Between live streams, conferences, and other trailers, one group of fans at ts4news.com noticed a large number of features missing from the soon-to-be-released The Sims 4 and have created a comprehensive list. Everything from small and potentially nitpicky things such as the lack of male body hair to pretty big deals like cars and basements make the list. Maybe it would not be an issue if one or two of these features were missing, but such a large number of axed core mechanics is worrying and it should be a red flag to even the most dedicated of Sims fans.
Electronic Arts is no stranger to bad game launches. Battlefield 4 and it’s endless server problems is the most recent example, but more related to The Sims 4 was the disastrous launch of the SimCity reboot early last year.
Outside of forcing every player to have a constant online connection then having massive server outages for days at a time after launch, SimCity was also plagued with a lack of features and a generally watered down experience. The developers and EA themselves were also caught in several lies about the issues in the months following the release. When fans began to get angry with the lack of offline play, Maxis General Manager Lucy Bradshaw responded with this quote to Polygon:
With the way that the game works, we offload a significant amount of the calculations to our servers so that the computations are off the local PCs and are moved into the cloud. It wouldn’t be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team.
Shortly after launch and less than a month after this quote a group of hackers were able to get the game working offline. To their credit, the developers did include offline play eventually, but that was nearly a year later. More importantly, Maxis flat out lied to consumers about why they could not play the game they purchased with any kind of stability for weeks. We may never know the real reason EA/Maxis limited the game to online-0nly at launch (I hear you yelling DRM), but we know for sure it wasn’t because computations had to be done in the cloud.
SimCity was also launched with several features scaled down or missing entirely. Highways and Subways were removed completely, instead being automatically placed between lots to connect you to your friends (or the other towns you create while you play by yourself like you wanted to in the first place). Lot sizes were laughably small, and many players quickly reached the max building limit and noticed that, despite your town reaching full size, the population count would continue to climb for inexplicable reasons even without the city itself growing an inch.
With all that in mind, we have The Sims 4 coming out on September 2nd. From the very first trailer it was obvious the graphics had been flattened out considerably. There were less shadows and the Sims had taken on a more blocky cartoonish look than even the already cartoony Sims 3 models. That’s all well and good, nothing wrong with a different style. But the problems started to arise when fans were shown more of the game and it became obvious that a lot Sims core features were missing.
All-in-all ts4news.com discovered 89 confirmed features that were in previous Sims installments. The comprehensive list can be found on their site here, but below are the ones they considered to be the most damaging:
MAJOR CRIPPLED/LIMITED FEATURES THAT WERE IN TS3:
All buildings on a lot must have the same foundation. No mixing for sheds, garages, etc. (x)
Babies are mere objects – All interactions are through basinet. There are no baby objects. Babies can only be lifted directly above basinet. (x)
Backgrounds are illusions – The buildings in the background are not playable in the game. (x)
Completely FLAT lots – The entire build-able world is completely flat (x)
Fewer floors/levels, limited to three (x1) (x2)
SIGNIFICANTLY smaller “worlds” of Smaller lots – Lots are limited to 50×50 instead of 64×64. (x)
Loading screens for individual lots (x)
The map is a one-dimensional picture (x)
Teens are same height as adults and they, along with elders, all look nearly identical. (x)
These missing features are shockingly similar to those that SimCity was shipped without: Smaller lots, harder to travel between locations (in SimCity 4 you controlled every section of land could connect them yourselves, in SimCity there are large highways and spaces you can’t touch), and a lot of lazy decision choices meant to save time and money at the expense of a rich world full of relevant details. The Sims franchise is all about those small details and how they make the world come alive, and they are the exact thing that EA/Maxis are crippling with The Sims 4.
Worst case scenario is that Maxis is purposefully withholding these features to be included later in payed DLC and if you ever want to use a car, basement or a baby that isn’t a static object you’ll be paying an extra $9.99 or more for the privilege of doing so. Most people are fine with paying for expansions that include substantial things like Pets or extra buildings to play around in, but the day they start charging for things that were in the core of previous installments is the time to start worrying.
Maxis claims that they are trying to make your Sims “act more like real people” but remove things like different models for different ages of Sims? Really? You know what real life people do? They age. They look different, they can swim in a pool if they want. This is blatantly dumbing down the game and creating less actual features and immersive details by hiding behind the ambiguous “more realistic” Sims actions.
The developers has previously responded to the criticism and lack of core features to Game Informer. As The Sims 4 executive producer Rachel Franklin told them during and interview at Gamescom a few weeks back:
I’m uber focused on the base game, it’s always a tough decision. I want to put everything we’ve ever created in the last 14 years into a base game. We simply can’t. That said, what we have done is we’ve created an incredibly rich, robust experience. If we didn’t build the core foundation, but I gave you pools, that wouldn’t be the right thing to do. So we had to make that choice, because we have to make sure that the foundation of the experience that we’re delivering for the base game is as amazing as I believe we’ve made it. It was a tough decision, but I believe it was the right decision despite how difficult it was.
It’s the excuse currently taking the gaming community by storm. “We can’t do this one thing because it would stop us from doing this other thing.” Ubisoft most recently tried it as a reason for not including female characters in Assassin’s Creed Unity when they claimed they could not include them because the modeling animation would have taken too much time. The Internet was quick to jump on them.
Even on their own “What’s New in Sims 4” post , Maxis does these 1:1 comparisons about what needed to be left out to implement new features that “you want”.
So the bottom line is that when we sat down and looked at everything we wanted to do for this game, all the new tech we wanted to build into it, the fact was that there would be trade-offs, and these would disappoint some of our fans. Hard pill to swallow, believe me, but delivering on the vision set out for The Sims 4 required focus. Focus on revolutionizing the Sims themselves. So, rather than include toddlers, we chose to go deeper on the features that make Sims come alive: meaningful and often amusing emotions; more believable motion and interactions; more tools in Create A Sim, and more realistic (and sometimes weird!) Sim behavior. Instead of pools, we chose to develop key new features in Build Mode: direct manipulation, building a house room-by-room and being able to exchange your custom rooms easily, to make the immediate environment even more relatable and interactive for your Sim.
Somehow we’re supposed to be believe that implementing pools and and a semi-functioning toddler model would have taken too much time from creating the vague “more lifelike Sims” claim by Maxis. Giving Sims the ability to talk to groups of Sims instead one-on-one took key developers off of creating more interactive backgrounds or allowing a tile size that’s not 23% smaller? These neglected details are all things that bring Sims to life.
Yes, video games do take time and they take a lot of money but there was nothing stopping the company from delaying the game a bit longer to include a base of features that would make the game not a mockery of the decade-old franchise. Instead it is being rushed out and watered down.
And finally, the nail in the “this is going to be an absolute train wreck of a game” coffin: EA has confirmed that no journalists are getting an advanced review copy of the game. If you didn’t already know, advance copies are usually sent to journalists to play and write reviews that are published ahead of a game’s launch. This helps gamers make informed decisions before buying a game on day one. Sites and magazines like Game Informer and Gamespot get their games ahead of time, play them for hours and warn you of an impending complete waste of money (like they did with SimCity). But EA has effectively put an end to that with The Sims 4, and that’s a very bad omen for the game.
Unless you’re an absolutely dedicated Sims nut who can’t live without playing the newest version even if it is watered down and missing a few dozen features, I would do everything in my power to avoid this game like the plague. At least until a couple months pass and hopefully some of these missing features or blatantly lazy decisions are rectified.