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Sims 2 University - Preview Part 1
In the Sims 2 University sims go to college for the first time. And although you don't get to follow them to class, there is a lot for them to do outside that. The expansion doesn't focus on the actual university too much, but instead it's almost all about the life before and after class. Nevertheless you have to make sure your grades are good enough, or you'll be kicked out and your Sim will grow up to be an adult - doesn't that sound boring?
The First
So why is University the first expansion? There's a number of reasons for this. The main one is that Maxis has had the idea for a long time, but the Sims 1 never allowed it. As Tim LeTourneau said, it doesn't make sense to send eight-year-olds to University, nor does it make much sense to have Adults go there. With the new aging technology in the Sims 2, Sims can actually grow up and having an addition life stage - Young Adults - solves a lot of problems, and now things finally make sense.

Another reason to do this first is that adding a life stage is better to be done early in the development of the franchise, otherwise Maxis would have to change a far bigger project to insert the extra life stage. Now future expansions can deal with the (optional) extra life stage before they're released. Meanwhile the Sims 2 has been out for almost 6 months, and the base engine is finished. That is something Maxis doesn't have to worry about too much anymore, so now they can going getting the real content in the game, and that's with the series of expansion packs.
Before you can send your Sims off to college, you'll have to create a campus to attach to the neighborhood. As with neighborhoods, you can use SimCity 4 terrains to create your own custom campus, on which you can build community places, frat houses or dorms. Building that last type is a bit tricky, as it'll require you to use a cheat to enable build mode. There are a lot of dorm houses in the house bin already though, which you can place anywhere in your campus. After placing such a house on the campus, the house wil remain in the bin so you can reuse it over and over again. That technology hasn't been transferred to the regular neighborhood yet, although that might change in the future. So for regular houses you sitll have to work with the files manually to get multiple copies of the same house in one neighborhood.

If creating a new campus is too much work for you, there are three campuses that Maxis has made for you: "Sim State University," "La Fiesta Tech" and "Académie Le Tour". You can pick any of them and attach it to your neighborhoods. The end result is that you can have campuses any way you like, just like neighborhoods in the Sims 2. The choice is yours, and it's up to you what you'll do with the area. You can also have as many campuses attached to your neighborhood as you want. Selecting the area you want to go to works just like entering a neighborhood, and so it's all very familiar. You can even go directly to the university area from the main menu, skipping having to load the neighborhood itself.
There is one thing to do before you can make friends to join the society: and that's to enroll in a major. You can pick up to 8 sims from the neighborhood at any time to start living in dorms, or you can create a new household of Students using Create-A-Sim. In such a household, all the students can have a different last names, but the loading screen will show the household name which you can set separately in CAS. If you choose to sends existing Sims, you can simply pick up the phone or use the computer at home and enroll in a major. This can be done any time during the Teen life stage, so it doesn't matter if they're in their early days or close to growing up. Another way is to simply select them all from a list. Playable Sims in the neighborhood are marked green with a plumb bob, so you can easily recognise your own Sims from the townies. That's right: Townies can be sent off to Uni so you can play them, and eventually turn them into adults.

Once you created your group of Sims, or you selected a pre-made few from the bin, you can move them in any residential place you like. A nice cut-scene will introduce your Sims going to University. If you have a bunch of Sims going there at once the scene will only play once though, the rest will take a taxi to enter the place.

The starting budget is fairly low by default - just §500. So the usual starting place for most of your Sims will be dorms. For those who don't know what those are: you'll have a lot of student Sims, of which no more than 8 are playable per house, living in one house each with their own room. But it's not just your Sims living there, also expect some NPC sims to show up to claim a room. That means that once you enter the place, you have to hurry and claim a room by clicking on the door. If you ever change your mind that is possible, but NPC students will start claiming rooms as well after a little while. You can't just claim their room to be yours at any time. So pick a room carefully but in time - they are usually already furnished, and only some of them have things like a computer that can be very useful during your stay. If your Sim didn't get the room with the computer, there's no harm done. You can still steal it by going into buy mode, and redecorating the entire place, including other Sims' rooms.

In dorms you won't find just the student rooms, but there's also a small place where your Sims can go to get some food or a drink. They can also work there, if they're short of cash. Such mini-jobs can be taken in the community area as well, as your Sim will need some money to go through the four years (eight semesters) of college. Just the starting budget with any additional scholarships you might have earned by getting good grades will not be enough to live like a student should.

Once other Sims have started claiming rooms - you'll be warned when they start doing so - you won't be able to see inside the rooms anymore unless one of your Sims is actually in there. You'll see thought bubbles from the door but that's it. This is done mostly to improve performance of the game, as it won't have to show a lot of Sims at the same time - Maxis got the game working properly on a lot with 40 Sims living on it on a high-end machine.

Another new thing is that doors can be locked too, but only in dorms. If you don't like other Sims entering your room, just lock it and any Sims in the room will be forced to leave. Nobody but your own Sim can go in or out anymore. It is not possible to lock doors in other buildings though, there are still the male/female doors that came with the Sims 2. These are particularly useful for bathrooms in public areas, or dorms in this case. There are new toilets and communal showers available as well, useful in dorms or gyms, where you might want to keep the genders separated.

To prevent people from breaking the dorms idea, the build mode is largely disabled by default. There is a cheat to enable it again, but without that you cannot do anything but redecorate the place. This way you cannot mess up the rooms and break the gameplay that dorms give without using the special cheat. It's the first time Maxis has ever made such a limit in the Sims, and so it was a hard decision to make - but it does add some pressure to the gameplay to move out of the dorms, and to get more options available.
Moving Out
Once your Sim has earned some money and made some friends, it's time to move out to a regular house on the campus. Those are just like houses in the neighborhood, and so build-mode is enabled again. If you're in a sorority or fraternity, you'll have to watch your fraternity's reputation high to make sure it won't fall apart. You do that by making more friends across University. Since some Sims will eventually graduate or drop out, getting new members in all the time is important. During the pledging period, the current members can make the new Sim do a lot of things. The influence system, that will be discussed later, will then work without having it cost any points at all.

Of course it can always happen that Young Adults become homesick, or just want to visit their parents for a while. This is possible, but the active sim will become a visitor and you won't have any direct control over them anymore. It's also possible for parents to feel like a student for a while, and to visit their child at Uni. Inviting them over is simply done using the phone, so that's easily done.

Build mode is also being enhanced with the Sims 2 University, and several new features have become available. Those include two-story columns and "big doors". The big doors can be used for your newly built castles, and take up two floors of space. Of course old features are also still available, and besides that you can expect many new items to decorate the place with. With the community releasing new items at high speed as well, you can have a huge variety of homes.
Community Expanded
The community area has also been renewed a bit, and though there are no restaurants yet, you can build a coffee bar or a gym. Your Students can also work there as waiter/waitress, or as personal trainer of another Sim. This is how Sims can earn some extra money besides their scholarships, so they can live life as well as possible. All objects for the University community area are also available in the regular neighborhood's community. So there too you can now create coffee houses and more.

While in the community, time for students will continue passing on. That means valuable hours that could've been spent studying will be lost. Staying in the community area for too long will thus result in your grades getting worse. Sims might also not autonomously walk to class when in the community area, so heading back home in time might be important.
As you'd expect, every campus contains several places like houses, dorms and community areas. But that's not all: there is one hidden lot on each campus, reserved for the secret society. There's one such society in every university, and anybody can join it. However, you don't just register and become a member - you have to make friends with people in the secret society so they can kidnap you and bring you off to the hidden lot. Once that's happened, you'll be member for life and you'll get an extra secret society outfit, that NPC members wear in the community areas. That outfit will be available even after you leave Uni and become an adult. You can head off to the lot at any time, and hack into school computers to improve your grades (train your logic skills!), you can print money, or do a whole lot of other things. Remember that some things are illegal and might result in a big fine, so be careful! You cannot recognise Sims that are in the secret society easily, except in the community area. There they'll wear a special uniform to indicate their membership. You can be surprised at night as other NPC sims might become members too, and thus make you get enough friends to join the club. But shhh, you didn't get this information from us, don't let the society know we told you ;-)
Written at 21:20 on Wednesday 23 February 2005 by ChEeTaH.

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