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March 10, 2003 | Karen Halloran

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Hot Date
Hot Date represents a major revision to The Sims' gameplay by greatly complicating the nature of social relationships between Sims. The first of these revisions comes in the form of the "lifetime relationship" bar, which works differently than the daily relationship (the only system used prior to Hot Date). The lifetime relationship is generally scored by how much time your Sim has spent with a particular Sim, whereas the daily relationship score is affected by your Sims' immediate actions and reactions. Selectable options for interaction have multiplied, and basic interactions have been broken down by level of familiarity. For instance, the "Hug" option now presents you with "Friendly" and "Intimate" options. The interests system (how interested an individual Sim is in certain topics by point scores), previously only accessible to the player via a cheat, has been brought into regular gameplay.

Hot Date also creates a new Downtown area where your neighbourhood Sims can go to meet other Sims known collectively as "Townies". Among the Townies are character archetypes specificaly created for dating purposes, such as the Lover, the Bombshell and the Partier. To help you in your quest to win over the Sim of your Sim's dreams the new Downtown area brings the joy of shopping directly to your Sims. Previously, all purchasing was done by the player, but now Sims can browse, try on and buy clothing for themselves or their companions. To further butter up your betrothed, you can buy them staple romantic gifts like candy and flowers, or for the ultimate in postmodern ironic self-referentiality, a copy of The Sims.

Similar to Hot Date, although less far-reaching in its improvements, Vacation adds a new "Vacation Island" area; which is the only place the Sims can go to do nothing but have fun, relax and socialize. The pack also enhances the play value of Sim children with expanded interactions. Everything on Vacation Island is dedicated to the pursuit of leisure; there are midway games that allow Sims to win tokens redeemable for souvenirs, a snowboarding half-pipe for show-offs, and a fishing pier for the quiet types. There are three principal themes for the resorts; beachfront, campground and winter chateau. A visit to Vacation Island is always a welcome change from the daily grind of work and household maintenance for both Sims and their players.

The latest of the expansion packs, Unleashed is an excellent pack that does a lot for The Sims players as well as their Sims. The most colorful function of Unleashed is that it adds a huge selection of pets and related objects to The Sims. Previously limited to a somewhat lackluster and occasionally downright hostile object-based guinea pig from the game and some crude implementations in The Sims' user community, pets have come into their own. The selection of object-based pets has expanded to include a turtle, goldfish and iguana; plus birds of the perch variety (parrots and cockatoos) and cage birds (budgies and lovebirds). By far the most intriguing new pets are the cats and dogs, who become members of your Sims' families. Sim gardening is taken to a new level with the addition of growable vegetables that can be either stored and eaten, or sold at the market. This is also the first expansion pack since Livin' Large to add new career tracks (five in all). Unleashed also adds a great deal to the look and management of Sim neighborhoods. Previously restricted to ten lots, neighborhoods now have forty-one. This new area is called "Old Town", which has both residential and community lots. All lots in the neighborhood can also be rezoned according to player preference.

Where to shop when you're a Sim
One of the reasons The Sims phenomenon has lasted so long is its user extensibility. Intentionally created as an open-ended architecture, players can customize their game by adding new walls, floors, roofs, Sim skins, objects and building lots. Because of this, The Sims fandom has exploded on the World Wide Web, where many talented individuals maintain sites to share their creations. The following list is only a very small sampling of what is available, but every site mentioned here has a page of links to other good places to check out.

Electronic Arts' official site is ground zero for all news related to The Sims on the PC, offering news and a handful of game downloads, but aside from being a source of information and having a not officially supported Macintosh section on the BBS, there is little there that caters specifically to the Mac user. Aspyr's The Sims site offers the same downloads as EA converted for the Mac, The Sims Macintosh support and game patches and updates, including the Carbon versions of The Sims, Livin' Large and House Party (a valid The Sims Macintosh serial number is required to access the downloads page). You can also find these patches at IMG's own or on c/net.


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