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Overview

With major destinations like college campuses, downtown social centers, retail stores, home businesses, and vacation resorts already addressed in the six major expansion packs that preceded it, The Sims 2: FreeTime is all about providing sims with new interests and activities in the places they already go.  New hobby pursuits such as tinkering, athletics, and cuisine are front and center here, with virtually every existing facet in the game expanded with new interactions, but it also includes major enhancements to the Aspiration system and aging mechanics in the game.

FreeTime requires the base Sims 2 game to run, and although it can be run without access to any of the preceding expansion packs in the series, its broad range of content for all character age groups integrates well into all of them.

Due to the modular nature of the Sims 2 expansion packs, the available patch for FreeTime does not necessarily include bug fixes for any previously released entry in the series.  EA's official recommendation is that players download and install individual patches for each expansion that they own.

Hobbies

With FreeTime installed, nearly every existing leisure activity in the game is recategorized into one of ten different hobbies.  Sims who have a good time partaking in those activities will steadily gain enthusiasm for the associated hobby, and as their interest level builds, they can unlock access to secret items, community club houses, and special benefits.  Enthusiasm dwindles over time if sims stop actively pursuing these interests, though the unlocked perks are never revoked.

Reaching maximum enthusiasm has its own reward, however: characters engaged in hobby they truly love can get so focussed that their normal Need bars will deteriorate much more slowly than normal.  Sims who get "in the zone" gain a glowing white aura and become incredibly productive, capable of blissfully working in the garden, at a crafting table, or under a broken down automobile while the hours whiz by around them.

Characters can potentially max out their enthusiasm for any hobby, but everyone has one particular field that they're particularly excited about and can build enthusiasm for much more quickly.  Favorite hobbies are randomly assigned to every character in the game, making them one of the very few character traits which the player cannot adjust in the course of normal gameplay.

Arts & Crafts

Arts & Crafts

Sims who spend their time painting, photographing, and examining fine art will develop an affinity for this hobby, as will spending time with the new Pottery Wheel and Sewing Machine stations.  These crafting benches even have their own Talent Badges which allow devotees to gain experience and learn how to create more sophisticated sculptures and textiles.  If a player has installed the Open for Business expansion pack, these goods can even be sold to other sims through a character-owned company.





Cuisine

Cuisine

Characters gain enthusiasm for fine dining not only through eating, but through learning the subtleties of preparing the perfect meals themselves.  Discovering the ability to whip up scrumptious appetizer plates is a sure way to add some flair to a social gathering, and true gourmands can put their skills to the test by submitting their dishes to cooking contests.







Film & Literature

Film & Literature

Every television now offers the option for sims to watch movies in a variety of genres to suit their tastes.  FreeTime also overhauls the novel writing feature so that sims actually produce specific books which appear on bookshelves throughout the game, complete with titles, summaries, and plot elements selected by the player at the start of project.







Fitness

Fitness

Working out in front of the television, swimming around in the pool, and doing yoga unlocks access to energy-boosting protein shakes, the ability to go out for a jog, and new exercise equipment.









Gaming

Gaming

True gamers aren't limited to console and computer games; they also enjoy playing pool, card games, mahjong, chess, and the fictional "Mushino".  Practice makes perfect, so the most hardcore players have the greatest chance of winning cash prizes in tournaments against their peers.  This expansion pack also adds several real-life EA games as purchasable titles for the characters to enjoy, including the then-unconfirmed Sims 3.







Music & Dance

Music & Dance

FreeTime adds the violin and synthesizer to the list of playable instruments, and sims can always have fun dancing around their home stereos, but this hobby really benefits from the band mechanics added in University and the downtown nightclubs in Nightlife.  Even for those without, enthusiastic sims still have the opportunity to earn fame and fortune in dance competitions.








Nature

Nature

Outdoor hiking, birdwatching, cloud watching, and bug collecting are all included as fun outdoor activities, but players with access to the Seasons expansion pack will be able to build enthusiasm through many more activities like building snowmen, raking leaves, and tending their gardens.









Science

Science

Stargazing sims will discover that telescopes have been upgraded with options to search for planets, constellations, and other celestial phenomenon, and as their enthusiasm grows, they're more likely to make discoveries that'll earn them grant money from the local astronomical society.









Sports

Sports

Several new social interactions like "Play Catch" and "Toss Football" are available, along with soccer goals where characters can compete against each other in penalty kicks.  The basketball hoop from the original Sims also makes a return with the ability for two sims to practice or have a "Horse"-like shooting match.








Tinkering

Tinkering

Virtually every appliance in the game has an added option for sims to "Tinker" with them.  This typically ends with the item breaking, but that just gives mechanically-inclined characters the opportunity to practice their repair skills and boost their Tinkering enthusiasm even higher.  Particularly ambitious sims can even purchase a broken down old wreck of a car and while away their days off restoring it into a fully functional -- and quite valuable -- vehicle.






The daily newspaper has sections for hobby enthusiasts of all stripes.  As sims become more interested in their hobbies, they'll also gain the ability to chat about them with others, browse the internet for web pages about them, and write their own blogs for fun.  All of these activities help maintain their enthusiasm level between major projects.

Lifetime Aspiration Meter

The Aspiration system has been an integral part of The Sims 2 since its initial release, with virtually every aspect of the characters' lives revolving around their individual concepts of success.  Previous expansion packs introduced the concept of a Lifetime Aspiration: a single lofty goal representing that individual's deepest desire which, if fulfilled, would put the character into a fantastic mood for the remainder of his or her life.

FreeTime extends that same concept to characters who may not have realized their single greatest desire, but have successfully satisfied many dozens, or even hundreds of smaller ones over the course of their lifetimes.  The Lifetime Aspiration Meter is a graduated bar appearing beside each character's Mood and Influence bars which collects Aspiration Points from every individual Want the sim is able to satisfy.  If sims are ever fortunate (and long-lived) enough to fill up the entire bar, they will achieve the same "Platinum Mood" for the remainder of their days.

Including the Secondary Aspiration, there are a total of sixteen possible perks.
Aspiration Perks

Rather than being an all-or-nothing proposition, the Lifetime Aspiration Meter grants special benefits for passing ten marked milestones along the way.  Each rise in rank gives the character an Aspiration Point which can be spent in one of four different areas.

Perhaps the most interesting is the ability for sims to gain access to an additional pool of Wants and Fears by selecting a secondary Aspiration to pursue.  Though the pull of this additional Aspiration is never quite as strong as the original, blending different sets of desires together results in a much wider variety of character personalities.

Aspiration Points can also be spent to slow the deterioration of the Need bars, improve job performance, or unlock perks specifically related to their Primary and Secondary Aspirations.  Fortune-seeking sims, for example, can gain the ability to earn money by offering financial advice over the internet, while Knowledge sims can vastly boost the speed at which they pick up new Skill points.

Aging

A significant drawback to the aging system in The Sims 2 has been that while player-created families would age over time, the unplayable NPCs populating the neighborhood districts would stay eternally unchanged.  From the player's perspective, the children in their sim's homes would age through their teens and into adulthood while remaining pals with the same ten-year olds they befriended in grade school.

With FreeTime installed, sims graduating from one life stage to the next have the option to bring up to three of their friends along with them.  This means that kids can potentially make NPC friends in elementary school who keep pace with them all the way into the twilight years of old age.

Miscellaneous Additions

  • Five new careers paths: Architecture, Dancing, Entertainment, Intelligence, and Oceanography
  • New activities for toddlers, including the ability to learn nursery rhymes and an activity table where they can doodle and play with blocks
  • Characters with high Lifetime Aspiration Meters and strong enthusiasm in their hobbies may receive three wishes from a special NPC
  • Thrifty sims can save time and money by storing leftover food in the fridge to eat later
  • A new pre-made neighborhood named Desiderata Valley, complete with new homes, NPCs, and playable families

Trivia

  • In late May 2008, EA released a patch for FreeTime which rendered the game completely unplayable for a great many users.  The problem lay in an unadvertised "update" to the game's SecuROM copy protection which caused it to refuse to load the game due to an "emulation software conflict" even if no such software had ever been installed on the system and the game was being run directly from the retail disc.  Users who contacted SecuROM directly were provided with a link to a fixed copy of the game's executable file, and EA quietly published an updated patch with the fix about two weeks later.
  • Along with miscellaneous fixes for a multitude of bugs and memory leaks, the FreeTime patch also addressed several problems with the Kitchen & Bath Stuff pack that prevented sims from using interactions like "Tinker" and "Put Away Leftovers" with the added appliances.

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