The Sims 2 Mobile Updated Hands-On
We learn more about the connected features in EA's mobile Sims game before CTIA.
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Since we started covering The Sims 2 Mobile earlier this year, we've had opportunities to delve into the gameplay, verify that the graphics are fairly authentic, and enjoy fooling around with the new interface. However, we hadn't seen any firsthand evidence of The Sims 2 Mobile's most revolutionary feature--the server-side communication that would let mobile gamers create or download new sims. Well, there's no need to take the developer's word for it any more, because we've confirmed that all this stuff actually works in the high-end version of the game.
We took a look at the biggest of the three versions of the game, specifically the one for higher-end handsets like our test Nokia 6620. EA's decided to call this version The Sims 2 Mobile Connected Edition to distinguish it from the mid- and lower-end games, which lack connectivity. In any case, Connected Edition's clever usage of server-side streaming grants it extra features that make it look and play surprisingly close to the PC game.
The best example of this is in the character-creation process, which is run almost entirely off the server. As in the PC game, your sim is modular: You can pick its gender, face, hair, and clothes. All these visual elements are generated server-side and are transmitted to the mobile game over the air. There are seven specific ethnic phenotypes for facial features, and skin color is entirely adjustable. If you don't feel like being choosy about your sim, you can simply go down the line and select the default options. Luckily, the game switches them up each time you play to ensure that you never get the same sim twice.
Here's the really nifty thing: You don't have to bother with this at all if you don't want to, because it's possible to generate a sim using your PC copy of The Sims 2, which you can then push to your phone. The character will show up on the connectivity menu under the heading of My Next Sim, at which point you can download it. You can also download other people's sims from this menu. They're sorted by newest uploads, most popular downloads, keyword, or random order. As a demonstration, a Sims producer pulled a celebrity sim named Leos from the PC game and placed him in the mobile game. Then he started a new game with Leos. The build we saw experienced some significant loading times at the start of each new game--as it shuffled data to the phone--but EA assured us that further optimization will make the wait time less of an issue. Just in case, EA's added an enjoyable little car game for you to play while waiting, and in it you can scoop up extra simoleans on your way to town.
The other major online feature of The Sims 2 Mobile Connected Edition has to do with the game's "community lot." To clarify, this has nothing to do with playing with other mobile gamers. Instead, it's a convenient drop-off point for the server to add new objects and non-player characters to your game--to keep things fresh. This area serves as a kind of substitute for the PC's game's "build and buy" mode, which would be very difficult to reproduce using a mobile interface. All in all, the community lot will be able to produce a grand total of about 125 different objects, which is a huge variety considering the small size of the game.
According to the producer, all three manifestations of The Sims 2 Mobile will be ready for the holiday time frame. We look forward to seeing how the final build plays around that time.
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