The Sims 3 Exclusive Hands-On - From Top to Bottom

We get our hands on The Sims 3 and have a no-holds-barred report on what the game has to offer.

The Sims 3. It's the next game in one of the most popular computer game series in the last 10 years--a series of games that's all about the joys, loves, careers, and embarrassing moments in the lives of little computer people. We've just played the game extensively and have much to report on its new features, improvements, and the way you don't always have to worry about having to send your little sims to the bathroom.

The Sims 3 expands on the extensive customization options of The Sims 2 in many ways. The Create-A-Sim character creation utility has grown and improved, offering five major categories of customization: basics, hair, looks, clothing, and personality. Basics offers six selectable stages of a sim's life span (as opposed to five in The Sims 2): toddler, child, teenager, young adult, adult, and elder. Younger sims will have more-limited choices than older ones when it comes to the game's new personality options, which we'll explain shortly. Basics also offers a full gradient slider with various hues for different skin colors (such as light, dark, and swarthy--or blue, red, and green if you prefer to make characters who look more like aliens or movie monsters) and gradient sliders for your characters' stature, which set both how much body fat they have and how much musculature they have.

Hair lets you select from a variety of preset hairstyles (or hair-plus-accessory styles, such as baseball caps, top hats, and bicycle helmets) with completely adjustable hair color layers for your character's base color, roots, tips, and highlights. The looks panel offers the ability to customize your character's basic head shape (or choose from a preset shape), along with eye shape and color, nose shape, lip shape and color, beauty marks such as moles and freckles, and colored cosmetics for eye shadow, lipstick, and face paint. Every single color choice has both a variety of presets as well as a free-form gradient option that lets you select whatever color, hue, and gamma levels you prefer.

The clothing menu is stocked with a predictably huge array of preset clothes for everyday wear, formal occasions, sleeping, athletic workouts, and swimming, and most of these offer mix-and-match top-and-bottom selections (or one-piece outfits if you prefer)--all customizable by color or using the game's new create-a-style system, which lets you customize a color or color pattern, save it, share it with your friends, and apply it to anything that can have a pattern applied to it, such as your character's clothes, living room sofa, wallpaper, carpet, and car paint job.

The personality menu has been completely revamped for The Sims 3, including not only provisions for your sim's favorite food, color, and music--as well as a customizable "simlish" (gibberish) voice with adjustable pitch--but also the much-talked-about traits system, which completely replaces The Sims 2's arcane and sometimes-confusing "personality sliders that give you a horoscope" system. The Sims 3 instead helps you define each sim's personality with more than 60 "traits," which we've revealed in a previous story. Toddlers start with only two traits, children get three, teenagers get four, and young adults get the game's maximum number of five.

The Sims 3 will let you create characters of all ages.

Of the huge variety of traits, many can be extremely advantageous, while others can be extremely disadvantageous, especially when stacked together. There are clearly combinations of traits that were placed in the game for people who prefer to play toward a specific goal. For instance, one of our sims took the following traits: good sense of humor (which makes your sim's jokes funnier and more likely to strengthen a relationship); party animal (which guarantees that all invited guests will show up and also makes them more likely to bring gifts); schmoozer (which makes your sim a more-persuasive talker and grants extra dialogue options like "flatter" and "praise"); charismatic (which makes your sim gain charisma skill faster, have better conversations, and make friends faster); and friendly, which makes your social interactions more impactful overall. This set of traits is a natural for a popularity-based lifetime wish, such as making 15 friends. Of course, if you don't care to be as ambitious, or instead prefer to play the game as more of an observer, you can load up your characters with flaws such as absentminded, technophobe, no sense of humor, and so on, toss the characters together in the same house, and watch the sparks fly.

Your choice of traits determines your sim's lifetime wish, an overarching and long-term quest, which, if completed, will earn you a ton of lifetime wish points that can be used to purchase any of the game's 31 lifetime rewards (which can be either permanent body enhancements to your character or a wondrous gadget that makes life much easier). At the lowest level, costing 5,000 lifetime wish points, these include fast metabolism (which lets you change your appearance); speedy cleaner (which lets you clean house much more quickly); discount diner (which lets you eat free at restaurants); professional slacker (which lets you slack off at your job without getting into trouble); observant (which lets you discover the traits of other sims--which start out unknown--twice as quickly); office hero (which makes you more popular and effective in your career); legendary host (which makes your sims throw better parties); and complimentary entertainment (which gets you into the local theater for free).

The traits system will determine your sims' personalities, and what sort of other sims they'll hang out with.

The next-most-expensive lifetime wish rewards, at 10,000 points, include multitasker (which makes your character better at career work, and at homework if it's a child); bookshop bargainer (which lets you shop at the local bookstore on the cheap); attractive (which makes other sims like you more); opportunistic (which gets you better rewards for completing "opportunities," the random career-related tasks that occasionally pop up); fertility treatment (which makes your sims more likely to conceive children, and more likely to have twins or triplets); steel bladder (which lets your sim survive without going to the potty); and change lifetime wish (which is just what it sounds like).

From then on come more-expensive rewards. At 15,000 points, you can choose vacationer (which lets you take the odd day off of work with no consequences); never dull (which lets you freely repeat the same social interactions over and over again--something The Sims 3 otherwise discourages); haggler (which gets you a good price shopping for anything); fast learner (which noticeably increases the rate at which you learn skills); and dirt defiant (which makes your sim immune to personal hygiene concerns). At 20,000 points, rewards include long-distance friends (which lets you maintain a friendship with another sim even without talking for a long time); midlife crisis (which lets you re-choose your traits); and super green thumb (which makes you a gardening whiz). Further up are even pricier rewards, like hardly hungry (which makes you much less susceptible to hunger) at 25,000; the body sculptor device (which lets you exactly specify your sim's body shape) at 30,000; acclaimed author (which gives you bigger royalty checks for any book your sim has written) at 30,000; and extra creative (which lets you paint even better paintings) at 30,000 as well.

The most expensive rewards in the game include collection helper (which helps you locate items to complete your sim's item collections) at 40,000; food replicator (which instantly prepares duplicate meals) for 50,000; moodlet manager (which can remove most negative "moodlets"--the minor conditionals that can affect your sim's general mood) for 60,000; and, at the very top end, the teleportation pad (which effectively makes transportation fast and free) at a whopping 75,000 points.

Once you've created a character, or a family of characters, you can take your little household and move it into a community lot in the neighborhood of Sunset Valley, the primary neighborhood with which the game will ship (though EA has announced that the game will have an additional neighborhood, Riverview, freely available at launch). You can choose either a prebuilt home (prebuilt homes can be purchased prefurnished, which is a great time-saver if you don't care to build from scratch) or an empty lot to build out.

There are even more options for building houses and buying furniture in The Sims 3, and better sorting options for both. The Sims 3 has tons of tools to build out a new home, including eight classes of flooring (carpet, tile, wood, stone, masonry, linoleum, metal, and miscellaneous floor patterns like mosaic tiles) and eight kinds of walls (paint, wallpaper, tile, paneling, masonry, rock & stone, siding, and miscellaneous patterns). The build interface has been rearranged to group items by context using a graphical menu that's basically a line drawing of a house--mousing your cursor over the roof of the house lets you switch to roofs, while mousing over the trees outside of the house lets you jump to plants and gardening stuff. The build and buy interfaces also now have a powerful new sledgehammer option that lets you erase large groups of items or fixtures in one shot, though you can of course undo your most recent actions as well. Buy mode has also been tweaked to let you sort purchasable items either by the room they would go in or by function. There are also more kid-friendly options this time around, like more play structures and group activities to let you build up larger families.

Working toward your lifetime goals will mean immunity to hunger and other wondrous benefits.

The Sims 3 seems to have tons of activities buried in its skills, social interactions, and even in all the buildings in town--developing a skill or relationship, or just visiting a neighborhood lot can lead you down many different paths of development. Socializing with your neighbors has been expanded considerably--instead of simply choosing the "chat" social option repeatedly in the vain hope of growing closer, you can choose from social options from a specific context. The new social options are grouped into a larger set of subgroups: friendly, funny, mean, romantic, and "special." The "special" group is a set of unique social interactions based on your sim's traits. Ambitious sims can try to get an inside line about the office by asking about work; natural cook sims can trade recipes; and so on. And for those times when your sims make that special connection, not only can they get married, but they can also take that next step in the story of their lives by planning to have a baby. Pregnancy is a continuous state that female sims can undergo, though for family-minded female sims, the state of pregnancy provides a continuous positive moodlet. If your sim couple has a caring relationship and a relatively stress-free pregnancy, this will lead to additional moodlet and relationship bonuses when your child is born. Having a stressful pregnancy in The Sims 3 won't give you many bonuses, but it will offer slightly fewer incidences of domestic disturbances than real-life stressful pregnancies.

In addition, instead of having a numerical meter that goes up to 100 that gauges the strength of your relationship, the path to friendship comes from getting to know a new sim better, by gradually learning that other sim's personality traits (they start off hidden) and building up a meter that shifts toward the right as your relationship improves to friend, good friend, and potentially girlfriend/boyfriend or spouse. The meter seems to move more slowly the longer you've been talking to the same person, so unlike in the previous games, you can't always stand there and talk to a new person for five minutes and immediately have that sim fall in love with you; you need to instead cultivate relationships over time. Fortunately, there's also a better feedback system for dialogue. As you talk, a feedback window in the upper-left corner of the screen will tell you how your chatting sim is being perceived (friendly, flirty, rude, and so on), which will help guide you on your quest to make friends (or alienate people). Making friends is the key to getting ahead in certain careers, such as the political career (which lets you hold fundraisers to earn campaign funds).

Finding like-minded individuals will let you build up your social circles more quickly.

Aside from chatting up other people around you, each sim has an ongoing set of wishes--minor tasks pertaining to their lifetime wish and personality traits--that you can "promise" to your sim--it's a bit like accepting a quest in a role-playing game. These wishes seem to do a great job of leading your sims into performing tasks that are relevant to their interests and move them forward, professionally and personally. A sim with the "genius" trait, which tends to make sims a whiz at the logic skill and at logic-oriented careers, may get wishes such as "increase logic skill by a point" or "join robotics career." Completing these tasks may set you on a new path that will open up new opportunities later on.

Should you prefer to step out, the downtown neighborhood of Sunset Valley will offer you lots of things to do. Just about every outdoor lot downtown, aside from the parks, offers multiple options. For instance, you can head to the local restaurant to either grab a bite to eat or take cooking lessons, and you can visit the local sporting arena to attend a sporting event for fun, or, if your pockets are deep enough, you can purchase a pricey business partnership in the stadium's operations and start getting a cut of the ticket prices.

In addition, many outdoor lots offer shopping areas where your sims can pick up items to add to their inventories, including books to read for fun or skill bonuses, toys and furniture for the home, and scads of cooking ingredients for use with the cooking skill. Several of the more-peripheral skills that were explored in later expansion packs for The Sims 2 and in some of the console games have become full-on paths to character development in The Sims 3, should you care to pursue them. Cooking has been expanded tremendously--there are now two types of cookbooks, skill increasers and recipe books, both of which will be important to the aspiring chef (and/or the meticulous recipe collector). Likewise, gardening has been expanded to having multiple skill levels that will let you grow a greater variety of crops. Fishing has also been expanded to having multiple skill levels that will let you catch a wider variety of rarer fish to collect (or cook) from the multiple fishing holes that are located in the more-remote areas of Sunset Valley.

All told, The Sims 3 seems to offer a tremendous variety of different things for you to get wrapped up in, whether that be advancing along a career path, increasing a skill set, completing a collection, making friends, having romantic relationships, or working toward lifetime goals--and that's assuming you decide to play the game with more of a role-playing focus to try to develop a single character. The Sims 3's expanded character personality system and building tools will let you build households populated with much more crazily opposed inhabitants, and if all you're interested in is seeing wacky misunderstandings that result in people dying in fires, put sims with opposing traits in the same house, such as a sim with the "good" trait and a sim with the "evil" trait, and watch what happens--and that's to say nothing of the other content you'll be able to create and share with others, such as your own edited characters, houses, and furniture, as well as your own videos using the in-game movie mashup tool. The Sims 3 seems like it will offer no limit of interesting things to do and explore when the game ships in June.

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Discussion

192 comments
mon_mnn
mon_mnn

I have been an Sims fan ever since 1 Sims 3 is great but since it came out their is a few bugs in it still like all games do but so far hands down I like 3 way better than sim1 & 2 only major bug i have on it having the retail version bought it of course I have an annoying bug with the speakers not playing sound the items speakers other than that the games great. tech wise this game is am ram hog uses an 1,450,000 ram on my pc wow ... while most my new gen games uses 800,000 or less

TfcIan
TfcIan

Pre-orderer it, can't wait, looks better than the others.

logans_run_82
logans_run_82

Glad I didn't blow my cash on Sims 2 expansions. Otherwise EA would be having a ball screwing me.

havenglory
havenglory

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

bladez89
bladez89

wow,the sims 3 offer really different style than the sims 2! Can't wait to play it!

ch4os1337
ch4os1337

Ive had this for a while now and its Great, but theres hardly ANY items in the game. There whole buiness model is to get you to buy crap from an online store with real money.. if you have ever played Home you know what I mean. Don't expect to get anything out of the box, and they reused a bunch of old items from past sims games so besides the graphics and personalities and exploreable town. Its the same game.

Abhishekps
Abhishekps

Surely this game will be a big hit. I really look forward for this game and I am so exited about its new gamelpay.

darknyarth
darknyarth

I agree that this game looks pretty cool. My only problem with the Sims 3 is that if you bought all the expansions from Sims 2, you're taking a step backward. It feels a bit like the painful stretch of moving from one edition of D&D to the next. I suppose I only wish that some of the premium features that were in expansions for Sims 2 had found their way into Sims 3. Pets for one!

xxxBlahmyxxx
xxxBlahmyxxx

I liked the sims when it first came out, but it's becoming the same thing in a new package. It starts getting kinda mundane over time. I might check it out to see how it is, but I dont think i'll lose sleep over it.

Skargamer
Skargamer

My sis is a FREAK for sims!!! might as well buy it cuz it sounds good to me too!!!

billybob7897
billybob7897

Really excited about everything in the game! Almost here! ....except worried about how everyone in the neighborhood ages even when you're not playing them. i always played with free will off, and it's annoying to know when i switch a different family my other families will be aging and doing things completely on their own. But i trust maxis. i'm hopefully it'll all be okay (: either way, nothing could stop me from playing.

Number1GameFan
Number1GameFan

wow.looks like they didnt mess around and just put everything from sims 2+expansion packs and added on top of that,while still managing to deliver huge overall improvements like seamless gameplay,higher intelliegence,more customization,and more personality driven gameplay.like I said,wow.

Lswgamer
Lswgamer

just one more week. plus sweet, and reedyproduction, I agree with you, alas I do not know why some people say it's the same thing, it is for a long extend a lot different, starting with seamless neighbor, and ending in +50 IQ points Artificial Intelligence (enough to understand that you are supposed to go to the bathroom without your conscience/God having to tell you to do it)

unknownblob
unknownblob

Been waiting for months! But it's almost here! Looks really good.

Ystergarde
Ystergarde

Mmm, now the only thing I need is a computer..

shewolf51
shewolf51

I can't wait for this game to come out. I'm going to have to install my Sims 2 games again in order to get my fix.

Miro899
Miro899

I cant wait!!!!!! This game is the best !!!!!!!

TomBurnsRed
TomBurnsRed

I cant belive some people are admitting on here that they have a leaked version of this game, how retarded can one be! This game looks awesome, cant wait.

mehedee
mehedee

i am playing this game right now but only with sunset valley and without riverview and this game is simply AWESOME!!!

LA_BooM_420
LA_BooM_420

looks pretty deep.. unfortunatly not my kinda game, but it does look really good.

Iron_dawg
Iron_dawg

but if it is any good then rockstar 4 the win

Iron_dawg
Iron_dawg

hm all i can say is we will see

weaponr_vone
weaponr_vone

this game is awesome... even though it's just a leaked copy... i've still got mines on reserve... gameplay is still your ordinary sims but there's plenty to do in this version. i spend a lot of my days after work fishing in the game or just out walking meeting people...

efc91
efc91

The Sims is my favourite PC game out there cant wait to play this.

TehXenoz
TehXenoz

I just can't WAIT for this game! The customization looks 5x better than Sims 2, of course there will still be stuff missing to make room for the expansion packs later on, but that's part of the Sims! I already have the collectors edition pre-ordered.

BrandonC3000
BrandonC3000

It's fun, but unfortunately even more so then The Sims 2, it's painstakingly obvious that they removed core gameplay that was even in The Sims 2, to make room for the exhaustively old market plan of releasing over a dozen expansion packs. It's a pity really. :/

quickchord
quickchord

The only thing I ever loved about the sims games was sdesigning homes, That's sooo freakin fun! Didn't care much for the gameplay though, but I cant wait to get back to building some houses!

Shanana77
Shanana77

I agree 100% Zhakelia!! People who bash others because of what they like to play or how they spend their money are RETARDED! The sims is an awesome game and I LOVE it. I have my hands UP!

Travanoid
Travanoid

I really think that this game has the potential to be really cool if the customization features work well.

jansdman
jansdman

I encourage everyone to look at the female faces. They all look the same even with different shapes/customization. I really want to try this game out but kinda weird playing females with same faces. I mean seriously look at it.

wiiplay1
wiiplay1

@nappan Yes, agreed. Especially Gamespot, owned by CNET Networks, someone would be p'd if they or anyone in it conspired to a leak. And if they did, it be stupid for them to basically tell the world that (i.e. On the Spot, previews and videos.) But for me, I'll just wait for the game to come out. It's more honest, and it becomes more special when I finally play it.

nappan
nappan

@wiiplay1: I'm not going to argue that I'm mixed up here, but yeah, we clearly agree that the likeliehood of Gamespot or ANY reputable business conspiring to leak a game is laughable. Even if it was just some random employee, I find it unlikely, but it that were the case, it would be one person, not GS as a whole. Most likely this was a leak internal to the devs or to EA.

wiiplay1
wiiplay1

@nappan No, I was commeting on someone elses comment. They said it was leaked to Gamespot. Was Gamespot a consipracy to piracy? Chances are they aren't. I was replying to when someone said it was leaked to Gamespot. No, it was not leaked to Gamespot, at least I hope not. EA probably sent them a copy. My point and your point are completly differnet. You're completley mixed up.

nappan
nappan

@wiiplay1: Let me clear this up... read: "leak" as a euphamism for "it was leaked to the release group Reloaded and made available to all in its complete form as an act of piracy". "Leak" sounds better. We're not talking about a copy EA sent to ign, or gamespot... probably a retailer with an early copy, or a disgruntled employee did it. All it takes is a little time with a disc, an internet connection, and the right people and it can be shrink-wrapped and back in its original packaging before the cracks are even made. When people are saying leaked, they don't mean EA leaked a copy. They mean that, as I mentioned regarding Quake 2, there has been a MASSIVE pirate "pre-release". Bank on it, most of the people on this forum have already PLAYED the game. As I said, unless there was a Canary Trap somewhere in the game or code, unique to each disc so-far produced... finding who leaked this to a release group will be nearly impossible, especially since money is rarely involved at that stage in software piracy. I don't know why you bring GS into it... this could have been leaked in-house, or from a reviewer, or retailer, or tester. The list is endless for a game this massive.

wiiplay1
wiiplay1

@nappan No, I'm saying do you think it was leaked to Gamespot? Or maybe EA just sent Gamespot a copy. It wasn't leaked TO GAMESPOT.

dbpvivi
dbpvivi

The game has been leaked already. It's probs a preview copy like the ones that the people at Gamespot use. EA should investigate places like Gamespot for sources of the leak. Could be something like a Gamespot employee has had his/her PC hacked. So much for the hype machine.

kobiba
kobiba

Dude this games is going to be so awsome!,i wish it was out today!

Major_9000
Major_9000

UGLY! Couldn't they make the Sim faces beautiful? Is it really that hard? These are some damn ugly Sims.

zhakelia
zhakelia

My Story: I am a 2 month newbie to Sims. I just happened to be bored with my other PC games and went to Best Buy to get something and said heck, I'll just try the Sims....became addicted automatically. Then, of course, after the return/exchange policy was over, I found out about Sims 3. So...on one hand I was mad cause I had just spent all that dang money, and then I thought, well, this will give me good practice for when Sims 3 comes out and I'll have a better understanding of what the gameplay and game is like. Furthermore: I'm so sick of reading blogs with people saying how we are getting dupped because they are going to come out with expansion packs and they feel like all that should be included in one game. First and foremost...you watch your pockets, and we'll watch ours. Some people will buy all the expansions and some will by one, and some will buy none...but its an Option fool !!!! Stop hatin' if you broke and can't or cheap and won't. Secondly, has it ever occured to you that expansions are good things. Alot of times us gamers purchase a game, play it, beat it, play it again, beat it...UGH!! and are only lingering around with it until the next release. I feel like you can get slightly bored even playing the Sims sometimes, but with having expansion packs, it keeps the flame for the game going and giving you other things to do UNTIL the next big realease. So you really never get Completely bored with it cause new pieces are continually coming out. It's like breadcrumbs that are tying you over and leading you to the ultimate prize in the end...the next BIG GAME. Ofcourse, EA is benefiting from it, but so are we. DUH..it's a d*** business and ofcourse they wanna make money. Cause if they don't we dont play!!!! Me, Myself, (and countless others im sure) I can't wait until it comes out...and even though I didn't get years worth of game play out of the Double Deluxe and things I bought I dont Care!!!!! So if this message refers to u, get that negative crap outta here....SIMS FANS...THROW YA HANDS UP !!!!!!!!