Nerfed Again!: New Social Interactions Introduced in TC

by Alphaville Herald on 17/03/04 at 3:39 pm

Scammers, trial account sellers, and bot makers say “Thank You Maxis!”
Mafias Laugh.
Stratics Board Ho’s inexplicably think this will improve the game.

The new social interactions have been introduced in Test Center, and after they are debugged they will move to the rest of TSO. At a time when TSO players have been crying out for some new activities or objects in the game, Maxis has responded as only it could: Remove one of the few features of the game that led to interesting role play. Some months ago in an Op/Ed piece, Kiss argued that what killed TSO was the constant nerfing of the game (removing interesting features that could be deployed as acts of virtual aggression) to satisfy the crybabies that fell apart at the prospect of any social interaction that was more aggressive than a friendly hug. How prophetic that essay was.

In case you haven’t seen the details of the new social interactions, the bottom line is this. Red linking is now effectively a thing of the past. Giving balloons to create friends has been modified so that social interactions can decay over time, and must be maintained by continuing social interactions. The problems with this strategy are endless.

In the first place, the elimination of red linking is a present to the scammers. That was the only meaningful way players had of warning users of certain individuals. Second, for some reason, Maxis seems to thing that the new social interactions will eliminate the cheap friendship links that are either bought from strangers or given via trial accounts. The problem is that given the new labor intensive way of establishing friendship links, they have now established a motive for people to utilize bots and trial accounts to boost their friendship links while they are AFK! Bots that could do this are utterly trivial, and the one rule of TSO is, if you reward mind-numbingly boring tasks, sims will automate them.

Regarding Mafia’s, red-linking was never a particularly serious aspect of their griefing. It was a kind of fun game of paint ball that they could engage in, but never part of the core harassment techniques that the serious mafias have and will continue to deploy. Indeed, reached for comment, JC Soprano of The Sim Mafia argued that tagging was never part of their modus operandi: “look at our services section [on out web site] for example … no where on there is tagging”. For example, one strategy, popular with both mafias and scammers is to keep churning trial accounts to send abusive persons into properties. Another is to sit silently in your mark’s property and report whenever someone says “damn” or whenever they see a link to realsimsonline on the property. Isn’t snitching beneath a mafia boss? Not according to JC Soprano: “it [takes your mark] out of the picture for 3 days and in real life you cant tell me that mafia and other doesn’t drop a dime occasionally to get something done.”

In addition, Mafias, griefers, and stalkers can still bombard you with IMs. They can still take matters out of game. Indeed, the net result of this may be that mafias, griefers, etc. will resort to more serious forms of harassment, now that the basically innocent practice of red-linking has been eliminated. The law of unintended consequences rears its head once again. As JC summarized the situation ” If you cant play the game without tagging, then go back to first grade where they love to play tag.”

The only question remaining is why Maxis did this. Why, when there were so many other things that could have been done to improve the game did they resort to nerfing it even more? Here I think we need to return to the essay by Anonymous B – this was all driven by an attempt to minimize the legal liability of EA as much as possible. If you want to understand the actions of EA you need to think like a product liability lawyer: nerf the game. It doesn’t matter what the unintended consequences are – what matters is that you did your best to eliminate acts of hostility and reprisal within the game. That should be enough to cover your ass in court when conflicts spill out of game and someone gets hurt.

56 Responses to “Nerfed Again!: New Social Interactions Introduced in TC”

  1. RB

    Mar 22nd, 2004

    ANYWAY, getting back on topic =D

    About yet another way of removing rather than fixing things? We need more put in, not what’s there chopped and changed at will.

    - RB

  2. Bae

    Mar 22nd, 2004

    This is not in response to any of the other comments, only the article itself.

    I’m really torn in regards to just how good the new relationships are for what they are, but I don’t think, in the long run, they’ll do any good for the good game. If anything, I think it takes something away from all those that use TSO as a medium for expressing their creativity, or as a venue for social gatherings with friends. However, it gives those driven by “winning”, or making it to the tops of the lists, a few more lists to macro their ways to the top of.

    I have a feeling that most of the former group will forget friendship webs ever existed after the newness of it all wears off (in the past, it’s taken 1-2 weeks for most new content to become old news). Not many extremely creative people aren’t going to be over excited with spending endless amount of time needed for the upkeep of their friendships. These are the same people that had 1, maybe 2 fully worked skills before skill locks, max. Friendwebs are just another skill now, with no locks. You have to work just as hard to keep those interactions as you have to for interactions that come with skill points you can’t lock yet.

    The mafias, griefers, etc., aren’t going to go away.. they’ll just find another way to bother people until that new method is taken away or changed so drastically it, too, becomes obsolete.

    The latter group will make macros, buy friendships for more than they ever imagined paying, and make it to the top of another lame list, whoopee. Can you blame them? Not really, just like you can’t blame someone for throwing a brick on their keyboard and walking away during their daily/weekly skilling session. The game just isn’t fun anymore, and anything that is remotely fun for even a small group of people is taken away because it will almost certainly bother someone else, or because it was a bug to begin with.

    New features to follow:

    Roomie permissions for pet ownership, because dialing for the maid was bothering some owners after their roommate’s dog ruined the roomscore of the big box they call home.

    Disabling of IMs because people don’t like having to close a spam IM every few hours/days.

    Build mode disabled – all lots have identical houses, because some people had cooler looking houses than others. So unfair.

    Mandatory profanity filters that filter out over 1/3 of the English language, because a few people wanted to find out exactly what “Adult convesation – Don’t not enter if easily offended” meant, enterted, were offended, and reported the entire lot.

  3. Cocoanut

    Mar 22nd, 2004

    In order not to derail this thread even further, I will carry on with the topic of bots, rules, and ethics under a more appropriate thread, above.


  4. Maria LaVeaux

    Mar 25th, 2004

    Did anyone else notice this;

    Last summer, there was a pronounced decline in people playing TSO. Several accounts seemed to disappear, and the cities looked more like ghost towns.
    I attributed this to normal summer activity, Vacations, outdoor activities, ETC. and i believe i am correct. After the summer, there was some recovery, but it seemed, not quiet to the pre summer levels. There WAS a spike in population after the release of the “New and Improved” package, but the decline seems to be happening again.
    My observation is this;
    If maxis begins losing accounts due to their removal of game features, couple this with the Looming summer months and the potential for another steep decline, CAN TSO survive past the middle of next summer?
    I have my doubts.
    I would be curious to see actual numbers for last summers play hours to verify or dispell the impression i got last year.

    Maxis, Read your own boards, People want MORE form TSO, not Less.

    Oh,, Uri chere,, I am afraid i have to agree with Coco on the “Board Ho” comment. Granting you didn’t intend to like her to a Prostitute, the term is still a dispariging one, and rather offensive. I had come to expect better of you than use of terms like this.
    If there is issue with the ammount or content of her posts,(And i really can’t see a problem) surely there are better ways of expressing it than calling names.
    Enough from me on that.


  5. Banshee

    Mar 25th, 2004

    Maria –

    Well said. I think that TSO will likely not be canned before TS2 is released for fear of negative impact on the brand “The Sims” (and you can bet that EA is planning on making bazillions of real world simoleans on TS2, the next best thing since delivery pizza). The only scenario I see where TSO survives much more than a few months beyond TS2 is if the newly invited Asian players take up the game in significant numbers, and add to the player base, making it economical to continue to offer the game. If that doesn’t happen, I just don’t see this one being continued for very much longer after the new offline game comes out … would be counter to what EA has publicly said about its online gaming business and what they recently did to Earth & Beyond, another “disappointing” game for EA.


  6. urizenus

    Mar 25th, 2004

    Maria, good comments, but I *must* disagree about the phrase ‘board ho’ — I’m positively in love with it. I like it even better than ‘rocket ho’, which I admittedly was when I played Quake. I was actually interviewed by the New York Daily News last year regarding the use of the term ‘ho’ by one of the New York Giants. The idea is that the term ‘ho’ inself is being semantically bleached as we speak and we are in a kind of transition phase where a lot of kids use it with no sense at all of its origins, and other people (familiar with its origins) being offended. In the fullness of time it will not offend (especially when combined as in ‘rocket ho’ and ‘board ho’). I would rather not be linguistically conservative on this board. I ain’t no grammar ho.

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