Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Sims Medieval - What Ever Happened to The Sims Online? (TSO)

Release Date March 2011

I have just pre ordered The Sims Medieval 

I have played all of The Sims games (and expansion packs) from the first PC game released over 10 years ago to The Sims Online (TSO) launched in 2003 which was revolutionary at the time as the first online 2D social platform.
For me and many others this was the first experience I had of meeting and talking to “real” people from all over the world.

It was by far one of the most exciting times in my life and it’s also where I first met my now RL partner.

The concept of TSO was the same as The Sims PC game.
You had your sim (avatar) and your avatar had needs like food, toilet, sleep social and recreational time but in order to earn more income or get extra animations and virtual trophies like clothes and pets, you had to skill your sim up in Logic (Chess) Charisma (Mirror and social) Physical (exercise) Creative (music and art) Cooking and so on.

The difference between TSO and the PC game was in TSO your “house” could be chosen from one of several categories.
I can’t recall them all but a “Welcome House” would be a house that welcomed noobs and helped new players to learn the game.
Skill houses would offer the tools to allow players to “skill up” on one of several of the skill sets such as Cooking.
A cooking skill house would have Pizza making facilities and the more people who were making pizzas in any house, the faster you all skilled up.
Additionally, if you didn’t burn the pizza you sold it and made simoleans (game currency)

A Romance house would have hot tubs and double beds (LOL how naff?) and a whole bunch of things going on that others could see or hear.

Each category of house was placed on a top 100 list based on how many people visited and how long they stuck around. The more successful you were as a host the longer people stayed and the higher up the top 100 list your house would be displayed and I guess that was the real objective to TSO.

I had a Welcome house called "Newbies R Us”  (Guess I like the “R Us” thing) which was number one for a few months but then I had all day to be logged in welcoming new players and “chatting”

It all sounds really lame now but lame or not, TSO spawned all the online social 3D platforms that followed including Second Life.

TSO was closed after 3 or 4 years largely because EA Games didn’t add new content to it to keep the game fresh and people got bored.
Technology moves fast, graphics in other games like was more appealing allowing the players to roam (fly run drive) in open unlimited space unlike TSO were you were limited to the walls of each house you visited.

Graphics have moved on since 2001 and EA Games are still releasing bigger and better versions of The Sims but sadly not for online use, which in my opinion is a massive opportunity obviously missed.

If they re released TSO but with the graphics we have all come to expect by todays standards, I think it would be a huge hit.

The online 3D social platform genre is far from dead in fact it continues to grow with new releases and variations including Home (Sony) IMVU, Second Life, Blue Mars and Entropia, which has more of a traditional role play objective like WOW but with a strong lean towards user created content, economics and socialising.

People were (and still do) creating game content for the PC versions of The Sims for free download from numerous third party websites.
Some sites did try and capitalise on this demand by charging a registration fee to allow downloads but by and large, people created The Sims content for fun or a hobby.
So even back then it was clear there was a strong interest in creating content other users could access and use.

If EA Games took control of that desire by creating an official marketplace and pre approving uploaded content before releasing onto the market (like IMVU does) again, I think the rebirth of TSO would be a sure success.

EA Games don’t appear to be interested in entertaining the idea of bringing TSO back but imagine if someone else did?
Imagine the graphics we see in The Sims PC and console games today applied to an online open world were avatars could create and sell content to other users, build their homes, dress their avatars, buy a dog etc BUT with the added game play objective of the original Sims.
That would be so cool.

The biggest problem Second Life has is there’s nothing to do.
People log on for the first time and often say “So, what do I do here?
Because perhaps, quite rightly they expect to be presented with some game objective, a goal, a reason to “be there"

Idle hands make devils work and all of that,  people often resort to griefing (either in world or on the forums) or trying to make money which is “the” most common game objective in all types and platform games.
But with no “game play” way to do this, with no rule book or game guide, it gets ugly and personal.

It’s just a game if you steal some-one elses ideas or worse, actual designs and under cut their prices and make a ton of money.

But it’s just a game!” is by far the most common misunderstood justification noobs give when caught stealing or griefing and I think one of the reasons people resort to this in SL is because they dont “get it”
It looks like a game, but what do I do?

A lot of people want or even need a set of goals and pre determined objectives written in a User Manual or official Game Guide when they launch into a new “game”
Without a clear set of goals and objectives and left to their own imagination, bad things tend to happen.

This is where TSO would come in as a serious contender to every social platform on the net by offering all of the same features SL has but with the ability to opt in or out of the "game play”route.

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