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I'm making a sims-clone, as I've said numerous times already. I'm not slavishly re-creating any one of the games (though I often feel like I have to at times for practical reasons, on a side note designing this thing I've actually gained a deeper understanding as to why The Sims 2 worked the way it did).

Possibly one of the biggest problems these games have is that things get boring once you have everything. When you start off, you're playing fully adult characters who don't have a single damned skill or anything other than enough money to build a starter house. Getting to the top is quite an effort. However, once you're there you're so swimming in cash the whole thing becomes a joke. You also have all the best items in the game now too, and any other characters born during gameplay have almost the equivalent of an adult's life span before they become an adult themselves. This combined with all the best furniture items being already present for them means they can easily build themselves up far faster than the founding generation can.

I've thought of several ways to fix this, but I'm not sure if they would be sufficient. Here are my ideas:

  1. Once you're wealthy, there's nothing that can bring you down. Living expenses are trivial even at the beginning of the game. Even if you made no money at all, after the first generation dies you can easily survive without any other character making a single penny their entire lives for several generations before the funds the founders built up runs out. The solution to this would be to increase the cost of living. If you have a mansion, you're going to need multiple characters at the highest tier of their career paths to pay the taxes on it. If someone isn't pulling their weight, everyone's going down. The repoman is going to be taking your stuff, you're going to struggle to buy food, your characters are going to be unhappy about not being able to buy the stuff they want. So higher taxes, and maybe higher food costs. If you have the lowest wage possible, you should only be able to pay the taxes on a minimalistic shack that only has the bare necessities. No fancy house, no expensive items. Not even enough to support a family. You want to move up in the world, you gotta be making more.

  2. As mentioned, another problem is the items. Items that help build skills come in over a dozen tiers, each one being progressively better at building a specific skill. Once these are all present, building skills becomes trivial. Even then, once you have all the expensive items, your sims are never going to roll wants to buy more. The solution to this would be to make items have a finite lifespan. Those dinner chairs the founder bought aren't going to still be usable after 10 whole generations. At best, items should give out by the time the grandchildren come of age, meaning they at least will have to build back up themselves. More expensive items should last longer of course, but nothing lasts forever. This includes items such as career rewards which are far harder to get; unless you have multiple characters in the same career track, you're never going to get multiples of them.

  3. Increase the time to takes to build skills. As-is, you can easily max all the skills before you grow old even if you start as a full-grown adult. Something like that should take one's entire lifetime. Also, such a character would probably have to stay out of work so they would have enough time to build up all these skills. For practicality though, a fully adult sim should still be able to reach the top of their career before their time comes, but of course that normally doesn't require one to max all the skills and get every 'power' in the game. To fix adult characters, some sort of system should be implement to make them have skills and friendships as if they actually did have a life prior to the game's start. Then the game can easily be balanced without making it impossible for pre-made adults to achieve their dreams.

  4. Discourage wealth-building. Even if you do want to just lay back and live off your inheritance, its hard to do that. Sims have a feature called 'lifetime wants', which is simply an ultimate goal they want to achieve. Problem is, its rare for this to not be 'reach the top of x career'. Fortune sims in particular just want to make money by any means possible. The particular curiosity is knowledge sims. They're supposed to want to learn things, but outside of 'max all skills', all their possible lifetime wants are just 'reach top of x career'. In fact, they have far more of these than even fortune sims do! If you aren't making money, its hard to keep your sims happy. Wealth doesn't buy happiness; simply having a giant house full of expensive stuff isn't actually going to do much for your sims' moods unless they really like to build skills. Even then, all skills can only be maxed once, so once that's done it can be really hard to keep a knowledge sim happy. They just fall into a cycle of wanting to witness the paranormal, which is not a common occurrence. Its okay for fortune sims to want to become a boss all the time, but it shouldn't be the norm for everyone else. Popularity sims should want jobs with short hours so they can spend more time socializing. Knowledge sims should want this so they can spend more time studying. Family sims should want to stay home and interact with their family. Romance sims should want the same thing popularity sims do in terms of jobs. Pleasure sims should also prefer to party than work. Everyone other than the fortune sims shouldn't be a workaholic. This however would require the addition of far more stuff to accomplish. Like I said, knowledge sims' moods tend to tank once they've learned everything simply because they've done everything they could possibly want. There should be more to learn, and more interesting things to do with all the skills they got. Maybe I could also make it so characters aren't going to be rolling lifetime wants that make money if they have a lot. If they have a lot, they're going to want to relax and waste time with all the expensive stuff they have now. They got money, they shouldn't be interested in working. Only fortune sims should want work all the time, and only they should be rolling wants for promotions one after the other. Just because they could still advance they shouldn't normally focus around getting the skills they need to advance another level even if they clearly have no use for the money. If they want money, it should be in an indirect way such as wanting a better telescope or something. If you don't need more money to do it, you shouldn't be seeking more wealth basically.

  5. Less free money. The game is actually quite generous with donations. If you have one of the later expansions installed, an npc will come to your house within the first few hours of gameplay and give you a highly expensive computer. Many challenges actually forbid you from selling this item. Getting promoted also gives you a ludicrous bonus; often several times that of your salary. Its actually the main reason why sims can build wealth so fast. Then there's dating. If your sim has had a successful date with someone, there's a chance they're going to come to your house and gift you an ultra expensive item you can easily sell to get a boost to funds equivalent to a promotion. Clearly, all such things must be removed; if you get a bonus, it should be for doing something clever at work. If you want to save up money, you're just going to have to rely on not spending your salary. If you want to accumulate wealth, you're really going to have to work hard for it; its not going to be handed to you.

Of course, at the end of the day this all may only delay the inevitable. No matter how hard you make it to accumulate funds, sooner or later you should be able to become trillioinaires. If you're making even slightly more money than your taxes are eating up, its still going to gradually accumulate. Items breaking down would probably help the most, since it will always be setting you back to square one. Honestly though, such a thing could be annoying, especially since you're likely to have purchased a bunch of stuff at the same time, meaning that one day seemingly everything in your house is going to fail, and if you have a lot of items and/or they're just expensive you probably won't be able to replace everything, possibly causing major problems for the family out of nowhere. Skills are another issue; how do you determine what skills a pre-made adult should have? In the sims 2, you can easily max all skills before adulthood if you try. Why then is not everyone fully skilled? What would be the typical level of skill for an average adult character? Should I place a cap on how high skills can go before the adult stage (in the sims 2, toddlers can actually max out 3 skills pretty easily, seriously). That seems kinda heavy-handed though to just say 'you can't progress past this point until you're an adult'. Most skills are tied to personality traits; the personality values affect how fast you can level skills. Maybe I could also use them to set a cap? If you're not an adult yet and you only have an outgoing score of say 5, you shouldn't be able to raise your charisma past that until you've come of age. There just doesn't seem to be a good solution though.

The things causing this one problem are numerous. All games seem to suffer from this; once you've got everything in Skyrim or Minecraft, the game becomes boring. You can't possibly die, and you have everything you could ever need to do whatever you want. There's no way for you to fall back down once you're at the top. Maybe this problem is just impossible to solve?

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    \$\begingroup\$ It seems that the answer to this -and some of your previous- questions is quite subjective and will ultimately need actual play testing to answer. What extends the enjoyment of your particular game is going to depend heavily on the exact situation presented to a late-game player. What is that becomes tedious/loses entertainment value when playing late-game? Is it the excess of money? Or boredom with the lack of furniture options? Or ... \$\endgroup\$
    – Basic
    Commented Nov 5, 2023 at 0:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Honestly, for me it was mostly seeing my character pass away. After that, it felt like I was just re-playing him with an npc. However, for some reason starting a new playthrough always fixed this. Maybe I just preferred to play characters I had made over 'natural' ones? Maybe I can't know until I playtest, but what if I need to add something but I would need to re-do the whole game to implement it? You can't just keep adding on features to the same game, you're just going to end up with a game filled with contradicting and redundant features. \$\endgroup\$
    – user175083
    Commented Nov 5, 2023 at 1:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Every game will become boring eventually. There are only two possible solutions to really solve this and both come down to the same root. The human element. These two ways are "Multiplayer" (Humans to play with/against) and "Live Service"(humans that perpetually add content). If it is not a multiplayer (pvp focussed) game and you plan to eventually be done with developing it, there is just nothing you can do. At some point the player will have experienced all content. Additional content and randomization can push that limit further, but never break it. \$\endgroup\$
    – datacube
    Commented Nov 5, 2023 at 11:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Games like The Sims 2, I didn't stop playing because I got bored. I stopped playing them because THEY WERE TAKEN AWAY FROM ME. My computer can't run The Sims 2, and the evil empire EA refuses to make it available again. I can't play Skyrim either, despite spending YEARS trying to get it to run on my computer. I quit terraria because the 1.4 update rendered the game unplayable to me. I would still be playing all of these today if I had a choice in the matter. So forever games do exist, they just keep getting torn away from us. \$\endgroup\$
    – user175083
    Commented Nov 5, 2023 at 19:01
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You may be interested in reading Finite_and_Infinite_Games. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mangata
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 10:17

1 Answer 1

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There are a number of reasons a player may want to play a game.

  1. The story and characters make the player want to see what comes next
  2. The game presents a challenge that the player wants to overcome
  3. There is an area of the world for the player to explore
  4. Etc. There may be others.

Without a reason to play the game, the player will generally not continue to play. Once all challenges presented by the game have been accomplished and there is no story or anything to explore, how could you expect a player to continue playing?

If you want players to continue to play, you must offer them more content to play.

Your suggested solutions #1 and #2 don't offer additional content, rather they require players to re-play existing content. Players will generally not do that unless there's a value-add. Asking players to re-play existing content can be done, with the cons that you must not make it seem like an unfair penalty and you must provide enough variability that players look forward to playing the game again. For example, roguelike games specialize in asking players to replay content, and they succeed because each run is randomized.

For example: Once a player reaches a state where everything in the game is unlocked, declare the player the "Winner of The Sims" somehow, and then give them a few bonuses and unlock a new feature for their next game.

Solutions #3 #4 and #5 don't offer additional content either, they only make progressing through the content more difficult and slower. That may be a valid option for you, with the cons that players do not like excessive grinding.

But no matter how much you add, players will eventually reach the end of your content and stop playing. But, that is a good thing. It's hard enough to get players to play your game at all. If you can somehow convince a significant subset of players to play all the way to the end of your game, then congratulations! You have won as a game designer and done better than most other games out there.

On that note: The above paragraphs were "answering the question", so forgive me but this last paragraph will be "advice". I don't know anything about your situation but I'm going to guess that you're an indie developer with a small team and a new IP, near the beginning of your project. If that's the case, then you're worried about the wrong thing. It will be hard enough to get players to play the beginning of your game. Focus on delivering your core loop first, and then worry about endgame content once your core loop is good.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I am NOT an indie developer. I don't have a team. Why would I be making a text-based game using just base python/c++, where the only output function avaiable is 'print/cout'. I'm making this for myself, no one else. Besides, there's no way I could release such a thing without EA accusing me of copyright infringement. If I had an actual team, I would be making a game with proper graphics, not text. I'm just desperate to have my games back no matter what it takes. I'm sick of things being taken away from me with no compensation. Fuck EA and any company that destroys their own games. \$\endgroup\$
    – user175083
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 15:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding 'new content', this being my game I can always add more, which I was planning to do anyway (I did play with certain mods, and besides I always wished it did have certain features that were never added). I don't know how far I can really expand a text-based game, but I kept playing The Sims 2 for YEARS after the expansions stopped, and that wasn't because of mods. Maybe its replayablity was due to the sheer number of ways you could design your house and dress up your sims. There was also a randomization element to it too which probably helped. \$\endgroup\$
    – user175083
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 15:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding #4, honestly I was thinking it would be a good idea to distinguish the different aspirations more. As-is, its impossible to get overworked. Regardless of who your sim is, you can keep them happy by just having them go to work all the time. No matter how much you overwork your sims, they're never going to lose it. Only fortune sims should want that; everyone else should want things not directly related to work. The family sims should lose if it they aren't having kids and interacting with them. The popularity sims should only gain happiness from making friends. \$\endgroup\$
    – user175083
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 17:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ They can all still work of course, but it should serve another goal; only fortune sims make money just for the sake of making money. Everyone else should only be making money if the practically need it. Thus, the player has to chose between making their sims happy, and making sure they're making enough to live and progress. Family sims should roll wants to quit their job, popularity sims should roll wants to switch to jobs with shorter working hours, even if they pay less. Basically, money only brings happiness if you're a fortune sim. That should help mix up gameplay. \$\endgroup\$
    – user175083
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 17:53

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