Coded blue.

Thursday 1 March 2007

Screenshot Sims 2 seasons

Pic of the day: A sudden snowfall in spring is an unpleasant surprise, but your plants will most likely survive. Especially if you can talk to them afterwards.

Sims 2: Seasons

Statistics indicate that 40% or more of the link traffic here at the Chaos Node is related to The Sims 2. This seems ironic: Wouldn't it make more sense if people came here to learn how to be happy? After all, most people list "happiness" as one of the greatest goals in their life. But I have to admit that I can understand them somewhat: Especially with the latest expansion pack, Seasons, Sims 2 is a worthy competitor against happiness, sex, pizza, true love and revenge on the ex as Most Important Thing In Life.

The first thing to say about Seasons is that it is completely opposite of the previous expansion, Pets. This does not necessarily mean that if you loved one of them you would hate the other, although I did in fact hate Pets. What I mean is that Pets was completely concentrated on one single point: If you did not want pets in your house, the expansion was actually worse than nothing. Much worse than nothing, actually. You would still get strays, skunks, wolves, and even downtown if you went to a restaurant for a date, animals would destroy the furniture and growl or hiss at people... okay, I could go on but this is not about my hate for the Pets expansion. It is about Seasons, and that's exactly the opposite.

The new expansion is smeared out through the game in a thin layer, adding new color and detail to everything. In addition to the season and weather effects, there is now gardening and fishing so you can put food on your table without buying it. There are several new careers, most of which have nothing to do with seasons. There are several new interactions, most of which are seasonal but some not. There is a new strategic element in that each season confers an advantage to a certain part of life: Romance in spring, making friends in summer, studying in fall, and family bonds in winter. There are a couple of new sports (skating and rollerskating) and a number of new objects, including a full new set of clothes for outdoors use in winter. In short, this expansion makes the game come alive even more than before. Even if there should be some part of it that you don't like, there is most likely so much else that you would want it anyway.

Of all the previous expansions, University is the one that comes closest, in that it added a new life phase and more want slots for every Sim that went to university, as well as a number of new objects and some new game mechanics that also were included in later expansions. But even University is skippable if you don't feel like sending your young sims to college. Seasons will affect everyone, from children to elders, so it is even more encompassing than University. (Though it does not give you more want slots. I don't know about you, but I found the two extra want slots extremely addictive. I like to see my sims get their wishes fulfilled from time to time, and this can be hard with just four slots.) Nightlife added a host of new romantic options, as well as cars and a downtown to visit with your date or friends, so it was pretty wide-ranging too, unless your sims are nerds like me and rarely leave the house except possibly for work... Open for Business was even more concentrated and the non-economists out there may not have been excited by it, although it did include a host of new objects including the popular Servo robot from Sims 1, as well as an alternative opportunity to get an inventory (new in NL) and expand your neighborhoods to unlimited size (also new in NL).

Seasons does not add new sub-neighborhoods, though it does add a new pre- made neighborhood to showcase the new content. Among the most noticeable additions is the new humanoids, plant-sims. Each expansion so far has included a new playable humanoid: Zombies in Uni, vampires in NL, robots in OFB, werewolves in Pets (OK, so it was good for something...) and now plant people. These are not based on any familiar archetype from literature, I think, though they are vaguely New Age. (Oh, and the game now has New Age music too.) Ironically their origin is over-use of pesticides. They live off sunshine, water and love. (...) Oh, and they can spawn babies without, you know, being two about it. Lots of babies, if you feel like that. Populating a neighborhood has never been this fast.


Back to the actual seasons. There are four of them, following the classic temperate zone pattern: Spring, summer, fall, winter. You can skip any of them, and even lock a neighborhood in one season, but you cannot use the seasons of other climates such as rainy season, dry season, or monsoon season. Then again I have long suspected that Sim City is somewhere in northern Europe. I mean, free college education, generous maternity leave, same-sex unions with equal rights as marriages (including adoption) and employment for everyone. Sounds like Denmark or a neighboring country, doesn't it? Quite possibly the Netherlands, actually ... the Bubble Blower that came with Uni seems like a poorly disguised equivalent of a hemp-smoking waterpipe, according to people who know more about this than I. But let's not get carried away here. The short of it is, the seasons are what you would expect from a cold temperate or mild subarctic climate. There is snow in winter, and occasionally early in spring or late in fall. At the same time the summers are hot enough to give you a sunburn or even (in classic Sims exaggeration) spontaneous combustion. For these reasons, your Sims info panel now includes a small thermometer right next to your active sim's portrait. If it turns blue or red, you should consider whether your sim should continue whatever they are doing.

In addition to the heat and cold, sims can now be hit by lightning, which can easily be fatal. Knowledge sims will still want to try, but then again in this game family members can fight or plead with the Grim Reaper, or (if you have the University expansion) even call a mystic resurrection service. (Requires someone in the family or their ancestors to have made some headway in the supernatural career path.)

Oh yes, the new careers! Extra careers have been downloadable from fan sites for quite a while, but this is the real deal, complete with new career rewards. These are a bit different from the old ones. Disappointingly it seems that two of them have the same effect: The journalism reward and the adventurer reward, while different in form, are both gold trophies that slightly improve the needs of those in the room. It is just a small nudge to most of the needs at the strike of every hour, but it adds up over time: This is the first time I have raised a toddler who never needed to be bathed. Nice, because I only have showers in my houses, not tubs, unless I need them for toddlers. Anyway, it gets better, because this effect is cumulative. You can combine a Skull from the Adventurer career with a Pen from the Journalism career, and probably several of each as well (needs to be tested). If you run a legacy of 10 generations you could have shelves full of the things and the last generations would live a life of perpetual bliss. I think. Of course, having lots of Snapdragon flowers from the OFB expansion will do this too, so it is hardly a must- have, but it does make a positive break from the "only need to run one Sim through this career and we're set" attitude.

There are two career rewards (Gamer, Law) that combine training, fun and small amounts of money. And the bookcase from the Education career allows you to study all skills, not just the usual few, and at increased speed compared to other books. Add the fact that the top position in this career brings home the most bacon of all careers, and teachers get a much deserved boost compared to the real world. Way to go! The Music career reward is a rock guitar, I haven't found anything amazing about it though it is said to train your creativity skill faster than other instruments. As if that was necessary... most of my Sims have maxed that skill before they graduate from college.

While the career rewards are not outright spectacular, it bears mention that you can get into all of these careers without a college education. Your sims can, I mean. I don't think you should try a career in Law with just high school in real life!


Gardening and fishing ... now, that's something you can do without college for sure. In fact, the stressless life of living off the land is one of the nice things about this expansion. Sure, it is a lot of work, especially if you have a big garden, but your sims love it. And with the new "tend many", "spray many" and "water many" commands, you can manage a large farm without destroying your wrist. And you are not a slave of the clock: If you decide to get up in the middle of the night and pull weeds, that's fine. Finally a good reason to keep the elders alive for some extra years, eh? OK, actually they could spend their time painting before too, but gardening is so much more of a minigame. As you keep gardening, you acquire badges (like in Open for Business Bronze, Silver and Gold) which open up more plants and eventually even the option to talk to the trees to cheer them up!

But having different plants is not just to reduce visual boredom. The harvested fruits can be used to make various potions with diverse effects. I haven't tested this out myself except for the tomatoes (yet) but there is a list here. Not sure if that is complete... make your own and see what happens!

You don't need to make juice of it all. You could sell the fruit, but that would be kind of a waste, especially if it is good. Another option is to put it in the fridge and make food of it instead of the usual groceries. This is said to give particularly filling food, which can be recognized because it sparkles. I am not sure if this is a bug or not, but my Sims made sparkling food from ordinary groceries bought at the mall in the shopping district. But anyhow, home-made food is free, hard to beat that! Especially when you had fun growing it.

Or fishing it. If you have a deep and large enough pond, you can fish. This is, in my experience, quite a test of patience. But you can do it together with someone and socialize, so it is not all lost. And as your fishing skill improves (badges again) you can use new baits and presumably catch new fish. Unless you want to mount them as trophies to decorate your home, they make for very nourishing meals.

But beyond the mini-games or side quests or whatever you will call them, there is the persistent effect of the seasons and the weather. The colors turn a warmer, golden hue in late fall, and leaves fall. Snow covers the ground much of winter, allowing snowball fights or building a snowman. Sometimes you hear snowstorms howl and the air is filled with big snowflakes. Spring arrives with showers and puddles, and the occasional thunderstorm. There is simply a lot more variation than the old day-night cycle.


So, is everything finally perfect in the suburbs of the sims? Not quite. Lightning and hail can destroy not just your garden but your sims too. The game has become more complex, and may be rather daunting if you buy it brand new with all the expansions installed. And even the sims themselves may have a harder time sorting through all the possible things to do: There are reports that the sims are now acting more stupid than usual. I have not really seen this myself, except for their tendency to obsess with precipitation. Evidently to the sims, it is very important to look out the window if it snows or rains, even if they are about to wet themselves or starve to death. I guess this may be enough to tip the odds against them sometimes. For instance, sims are already obsessed with fun objects like instruments or swings, and will stick to them until one of their needs is near critical condition. (Unless you interfere, of course.) If there have been repeated snowstorms during that time (as may well happen) the sims will dutifully look out the window again and again. This is probably not a good idea if you are about to starve to death, especially if there isn't any food already on the table.

Another (hopefully temporary) downside to any new expansion is that some of the "hacks" won't work as expected anymore, and can even cause pretty bad bugs. While you can certainly play the game without hacks, they are quite popular. Contrary to the name, only a few of them are of the type "get heaps of money and make all sims happy". You can already do this with cheat codes if you are so inclined, but what is the fun in that? Many of the hacks are realism hacks, from "dance improves fitness and body skills" to "buy groceries on the way home from work". There is even a period hack for those who think the female sims are getting too easy off. -_-; Every time there is a new expansion, some of the hacks won't work anymore.

And of course there is the small question of hardware requirements. No expansion pack before has had even remotely the same graphics, including a large number of moving objects at the same time (snowflakes, raindrops). If your computer has a hard time running Sims2 already, you may want to put this one off until you can get a new video card. In any case, before you buy be sure to read the official hardware requirements.

Finally there is the question of play style. Seasons, with its wealth of details, opportunities and the occasional risk, is best suited for close-up, hands-on playing of small families. In contrast, my favorite stories are sweeping epics encompassing entire neighborhoods and sub- neighborhoods and lasting for generations.

Even so, there can be no doubt about my conclusion. This expansion rejuvenates the game like none before it, making it coming to life again with a wealth of realistic detail. One of the best expansions so far, if not the best. (I think I still prefer University, personally.) Recommendation: Run & buy if your computer is up to the challenge.

Yesterday <-- This month --> Tomorrow?
One year ago: Winter days
Two years ago: Time vampires
Three years ago: My tangled Web empire
Four years ago: Not complain, just explain
Five years ago: Quantities of entanglement
Six years ago: Fragmenting
Seven years ago: Chaos Notes
Eight years ago: Too late for the sunset

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