With a new expansion for the current iteration coming out at the breakneck pace of twice a year, not to mention the $20 “stuff packs”that fill the intervals, by the time that a Sims player’s interest in the game has started to wane, something new and exciting is on its way. This month, it’s Ambitions, a career-focused add-on that finally allows players to follow their Sims to work.
Maxis has a reputation for supporting a strong user community, and the concept behind Ambitions has been a popular request for a number of years. While some vocal users are unhappy that a revamp of the career system took precedence over the introduction of pets, seasons, or a college experience, I think striking out in a new direction is a much better move for Maxis. After all, pets, seasons, and college life are all available in various expansions for The Sims 2, and The Sims 3 is a very different kind of game experience. The kinds of careers introduced in Ambitions would not have been possible in earlier iterations of the game because it relies so heavily on the open neighborhood design.
Take, for instance, the Private Detective career. Exemplary of the new, player-directed career paths, private detectives don’t disappear into a building for eight hours a day. They can work any time of day or night by following a series of tasks like going through garbage, talking to specific sims for information, or staking out a location. Pay is collected after the last clue is solved. My detective character, Lord Peter Wimsey, always opted not to soil his manicured paws with fisticuffs, but as your career progresses, players can choose whether to use charm and wit to acquire information, or more *ahem* physical methods.
Like the Detective career, Stylist and Architect careers take full advantage of the open, walkable neighborhood. In each career, neighborhood sims will contact the playable sim and request makeovers for themselves or their homes. Certain qualifications must be met—an expectant parent might ask for a spare room to be converted to a nursery, complete with a crib, highchair, and toys—but there is plenty of leeway for the player to impose her own style on the entire neighborhood.
Grant Rodiek said in a Gamespot interview that Maxis added the Stylist and Architect career tracks because “Many Sims players never leave build mode or create-a-sim, and we wanted to combine the gameplay found in these creative toolsets with the storytelling and simulation aspects of the rest of the game.” Players who obsess over creating the perfect house or a stylish wardrobe for their sims can now achieve rewards in game for doing so, and the process also creates a narrative and is connected to the stories of the NPC sims as well.
Another major change to the gameplay is related to the new Firefighter and Medical careers: natural disasters. I haven’t yet witnessed an earthquake in game, but from what I understand, natural disasters can occur, and when they do, they start fires and cause injuries. You’d better hope that you’ve got a few trained professionals on hand to deal with the fallout when it happens. Like stylists and architects, firefighters and doctors have flexible work hours and get paid upon completion of a task. They can also build skills and pursue relationships while on the clock, if they can find time between emergencies.
One of the coolest innovations that nobody seems to be talking much about is the self-employment option. Many a sim has adopted a work-at-home career like painting, writing, or gardening to support small children while saving on childcare costs or to supplement income from a low paying career. Now these sims can register as self-employed at City Hall and track their career progress just like any other sim. They don’t get weekly stipends or paychecks, but they do get bonuses to the value of their goods in direct proportion to the number sold.
Ambitions contains some smaller changes that are also available with a free patch from TheSims3.com. A laundry system has been added, which has no effect on the game except to give sims wearing “clean clothes” a positive moodlet. (Laundry is optional; if you don’t want to mess with it, don’t buy a washer and dryer.) Still, many aspects of the game remain unchanged. The old careers, with the exception of medical, remain unchanged, and except for the addition of the Inventing skill and a few new character traits that tie in with the new careers, the old skills and traits are unchanged.
Ambitions revitalizes The Sims 3 and once again breaks new ground by giving players an additional kind of story to tell. It’s not going to change your mind about The Sims 3 if you’re not already a fan, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Ambitions is already on its way to becoming an essential component of the Sims experience.