On the PC, the Sims series has sucked many would-be productive hours of our lives as we created our unique sims, customized our two-story suburban home, and shared our stories with the online community. That experience is now coming to consoles, more specifically to the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii, as well as the Nintendo DS. At the EA Studio Showcase in Redwood Shores, we saw an early build of The Sims 3 for the Xbox 360 and spoke with Sam Player, the executive producer of the game.
The Sims games have made appearances on consoles before, and they were always cut back in such a way to ensure that they would fit. We were told that while there are still space limitations--so you can't go nuts and build an entire neighborhood--you can still experience most of what you would on the PC as well as some new features that have been added. With the town map, you can visit different zones, including residential areas, commercial areas, and parks. You'll be able to build one home at a time (up to five stories), you'll have access to all the items that you would from the PC version, and you'll be able to socialize with people from all age groups. The customization tool and character creator are included, with adjustments to make it easier to navigate on a console. The integrated exchange system lets you share your creations easily and gives you the opportunity to download other people's content via your build menus so you never have to leave the game.
In our demo, we walked in on a house party that one of the sims was having, and he had apparently invited the entire neighborhood. Unlike in previous console versions, there are sims living and aging in other areas outside your home so that you're actually part of a virtual community. This is where we got a peek at karma powers, which allow you to change your story so to speak or harass your sims a little by using karma points. For example, we thought it would be amusing to summon some ghosts to join in on the party and scare away the guests. After watching some of the sims cry in a corner and the others wet themselves, we used another karma power to clean everything up. There is a limit on how many powers you can use, because it costs karma points (which can be earned by achieving wishes and purchasing them with challenge points that we'll explain later), and each night at midnight you will be judged on your actions. If you've been mean to your sims, chances are you won't get any benefits, but if you haven't been exploiting your karma powers, you may get a boost of some kind. Karma powers can range from being incredibly mean to your sims to giving them a bit of luck so they can get their woohoo on with the locals.
Another feature that has been added is the challenge system, where you can take on more than 300 challenges of varying difficulty to earn points. With these points you can purchase karma, furniture, or real estate at the challenge store. Challenges are essentially quests that give you a huge list of things to do around town, that unlock new challenges or items, or that just give you an excuse to get out of the house. You can share your completed challenges or achievements, such as your first kiss, on Facebook or Twitter, which we were told is to encourage people to share their stories with the community.
There's so much to do in The Sims 3 that it's tough to get the full picture in just one sitting. The challenge system is a nice addition that allows people to drop in and play for a bit without having to devote an entire afternoon to get something done. We're looking forward to seeing what other karma powers we can abuse, as well as exploring the rest of the neighborhood. Look for The Sims 3 on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, and DS on October 26.