I write about subjects a little drier than this, but I'm a major gamer and love
simulated types of games and The Sims have always been one of my favorites.
So I finally decided to try online gaming when EA.com
created the online version of The Sims; and thought I would report my experiences
with it, both good and bad, along with some tips I've come up with for customizing
the game a bit more to my own liking.
Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first...
The two major downsides I see.
Their tech support leaves something to be desired. Though they offer many avenues
to get support, including email, FAQs, message boards, and even live chatand
their replies are pretty swift in comingthey've yet to actually solve
any of my problems. I've found I have better luck just talking to other Sims
within the game itself and brainstorming with them about how to fix the bugs
in the game...and there are many.
The most common bugs are related to the updates. Although they do add fun features,
occasionally; these new features do not seem to be well tested and cause various
problems. And, the standard reply I get from tech support is to update various
parts of my computer; even though my computer exceeds the minimum requirements
for the game, by far! Currently, I have two problem tickets submitted
that have yet to be solved. The message boards, at https://player.thesimsonline.ea.com/how_index.jsp,
are filled with pleas from people with the same problems, yet no workable solutions
have been offered. So, beware of the updates, especially if you are a newbie
who is not very computer savvy. (Yes, they do have one city you can live in
called the Test Center, where all of these updates are supposedly beta
tested before they are inflicted on the masses. However, I do live in
the Test Center and have no problems there. It's only when the betas
are moved to the other cities that my problems arrive. I can only assume that
the Test Center is better setup for these updates.)
Why You Play The Sims
The other downside I see in this game is dependent on why you enjoy The Sims
in the first place. If your enjoyment comes from the interaction of the characters,
more than the creation of customized homes and characters, you will enjoy TSOL
more than I do. When I play the offline version of the game, I particularly
enjoy creating my own furniture, houses, and characters; the actual play of
the game usually bores me after a while. I'm constantly using third party software
to create new furniture, wall coverings, floor tiles, and skins (the characters
and their costumes). When a house displeases me, I just tear it down and start
over. I'm also constantly changing the layout of my houses. In TSOL, these features
are very limited as compared to the offline version. For instantce, If you choose
to be a roommate in someone else's house, you don't get to do much of this at
all. If you do happen to live in a house owned by someone who lets you
customize it, no one would assume a roommate designed all the cool stuff.
Everyone who enters the house generally assumes the house was designed by its
owner and you, the lowly roommate, just work there. So, if you want to make
the house of your dreams in TSOL, I recommend you become a house ownernot
a roommate (even though all recommendations are to become a roommate first,
because building houses and stocking them with the necessary objects is way
more expensive in TSOL. No, there are no money cheats, gang. Sorry.)
There is also a downside, even if you are the type who plays The Sims for the
character interaction, rather than the house building. In TSOL you are dealing
with real people with real personalities. Like any other chat room, it
can get downright nasty. It amazes me how seriously some of the players take
this game! I've seen Sim fights and divorces that rival anything I've ever seen
IRL (in real life). As in any chat room or message forum, the anonymity of being
online can cause people to say and do things they would never say IRL, and some
Sims can be downright rude and very hurtful. When I began to play, I made the
decision to play it as a gameand play the game to win. Because
the recommendation was to be a roommate first, I tried that. However, when I
realized that I would rather be a house owner, I told the owner of the house
in which I was living that I was going to move out and make a go of it on my
own. You would have thought I had personally attacked him! To me, it was just
my choice in how to play the game for my pleasure. To him, it was much
more. He told me I was selfish and only thought of myself. Well, maybe this
is true. But, my reason for playing computer games is to have fun and
give myself an escape from some parts of my life. To have to deal with personalities
in a game, sometimes just isn't fun for me.
So, think of why you are playing and let other Sims know this before you get
into ugly situations. Find like-minded Sims before you enter into Sim relationships
and the game will be much less stressful for you. I remember the early days
of Dungeons and Dragons when people were committing suicide because of
events in the game. I worry that insecure people playing The Sims could fall
into this same trap. Sad, but true.
Now for the Fun Stuff...
Actions and Interactions
The interactions between characters are greatly enhanced over what you have
available when playing offline. Now your characters can do all kinds of fun
things, which are dependent on your skill levels and number of friends. So,
the most important thing to do, when you first start playing, is to study, study,
study...and find other Sims who need friends and offer to exchange friendship
balloons with them. The more skills and friends you have, the more actions and
interactions you can perform. I found, when I increased my charisma skills,
my Sim could blow steam out of her ears <LOL>, so when you see a Sim doing
something you find particularly amusing, ask them what skill is required for
that action so you can study up for it.
Money and Contests
Once you have good skill levels, you can visit other houses and earn money performing
tasks. Some of the house owners have contests to attract more visitors (because
they earn money when visitors come and use the objects in their houses). There
are various types of contests offered, so read the profiles of the other Sims
and houses to see what's out there. You can greatly increase the amount of money
you earn by entering the contests, and there are all kinds of them, only limited
by the creativity and uniqueness of the Sim who holds the contest. This, to
me, is one of the more fun parts of playing TSOL, so don't miss out on the contests.
And remember that, if you want to own one of the top 100 houses in the game,
you need LOTS of simoleons (Sim money) to run a house that will attract people,
so making money should be your number one goal.
Learning Ways to Customize the Game on Your Own Computer...
Another fun part of playing is exchanging tweaks and tricks for improving the
game for yourself. Many of the players have discovered fun things to do and
are more than happy to tell you how. Because TSOL stores all of the defaults
online, you can't really change what other players see or hear, but you can
change how the game looks and sounds on your machine while you play.
Which leads me to my next point
Tips for Customizing the Game on Your Computer
Note! There are some folders on your hard drive where you can place
files that will override the defaults on TSOL's server. I'm going to assume
that your game is installed on your C drive. If it is not, you will have to
adjust the paths below accordingly.
Changing the default pajamas and bathing suits:
When you play, you will soon see that whenever any Sim goes to bed or takes
a dip in a pool or hot tub, they all wear the same boring pajamas and swimsuits.
Well, that was the first thing I wanted to change. There is a third party patch
you can download that allows your Sims to sleep and swim naked, but this wasn't
what I wanted.
(Remember that changing these defaults only changes how things appear on YOUR
monitor. Since kids play this game almost as much as adults, obviously TSOL
isn't going to allow people to change the defaults on their server.) What I
wanted was something that would make me laugh when I saw it. So, thanks to Alphaville
Sim, Agent Matthews, I found a way.
If you have the offline version of the game, you probably already know that
there are millions of skins you can download from various websites and put in
the Skins folder you have in the offline version. Well, you can use any of these
skins as your default pajamas and swimsuits in TSOL, as long as they were made
for the default body types that come with the game (nope, you can't use skins
that require special body type meshes to do this.) All you need to do is find
the skins you want to use and follow these steps to make them your default PJs
- 1. Open the .bmp file for the skin you want to use. On most computers, unless
you've changed the default program for bmp files, simply double clicking on
the file will open it in Windows' Paint program.
- Once the file is open, go to the File menu and choose Save As.
- Browse to find this folder: C:\Program Files\The Sims Online\TSOClient\avatardata\bodies\textures.
This is where you must put the file so TSOL will use it as your default when
you play the game.
- Also, in order for this file to work, you must change it from a bmp to
a jpg. So, after you've found the correct location, click on the Save As Type
dropdown box at the bottom of the Save As dialog box and choose jpg
- Next, you must name the file correctly so TSOL knows whether it is pajamas
or a swimsuit, and which Sim skin color it should be applied to. You MUST
use these names or it won't work.
- Light skin, pajamas, male:
- Medium skin, pajamas, male:
- Dark skin, pajamas, male:
- Light skin, pajamas, female:
- Medium skin, pajamas, female:
- Dark skin, pajamas, female:
- Light skin, swimsuit, male:
- Medium skin, swimsuit, male:
- Dark skin, swimsuit, male:
- Light skin, swimsuit, female:
- Medium skin, swimsuit, female:
- Dark skin, swimsuit, female:
Note! You must do this while TSOL is shut down. When you reopen
it, you will see your new outfits. Also, note that I have only done the pajamas,
since I see a lot more Sims running around in them than I do the swimsuits.
I haven't bothered changing the swimsuits. If the pajamas don't work for you,
check to be sure you are using one made for the default skin mesh. Also, be
sure the file name is spelled correctly. I assure you that it works if you do
it exactly this way. If your bathing suits don't work, go to Alphaville and
contact Agent Matthews. I'm sure he'll be happy to help you.
Also, as long as you are using a skin created for one of the default adult
meshes (yup, no kids in TSOL), you can mix and match female and male skins.
Here's some screenshots to show how my Sim looks in men's white, open-front,
silk men's PJs and how Agent Matthews looks in a black net teddy with thong,
and hip boots:
Changing the Default Music in Your Stereos and Juke Boxes
Tired of those stupid Sim songs that play when you turn on your stereos? It's
simple to replace them with the mp3 files of your choice. Simply copy your favorite
mp3s and paste them into this folder: C:\Program Files\The Sims Online\TSOClient\music\stations.
Inside this folder, you will see subfolders named Country, Disco,
Latin, Beach, etc. Inside each of these folders, you will see
the mp3s that are being used when you choose that particular category of music
for your stereo. (Just double click on any one and you will hear that Sim music
I'm sure you will recognize). If you rename your favorite mp3s using the names
that these mp3s have, you can simply replace the ones that are there with your
favorite songs and that is what you will hear when you turn on your Sim radio,
stereo, juke box, or speaker. I guarantee this will make your Simming a much
more pleasant experience.
There are lots more tweaks I am sure and I plan to learn them all. So, if you
have any that you would like to share, go to my website at http://personal-computer-tutor.com
and send me an email from one of my email links there, or come to TSOL and
find Linda the Geek in Alphaville.