King of the road

I haven’t had much time to play anything in the last week and a half.

For some reason, a particular game demanded to come back out of the closet and that’s what I’ve been putzing around with when I have the odd half-hour before bed. There are times when I’m too tired to chop up zombies.

Bet you can’t guess which game it is.

Gah. Now I’ve given myself REM’s eponymous cover version as an ear worm. I guess there’s worse ear-worms to have.

Better than Life*?

Be careful what you wish for, I say — especially in Sims 3.

Herb Parsley, our gardener/chef extraordinaire, had a nice life going. He’d reached the pinnacle of his career at the local bistro well before his 30th birthday — okay, I have no real idea if it was before he turned 30, but it was certainly before he went from “young adult” to “adult.” There wasn’t much under the sun he couldn’t talk into growing… and yes, I mean that literally — Herb can socialise with his plants; I’m not sure what that says about plant intellect and/or about Herb’s conversational skills. And, to round out the grow ‘em/cook ‘em combo, he was well on the way to being a world-class fisherman too.

That’s sort of when things started to get a little weird. We spent a few nights at the Sunset Valley cemetery trying to catch the elusive death fish, and that’s where we realised we could literally pick up the grave of our old (and dead) friend Bessie Clavell and wander around with it in our pocket.

Fishing, while M. Hulot watches from beyond the grave

Fishing, while M. Hulot watches from beyond the grave

Shortly after that, in what someone more paranoid than Herb might think was a mighty suspicious coincidence, Herb got an offer from the Science centre: come visit, bring along a dead friend and… see what happens. Never averse to making an extra buck or two when the opportunity presents itself, Herb went. I have no idea what Herb was expecting, but Mort and I were thinking he’d get paid a little for taking part in some freaky paranormal experiment and that would be the end of it. Oh, so wrong.

Instead, it seems those freaky squints had figured out a way to bring our Sims’ loved ones back from the grave… sort of. As soon as the experiment was over, we discovered that our household had acquired a new resident: our old friend Bessie Clavell, still ectoplasmic, but in all other respects just like any other Sim.

Herb wasn’t too sure what to make of it when he woke up the next morning and found ecto-Bessie snoring on the couch. Betcha didn’t know ghosts could snore! Or sleep, for that matter. Or pee, or have to shower. This was going to be… educational.

Herb-whoa-its-Bessie

It was also a crash course for us — the players — in managing more than one Sim at a time, but more on that later.

At first we were pretty happy about this new, Canterville-esque arrangement. Herb didn’t have many friends and Bessie was his best friend, to the extent that he’d call her now and then and he actually sought her out when she died. (Okay, okay… by sheer coincidence we went fishing in the exact same remote spot Bessie had picked for her pre-death guitar solo, but in Herb’s world, a near miss is as good as a hit when it comes to socialising.) For a while it even seemed like  a match made in the underworld — Bessie was compulsively neat, which meant she’d do all that nasty cleaning of sinks and showers that Herb can’t usually be bothered to do until it’s completely unavoidable (or stuff breaks down), and it’s not like we were lacking for money to take care of an extra household member. At that point Herb was earning upward of $500 an hour at the Bistro, and though he worked only 12 hours a week  in 3 4-hour shifts that was bringing in over 6 grand a week so we weren’t hurting for cash.

We soon discovered, however, that living with Bessie — dead like me or not — was going to entail a few changes to our routine. For one thing, she kept insisting on sleeping in Herb’s bed, which was sort of okay when Herb didn’t need it, but got really freaky when the game gave us the option of “Making Woo Hoo” the first time we tried to share. Making woo-hoo is one thing, but… with Bessie?! She’s like a grandmother to us! Besides, she’s DEAD! Ew! Ew ew ew ew ewwwww!

So it was time to extend the house, which meant adding a level. That sea-front lot is lovely and all, but it’s not all that big, so we had to build upward. That chewed up a few thousand of our savings, but nothing too major, and we were happy to do it because Bessie, bless her, was having a much better time with us dead than in the graveyard dead. When we first got her as a playable Sim, the poor woman — ghost — ectolasmic entity — was in an awful mood, dog-tired, hungry like the wolf and totally starved of social contact. Five minutes in our smallish but expensively-furnished house had picked her right up, and after that it just felt mean to tell her she had to bog off back to the community mausoleum.

So Bessie got a small but cozy (in a ganny kind of way) room in our new upstairs, and she and Herb went along their daily routine. There wasn’t much interaction, but Herb was happy to have her there (provided she didn’t disrupt his crusty loner lifestyle too much) and she was quite obviously happy to be there. If we, the players, thought it was kinda odd that Bessie kept on going as though nothing had happened, the people in the game certainly didn’t bat an eyelash. Well — they’d startle now and then when they realised that the classical-guitar playing Granny they were tipping at the park was see-through and accompanied by a low oooOOoooOOeeeEEeeeOOoooOOO background noise and ectoplasmic “I’m a ghost!” twinklies, but other than that everyone was very nice about it, all things considered.

And then… Herb discovered romance.

It all started with getting robbed — or rather, some poor sap trying to rob us, but she didn’t know that since the last time she’d tried. we’d installed a kick-ass, top-of-the-line (okay, and also the only available) security system.

robbed-again

That’s the security system whooping like a banshee on the wall. Next to it is the $8000 can’t-take-my-eyes-off-it mega-TV, which is probably what the burglar was trying to get in the first place. And in the middle you can see the burglar and the brave policeman who’s arresting her. Brave FEMALE police officer. This will shortly become important.

A few days later, Herb’s fishing in the park in the middle of town, and occasionally socialising.  Spring is sprung, his reputation can’t get any better, his gardening and fishing are as stellar as his cooking… and Herb is starting to consider that he’s getting older (though not as fast as the rest of town, since apparently aging-speed changes only affect one’s own Sims) and that he’s got nobody to leave his growing fortune to.

Ah yes, speaking of fortunes, Herb is slowly taking over downtown. Once you get enough money saved up, clicking on one of the dozen or so business locations gives you the option to buy a partnership, which Herb eagerly did as soon as he had the requisite moneysaved up (prices vary from $6000 to around $50k). You can buy as many of these partnership shares as you like, and each individual business has 4 shares in total. If you have enough money, you can even outright buy the whole business — but we tried that with the Diner (now catchily renamed “Herb’s Fun Foods”) and as far as I can tell it’s the stupidest move any budding entrepreneur would make. For a 1/4 share of the business, we were getting $1000 a week; not bad at all for an initial outlay of $6k. When we spent the extra $18k to own the place, however, our weekly takings went up to a whopping… $1,800.

Now, I don’t claim to be Trump-like in my business acumen, but even I can work out that 1,800 /= 4 x 1000. Hell, it’s not even twice 1,000, and we paid a total of $24,000 to buy that stupid dive. I know places have overheads and all but sheesh! And the power to hire and fire personnel does not, in my book, make up for the fact that I paid four times as much in order to get less than twice as much return. So yeah, for now, we’re quarter-owners of most places in town and that’s how it’s going to stay. Herb is still netting over ten grand a week and has been able to quit his job, so it’s not exactly a tough life. But I’m getting ahead of myself again.

death-in-the-park

Herb, in the park, wanting to socialise. We randomly pick one of the women-type people wandering around and start chatting with her, though what she doesn’t know is that Herb is oh-so-casually looking her over for mate and breeding potential. (What, cold? Just efficient!) Once we got to know her a little better, however, it turned out that what Herb didn’t know was that for all her mature looks, she was jailbait and still in high school.

Undaunted — but unwilling to go to jail in the name of perpetuating the family name — Herb moved on to check out some of the other ladies wandering about. He soon spotted someone familiar, who apparently already knew him, though it took Mort and me a minute to place her: she was the policewoman who had so rapidly and bravely dealt with the would-be burglar a few nights previously.

On the spur of the moment (and mostly because I keep telling Mort that our Sims need to socialise more, that talking to plants and ghosts really isn’t having a social life), Herb invited her back to his place. Surprisingly, she agreed.

Unsusprisingly, she liked Herb’s place. He’s got the kickingest gear it’s possible to have — console, high-end TV, plush sofas, thick rugs, designer lampshades, and even the Minus One Kelvin cooling contraption that is just way too fashionable and efficient to be called a mere refrigerator.

console-time

Herb fed her culinary masterpieces, chatted with her, got to know her, played games with her… and, at a propitious time in the evening, asked her if she wanted to spend the night. Behave, you — all that means is “sleep in my house but not necessarily in my bed.” To Herb’s mild shock (and our own), she agreed — though as it turned out, I’m not actually sure she had anywhere to live in town, since we couldn’t find her residence anywhere on the map, so maybe it wasn’t that odd after all. (At that point Mort started to mutter about her being a gold-digging out-of-towner with a law enforcement badge, but I persisted in believing she’d only just got to Sunset Valley and simply hadn’t found a place to live yet.)

Long story short, she stayed over for three days. At the end of this experiment in Stockholm syndrome whirlwind and rather unexpected romance, Herb proposed and the gold-digging conniver plucky police officer agreed!

Herb-proposes

And before you even start thinking it, Herb was the epitome of gentlemanly behaviour. We only woo-hooed AFTER the proposal, not before. No sir! Old-fashioned family values here!

One thing led to another, however, and three-and-a-half days after meeting her, Herb was married to… er… uh…. Okay, okay, I’ll confess — I can’t even remember her name. Which is emblematic of how the Herb game started going in unexpected and not entirely welcome directions as soon as we decided to change his crusty but comfy old ways. Anyway, I can call her Mrs Herb from now on.

Half a day after the simple, at home, utterly private ceremony, the Parsleys were pregnant. Say what?! As we discovered when she moved in — and therefore became a playable part of the household — Mrs Herb has the “lucky” trait, which not only wins you hot-dog eating contests but apparently also makes it a lot easier to get bun-in-the-ovenned-up. Way to go, Herb!

Oh, I forgot something. Right before the, ahem, climactic first woo-hoo, who should decide to come home but Bessie?

ghost-what-ghost

She didn’t know it, but that spelled the end of her time in the Parsley household. We hauled her head-stone out of storage and planted it in the back yard, because I felt it would be too cruel to relegate poor Bessie all the way back to the graveyard. We weren’t quite sure what would happen, but we figured we could live with it if she decided to haunt the vegetable garden. (As it turns out, she visits now and then to use the shower or possess the dining-room furniture, which is okay since she only does it between midnight and 4AM. Very considerate of her, really.)

So within a week of game-time — which can go pretty quickly — Herb went from unmarried, happy, self-directed bachelor to married and expectant father who’d carted his elderly (okay, dead) relative (okay, friend) off to Shady Pines (okay, the back yard).

ruh-roh-ralphpreggers

Two days later — hell, Herb didn’t even have enough time to read the pregnancy book! … and no, it had nothing to do with the 3 fishing books he really had to finish first — the Parsleys brought home their little bundle of joy, young Tulip Parsley.

And that’s when things got way too much like real life and way too little like fun. From then on, neither Parsley got enough sleep, because the BoJ doesn’t sleep for very long before requiring a bottle, a nappy change, some cooing and socialising, or all three at once. It’s just as well Herb wasn’t working anymore by then (and Mrs Herb apparently gave up her law enforcement career when she joined our household… that or she wasn’t actually the policewoman at all, in which case… who is she?!??). Fishing? Pfft, not gonna happen, even with the sea just across the road. The one time we tried we barely made it there before we had to come running back to take care of the little monster apple of our eye, and even then it was too late since Mrs Herb had been woken and was grumping around in an unwashed bathrobe complaining about having to do everything around here.

I also discovered that I am WAY too much of a control freak. I have a really, really hard time just letting my Sims get on with things as they want to. When we were just playing Herb, that was fine — no other distracting focus for our attention, so dictating his every move was engrossing and fun. Once we acquired the wife and baby though, things started to go out of control. And yes, the baby is a member of the household too, though she doesn’t do much right now except eat, sleep and poop and, due to her young age, doesn’t have anything complicated like wishes or skills.

Within an hour or two the Parsleys were sleeping in shifts, eating whatever they could find for leftovers in the Kelvinator (which, fortunately, keeps food fresh apparently forever), living in their own barely-washed stink (which is roses compared to an unchanged diaper), and snatching moments in front of the TV whenever they could for some of that blessedly passive, oh-so-welcome fun. And I, at the keyboard, was almost as frazzled. Moreover, Mort and I were both a bit freaked out with how quick the whole process is (bachelor to dad in ONE WEEK?! — which equates to 1-4 hours of playtime) and, in many ways, how realistic it is.

Don’t go thinking that I’m down on cohabitation and/or down on kids. (Just in case the mildly satirical tone of this narrative didn’t make that clear from the outset: I’m joking. Mostly.) I did, however, discover that as in real life, it helps to PLAN for marriage and kids and household expansions in the Sims, because when you do it on the spur of the moment it can really mess up your carefully regulated, hip single professional lifestyle. Mort and I didn’t expect things to move as fast as they did, and though we went along with it to see what would happen, we became more and more freaked out until, a few days after poor little Tulip’s birth, we saved and quit the Herb game… probably for the last time.

* obligatory virtual-reality game-thing reference.

Sims 3: Fighting The Man

As I mentioned last week, I made  a Sims 3 hippie. After playing Herb, whose ambition and perfectionism are fulfilling but also very time-consuming (job, garden, a little fishing on the side; friends? who needs em!), I wanted to see if I could make a character who would never work.

Enter Sunbeam Moonlight, who was developing a backstory before I was even done with the outfit-creation screen. Her grandmother left her a cute but dilapidated old house in Sunset Valley… and not much else. I picked that pretty beach-front lot we also picked for Herb, which isn’t cheap, put a smallish, older-looking house on there, and spent a fair bit of the remaining money on trees and other lot decoration. By the time I was done, Sunbeam was left with about $1000 to represent Grandma’s small cash bequest — probably stuffed under the mattress.

I left the house empty not because I actually wanted it empty, but in an attempt to symbolise Grandma Moon’s tatty, mostly useless old furniture. Problem is, if it’s there your Sims can use it or benefit from it, and I wanted a large part of the house to be useless for a while, so… empty. The only things in there were a bed and a  tatty old sofa — no bathtub, no toilet, no kitchen, in an attempt to represent that stuff was there, just not in any state to be used; if Sunbeam wanted the modern comforts of home, she’d have to renovate the house one bit at a time.

Fortunately, Sunbeam couldn’t have cared less. She’s a lucky, outdoorsy, artistic flower child who loves fishing (of course she releases them!) and doesn’t love committment — the latter included not only because I couldn’t see Sunbeam ever wanting to settle down with anyone, but also because it supposedly makes it hard to hold a steady job, and ideally I didn’t want her holding any job at all.

Ants? What ants?

Ants? What ants?

It’s unfortunate in a way, but it seems almost too easy to keep one’s sims happy in Sims 3. Step 1, be careful what negative traits you pick; step 2, watch that mood bar. Hell, even at work you can “take it easy” which apparently counts as having fun, which to me seems almost too much and I’m someone who doesn’t like too much of a challenge when it comes to keeping my Sims happy.

So, even without a useable kitchen or bathroom, Sunbeam had very few problems. Being outdoors most of the time makes her happy anyway (mood bonnus), and I figured her for a gregarious sort; so I took her to the park a lot where she not only met fellow Sunset Valley residents and even a few other ardent anglers, but also found that getting fed isn’t all that tricky and doesn’t cost a dime if you’re not too picky what and whose food you eat.

As Jen mentioned in her new Sims experiment, there are things just lying around in the Sims that you can use for income if you don’t work or are otherwise strapped for cash. Harvesting the apple and lime trees at the park provided a little income and had the added benefit of ensuring Sunbeam always had a fruit in her pocket to snack on — again, not particularly satisfying fare when the best foods can lift your mood for hours, but enough to keep the wolf from the door in the middle of the night. Then there are seeds… which I should never have touched with Sunbeam, especially knowing how gigantic and time-consuming Herb’s garden became (currently at 36 plants, but at one point he was up to 47); my only explanation there is that Grandma Moon almost certainly had a little vegetable garden and that Sunbeam is channelling her Gran without knowing it. Anyway, she took a few seeds home to plant and before she knew it, one of them had turned into… a money tree!

Yes, those are Sim-$ bill leaves

Yes, those are Sim-$ bill leaves

It’s tough to stay broke when even the vegetation is throwing money at you. Looking back, I might have given Sunbeam the “good” trait, which would have allowed her to donate a large portion of her money to charity anytime she pleased, thus staying away from the lure of empty materialsm. That said, the “renovations” are costing a fair bit and so far Sunbeam has managed to refurbish part of the bathroom (toilet and bathtub — the cheap kind) and most of the kitchen. The work was funded by winning a hot-dog eating contest (I have a feeling being “lucky” has a huge effect on these events) and by a couple of opportunities that came her way that didn’t seem too much like caving in to the Man. I can’t recall exactly what they were — one was to grow lettuce, and I think another was to catch a particular kind of fish.

Even without working, Sunbeam’s days are pretty full. Having tatty cheap furniture or using public facilities tends to mean that one’s mood isn’t as good, activities such as getting clean or getting a good night’s rest take longer, and so on. Besides which, there’s always plenty of fish to be caught and fellow residents to be chatted with. Sunny already has an address book that includes over 30 people, almost a dozen of which are friends — usually, making and maintaining friends takes time, but when you’re not working it’s amazing how much more casual socialisation you can get done on your way to harvesting or fishing at the park, or getting clean at the gym.

Christmas morning!

One of the other things Sunbeam was finally able to afford was that guitar she was dreaming of (in game terms, I got a short-term wish to learn the Guitar skill, and it occurred to me that no flower-child should be without some kind of musical instrument). She immediately took it with her into town to practice — none of this retiring, practice-on-your-own stuff for her. If your heart is good, your music will be too! (Eventually.)

so-bad-shes-good

Paying the bills has been difficult at times, especially since the little bastards sometimes seem to come twice a week, but maybe it just seems that way because she’s broke. As an unemployed slacker, Sunbeam is a nice contrast to Herb, though I have to watch myself and make sure I don’t get tempted to do stuff that’ll make money, like get a part-time job. Making money off her gardening side-line, off particularly prize fish, or off collections (she found some nice rocks, which she sold, and some lovely butterflies, which she released after keeping them in the house with her for a while) seems okay to me, but working would be a capitulation.

The thing is, as Flash of Steel so cogently pointed out, Sims 3 is pretty much set up for people to be good little rat-race rodents, wanting better jobs and bigger and better items bought with their wage-slave salaries. Sure, you can be an artist or a writer or a homeless bum, but most of the short-term wishes push you towards consumerism and upward mobility — which one is of course free to ignore, and one could argue that most games have to have some sort of progression goals or the achiever-players won’t feel like they’re doing anything useful. Even the less achievement-oriented among us like to have milestones, I suspect. For now I’m just choosing to see those “wishes” as the image of normalcy Sunset Valley (and Sims 3) society is trying to impose on Sunbeam, who simply refuses to play along. I ignore all the “get a career in X profession” prods and all the “buy furniture worth more than $Y” hints; I also ignore all the talk-to, make-friends, social-type wishes because Sunbeam will socialise in her own time and on her own terms — and is, as I mentioned earler, very gregarious; she just won’t let society tell her whom to see and when she should want to see them.

Sure, it’s futile in terms of actual protest and it’s nowhere near as profound as Alice & Kev — but it’s fun to play someone who can do exactly as she chooses from waking up in the morning to going to bed at night… provided she leaves enough time for a bath and a bladder-stop here and there.

BAM!

It’s not all fun and games in the cheffing trade, I’ll have you know!

Mort and I laughed like hyenas when this happened to poor Herb at work and we saw what he looked like when he got home. Normally he wears a stylish white chef’s uniform and toque, complete with 5-star medal and shoulder detail. Presumably he has more than one in his closet… oh wait, he doesn’t have a closet (we’re cheap that way).

kitchen-accident

It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye

Meanwhile, Sunbeam Moonlight is trying desperately not to cave in to The Man and get at least a part-time job so she can pay the bills. Selling apples is fine, but low-income until they’re really good quality (which hers are not, yet). She’s also avoiding the alluring siren call of the materialistic pig — the game keeps trying to get me to buy her a TV or something else shiny for the house, but every time I’m close to caving in (more mood bonuses and whatnot) Sunbeam gives me this hippie look and I can’t do it. The next big purchase will be a guitar because, come on, every self-respecting flower child has to have a guitar; problem is, they’re $600 and for Sunbeam that’s a lot of money…

sunbeam-plants-a-seed

Plant life-coaching

Just one… more… turn…!

Most of one week down since the purchase, and so far the score is a resounding Sims 1, Ysharros & household 0 — and that includes a couple of false starts, like the DVD not running in my machine’s drive. For once it’s not the DVD’s fault: my drive is almost 9 years old and, to put it kindly, is somewhat temperamental as to what discs it is actually willing to read these days. However, it plays just fine on Mort’s machine.

I was expecting to be interested for a while and entertained for a day or two. I was also expecting to find that the whole Sims experience became too much like a micro-managing chore after a while, which is how Sim City usually ended up being for me. Part of that is my fault — I have some control-freak tendencies — but part of that is the nature of any game with a zillion different pieces and things going on, any one of which could foul things up big time if you don’t keep a constant eye on them. Admittedly, this is getting better as the underlying AI of these sim games improves.

Anyway, I expected The Sims 3 to be more of the same except I’d be dealing with people instead of housing zones or transportation networks. Wrong!

Yes, the Sims 3 is engrossing. Yes, it’s much more complex and broad and layered than I expected. And yes, it’s rather addictive. There’s been a little micro-management but that’s really only because we wanted to: one can give one’s various Sims a greater or lesser degree of personal decision-making freedom and if you’re not telling them what to do, they’ll decide for themselves.

Feeling bad about nicking Mort’s computer, which to me is always rather like asking to borrow someone’s small clothes, I asked if he wanted to run a Sim together, and to my not-quite-surprise he acquiesced. Having a gamer partner is a great thing and besides, he likes borrowing my machine as little as I like borrowing his. (Especially for MMOs — we don’t have the same client / UI setups for MMOs, I have a different mouse, etc etc. And, ultimately, it just doesn’t feel quite right.)

Thus was born Herb Parsley. Guess what he does! Yep, he was born to cook. We made him ambitious, a perfectionist, a natural cook with a green thumb, and friendly to boot. (Full Sims 3 trait list here.)

As has been reported elsewhere, there are lots of things to do in the Sims and one of them is finding seeds which you can then plant and tend. What hasn’t been reported elsewhere is how insanely addictive some of these mini-games can become.

Anyway, the first thing we did with Herb was spend most of his money on a pretty seaside lot and a decent sized but mostly-empty house on said lot. Such furnishings as we could afford by the time the house was built were definitely substandard, but Herb figured he could upgrade those as he went. After that the first “real” thing Herb did was to attend a grilling contest down at the local beach social spot, which happened to be on the very afternoon he arrived in town. All he knew how to make were hotdogs, but what heavenly hotdogs they were! He won, of course, and his culinary career began.

Herbs-first-cookout-contest

A night or two later, right after we’d bought a couple more things for Herb’s house, he was burgled! (And after saying “That never happened to Calliope!” about a million times, I realised how handy my solo-Sim’s “lucky” trait must be.) Fortunately, he called the police at the first stealthy creaks on the porch outside and the evil criminal was not only apprehended, but relieved of our phat lewt, which was eventually returned to us. Getting robbed wasn’t fun for Herb, but watching the neighbours come over to rubberneck and say nasty things to the thief was amusing for us players. The sheer quantity of “little things” in this game is amazing — people sneeze, burp, watch other people get up to stuff, gossip, say the wrong thing, or scratch themselves when they think no-one is looking. Brilliant stuff; I can’t wait to have a better computer so we can run this game at a higher rez more smoothly.

getting-robbed

Having had our night’s sleep so rudely interrupted (and sleep matters a lot in this game), we decided to go fishing. We didn’t catch much, but it sure was restful.

gone-fishin

The job we got at the local bistro wore Herb out for a while, until we realised that in some jobs, you can take it easy and actually do well! We also found out how important it can be to schmooze with your co-workers — especially after you get a big, fat promotion and raise and they don’t. They didn’t like Herb much there for a while.

As it turned out, the job was almost like a vacation. By then, we had discovered gardening. Man, it takes a lot of time, even when one has a green thumb. It’s easy to let it get out of hand, especially if you’re a perfectionist like Herb (which means most activities take him longer, though he ends up doing them better than most other people) and especially if you’re a pack-rat like the players playing Herb.

herb-garden

Juggling the needs of the ever-increasing garden with the need to not show up stinky to work and the need to actually show up at work and get promoted… yikes. Herb doesn’t have time for much of a social life, that’s for sure. However, he’s poised on level 9 of 10 of his culinary career — he’s already an Executive Chef and he hasn’t even hit his 30s yet. He is, however, pretty close to burnout most of the time — he gets to sleep as soon as the work shift is over, usually around 9 or 10 in the evening, and he’s up before 5, ready to tend the plants and harvest the produce.

Good thing he can talk to his plants for company — which, among other things, got him to Gardening 10 in no time flat. He’s already grown one perfect apple tree and is constantly on the lookout for more seeds to widen his knowledge of plants. (Meaning, we’ve only planted about half the plants that can be found in game, and we’re not sure where to find the rarer ones. We’re not going to look it up, however — it’ll be fun to get out and look for them, if the job and the garden ever leave us enough time to do so.)

My first Sim-character was Calliope, a friendly, bookwormish artistic writer type who was almost too much like an idealised version of myself — comfortable to play, but not exactly full of surprises or challenges. In contrast, Herb is an ambition-ridden perfectionist who gets antsy when he hasn’t been promoted or received a raise in a while, who takes his time getting everything juuuuust right, and who really doesn’t care who he talks to as long as it gets him where he wants to be in life. He’s predisposed to being friendly, but that tends to take second place to the needs of the job and the garden — and since the gardening feeds almost directly into his job as a chef (pardon the pun), those two activities tend to rule most of his life. His only close friend is his boss, which is pretty sad. On the upside, he only works 3 days a week now and he’s hauling in over 1,000 simoleons a day. Maybe he’s finally reached that stage in his life where he can finally stop being so driven at work and start smelling (instead of mulching) the roses.

Right.

Herb’s driven lifestyle (and of course the marvellous ongoing saga of Alice & Kev) made me wonder if it would be possible to play a Sim who didn’t work but got by all the same — which led to the creation of Sunbeam Moonlight, seen standing here in front of the house she just inherited from her grandmother. Three guesses as to what she might be, and the first two don’t count.

Sunbeam-start

Sadly, her story will have to wait for another day. (Also, Herb’s increasing recognition as a cook and world-class gardner is currently more engrossing than being a fishin’, wanderin’, seed-pickin’ hippie.)

Hobo to the max

Thanks to RPS’s link, I have discovered this little gem: Alice and Kev.

Alice & Kev

Alice & Kev

It’s a Sims3 diary and experiment, and it’s already fascinating. It’s also not helping a) my desire to buy that game and b) my increasing twitchy need to get a new computer. Our current rigs are 3 and a half years old and they weren’t cutting edge when we built them (we went more for “affordable” back then), and I’m still enough of a nerd that I start to feel inadequate if I’m not upgrading at most every 2 years, though I’ve been getting around that by making small and/or incremental upgrades — new gfx cards, new monitors, etc — every so often. Still, it would be nice to be able to crank up the graphics on EQ2…

Happy Sunday.

EDIT — thanks to a grocery trip that took us entirely too close to Best Buy ( *innocent look* ), I am now the proud owner of a Collector’s Edition of  The Sims 3. I have already told Mort that my playtime is to be strictly controlled, knowing my obsessive tendencies with the other Sim-games (not the Sims, but SimCity and its various spinoffs).

The collector’s edition came with a gimmick, but it impressed me so it’s a good gimmick: a 2GB USB drive cleverly hidden inside a lime-green plastic lozenge… which also has a doohickey to clip on to a keychain or, as provided, a lime-green carabiner. Gimmicky for sure, but neat. There are other goodies like some kind of sports car and a $10 Sims store credit, but it was the included strategy guide that sold the package, since I was going to get one anyway. From previous experience, most Sim-games are complex enough that a guide is never superfluous. Besides, I’m one of those weird people who actually enjoys reading game guides.

That is all. Time to install! (…as soon as I finish wrestling with the DVD case wrapper and protections.)