August 2nd, 2008

Itlandm

Sims 2 Boomtown Challenge

I spent much of the night testing the Boomtown Challenge. Don't worry, I am not about to stop my Prosperity challenge. And here is why. ^_^

The purpose of the challenge is to rise in society by running successful businesses. It presumes a layered or class-based society, a bit unusual for us Scandinavians but that is actually the most intriguing part of it to me. You have 4 classes, which I believe you should also separate physically on the map: Poverty, Worker, Middle and Upper Class. The size of the "poverty class" is fixed at 4 houses, curiously enough. There is no size restriction on the other classes - you can have them as big as you want. This is rather different from real life, but it makes sense in terms of gameplay. The curiously named "poverty class" acts as a tube that sucks in new sims as soon as the existing sims in those 4 houses advance to a higher class. The poor will always be amongst us! I actually love this feature of pulling new sims in from the bottom. I wish the rest had been that good. But alas, it is not.

I can see now why there is such a scarcity of blogs about this challenge. I don't think anyone has played it for long. This is not because it is hard: It is not. It is easy to get started with, easy to understand, and does not require lucky rolls to survive. You can do it if you have Open for Business. A normal gamer can pull it off. It does require patience though, a lot of patience (although getting a good manager would help). Anyway, not all people are easily bored. (I am not, for instance.) And boredom will be less of a problem if you play it only once a week or so, perhaps because you have a normal life. (Or because you have a Prosperity Challenge too...) So that is not the problem. The problem is that the challenge scales badly.

Let me explain what this means. A challenge "scales" as the number of playables grows. A normal Legacy challenge does not really scale at all, which is its strength and its weakness. Playing the tenth generation is roughly the same as playing the first, except you probably have millions of simoleons and all possible career rewards (and 20+ ghosts). A Prosperity Challenge scales exponentially unless you have some kind of birth control. Boomtown scales even if your sims only have two children each, because it sucks in new playables when you leave the starter houses.

A challenge scales well when it becomes more fun, or more realistic, or opens up new choices as the population grows. I believe this to be true for the Prosperity Challenge - over time you will have enough citizens that it makes sense to add a college, add a downtown, open various shops for them, run farms and fisheries and perhaps try to make them self-sufficient, perhaps start your own schools, and perhaps have subneighborhoods divided by income, education level or ethnicity. (Not saying you should do that, only that it becomes more possible as the neighborhood grows.)

In contrast, Boomtown scales badly because it becomes less realistic and less meaningful as population grows. When you have four families running one shop each, it makes perfect sense. After all, you have townies and downtownies to sell to. But when you have 10 families running 3 shops each, it becomes ridiculous. Will you have 18 coffee shops, or will you have one shop selling only alarm clocks, one selling roses and one selling triangular end tables? No matter which course you take, you end up with an over-businessed neighborhood.

In Micropolis, I have a shop selling snapdragons and one selling the most common furniture. When a family starts on their own, or expands, they go there and buy cheaper than catalog cost (because Hans has a business perk that gives him really low wholesale costs when he restocks). This makes sense. Having clubs where hobby-minded sims can go and play chess, work out or perform music makes sense once you have a bunch of people. That's an example of good scaling. I have much more scaling in the queue if my neighborhood and I both survive. I won't tell you all, but look forward to it!