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My text-based game will be a sims clone. I'm having problems though deciding what resources the player should start out with.

I'm wanting to implement a form of the legacy challenge from the Sims 2, but I'm having problems doing so due to the differences between The Sims 2 and my game.

In the vanilla start, you start as a college student and end up with $4800 (the game uses a fictional currency, but obviously you can't type the symbol for that). If you chose the eXtreme start (that IS how its supposed to be spelled), you instead start out as an adult (aka, post-college adult) with $1500. Either way, you have the option of starting with a 'legacy tree' on top of either to these options, meaning you have to plant an orchard tree on your lot at the start and it has to stay there the entire run. This tree costs $1200, so obviously this eats up a lot of cash.

Here are the differences between my game and The Sims 2 that makes this hard to implement:

College isn't a separate 'life stage' like it is in The Sims 2. The reason it was implemented in such an odd way was because it was actually added in an expansion. In my game, college will just be something any adult character can do whenever and as many times as they please. This obviously poses a problem. This means that in my game, you always start as an adult regardless. Going through college also requires you to build up skills. In The Sims 2, pre-made characters always start off with no skills at all regardless of their age. So in the eXtreme start, you're starting not only with less money and no degree, but also no skills. College is also a time for you to make friends, and even find your future spouse. With the eXtreme start, you won't have even that, you're just a blank slate. Obviously, having you start off by default as an adult would be rather problematic. Oh, and you can take back items with you from college in The Sims 2, this also means you actually start off with far more resources since you can easily buy all the furniture your house will use; you just need to pay for the structure itself.

I did think of a way to fix this, but I'm not 100% happy with it. I was thinking of implementing the dorm mechanic The Sims 2 has. Basically, in the vanilla start you start off enrolled and living in a dorm. You also start off with enough money to pay your tuition, so no need to worry about that (in the Sims 2, you actually can't have a job while you're at college, though there are ways to earn money, mostly by getting top grades). Outside of this, to send someone off to college you would need to generate enough funds to pay the tuition over the several years they're going to be there up front (this wasn't a part of the sims 2, despite you starting with a rather generous amount of cash upon arriving at college). This money will go with the sim, and they can spend or mis-spend it as the player sees fit. Things could get complicated if you fail a semester though, since you'll end up staying there longer to get your degree if that happens.

I'm not too happy with this though. It all feels rather clunky. Really, I'm just trying to implement a challenge from another game into mine. Its like I'm trying to make this thing compatible with a mod from another game.

Going to college would probably require quite a huge investment, so it wouldn't be easy to pull off. Also, if you did start with the eXtreme start, that doesn't mean you can't go to college afterwards. In The Sims 2, you can only get one degree, and once you're a full adult you can never apply even if you didn't in the past (that's because you can only sign up to college as a teen, and in the base game they directly aged into adults, this is why the 'young adult' stage had to be implemented in such a weird way). So and eXtreme start founder could still get the degree anyway, and get part of its benefits. Also, the eXtreme start with have a boon; since you're not starting at college, you would start the challenge/game mode in full with a younger character, giving you more time to do things. This is supposed to be a handicap; something you do to make the game harder in exchange for a higher possible final score. At best in my game, it would be more of a trade-off. eXtreme would just mean you don't start off in college, but instead save it for a later date. You would have less starting money to, but this would still be a trade-off rather than a pure detriment.

I don't know what I could do about this. And no, I can't just change the handicap to say your characters can never attend college; many of the possible points you can score require you to do so. This handicap would thus actually reduce your score, by making it impossible to get some of the possible achievements you need to score.

The only way I see to implement this would be to just straight copy how college works in the Sims 2, which was itself kinda wonky. Its sorta a problem with the game; as expansions came out and new features were added the thing ended up being turn into a conglomerate game with multiple conflicting mechanics. There's actually two different skill systems in the game. There's also the hobbies thing which does the same thing as interests but with different nuances, and they both exist side-by-side in the game! Its actually a bit of a mess. I wasn't looking to copy the game whole-sale; I was planning on addressing some of its issues (though most of those would be glitches that don't really alter the gameplay, such as fixing it so you don't corrupt your save if you marry certain npcs).

Oh, and if that's not enough, I wasn't planning having the game spawn you on an empty lot like the Sims 2 does. I was planning on using a pre-made house, just to save the annoyance of having to build the same starting house over and over. I guess I could ditch this and give you a blank lot you could put whatever you want on, but I sorta don't like the annoyance, especially since this game being text-based, it means there isn't really any design; you would just be 'purchasing' rooms with a certain amount of space and items to put in them. The game isn't even going to take into account how the rooms are connected, or how they're shaped, or even if they're on the same floor or not.

The point of this handicap is to make the start harder. You don't have any skills, you did no networking before starting, and you brought nothing back with you and to boot have less money to start with. The legacy tree thing adds another wrinkle, though that could be implemented easily by just lowering your starting money when you get to the lot where you'll actually be building your mansion in exchange for some free food and an extra point in the end. Maybe I could say that if you do the eXtreme start and have the legacy tree, you start off dead broke and essentially live as a homeless person until you make some cash (you COULD in theory do that in my game the way I'm thinking of designing it, though The Sims 2 didn't really let you do that).

How else could I implement this into my game? I'm really at a loss.

What can I do about all this? How do I handle this differing start in a game that doesn't have the wonky aging system The Sims 2 did?

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Determining the starting resources most games is a matter of play testing:

  1. Pick some initial value(s)
  2. Play test, noting the impact of choices from step 1.
  3. If needed, revise choices based on impact & repeat step 2.

Since you're taking inspiration from an existing title, using similar starting values might be reasonable. But since you're altering some mechanics, you probably need to tune your starting values differently.

A common tuning heuristic is to use doubling & halving to gradually zero in on good values. For instance, if a value seems too low, double it until it's not. When you over shoot, you have bounded the problem. Once it's bounded you can take the middle between the last "too high" value & the last "not high enough value".

Log the values values as you tune. I suggest keeping them in a CSV type spreadsheet or text file and keeping that in the repository with your code. In the event that you need to roll back, you'll have a set of data that accompanied that version of the project.

In addition the resources parameters, you'll need some indication of how good they were. This is going to vary, but if possible I would suggest something more fine grained than a simple good / bad. You might want to have a subjective five star rating system. You may also want to keep track of how quickly the game reached a win or fail state. There are two reasons I suggest keeping more than just the final good values.

First, the doubling / halving heuristic doesn't account for synergies. Adjusting one resource may unbalance another. If you need to go back and tweak a previously tuned resource, logging a little more data will make it easier to look for things that are in the "vicinity" of previously known good values. It won't remove all the work, but it will give you more to go on than guessing.

The second reason is to address something from your other posts: challenge modes. Tracking the data allows you to move away from ideal starting conditions towards sub-optimal, but still winnable starting conditions. From there you can come up justifications that fit the feel of your game. A realistic game might limit trees due to emerald ash borer outbreaks whereas something less serious might just make a quip about how it was time for all the trees to leave. You can brainstorm the fiction to fit the data and the challenge will still work because you know the parameters are tough, but potentially winnable. This isn't to say you can't develop some challenges story-first. But since you're already collecting playtest data, you may as well leverage it in multiple ways.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I was thinking the value would depend on the economics of my game. Sadly, I don't really know what the values found in the Sims 2 mean practically. I never did do the eXtreme start myself. Its also hard to find the in-game pricing so I could just work out the math myself. \$\endgroup\$
    – user8600
    Nov 4, 2023 at 20:15

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