Coded blue.

Saturday 4 March 2006

Screenshot Sims2

Pic of the day: Boring? Perhaps for you, but not for these two young Sims!

Sims2 & "level grind"

It started when some posters on LiveJournal dissed my beloved University expansion pack. "Boring" they said, "don't buy it", "boring", "frustrating", "boring"... Well, I think I found out why some people love it and some people hate it, and it has implications for Business as well. Actually it may have implications for real life as well, but I'd like to hope that people would learn about that from other sources...

I decided to start a new student and run him through college just to gather ammunition for my argument, even though I would rather have built robots because I WANT SERVO NOW!! (More about Servo later, I hope.) Anyway, I created a new young adult, put him in a medium large dorm and ran him through the semesters. Since he was new, I had to make him train skills as well as going to class, and occasionally do homework or a term paper. I found a couple bugs along the way. But the most disturbing observation was that it was *boring*.

Now that is not how I remember it. I just played a few students the week before OFB came out, and rather liked it. So I started to wonder what the difference was. The first difference: This guy is a crash test dummy. I didn't love him, or even hate him. He had no backstory, no family or friends, no known quirks or habits. He didn't live his own life, I just pushed him through to get him through (mostly at double speed). The Sims I played last time had a tangled web of romantic illusions ... boy A having a crush on girl 1 but then falling for girl 2 whereupon girl 1 turned to his brother B who was gay whereas boy C was crazy for her and she just didn't get it. The brothers were in college because their father had a lifelong dream of graduating three children from college, but also to get some time for themselves away from a home squirming with younger siblings. That's a whole different game from trying to jump through the hoops in the shortest possible time. One of these two is boring, the other not. Well, not to me at least.


In roleplaying games we have an expression "level grind". It means that we do a repetitive task we don't enjoy because it helps us level up so we can get to the stuff we like. Or rather the stuff we expect to like... when we level up, sometimes we find another level grind waiting for us. But we can't stop because we want the stuff at the end. It is possible to play University like that. It is very possible, because Uni really has a level structure. You go through one semester at a time, make sure to have the necessary skills, and do the same things over again 8 times. If my Sim goes to Uni to get the cow plant, then it is very likely to become a level grind. Boring, frustrating, because there is no reward in the playing itself, only at the end.

Having played Open for Business a little, I can't help but notice that it has a level structure too. You have to make so and so many toy robots to make a cleaning robot, and then you have to make many more robots to get the next badge and make a guard robot, and then again... Basically you do the same task over and over and eventually you level up. Level grind. If I spend all that time making toy robots because I want a Servo, not because I like selling toy robots, then it is definitely level grind.

Of course, you can have the same in the original game with careers. You play and play to get to the top of your career, and then you've reached your goal and just wait for death. Actually I guess people do that in real life too, which is much worse...

Yesterday <-- This month --> Tomorrow?
One year ago: New deal, old cards
Two years ago: Urge to write rising
Three years ago: Delusions of grandeur
Four years ago: Very specific sexual lust
Five years ago: Break the languages!
Six years ago: In other news
Seven years ago: Oops. Work.

Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.

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