We Need Improvements: Ways The Sims 4 Could Have Fun, Deep Gameplay (Sims 4 Review)


I’ve had this video idea in mind for a long
time, and wanted it to be constructive. It just took me a while to get comfortable. We are five years into The Sims 4’s life,
and it’s hard to believe that sometimes. The team have done a lot to add on to the
game, but players are still disappointed. Why is that? It seems that when people talk about Sims
4 they say something is off about it, and that it’s too shallow compared to previous
Sims titles. I definitely don’t feel they’re wrong, and
I’m going to elaborate on why. In the meantime, I’d ask you what your problems
are, what you feel is fixable and what could be done about the problems as you see them. I want to be very, very clear here. Not all of the systems I’m going to talk about
are bad, but due to the nature of the video I’m going to focus on those areas where I
could see improvement. Even if you love Sims 4, maybe you can agree
with some of it. I’m hoping for civil discussion on the topic. Whether it’s an expansion or patch, a lot
of the improvements that have come to The Sims 4 have been additions in one way or another. CAS story mode, toddlers, terrain tools. It is nice to have new things and the community’s
generally excited, but I see a problem with the fact that we haven’t had any overhauls
to fix core problems. See, tacking things on leaves you with the
same problems but with a new function. If that function doesn’t alter the gameplay
in a meaningful way, when you’re done playing with it you are back to square one. The same is true of DLC. Because the DLC that comes out for Sims 4
is so frequently self-contained and not modifying how things work in other areas, it is adding
width without depth. Leaving the game in the same shallow state
we have dealt with for five years. The list of things in the game is huge, but
they don’t interact with one another very often and no packs have come out that say,
modify the relationships system, or make emotions somehow more interesting, or tie into careers
and make them better. New careers are added, you play them, and
then you have 0 reason to go back to the old careers. Half the time, they’re this new work from
home thing and are trivially easy. This causes the effect where for about 10
days after a pack everything is super active, people are playing, and every day a huge chunk
of the player base experiences everything that came in that pack but without a reason
to re-explore the older content in a new light. Being very honest, the base game has serious
issues. On it’s own it’s pretty weak and we’re in
this place where we rely on a volume of content to make things interesting and provide a variety
of activities. I feel that improvements to areas of the base
game that under-delivered at launch are necessary to satisfy the community, and really the only
option that Maxis has given there are too many packs to attempt to right things in those
areas. Let’s look at some of 4’s weak points and
what could be done about them. Traits are the first big flaw I want to touch
upon. The traits in this game lean far, far too
heavily on the emotions system. Nearly every trait is somehow tied to emotions
with only a few offering unique benefits. Even where they differ, they’re in groups
that are very similar. Geeks and ambitious Sims get stressed after
a time if something they like doesn’t happen – either playing video games or getting a
promotion at work. It’s a simple timer that runs in the background
and resets when you do the thing they like to do. The emotional traits all provide small random
bonuses or penalties to emotion but they are so small they are nearly forgettable. Given that Traits are the one, non-changing
thing about Sims, they should be the thing that differentiates them. Two Sims should be very different from one
another in a meaningful way, either through behaviors, unique behaviors that are not just
renamed, or gameplay bonuses or penalties. The bonuses and penalties will tend to steer
what a player does with that Sim. You can still do anything, but they may do
this or that particularly well. While I was happy to see Create-a-Sim story
mode added, with weak traits it’s a system that serves only to randomize starting conditions
that will be neutralized as soon as you have some good objects in the house that let you
take total, unwavering control over a Sim’s emotional state. The traits cease to matter much so they no
longer guide player decisions or provide value or penalties. This means all the Sims end up the same by
mid-Adulthood or sooner. An overhaul of traits, with unique attributes
and behavior drivers is going to be necessary to salvage this situation. There aren’t so many traits that it’s impossible,
and many of the bonuses and behaviors are already in the game in some way and could
be attached to traits to make Sims more interesting. I’ve never talked about my feelings about
the Emotions system, heh. See, in a way I feel like it’s a step forward. Sims are actually angry or sad. However, there are 2 points I want to make
about things in this area. First, I don’t feel that Sims are emotional
enough in the hands of a decent player. There is this whole system built up where
you can get rid of bad moodlets by say, hitting a punching bag, talking to yourself in the
mirror, or telling someone about your problems and talking it out. The problem is, that aside from emotions like
uncomfortable that grow in strength from being unable to hold it, many moodlets are simply
+1 or 2, and if you have even slightly positive things going on it negates the system. Many moodlets only last a few hours also,
meaning they pass by before they have a real impact. Only things like death actually get Sims down,
and they may not get down even then and this makes them emotionally pretty flat. Like, someone just punched me in the face
but because I had lobster thermidor for lunch, I’m not even mad (laughs). Because of negatives being overridden, it
means you almost never use the cool moodlet decay system I mentioned. Many moodlets all have the same 3 or 4 hour
duration as well, so they don’t keep you down very long, you just do the same actions repeatedly
to keep Sims happy or pick one of the various positive moods like inspired. Emotions also tend to be an unimaginative
reward for so so many actions, but when it’s simply something like +1 happy for 3 hours,
it doesn’t even feel like a reward. Under the hood there need to be a lot more
hidden bonuses AND penalties. Let me draw on something few people probably
know about as an example. In Get to Work there is an espresso maker. If you create the perfect pre-work shot, you
get a tiny boost to career gains. There are hardly any of these in the game,
so you can’t strategize and get your Sim an amazing boost and nothing will really drag
down your Sim’s performance. So to an extent, emotions of all kinds adding
so simply are a problem and it’s far too easy to override the bad ones. What if, instead immediately after an event
the moodlet is stronger and decays in strength as time passes and you can take advantage
of the clear my head or vent my problems system to help get your Sim back into a happy state. This would require some tuning on what it
takes to hit emotional death but it makes more sense to me. What do you think? To be clear I’m talking about big life events
here, like getting a promotion, losing a loved one, getting in a fight, or a cheating spouse. A pass through emotions and improving durations
and strengths for certain ones could help a lot with this problem. This also ties into emotional traits, as what
if hot-headed Sims get angrier when they get angry instead of +1 random moodlets. This could trigger player Sims to be more
dynamic and actually use the altered behaviors emotions bring. Additionally, you could add more penalties
to emotions and boosts like the pre-work shot to object-specific activities to make them
more rewarding. Relationships are another problem I see. My Sim doesn’t care where his social fulfillment
comes from, whether he’s married or not and it’s just as good to talk to a random person
on the street compared to a long-term friend. I elaborated in my University video on what
I’d like to see in a friendship system, but adding some purpose to friendships under the
hood like it being more fulfilling to talk to an actual friend, and maybe social decaying
a little slower when you have loved ones and regularly see them, could definitely help
with this. Sims should never flirt outside marriage unless
their relationship romantically has turned sour. This would create a reason to go to parties,
meet new Sims, and maybe have it to where sharing common interests by hooking into the
Skills and traits systems could help Sims make better friends. It’s not very useful to know a Sim’s traits
right now. It’s just not. In the past, keeping Sims happy rewarded you
all by itself with gradual accrual of points to spend on rewards. There were also systems that described short-term
desires, like wanting to kiss your date or attain a new level in a skill the Sim is interested
in. The Sims 4 has the Whims system. Or… had. Sort of. See, it has been kind of buggy and new additions
have not been made with the various packs that came out, or at least not substantial
additions. Some players grew to dislike the system, because
of how same-y and repetitive it is. You always have the same 3 whims, and though
you can sort of guide what a Sim is into, because the list of possibilities is so short,
the same whims would come up. You’d also often complete them by accident. Whims should have been a system that gave
players a little optional direction in the short term, letting you the player make your
Sim happy by meeting their immediate desires. See, life isn’t just about attaining big goals
but also the little things in the short term that make you happy. But, by default Whims are now off and while
I support being able to turn them off, they are just absent. These short term goals need to be re-enabled
by the player and certain ones may not complete because they’re bugged. This decision to disable rather than fix and
add whims eliminated a system that should have served to give players short term goals
and drive the direction of game play. It makes Sims more like people with small
desires throughout the day. At this point we have no idea what our own
Sims want, which contributes to all Sims feeling the same. So instead of having what Sims want, we only
have what players want through the Aspirations system. Back in 2014 I thought that having Aspirations
be changeable was an intelligent design decision, as opposed to the largely locked in lifetime
wish system. At that time though, many of the goals for
aspirations were challenging. Not always in a good way either. See, things like, make a Sim so angry they
die is a pretty tough thing to pull off for many players. This is an example I turn to, because it’s
one of few I remember because it was so absurd. The team responded to criticism that aspirations
were too hard by toning them down. I had to go through all the aspirations on
my site and change the checklists. Instead of just focusing on the absurd, it
felt like the challenge was completely stripped from aspirations in that patch. Things became extremely easy to complete,
and with no skill challenges like what existed in Sims 3, they are the main place to turn
for game-sanctioned goals. Being able to swap them while also being in
a position where they’re extremely easy, means you just flip through them as you go and can
knock out a few in each Sim lifetime, many more if you want to. The patch that toned these down stripped the
game of one area where it had a little depth and challenge. A good number of the reward traits for these
are good in concept, but at times have been broken like the book of life. I think the team should make sure all these
work properly and at the same time should have been adding goals with each pack. The fact there isn’t an aspiration for many
different areas of the game is a bummer, because it gives players less reason to chase those
rewards. In the Sims 3 days, you’d fire up a Sim, pick
a lifetime wish and that would sort of guide your play with each Sim. In Sims 4, since they are all very similar
in structure, you are just swapping while changing which skill you’re using and they
magically auto-complete with few bumps in the road. The game needs something like Sims 3’s challenge
system or at the very least to have yet another look at aspirations that already exist, while
maybe adding some in order to beef up the system and provide players with goals. It’s a sandbox game by nature, and you can
make your own challenges, but many players want ways for the game to direct their play
a little. A Sim who pursues bestselling author and a
Sim who pursues friend of the world should be very different. All in all I feel that players are right to
be upset that many of the packs that come out have been sparse in the traits and aspirations
area. The traits list for previous games have been
staggering. This has led to the expectations that we have,
but it’s a life Sim. Traits and goals are the main ways to make
Sims different from one another. One of the easiest goals for aspirations is
to max a career. So there really should be tons of these, with
reward traits differentiating them. It may not be true of things like Conservationist,
but what about something like Leader of the Free World? Playing a politician in City Living, becoming
the leader of a nation is a big deal and should take some serious work. It’s definitely a lifetime goal. Every career track is mostly made equal by
extremely simple and repetitive requirements. Now, this would be fine if and only if, they
also added in unique rewards to those careers so that it feels different to play a politician
and a blogger. But because the interactions they get are
so hollow, there really isn’t a lot to it. All the old Sims 3 rabbit hole careers still
had unique rewards. So you would choose to play different careers,
even though they’re very similar. While I liked the new Work From Home Careers
that were needed, the problem is that you really should have a lot more you need to
do during a work day.. just from home. Having to knock out 2 interactions that take
30 minutes is not nearly enough time to justify paying someone. I’d like work from home to take some effort
and require me to plan out my day a little. See, it’s a life Sim. We aren’t simulating a life without any obligations
that need to be met. Making these trivially easy just makes people
feel like they aren’t even in a career. The three Get to Work careers are really the
only examples that are very fleshed out. Only Scientist has awesome rewards, but the
others are unique and very different to play which is part of their charm. However, The decision to make the other career
rewards mostly emotional aura items makes them all feel very similar. Those types of rewards can’t come with you
when your Sim leaves home, and there’s a big lack of new abilities that unlock from career
progression. This means i don’t fire up a Sim and get excited
to be a painter and explore what painter offers.. I just get better easels and don’t have to
work very long. The only real driver to picking a career is
money and work hour flexibility because we know they aren’t very unique. Unique rewards and unique or challenging requirements
for careers is the answer, and some careers could be a bit more difficult just by their
nature. So, let’s talk about money. We kind of have too much of it. I brought up paying for college or student
debt in my University video and plenty of people were quick to tell me how awful our
education system is in the US and that they don’t want to be in debt in the game. I understood that loud and clear. But, one reason I felt that way was I sort
of want to have monetary goals again. I would like to pay for college in some way. Aside from saving up to buy this cool ship
to boost the environment score in my Sim’s house, which is what so much of money expense
boils down to… I don’t have anything to do with large sums
of money. There are so few things that cost like, $50,000+
so… the fact I get tens of thousands in a week means all I can really do is make a
mansion. Or buy one on the gallery. Once I have it, then what. It’s not like I can go around buying up all
the public lots in town. Even Sims 3’s real estate system hit a dead
end eventually, but it took quite a long time to afford expensive places like the science
lab. You got some gameplay out of that, and the
investment was pretty neat. Imagine if you could buy and rent out the
apartments in San Myshuno or drop $200k on a helicopter even if only for visual effect. Sims 3 had some really expensive sports cars,
and the lack of those extremely expensive items is a letdown that continues to this
day. No, I’m not calling for cars but it would
be nice to buy expensive things. Everything’s handed to us now. Even with large amounts of money I can’t buy
the strangely-unavailable career rewards like the top secret computer without being a scientist. What if nicer lots were actually more expensive,
what if you could buy different venues based on the packs you own and generate a side income
from them that would pay off over the course of a generation. I really miss things like that, and I do feel
it’s a very simple thing to add some high dollar items and… honestly a real estate
system is just the rehash of another idea but it’s something that would be extremely
easy for Maxis to implement. Next up is difficulty. The difficulty of the game has gradually crept
downward over time, after the abrupt changes on the Aspirations patch. Too much money, not enough to do with it if
you have it. My Sim has no whims, and I am in total control
over what he wants, where he goes and who his friends are. He has no desires, so I choose if he gets
married or not and to whom. Players not liking the easy careers, I’m seeing
complaints in all these areas and I share some of them or I wouldn’t have made this
video. A suggestion has been to allow difficulty
by choice, game sanctioned difficulty slider or something. It’d require a lot of changes, or you could
go with simple multipliers to gains in various areas. But it’s the one way to keep people happy
on both sides. Maybe increase relationship decay, slow skill
or career progression, or make it harder to earn money. You could even go Kerbal Space Program on
this sucker and let people choose what areas they want to be harder or easier with some
pre-made difficulties to start us off. This one is very generic, but it ties into
everything here. Simulation lag, and poor Sim AI behaviors
are extremely frustrating as a player. Why do we need a mod to unfreeze Sims who
get stuck. Why do Sims never look forward at the queue
to see what actions are coming up. Like if I ask a sage for a spell, because
he’s in conversation he wants to sit down, then I have to watch him stand up again to
do the animation. I think just about everybody would agree that
seeing our Sims sitting and standing repeatedly break immersion and really drag things down. A lot of my suggestions for improvement are
all related to a core idea that seems to have been embraced: That idea is that the player
is in control, and Sims are just our dolls to play with and build our own stories. Story makers used to be a niche group, but
now I feel the people who want to make their own stories are one of the only types of players,
along with builders, who are content. Players who really require good progression
systems and rewards to chase are upset. Even if you don’t require depth and enjoy
things for how they are, realize that there are other groups out there who miss the depth
in Sims, who miss making wacky combinations and starting a new file and seeing how things
play out. Who want to do everything, but want each new
Sim they make to be different. Sometimes it feels like the loudest voices
in the room have come up with gripes and wants that I don’t share. There are players wanting to play who have
ideas about what is wrong and why they are not playing, and they are saying why, and
those people could be converted with some improvements to the base game. I feel that these are a start to fixing up
The Sims 4’s base game experience. The base game is vital to enjoyment, it’s
the starting point for all other gameplay and from there a lot could be touched up. Packs are fine but as for the base game I
do not believe we need anything added unless it improves these things, until the rough
edges are sorted out and this is part of why we are where we are. Plenty of people did complain and propose
solutions way back in 2014 and onward, I know that – you’ve been there all along. Simply saying it’s shallow without elaborating
on why is not going to get us much of anywhere so I took a stab at it. Are all my ideas good? Not likely, they’d need to be tested in the
game and a lot of them only work together. No Man’s Sky turned a bad launch around in
just around a year’s time, they earned back the goodwill of their customers and many people
like the game now even if it is not the original vision they had in mind. It is turning into something better, something
fun, and it may go the route of Minecraft with many updates over the years. They are proof it can be done. It may be too late, if Sims 5 is already in
development, but if by some chance we are going to have Sims 4 for a few more years
this discussion could be productive. I’m eager to hear what some of you think about
all this, what I’ve got right and where you’d disagree. Anyway if you made it this far, thanks for
watching and hearing me out. A friend provided a lot of feedback for this
video and she should be thanked as well. You can hit the bell to be notified of my
new stuff, and we have a patreon if you’d like to support the site and my channel. Have a great weekend and remember to be polite
in the comments section, please.

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