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The Sims 2 Mobile E3 2005 Hands-On Report

The best-selling PC game of all time is coming to mobile--and it looked amazing at E3.


Electronic Arts chose the right developer to bring Maxis' magnum opus social sim, The Sims 2, to the mobile phone. Ideaworks3D is one of the more technically capable mobile-game companies around, and it has substantial experience with mobile streaming technology--its engine is used to power N-Gage Arena, in fact. Internet connectivity is going to be a key feature of The Sims 2 Mobile, at least in the higher-end versions of the game, and it ought to make the game even more impressive than the demo we saw today.

We played the mid-range version of the game, which weighs in at 128k, on a Nokia 6630, and we were flabbergasted at how completely The Sims 2 Mobile manages to reproduce the PC experience. The isometric viewpoint is exactly the same, and you've got menus for your needs, skills, wants, mood, star chart, relationships, and inventory--everything you need to know to make your sim the most popular guy or gal around. You can cycle through the menus with a couple of different buttons. There are two ways to control movement: directly, via the phone's nav pad, or indirectly, where you select a tile with a cursor. We preferred the former method for wandering around our house and neighborhood, which were stocked with the usual assortment of objects and people. You cycle through interactive objects with another button, then hit the select key to bring up a contextual menu. In all, the controls seemed like they would take some getting used to, even though they were probably as efficient as the keypad allowed.

So, the basic infrastructure of the game is very solid and would probably be fun even if left unadorned by connected features (that's what EA is banking on for the low-end version of the game, anyway). The mid- and high-end versions of the game will use over-the-air streaming to provide some pretty revolutionary gameplay advancements and boost the game over the top. We've already reported that you can use Create-A-Sim on your PC and transfer your creation to mobile, but we also learned that the game will generate brand-new non-player characters server-side and send them to your phone every time you load the game. There will be 75,000 permutations for NPCs, according to the game's producer.

Furthermore, some "interesting" social situations--making out, getting in a fight, and so on--will generate three frames of animation on the server (called a "memory"), which will then be streamed to the handset. These will also be viewable online. Finally, the high-end version of the game for BREW phones will support real-time trading with other players over the network. The system works like this: As a one-minute timer counts down, you have to bargain with your trading partner until you mutually agree on a combination. This is accomplished with accept, reject, haggle, and gift buttons, which mesh together to form a kind of rock-paper-scissors game. We traded with an NPC to test the system, eventually swapping our shower for eight encyclopedias and a lawn gnome.

The basic idea in The Sims 2 Mobile is to get everyone in your neighborhood to like you; the game's metric for calculating your success is called a SimQ score. Apparently, you're playing as a sophisticated sim from one of the series' more cosmopolitan cities, who has moved into a hick burg called Splendington to clue its rustic inhabitants in on the 21st century. When you're playing the high-end version of the game, which is a persistent MMO game, the player with the highest SimQ in a particular neighborhood will gain sovereignty over the community lot. There are five different "tilesets" in the higher-end versions of the game, each of which is filled with new graphics that denote a more affluent neighborhood. You'll be able to unlock and purchase these new sets over the air, for a nominal fee.

Finally, we learned some more details about The Sims 2 Mobile's distribution. The low-end version of the game will work on 60 handsets, the midrange on another 40 to 50, and the high-end an additional 15 to 20 of Verizon's BREW phones. This game will arrive on Verizon, Cingular, Vodafone, and Orange on or around November 30, 2005; other carriers may be added to the list as time goes on. All interested parties should check back often for more updates on this promising game.

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