Hello and welcome to Part 2. Yesterday, I began discussing and analyzing the role of small details in games. I used Dragon Age: Origins to demonstrate how a small detail that reflected my choices immersed myself into my character. I would advise reading that post before continuing on.
That being said, let’s look at a game in a different genre: The Sims 3. The Sims 3 is a simulation game of just ruling over a person’s life. You can select their job, what they eat, how they exercise, etc.. There is no story to the game, outside of the ones you personally make yourself. However, the game is not lacking for detail. In fact, it is one of the few games where I will admit I don’t think I will ever find every single, small detail that is present. What is most impressive is that the developers consider, detail wise, how expansion packs interact with one another.
To example this, for The Sims 3 base game, sims have “moodlets” that alter the sims overall mood and happiness. These little “moodlets” can be positive, neutral, or negative, and are simple things like a positive moodlet for a nicely decorated room or a negative moodlet for being nauseous. In The Sims 3 Seasons expansion pack, weather is added to the game; it becomes possible for a sim to get rained upon, thus giving them a negative “Soaked” moodlet. Now, in The Sims 3 Island Paradise expansion pack, the game allows you to create mer-people, who constantly need to stay hydrated or risk chapping. So what do you think happens if a mermaid or merman gets caught and soaked in the rain? If you assumed the logical choice that it would be a positive moodlet instead of negative moodlet, yes, that is exactly what happens. Yet, it wouldn’t have been surprising if the developers had not considered doing that giving it’s a minute detail.
Overall, this small choice creates a sort of full simulation experience. For simulation games, if one isn’t being ironic, the goal is generally to reflect what it is simulating as completely as possible. The last thing a developer of a simulation game should want is for their players to pause and comment that something that occurred does not fit the scenario. This small detail in The Sims 3 is one that would have caused me to pause if the moodlet was negative. In fact, I found this detail because I specifically looked for it after asking the logical question, “If my sim is a mermaid, do they still get a negative moodlet from the rain?” However, since the moodlet was positive, not only was I left impressed, but felt the simulation was very deep. I did not feel like mermaid traits were tacked onto a person/sim, but rather the person/sim themselves was indeed a mermaid. There are millions of other small details I could mention in The Sims 3, but the overall result is that the minute details add up. They allow the simulation to have a sensible and logical flow that not only makes sense, but deeply reflects even the smallest of choices one makes. Each experience of the simulation becomes customized and nuanced, making no minute the same as the last. All in all, one is forced to make further choices in reaction, thus pulling them deeper and deeper into the game’s experience.
That will conclude Part 2. Please tune in tomorrow for Part 3 where I will bring this analysis to a close. I will analyze one last game with an even more minute detail, and finally conclude everything with brevity.
The Sims 3 is © to The Sims Studio, Electronic Arts, and all affiliated parties.
Image: Screenshot- From The Sims 3, one of my Sims.