Baby, it’s cold outside, and there’s a giant tofurkey on the table.
As I have previously mentioned, the way I play The Sims 4 is diabolical. Everyone is perfect, no-one has any friends and the unfortunate townies who contribute genetic data to furthering my fiendish lineage only see their offspring if I can be bothered inviting them over; which is never. There is, however, one expansion pack that always inspires humanity in me; melts my heart like spring snow, if you will. It makes The Sims feel that little bit more real. No, it’s not Laundry Day Stuff but, my word, that is an actual thing. It is, of course, Seasons. My undoing was immediate. I invited the female townie (who was only ever supposed to be a biological vessel for my continuing madness) in for a Grand Meal on Winterfest. I even gave her a present; a new feature which efficiently improves relationships when you’re not wasting time on social skills and rewards. Then it was Love Day and I couldn’t ignore its associated buffs, so I gave her flowers and more gifts. By Harvestfest, she was a fully functioning member of the family, making flower arrangements, tending the garden, and secretly wooing the scarecrow.
The calendar, which shipped with Seasons, means you can see when these new holidays, including New Year’s Eve and Talk like a Pirate Day, will occur. (You can even make custom holidays and traditions, like a barbeque where everyone streaks or pays respect to the garden gnomes.) Other new features, however, are less intuitive. I thought I knew how gardening worked but this process has changed significantly. As I often do, I went to Carl’s Sims 4 Guide to get some hints on how to streamline my horticultural overachieving.
As I often do, I went to Carl’s Sims 4 Guide to get some hints...
Carl’s guide first explained that the reason I hadn’t seen snow in Winter is because I was playing in Oasis Springs, a desert region. I guess this means it’s cold, but dry, and that each world has slightly different weather. Snow or no snow, one of the major changes to gardening is that plants will only grow in their season/s. I’d been keeping one perfect spinach plant because eating perfect spinach makes Sims +3 Happy, but it now lays dormant until Winter. I had also noticed tweaks, like area of effect watering and telekinetic plant evolution, as the guide confirmed.
I do have to admit to being a fan of Carl’s Guide. The first thing I ever helped write for PC Powerplay was a lengthy Sims 2 guide and, not being privy to any official information, I still recall how difficult it was to definitively connect cause and effect within systems. I asked Carl Ratcliff what the most challenging thing about maintaining his guide is. He says, “Motivation. The expansion comes out when it’s ready, but are you in the right place to write about it? I’m lucky to be writing about games professionally and do remind myself of that.”
Carl says he’s spent “thousands of hours over the last decade” creating Sims guides and that a great guide “helps people to get more enjoyment out of the game because learning how things function is key.” I also asked Carl which parts of his site get the most hits. He says, “Aside from wanting to know how to cheat, people are looking for skill and career guides. They want to know how to care for babies and toddlers, too.” Maxing toddler skills on normal speed is still one of my favourite self-directed challenges in The Sims 4, as well as nailing adult careers.
Although Carl suggests that “gamers want to know how changes will affect their character”, I’m generally more surprised by how expansion packs change me. I accidentally got quite attached to the townie-mum-gardener mentioned above. Unfortunately, so did her family who were all +5 sad for days when the cowplant ate her. So that’s what happens when Sims care about each other. She was at level 8 of Flower Arranging, too. Worse, Love Day rolled around again and her partner got the sad debuff of nonparticipation because I felt bad about making him date someone new.
What has happened to me? It’s okay. I always got mushy when Seasons is released. I was also somewhat hot and cold on The Sims 4, largely because the initial gap in content seemed egregious, even if emotions were an exceptional new feature. And I do like packs with prescribed goals, like Jungle Adventure. I’m almost tempted to try out Laundry Day Stuff, just to see how ‘complete’ the game can feel before we get magic and robot love interests (another feature that undermines my ‘no love’ rule for some reason).
I’ve used Carl’s Sims guides for as long as he’s been making them. They provide exactly the information I’m looking for and as Carl says, “We get addicted to those level-ups and a sense of moving forward.” Yes, including when toastywarm winter feasts soften our hearts and playstyles. Carl’s guide also has forums where you can join in challenges, tell stories or discuss game features.