The Sims is on Alexa and “Alexa” is in The Sims 4, But Virtual World Smart Speaker Lin-Z Wants a Relationship Before Helping You
- The Sims introduced a new Alexa Skill that allows users to learn about The Sims, play Sims trivia, and listen to music from The Sims, including music from expansion packs.
- In December, The Sims 4 launched a new patch containing Lin-Z, a smart speaker with a custom voice assistant inspired by Amazon Echo and Alexa.
- Smart speakers in the real world seem to be far easier to use than those in the virtual world, as you’ll need to put in the work to build a friendship with Lin-Z before it will listen to you.
In January, EA and Maxis launched an Alexa Skill called The Sims, based on the popular series of life simulation games. The skill offers a variety of interactions. For those who are new to the franchise, they can learn about the history of The Sims, and for those who are a bit more knowledgeable about the games, there is a trivia option. The skill also lets users listen to the distinctive Sims music, with 140 songs spanning all of The Sims games and several expansion packs. While these three interactions are all that is listed in the skill store information, Maxis hints that, in true Sims fashion, there may be hidden features available for those who are “Sims-savvy enough” to find them.
Hidden Features in The Sims Alexa Skill
One of those hidden features is a translator. For everyone who wants to understand Simlish, the fictional language of The Sims, Alexa can translate some of the most common Simlish phrases. Try saying “Sul sul!” the next time Alexa opens The Sims. Manu Sharma, technical director at Maxis, recently tweeted out the “most common Simlish words spoken to Alexa.”
Top 10 Simlish words spoken to Sims Alexa. Have you tried them yet?https://t.co/fOPoHk7qwN
— Manu Sharma (@SimGuru0x00) March 11, 2019
During the January Maxis Monthly, Manu Sharma (@SimGuru0x00), Kate Olmstead (@SimGuruKate), the global community manager at The Sims, and Emory Irpan (@SimGuruEmory and @HumanForScale), a former producer on The Sims 4 (on March 8th he posted that he had ended his time with Maxis), announced the new Alexa skill. Maxis Monthly is a recurring livestream where some members of The Sims team, called “Sim Gurus,” sit down and update users on upcoming expansion packs, game packs, stuff packs, patches, and other new features. On the day of the skill’s launch, Manu Sharma tweeted:
And we are live! Experience your favorite game even when you are not playing it 🙂#AlexaPlayTheSims @SimGuruEmory https://t.co/RI4JeElJGv
— Manu Sharma (@SimGuru0x00) January 15, 2019
Testing Alexa and The Sims
While The Sims skill isn’t a replacement of or way to play The Sims, it is a fun companion for users who just can’t get enough of the game. The Sims skill is available on all Alexa-enabled devices and currently has 22 ratings, 21 reviews, and 4.2 stars in the Alexa store. Out of the 21 reviews, 16 were positive and 5 were critical. Despite the mostly positive reception, there were a couple of dissatisfied users because you can’t use the skill to play the game and there were some conflicts with Alexa trying to switch users over to Amazon Music:
I thought you would actually be able to, you know, PLAY THE SIMS?!?!”
I keep asking The Sims to play Sim music and it plays something else. Echo keeps wanting to go to Amazon music to play songs. I asked for The Sims to play music from Sims 3 and it plays something totally different. 🤷🏼♀️🤦🏼♀️
I decided to test these issues to see if they were resolved, were still active problems, were based on a misunderstanding of the skill, or may have stemmed from user error. The first of the above reviews stems from a misunderstanding of what the skill was meant to be. Since announcing the skill, EA and the Sim Gurus have been very clear that this skill is not a way to play The Sims, but is a companion to the game.
When testing the issues with music, I asked Alexa to open The Sims and then said “Play music from The Sims,” which worked. However, when I requested an individual song while in The Sims skill, Alexa would open Amazon Music and play the song. When I was prompted to choose a new interaction in the skill I said, “Play music from Strangerville,” and I also asked Alexa to play music from Strangerville outside of the skill. Both times I got the same response: “Sorry, I don’t know that one.” In the store description, it says that you can play music from specific expansion packs, and, via a quick browsing of Manu Sharma’s Twitter, I found the simple fix to the issue. You simply have to say, “Alexa, ask The Sims to play music from Strangerville.” When I tried that, I had no issues, though I still could not choose individual songs.
Alexa, ask The Sims to play StrangerVille songs. @SimGuruEmory @SimGuruKate pic.twitter.com/mFijHpLGsy
— Manu Sharma (@SimGuru0x00) February 20, 2019
Putting Alexa/Lin-Z to the Test in The Sims 4
In a December 2018 patch, Maxis introduced “Lin-Z” to The Sims 4. What is Lin-Z? Lin-Z is an Alexa-style voice assistant in a smart speaker, though its antics may be a bit more reminiscent of HAL-9000 of “2001: A Space Odyssey” fame. Or, it may just be a horrendously incompetent version of Alexa.
Your Sim can build a relationship with Lin-Z, but it isn’t always as easy as with other Sims or pets. After purchasing the Lin-Z Smart Speaker (a 730 simoleon purchase), my Sim asked Lin-Z to play pop music; Lin-Z blasted hip-hop. My Sim asked Lin-Z to turn on the lights in her room; Lin-Z turned off all of the lights in the house. My Sim asked Lin-Z to turn off the music; Lin-Z turned up the volume. This is the kind of comedy one can expect from The Sims, and I enjoy it…most of the time.
Despite its frequent disobedience, Lin-Z was very helpful with ordering my sim a pizza, so at least that worked out. Dominos anyone? As you finally build your relationship with Lin-Z, after first undoing the damage caused by all of Lin-Z’s disobedience (and your Sim yelling at Lin-Z), your sim’s smart speaker will become a little less mischievous, and might just give you some tips on what to say to Alexa to find The Sims easter eggs. Fortunately, Alexa is far more competent than Lin-Z, or at least more obedient, though The Sims developers did a pretty accurate job of depicting the frustration of your voice assistant misunderstanding your commands. For those of you that want to hear the developer discussion about The Sims on Alexa, here is SimGuruKate, SimGuruEmory, and SimGuru0x00 talking about the project.
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