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Sim-Dud? 355

Posted by michael
from the simulated-profits dept.
Lumpish Scholar writes ""The Sims Online" was one of the most anticipated releases of 2002; but (according to this Los Angeles Times story in the Baltimore Sun, "'The Sims Online' sold 105,000 copies, or only about a quarter of the initial shipment in December," and (as quoted in this article in the New York Times), "the company's president, John S. Riccitiello, said the number of subscribers was half what Electronic Arts expected." (Check out Google News for more articles, and a registration-free partner link to the New York Times story.) Meanwhile, the game's customer reviews at Amazon.com have an average rating of only two (out of five) stars."
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Sim-Dud?

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  • by NetMagi (547135) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:10PM (#5232446)
    was I the ONLY one who never played the darn thing in the first place?

  • Well no shit (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Macaw2000 (103146) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:12PM (#5232462)
    The demographic who play games like "ths sims" are not the same people who play MMORPGs.

    People who played The Sims also play "Deer Hunter" and "Solitare" and whatever else came installed on their computers. I doubt there's much crossover to the Warcraft 3 and Everquest community.
  • Take it from me... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Geekenstein (199041) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:17PM (#5232535)
    This game is fun for about 10 minutes. With the orignal (offline) Sims, the novelty aspect of the game was great. It was new, it was unseen before.

    With The Sims Online, you basically end up with a graphical chat room. The tasks you perform are repetitive and dull. Each involves clicking on something and staring at the screen until that task finishes or your happiness levels go down far enough to finish it for you. Fix that up, rinse and repeat. All in all, the game ends up being a glorified IRC chat room that you pay for.

    The only partly redeemed quality is that you can build your own houses and have people come over, but that is severely hampered by a silly limit on the number of objects you can put in your house, so in the end you end up with lots of money you can't spend after doing all those boring tasks.

    Finally, the biggest pet peeve I have with Maxis over this one is the fact that instead of fixing the bugs and finding ways to increase the limits and make things more interesting, they take a sack full o' money from McDonald's to advertise their products and waste development time throwing it in.

    That being said, all MMORPG's have problems at startup, and hopefully they can get their act together and make it a decent product. As it is now, I'll stick to IRC.
  • Pointless concept (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RedX (71326) <(moc.tsewnepoediw) (ta) (xder)> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:20PM (#5232570)
    I downloaded the free public beta version of Sims Online a few months ago for my wife as she was an avid Sims player but was becoming bored with the offline versions. After a couple of days of Sims Online, she just stopped playing the Online version because there really was no new concept to the game. It was basically the same offline version with the added chat features, and the chat features really added nothing to gameplay and certainly aren't worth a montly fee.
  • Why pay? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ivan256 (17499) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:26PM (#5232622)
    My sister loves The Sims. She returned The Sims online when she got it for christmas though. She said "I can play the sims and run instant messanger for free. I don't need another bill to pay".

    She just hits Alt-Tab like she's flipping through TV stations.

    All I have to say is I hope this pay-to-play trend ends quickly. The initial cost of games is already high. I have no desire to pay per month to have access to something I don't know how often I'll have the free time to use. If Battle.net can be free, why can't The Sims online be free?

  • by zeronode (513709) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:26PM (#5232623) Journal
    EA, sadly, has a history of trying to make MMOG and failing. UO is the exception, but then again, EA bought Origin after UO was in production.

    Just look at the last two MMOG's they tried to make work: Majestic (dead) and Earth and Beyond (Life support). Granted they were good ideas, but EA can't make the shift in thinking from producing box games to MMOG's. Farming out their jobs to a contractor in india effectively allowed them to get rid of a collective 150 years of online gaming knowledge (Kesmai Studios).

    I just don't think they'll get it right any time soon.
  • by Winterblink (575267) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:27PM (#5232630) Homepage
    I'm one of those who refuses to give The Sims Online the time of day, much less monthly dues. That's not to say I'm opposed to paying monthly dues, I'm currently playing Neocron [neocron.com] (a frickin awesome game). The idea of waking up in the morning, going to work, and coming home just to load up TSO and do essentially the same thing doesn't turn my crank. I can get my socializing fix from friends, family, IRC or IM, and I don't have to put more money into EA's pocket to do it.

    That being said, I do play MMOGs as I said above. Yes there's a socializing aspect there, but it's a hell of a lot more fun to battle mutants and warbots in a post-apocalyptic wasteland with Deux Ex style character management than go to the gym in the game and pedal my ass off to up stats. Better to do that IRL than in game anyway.

  • by rudiger (35571) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:30PM (#5232672)

    nterviewed individuals who complain that it is currently boring and repetitive.

    i think that about sums it up. the people who play everquest do so to escape what they perceive as a boring and repetitive life, so of course a simulation of the same will be found equally boring. for those of us who enjoy real life and all that goes with it, the idea of paying for a simulation of something we already enjoy seems incredibly redundant.

    so essentially, there is really no market for TSO. those who like their MMORPGs want fantasy, and those who like real life... already have it.
  • Ahhh Alpha World (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Christopher Bibbs (14) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:36PM (#5232717) Homepage Journal
    Execellent point. Alpha world blew because you had to walk around to find someone to chat with (more work than IRC) and there wasn't any interesting or useful interaction with the world around you. Sims Online seems to be just a better implementation of the same sucky idea.

    And yes, I'm bitter that no one ever enjoyed the house I had built out of rectangular blue blocks.
  • Re:Surprising. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dasmegabyte (267018) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:39PM (#5232746) Homepage Journal
    I dunno. A lot of people pay $23 per month just to use AOL's chat rooms, and $5-$15 fees for online dating services. If Sims Online gets big enough for a lot of people to forge relationships, they will maintain a subsistance subscription level. The "boring" skill system would be less boring if you're chatting while doing it (think online spelling bee). And it might entice people to get an alternate internet provider...$10 for juno and then $10 for Sims Online is still less than $23 for AOL. EA should forge a relationship with one of the sub-$20 providers and offer a "sims internet service," the Sims being a more successful franchise than even AOL last year.

    It seems like Sims Online's biggest mistake isn't the online engine so much as the speed. You can build a sim up really quickly in the original game, getting a two or more promotions in an hour and plenty of dough. If I had to take a few days to do the same...well, I wouldn't.
  • EA doesnt care (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SurgeonGeneral (212572) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:39PM (#5232748) Journal
    Sure we can attribute the Sims' decline to the pay-for-play model or the lack of any moderation in a game played largely by teens, but I think there is a greater, overarching reason for this:

    EA simply doesnt care about their customers, and they have no interest in maintaining the loyalty of them.

    Anyone who has ever played one of their games knows this. They destroy every multiplayer enviroment by allowing cheats to be used, thus ruining the integrity and playability of their games. They refuse to do anything about cheats, thus cheating paying customers out of money. They outright refuse to help customers who have problems with their software. Many of their gaming environments have been taken over by hackers to which they REFUSE TO RESPOND! (In fact when logging on to multiplayer Red Alert one is met with a hacked ad for the site www.fuckea.com, set up by disgruntled players). They have discontinued the Westwood branch of their corporation in order stop maintainence of their games. Basically they simply refuse to help their paying customers enjoy their game, and in some cases ruin it for them.

    I'm not surprised TSO failed, not am I that they used false advertising tactics in order to sell the game (apparently some features such as running a business or a casino are not available to users, yet this is advertised on the game box). This Christmas cash grab just goes on to prove to me how poor the company is, and I for one will not be supporting them at all in the future.

    I demand morals and integrity from people, so why should I expect any less from a group of people?
  • Why it doesn't work. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gyorg_Lavode (520114) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:42PM (#5232769)
    I've talked to some people and hopefully have some insite into why it flopped. The main reason seams to be that there is zero driving force. With Everquest, even though the work to advance groes exponentially with the amount already advanced, By the time it starts to be prohibative, you have bonds to the game, (bonds to guilds, your character, and other friends).

    It seems that the Sims online missed out on the advancement to create those bonds. Many of the things I heard from players were along the lines of, "well, when you play the sims you have to keep all your sims happy, alive, etc. When you play the sims online you can just live in other people's houses, you don't really have to work to keep your sim alive and happy, and there's really no reward for keeping them alive and happy." I think the sims needs a much more interesting beginning and a much more challenging middle so that, by the end, players who may have become uninterested and less challenged have formed bonds that cause them to stay in the game.

  • by dasmegabyte (267018) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:45PM (#5232797) Homepage Journal
    Later add-ons continued this trend. I have five neighbourhoods with about 20 people each, my wife controls three of them and I control the other 2. We sort of compete in affluence and general look of houses (each neighbourhood has one or two "theme" houses, a la Trading Spaces, such as one I built with an olympic sized pool in the courtyard). It's kind of fun playing "against" her.

    But Online, the sims gives you one person. You're competing basically to see who puts the most time in the game, not who plays more creatively. Where's the fun in that?

    Really, the game we're anticipating most (we use a Mac) is not The Sims Online, but Sim City 4. SC4, besides allowing you to input your sims, continues the whole "multiple simulation" idea by giving you a peninsula to build a few cities on.
  • Since when? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SilLumTao (134743) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:47PM (#5232814) Homepage
    EA executives say they are doing all they can to fix things. Because the game occurs online, EA can tinker with content to make it more fun, something the company can't do with offline titles.

    Since when can't "offline" titles get new content added to make a game more fun. I bought Neverwinter Nights about 6 months ago and I'm still getting new content.

    - Sil

  • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@NosPaM.cornell.edu> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:47PM (#5232815) Homepage
    One year ago, I probably would have posted something almost exactly identical to what you posted. I was a college student, and $10 a month to play a game was ridiculous. I couldn't afford it, and I didn't have the time to get my money's worth. I swore that I would never play an MMORPG.

    Fast forward to 1-2 months after graduation. I was bored senseless in my after-work hours, and I remembered that an old friend had been trying to convince me to play Dark Age of Camelot.

    I now own two DAoC accounts and find it worth every penny. Once you're in the working world, $10/month isn't that much. The cost of buying the game covers development costs, and the monthly fee covers the massive costs of big servers, lots of bandwidth, and (attempting) to provide customer service. It also pays for development of additional content. (Both EQ and DAoC have expansion packs, but they have plenty of content and cool things that have been added to the game even for non-expansion users.) In MMORPGs, patches aren't just bugfixes. They bring new monsters, new merchants, and changes in the gameplaye which are USUALLY neat improvements. (For example, the implementation of in-realm dueling in DAoC.) This is drastically different to most pay-once games where patches are merely for critical bugfixes and rarely add any new content.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:06PM (#5232972)
    Plus, in The Sims, you are generally controlling a full family. So even if one or two family members are doing boring stuff, you can still be doing the fun stuff with the others. Plus, with Free Will enabled, they will even handle some of the boring stuff automatically (however not always in the most eficient manner)

    In The Sims Online, you only get to control one character so you can't swap off while doing something boring.
  • by ronfar (52216) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:11PM (#5233019) Journal
    One of the funniest articles I ever read on the Internet was "My Dinner with Origin" by Tom Chick, published on the old Next Generation website. The article is no longer available, maybe it scorched to much hair of at Electronic Arts, but the gist of it was that Origin was being transformed from a great game company into a company that produced "mainstream online" games. The fake Origin exec interviewed for the article had no respect for games or gaming but loved money. This fake exec hated companies like Blizzard which let people play Diablo online for free.

    This article gave me the same feeling as that article, as I see two reasons to create an online game:

    1. The game will be fun and engaging, people will want to try their skill at playing against/with other people.

    2. Why sell a game once when you can sell it over and over again? (The same philosophy behind the original Divx, "Why sell a DVD once when you can sell it over and over again to the same person?")

    Well, I think Sims Online falls into the latter category. I also have to wonder who they think plays online game? When I was heavily into MUCKing, I had no social life at all outside of the MUCKs I was on. (My life basically sucked.) If I had had to pay to MUCK, I might have (though I was making pitiful money at my K-Mart and Winn Dixie jobs.) My life was not even close to "mainstream" though, and I think if the majority of people had lives like that then suicide/killing spree statistics would reflect it.

  • Re:Buyer Beware (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DrXym (126579) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:28PM (#5233199)
    This is no different from any other online game these days. Every online title such as Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Neverwinter Nights, Dark Age of Camelot will require you to enter a CD key, or serial number and if you don't have one or its been used before you can fuck off. Now when online play is free this makes sense, but not so much when you're paying 15.99 or whatever per month.


    Personally I believe subscription games should be given away at cashiers desks, magazine front covers, available for download etc. Hand them out like toffee to hook as many people as possible. Requiring people to put up money upfront and a monthly sub is a surefire way to put them off.

  • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@NosPaM.cornell.edu> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:00PM (#5233550) Homepage
    I'm a veteran of Planetarion, another web-based strategy game. Like you, the advantage to me in college was that it was played in 5-10 minute chunks. Each hour I'd quickly "check planet" then go back to what I was doing. Such games are definately more appropriate for college students due to the way their time is structured.

    Once you're in the working world, 9-5 is dedicated to work, after that is completely free. In this case, games that take your attention for an hour or so at a time are more practicable and appropriate. (Planetarion and to some degree Utopia, which I played for a little bit, required you to check your account pretty regularly to react to current events.)

    Some MMORPGS are definately better than others... EQ was a pioneer, but it has since been eclipsed with much better and well-thought-out games. (Dark Age of Camelot has a lot of similarities to EQ, but differs from EQ drastically in the areas where EQ was weakest, such as economics. DAoC also provides a common goal for each realm, that of battling the other two realms on a given server, whereas EQ has no apparent common unifying goal that I can see.)

    That said, coming from a DAoC player - STAY THE HELL AWAY until after you graduate! But it already (fortunately) looks like that was your plan. :)
  • by TomRC (231027) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:13PM (#5233757)
    From what I've read, they made a HUGE mistake - they eliminated the SIMs!

    They should have kept a ratio of at least 3 simulated people per human player. Then instead of trying to get other people to come to your shop or whatever, the primary goal is to get SIMs to come into your place. Live visitors would just be icing on the cake. (And make it hard to be so dull that you lose ALL your sims - always have one SIM hang around, commenting on how dull and empty the place is...)

    So you could play a nightclub owner, or run a successful for-simoleans fire department, or maybe sell appliances at CRAZY prices with ads on SIM-TV to pull in the crows.

    Advertising should play a major role in the game, to attract SIMs and other players to your place. Real world products could be advertised and sold by players who purchase a franchise or contract to sell the product. (And naturally the SIMs will favor real-world products over fake ones - "Coke(tm)" over "Fizzi Pop".)

    In addition to explicit advertising, the game should simulate "word of mouth" - the more sims enjoy your place (or use your services), the more sims will come - until it gets too crowded, or they get bored with it because you don't change it enough, or changed it from what they liked. The game masters would tweak the SIMs' interests - effectively implementing fads: one week they're into Country Western and trucks, the next they're into 50's retro and hotrods.

    Instead of having lots of servers, most of it should have been simulated on the player's PC - the servers just directing SIMs to the PC and occasionally analyzing your place to determine how much they are enjoying it. And of course support players visiting each other's places or using each other's services - now motivated by 'spying' to see what is attracting SIMs.

    This game had really great potential - perhaps they can re-work it and save it yet...
  • by Cruciform (42896) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @08:38PM (#5236415) Homepage
    The Sims franchise has been made successful by a demographic of people that want a simple game where they interact with little people under their own control. It's not really a social game. It's more like an advanced game of Solitaire. There are the few that bought it that want the social experience added to the game, but many are content with the "anti-social" aspect of having your own world, with your own people, and no one else to intrude and take the fun out of it.
    Games like Team Fortress, Counter Strike, the team variants of UT and Q3, are all social games with an established base of organized groups. The Sims community probably wasn't ready for the jump yet. Given time, they may.
    Then again, maybe they should have eased them into it by letting people create small dedicated world servers for their friends to Sim on, building a social structure that way before implementing it as massively multiplayer.

    Time will tell.

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