Are You “Bugging Out” For The Sims 4?

Will The Sims 4 be any less buggy that its predecessor, and will EA Games/Maxis have learnt anything from SimCity?

The Sims (TS) 4 may still seem like an age away for dedicated fans of the series, especially as an official release date is still uncertain (although, supposedly March 25 2014 after an accidental slip-up was spotted on GameStop’s website). For me, I’ve decided to pass the time by getting back into playing TS3.

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Over the last week and a bit since I last wrote about TS4, I’ve been “Woo-Hoo”-ing, rubbing dusty lamps (not a euphemism), and sending magicians on tour to my heart’s content. During this time I’ve remembered something that my fondness for the series made me forget pretty quickly: TS3 is still a very buggy game, despite the cockroaches that used to appear if the house got too dirty no longer being a thing. So can we expect TS4 to be any different?

Destrolyn.Bechgeddig Changed His Relationship Status With EA Games/Maxis to “It’s Complicated”

TS3 is very complicated game, and technically a big step up from TS2. For the first time, you family’s world/town would live on around you, rather than just log the interactions that would happen when you saw them.

The programme processes interactions such as marriage, birth, death, people moving in together or out, or sims just simply going about their business; all without you necessarily seeing these happen. So there was bound to be issues along the way, especially with additional packs and DLC adding more and more interactions and animations to the already thick soup of code.

I’m an experienced gamer, and I know that sometimes the course of a great game never did run smoothly. I’ve already sat through the mess that has been the Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn launch and observed the debacle that has been Grand Theft Auto Online.

But what astonished me is that some of the issues still in TS3 are years old! There’s still the “Free Vacation” opportunity where adult household sims go but never return. Sometimes using the mirror to change your clothes or style can end up resetting your sim’s age counter for your age bracket. Countless weird things, freezes, and sims simply getting stuck. And even unnecessary judgments by the game about your performer’s custom costume causing you to no longer perform a show.

You don’t have to delve deep into the game’s official forums to find outpourings of grief from players about how annoying, and in some cases game-breaking, these bugs and glitches can be.

You don’t have to delve deep into the game’s official forums to find outpourings of grief from players about how annoying, and in some cases game-breaking, these bugs and glitches can be. And then there’s the following ire that EA Games/Maxis seem to be do very little, if anything, after players first report them. So what faith can we have in them for this next installment?

Lessons Learned?

If you’re cynical and jaded like I am, it’s easy to think that the problem is that The Sims franchise is too successful and profitable for EA Games – officially the worst company in America – to really care about how stable and playable the game actually is. The Sims has always been a huge money sink for gamers, with the base game never being the be all and end all, with the inevitable umpteen expansions packs that follow. I’ve probably spent somewhere around £500 on these damned games, being a dedicated fan since the original. With TS4 looking to set fans back $59.99 (or £44.99 here in Blighty) for the standard edition, it doesn’t look like EA Games are going to be any less shamelessly avaricious.

And not everything EA Games/Maxis has done with The Sims franchise has been brilliant. The Sims Medieval wasn’t the classic (pun intended) some were expecting, and can anyone remember The Sims Online? Thought not.

However, EA Games/Maxis have recently received a shocking reality check with their much-touted and highly anticipated SimCity relaunch. Expensive and hyped to the nines, it was, and still continues to be, a colossal failure. But here it wasn’t a bug that kept reappearing, it was that the entire simulation engine, specifically traffic and the AI, was outright flawed and insufficiently tested, making it literally unplayable. There have been no less than seven desperate attempts/patches by the development team to fix these, reconfiguring the simulation patterns and other resorts to solve them. And let us also not forget the scandal of the game requiring you to be online even to play solo, which is still a  problem for players.

The embarrassment caused by worldwide damning of the game was spectacular, and EA was shown that there’s only so far they can exploit the loyalty of their customers. Direct download purchases of the game meant that many fans essentially were unable to return the game, and had essentially spent up to $80 (£60) on a broken game, which fueled and justified the community’s anger. Origin has since introduced a returns policy for direct download purchases through its platform; the “Great Game Guarantee”. Despite its name, it guarantee’s a refund, but not necessarily a great game!

The embarrassment caused by worldwide damning of [SimCity] was spectacular, and EA were shown that there’s only so far they can exploit the loyalty of their customers.

Hopefully, this will mean that EA Games/Maxis will be taking a bit more care in releasing a product that is robust, but also ensure better support and continued development post-release like they’ve been forced to with SimCity.

The Future of The Sims 3 After “Into The Future”

The other big concern will be The Sims fans who will be sticking with TS3 and not buying TS4, at least not straight away (me being one of them). With only one more expansion pack to be released for the series, TS3: Into the Future, means that there will be maximum of two more possible patches; one that will come with the expansion itself which may fix older issues too, and another possible one to address any issues that may arise from that pack itself.

It’s sad to say, but any issues that are not fixed after that will probably never will be, and that’s a shame because TS3 is likely to still have a thriving and playing community long after TS4 is released. But why would EA/Maxis bother fixing an old game when a more popular and potentially more lucrative one is just around the corner? It seems like a case of them knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing.

Is There Hope?

With the world economy still shaky, and gamers finding themselves more and more strapped for cash, EA Games/Maxis should be weary about taking their customer’s fandom for granted again. Their reputation has received a near mortal wound after SimCity and it would be utterly insane to let that sort of thing happen again.

However, you can’t make a leopard change its spots. With all the genuine best intentions I’m sure the individual developers have for the game, trying to make TS4 as great as it possibly can be, I wouldn’t hold my breath that it’s going to be perfect when it first hits the shelves, and wouldn’t be surprised if these issues aren’t fixed quickly, or at all.

But I’m very willing to be proved wrong. Nay, hoping that I will be.

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Image of Destrolyn.Bechgeddig
Bearded British game-bear. Likes his JRPGs accompanied with a G&T. Lives in London, UK. Also writes a lot about theatre and film. *jazz hands*