A Self-Proclaimed Sims Competitor Threw a Twitter Tantrum. Or Something. I think?

So here’s a weird thing that’s come to a head these past several hours.

It started five months ago, when a reddit account going by the name of /u/projectvie began posting to the Sims subreddit about a competing game that may or may not be in the works. This garnered quite a lot of attention rather quickly, garnering several more reddit posts dedicated to the mysterious ‘Project Vie’ as well as posts and discussion among the Sims communities on tumblr, twitter and miscellaneous Sims fansites.

For context, a true competitor to EA’s cash cow series has been something talked about for some time now. The Sims series exists completely in a genre of its own and has done so for 17 years. It’s quite a popular (and probably not false) thought among fans that the series having to compete with others for its role in the game industry would force EA to create more consumer-friendly products and business practices. Combine that with the complete commercial failure of SimCity(2013) and subsequent success of Unity-built indie city sim Cities: Skylines in 2015, people are interested to see whether or not Will Wright’s other popular brainchild could get a decent equivalent outside of the EA realm.

And so people got interested. And the whole thing took off from there.

/u/projectvie kept posting in /r/TheSims, dropping vague hints about its totally real and happening video game, and posting a link to their official twitter, the only web presence that the project had (and still have) at the time. With only the working name of a project in hand, and not even the name of a studio that would be working on the game, it was easy to be skeptical.

But whoever was behind the accounts got the attention they wanted, nonetheless, after yet another vague post, this time made on twitter, promised an official announcement on March 15th. There were also some rumors about the /u/projectvie account being shadowbanned for breaking reddit’s self-promotion rules (which they were).

But March 15th did come, and the people got what they were asking for, in the form of no official announcement, but in a tweet, with two supposed ‘alpha’ screenshots attached.

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How a Poorly Designed Boss Made the Entire FFXIV Community Lose Its Shit For A Goddamn Month

Final Fantasy XIV is my current weakness. I wrote about it previously when I discussed the game’s interesting rules concerning addons and log parsers. Today though, we’re talking about Zurvan.

Recently added in patch 3.5, Zurvan Extreme is the latest Primal, a single raid boss generally intended to be easily killed in PUGs. Despite being touted by the developers before release as intended to be harder than other recent bosses, well, Zurvan is pretty goddamn easy. The fight itself only has three mechanics that aren’t some variation on “don’t stand on X when he casts Y” and two of those could be completely skipped on day 1 with a decent amount of DPS. The fight was cleared within an hour of the servers coming back up after the patch and some of the first groups to do it seemed honestly confused that nothing seemed to actually happen until the boss was pushed to 60% HP.

Many more groups after that seemed even more confused when they tried the fight and found that, for them, things did happen and they ended up wiping to a fight that they had previously been told was faceroll. And then everyone got really salty when they figured out what the hell was going on.

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Let’s Review: The Sims 4: Vampires

In an attempt to steal the award for least imaginative add-on title away from the likes of Pets, University and City Living, The Sims Studio came up with The Sims 4: Vampires. The fourth in a series of $20 ‘game-packs’, Vampires does exactly what it says on the tin.

When the vampire leaks first came to surface, I was pretty skeptical. Since The Sims 2: University, each and every Sims expansion included a new ‘life state’, a playable monster or supernatural kind of sim tangentially related to the expansion’s theme. With monstery and otherwise weird sims being one of my favorite aspects of the series, it was disappointing as hell to see both Get Together and City Living ship without a new life state. It was even more disappointing when combing of new patch files brought to light the possibility that EA would start packaging off my favorite part of the game and selling them separately. For $20 a pop.

But, having played Vampires quite a bit in the past week I realize that I don’t… actually hate the idea? Of course I’d rather not spend more money, but the pack does feel like it justifies the $20 price tag.

For one, this is probably the most complete vampire implementation in the series so far. Whereas 2’s Night Life focused more on the stereotypical Stoker-esque interpretation of vampire folklore, with ashy skin, bat transformations and more Counts than you could count, 3’s Late Night implementation followed the sexier, more brooding strain of vampirism that was extremely popular in young adult novels around that time. The Sims 3 vampires also all had neck tattoos for some reason. Seriously.

This implementation, however, doesn’t limit itself to one version.

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Vampires? Vampires.

The latest Sims 4 patch seems to have added some new XML tuning in preparation for the next Game Pack. You can read the full datamine here at SimsCommunity.info. To make an interesting story short, the composer of The Sims 4’s soundtrack stated back in September that there would be “scary new #sims4 packs”. September being September, most people assumed that there was a second Halloween stuff pack on the way. But Halloween passed with nothing.

The new XML references a new occult state, alternate forms and a new type of gravestone. Some new icons were also found in the game data, including this one, which seems to be the most telling of the bunch.

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So yeah, vampires.

As Get Together and City Living both broke the long-running tradition of every Sims expansion containing at least one new life state, the status of what is by far one of my favorite parts of the Sims series has been up in the air for almost two years now. And while it’s nice to know that the supernatural part of the series isn’t being abandoned altogether, it’s also a big kick in the shin to learn that they may soon be being sold to us separately. For $20 each.

Some people have mentioned that, if a life state becomes the entire focus of a pack, rather than thematically-connected bonus, that there’s a chance that the state will be more fleshed out. The new XML also includes information for a new world, which may be anything from a single lot to (unlikely) something of Windenburg’s size. Perhaps life-state exclusive hidden lots in the same vein as The Sims 2’s hidden witch lots are on the way.

Time will tell.

Let’s Review: The Sims 4 City Living

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I’m always down for the Sims franchise taking a step away from the idealized American suburbia that characterized its early days. I grew up in a place that was neither American nor suburban and as a small child was deeply confused by how different the world of my favorite games was to my own. I understand now, of course, that the world is much bigger than my childhood neighborhood, but I still really appreciates the few times when The Sims seems to make the same realization.

City Living, a utilitarian name that nonetheless tells you exactly what to expect of it, is the third expansion for The Sims 4. Unusually for the series, City Living was released almost a full year after the previous expansion, instead of the timeworn standard of six months. And, unlike it’s predecessors in The Sims 2 Nightlife and The Sims 3 Late Night, The Sims 4’s urban expansion seems to focus less on a night out in the city, but on, well, life in the city at all hours. Thus the title, I suppose.

On top of Nightlife and Late Night, City Living also has shades of The Sims 2’s Apartment Life, The Sims 3 Seasons and (yes I know I said this about Get Together too) The Urbz. The ‘Uptown’ district is especially reminiscent of Diamond Heights, one of my favorite Urbz level designs; a group of buildings suspended almost precariously between multiple skyscrapers, where the rich and fashionable habitate. I wonder if there wasn’t at least some inspiration gleaned from the old console game during the production of this expansion.

Proper apartments make a return from their appearance in Apartment Life, this time combined with some features of Late Night’s half-assed attempt. Landlords, rent and loud neighbors are once again a thing and all apartments in the new world of San Myshuno are located inside structures not unlike the high-rise shells that Late Night allowed players to build houses in. It’s a nice combination of the two systems in that you get the high-rise aesthetic of Late Night and the actual gameplay of Apartment Life.

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Let’s Review: Virginia

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Virginia wasn’t what I expected. Where I was expecting a point & click adventure game in a similar vein to Deadly Premonition, I got a game primarily about a friendship between two women. There was still that mystery aspect there, but it took a back seat to this other, strangely more engaging, story. And I liked it. A lot.

There are a lot of references. The game stars FBI agents and takes place in ’92 and thusly has made all of the requisite X-Files references, as well as a few others from more recent media, including Welcome to Night Vale. Hell, Virginia basically is an X-Files episode, only Scully and Mulder are both black women and at one point Scully drops acid. It’s a really, really good time.

Without spoiling too much, Virginia tells a story that made me feel things. Lots of things. There was definitely some sadness there, a little bit of anger maybe, some heartwarmth and a good chunk of utter confusion. And it manages to do all of that without a single line of dialogue. I was a little bit iffy on the idea of a mystery plot with no dialogue. But it worked surprisingly well, especially when the narrative took its lens off of the mystery to more focus on Virginia’s true plot, the relationship between the two leads, which didn’t need dialogue.

The fact that the game completely works without dialogue is mostly down to its incredible soundtrack. As in, Virginia might have one of the best game soundtracks I’ve ever heard. It’s not just the music itself, but the fact that it fits in so well with everything happening on screen and the characters’ emotions. A lot of time and thought was put into the score here and it honestly really, really shows.

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Apartments Possibly Coming to the Sims 4

After several months of EA remaining uncharacteristically silent when it came to one of their biggest cash cow series, fans of The Sims may finally have the leak they’ve (we’ve?) been waiting for.

The leak comes in the form of the website belonging to Brazil’s media ratings board (think the ESRB for the U.S., or PEGI in Europe), which has a listing, added only today, for “THE SIMS 4: VIDA NA CIDADE (EP3)”. The ‘EP3’ part of that is interesting, because Maxis has specifically been keeping radio silence on the subject of expansion packs since the second one for The Sims 4 was released December of last year. The listing was originally discovered by oSimBR.

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And as for the subject of the proposed expansion, I don’t speak any Portuguese, but SimCookie, a French language Sims fansite who are always among the first to report on these kinds of things and from whom I usually get my Sims news, has translated the title into “Vie en Ville”, which, in English, could either be “Town Life” or “City Life”.*

Either way it seems like we’re looking at a more urban themed expansion, in the nature of 2’s Nightlife and 3’s Late Night, and possibly even-dare I say it?-The Urbz. The Sims 4 included nightclubs in the base game, expanded on them in Get Together and gained restaurants with Dine Out, so there’s very little that these two expansions for previous games were themed around that The Sims 4 doesn’t already have in some way.

There one big aspect of living in a city that The Sims 4 (or The Sims 3, for that matter) doesn’t have, however; apartments. It’s been an asked-for feature for sure, and there was even some drama sparked over it when some promotional materials for Get to Work included the word ‘apartment’ in some innocuous way. A developer ended up confirming that apartments would not be appearing in Get to Work, so Maxis are at least somewhat aware of their fandom’s desire for them.

I guess we’ll see.

 

* French has no distinction between ‘town’ and ‘city’ like English does, and I couldn’t tell you which of the two the original Portuguese implied.

Special Announcement

I’ve decided to give up my budding career in software engineering in order to start full-time making YouTube videos that encourage children to get involved in questionably legal gambling.

In other news, thebleedinghedge.com will henceforth become a gambling site with a minimum signup age of 13.

These two things are completely unrelated. Totally.

Let’s Review: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

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The first Mirror’s Edge game was short, unpolished, based on the highly questionable premise of first-person platforming and yet, almost immediately after its release in 2008, it became one of my favorite games of all time. For me, at least, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, released June 7th, was an extremely anticipated sequel prequel reboot thing.

Mechanically, Catalyst is stronger than its predecessor. Movement is smoother, it’s easier to string movements together with the changes made to the control scheme and combat has been vastly, vastly improved to make use of Faith’s strengths rather than plop you in front of a group of heavily armored SWAT troops and tell you to get right up close to them in the hope that your reaction speed is good enough for the very unforgiving disarm mechanic. This time, the player is given tools to dance around your much slower enemies, actually using Faith’s speed to her advantage. Additionally, the player is now expected to use their environment to their advantage in combat, rewarding them for knocking enemies into each other or into environmental objects, such as over railings. Or the edges of roofs. It’s like someone on the Catalyst development team saw that moment in the original where you got to punt a guy off of some scaffolding and actually recognized that it was awesome. It probably shouldn’t have counted towards the Pacifist achievement. But it was awesome.

Unfortunately, despite all the improvements made to the combat, the development team doesn’t seem to actually understand what made combat in the first game so horrible to begin with. Sure, guns in the first game slowed you down and therefore were pretty much antithetical to the whole point of it all, but they still weren’t the real problem. The real problem with Mirror’s Edge combat was the game’s tendency to insist that the best option is more often than not running away from enemies but then immediately turning around and creating situations where combat was unavoidable. Catalyst actually does somewhat handle this, by allowing Faith to use her light attacks while at speed to push past enemies in her way without taking a hit to her momentum. It also seems to not be bothering to kid itself this time around in regards to combat being avoidable. You’re advised multiple times that sometimes the best way through enemies is to just ignore them and run for it, but more often than not the voice in your ear is pretty honest about how many people you’re about to be forced to punch off of roofs.

Oh, and the reason Faith can’t use guns is because every gun in this universe is biometrically linked to its owner. If you ask me a better explanation would be that Faith just up and doesn’t know how to fire a gun properly and a life or death situation probably isn’t the best time to learn when she could be doing something she’s perfectly comfortable with instead; running away. Actually, if you honestly tried to tell me that a city with such a seemingly large criminal underworld as Glass somehow doesn’t have a black market for ‘jailbroken’ firearms I’d probably tell you that Faith secretly being Batman would be a more plausible explanation for why she can’t use guns.

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Let’s Review: The Sims 4 Dine Out

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Oh hey, it’s another Sims post. My twitter poll wanted me to take a look at The Sims 4’s new game pack, Dine Out, so that’s what we’re here for this fine evening.

Dine Out brings back restaurants to the Sims series, something which hasn’t been a presence in the series since The Sims 2’s Open For Business and Nightlife expansion packs. I recall the Sims 3 having a DLC store set that was supposed to allow players to run their own restaurants, but it was borked on arrival and EA apparently never bothered to patch it into working condition. With the new pack, players can now have their sims patronize resturants run by others or run them themselves, much like Open for Business. And that’s pretty much the whole concept.

Attending restaurants as a customer is somewhat neat and they make a cute venue to send sims on dates. Dining is actually pretty involved, a lot more so than the previous incarnations in The Sims and The Sims 2. Sims can get up from their tables at any time without giving them up until they’ve finished up and paid, allowing them to wander around, have a chat, use the loo and or otherwise do whatever. Food and drink can be ordered separately from menus that are completely customization using any foods currently in the game, even if they come from different packs, which is a neat little touch.

But the real focus in this pack seems to be on running one’s own restaurants. It works in much the same way that the retail feature introduced in Get to Work does, although a little smoother. A nice touch is that restaurants, unlike retail stores, can run on their own when your sims are off the lot doing something else, although not optimally and they can’t be left to their own devices for too long. But its still a good idea, not to mention more realistic to be able to let your entrepreneurial sims leave their businesses for a few hours without the whole place burning down.

And, unlike in Open for Business, running restaurants in this pack isn’t… borderline impossible. In fact, I think, like many things in The Sims 4, the difficulty here might be a bit too balanced in the other direction. Staying on a restaurant lot for twenty-four hours left my manager sim with a lot of downtime. He couldn’t act as the chef, host or waiter but he could help clean tables and come around to check on customers, making sure they’re happy and trying to fix things up if they aren’t. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be enough to occupy a even single sim’s time for very long so, when things are going smoothly, it’s hard to find things to do. Maybe this is meant to compliment the whole “not having to be on the business lot at all times” thing, but either way, my biggest complaint about this pack is probably going to have to be its ease.

The CAS stuff is pretty nice, but not very usable in most situations. Hairstyles are hairstyles but most of the clothing options are, predictably, intended for kitchen and wait staff. There’s a pretty cute vest covered in flair for Office Space fans to make jokes about, but other than that I don’t really have a strong like for any of the items included with this pack. I’ll probably use them, but they’re all just kind of… there, and not really standing out.

Build/buy mode is better. Booths make a return, which I’m extremely happy about. There’s an interesting new set of objects that lets players design their own signs by applying wall decals to a base, which is a really interesting idea and something that I like a lot. I’ve spoken before about how I prefer Sims content that passes creativity into the hands of the players, so I’m glad that Maxis has taken the time to design a relatively small little feature that nonetheless allows me just a little more control over my game.

Oh, they’ve also added in a heat lamp, which looks nice and all and gives nearby sims a moodlet, but otherwise seems just a bit out of place in a game with no weather and whose primary settings consist of a desert and a Louisiana-esque swamp.

And that’s it, really. To summarize, I can see myself getting quite a bit more enjoyment out of this $20 of new Sims 4 content if the low difficulty doesn’t bore me to death first. There are quite a few improvements in this pack from the series’s previous implementation of restaurants and I find running them a lot more entertaining than Get to Work’s retail lots.

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