Warning: This is going to be a long read. Set some time aside if you plan to go through it all.
Seeing as a new rule on the forum forbids comparisons between games to a heavy extent I have decided to create this thread, where users are free to compare The Sims 4 to any other game in the series in any way. Miss a feature from previous games? Think 4 is lacking depth compared to them? Feel free to post your qualms here.
I grew up with the series from a very young age - I was four when my older brother first showed me The Sims, back when characters were polygon monsters. He gave me his incomplete collection later, which I finished, and then shortly after The Sims 2 came out and the rest is history. I've been with the series from the start and it has a special place in my library; I still play all four titles in my spare time.
I care about this series. I criticise it out of love. The Sims 4's greatest flaw is that The Sims 2 and The Sims 3 exist. My argument here is not that The Sims 4 should be a clone of previous entries, but that it dropped many features pertaining to the Sims as characters and suffers as a result.
To kick off this thread and hopefully shed light on why so many denizens of the feedback forum have gripes, I'm going to discuss how Sims themselves as individuals were far more potent in The Sims 2 than they are in The Sims 4. From this point on I will abbreviate any iteration titles to save some space and time.
What makes a Sim unique? In TS4 that would be their traits, of which there are initially 3, but many of these traits are simply moodlet triggers. There are objects
in this game that trigger the same emotional responses as personality traits
. With how the emotions system in TS4 works, Sims are slaves to whatever emotion they are currently experiencing. All Sims react in the same way to the same emotions. For example, all sad Sims will talk to themselves in the mirror or cry it out.
Now lets compare this to TS2. The personality features that make a Sim unique in this iteration are as follows:
- Their 25 Personality Points/Star Sign
- Their Aspiration
- Their Wants & Fears
- The Chemistry System
- Gender Preference
Many of us know what these systems are and what they do, but what you may be surprised by is just how deep these actually are as mechanics in the game. Let's go through them all one by one so I can illustrate this fact. Some of these features were carried over to The Sims 3's trait system but many have since been lost.
25 Personality Points
This is the system that determines your Sim's personality and how they behave initially. You have five scales to assign a limited number of points to, with each scale being rated by the game from 0 to 10.00. The scales are:
Neatness, Outgoingness, Activeness, Playfulness and Niceness.
Each scale having room for 10 points whilst the player only has 25 points to allocate means you have to choose carefully to create the Sim you want. Each scale is split into three levels: 0-2, 3-7 and 8-10. Personality extremes take place in the 0-2 and 8-10 marks whilst the 3-7 mark exhibits more mild behaviour.
Your Sim's personality, based on how you assigned points, would determine their actions and their animations. Some examples of behaviour are listed below, but this is where things get surprisingly in depth.
Sims are very sloppy and objects they use get dirty faster. They will almost always leave puddles on the floor after having a bath or a shower. They finish meals faster due to having no table manners. They can rummage in the trash for things and have less qualms with dirty rooms. Their hygiene need decays faster and they lose more fun when cleaning. They may autonomously eat spoiled food. They are not impacted by low hygiene and, in fact, find it funny. They learn the cleaning skill slower.
Sims enjoy cleaning and gain fun when tidying anything. They will clean up after themselves and gain a unique interaction to groom themselves in front of a mirror for a hygiene boost. They take longer to finish meals due to having good table manners. Their hygiene decays slower. Any objects they clean will sparkle afterwards, after which they will take longer to become dirty again. These Sims are afraid of using public restrooms. They learn the cleaning skill faster.
Sims are very shy and if you tell them to do anything outgoing they will grimace at the camera. These Sims will often wring their hands when walking as an indicator of their shyness. They are afraid of diving into pools, activities like karaoke and dislike having their photo taken. Their social need decays more slowly and they enjoy talking online more than face to face. When dancing they shuffle awkwardly. They learn the charisma skill slower. Admiring one of these Sims will make them react very shyly. These Sims gain creativity faster when painting.
Sims are crazy. Their social bar will decay quickly. These Sims will always skinny dip if possible and have no issue with using bathroom objects in front of other Sims. These Sims will not automatically change into their Everyday outfit when leaving their home lot, unlike all other Sims. Outgoing Sims will be more likely to visit your house even if they do not know your Sim. When walking into a room, these Sims will acknowledge any other Sims present with a quick point animation. When dancing they look like they're in Saturday Night Fever. They enjoy the romance channel on TV. They learn the charisma skill faster. Admiring one of these Sims will make them admire themselves to.
Sims slouch when standing still. Their energy need decays faster and refills slower, meaning you can expect them to spend a fair amount of time in bed. They will walk to a destination even if it is far away. Their comfort need decays faster too, meaning they can be best kept happy on a nice sofa in front of the TV. Their hunger need decays slower. They build the body skill more slowly but build the logic skill more quickly due to how logic involves less hectic activities. The less active a Sim is, the less their energy has to drop before they can go to bed.
Sims are very active and can run anywhere at any time. They build the body skill quickly due to their active natures but their hunger need decays faster as well. Their fitness bar will also increase more quickly via exercise meaning these Sims have an easier time staying slim. These Sims enjoy the action channel on TV.
Sims are very serious and prefer activities like reading over playing games or watching TV. They enjoy activities such as chess or using a telescope and will gain logic faster from such activities, and may get more fun out of the TV if the news is on. These Sims are less likely to accept invitations to join games of any kind from other Sims.
These Sims are hyper and can jump on sofas, play in bathtubs and swing from fridge doors. They gain the ability to skip as well as walk or run starting at 5 points. They like watching cartoons on TV but, if they are at 8 points or above, cannot partake in meditation due to a lack of focus. These Sims enjoy telling jokes and will tell them instead of practicing their speech when using items like podiums. Pair high playfulness with low niceness and you get a bully - the Sim will greatly enjoy teasing and making fun of others. Playful Sims build charisma faster if they talk to a pet bird and build creativity faster if playing instruments or writing novels.
Sims are very grouchy and more likely to react negatively from any kind of social interaction. They are very likely to initiate mean interactions with Sims they don't know well. Non-played grouchy Sims may turn up at your lot and kick your trashcan, steal your newspaper or even your garden gnomes. They are more likely to cheat when playing games and are more likely to try and hurt others when partaking in things like snowball fights. These Sims practice lecturing rather than practicing speaking at podiums. They enjoy the horror channel on TV. When talking to others you can expect to see them with their arms folded as they look miserable.
Sims are much kinder to others and will respond positively to many social interactions, even if the other Sim is talking about something they're not interested in or if they don't know the other Sim very well. These Sims will not retaliate if they are targeted by mean interactions. They will appear much more enthusiastic when talking to other Sims, nodding and smiling.
Personality points in TS2 decided how your Sim responded to different kinds of relationships, what animations they used when walking and talking, how they responded to different events, what activities they could and couldn't do, how they built skills and at what pace they built skills, how they moved and how their needs behaved. This worked on an individual point basis - so for instance, a Sim with 5 points in Playfulness would build logic faster than a Sim with 6, whilst a Sim with only 4 would build it faster still.
Aspiration Bar / Wants & Fears
This is where the gameplay lacking depth in TS4 comes in. In TS2 you couldn't just give your Sim a personality and then ignore it - you had to back it up with action and there were serious consequences if you didn't. Whims in TS4 are so useless that they're currently turned off by default, whereas Wants in TS2 are integral to your Sim's life and the game, whilst they're also backed up by the Fears system.
Your Sim's aspiration determined what it was they wanted in life. Was your Sim family oriented? In search of romance? Looking for knowledge? Seeking popularity? Or did they just want to have fun or make tonnes of cash? Whatever you chose would subsequently largely steer the wants and fears system that was tied directly to it.
Your Sim had four wants at any one time and three fears. These were rolled either when your Sim woke up in the morning, when one was completed so it could be replaced or when visiting a new location. What Wants and Fears your Sim got were determined by their aspiration, age, current location, the current season, their relationships, recent events, their life state, hobbies, skills and interests. You could only lock in ONE Want OR Fear at any one time, so you had to think carefully.
- Completing your Freshman year at University earned a fifth Want slot.
- Graduating from University unlocks a sixth Want slot.
- Expulsion from University unlocks a fourth Fear slot.
- Completing your Junior year at University earned a second lock.
Completing a Want fills the Aspiration Bar whilst completing a Fear lowers it. The bar decays slowly over time on its own meaning that you would have to address your Sim's wants regularly. Filling the bar also earns points to spend on rewards whilst lowering it subtracts points.
The older your Sim was the more points would be required to fill up the bar. Toddlers only need 3000 whilst Elders needed 15,000. When full the bar is platinum, when empty it is red. Sims who die with platinum level receive a special, gold lined gravestone.
In deep red your Sim starts exhibiting aspiration failure. This manifests in several forms:
If your Sim is a teenager or child they will begin acting out, breaking things or fighting with family members and throwing tantrums.
- Family Sims cradle a sack of flour and cuddle it like an actual baby.
- Fortune Sims panhandle for Simoleons.
- Knowledge Sims turn a football into a professor with a hat on and attempt to learn from it.
- Popularity Sims make friends out of paper cups.
- Romance Sims dance, cuddle and kiss a sponge mop.
- Pleasure Sims put a lampshade on their head and dance.
And most importantly:
- Grilled Cheese Sims draw their beloved food on cardboard and then eat it.
Ignore these aspiration failures and let the bar empty and your Sim will have a mental breakdown, at which point they can no longer function. Don't worry - the therapist shows up and kicks their aspiration bar back up ever so slightly with ground breaking treatment, such as making them act like a chicken.
Completing your Sim's lifetime wish would render the bar permanently platinum. Later this was nerfed - the bar still fills up entirely but it does decay, albeit it extremely slowly for the rest of that Sim's life.
Rewards purchased with aspiration points included a helmet to make Sims learn skills faster, special milk to make Toddlers learn life skills faster, the Eclectic Energiser that would completely fill all of your needs (great potato powered machinery) and the Elixir Of Life, which made you younger, and more. HOWEVER - if your Sim uses any of these rewards whilst their bar is not at at least gold level (one under platinum) there is a chance of failure where the objects will have the opposite effect (death by potato powered machinery plum).
Your Sim's wants and personality mattered
and had a huge
impact on gameplay.
The Chemistry System
Chemistry came with any and all packs starting with Nightlife early in TS2's run. It is essentially an attractiveness system used to measure relationships, and it meant that all Sims had different tastes. Your Sim couldn't just date any other Sim.
If your Sim has high chemistry with another Sim then they will get on much more easily and be able to use more powerful socials earlier in a relationship. Sims with no chemistry took hits to their relationship and would be more likely to have bad reactions to socials.
It affected autonomy considerably in terms of interactions and socials, but also had more subtle effects. Let's say Sim A has just made their dinner and is in the dining room with plenty of seats to choose. Sim B, who Sim A has high chemistry with, is further along in the living room. Sim A will sit and eat in the living room and bypass closer seats because they want to be with Sim B.
Chemistry is determined by the following points:
- Star Signs
- Turn Ons & Turn Offs
- Divine Matchmaker Intervention
It worked on a numbered system with tags being added at the -25 mark up to the 90 mark. -25 or less meant no chemistry whilst 90 meant three bolts of chemistry. Two bolts was 35-89 and one bolt was 1-24. The following features had effects:
Clearly a lot of thought went into this system and later expansions all added to it in little ways. In TS4 anyone can date anyone regardless of anything.
On the subject of relationships, here we have the Gender Preference system from TS2 and TS3. This system gave your Sim a hardcoded sexuality that played directly into the above chemistry system - multiple systems all working together to create a dynamic character.
But by far the most interesting part of characters in TS2 is, ironically, the Interests system. This actually originated in TS and was carried over to TS2, after which it disappeared into the void. With this system you could make two Sims with identical personalities and they would respond to the same interactions differently.
Interests determined what a Sim would talk about during questions and they would influence your Sim's autonomy. If two Sims were talking about a topic they found interesting then the conversation would go well and lots of points would be gained, whilst if one Sim didn't find the topic interesting then the conversation would go poorly. Learning a Sim's interests and then talking to them about them was a productive endeavour as a result.
Initial interests were assigned randomly but could be changed through many means. For example, a Sim in the political career will become interested in politics, a Sim who works out a lot will become interested in sports and so on. How interested in a subject your Sim was measured by points. Gain a point in one and you will lose a point in a random, other interest.
You could have a Sim with no interest in sport. Tell them to work out and they will gradually develop an interest. They will start talking about it other Sims and potentially make new friends from a new crowd. Left alone, your Sim will watch sport on TV or autonomously work out. Interests changed your Sim over the course of their lives. You could shape these directly or simply sit back and watch. Pets even had their own interests too.
Lastly we have the memories system, which recorded all of the important events in a Sim's life into a unique panel. TS3 version of this was a cluttered mess but TS2 version is a much loved feature.
Memories are stored in the Simology tab and come in either positive form (green) or negative form (red). Memories are often talked about by Sims, with positive memories being the subject of chatting and negative ones being the subject of gossip. These were separate from the Interests system and so Sims would generally be open to talking about them.
Your Sim's aspiration effected the nature of memories. What might be a positive memory for one Sim might be a negative one for another Sim and vice versa. For example, Sims will find getting married to be a positive event, but Sims with the romance aspiration will find it quite horrifying as they want to free to flirt with many Sims at once. Sims may have horrible memories of seeing a ghost or being abducted by aliens, but a Sim with the knowledge aspiration may find these events fascinating.
TS4 lacks so many features when it comes to what makes Sims unique, and this is a problem because the series is called The Sims
. Being able to make great looking characters is worthless when those characters are skin deep when it comes to detail. Sims in TS2 were dynamic and changed over the course of their lives with influences from so many different areas. It doesn't matter if we're getting magic, or if we get University or anything else - if the core of the series, the Sims themselves, is boring then no amount of content will make the game interesting for a good length of time for many people.
When a member of the old guard says that TS4 lacks depth, ^^^^^ that's what they mean.
I haven't even started on build mode, TS3 comparisons or Will Wright yet either.