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The Sims 3 Showtime: Hands-On Impressions

Find out what happened when BlackGarden got hands on with Showtime in London! Genies, bananas, mechanical bulls, oh my!

At first glance, the Showtime expansion pack doesn’t seem to have much that a Simmer like me would enjoy. I dislike TV talent shows, pop stars in general, and celebrity culture. Plus from watching the trailers of the game, I couldn’t help thinking the concept overlapped a lot with Late Night. Why bother, really?

Nonetheless, I went to London with an open mind last Friday, and armed myself with a list of questions that people significantly more interested in the expansion than myself had been asking on TheSims3.com.

First and foremost, if I totally failed to answer the question you asked me on TheSims3.com, I want to apologise. I had a lot of fun playing the game and totally forgot about the questions until we had just about an hour left, at which point I rushed through the list with the assistance of the fabulous shoeprozac from the EA UK forums.

This isn’t the first time a Sims expansion pack has surprised me this way. I genuinely thought I would hate Ambitions, and it turned out to be my favourite pack. After Showtime is released, I’ll have a new favourite.

Please note that these hands-on impressions are based on an early build of the game, and not the final build. Some details may change between the version I played and the final build. This article is based on my experiences from playing the game, and also some information comes from talking to Mike Cox, producer on Showtime, who gave us a few demonstrations throughout the day, and who patiently answered our questions.

New objects, and returning fan favourites

The first thing that struck me about Showtime was just how many familiar objects were returning in this pack from The Sims 1 and 2. There is a real sense of nostalgia in seeing the photo booth, pool table, mechanical bull, electro-dance sphere and other fan favourites return – and of course, the photo booth is a new Woohoo location.

The new woohoo location, an old classic, the photobooth!

After Woohooing in the photo booth, one of the Sims will pick up the photos that were taken. They’ll look at them, gasp, and rip them up! These will not go into your Sim’s inventory!

Another returning item is the MP3 player. Your Sim can listen to music without a Stereo and without you having to listen to the music too. The real advantage of this is they can get the moodlet from listening to music anywhere.

The most remarkable thing about Showtime isn’t the return of old objects though, or even the social features, it’s the sheer size of the pack. With every new expansion pack that’s released, someone always seems to be complaining that we don’t get many objects with it. I really don’t see how anyone could say this of Showtime. The number of stage props is overwhelming, and for your eccentric performers they’ll also make great decorative objects. Some of my favourites are a large creepy doll, and some cardboard cut-out “skylines” (because who doesn’t need a backdrop of a city skyline in their dining room?). Also the giant food stage props would make for a great themed home. But it’s not just props – some of the new non-decorative objects are really cool too, like a new 4-tile wide TV that takes up an entire wall, and two new stone hot tubs, and the mini driving range, which takes up 8×3 tiles.

Look at the City Lights stage prop.

Performance careers and gigs

So what about the new careers? There are three new full-blown performance careers – singer, acrobat, and magician – as well as a new DJ skill, which does not have a career but you can still make money performing on the decks at community locations. Each of the new careers tells the story of your Sim’s rise to stardom. From humble beginnings performing on the street or at the park for tips, through some regular gigs at local clubs, right up to having their own huge gigs in front of hundreds of Sims.

Sim performing for a huge audience at the Big Stage Venue

There are certain aspects that all the new careers have in common. You must choose a stage name. You could give them their normal name as their stage name, make up another name, or use the built-in stage name generator (which has some really funny stage names). You will always start off performing for tips on community lots. This is quite similar to how guitarists can currently play for tips. Singers can also perform Sing-a-grams to help them improve their career performance and earn some money. Sing-a-grams will appear on your map in a similar way to jobs for the Ambitions careers.

Once you’ve moved up the career ladder a bit, your main source of income will be performing gigs, and you need to get those by winning round the proprietors of the various venues around town. If you’re good friends with the proprietors that will help, but you’ll also need to audition in front of them (this is just a quick interaction where you’ll show your skill). If they think you’re up to the high standards of their establishment, they’ll give you a gig. Gigs can be a one-off, or they might be regular (weekly) slots.

When the night of your first real gig arrives, the first thing you’ll need to do is set up your stage. You can either use the venue’s default set-up, or create your own stage. When you create a stage, it puts you into buy mode on the community lot where your gig is, but you’re restricted to only placing items on the stage itself. You can get really creative with the stages, using special effects machines and lighting as well as some of the huge number of props in the pack to dress your stage. I can imagine that lot builders will really enjoy this aspect of the game, as well as creating new venues with their own default stage set-ups.

A completely different stage setup, almost like a sea world. Lot builders can have endless fun with just the stage props alone.

With the stage set, your Sim can step out into the lights for their first performance. If you don’t happen to have the Sim selected, they will perform without your direction, but it’s much more fun to take control and direct the performance yourself. For singers you choose what you want to sing, when you want to sing a verse or the chorus, when to strike a pose, and when to blow kisses to the crowd. You can also decide what you want to say to the crowd when you talk in between your songs. For magicians, you can decide when you want to attempt which tricks, and how to interact with the crowd. Acrobats, similarly to magicians, you choose what stunts you want to do throughout your show. The audience may also make requests, and responding to these well makes the audience happy, they may even throw goodies onto the stage, which will go into your Sim’s inventory after the performance.

When the show is over, your Sim will get a review based on how much the audience enjoyed the show. The better the review, the better the moodlet that your Sim gains after the performance. Incidentally, it’s worth noting that throughout my time playing, I never once played a show to an empty room, and the majority of Sims were always paying attention to the show rather than doing their own thing. At big venues there were a few real Sims in the audience but in the background you some Sim-silhouettes representing a big crowd, without slowing down your computer.

SimPort and Social Features

Besides the regular way of getting gigs in your neighbourhood, your Performer Sim can also get gigs through the new Simport feature.

The new Simport feature is the biggest addition added to Showtime. It is like a Social Media aspect inside your game, but you don’t need to have Facebook or Twitter to use it. It’s all linked to your account on TheSims3.com, you log into your account and can see your friends from the site or look for new friends inside the game. If you do have Facebook or Twitter, you can also optionally find your Facebook and Twitter friends in the game.

For the first time, you can host your friends’ Sims in your game for a big performance, or send your Sims to their game. When you are hosting a Sim, you only get to direct their performance – they are not a full Sim in your game. When their performance is over, they’ll return to your friend’s game. If you send a Sim to a friend’s game, after a few in-game hours, they return with a story and moodlet based on how the tour went – but it is only after your SimPort friend has accepted the sent-Sim that you gain career performance, money, and any items that were thrown at them while they were on stage in your friend’s game.

This means that for the first time, your Sims can work and earn money and performance even if you’ve closed your game and shut down your computer. If you send your Sim to a friend’s game before you shut down, then when you start up your game again, they’ll come back with everything they earned in your friend’s game. Sims can only ever be sent between games when both friends agree to it. But beware – if you send your magician to your friend’s game, they might come back a little bit more dead than they were when you sent them.

Another feature of Simport is the stamp book, it keeps track what level performer you sent to friends’ games or hosted in your game. Earlier I already said that Showtime came with a lot of objects, but these stamps give you access to additional exclusive (stage) items (like a Freeze Bunny Chair), this is an extra incentive besides extra Simoleons and career performance to use the Simport feature.

The Stampbook in the new Simport Feature, there is a small picture of the exclusive items you can get if you finish these 9 stamps, there IS a freezer bunny chair!

In addition to Simport, Showtime comes with a host of new social features, which will also be added in the base game patch that is released at the same time as Showtime.

One of them is a wall, on this the game or you posts messages (for example that you want to host a Sim). But you can also post memories or screenshots, so when something unusual happens in your game, you can share it with your friends right away. Your friends can see this in their game or on the Sims 3 website, and they can then comment on your post, so you can talk to your friends within the game. This gives you a new way to ask your Sim-playing friends for help, or to share funny things that happen.

The final new social feature for Showtime is the achievements, and as an avid gamer, I am particularly excited about this. There are over a hundred achievements, varying from “easy” things like hiring a maid, to having a ghost baby, to your Sim having 15 children. This adds new goal-based game play, which will encourage you to try things you may not have considered doing before. Achievements earn you badges which, depending on difficulty, are bronze, silver, gold or platinum. Your badges are posted on your profile both in game and on the Sims 3 website, so you can have a little friendly (or not so friendly) competition with your friends to see who can get the most badges.

Starlight Shores

The new world, Starlight Shores, has a Californian feel, with modern buildings. If you want to see a bit of the world, you should check out the Showtime live chat footage from a couple of weeks ago. One neat touch that I really liked was the Simlish Hollywood sign, and also the fact that the stadium wasn’t just a rabbithole – it was actually a venue you could perform at as well.

In the background you can see a "hollywood" sign in Starlight Shores, but then in Simlish.

In the middle of the new world is a large privately owned park. It is only open at certain times of day, and has a stage for performances. Relatively frequently, a “SimFest” event occurs, where you can go and watch other performers in your town.

New features for Sims who don’t like the limelight

This is where the new expansion pack gets really interesting. You don’t actually have to have a Sim who is a performer to enjoy the new features. If your Sim is a bit shy, they can still go and watch other performers around town. If they’re a bit mean, they can heckle, boo, laugh derisively at, cringe at, or just go “aaaack!” at the performers. If they’re friendly or excitable, maybe they’d be more inclined to cheer, applaud, express awe, or point in amazement. And if they’re just a pretty boring Sim maybe they’ll want to just “watch closely”, clap, “golf clap” (imagine spectators at a golf game clapping – that’s your golf clap), or go “ooh” and “aah”. If your Sim is in the audience they can also choose to throw anything from a wide range of objects onto the stage.

If attending gigs isn’t really your thing, maybe you just want to hire a magician for your kid’s birthday party, or a DJ for a teen house party. You can hire DJs, magicians, singers, and acrobats from the “call for services” menu. You can also hire a Sing-a-gram from the phone, to deliver a message to someone special.

For vegetarian Sims, Showtime will add a huge variety of new dishes. In fact, it seems like every dish that is already in the game will also have a vegetarian version in Showtime, including cheese tofu steak, vegetarian fish & chips, and stuffed tursoykey. Another new recipe everyone can enjoy is a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Bananas are, of course, a new harvestable plant. There is also a new fish – the sea bat starfish. Tofu is a new ingredient for food but it must be bought from the grocery store.

Traits and Create-A-Sim

There are 3 new traits in the game:

  1. Diva. Divas are more likely to slap Sims, or break up after arguments. They are hard to impress, especially with other divas. They love to compliment themselves and talk about their many accomplishments.
  2. Natural Born Performer. These Sims are adept at learning magic, singing, and performance. They rarely bomb on stage. They attract audiences and do things “with flair” – that is, many normal actions such as swimming are changed to, for example, “swim with flair”.
  3. Social Butterfly. These Sims very much enjoy the company of other Sims. They will be happy at large social gatherings and parties.

As well as the huge amount of new objects I mentioned earlier, there are lots of really nice new hair styles and clothing in Create-a-Sim. I thought all the new clothes were really nice. A couple of the new hair styles I really liked, but I think most of them I would only use for my performers when they’re on stage!

Awesome big hair!

For those of you interested in the numbers, for female adult Sims there were 5 new hairstyles, plus several new hats, 4 new types of shoe, 13 full outfits, 7 tops, and 2 bottoms. For male adults, there were 4 new hairstyles, 4 hats, 13 tops, 5 bottoms, 3 full outfits, and 3 new types of shoe. Please bear in mind, that 1) again, this was an early build of the game, there may be more or fewer outfits in the final game, and 2) this is without unlocking anything – there may be many more outfits that I hadn’t unlocked! My favourite new full outfit and hat is the bunny outfit, available for male and female Sims, which reminds me of the Social Bunny from The Sims 2. Speaking of the Social Bunny, one of the new objects is a statue of the Social Bunny.

New Supernatural: The Genie!

Another new object which is a definite blast from the past is this dusty old lamp that you can buy in the Lifetime Rewards menu. It costs 30,000 points, and surprise surprise, when you rub the lamp, a genie comes out. The genie can be male or female, has blue skin and a very cool genie outfit and hairstyle, has a very cool way of sort of hovering above the ground and moving very fast instead of running (with a cool glow beneath his/her feet… difficult to explain but it looks cool!), and will grant your household 3 wishes. There are 10 wishes to choose from, which are:

While you buy the old lamp in Lifetime Rewards, apparently the magician has a few tricks with it too!

  1. World peace. I didn’t try this one, but from the in-game description I think it would make your Sim feel good but do nothing at all.
  2. Resurrect Sim. If a Sim you know has recently died, you can ask the genie to resurrect them.
  3. More wishes. You can wish for more wishes! Unfortunately, the genie will only give you one more wish… and you just used a wish to ask for more wishes… so that really didn’t help anything now did it?
  4. Love. Your Sim’s relationship with someone will be set to “love”. No effort required!
  5. Long life. This adds a few days to your Sim’s life.
  6. Large family. Your Sim will be extra-fertile for 24 hours. I did try this one, and my Sim had triplets.
  7. Happiness. Your Sim gets a nice mood boost.
  8. Fortune. Not sure how much money this gives because I didn’t try this one.
  9. Beauty. Apparently makes you more attractive to other Sims.
  10. Free the Genie. If you have a high relationship with the genie, you can try to free it from its lamp. But wishing alone won’t do the trick… you’ll go through a process of 4 different opportunities to complete this. First, you put the lamp in the fridge to “freeze the lamp”. Next, you put it in the oven to “heat the lamp”. Thirdly, you go and explore the catacombs (at the graveyard) with the lamp. Finally, you just summon the genie one more time and they are released from the lamp forever.

A freed genie is a full member of your household, and like the other supernaturals has some special powers. They can magically clean Sims, which not only puts the hygiene bar right up but also gives a special moodlet from being so clean. They can banish Sims, which randomly sends the Sim to a point really far away on the map. My favourite power is that they can summon food. You can choose what to summon from a list of almost every food in the game (except Ambrosia), and the food they summon is always perfect quality.

… so, what did you think?

Personally, I loved the game. I didn’t expect to love it, but I really enjoyed it. I think I said “oh wow” quite a lot, and giggled a fair bit. Five hours of playing the game simply flew by, and it wasn’t enough. I loved the genie especially, the venues are fantastic, and the songs that your Sims sing will get stuck in your head. If I was pushed to come up with a negative… honestly, I’m struggling there. I just can’t think of anything that I saw and thought “well I don’t like that”. Maybe that your magicians can die in your friend’s game?

There is so much more that I wanted to try in this expansion pack but didn’t get a chance to. For example, I want to know if, when you have a baby with the genie, there’s a 50% chance the baby gets the genie’s powers. I also want to try out more of the genie wishes, I definitely want to have a proper go with SimPort, and I want to try out the acrobat career and the DJing, which I didn’t really play much of.

I keep on thinking of things I wanted to try out, and I absolutely cannot wait for this game now. If you’re a bit sceptical about this expansion pack, like I was, I would encourage you to give it a try because I think you’ll be surprised. If you live in the UK, you might want to check out of EA UK’s upcoming hands-on events – the sessions are first-come first-served, so to be sure of a timeslot to play, arrive early! If you were already excited about the game, I hope this article has helped to answer some of your questions! I’ll also be answering some specific questions from Simmers in my Showtime Q&A article, which will be published in the next few days – watch this space!

As always, a huge thank you to EA UK for inviting me, for putting on this great event, and for the delicious sandwiches. Thanks also to Mike Cox from the Sims 3 team at EA for answering all of our questions, and to shoeprozac from the EA UK forums, who made loads of notes during the day and handed them all to me to help with my article!

Left to right: Shoeprozac from the EA UK forums, Mike Cox, producer on Showtime, and BlackGarden, Platinum Simmers

Celebrating with a cheesy thumbs-up! Left to right: Shoeprozac from the EA UK forums, Mike Cox, producer on Showtime, and BlackGarden, Platinum Simmers