Friday, January 30, 2009

The Starr Grey Centre (Administration Offices)

A little bit about my administrative building and some insight on the playing style of several interactions. Note, there will be more detailed posts about certain aspects, this is mostly an introduction. So if you have questions/comments, please post and I can address them in the detailed posts as well.

The Centre features several amenities for residents and visitors of Apple Valley. This complex is owned by the current Hood Council President and many other residents assist in making the building run. The lot has three attached buildings with several offices.
The ground level contains: the Apple Valley Welcome Center and Gift Shop where you will find Apple Valley souveniors (teddy bears with Apple Valley t-shirts) , the latest edition of the Apple Valley News (newspaper from SimStash), and a small area to plan your next vacation in or out the hood (my version of a tiny travel office, more on that in another post).

Next to the welcome center, residents can find a small bank (with an unoriginal title of Apple Valley Bank) where they can purchase investments, deposit/withdraw from savings accounts, and make arrangements for thier mortgage or student loans with the Financial Advisor. (more on banking in another post)

To the other side of the Welcome Center is the two level Apple Valley Ballroom. The ballroom is the site of many formal events in Apple Valley and can be rented for weddings, formals and even elaborate parties-all for a fee of course. Sims can hold your wedding ceremony downstairs and upstairs enjoy cake and champagne for a lively party. To hold a party, I simply have the hosts visit the lot, teleport in the guests, fill the buffet and poof! instant party. The only downside is that when the hood council president is visiting the lot for her play session, residents have a tendency to crack open the champagne :P

Above the Apple Valley Welcome Center and Gift Shop is The Hood Council Meeting Hall, where residents can come and participate in the hood council meetings. When it's time for a hood council meeting, I have the members teleport to the lot and have a seat. Whatever they discuss (ie what the thought bubbles tell me) is what the meeting was about. Like in the photo below, former hood council president Ayanna Kent is informing Educational Director, Johan Dawson (top left) that there isn't money in the budget for more school renovations.

Sometimes they give me some great ideas. Like the meeting above caused Johan to create a fundraiser with students selling baked goods to raise money for the school. Once the meeting is over, everyone is deselected and free to do what they will.

The Apple Valley News office is next to the meeting hall. It's more like a corner than an office. If you're lucky you can see the hood reporter hard at work. The office doubles as a small historical library where archives and residental information is stored. Residents can register any marriages, births or deaths at this office.

Above the the Hood Council Meeting Hall is the Hood Council President's Office, where residents can chat with the president about any concerns and also find the president hard at work managing the hood.

Former President, Ayanna Kent, (top) Current President Fiona Kent (bottom)

This is where the hood president does most of thier work. They collect taxes and fees (more in a later post), dispense salaries, respond to emails and chat with spokes sims from other SUN hoods.

Back of the admin buildings as the good witch arrives :P

EDIT: So what's the government like in your hood?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Neighborhood View and Consilidated Blogs

You know how sometimes you capture a really great view of your hood? The game loaded the hood facing the opposite way in which I normally view the hood (usually the bridge is facing towards me). I'm glad it did, I LOVE this view!

So let's do a little tour. You can see the Grey farm (red barn and blue farm house). This is Jonagold Circle. All of the houses used to be off of this circle. To the right of the farm is The Farmer's Market. Across the street from the Farmer's Market is Apple's Landing (home of the Dawson, Warwick and Humphrey families). To the left of Apple's Landing is the Apple Valley Memorial Church and Cemetary, to the left of it is the Alisa Crawston Park with small amphitheater.

To the left of the park (across the street) is the new Children's Park. In front of the Alisa Crawston Park is the Jonagold Shoppes I (home of The Peacock, Posh clothing, and Red Movies). Now the tour is going to get crowded. Across from the Jonagold Shoppes I is the Jonagold Shoppes II (it looks like a bunch of buildings) and the Daniels Row Apartments (home to the Sweeny and Shazad families).

Across the street are two small boxy buildings, The Toy Shoppe and The Herendez Gallery. On the other side is the Veronika Kent Medical Centre (grey building), which sits next to CupaJava, which is next to the Apple Valley Academy (two orange buildings).

In front of the school are the Starr Grey Administration Buildings (trio of buildings) which sits in front of Dawson Central Park. Across from the park is Greymount Pointe (home of the Kent, Wilsonoff, and Herendez families).

To give a sense of the scale of my hood, the Dawson Central Park is 3x3. This is one of the largest (non beach lots) lots that I work with. It's amazing how small you can build.
When are the consilidated blogs coming?

Most readers have noticed the Apple Valley Blogs link to the side. Yes, I am moving all the family blogs to one consilidated blog. When? This April will mark the first postings of the families and the beginning of 2001.
EDIT: What's your hood like? Large, small, medium? Urban, rural, suburban?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Personality and Background

This is long!

Sim personality and background in Apple Valley has undergone a few changes since I've been playing.

Obviously in TS1, when it was still Greymount, there wasn't aging (except for the occasional child growing into an adult). I loved that the stories were deeper and richer, I knew so many details of my simmies. Jack Daniels search for love and mother to his twin daughters, and his struggle for wanting a romance filled bachelor life. Margurita and Alfonzo Herendez and thier trials with immigrating to Greymount from Hacienda Bay, her modeling career that she left to raise thier children and his career as a science geek (classic beauty and the geek). Starr Grey and Alisa Crawston's famous careers spent touring other SUN hoods and living the celebrity life. They had favorite colors, favorite foods, rich details in thier dating lives, everything! Time was on my side as I played these sims year after year, adding more and more details to thier lives.

TS2-The Early Years
Then TS2 came out and with it came aging and genetics and I also lost a lot of details. Aging seemed so quick! Even though all the sims in the hood aged at a consisent rate, it still was too fast! Within a year, the same babies born would die as elders. Much too fast to have any real details in thier lives.

I had to find them a spouse and get them pregnant before they turned elder. No more dating around, more and more sims married thier high school loves. No more career hopping, whatever job you got on the first day-you retired from that one. I no longer knew my simmies. I wondered, who is this and why are they so boring! Needless to say, a lot of simmies moved out the hood/died because of boring lives. I hated that! I wanted to return to my detailed simmies and thier rich lives.

TS2-The Middle Years
I started experimenting with keeping detailed records of my sims backgrounds. This large document kept track of the max number of skills they could learn, aspirations, would they ever marry, ever have children, vegan or not, favorite attire style, everything! Then I added Simmerville's trait system as well. At first it was fun...then it bogged me down and I stopped using it. Too much upkeep doesn't make playing much fun.

Aging was slowed a little as RL became more hetic. I knew my sims a little better, but it was too cumbersome.

With the annoucement of TS3, I knew that I wouldn't be leaving my TS2 behind. RL is very busy and I barely play as it is. Instead I will continue to play and enjoy all the aspects I hadn't seen yet-such as the Genie lamp, playing a frat, getting all the vacation tokens. However, one aspect of TS3 intriguied me-traits.

Finally, something to make my simmies more interesting and is much easier than a HUGE document. I played around with my random generator files until I was satisified that I had the right combination of traits and in game behaviors to make truly unique sims.

Since now my sims age about one year every 3-4 months, I can spend more time on the details and by limiting the amount of details, I am no longer bogged down. My current trait system has 6 traits and I am going more in depth with the tools MAXIS already gave me.

Apple Valley Trait System
My current trait system is as follows:

Primary Aspiration: assigned upon teenhood
Secondary Aspiration: assigned upon adulthood/young adulthood
Favorite Color: either randomly assigned upon toddlerhood based on the random generator document or based on the color of the clothes they age into.
Trait #1: randomly assigned upon birth
Trait #2: randomly assigned upon birth
Trait #3: randomly assigned upon birth

I keep the notes on each sim in thier bio (except for aspirations). This trait system allows the sim to "grow" into thier selves.

What Next?
I decided to use what the game gave me instead of creating so many extras that bogged my playstyle down. MAXIS gave us aspirations (two if you have FreeTime), interests, personalities, hobbies, and turnon/offs. Since I rarely create new sims in my game (so many of the sims are born in AV) then interests/personalities and turnons/offs are randomly assigned by the game.

Deeper MAXIS Personality
I haven't really given MAXIS personality much play. Yes, my sims have it, but since I can control them even messy sims clean up thier homes. Recently, I've been looking at the traits in depth and really thinking what each one entails. So in addition to what the game programs them to do, I arranged for the personality traits to give me clues about various other traits (such as glasses/weight/career choice and aspiration/etc).

Neat: organized, neat-freak. This sim would color code recipes, clean up immediately and freak out over messes. Pays bills as soon as they come in, always remembers birth control. Clothing is neat and ironed.

Messy: disorganized, cluttered. This sim would have more clutter, lose bills and forget payments and birth control. Clothing is wrinkled, mismatched, barefoot. Wears PJs most of the day.

Outgoing: Attire is more trendy and skimpy, more likely to wear lots of jewelry, dyed hair

Shy: More likely to have glasses, hairstyle will be such that sim can hide behind, attire is more conservative

Active: Wears gym clothes most of the day, more likely to be fit

Lazy: Wears PJs most of the day, more likely to be overweight

Playful: Will play on playground equiptment to increase fun, chose play with interactions to increase fun, will wear hats and face makeup, attire is more trendy, dyed hairstyles

Serious: genetic disposition to wear glasses :P attire is more conservative, more likely to be designated "genius" and allowed Smart Milk during toddler years.

Nice: More likely to perform errands for others, give gifts, easily influenced, will have an easier time making friends.

Mean: Likes to torment, argue. Will have a harder time making friends and will become easily furious with other sims.

Deeper MAXIS Hobbies
Based on a sim's one true hobby, I decided that they would have a corresponding skill strength. This means that they will learn that chosen skill faster (mostly through the Thinking Cap from the aspiration rewards). Some hobbies will also have a boost in talent badges, meaning that they will start with a bronze badge (of thier chosing if multiple badges are available) even without studying.

Arts & Craft: Creativity/Pottery, Sewing, Flowers, Toys Talent Badge
Culinary: Cooking
Film: Charisma/ Sales Talent Badge
Fitness: Body/ Restocking Talent Badge
Games: Logic/Toys Talent Badge
Music & Dance: Creativity
Nature: Cleaning/Fishing, Gardening Talent Badge
Science: Logic/ Register Talent Badge
Sports: Body/ Restocking Talent Badge
Tinkering: Mechanical/Robots Talent Badge


Based on thier personality, wants as a child, interests, traits and OTH-if known-, I assign aspirations as follows.

fortune: mostly serious, not lazy or shy sims.

knowledge: mostly serious, shy and neat sims. OTH: Science, Nature, Tinkering

family: mostly nice sims, not lazy sims. OTH: Culinary

popularity: mostly outgoing and playful sims. OTH: Sports, Music & Dance

pleasure: mostly playful, lazy sims. OTH: Games, Sports

romance: mostly outgoing, playful and nice sims.

grilled cheese (secondary aspiration only): mostly lazy sims. OTH: Culinary

The traits are a list of 54 personality traits-most taken from TS3 list, others from personality profiles and myself. Things like grouchy and sweet were removed since the ingame personality/zodiac signs takes care of that. Also, I added things like witchy/vampire/etc to indicate if the sim would like to become a creature. I also added fertility, sexual preference and body type.

Trait #1 is reserved for 18 non personality (fixed) traits, ie: barren, bisexual, fat, genius, vampire, drinking problem, sickly, etc.

Traits #2 and #3 are reserved for (18 each) personality traits: frugal, big spender, insensitive, workaholic, worrywart, traveler, activist, etc.

Traits in Action

How does this all work? Let's follow a bit of Jane Smith's life (how original :P). She was born with the traits: fat, traveler, worrywart. Upon becoming a toddler, her clothes were bright yellow.

Jane Smith
Favorite Color: Yellow
T1: Fat
T2: Worry Wart
T3: Traveler

The in game system tells me her:
top three interests are animals, money and politics
OTH is film & literature (and skill is charisma)
personality is neat 6, outgoing 7, active, 6, playful 6, nice 7
turnons/off are: facial hair/fatness and stink

Based off this, her PA is popularity.

Jane Smith
PA: Popularity
Favorite Color: Yellow
T1: Fat
T2: Worry Wart
T3: Traveler

Jane goes through high school as the star of the debate team, editor of the yearbook, homecoming queen and voted most popular. She nurses a dream of becoming an animal rights lobbyist or an investigator journalist focused on the true nature of breeders and how simnation supports them (based on her interests and aspiration). She is always worried about something, if it's not grades, then it's her neverchanging weight that she's coming to terms with or how over protective her parents are, or how the ozone layer will disappear and kill us all or how the number of strays in the hood-well, you get the picture. When Jane enters university, she is assigned fortune as her SA (based on interests and personality).

Jane Smith
PA: Popularity
SA: Fortune
Favorite Color: Yellow
T1: Fat
T2: Worry Wart
T3: Traveler

Finally free of overprotective parents, Jane decorates her dorm room in her favorite color-yellow, dyes her hair yellow and black and finally wears that patent yellow mini-skirt and corset she found in an upscale boutique. Jane spends a year abroad her junior year and meets Hugh, a handsome blond with a goatee and size 46 pants. He reminds Jane of her father (except for the stinkyness-thank goodness). Hugh's her first true love and they promise to keep in touch. But like most long distance relationships, Jane and Hugh lose contact. Her senior year, Jane wins a grant to make a documentary about the native llamas of Fruitia (thanks to her lucky yellow hat). She learned so much that she is offered a job as animal linguist which offers a great salary and frequent trips around the globe, but worries if she will be giving up on her, if that's the right job for her, what if the animals refuse to talk to her and-you get the picture. A few years into the job and Jane decides a career change is for her, now will it be an animal rights lobbyist or an investigator journalist? She worries as picks up her mail and notices a bundle of letters from Hugh...

EDIT: How do you ensure that your sims are unique? Do you rely on MAXIS tools only or do you incorperate your own things?


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