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March 10, 2003 | Karen Halloran

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One of the most longstanding and well regarded sources for just about all types of The Sims downloads is 7 Deadly Sims. Working from the name, site founder Claw has accumulated a large collection of quality objects, skins and walls and floors using each deadly sin as a theme (and it's also quite possibly the only place to download a skin of Idi Amin). The name Sandy Marnat-Damez should be familiar to Iconfactory fans, where her work at Around the Pixel is regularly mentioned. Her Sims site, Around the Sims, features some handsome and innovative object sets (such as a cyber cafe and an Indian restaurant), as well as high-fashion skin work. Ms. Marnat-Damez is also one of the few artists who designs exclusively on the Macintosh. For anyone out there waiting for a The Sims: Gladiator expansion pack, Roman Sims will satisfy most of your classical lusts (except for, perhaps, the blood sports). Not only are her skins and objects top quality, but the amount of research Christy Beall has put into her historical accuracy makes this site downright educational.

The talk of the New Jersey runways this season is the work of enigmatic one-name designer Shelby, whose distinctive and fashionable designs for Sultry Earth should be the talk of New York any second now. Her work is distinctly delicate, and her models have improbably high cheekbones. "What's next on my agenda?", Shelby said to me when I caught up with her backstage at her latest show, "couture duds for kitties and puppies." Male Sims can join the fashion race thanks to Trent Woo's Sims Connection UK. The site and its offerings are patterned after its namesake, the French Connection UK. Drawing his inspiration from his frequent trips to London, Woo's work is distinctly young, hip and urban.

Open House is a promising new housing site that offers residential lots in a variety of styles, mostly with a modern flair. A handful of skins and objects are also available. The long-established Simmington Square has a good selection of houses of the "elaborate manor" type. Most of their estates come with custom roof, wall and floor textures as well.

Now what do I do with these?
The Windows-using Sims community has a large number of utilities available for game enhancement or skin and object creation. The pickings are comparatively slim for the Mac, but there are several important utilities that can make managing a collection of downloads easier.

Because of its origins in the classic Mac OS, all versions of The Sims can only work with files within the original naming limit of 31 or fewer characters, and this limitation affects skins more so than any other type of Sims download. Cherie Benoit's SkinShrinker is a drag-and-drop utility that converts skins with long file names quickly and painlessly. Benoit's company, Bangsplat Software, also offers iff Taxi, a utility that allows users to set their own preferences for their objects in buy mode (buy mode is where the player purchases things for his or her Sims). Peter Gould'sIFFSnooper allows users to view and edit the contents of .iff files, the file format that Sims objects, walls, and floors usually come in.

An invaluable tool for any Sim downloader is a .far file making utility. Simply put, a .far file acts as a container for collections of other files so you can organize and manage Sim downloads more easily. FarMaker is a drag-and-drop .far creation utility. FarSight, which allows you to view the contents of .far files and extract them, is available here.

On The Sims' initial release for the Mac, Aspyr had two utilities ready to go. One was Namer, the first utility made to convert skins for the Mac. Origianlly used as a development tool, it's operation is more complex than SkinShrinker. The second is a port of the Maxis utility SimShow which allows users to preview Sim skins before installing them in the game.

Although there are issues with adapting downloads to work with the Mac, there are advantages that Mac Sims players will find over their PC counterparts. The stability of The Sims on the Mac (especially under OS X) is better than it is with Windows; The Sims Macintosh works with all current versions of the Mac OS (several versions of the Windows OS are incompatible with the PC version of The Sims), and the range of technical issues affecting The Sims on the Mac is also quite slim in comparison.

But how does it end?
Like any good Maxis sandbox-style game, there isn't one in sight. The Sims has gone online, moved to the PlayStation2 (and eventually the Xbox and GameCube) and The Sims 2 is currently in the works. What is available right now and still going strong is a game of unprecedented appeal and scale, with a life cycle that would currently be unthinkable for a standalone computer game. Starting up The Sims is a lot like opening the front door first thing in the morning; it gives you the feeling that it's a big world, and there's a lot to be done.

Related Links
Aspyr Media
Westlake Interactive
The Sims
The Sims: Hot Date
The Sims: House Party
The Sims: Livin' Large
The Sims: Unleashed
The Sims: Vacation



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