Tag Archives: Simulation

God Among Sims


I’ve played The Sims since the beginning. I was always a fan of the other Sim titles, most notably Sim City. I also played Sim Tower quite a bit and tried many of the others. However, I always came back to Sim City. In fact, one of the first games I downloaded for my phone was the Sim City game. I still play it almost daily.

When I heard that they were going to release a game that focused on the strange speaking denizens of those cities, I was excited. There’s just something about being in charge of virtual lives that appeals to me. I owned a Furby and Tomagachi. heck, I even got sucked into that silly “Chao World” mini game for Sonic Adventure.

I can still hear the voice, haunting my dream, asking me, “Why? Why did you let them die?” in an accusatory whisper.

In preparation for the relaunch of Noob and Sons, I played the latest version of the game, The Sims 4. The boys played a lot of it last year and over Christmas break. I wanted to take advantage of that interest to do our first show back on role playing. I also wanted to see what advances they’ve made in Sims technology.

The Good

Customization: As soon as I started the game, I was overwhelmed by the number of choices it gives you for characters. The game was always about letting you choose how your character looked and giving him or her a personality to match. However, they have taken that to the extreme in this game. You can change every aspect of your Sim’s looks and that isn’t an exaggeration. I spent about a half an hour just exploring the character creation screen before even playing the game.

No, you can’t customize everything. Actually, I’m not sure if you can change the naughty bits. You are going to have to figure that one on your own, perverts.

Helpful Tips: No game is complete anymore without a tutorial section. Ever since developers realized that nobody reads directions and got sick of email, DMS, and tweets asking them how to play their games, they’ve simply programmed the first 5-10 minutes of the game to be about how to play the game. The Sims are less intrusive than most games and they just have helpful tips that pop up every now and then to remind you what you’re doing just might cause your Sim to die by some horrific way or another.

An iPhone for Every Sim: Back in my day, you had to wait for a paper or not build a toilet in your house (because a mop was free) so that you could afford a computer to search for jobs. Not so anymore. In keeping with the times, your Sim has a smart phone that they can use to find a job. Furthermore, you are no longer limited to one or three jobs depending on your method of finding one. Now, you can choose from an array of jobs right from the start, so you can get right to improving your Sim’s life.

How long until Sims from the first game start complaining how out of touch these Quatros Sims are with their cell phones and their more robust work environments?

Other Quality of (Simulated) Life Enhancements: As you go along and do things, you gain access to new skills that you can then train up like normal. For instance, the other day, I sent my Sim out to trim a flower or something and she gained the gardening skill. I now assume that I have to continue to do things to improve that skill as I do normally, but I’m not sure what those things are yet. Even so, it is fun to have those Easter eggs that pop up simply from going through your day as a pretend human being. Sort of makes me wish things like that happened in real life.

Upgrade From “Live” Mode: Again, it used to be that you had to open a whole new mode if you wanted to upgrade your bed, toilet (once you upgraded the first time from a mop), or dishwasher. Now, if you right click on the object, the menu will give you the option to upgrade the item. I haven’t tried it yet to see if it still takes you into the “build” mode to do so. But, just being able to click the item and not having to search through the “build” mode menu is a great upgrade to the game experience.

The Sims Resource?: All this discussion of items, upgrading, and building new things made me think of one of the reasons that I enjoyed The Sims 2 so much and maybe didn’t like The Sims 3 (or at least, I didn’t see a reason to upgrade the number), is that there was this great resource (pun fully intended) web page that allowed you to download new things for the game. I went to search for it and it is still there. But, I think that Maxis might have built something right into the game that allows people to mod items. I kept getting a notification the other day when I played, but I didn’t follow up on any of them to see if that’s actually what it is. I will have to play again and verify before we record so I don’t sound like a total moron. Well, no more than usual.

The Bad

No Needs? (Oh, there they are): One of the most fun things about The Sims is that they are driven by 6 basic needs. You have to balance the day so that all of the needs get met. Otherwise your Sim becomes unhappy or even dead. Admittedly, there is some perverse pleasure in intentionally killing your Sim in increasingly more violent and ridiculous ways. But, that comes later after you’re bored of them and ready for a change. Until then, you want to keep them alive and happy.

It’s especially cool when your Sim comes back from the dead to haunt future generations.

At first, I thought they might have gotten rid of that part of the game. As it was such an integral part, I wondered how that might work and how the game would be any good. Why eat if you don’t have to eat? Why sleep if you aren’t tired? Then, I noticed that things were still affecting my Sim, so I thought that maybe they had hidden them from people to make you pay more attention to your Sim and his/her actions. Turns out that it just was hidden as a menu option where I didn’t expect it. So, only bad for a brief period of time, but it did make me question my purchase for that time.

Food costs money?: This might have started with The Sims 2, but I don’t remember at this point. All I know is that I was shocked to open the fridge and see that I had to pay money to buy the food to cook it. Furthermore, I couldn’t even make some dishes because I didn’t have the proper ingredients and I have no idea how to go about getting those ingredients. So, my poor Sim has nothing to eat aside from grilled cheese and cereal.

Being Bad Has Consequences: I’m not talking about Jessica Rabbit “bad”, though that might have consequences, too. I don’t have enough Sim friends nor a boyfriend to see if talking bad about them behind their backs or lying/cheating on your significant other will actually affect your Sim or their mood. However, if you do something terribly, then it will affect your Sim. For instance, my Sim cooked a bad meal and was in a funk for a few hours. Another time, she slept weird in her bed and was off the next day. These are cool little touches that make the game more interesting.

Oh well, nothing can defeat the Homer Simpson philosophy. Alcohol, the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.

The Ugly

At the end of the day, it’s still simulated human life. And, I think that we can all agree that real life isn’t all that great to begin with. You wake up, take a shower, eat breakfast, go to work, come home, maybe have an hour or two to yourself, go to bed, rinse, and repeat until you go crazy out of boredom or go through a mid life crisis. Which, I guess, is just a reaction to 35-40 years of a boring life. So, honestly, how much more exciting can they make simulated life? The answer, unfortunately, is not more exciting at all.

The Verdict

Not much has happened in Simsville over the years. Everything that was great about the games is still great about the games. There have been some quality of life improvements, but most of the parts of the game that weren’t fun still aren’t fun. Life, as we all too often learn, just isn’t as amazing as the magazines and social media profiles of jet setting young trust fund babies would have us believe. It’s mostly just going to work so you can afford to buy a toilet and don’t have to pee your pants any more.

I still love and enjoy the game. The boys, when the mood strikes them, will play for hours and laugh and giggle as their Sims do silly things that they’d never consider doing. Wait until their older and the realize that is happiness sucking, soul crushing life and the Sims are closer to reality than they ever expected.

Enjoy it while you can, Kids.

Okay, I don’t want to end this on a downer, but I also don’t want to ruin the joke. I don’t care as much about the joke as I do about keeping things positive, so here goes. I will continue to play the heck out of The Sims 4. I haven’t gotten as into it as I was when I was younger, but that’s mostly because I’m older now and free time is much less abundant than it once was. However, I’d like to follow a Sim family through several generations and see where that leads. Coming Soon to Hulu?: Pinky’s Family!

APBA Baseball Replay: 1933 MLB vs. Negro League All-Stars

(Note: I don’t feel comfortable using the term Negro League, even though it may be historically accurate. Therefore, aside from the title and in this explanation, I will refer to the team as NeL. )

(Note:  The image at the top of the page is courtesy of http://apbagames.com)


During my search for free or affordable cards for my APBA baseball game, I had to go no farther than the actual web page itself. They have some accessories for the game like scoresheets and a way to figure out how fatigue might affect pitchers. There wasn’t much in the way of actual cards, but what was there caught my eye and got me to thinking. They have the all-star teams for Major League and NeL baseball from 1933.

I think I mentioned in my article last night that I’ve heard all of the stories about the NeL players. In some cases, as I learned during my modicum of research on Baseball Reference, all we have are stories for some of these players. Look, I know that I’m just a hippie, leftist, snowflake, but it seems like an absolute travesty what has been done to African Americans in this country. Every time I think that I’ve found the bottom, I have to kick over the barrel and dig a little deeper.

Well, I wanted to put these stories to the test, so to speak. It’s not that I found them unbelievable. I mainly just wanted to witness it for myself. More recently, I found a page that has the cards for the 1871 National Association season (a precursor to MLB), so I went to Baseball Reference for some information and found way more for what amounts to a MLB prehistoric league than for the NeL in 1933. That’s shameful. Well, thanks to simulation, justice can at least be minimally served with regards to sports.


So, what happened in the games? Well, let’s find out. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t excited about this.

Game 1 (NeL 8, MLB 2)

The first game of the series started off close with the score 4-2 after 6 innings. Then the NeL exploded for 4 runs in the 7th inning and closed out the game for an 8-2 victory. Their pitcher, Bill Foster, who will turn out to play a massive role in the series, shut down the MLB team. Even though he was a bit wild with 7 walks, he only allowed 4 hits and struck out 5. The MLB 3-8, a group that includes Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, hitters went a combined 0-13. It was an inconsistent, but still dominating performance.

Meanwhile, the NeL team got 13 hits, including 2 homeruns, 4 doubles, and a triple. While just as dominant at the plate as their pitcher was on the mound, they were no less inconsistent in the field. They had 3 errors, though only one proved costly and drove in a run. Overall, a great start to the series.

Player of the Game: This was a tough one. Walter Davis, RF, 2-5, 2B, HR, 2RBI, 1 Run. Could have been Oscar Charleston, 1B, 2-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 Run, 1 BB.

Game 2 (NeL 6, MLB 3)

This game was close as well. The NeL led 4-3 after a 2 run 6th for the MLB and a scoreless 7th. It looked like the MLB might steal one before the NeL scored a run each in the 8th and 9th to close it out. While the bottom of the order picked things up, including an important pitch hit by Chick Hafey for the pitcher in that 2 run 6th, the top of the order was 0-17, including a collar in 3 AB with 2 Ks for the Bambino.

NeL starting pitcher, Sam Streeter, got tossed in the 5th inning for arguing balls and strikes. On short rest, Bill Foster came into relief. Even though he looked shaky in the 5th and 6th, he settled down to close out the last three innings and seal another important win.

While not quite the offensive explosion of game 1, the NeL batters put together more than enough offense. Just like in game 1, they spread the wealth around as no batter got more than 2 of their 9 hits.

Player of the Game: Bolstered by his game 1 and game 2 consistency, Oscar Charleston, 1B, 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 Run.

Game 3 (NeL 7, MLB 4)

In a do or die game 3, the MLB manager shook things up by batting Chick Hafey for Babe Ruth and shuffling his lineup. It looked like a good move as MLB charged out to a 3-0 lead in the first 5 innings. A 2 run 6th for the NeL gave the game the flavor of the series as it was close late. A 4 run explosion by the NeL in the 7th brought back memories of game 1. MLB started a comeback in the 8th, loading the bases and scoring a run, but that’s all they would get for the rest of the game. The NeL got back an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th and a scoreless 9th for MLB ended the game and the series.

Even though Chick Hafey performed no better than the Babe had, going 0-4 with 3 Ks, the lineup switch did have a positive effect on the MLB offense. However, the NeL just proved to me too much. Player of Game 2 and nearly player of game 1, Oscar Charleston, drove in 2 with a double. Rap Dion added two more RBI, and a costly error (one of 3 by MLB in the game) gave the NeL the 2 extra runs needed to win the game.

Bill Foster continued his domination. After allowing those 3 runs early, he shut down MLB before handing over batting duties to Vic Harris, who took a BB to spark that 6th inning rally. After that, Sam Streeter held the MLB to only that single run in the 8th and finished them off for good.

Player of the Game: Rap Dixon, CF, 2-4, 2 RBI, 2 Run

Player of the Series: Bill Foster, who got the win in all three games and kept the NeL fighting throughout the series.

Wrap Up

I was surprised that the series ended up being a sweep. In spite of some inconsistencies, it was also a definitive sweep in the favor of the NeL. Their players lived up to the hype and provided a lot of excitement. I was also surprised that some big names that I knew from MLB didn’t perform very well at all. Babe Ruth, in particular, was surprising. I know that he was at the end of his career and maybe shouldn’t have started, but you always hear so much about him that it is humbling to see.

I guess what they say is true. Father Time remains undefeated and even one of the greatest players of all time and a true legend of both baseball and America can’t even compete against aging. Lou Gehrig had one good game, one terrible game, and one great game. That’s more like what you’d expect, but still surprising.

Well, 3 games is not much of a sample size. Also, I still have the cards, so I can always go back to do another series and see if MLB can avenge their loss. If so, what’s stopping me from doing a rubber series to settle this once and for all? Well, all of that will have to wait. As I mentioned earlier, I found a page that has the cards from the 1871 NA season and I want to simulate that. It’s only about 30 games on average for 9 teams. Could be fun. See you then!

Box Scores (Series Stats Coming Soon):

1933 NeL vs. MLB All Star Series

There’s No Rerolling in Baseball!


Chris texted me a few weeks ago saying that he had been playing some chess. I chuckled and responded that I had downloaded an app for the New York Times crossword puzzle. More recently, I teted to him, “Speaking of old man games, I found my APBA Baseball game in a closet and started playing it.” He probably had no idea what I meant because he didn’t even reply. It made no difference. I was, and remain, excited by my discovery.

So, what’s the big deal? Well, my interest in sports replay/simulation started in high school. It would appear that the new year has me reminiscing. A trip to my old high school hangout in the Quarters, a year in review post, and now reliving my tie as a hockey league founder.

Inspired by my lack of a social life, I created a competitor hockey league to the NHL. I envisioned it like the USFL (another of my past and maybe future sports sim projects), but more ambitious. I went way back to the origin of the NHL and started my league there. In addition to games, I created rosters, rivals, and even dynasties.

The Good

With all of that in mind, you have probably deduced that the APBA baseball sim is right in my wheelhouse. You have deduced correctly. There is so much that I love about this game. Some of you might wonder why I prefer dice to computer simulations. While the computer games allow you to simulate many more games at once, there’s just something about rolling dice that brings me back to my wild and crazy high school days. Admittedly, I did simulate a season of the USFL on the computer, but the pace of baseball, as the saying goes, is much more deliberate and it fits in with the slow roll (so to speak) of the board game.

Plus, the game is very easy for as complex as it can be. I haven’t played it in probably 10 years, but I was able to pick it back up and play through a best of 5-game series in a few hours spread out over two days. While not at the level of simulating entire seasons in a couple of hours, it’s still a quick game and I could probably do an entire team’s season in a couple of weeks.

Aside from those, the game combines the two things that I enjoy about sports. I’ve played sports in middle and high school. I coached Aiden’s soccer team this past fall and might do it again in the spring. But, my interest in sports starts with watching games with my father and it is a legacy that I, sadly, haven’t yet been able to pass on to my children. Both Quinn and Aiden have sat with me during this most recent bowl season, but their heart isn’t really in it.

Not that I can blame them. I mean, this isn’t even a real game. But, would you have known that if I hadn’t told you?

I watch sports to have fun and unwind. I simulate sports to satiate my need for statistics. I’m so happy to have grown up in the era of advanced metrics, better statistics (both in the predictive and measuring sense of the word), and GPS on players. As a math guy, the more the merrier when it comes to numbers. APBA lets me get as deep as I want into the statistics. I didn’t think to do it this time, but my next simulation I’m going to keep score like it was a real baseball game. That score sheet tells the whole story of the game and keeping score when I was a kid was when I first started to fall in love with the game.

But, it’s not all about numbers. Even though I’m not much of a history person, I can appreciate the history of sports. I can’t tell you why I hate the Browns, their players, and their fans. Well, that’s not entirely true anymore. The Browns have been so terrible for so long that I don’t feel anything but pity for them lately.

The Bengals, though, can go straight to hell. And, I’ll tell you why I feel that way, too, if you want to hear.

APBA Baseball allows me to either rewrite or relive that history. I can explore “what if” scenarios. The one that haunts me to this day is “Slow” Sid Bream crossing home plate in the NLCS to beat my juggernaut Pirates. If only I could replay that game and the subsequent series. Oh, wait! I can! I haven’t yet, but it’s time to research the 1992 season card set and get to changing that result.

I could witness history. Maybe that game was just meant to be and no matter how many times I replay it, the Braves will always win. I would also love to be able to watch those same Pirates. Well, not really the same, but you get the point. Maybe I could watch them win either of the 70s World Series or the one against the Yankees with Bill Mazeroski getting the game winning home run.

During my brief stint as a student at the University of Pittsburgh, I saw the plate.

Or, I could just mash a whole bunch of players together in an attempt to create an all-time all star team. I sort of did that with the games that I played to acclimate myself with the rules again. I didn’t create either team, but I found all star teams for both the MLB and NeL from 1933. I got the idea to play them against each other in a series because I’ve always heard about how great the Negro League players were and what a tragedy it is that none of the players ever got to play against major league competition. Not that I ever doubted it, but I wanted to see for myself. I will include a link to that recap at the end of this article.

The Bad

Initially, when Christine saw me looking at the game, she mentioned that Aiden might be able to play it with me. I said, “No, it’s just a one player game.” It technically might be and everything that I’ve seen about the game would suggest that many people only play one player. And, that goes to show how much I know. I just looked up the game on the web page and they are designed for 2 players. It’s just that most of us must be loners and play solitaire. So, I missed out on an opportunity to play a new game with Aiden. That one is easily remedied.

Well, that’s embarrassing.

The only other negative is my fault, too. There’s a master set to the game that allows you to do things like account for wind and park effects. I used to have the master set, but I must have misplaced it. All I could find was the wind effects chart and that made almost no sense to me. If I’m going to keep playing the game, that’s definitely something that I want. It stinks that I will have to pay for it again.

The Ugly

Speaking of paying for things, this is where I discuss the worst part of the game. Usually, this is price and it’s no different this time. The game itself isn’t too expensive. You pay 50 dollars and get everything you need to play the game, plus you get the previous year’s two World Series teams to get used to the card layout. Even the Master rules are only 25 extra dollars.

After that, though, is when the cost starts to add up and become slightly prohibitive. Each replay season costs anywhere from 40-75 dollars depending on the number of player cards. Granted, you get all players for all teams plus any updates that might happen later, but that’s a crazy cost for some cards. I haven’t found any place that pirates them and I doubt that I would even take advantage if they did. It’s not that I’m above that sort of thing, as we’ve seen. I ‘m just impressed that they are still this little company plugging away at something they love and haven’t had to sell out like many of the other games from my childhood.

The Verdict

This game is so much fun. I had a blast simulating that series that I talked about earlier. I think that it could even be more fun playing against someone else and I plan to test that with one of the boys this week. Tomorrow might be good as everyone has a snow day. I don’t know how much historical replay I will be doing as the 75 dollar price tag is a bit too rich for me right now. However, I will probably get the 1992 season to replay that dang NLCS and I’ll keep on looking for free cards to keep me occupied in the meantime.

I mean, I may or may not have a few of these types of proxies lying around for my Modern/Legacy storm deck.

Click here for the 1933 MLB/NeL All-Star Series recap.

El jefe es muerto! Vive el jefe!

(Editor’s Note: It is bad enough that Steam runs regular season sales. Now that I have discovered Humble Bundle, I’m destined to live the rest of my life in poverty. At least I won’t have enough money to do anything besides play through my massive back log of games.)

A few months ago, Humble Bundle offered Tropico 4 for free for some reason. Never one to turn down cheap–or, in this case, free–games, I got the code and loaded it into my Steam account. I have been using my tank Acer laptop. While it survives almost everything, it can’t run even the most basic game. Therefore, my treasure remained unplayed until I was able to upgrade the desktop to a respectable gaming PC.

Well, I am sorry to report that it still remains largely unplayed. I downloaded it and have been working through the tutorial, but the computer is having issues. Randomly, it will freeze and buzz. The frustrating part is that there is no BSOD. At least in that case, I could Google the error code and have a starting point. Instead, Googleing “Windows 10 freeze and buzz” has produced results ranging from bad memory (tested, but more on that later) to a sound control conflict (tested). I also removed a second monitor because it might have been an HDMI adapter conflict (nope!) The last possibility is that it is overheating. I will check that soon because so far I’m enjoying what I’ve played of the game and want to provide an in depth review. An update: I checked temps and it isn’t that, either. I think that it might just be an issue with Windows 10 at this point. Next step, installing Windows 7. Ihate the Windows monopoly.

Who would have ever guessed that someone would actually miss the blue screen of death?  I guess it's true what they say.  You don't truly appreciate what you have until it's gone.
Who would have ever guessed that someone would actually miss the blue screen of death? I guess it’s true what they say. You don’t truly appreciate what you have until it’s gone.

Okay, an update. I downloaded the image file for Windows 7 and downgraded the computer. I say “downgraded”, but so far it has been upgraded to an actual working computer. A little more than 24 hours and I am happy to report no freezing and no buzzing, so that’s a positive development. Hopefully, it isn’t just a hiccup and I can get to playing some SimCity with Banana Republic flavor.

I’m happy to report that they “pepper” that “flavor” in just the right mix of “seasoning” to create the perfect “recipe”. Holy, cow, that was a lot of wordplay in one sentence. I might need to take a break afte that one. No! I’m strong enough to power through. The fans need me.

The game opens with an “everything is fine” splash page of a hot air balloon accompanied by a quote from a famous historical leader like GWB saying, “This would be so much easier if it was a dictatorship.” (Note: This is not a political statement. It is simply the only one my brain remembers right now.)

Okay, so maybe it was a sneaky political statement, but if you've been following the page, you already know that.
Okay, so maybe it was a sneaky political statement, but if you’ve been following the page, you already know that.

The loading screen fades, predictably into the game menu. I clicked on the “tutorial” option. I’m not sure why I did so. I almost never play though the tutorial of any game and I’ve played so many of these city building type games–especially since they are so revalent on mobile–that I’m pretty sure that I’ve got the basic idea of city building games. You build cities, right?

However I ended up in the tutorial, I was driven by the same strange compulsion to finish it. Even as the first set of missions took me through the very basics of camera control and city building, I continued to click through to mission set #2.

What kept me coming back for more inulting tutorial game play? That banana republic flavor, Man!. The AI guides you through this abuse with the simulated voice of your mentor, Generallisimo Santana. The vignettes between missions are humorous enough to keep even this jaded old man gamer scrolling in and out.

Besides, we have our own wannabe dictator that we need to prepare for.  I assure you, this is not a political statement.
Besides, we have our own wannabe dictator that we need to prepare for. I assure you, this is not a political statement.

Final Note (I hope): Well, the freezing came back and I had no idea that I was able to skip over tutorial missions that I had played before. Therefore, I must have played through the first mission at least a dozen times in between restarts and fits of swearing. However, I have finally figured out what the problem is and it had nothing to do with anything other than a faulty RAM stick. So, about checking that as I said earlier…apparently, I hadn’t done so thoroughly or properly.

The remaining tutorial missions offer no surprises and simply cover the rest of the mechanics unique to these types of games. But, the voice and humor alone made it worth my while to play through them even if they taught me nothing.

The tutorials got me into the game and they got me interested in the game. I guess, on that front, they did their jobs. I’ve found another game to occupy the free time that I don’t really have. Seriously, though, if you are like me and don’t have the money to spend on Civ 6 right now, you are tired of the city building games in your library, but you still want control over thousands of expendable virtual lives (that somehow become like family, at least to me), then drop the 15 bucks for Tropico 4. They also have a collector’s edition with addons for $30. I haven’t played any of them yet (another article idea!), so I can’t recommend them as of this article.

If you’re really cheap, you can wait for it to be included in a Humble Bundle–or maybe as one of their free deals again–or buy Tropico 3 for 99 cents. Again, I can’t vouch for that game, but what do you have to lose other than a buck and a few megs of hard drive space? Heck, you could get 3, 4, and 5 for less than Civ 6. And people wonder why I do my video game shopping in the clearance section. I need money for my newly rediscovered Magic habit.

Viva la resistance! No, wait, that’s not right. Vive el jefe!