The Sims Online
|The Sims Online|
Virginia Ellen McArthur
|Genre(s)||Massively multiplayer online game|
The Sims Online, also known as EA-Land, was a massively multiplayer online variation on Maxis' computer game The Sims. It was published by Electronic Arts and released in December 2002 for Microsoft Windows. The game was sold in retail stores in North America and Japan and could also be downloaded worldwide through the EA.com online store, though the game was English-only and had no official translations. The game charged a subscription fee of US $9.99 per month. In March 2007, EA announced that the product would be re-branded as EA-Land and major enhancements would be made. About a year later, EA announced that the game would shut down all activity on August 1, 2008.
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Four cities had special rules: Dragon's Cove was known as the "hardcore city", as there were a number of harder game objectives to consider when playing here. For example, a Sim would lose energy when traveling long distances, and the virtual costs for items were doubled. Betaville was a city created for the purpose of testing new features. A few examples of these features were the ability to create a family of up to four adult Sims, with adjustable free will levels; bills and a repo man; and fires and firemen. Another was Test Center, where the player could never move out of the city. Test Center Sims also started with three times the start-up money.
Obtaining factual skills points was an important aspect of gameplay. They were necessary for receiving more money from paying objects and earning promotions in the offered career tracks. They were occasionally needed for special interactions with other players, such as serenading. A skill could be increased at a faster rate when multiple Sims in the lot worked on the same skill simultaneously.
The game had six core skills: Mechanical, Cooking, Charisma, Body, Creativity, and Logic. Skill level ranged in number from 0 to 20.99.
There were four official jobs available in The Sims Online: Restaurant, Robot Factory, DJ, and Dancing.
The in-game jobs did not offer a large salary, causing many players to seek out other sources. Popular methods included opening item shops, offering services to users such as food and lodging, or using objects to create items such as pizza (pizza object), essays (typewriter), or paintings (easel).
The Sims Online simulated a working economy. It was completely run by players. The largest and most active market in the game was real estate: players would buy, sell, and rent property to other players. However, due to not having a proper deed trade system in place until the start of EA-Land, many players faced security issues such as scamming.
There were many categories for player's properties: Welcome, Money, Skills, Services, Entertainment, Romance, Shopping, Games, Offbeat, and Residence. Each of these categories had special items that could only be used in that specific category. For example, players who joined a lot under the Service category could use a workbench to craft items, which would then often be sold to a player who owns a lot in the Shopping category who would sell the items at a higher retail price.
In early 2005, The Sims Online faced a bug, which was discovered and quickly spread in use throughout the game. A clothing rack, that normally players would use to sell clothes to other players, duplicated the owner's profits several times with each use beyond what the other player actually paid. This exploit could be repeated as often as wanted until the bug was fixed. After a few days of this exploit in game, it was patched; however, the game's economy was completely destroyed, with massive amounts of inflation. Plenty of land and items lost value. This economic problem was not resolved for three years until late 2007 when EA-Land was formed and the game was wiped.
Once EA-Land was in place, the economy was fresh and, as before, completely player run. Players could additionally create custom content and sell these items to other players, and skills were a higher priority due to the requirement of in-game jobs and money objects.
In March 2007, an Electronic Arts employee Luc Barthelet, who served as General Manager of Maxis during the development of The Sims, stopped by the official forums after years of ignoring the game. Luc had left The Sims Online production team after the game went live and hadn't contributed to the game environment until March 2007. After no development of The Sims Online, he assembled a team of seventeen people to push significant updates to the game under a project titled "TSO-E".
A major update to the game was user custom content. The TSO-E developers were interested in any user-submitted ideas on how they could maintain a stable economy to negate the gains players made illegitimately through exploits. Custom objects were enabled within TSO in late 2007, allowing players to upload .bmp and .jpg images as well as .iff files. Furniture could be created and uploaded in the form of single-tiled chairs, sculptures, and decorations and multi-tiled tables.
Seeing as this was not enough, the TSO-E developers combined the game's cities together into two similar cities, re-branded the game as EA-Land, and wiped all player data. The Test Center 3 city was created freely accessible in hopes of expanding the game's userbase, and in-game ATMs were added, which could accept real money for Simoleons, in hopes of generating revenue. The system in which players could purchase properties and submit custom content was compared to Second Life.
In April 2008, four weeks after EA-Land was launched, it was announced that the development team had to disassemble, and that the game would shut down on August 1 the same year. This day of announcement was referred to as the "EA-Land Sunset". Maxis stated that the development team would be moving on to other projects.
Since 2002, EA Land / TSO has attracted a very special group of players and we certainly appreciate your participation in the community. The lifetime of the game has drawn to an end, and now we will be focusing on new ideas and other innovative concepts in the games arena. We would like to thank everyone who has taken part in this online community as a unique experience in the virtual world.
EA expressed disappointment in sales over the lifetime of the game. One of the main criticisms of the game was the inability to create customized content, such as was achieved by its competitor Second Life. The Sims Online was widely seen as a failed attempt to port the single-player game to an online, multiplayer environment.
The decision to shut down so quickly after re-branding has led to speculation that the closure was planned prior to the re-branded release for the purpose of mitigating the damage to the public image of the name and brand of The Sims Online.
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Instead of walking into a house and seeing a bunch of people throwing a party and doing fun stuff, it's not uncommon to see them just sitting there frantically playing chess or writing on a chalkboard in large groups just trying to improve their skills and make lots of money. Unfortunately ... there really isn't that much to do with money except building your own house with your own skill objects and your own job objects.
The Sims Bustin' Out featured a very similar and free online play exclusive to the PlayStation 2 version that allowed players to play online and chat with a USB keyboard. This game shut down the same day as The Sims Online on August 1, 2008. In 2008, the lead developers of The Sims Online that had left Maxis (after the game rebranded to EA-Land) founded and launched a new game called TirNua, which is completely free to play and browser based. MySims featured an online play mode aimed at younger children for PC. However, the server was shut down on November 26, 2011.
A very similar revival of the game, called The Sims Social, released August 9, 2011 exclusively on Facebook. It allowed players to play with friends, chat and send items to each other. Electronic Arts and Maxis shut down The Sims Social, SimCity Social, and Pet Society on June 14, 2013, due to apparent player disinterest.
On January 6, 2017, a fan-made relaunch of The Sims Online was created by Rhys Simpson, FreeSO and was released in an "open beta" phase. As of May 1, 2017, the majority of the original The Sims Online functions were re-implemented to include 3D functions with continual updates promised. Some of the existing changes have included category functions.
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