Tag Archives: Entertainment

The Sims 2 – A Reality Show For Your PC

The Sims, Maxis’ game in which you guide a virtual version of yourself through life on your PC, holds something of a mirror up to our own existence. Not that it’s particularly pretty.

The second version of The Sims, due in stores by September 17th, has some new features, including genetics and the ability to see and film your virtual life. It’s the ultimate reality show: A virtual person in a virtual world, being filmed by virtual cameras to be shown to an audience of real people.

Like all good sitcoms, you have to choose one of five aspirations — Popularity, Fortune, Family, Knowledge, and Romance (no mix and match allowed) — which will in turn “cause your Sims to have wants and fears — Will you give your Sims a long successful existence or leave their life in shambles?” Good question.

But as in our own lives, the Sims are nailing down as many of the variables as they can. In The Sims 2 you can “direct your Sims through a lifetime and determine their evolution as they pass on genetic traits from one generation to the next”. Sims now “have DNA and inherit physical characteristics and personality traits. They both resemble and behave like their ancestors. Direct your Sims from infancy through childhood, teenage life, and adulthood. Take them through an infinite number of generations and evolve your Sims family tree.”

All this raises intriguing questions, such as do we play games like this to escape our lives, improve on them, or try to reflect them as closely as possible? Clearly the answer is easier for The Sims Online, where most people go to make out virtually with other people. There is an element of that in The Sims, but I’m not sure it’s the only motivation. The Sims 2 will sell for $50.

A Directory of Virus Removal Tools

Some sites offering free tools for removing viruses, trojans and worms. Any additions/changes welcome.

The Death Of A Devil Duckie Drive

In a box accompanying a Loose Wire column two weeks ago I mentioned TikiMac’s Devil Duckie Flash Drive, a “red, horn-toting 4 1/2″ rubber duck with hypnotic blinking eyes” that houses a high-speed USB 2.0 (1.1 compatible) personal data storage launched in March. Sadly, since writing the piece the Devil Duckie has died.

A press release on the company’s website says: “It’s a strange day when a rubber duck affects a technology company, but that’s just what happened. TikiMac, LLC. announced today that it is halting production of its Devil Duck Flash Drives, due to unexpected issues relating to the quality of the rubber duck’s ‘shell’ used in the drive’s manufacturing.”

Sadly it appears the ducks were either unusable or needed repainting. Instead, TikiMac is offering an its own “Upgrade-A-Duck” service where end-users can obtain their own rubber duckie shells and have them transformed into a “Bionic Duckie” flash drive.

My apologies to readers.

Alternatives For SimCity Addicts

For anyone who is a SimCity addict, looking for an alternative, check out Mobility 2.

It looks a lot like SimCity, without some of the bells and whistles of later versions, but it focuses on public transportation, and was, until recently, available for free. Now it’s into version 2.11, includes a land editor and available as shareware for the princely sum of $14.

Another alternative, also European in origin, design, and feel: TrafficGiant, from JoWood Productions.  In TrafficGiant (yes, dreadful name, I know, “you control an entire fleet of buses, trams and much more. You experience realistically functioning town traffic with thousands of vehicles and pedestrians. You can ask each inhabitant what he thinks and feels” (er, only about transportation, of course).

Is Online Gaming A Free For All, Or Orwellian Despotism?

More on the story about The Sims Online and the seedy goings on in Alphaville. The Independent’s Andrew Gumbel writes about the case, saying the expulsion of academic Peter Ludlow from the game “was only the beginning of a fascinating new phase”.

Since then, he says, “Electronic Arts, through its online game controller, Maxis, has been cracking down on bad behaviour to clean up Alphaville and, one assumes, try and boost its audience which is stuck at a 80,000 (EA had hoped for a million by now). Evangeline and the psycho-granny have been disciplined, as have various mafia syndicates and a parallel city government set up as a player-based alternative form of authority.”

He then talks about the philosophical aspects of all this, which make for interesting reading.

The Virtual World Gets Surprisingly Lifelike

The Sims Online – an Internet-only world where ordinary folk can take on another persona and interact with other folk virtually — seems to be exhibiting all the signs of the real world, with a twist. Salon carries an article about a Sims community called Alphaville, and some of its citizens, including an academic called Urizenus (in real life, Michigan philosophy professor Peter Ludlow), a young man (or, possibly, a boy) called Evangeline, allegations of extortion, and the possible existence of a virtual brothel.

The story is well worth a read (subscription or day pass only), if only for the moral responsibilities a corporation running a community may have. If someone opens a virtual brothel for online folk to indulge in a little cyber-sex, is the company managing that world — in this case Electronic Arts — guilty of prostitution? And what happens if there’s evidence the ‘madam’ of that brothel, and some of its employees, are underage? And then, exploring the matter further, is Electronic Arts guilty of censorship by terminating the account of the academic who chronicled such allegations in his online newspaper, Alphaville Herald? And if there’s (ultimately) real money involved, should the police be called in to this virtual world?

I’m not surprised a philosophy professor is interested in these kind of issues. Going back to the early days of the Internet, the virtual world has a habit of impinging on the real. In that sense there’s nothing different between real estate and virtual estate. If humans interact on it, it’s turf and it needs to be policed. It will be interesting to see how EA handle this case, and whether they start patrolling their creation more thoroughly. And if they do, will it cease to be economically viable?

More discussion on this on Slashdot. Here’s an ‘interview’ by Ludlow with Evangeline (parental discretion advised, via Boing Boing Blog)

News: CNET Buys MP3.com from Vivendi

 More music download site musical chairs: CNET Networks will buy MP3.com, one of the first online music services, from Vivendi Universal Net USA. AP reports that CNET, an online magazine/download site, will launch new digital music service launching next year.
 
Vivendi acquired MP3.com in May 2001 in a $372 million cash-and-stock deal.

Update: SimCity Expansion Pack Hits Stores Shock

As predicted a month or two back, EA has issued an expansion pack for SimCity 4, called Rush Hour. allowing players to “take charge of vehicles in their cities to drive or solve missions that earn reward buildings and vehicles. Players have the ultimate level of control over their city’s transportation network by completely taking charge of roads, rail, air, and even waterways.” It costs $20 (sheesh, that’s what the whole game would have cost a few years back.)

News: Three Hours Of Gaming A Night. Is It Enough?

 From the Give The People What They Want Dept, a survey by Gamer.tv, a provider of online gaming, “as well as compelling and entertaining TV video games programmes”, said it had surveyed more than 1,000 young men and women in the UK and found that “respondents played an average of three hours of computer games a night and over 60 per cent were too mentally and physically exhausted for sex when they finally reached their beds”.
 
In response to this, Gamer.tv says it has launched Gamer.tv Plus!, a premium online computer games content service aimed at casual gamers, both in and out of bed, offering exclusive editorial content, streaming videos, top-end browser games and access to a thriving casual gaming community through forums and chat rooms. “The fact that there is a trend of casual gaming becoming more popular than casual sex surprised us at first,” commented Chris Bergstresser, CEO, Gamer.tv. “Still, if that’s what the great British public wants then more power to them! Gamer.tv Plus! will cater for all their gaming needs.”

News: The Sim Franchise Rolls On

 I don’t know whether to be excited or appalled at how Electronic Arts have turned the Sim thing into such a money-making business. Purists weren’t that enamored of Sim City 4, and my computer is not really powerful enough for it to be fun, and The Sims Online has not been the great follow-up to The Sims that it was expected to be, but you’ve got to admit EA know how to keep the buzz going. Here’s their latest announcement (and note this is an announcement about something that’s going to happen two or three months down the track…)
 
 
Electronic Arts have announced plans to release this September the SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition in North America. Players can now make the biggest cities with the most comprehensive and exciting SimCity ever. SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition includes SimCity 4 and the franchise’s first expansion pack, SimCity 4 Rush Hour, that focuses on the no.1 most requested feature among fans, transportation. SimCity 4 Rush Hour also is scheduled for release September 2003. The SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition will be available for a suggested retail price of $39.99.
 
This follows on the heels of an announcement yesterday that said Electronic Arts plans to release this October The Sims Makin’ Magic, a new expansion pack to The Sims, where “Sims are granted magical powers with the ability to cast spells that are playful or deviant”. Oh my God. And if that’s not enough: The Sims Makin’ Magic will be the final edition to The Sims original series and prelude to the highly anticipated launch of The Sims 2.  The expansion pack will be available for the Halloween season and has a suggested retail price of US$29.95.