by Adam Rosenberg

Five years and eight expansion packs after “The Sims 2,” Maxis has finally stepped away from the drawing board to deliver a new approach to their popular life simulation franchise in “The Sims 3.” The changes range from subtle to dramatic, though ultimately it all still boils down to running partially AI-controlled rats through a maze. In the case of “The Sims” of course, those rats are actually human beings and the maze, a small-town community.

The Basics

There is no story in “The Sims 3” except for the one that you create yourself. The first step is to create a Sim or a family of Sims to be your own, a process that now results in a much more realistic approximation of real people. This is largely thanks to five assignable Traits slots (ie evil, slob, party animal, lucky, loves the outdoors, never nude) which in turn informs the created Sim’s Lifetime Wishes, long-term goals that earn you points which can be spent on a variety of tedium-killing perks. Read More...

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The "Spore" DRM copy-protection backlash won't be happening to "The Sims 3," given the news that broke just minutes ago. EA has announced that "The Sims 3" will only use serial-number copy protection. Buy the game, input the serial number that comes with the game, and you're good to go.

From the blog of Rod Humble, head of EA's Sims and Casual division:

The game will have disc-based copy protection – there is a Serial Code just like The Sims 2. To play the game there will not be any online authentication needed.

We feel like this is a good, time-proven solution that makes it easy for you to play the game without DRM methods that feel overly invasive or leave you concerned about authorization server access in the distant future.

Happy, PC gamers? "The Sims 3" is slated for a June 2 release for PC and Mac.

EA has announced that two of the company's biggest upcoming PC games are now shipping later in 2009. "The Sims 3" is now slated for June 2. "Dragon Age" has slipped from early 2009 to the second half of 2009, matching the release window of the console verison. Read More...

Last week, I got a look at "The Sims 3" for the first time.

To be honest, I hadn't played "The Sims" since the release of the "Nightlife" expansion pack* for "Sims 2"; it was then I had the sudden realization that I should go outside and experience a real "nightlife."  (This is coming from the person who would later become a regular "World of Warcraft" player, so you can guess how that prospect turned out.)

Anyway, during a demo at a PR office in New York City, associate producer Lyndsay Pearson, ran down a few saucy, new details about the game that makes staying inside seem worthwhile: Read More...

casual_mario.jpgRockstar's Dan Houser said f--- it.

Nintendo said it doesn't exist.

And whatever it is, EA said that "The Sims" isn't it.

So what is "casual gaming"?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of "casual" is something "occurring without regularity," "occasional," "employed for irregular periods, "met with on occasion and known only superficially" and "lacking a high degree of interest or devotion" or "done without serious intent or commitment."

However, in gaming, the term "casual" is used to refer to a genre of games. But what really defines a "casual game"? Is it the core audience that plays it? Is it the kind of gameplay a title offers? Or a game's wide-spread appeal?

When Nancy Smith, Global President of "The Sims" at EA, was asked about the label "casual," she said, "I don't think of ["The Sims"] as casual. We were one of the first games that started to attract a broad audience. We were one of the first games that bought in women."

Meanwhile, Nintendo Europe's senior marketing director Laurent Fischer told CVG he thinks the idea of the casual gamer is a myth entirely: "For me, you are a gamer or non-gamer... I think most of you know that you can spend ten or twenty hours on an internet flash game and have not realised. The guy who plays these games regularly - he's a core gamer."

As for the word "casual," he said, "I don't like this word casual so much. Because people consider that casual needs to be something easy. If you're good at any game you can play at a high difficulty level. There is no casual gaming. There is just a different way to play."

Clearly, casual games are booming. Why are publishers suddenly uncomfortable with the "c" word? What do you think defines a "casual gamer" or a "casual game"? Should the term "casual" be embraced or tossed out?

sims31.jpgI had a business breakfast with the head of EA's "Sims" label, Nancy Smith, yesterday. While I ate pancakes, she told me about some of "The Sims" success, including the company's announcement that it has now sold100 million copies of games in the series.

That's impressive, but what I found even more extraordinary is that, in the world of the Sims, the next game in the series, "The Sims 3" is already out.

In the February-released expansion "Free Time," an event happens within the first five minutes: Sims studio lead designer Rod Humble arrives at the player's Sims house and delivers a large box. In it is a computer that plays "The Sims 3."

The new game's Wikipedia page explains this too. And a German site has video, though it doesn't show the Sims 3 logo that Smith said appears during the event.

How did I miss this?

"The Sims 3" -- already virtually released...

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