Friday, October 29, 2010

The Sims late at night

This week (yesterday, to be more precise) the new “The Sims 3” add-on, “Late Night” (German title, but I guess it’s the same in English) has been released. I had waited for it, because I’m always eager for new add-ons, but I never expected that many changes in the gameplay.

The first visual difference I spotted after starting the game, once the add-on was installed, was a small symbol in the lower right corner of the saved games. Nice, little houses. I moved the mouse pointer over it and it told me this was a small town, great for families and people who planned having some. I started a new game and found a new neighbourhood with a different symbol. Some skyscrapers were lingering in the lower right corner of the picture of this neighbourhood. This is, because Bridgeport is a city with skyscrapers in the center, with combined public places and with loads of clubs (three types of them). The new city (that’s now town any more) also has something completely new (apartments have been around in “The Sims 2” with the last official add-on): Underground. This way, movements inside the city are much faster.

I won’t go into detail about the new clothes and hairstyles available with the add-on. There’s always quite a lot of those (and this time, most clothes are very hip, as they’re meant for clubbing) as well as of new furniture. But there are changes in the building mode (platforms for rooms, good for bands, fountains and indoor pools – meaning pools on upper floors). One big change is visible when you enter the “Build your Sim” mode. In addition to general weight and muscles, there are two more sliders around now (one for male characters): muscle definition (from ‘anything there?’ right up to ‘Wow, Mr. Schwarzenegger!’) and bust size (from ‘male or female?’ to ‘Pamela Anderson’).

When you reach the actual character generation (choosing characteristics, life wish and likes of your Sim), you’ll find that the zodiac signs are back (but they’re to determine who would fit with your Sim best as a love interest). There are a few new characteristics and there’s a great new feature: If you don’t like the five life wishes you normally can choose from, you can now open a little window by clicking on a sixth field and choose the wish you want from the list that appears. Great!

Once inside the game, I bought an apartment (cheaper than a house, so more money for real good furniture) and took a closer look around. There’s one more career (movie, ending up as a star director or star actor), there are new abilities (mixing drinks, three more instruments – bass, drums, keyboard/piano), but the most important changes are the clubs and the fame system – one wouldn’t work without the other.

A Sim can gather fame during his or her life. This way, he or she can become a star – there’s a rating from one star to five. A star rating has different effects on a Sim’s life. First of all, it virtually opens doors, those to the more exclusive clubs or VIP areas in a club. Some are open to all people, for some you need one, two, three, four or even five stars (but there’s a lifetime gift that will take care of that and open all doors for you even without the star rating). Gathering fame means impressing VIPs and befriending them. A career (high level, especially in the movie career) will also increase fame. The more famous a Sim becomes, the more people will recognize him or her – that means positive aspects (free meals, gifts from companies) as well as negative ones (Paparazzi, wrong accusations). Imagine dancing on a table in your underwear and the next morning the whole city knows, because you’ve been photographed and there’s an article in the newspaper. (By the way: Newspapers are really useful now, because they also tell you about the hot spots every day – the clubs were you’re most likely to meet stars and have a good time.)

Clubs come in three different varieties. The most simple one (where you can usually enter without any fame) is the bar. Bars are places where people come together after work to have a drink, maybe eat something, listen to a band (you can have one yourself, providing you find some other people playing instruments well), dance, play some games and talk. The next one up is the discotheque. They usually are partly open to the public (or people with low star rating), but all have their VIP areas where you can only enter once you’re famous enough. Discotheques usually don’t have an area for a band to play, instead they have a bigger dance floor and a good music system (and some special effects machines). The highest type of clubs around are lounges. Usually you don’t get in there unless you have a star rating or bribe the bouncer with a lot of money. They employ professional people to play music, have a good bar (every club has a professional bar where people can buy different drinks and some food and people with the mixing ability can work as barkeeper, too) and offer everything for a good time. There’s also a vampire lounge around – because vampires now enter the world of “The Sims 3” (after ghosts in the main game, mummies in the first add-on and robots in the second). The vampire lounge (“Plasma 51” in the German version) offers a basement with two special ‘beds’ for vampires, but upstairs also a nice place to drink (drinks with interesting names) and chat – even if you’re still a human.

Vampires in “The Sims 2” were a nasty lot – I never managed to befriend them. Vampires in “The Sims 3”, on the other hand, can be quite nice. They are ‘normal’ inhabitants of the city with jobs and a family. They drink blood plasma or eat special fruits to still their thirst (which replaces hunger after the change), but they can also drink from a human, if they are friends with him or her. They can change humans into vampires, too (either, because they decide, or, because the human asks them). In the list of relationships vampires are visible, because they have a red frame around their portrait. Apart from avoiding too much sunlight and garlic and sleeping on a very special ‘bed’ to rest, they lead pretty normal lives, but can move and learn faster at night and can read other people’s minds. Outside the list, vampires can be recognized by their red eyes and fangs that show when they talk … oh, and by the blood plasma they might be drinking, because they’re thirsty.

The new Sim I created to test the city and the new gameplay actually has a rather friendly vampire as a love interest.

There are many changes in the gameplay with the new add-on, but they are good on the whole. You don’t have to become a level-five star to have fun, you can stay a normal person (the bars are fun and open to everyone, so is at least some part of most discos around). But the options for a Sim’s life have skyrocketed with “Late Night”.

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