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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

A small design flaw in the Sims Online game gave rise to the Sims Mafia.

A small design flaw in the Sims Online game gave rise to the Sims Mafia.

You get the new Sims Online game and you start playing. Excitedly you walk about the virtual city to see what there is to see and do. You have not been in the virtual city for long when you are approached by another player – “Hi, I am from the Sims Mafia. Give me all your money or we will give you a bad rating”. Wow, what just happened?

The Sims Online consists of big virtual cities where your little Sim can go and carve out a living for itself. The virtual cities are populated with people from all over the world. You meet new people and do virtual business with them. Players can rate other players they meet in these virtual cities. If you like and trust someone you give them a green rating, if the person is not to be trusted, you give them a red rating. 

By looking a certain player’s ratings you will be able to judge if you can do business with this player.

Some folks quickly figured out how to abuse this system and formed the Sims Mafia. They hang around waiting for new players to enter the city. When a new player is spotted they approach him with an offer they can’t refuse. The new player will see that they have already started receiving bad ratings.

If the new player refuses to pay, they are stuck with a bad rating and no one in the city will do business with them. In other words, they might as well stop playing.
The developers made a rookie mistake in the design of their ‘karma’ system – do not allow strangers to rate other strangers. They should have done what Facebook has done – first let the player confirm that they know the other player and add them as a friend, only than can they rate each other.

I previously wrote that while I played Sims it became apparent the little Sim was reflecting my life – the little Sim was always late for work, did not exercise and watched a lot of TV while the dirty dishes piled high in the kitchen. It seems if you take a step back and look at the Sims as a whole, the game starts to reflect society. You will always find a couple of people looking to abuse the system for personal gain.

You can read the full story and discussion here. It’s very interesting, especially if you are a Facebook / MySpace / social network addict.


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