If you're not inclined toward such cruelty, you're better off making your sims happy by being aware of their needs and desires. You'll set a long-term goal as the final step when creating your sim, choosing from five that are generated based on the traits that you assigned. You may want to be surrounded by family, or be a famous musician, or become an international superspy, or be superpopular. Consequently, you'll need to make choices to bring these aspirations to fruition. If your sim wants to be a famous chef, take the right career track when browsing the paper; go to the bookstore and buy cookbooks to increase your cooking skills; and, of course, cook as often as you can to keep the skill bar moving ever upward. You can even take cooking classes to speed up the process, though it will cost you simoleans. But not every goal must be for the long haul; you can elevate a sim's mood and earn happiness points by accomplishing smaller tasks that pop up. Some of these are relatively simple: make the bed! Others are a little more time-consuming: upgrade five appliances! With the points you earn, you can then purchase permanent goodies such as a steel bladder (never need to pee again!), or always throwing the perfect party, or discovering the traits of other sims much more quickly. The system is more rewarding than The Sims 2's aspirations/fears system because it focuses on rewards and eliminates the sometimes-frustrating business of therapists and insanity. Actually, you can turn aging off entirely if you wish, or adjust the length of a sim's lifetime directly in the game options. In any case, the new aspiration mechanics are more about positive reinforcement than avoiding negative consequences, and the game is better for it.
A trip to the bookstore is interrupted by some chatty neighbors.
The Sims 3 balances its rewards well, not just within aspirations, but within career and financial progression as well. Like real people, your sims will always want better stuff, a nicer house, and a prettier yard. You'll start with meager means, but as you progress down your chosen career track, you'll earn more money and work less, giving you more time for the fun stuff. Like before, you won't actually guide your sim through the workday, but you will be able to select something to focus on during the day, such as getting to know your coworkers or pursuing independent research. Doing so earns extra benefits; for example, studying music theory will increase your logic skill, letting you kill two birds (a paycheck and an improved skill) with one stone. You'll also be presented with all sorts of choices along the way. Read a particular book or deliver some documents to city hall to improve your standing with the boss, and you might earn a raise. You might even get an opportunity to change career tracks completely (perhaps the military has had an eye on your scientist). As it happens, these kinds of possibilities aren't just related to your job. Perhaps the local school is having a bake sale; you might be invited to whip up some cookies. Thankfully, managing your basic needs--hunger, bladder, and so on--takes less effort than before, giving you more chances to take advantage of these occasions.
Your coffers will grow, at which point you'll be spending time in Buy and Build modes. The Create a Style concept is at work here too, so you'll be able to customize furniture, appliances, and even window panes if you so desire. For example, you can go so far as to paint almost every brick in the wall pattern if you want to get that in-depth. Better stuff makes for a more automated and happier life, and it also lets aspiring architects and landscapers showcase their creativity. The tools work much the same as before, though the terrain and terrain-painting tools are easier to use than ever, and the most enthusiastic designers can still use cheat codes to manipulate things further (some of which are handily included in the game's readme file). And if you really take pride in your handiwork, The Sims 3's online features are much better integrated than before, though there is still room for growth in this area. From the game launcher, you can upload and download shared content such as sims, outfits, household objects, and so on. This kind of social exchange has always been an important aspect of The Sims, though in light of the tight online integration seen in games such as Spore, there are some missed opportunities here. For example, placing the browser directly in the game client would have made for a more seamless experience. And though the ability to upload movies to The Sims 3 Web site and edit them is a great new feature, you still have to access this feature through your Web browser. The good news is that there are some great items ready to download the moment you register an account online, including an entire town (which is, thankfully, free). However, most official content requires you to spend SimPoints, which cost real money.
That nickel-and-diming points to what is probably The Sims 3's main drawback: Although the game includes a whole lot of content, it still has noticeable holes that the expansions to previous Sims games have already filled. Previous add-ons offered pets to play with, seasonal weather, magical items, and other fun content. None of that is featured in The Sims 3, and certain aspects of the series, such as the events of the standard workday, have gone curiously unexplored. The established pattern of Sims expansion packs make these areas of opportunity all the more apparent, especially when you'd expect a sequel to include most of the popular features of the games that led up to it.
Tired of marshmallows? You could always try roasting grapes!
One of the reasons for the franchise's success is how easy the games are to run on a variety of computers, and The Sims 3 is no exception; it's very scalable, so chances are that if you have a relatively modern PC, you'll probably be able to run the game. The visuals are colorful and crisp, and a noticeable step up from The Sims 2. Sim movements continue to be the highlight of the presentation, and zooming in close is always a fun treat, especially when your sims are engaging in a particularly animated exchange, such as telling a joke. Buildings like the theater and city hall look attractive, and the soft sway of trees and bushes makes the town look pleasantly suburban. Nevertheless, the game's performance does continue some unfortunate trends of Sims games past. Performance is a bit sluggish when you scroll across the town or follow your sim as he or she travels. And though the pathfinding has improved, sims sometimes still have difficulties getting from point A to point B without going through some odd animations or complaining that there's someone in the way. Unsurprisingly, the game sounds absolutely charming. The jaunty tunes that accompany the Build and Buy modes and the tunes that play when you turn on the radio are terrific, perhaps the best in the series. Some sound effects are recycled, but The Sims 3 doesn't feel cheapened as a result; it strikes a chord of familiarity that works to the game's benefit.
So what is it that makes The Sims 3 even more addictive than its predecessors? It's partially due to the deft handling of rewards; it doles out new social options, new aspirations, and the possibility of better furniture and wood flooring at a slow but even pace, which keeps you tied to your computer for hours at a time. It offers the element of surprise, showing off its abundant charms through funny social interactions that make you want to be part of the improved virtual community. Although it could have offered even more right out of the box, there's still an awful lot of content here, and it's bound to put a smile on almost anyone's face.