game, and two games of similar concept can play remarkably differently when (contrary to standard industry practice) they're not deliberately cloning each other.   Only one person will custom-design my dream game: me.  This is because what I want, down to its finest details, is not exactly what anyone else does.

One thing's for sure, though: I need to stop slacking off if I want to see myself having created anything at all.

Real Life Update: Apprehensive over nothing.

Yesterday and today would have been a prime opportunity to work on my game: two days off, no strings attached.  But, so far, I've been blowing it.  Yesterday because I sleepwalked through it on 5-6 hours of sleep... caffeine is is a tricky substance, and I underestimated how hard a few glasses of Arizona Iced Tea would hit me when imbibed at 8pm the night before.  Sure, I could have slept in the following morning, but I need to have my sleeping schedule good and adjusted for comfort while I get used to this new position.  As for today... well, there's this blog entry distracting me...
Perhaps I'm just anxious about starting a permanent position.  It could well be that I have nothing to worry about, and I'm finally going to have a steady income after a decade to the contrary... or it could be that this is the beginning of my end of my employment for a job I rather liked.  Honestly, I have no reason to believe I'm a rank incompetent at my job, or that expectations are any higher than I am capable of delivering, but worries are what they are because of the immeasurable element of uncertainty in life.

If all goes well, things will be great.  After the initial week of training, it will be 3 days on and 4 days off each week.  The three days on will likely involve strenuous physical activity, and that's actually a benefit for me because of my sedentary lifestyle.  The four days off will reliably be off, because HQ mandates I won't be even allowed to substitute additional assignments for many months.  This means that I can actually reliably schedule time to work on my creative endeavors, which means I have an opportunity to foster a productive habit.  That's a good idea; I should really do that.

The stakes feel higher than they should, and consequently I'm nervous enough that I haven't played many games this weekend.  Even Sims Medieval went untouched yesterday and (thus far) today.   At times like this, I wonder if gaming has lost nearly all of its appeal for me... but it's been my experience that my interest in games wanes and waxes, and I'm probably just at a low point right now.
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