Flights of The Electribird

Through Games, Events and Multimedia

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Farewell, Maxis…

Just like Disney did to LucasArts, Electronic Arts shut down Maxis, the creators of several games that had a name with “Sim” in it (SimAnt, SimEarth, Sim City and The Sims, to name a few) and Spore and Darkspore. Electronic Arts has told people that they will continue with The Sims and Sim City franchises (like they could ever afford not to continue those), but Maxis’ offices in Emeryville had their offices shut a couple of weeks ago.

Rest in peace, Maxis, and thanks for the entertainment.


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The Sims 4 – A Fixer-Upper Game

Happy New Year, everyone!

The Sims 4 has been out for some time now and I have yet to read that many good things about it from those who’ve played it. It took some time for me to get my copy of the game, due to some misunderstanding with the store I got it from, causing me to order it from another country to get the version of the game that I wanted. Now, after playing the game myself for a while, I can understand why Electronic Arts can’t catch a break with one of their most money-making franchises ever.

Just like the previous Sim-games, the player can create a household of 8 custom-designed people to place into a house (or an empty lot, where you can build your own house) and control them any way the player sees fit. According to EA’s salespitch for The Sims 4, the sims can now be designed like clay figures, by pulling specific areas of their bodies with the mouse, and have more improved personality traits and emotions that changes the game entirely compared to the prequels, which makes them respond to everything around them in a more natural way. For instance, if a sim gets angry, that sim will stay angry, making some new anger-related interactions be available for the player to choose from until the sim changes mood, which can be done in a number of ways, like watching TV, taking a shower or simply waiting it out. There has also been some updates to the way you can build and design both the exterior and interior of their house. The height of the roof can be altered, the patios can be made circular and rooms can be picked up and moved around with the mouse alone, to name a few examples. But if you’re one of those gamers, who want to get started right away, you can always use the in-game gallery to download families and houses that other players have made straight into the lot without exiting the game (Internet required) or go ahead and play with the already-existing households in the game.

Unfortunately, these and other fancy updates came with a large price. To make room for everything on the 2 discs you get when you buy the game at the regular retail stores, lots of features that the hardcore gamer is used to had to be either downgraded or left out completely. The neighbourhoods are no longer open, so you’re once again stuck with loading screens when the sims leave the home lot. There are no special creature in the base game, so you’re stuck playing with nothing but humans. The colour-wheels in the design tools are gone, so you’re stuck with whatever colour options each object and clothing item have available. The features that caused the biggest riots on social media websites all over the world, were pools and the toddler stage of the sims’ growth cycle, which players believe to be too important key features to be without (yes, Maxis left those out too). Their excuse was that it simply wasn’t possible to add them, because the game mechanics couldn’t handle it, if I understood what they had told my sources correctly, just like they couldn’t handle the height differences for the teenagers (they’re the same height as the adults now, which makes them a little harder to differentiate from the older generations at first glance). As a former game design student, I find this to be a sign of laziness and stress due to a very short deadline…

To save the franchise (and their income), Maxis had no choice but to make free patches for the players to download to update the game with some of the things that were missing. So now, thanks to the updates, the players can play with ghosts, pools and 2 missing careers (athlete and business) and more updates should be on the way (can’t remember if they were supposed to be 4 or 5 patches in total, but chances are that Maxis will stop here, because they plan to release an expansion pack soon). This is a very kind and unexpected gesture from any EA-related company, considering that EA has the reputation of being corporately evil (sorry)…

As a collector of The Sims-games, it angers me that I have to give this game a 3/5. The features that’s been added into the game are wonderful and fun to play with, but the things that’s been removed or downgraded ruined gameplay for me on a large scale. If this game was released as The Sims 2 years ago, they could have gotten away with it, but after the previous sequels, this isn’t an upgrade at all, even if the new features improved the gameplay a lot. Those who know about Electronic Arts are used to seeing them as a greedy, money-hungry company (again, sorry) and The Sims 4 hasn’t improved that reputation at all. But by making those free patches, Maxis may have saved some of their dignity and salvaged some respect, but is that enough to get the angriest of their devoted fans back? I’m still remaining a bit doubtful at the moment, but I have noticed that a lot of them has been playing The Sims 4 again before going back to the prequels. That’s a good sign, right? Either way, you can always try to blow off some steam by letting the sims get a cowplant…

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Why Didn’t EA Think of this Before?

Electronic Arts has gotten a lot of complaints from fans of the games The Sims and The Sims 2 due to bugs and errors in both the base game and its expansion and stuff packs over the years. After all of the interviews I’ve read and watched for years on the Internet and in bonus discs, I’ve learned that the people who work on The Sims franchise don’t seem to have much time for anything else. I remember that one of the employees (a developer, I think) was using a huge thermos mug filled with tea or coffee to stay awake for work! It’s no wonder that there can be so many errors and bugs in the game if the people who work on it are too tired of exhaustion to notice them before deadline! That’s why I thought it was a great idea when I read about the event EA’s been hosting – The Sims 3 Creator’s Camp.

EA has held events like this before, but from what I can tell from the media, the Creator’s Camp seems much more grander than anything they’ve done before. Most of the major fansites (like GameSpot, who posted the video above) has been invited to attend and test out a nearly finished version of The Sims 3, which they could later on write about on their websites. Not only is this an excellent way for EA’s employees to cut some slack, this is also a great way for The Sims 3 to get some major publicity as well as a better quality as soon as the game’s ready for release. Game developers can sometimes miss out on things when they have to play the same game over and over again for months in search of flaws and fans all over the world, who’re so obsessed with The Sims’ franchise that they forget about their patience, can read about what the visitors have seen on the fansites and stay patient. More time to spare and less work for EA-employees and free game testers and major publicity for EA and The Sims 3. That’s a whole lot of flies in 1 whack!

After reading about delays for the game’s release, I going to assume that the fansite-people found plenty of stuff that needed to be fixed, but that’s just speculation from my side. But if I’m right, I don’t mind waiting another few months for The Sims 3. I’d rather spend my money on a perfect game than a buggy one that requires several patches to work properly.

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The Luxury of Having a Laptop with Vista

You know how people enjoy taking a hot bath or relaxing on a comfy couch with a good book? Ever since I got my laptop as a birthday gift not long ago, I’ve been getting more of those comfy habits. So far, my favorite one is to sit on my remote-controlled bed (I have a back problem) with my quilt over my legs and the laptop on a wooden tray in front of me. I have never in my entire life done my homework in a more comfortable way! If anything convinced me to install The Sims 2 on my laptop, that was it!

Speaking of games, I tried to install Spore on my laptop a few days ago. The installation went great, but I was still unable to run the game! I tried everything. I upgraded the drivers, I checked several knowledge bases online and even looked up the system requirements for the game. Nothing! Because of that, I tried to install an older game, thinking it would probably work better – Nox. I know, this game’s pretty old and wasn’t made for Vista (heh, it wasn’t even made for XP) but I still decided to give it a shot. To my joy, Nox worked! Unfortunately, the videos for the game kept freezing. I have no idea how or what could have possibly happened, but after the next few days, the videos for Nox began to work properly! Yesterday, when I was bored after class, I checked out the game menu on my laptop and discovered to my surprise that Spore was still installed, so I gave it a try. It worked! I couldn’t believe it, but it worked! I don’t know what happened before the videos for Nox began to work properly, but I think that has something to do with it. Perhaps Windows Update might have fixed something behind my back. Either way, I have 2 great games on my laptop and both of them work splendidly!

While we’re still in the subject of games, I discovered something else yesterday that I’ve personally never noticed before. Vista has a grading system that showes how compatible the computer is for the games that are installed on it. That’s brilliant! It showed me how compatible Spore was and if I could run it properly, both the required limit for running the game and the required limit for best performance. I’m glad Windows finally has a system for this, because it helps a lot if you’re unsure of how much the computer can handle or if the game would run properly. Spore passed pretty well on my laptop, but my laptop needs 0,5 points more to run the game with the best performance. Too bad I don’t know how to upgrade the hardware on laptops. But that’s irrelavent. Spore works and I can play it wherever I want now!

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Education Takes Time – Literally!

My, my. I haven’t caught a real break until now to write anything in this blog. It’s my second week in a vocational training school and I’m already swamped in work! I’ve finished some stuff off and now awaits a few answers for my teacher tomorrow. Darn, I really wanted to ace this course. Oh well, it wouldn’t be school if it wasn’t hard…

Those who know me know that I love games. RPG’s (Role-Playing Games), computer games, console games, ARG (Alternative Reality Games), boardgames… the list goes on and on. I can’t really say that I have a favourite game, but I do have an obsession with The Sims. I’ve been collecting those games for a long time and had a lot of fun with them, but they don’t really belong to my favourite genre – P&C (Point & Click) adventure games, like Monkey Island, Beneath a Steel Sky, Sam & Max and Runaway! I’ve always loved to solve mysteries and those kind of games bring that to the gaming experience. Another thing that I’m very fond of with most P&C games is the humour in the game. Some jokes you have to look for, while the rest are as visible as a red nose on a colourful clown. Monkey Island is a very good example, since those games has both kind of jokes. For a series of games with the 1700’s pirate theme, you can spot a lot of modern stuff in it, like rubber chickens and soda machines. Then we have the weird things you have to do, like collecting T-shirts, put on a pink dress, feed cheese to a vulcano and be vulgar to a school teacher. And last, but definetely not least, we have the signs, labels, posters and commercials you can find a little here and there with some funny text on them. Some of them were actual commercials for future games, which was a little weird, but still funny.

I’d love to write some more, but I have a teacher to try to suck up to in a few hours and need some sleep. Let’s hope he won’t chew my head off…