Pic of the day: Yes, we are open for business. Although we are still making robots in the background and letting the customers help themselves.
Sims2: Open for Business
I was a bit reserved toward Open for Business, the third expansion pack for The Sims 2. Not as badly I felt toward the previous expansion, Nightlife. Then again Nightlife centered on exactly the things in life that I have opted out of: Dating, going out with friends, having a car. The reason I bought it at all was mainly curiosity and customer loyalty. Once there, I also found the "backpack" inventory useful: It lets you take your favorite objects with you when you move. (If you read my January entries, you will understand how I can appreciate that!) More to the point, you can bring with you the Career Rewards, skill-building items which you can only get one of in a lifetime.
With the new Open for Business expansion you get an inventory backpack anyway, so there goes my reason to have NightLife. I will probably keep it as a source of Sims for my sim family to breed with: The more to choose from, the better. Also to be able to help my fellow players. But I am not sure I would have bought it now.
With Open for Business (OFB among friends) there is no such reservation. Not anymore, not after I have tried it. If I had to, I would buy it again tomorrow, and at double price. It is like getting a second game while at the same time improving the first.
That doesn't mean I will _recommend_ it without reservation. Because for the first time, the expansion is at another difficulty level than the basic game. Sims2 was itself more complex than the original Sims, although if you had all the expansion packs I am not so sure. But when the game is rated "Teen", it is mostly because of the pseudo-sexual content ... the Sims reproduce in much the same way as humans, after all. It is not because a 10 year old could not have great fun with the game. I don't think they could have great fun with the business part, though. Even many adults may find it hard to juggle so many different elements, if they did not have any real-life background in retail.
Of course, we all have some experience with retail, namely as customers. So we know that not all shop clerks are equally efficient or equally subtle. In some cases they seem to be just inexperienced, or perhaps just stupid. In other cases, they just don't seem to care whether they do a good job or not. Sometimes not even whether they do a job or not, at all. Well, Sims are the same, should you choose to employ them. Figuring out who needs training and who needs firing, before you have lost too much money, is one part of it. Setting the right price is another. And what about your sales skills? If you don't use them, they will not improve. If you use them before they are improved, your customers will think you are a loon and flee the place. Repeat this for your employees. And should you make your own products, or just sell? What skills will you go for when you rise in the business world: Motivate your employees, convince the customers or negotiate with wholesale dealers? You can't be the best in everything, not even if you live forever. You have to specialize. To quote an entirely different game: "You can do anything, but you cannot do everything."
Luckily you can start small, and even stay small if you so decide. It is not like all the other features of The Sims 2 have been disabled. You can still go to work, you can still play instruments or freestyle for tips. So if you want, perhaps you'll just install a ticket machine at your front door and hang up an "OPEN" sign (found in the decorations menu, by the way... there is no separate business menu. Boo!). Play DJ in the living room or let people borrow the karaoke, and there is almost certainly some bored townies who will drift in if you don't put the ticket price too high before you get established. Serving some food and having fancy decorations will encourage them still more. I guess the 10 year old can do that.
But once started, it is tempting to do more. If your cooking skill is great, you may want to build a small eatery in a new wing of the house, with a separate entrance and a cash register. Perhaps you'll bake up some cakes in the morning before you open and just man the register yourself until your spouse comes home from work and you close the shop. But as word spreads about your yummy baking, the cakes get sold out pretty fast and you end up baking all night to get ready. Better hire some college drop-out to man the cash register so you can keep baking through the day instead. But amazingly the drop-out happens to have a sales talent and will be able to talk people into buying more expensive cakes than you could on your own, so you let them and hire someone else for the cash register instead. And then you could need a hand with the baking, and then wouldn't it be great if you got someone competent and trustworthy to keep the place running when you are not there? And the business has really outgrown the old dining room so you buy a house in the business district and set up your shop there...
The game is very good at encouraging organic growth, much as it does with the Sim families I guess. (Or is that just me? My Reinboe family was up to 11 people recently, in just two generations.) Anyway! The thing is, it may be gradual but it just grows and grows and can become fiendishly complex over time. And most people aren't as used to this as they are to family life. Also the rewards are more abstract than the hugs and kisses of the previous expansion.
Luckily for those who feel the need to collect them all, the expansion has more than just the business part, although that is certainly the thing that sets it apart. But there are also a new neighborhood, Bluewater business district, where you can go as a customer if you don't want to play one of the families that run those shops. The inhabitants there are lovingly handcrafted and if you run a family history, you may want to marry some of them into your Sim family. There are also a goodly number of new clothes, including many original mascot outfits. Want to dress up as a ninja, a knight, a gorilla or a deep sea diver? There are also a number of new clothes for less extreme occasions. Of course, a lack of Sim clothes can be remedied online, as can your need for new hairstyles and makeup. Some of my fellow players confess to having over 10 000 downloads! Still, Maxis tend to include high quality work with their packs, and not least, it is certain to fit with what you've got already.
There are also some groundbreaking inventions such as conical roofs, necessary for fairy tale castles, which simply wasn't doable before. I have no idea why this is important, but evidently it is well received. Lockable doors are now standard and easy to use, whereas before you only had a single-user door. Now you can make any door open to you, to your family, to your family and your employees, or to everyone. Particularly useful if you run a shop from your basement, of course, but perhaps you just want to make sure your family members have an extra toilet that the guests can't clog. Reserving a room is now as easy as clicking on the door, and you can free it up again later without having to sell the door and buy a new. (In all fairness, an alternate system for doing this has been made by Inge at SimLogical, but the official one is seamlessly integrated and hardly drains the machine at all.)
Indeed, one of the most amazing parts of this new expansion is that actually runs faster and smoother than the two previous ... even if you still have those two installed! Somehow it makes the game simply run more efficiently on a number of machines. I don't know if it does on all, but all reports I have read from my LiveJournal friends say that it runs smoother, if they notice any change at all. I can say the same. I am now running the game on my general purpose Internet machine, which has a NVIDIA GeForce 3 Ti 200 card. That's not something that has been sold in the rich world for a couple years at least ... it is not even in the same number series as modern cards, which are named 5500 or 7300 or things like that. (My latest is the 5500, the latest advertised is 7300 I think.) Well, the good news is that the game is once again playable on that old machine. If you zoned out during NightLife, you may want to try this and see if it doesn't bring you back to the speed from when the game was new. It did to me.
As for the core gameplay of the new expansion, running your own shop, that's just too much detail to cover in the first day. I'll get back to it soon, Light willing, or you may want to read one of the many professional reviews. Or you may want to RUN to the shop and buy the game for yourself and start playing NOW...
Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.