Inequality District - NO CC

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Uploaded 20th Jan 2017 at 5:18 PM

An oft-repeated topic of discussion on the forums here is whether or not creating content for The Sims counts as "art." These discussions usually end with some sort of agreement that, yes, it can be seen as art, albeit with a very limited audience. Another characteristic of these discussions, however, is that they almost exclusively focus on the visual nature of art (in line with painting and sculpture and such), and whether or not it is aesthetically pleasing. In this sort of discussion, I would argue that this kind of thinking means that we miss out on several key areas that can dramatically expand the horizons for Sims content as "art."

First, there is the nature of the medium we're working with. Yes, there will always be a critical visual element to almost any kind of creation someone chooses to make for this game (after all, you can play the game easily with a computer's speakers turned off, but it'd be nearly impossible to do so with the monitor turned off!), and some people reading this will no doubt just enjoy the images of the lot and never download it, so for some, the static visual nature of the art may be all there is, but for the people who do download it (who are, after all, my primary audience for anything I upload), a lot can become more akin to sculpture thanks to being able to view it from any angle. In addition to this, the details that become apparent in gameplay take a more central role, as the flow of a lot's design, and the types of gameplay it encourages, start to become as important, if not more so, than the simple visual effect an upload has.

This leads into the second key way in which thinking of content for The Sims as solely visual art misses out on the full potential of "art." Once again, I'll ask you to consider the nature of painting: the visual medium lends itself to being aesthetically pleasing, in essence, being "pretty," and many paintings are content to simply stop there. They may make use of different approaches to realize this goal, but many artists would consider having created something deemed beautiful as a success. Painting can be beautiful and simultaneously provoke thought about more than that though. A social commentary can be added to art in almost any medium (and dozens of classes, books, and lectures will bear me out on this point!), but it can only be effective if the audience appreciates the work that it's contained within, so the need for creativity and an eye for detail in creating the aesthetic side of a work is critical. If this goal is met, then it becomes possible to add in a social message, which can be subtle or blatant depending on the artist, and can be either ignored by those in the audience who are interested solely in the aesthetic side of things, or can heighten the appeal of a work among those who take the time to analyze second and third-level interpretations. The ways in which such a commentary can be made will, unsurprisingly, depend on the medium used for a project, so once again, in the somewhat-unique medium of content for The Sims, some of the elements I used to illustrate the intended message of this lot will be apparent simply from the images, but some will only become apparent during gameplay.

If this sounds like the start of a dry, dull lecture you'd never want to sit through, I don't blame you, but I hope this is what I've managed with this particular project (since a commentary on social and political inequality seems timely today), and I'll try to illustrate the points I made above as I walk you through the lot. If you don't think that aspect is worth your thought or attention, then I hope you just enjoy the upload!

I'll start with the lowest-tier apartment on the lot (and in this case, calling it an "apartment" is definitely a stretch- I only do so because the game considers it one). If you look at the alleyway between the central tower and the red-brick tenement, you'll see that there is an apartment door opening onto the back alleyway, and just inside the gate from the main street, there's an edging fence that defines the 19 tiles between it and the door as an apartment. Right off the bat you'll notice there are quite a few essentials missing from this space, so no Sim will be able to even come close to living exclusively in it, essentially creating a situation where they're compelled to try to use facilities elsewhere (either on the lot itself or by visiting community lots). There's no toilet, no shower, no table, phone, skill-building items… pretty much nothing but a couch to sleep on, a fridge, and a portable radio.

The way the game handles an apartment partly defined by edging fences also speaks to this situation, as other Sims on the lot can and do enter an apartment uninvited by walking over such fencing. This essentially creates a situation in which a Sim stuck living in this alleyway will have no real privacy or "space" of their own, as other Sims will be able to use their "home" as an almost public space. Elsewhere around the lot are other areas not within areas defined as "apartments" by the game, but clearly spaces used by the homeless population as well. As far as rent is concerned, your homeless Sims will somehow have to scrape together $223 every week to get by- I leave it to you to figure out how you'll pull that off in such a situation.

The fact that the "official" entrance to the apartment is on the back of the lot, opening to an alleyway and loading dock, also means that when you're playing other families on this lot, you'd have to direct them into an area they'd really have no reason to visit in order to have them properly visit a Sim living in this alleyway, and there are really no locations anywhere on the lot that have a particularly good view of this space either, so it will become easy in playing other households to ignore the alleyway altogether, in much the same way that real-world homeless populations end up in areas ignored by the general public.

The next step up in this lot's options is the red-brick tenement on the lot's lefthand side. This building opens onto the side of the lot, rather than the front (this is designed to be a corner lot), and the aesthetic of that side is clearly more fitting of an alleyway or a secondary or tertiary street, rather than any kind of "main drag." Once again, this kind of plays to the idea that it’s easy to ignore people on a lower rung of the socioeconomic ladder than one's self, since they are so often literally "out of sight, out of mind." This building is also old enough and cheap enough that there's no elevator, so it is organized opposite many urban buildings- as you go higher, the apartments are worse. After all, a 2nd floor walkup is better than a 5th floor walkup by nearly everyone's standards. Thus, the bottom apartment is the most nicely-appointed, plus the benefit of an attached garage downstairs, and a weekly rent of $1,469, while the upper floors house a less-nicely appointed (but still serviceable) studio apartment, an apartment clearly home to a "starving artist" in the literal sense rather than the marketing sense, and at the top, an apartment ostensibly unoccupied, but in reality home to a squatter (which means, once again, that it does not have everything that would be needed for any kind of quality of life, but it has a roof, so it’s still a step up from the alleyway) at a rate of $751 each week. The whole building is designed to have an "unfinished" effect to it, however, with rotting wood floors, moldering tiles in the bathrooms, out-of-date appliances in the kitchens, and unpainted drywall for any non-structural walls. Atop this tenement, there is a small rooftop basketball hoop, and a water tower feeding the plumbing for the floors below, and that is the extent of the "on-site" recreation space for those residents. It's worth noting at this point that this building would likely house at least some people who would consider themselves "middle class," despite clearly being a badly-off location.

The low building on the righthand side of the lot, and the under-construction building off the back alleyway fit in best with this part of the lot, so I'll make note of them here as well. A small bookstore and upstairs sports bar are the only public spaces that front onto the main road, and they are correspondingly slightly nicer than the other public spaces, but still certainly neither is a high-end venue (plus the fact that, if you're playing an unmodded game, they'll be empty, so there's little use to be had from them without having your own Sims do the work.

Further back along the alleyway is a door that leads to a small and rundown gym. Inside, Sims have access to a couple punching bags and a boxing ring (unusable), as well as lockers and restrooms, but it's clearly not a gym that would be frequented by anyone who could afford a nicer location for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that this alleyway is another location clearly used by the homeless population. The under-construction building in the rear corner is largely empty, suggesting a project that was halfway-completed and then abandoned, leaving the space unfinished and largely unusable, with no way to reach upper floors, and no "approach" other than the back alleyway.

The only building whose main entrance opens directly onto the main road is the central skyscraper, and unsurprisingly, it is designed to be much higher on the socioeconomic ladder than any of the other structures. That being said, the ground floor is largely given over to a loading dock and employee workroom, accessed by the rear alleyway, as the people needed to operate a building like this are not going to be well-off enough to afford to live in it, and the buildings actual occupants, once again, would prefer not to have to see them unless absolutely necessary. The staff areas are accessed via the rear of the building, off the alleyway, while the main entrance used by residents and visitors fronts right onto the main road, allowing Sims to walk from the building directly to a cab, without having to actually walk through the areas surrounding it, once again illustrating the insulation from the problems of those less well-off, and making it easier to perpetuate the idea that one's own standard of living is "normal," and what pretty much everyone else experiences as well. Thus, the "public spaces" of the ground floor are pretty much limited to the lobby that opens onto the main road, and Sims must take the elevators (residents only) to reach the higher floors, creating a self-imposed isolation for residents.

The second level is the largest public space for the tower, with a seating area (essentially an extension of the lobby) and a well-appointed gymnasium with attached locker rooms for the building's residents. This is also the first floor to have "real" windows, so unless someone chooses to look straight down, there are no views from the whole tower of the alleyways beside it.

The central eight floors of the tower are each divided into two apartments with two possible layouts for each, a smaller one at the front, (either studio or one-bedroom), and a much larger one at the rear (either one- or two-bedroom). While the slight differences in layout make for a little more variety in pricing, the smaller apartments start at $1,434, all the way up to a weekly rent of $2,714 for the most expensive of the larger units. Since this building has elevators, the more commonly-seen method of ranking apartments is used, with those higher in the building being done in a more expensive style, to the point where those just below the penthouse might not realistically be able to be called "middle class," but would instead by rented out by the wealthy. Most of the apartments in this building are easily within a "middle class" demographic though, as their furnishings attest.

Finally, starting on the 11th, floor, the top four floors and the roof are given over to a penthouse apartment. My goal here was to make as much of a point in one direction as the alleyway "apartment" did in the opposite direction, and in this case, one of the most effective ways I could see of doing that was to make the weekly rent prohibitively high- in this case, $17,428 a week. (I'm actually a little disappointed that it's not higher, since my goal was essentially to make it impossible to afford without cheating, even for households with more than one Sim with a level-10 job.) The point illustrated there should be obvious, that there is no legitimate or responsible way of earning enough money to live like that, but here is another case where it will illustrate itself even further in gameplay, as a Sim with enough money from cheats to afford this unit's rent will most likely hold a Fortune aspiration and have the stock market benefit (with its varying ups and downs, but general upward trend), which, much like the real one, isn't much use to everyday members of society, but for those who already have more money than anyone can reasonably spend in one lifetime, can generate enough of an income from investments to pay such rent without ever actually requiring work or contribution to society.

Another rather on-the-nose point I sought to make with this unit is illustrated by the helipad on the roof, in many ways an extension of a point I've tried to make with all the other units on this lot. With the exception of the 2nd-floor tenement unit and its garage, all other units will require their occupants to either walk or take a taxi to work or to visit any other location, an activity that would require them to take at least some notice of the streets around them. With access to a helipad though, Sims living in this penthouse need not ever descend to lower levels for their travels to work or anywhere else, even for the short walk between the door and the street, so their ability to shut out the concerns of the larger population is magnified even more.

The penthouse itself is not too different from those I've made before; with the possible addendum that I've deliberately made it more blatantly opulent that I often have otherwise, for what should by now be obvious reasons. Both the living and dining rooms are two stories high, and the living room has a raised seating area off to one side, while there is a wine bar directly off the dining room, and a pass-through between the two spaces for the staircase is designed so that the largest paintings in the game can be displayed. The overall effect for these two floors is one of far more "space" than would be reasonable for any normal person to have open in an apartment, once again emphasizing the obscene amount of wealth needed for such a location.

This carries through to the upper floors, with bedroom suites larger than many of the entire apartments on lower floors, and luxurious amenities like walk-in closets or modern marble bathrooms adding to the effect. Just beneath the helipad is an enormous office, lined with bookshelves full of books purchased for decoration and never read, and seating areas set far enough back from the windows that other members of the filthy rich could carry on conversations without being distracted by the view of the streets beneath them, instead being able to pretend that the only locations that matter are similarly high-altitude buildings with similarly disgustingly wealthy occupants.

I make no apologies for trying to make a rather blatant point with this lot, so if you disagree, you're welcome to just use the lot for your game without consideration of these points, but I would hope that most of you will consider them as you play (and in many cases, I've tried to make it so that playing this lot will make you consider them, consciously or not). With 22 units available for rent, you'll never be able to play all of them at one time, so you'll have to choose how to split up your available households. You could play one family in each socioeconomic bracket on the lot, and see how each one worked, or if you choose to put everyone into the same block, you'll have to see if you can realistically come up with a scenario where they use any of the areas not designed for their demographic.

And now to the general technical aspects of the lot. Obviously this is an enormous lot- 22 units on a 3x3 lot like this will be a lot of Sims for the game to handle, the lot is just one wall shy of the wall limit, and the lot itself comes to $1,554,037, making it the biggest and most expensive lot I've posted thus far. I did playtest a clone of the lot, both to ensure that the apartments all zoned correctly, and to make sure that none of the lot decorations would present too much trouble for routing and such, and found no major problems.

I will point out that, because of the way the game determines apartment boundaries, the upper half of the two-story spaces in the penthouse living room and dining room are NOT considered part of the apartment, so if you're planning on redoing the wallpaper, ceilings, or decorations in those spaces, you'll need to do it before moving any Sims into the lot.
Also, my apologies for the UI still being present for the floorplan images of the top two levels- using cameraman mode that high gave a fisheye effect so bad that you couldn't see the whole floor, and the parts you could see were horribly distorted.
As always, there was no CC used anywhere on this lot, so you don't have to worry about having or tracking down any additional files to be able to use this one. If you run into technical trouble with any aspects of it, let me know, and I'll try to address them as quick as possible.

Hopefully this lot gives you something to think about as you use it, both when it comes to the nature of "art" and the issues that face such a varied society as ours. Additionally, as always, I hope you enjoy the addition of this lot to your game!

Lot Size: 3x3
Lot Price (furnished): $233 - $17,428

Number of bedrooms: 5 or more
Custom Content Included: None
Furnishings: Fully Furnished
Special Flags: Not Applicable

Tags: #no cc, #skyscraper, #apartment, #tower, #penthouse, #condo, #condominium, #downtown, #rich, #poor, #slum, #tenement, #helicopter, #helipad, #bar, #boxing, #gym, #construction, #homeless, #inequality, #disparity, #trump, #corruption, #alley, #alleyway, #trash, #politics, #political