One of the biggest stories in PC gaming recently is the brilliant Sims 3 blog Alice and Kev. Author Robin Burkinshaw created a father/daughter duo of Sims, turned their lot into a rundown park, and played them as “homeless” Sims. The blog is fantastic and a great read, even if you’re not a Sims 3 fan. Burkinshaw updates daily with interesting, concise posts detailing the lives of the insane Kev and his unlucky, good-hearted daughter Alice.
The Sims 3 allows users to package their content — Sims, clothing, items, houses, etc. — and share them online with other users. Naturally, Alice and Kev are available for free download from The Sims exchange. I was intrigued at the thought of playing homeless Sims, as my playstyle in the game tends to be very perfectionist. There were several things I didn’t like about Alice and Kev, though, namely their traits and their physical looks.
So I decided to create my own homeless Sims. Meet Keeley and Lianna McGee.
Keeley, on the left, is a brave but absent-minded mooch. She’s also frugal and loves fishing. Her daughter, Lianna, is brave as well (I think she has to be, having grown up homeless), loves the outdoors, has a green thumb, and is a kleptomaniac.
I figured Keeley, a woman who probably only recently became homeless due to the bad economy, would rely on frugality and the kindness of others to help her through her tough times. Lianna, on the other hand, was only a small child when they were evicted, so she’s grown up with traits that are more suited to survivability — particularly stealing.
Burkinshaw mentions in his first post that he “removed all of their remaining money” when he moved Alice and Kev into their abandoned park. I wasn’t sure if Burkinshaw used a cheat to deplete their finances or what, so I was faced initially with the task of making these homeless Sims genuinely poor. I remedied the problem by purchasing the largest lot available (I think their family started with 17,000 simoleans and the lot cost 14,500) then dumping the rest of the money into trees, which cost a few hundred simoleans each. Creating ponds on lots doesn’t cost anything, so I made a nice scene for the ladies to sleep next to.
When reading Alice and Kev, you’re struck by how devastating their situation seems to be. Alice is frequently starving and exhausted. Neither has access to a shower, so they must rely on strangers letting them use their facilities (something that doesn’t happen often — only a Sim’s close friends will let him have free reign of their home). I’d guess that Burkinshaw created his own personal set of rules to keep the story going longer, but I decided that I wanted my own experience to be a little different. Instead of remaining down on their luck, I wanted Keeley and Lianna to succeed in Sunset Valley. I decided that I’d do whatever I could to keep them mostly happy and fulfilled, while simultaneously saving their money to build a house piece by piece.
The biggest obstacles for homeless Sims are hunger, bladder, and hygiene. Keeley and Lianna can go into town when they need to socialize, they are able to catch a decent amount of rest on their park benches, and there are a few ways to have fun for free in Sunset Valley (more on that later). Burkinshaw mentions, correctly, that very hungry Sims will typically be automatically fed if they’re at work and school. If a Sim’s bladder is also very full when she’s at work or school, usually she’ll relieve herself before leaving for the day. I’ve noticed that Keeley, who works part-time at the grocery store (4 hours a day, 5 days a week), won’t eat at work unless she’s extremely hungry — her mood bar must be less than 15% full. Lianna, on the other hand, can usually snag a free lunch at school so long as her hunger bar is below 50% full.
With Keeley’s hunger not getting satisfied, she turned to other options.
When Sims visit Central Park, there are usually at least a few of these picnic blankets lying around, complete with full picnic baskets. Any Sim can sit down and grab a plate for free, though the basket seems to disappear after about four servings. They usually replenish by the time Keeley needs another meal, but if not, she always has another option.
There are several wild plants growing all around Sunset Valley. I’ve seen onion plants by the beach, lettuce vines near a lake, and, most importantly, apple trees in Central Park. The park has several healthy apple trees growing on the grounds, just waiting for a hungry Sim to collect. Any Sim (teen or older), regardless of gardening skill, can harvest apples. On the first day, Keeley walked away with 15 apples and 5 limes, all of which she and Lianna can eat raw to satisfy about half a bar of their hunger needs.
Seeing Keeley harvest the apples reminded me that gardening could be a wonderful opportunity for the ladies. The produce they grow can be eaten raw or sold to the grocery store for cash. The only problem was that one of the ladies needed to acquire at least one skill point in gardening before she could plant something (in The Sims 3, you can plant whole fruit in the ground and grow it). In order to acquire this skill, they would need a book shelf which, when purchased, includes three manuals, one of them about gardening. I resigned myself to the fact that the ladies would not be able to garden until they could afford a book shelf. Then I remembered that Sunset Valley is lousy with book shelves.
Sims can visit their friends’ (or acquaintances’) homes and use their stuff, within reason. Lianna made friends with the Goths, a famous Sim family, and visits their home often. She can watch the Goths’ TV, play on their computer, or use their toilet. Showering, raiding the fridge, and sleeping are entirely off limits, though. Where Lianna had the Goths, however, Keeley didn’t have any close friends who would invite her in. Maybe because she smelled bad — she uses the park toilets to relieve her bladder, but the sinks are not very effective for improving her hygiene. Instead, Keeley took a trip to what would become the ladies’ favorite place in Sunset Valley: the library.
The library has book shelves full of novels, children’s books, and, fortunately for Keeley, instructional manuals. Keeley was able to learn how to garden in the library in just a few hours. She used her newfound knowledge to plant some of the produce she’d gathered, and now the McGee family has a small home garden.
Meanwhile, Lianna heard about the benefits the library offered and took a trip there herself, where she discovered it was a nice, quiet place to do her homework. It also has public restrooms, a nice couch for napping, and a computer. Lianna was thrilled to see the computer, and she quickly jumped on to fulfill one of her most challenging moods: fun.
Since Lianna is a kleptomaniac, she loves to steal whatever she can. The AI in the game is such that Lianna will occasionally steal things on her own free will, though it’s pretty rare. Otherwise, I must manually force Lianna to steal something — though she certainly doesn’t resist the opportunity. So long as it’s night out and no one is watching her, Lianna can opt to “Swipe Something.”
Usually she’ll go for the item closest to her. So far she’s snagged two desk chairs, a desk lamp and a standing lamp, a folding screen, and an end table. Very stealthy, that girl. I’m finding her kleptomania very beneficial for the McGee’s, as I might be able to furnish much of their home — once I build it — with items Lianna has stolen.
As for building the house, it’s pretty slow going. As I said, Keeley works at the supermarket part time. She and Lianna also sell fish to the supermarket occasionally, when they get the free time to pull out their reels. On a good week the ladies can come up with several hundred simoleans, but that’s very little in comparison to the cost of building a home. Simply placing a wall panel barely wider than Lianna costs 70 simoleans; putting up the walls for a 2×2 outhouse cleans the McGee’s out of 500 simoleans.
Keeley and Lianna scrimped and saved, though, something Keeley is especially adept at with her frugal/mooch traits. She can clip coupons to get access to discount items (usually a single piece of produce at the store) and can beg her friends for money or food. Between her income at the store and the paycheck Lianna received for completing an opportunity her school offered to work at a corporate office for one day, the McGee’s were able to save enough to build an outhouse at their park.
Inside, the ladies have access to a toilet and a shower stall. The addition has improved their lives dramatically, as they are no longer depending on strangers for showers and don’t have to run to a public restroom to relieve their bladders anymore.
So far I’m enjoying the homeless experiment with Keeley and Lianna. The Sims franchise can easily get boring if I don’t find ways to add interest to the game play, and creating homeless Sims has provided me with a great opportunity to spice things up. I’m looking forward to seeing how long it takes the McGee’s to build their new home. Lianna’s birthday will happen first thing during my next play session, so she’ll no longer be a teen, and Keeley isn’t too far from being an elder. Will Keeley live long enough to see her daughter prosper? Will Lianna be able to build a house in time to have a child of her own with one of the handsome townies? Or will the family remain in poverty? I’m eager to find out!