One favourite (and sometimes infuriating) feature of The Sims 3 that never made the leap to The Sims 4 was story progression - giving non-active Sims households the ability to make significant, autonomous life decisions in the background - but now, as part of a surprise addition in The Sims 4's latest patch, that previously absent element has returned in a big way.
EA first revealed it had started dabbling with story progression for The Sims 4 (a feature it's now referring to as Neighbourhood Stories) last November, explaining there was "a lot we want to do" to bring more life to the world outside of active households. Its first Neighbourhood Stories release played it cautiously, only permitting a Neighbour Sim to make a life change - such as having a baby or changing jobs - if directly influenced by the player or once a player had given explicit permission in response to a request.
For its second Neighbourhood Stories update, however, it sounds like the training wheels are fully off, with Sims now able to control their lives with full autonomy and with no direct influence from the player. Starting in today's patch, Sims households not being actively played can now experience a wide range of autonomous life events, meaning they could die in an accident, adopt or have a baby, change careers or retire, move house, get a cat or dog, and more.
Players eager to keep abreast of the various goings-on in their newly autonomous world can easily check in on recent Neighbourhood Stories interactions via any mailbox if they don't want to make the journey to another household and see the results for themselves.
Obviously, all this has major ramifications for The Sims 4, and means players' carefully cultivated plans for their various households could be rapidly undone once the feature is active. As such, EA is providing an extensive range of customisation options - as outlined more thoroughly in a new blog post - enabling players to fully tailor how autonomy works in their game.
Those that don't want the new feature at all can, for instance, simply turn it off; alternatively, they can disable it for certain households, or they can enable for it households they've never played but disable it for non-active households they've previously spent time with. EA's options even give players the tools needed to disable specific life events from running autonomously across specific households if they really want to get granular.
Away from Neighbourhood Stories, there's a surprising amount of other stuff in The Sims 4's latest update, including seven new scenarios covering a range of topics, as more fully detailed in today's patch notes: Troublemaker, Rom-Com, Super Rich Supervillain, Extraterrestrial Researcher, Unlucky Chef, No Skills, No Problem, plus an updated version of Too Many toddlers. EA says it's also made a few tweaks and improvements to the feature, including the ability to use existing households in scenarios.
Alongside all that, there are bug fixes (my favourite from today's bunch: NPC Sims will no longer call your Sims asking for permission to be friends with their own spouse), including the first round of fixes for the recently released - and frustratingly buggy - My Wedding Stories expansion. EA previously said it would be addressing issues with the DLC across two patches, so expect another one at a later date.
Today's update arrives ahead of The Sims 4's newly announced Decor to the Max Kit DLC - an ode to decorating maximalism - that'll be launching next Monday, 21st March.
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