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New Features
Easy Control

The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories One of the key features of the Sims Stories is that it's designed to work well on laptops. The game can show a battery indicator, and will warn about a wireless network adapter being on and consuming worthy electricity. The story mode also enables you to play for a little bit while on the road, without having to play a long time to make some progress in a family. Short playing sessions are now a little bit easier without losing track of what happened, as the goals are usually short-term and fairly easy to complete. Another extra convenience is that in the main menu you can choose to "Return to Sim" to quickly reload the last family you played.

Another result of the laptop-friendliness that the development team wants to achieve is that although a 1.4 Ghz processor is needed for the computer to run the game properly, the game will not put any constraints on the graphics card in it. That means an onboard graphics card will generally already suffice to be able to properly play the game. Other than that the system requirements will be much the same to that of the Sims 2.

The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories There's another very useful feature in Stories that would fit in the existing game very well: keyboard shortcuts. There are a lot of them, explained in-game and probably also on a little reference guide that will come in the box of the game. The camera can be moved and rotated with the W/S/A/D keys (in combination with the Shift key for rotation). Z and X will easily zoom the camera in or out. Even more useful are the keys to satisfy your Sims' needs: for every need there's a key you can press. Once you do so, your Sim will decide what needs to be done, and do it.

The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories For example, if the hunger starts to go red, you can direct your Sim to prepare and eat a meal by pressing H on your keyboard. You won't have to search for specific objects, whether it's the fridge, toilet, shower or whatsoever, but your Sim will find the necessary item themselves. Especially the K key is useful, as it'll make your Sim start cleaning the house until it's nice and tidy - puddles and trash be gone! Overall a very useful feature for any Sims game, although unfortunately it's not possible to change the shortcuts through the options.

The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories

The Sims Life Stories To make life easier for laptop users (but also useful on regular PCs), the game by default starts in windowed mode (like the Sims 2 does with the '-w' switch). This way it won't hide other open programs like a messenger or e-mail program behind the Alt+Tab keyboard shortcut. You can quickly switch to and from the Sims Stories and any other program as you're used to. Of course the option to play in full screen mode is also available, but unlike the Sims 2 this won't be the default setting. A new auto-pause feature is for laptop users as well. It'll pause the game when closing the laptop lid and resume it when you open it again. If you quickly need to move your laptop around then you'll only need to close the lid without having to worry that your Sims will set the place on fire killing themselves in the process.

New Items and Jobs

The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories Many objects from the Sims 2 and some expansions (think of rugs, a bowling alley, musical instruments) have been brought to Life Stories, although by far not everything has made the transfer. There is also some new content in the form of the Shakily and Baliwood furniture lines, roughly 30 new objects according to the available collection in the preview version. Besides that there are several objects that you unlock in story mode, as explained above.

The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories

The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories In the area of walls and floors a lot of work has been done to make matching sets. The new ones aren't put in the Life Stories collection, simply because pretty much everything has been done from scratch there. You'll find matching walls and floors in every section, unlike the Sims 2 which received the criticism that there weren't many decent sets.

The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories

The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories Sims in Stories will also be able to pick a career besides the 10 that came with the Sims 2. There are new Game Developer and Entertainment career tracks to choose from, each with their own rewards. These aren't the same as in Seasons, the upcoming expansion pack, but are in fact completely new careers. The careers in the original game are of course also available, and new players will be introduced to having a job through the story mode.

The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories
Expansion Pack Features

Stories isn't taken from the base game of the Sims 2, but instead some features from University and Nightlife have been carried over. There are Lifetime wants and there's influence as it is in University. Also the Turns-on and turns-off from Nightlife have made the cut and are included in Stories. There are possibly also some features from Open for Business and perhaps even pets, but I'm not too sure about that or which ones it would be. Naturally the Pet Stories game will include the main feature of the Pets expansion pack.

Inside the Box

The Sims Life Stories When buying the Sims Stories you're buying a stand-alone game. It's optimised for laptops, and the system requirements are therefore a little lower than the Sims 2, since there's no graphics card requirement. A DVD drive is required in your PC or laptop, as the games will be released on DVD only. There will not be a CD version as far as EA is concerned at this moment. Expansion packs, stuff packs, custom content, whatsoever has been made for the Sims 2, it will not work with any Stories title. Tools like BodyShop or HomeCrafter Plus are for the Sims 2 and not for Stories. To keep the products well separated a seperate website has been launched, TheSimsStories.com. This will remain a separate website with its own community, game information, maybe some official EA downloads (no new story lines, just game content), perhaps a BBS or so, and that will probably be about it. Think of The Sims Stories as being its very own series of games, just like the Sims 1 and the Sims 2 are completely different product lines.

Control Misses

The Sims Life Stories A few bits were still missing at the time of the presentations, and with such a short time before the release I'm not sure if they will be brought into the game. Since a big feature of Stories is the easy control, it's annoying to find out common keyboard shortcuts like Ctrl+S to save are not in the game - just like the Sims 2. Another feature missing in the Sims 2 and also in Life Stories as we played it is the possibility to double or right click a visiting Sims' icon in the relationship panel, to quickly find them on the lot. Both were available in the now ancient Sims 1 game, but do not exist anymore. Hopefully they will be introduced in Life Stories and a future Sims 2 expansion pack as well - they most likely won't make it to Seasons.

Conclusions

The Sims Life Stories After playing the Sims Life Stories for a while it's easy to tell the game is focused on fans who are intimidated too much by the Sims 2, and don't know where to start. It's a bit of a mixture between the Sims 2 for PC and the console games, in the way that the base is taken from the PC, but the story mode is a little like that of the console editions. It's an interesting new way to play and it definitely helps players to get familiar with the game. In the end it's not much more than an introduction to the Sims 2 though. Stories does feel like a limited version of the Sims 2 in many ways, mostly to help new players keeping the game working as it is. Hence these games are quite likely not too interesting for most existing fans of the Sims 2. Not just because it means you'll have a separate game, with separate families, a separate neighbourhood, separate content, and so on...

The Sims Life Stories By the looks of it Life Stories was put together very well, with a lot of thought going into the design of any interface element and helping out the player understand the game. It all looks just like the Sims 2, making the transition from Stories to the Sims 2 easy, despite the differences (from the lack of fears in Stories, to the missing easy controls in the Sims 2). A document with the game, or perhaps even a page on the official website explaining the major differences between Stories and the Sims 2 can help players making the transition more easily. Also, the objects in Stories are mostly known items, but the new ones do look good and useful too. All the work put in the walls and floors make it easier to find matching sets from official content, something many Sims 2 players will envy. A tool, patch or something similar that transfers Stories content to an existing Sims 2 game might be helpful for those who get a Sims title for its contents, but as things currently stand that will not be available.

The Sims Life Stories If you like the story mode on the console version of the Sims 2, then Stories might be something worth considering. It does bring the directed story to the PC version of the game. The biggest bummer is that it's separate, and that the content of the games can't be carried over. The same goes for the controls: they take away a lot of trouble of finding necessary objects to interact with. Since I played Life Stories before Seasons during the preview event, I missed some of the easy shortcuts for the needs in the beginning. Hopefully EA will transfer those features to an upcoming expansion pack, or perhaps even a patch (patches) for the Sims 2 and the current expansion packs. Just to make the life of players so much easier.

The Sims Life Stories Besides all that, if you travel a lot and like to play the Sims 2 on your way but can't, then Stories might be good for you too. It allows short gameplay sessions, and above all is more lightweight than the Sims 2 with all its expansion packs and custom content. Of course you do need a decent laptop in that case, with a battery that'll last long enough as Stories will consume more power than most applications since it relies on the graphics card and CPU a lot.

The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories The release of Life Stories is just around the corner, Pet Stories will be out this summer and Castaway Stories the beginning of 2008. They'll be available through our shop, EA Link (EA's online download service) and pretty much any retailer which sells video games. It's up to you to decide whether it's going to be worth it for you. Thanks go out to the Sims Division for organising the preview event, the developers and producers answering any questions and giving details about the game, my girlfriend Rosana (read her preview too!) for everything, and everybody else who attended (part of) the event for a nice day inside EA's headquarters.

The Sims Life Stories The Sims Life Stories
Written at 02:02 on Monday 5 February 2007 by ChEeTaH.

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