The Sims FreePlay: Play-Free

Going back a few months, Tim brought home an iPad, and showed me The Sims FreePlay.  After previous experiences with “social” games, I wasn’t expecting all that much.. even so, I was disappointed.

Neighbourhood Screen

I’d almost forgotten about it, in fact, until I saw this morning’s reports on the awful showing for the launch of Sim City.  Despite the game being limited to just the US, it was still unable to cope with demand, resulting in queues to get into the servers, and people struggling to get the game unlocked at all.

I’m not at all excited for Sim City anymore.. a shame since I was really looking forward to it, and because it’s starting to feel like a bit of a trend.  Games are announced and look interesting, details start to be revealed.. and then the seedy underbelly of microtransactions, day 1 DLC and “exclusive” items comes out.. meh.

While I was still excited for Sim City, I had a look at Sim City Social, a Facebook game, but something I thought might put me on till closer to the game’s launch.  As I should have expected, it sucked.. constant requests to poke friends to play / interact / do things for me, the limited gameplay and the ever-present microtransactions.

So.. The Sims FreePlay..

I created my first Sim and plonked him down in one of the houses.  The first thing I noticed was the lack of autonomy.. a Sim will just stand still unless you tell him to do something.  I vaguely remember being able to turn autonomy off in The Sims, but never wanting to do so.. I liked seeing them wander around doing their own thing when I didn’t have something specific for them to do.

First Sim

The second thing I noticed was that once you’ve told a Sim to do something, that’s it.. he goes off to do it, in real time, and your interactions are limited to watching him do that task, or cancelling it.  You can’t queue anything else.. you just have to wait or come back later.  Ri-ight.

There are ‘goals’ for each Sim, e.g., having your Sim eat something to show you how the Hunger bar works.  The game rewards goal completion with XP, Simoleons, or Lifestyle Points (LP), which you could use to instantly complete tasks, or buy nicer furniture or pets.. though you’ll need quite a few.

I quickly became bored, and went to create another Sim.. I placed her down in a neighbouring house.. and very soon after that, I got the ‘goal’ of adding another Sim.  Damn!  When I went to add a third Sim, I didn’t have anywhere near enough enough money for a house for them..

So.. where to get money?  My first Sim came with a dog, and unlike the Sim, the dog wanders around doing his own thing, digging up treasure from the garden.  If you click on the little treasure symbol when it appears, you’ll receive 5-20 Simoleons.  You can also collect rent on the Neighbourhood screen.. every 15 minutes from the first house, less frequently from the next, and so on.. but you have to click the button to get that money.

The usual way of getting money in The Sims is by sending your Sim to work.. but here, you can’t send the Sim to work until you’ve built a business.. and of course you need to rack up some Simoleans before you can even start building a workplace.  You can have your Sims plant seeds, though you have to wait for that to grow before you can harvest it.  And of course there’s the inevitable push towards the Online Store.. where you can buy bundles of in-game money for real money.. I’m not even going there.

I ruled out hovering over the Neighbourhood screen waiting for pop-ups to collect Simoleons.. that isn’t playing a game, that’s horrible, repetitive grinding.  If I don’t want to watch my Sim sit around for 20 minutes watching TV, I certainly don’t want to watch the Neighbourhood screen!  So that left me with gardening.. Farmville in my Sims..

Gardening

I left the game there, since it had gone midnight.  When I remembered to return to the game it was the following evening, and I was in for a shock.. my Sim crouched, and peed himself!

Thanks to the real-time element of the game, all the Sim’s meters had dropped, and he was starving, in need of sleep, and now, badly in need of a shower!  I went to my second Sim, who also peed herself on my arrival!  Laughing at this was probably the highlight of the game.  Fortunately, I could add a third Sim now, so I could at least do something.  Eventually I had him meet up and make friends with the first Sims, then more farming, er, gardening, gave me enough money to add more Sims to the town.  The ‘goals’ didn’t let up either, ensuring that I spent my money and LP as fast as I earned them, and still none of this felt like “playing”.

I wanted a cat, mainly because I wanted to see what it did.. cats and dogs are available to purchase for LP from the Pet Store.

Cat Shop

Cats start at 6LP, which meant more grinding.. and resentment for the 5 LP I’d had to throw on the “Use a Cupcake” goal as that had left me with just 1 LP.

Feeling subversive, I decided to try and kill some of the Sims.

I’d already noticed that leaving the Sims without food did nothing apart from empty the Hunger bar.. so I set one Sim to cooking, hoping to start a fire, while I had others grow experimental tomato seeds, hoping to spawn a Sim-Eating Plant.

I got the Sim-Eating Plant first..

Sim-Eating Plant

Sadly, it didn’t want anything to do with my Sim.  Well, I guess she was long-overdue for a shower at this point!  I had her interact with the plant: the options were to use a variety of weedkillers or ‘Negotiate’ (1 hour and 10 mins worth).  I hoped the plant would maybe get annoyed and try to eat her, but she killed it.. so I planted more.

Next was the fire.. but that was more frustrating than the Sim-Eating Plant.  The Sim had some options for putting the fire out, but as I didn’t select them, he stood near the cooker, occasionally flailing his arms around.  After two hours, nothing had changed.. I bought a plant and placed that in front of the oven, thinking it might catch fire and spread that way, but still nothing happened.

I abandoned the game for a while, only looking at it again around Christmas.  The Sims were still alive.  Santa had arrived.

I brought him inside, where he had a breakdown and knelt on the floor in despair.

Santa Despairs of The Sims

I consider The Sims Free Play to be a “play-free” game.  It isn’t fun.  Watching progress bars fill up is not play.  Clicking buttons to receive in-game money every 15 minutes or more is not play.

Even if I’d put real money into this thing, I’d only have gained nicer decorations, or the ability to speed through some of the Sims’ activities.. I wouldn’t have gained access to fun mechanics.  I doubt I’d have even been able to kill the Sims!

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2 Comments

  • Miss Cellany says:

    I don’t know how you weren’t able to buy the business etc. When I played this I just followed along with the goals and had the amount for the first business as soon as it asked me to build it.

    After level 5 or so it gets harder to make enough money to complete the goals but you can set your sims to gardening the short term plants for some quick small change, send your sims to work while you sleep (then you won’t be waiting for them, they’ll be done the next day with a tidy pile of cash for you to spend), and complete goals to get LP and more simoleans.

    If you can’t afford to buy more houses to add sims, get 2 of your sims together romantically and have them move in together – that frees up a house for you, then it’s free to add a new sim into an existing empty house.

    I do agree with you about lack of gameplay – it’s more a game for people that enjoy grinding and completing tasks / quests than someone who likes interactive play (if you’ve played any online MMORPGs you’ll be used to the grinding aspect already and sims freeplay is nowhere near as bad as SOME extremely popular online games – naming no names).

    I like the lack of autonomy personally… and the fact you can call a sim that doesn’t live in a house to that house when the owner is not present is awesome. You can have a stranger gardening in someone else’s garden plot, or have them take a shower in a house while the owners are gone! I find it highly amusing and it feels a lot like I’m the dictator of a weird communist cult community… with everyone obeying my orders and working for the greater good (me). Love it!

    • CoffeeScamp says:

      It’s entirely possible the game has been tweaked since I played.. it’s a little bit of a shock to realise that it was back in early 2013! It might have been that I’d have had the money for the business if I’d waited around for something else to drop cash, but I was already starting to hate the gameplay, mainly those ‘goals’, as I’d much rather play for myself than follow a list of commands. It’s also possible I’d tried to go around those goals to just buy furniture or things for one of the houses, but I don’t really remember now. 😮

      Re grinding: I don’t mind quite so much if I’m doing something, e.g., long-winded kill or collect quests in WoW.. I just hate doing nothing! Call me impatient 😉

      I appreciate your different viewpoint on the game’s lack of autonomy, thanks for commenting.

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