I think Eco-Living is another unfortunate example of a pack where Maxis comes so extremely close to conceptualizing an awesome expansion pack, but stops way too soon and settles for a more limited theme and experience.
What are the problems with this pack? Unfortunately, this pack suffers the same issue many before it do where nearly all gameplay content is confined to one world. It seems to be in the same vein as Strangerville where you follow a linear chain of actions to change the world, and that's that. There is no room for control, player creativity, or freedom which has always been a staple of The Sims. Our only option here is to take this polluted world and turn it into a happy, clean town. What if we have evil Sims, for instance though? Are they really supposed to be joining the cleanup effort?I think this pack would have been a massive success and far better received if, instead of just focusing on ecology, it focused on our Sims getting to make many different kinds of changes, good or bad, in ALL worlds.
The emphasis should have been on a greater amount of control and influence our Sims have in changing their worlds around them. We've even seen things like this in past surveys, such as one suggesting the ability for our Sims to become mayor of their town.
And an expansion focusing on change could have been taken in many different directions other than just ecology of every world:
- How about crime? Imagine having the option to control crime as a citizen, police officer, or for the extreme Sim twist on things, as a full-blown evil supervillain/superhero.
- What about economy? Keep your world as a homey, small town with a heart or sell out to the corporations for big bucks?
- What about expanded government features? Becoming mayor and setting new policies, taxes, curfews, laws, etc.
All of those ideas present players multiple different directions to take things in and loads of replayability to discover how taking each path would reflect the world around them. A pack tackling all of those different areas as one expansion pack, instead of just ecology, would truly feel like an expansion, with a wider scope in design, yet still focusing on the one centralized theme of Sims influencing change in every world around them.
Years ago, I recall getting so excited reading The Sims 2: Double Deluxe's back when I first purchased it. EA wrote, "Fulfill their goals and they will live a long, successful life. Happily-ever-after or shocking twist at the end? It's all in your hands." Freedom was presented to me to either drive my Sims to happiness and success or despair and failure. Unfortunately, this pack does not put any freedom in my hands, and dictates exactly how my gameplay will go. This is just not The Sims to me.