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A poor deal for Mac Users
on 12 August 2010
This is a good game in theory but is let down by poor finishing. Imagine a book with occasional pages missing or a film with odd scenes taken out. You can probably still get the gist of the whole thing but your enjoyment is tainted by the frustration of having to work round the problem. Sims 3 for the Mac is somewhat like that, it works but not fully. Sure, bugs, glitches and continual patch releases are common place with computer games, especially ones where custom content is common but the bugs plaguing the mac version and their sheer volume is particularly bad plus it is made even worse by a series of terrible patches which damage as much as they fix. The current patch allows the game to be played, albeit with an 80% chance that many pieces of custom content will be invisible (cue bald sims) and households will inexplicably freeze from time to time but at least it gets beyond the loading screen unlike previous patches which rendered the game unplayable and required a complete reinstall.
The main problem is that this is a poor port. EA have got into the bad habit of making cheap cider ports of their games rather than investing in native MacOS ports. Sure, cider ports have transformed mac gaming and have made it far more likely for mac users to get versions of games they wouldn't have before but it is not an ideal method for porting certain types of game such as The Sims 3. The result in this case is a bloated and unwieldy version that performs poorly even if your hardware far exceeds the specified requirements. If you install Sims 3 on a windows partition on the same machine you'll see amazing improvement with vast reduction in lag.
As this is a cider port, it means EA are far slower in releasing patches and more often than not, a patch will end up creating as many problems as it solves. There is, of course, incredibly helpful and not-at-all infuriating advice from EA for mac users with problems such as: "don't update" (meaning just put up with the minor bugs of the initial release and never be able to play any expansions) or "don't use custom content" (shutting you out of one of the best aspects of the game). Alternatively you can set about trying to use the many complicated work-arounds other frustrated mac users have had to find by fiddling with game files simply to get the game to WORK. It's also worth noting that mac users can't be assured the same content as PC users such as the Create A World tool which is available for PC users but has yet to receive a mac version (there are few signs there ever will be one). Lack of toolsets like this is nothing new to the Mac gamers and I'm sure EA will still port new expansions as they make them (because they can charge for them) but it does leave you feeling a little left out and a little cheated.
Of course I haven't really mentioned much about the content of the game and how it stacks up against its predecessors, mainly because it's how I expected. There are some good changes that were always glaringly absent from previous games like the ability to easily recolour items or a larger range for body types and personalities. There are also glaring absences which I imagine are purposely omitted so they can be put in future expansion packs to give them more substance. The inability to follow a sim into community lots, for instance, surely must be remedied in a future expansion. There are some things which annoy a great deal which are less future expansion content and rather fundamental mistake. Timing is an issue as a sim will struggle to get many simple tasks done in a day and have no time to do anything other than basic chores yet players will also be subjected to tediously long periods watching their sims sleep. The much lauded story progression aspect of the game which sees households getting on with when the player is elsewhere produces weird results with sims suddenly leaving town or moving house and starting a family in the space of a weekend. There are third party fixes to some of these things but you'd expect a little more fundamental stability from the base game itself.
Ultimately this game would have been vastly improved had it received a proper port. While mac gamers are generally sneered at by the gaming community for demanding games despite having such small numbers, I'm sure the number of mac owners that would like to play something like the Sims 3 is more than enough to justify the extra expense of a better port. There certainly were enough to justify mac ports of The Sims and the Sims 2 by Aspyr. EA have taken the cheap and easy option to get at the mac market and have produced a sub-standard product hoping no-one will notice.
If you have a mac with a windows partition to install it on, go for it. If you want to play this in MacOS X then prepare for frustration and irritation. That or wait for the price to drop even further and hope that by the time you do pick it up, EA have finally stumbled upon a stable version.