The Three Apartments of Paradise Springs

 by SealWyf, HSM editor

The Paradise Springs Casino has spun off three unique personal spaces, each representing a room in the attached hotel. None of them appear in the Estates store. Together, they tell us a lot about this fictitious gaming property.

When we enter the Casino for the first time, we are presented with a free apartment, the Complimentary Hotel Room. This space is distinctive both in being a parody of a thoroughly disreputable hotel room, and in its constant changes. Because the Comped Room has been the scene of an escalating series of disasters.

Previous changes have included flooding and its resulting mildew, burglary and becoming a crime scene. All of these phases have been entertaining, but until now they were basically just a simple re-skin, a change of scenery. Along the way, the room acquired a lovely view of a blank brick wall and a working ceiling fan and mirror, but retained its signature features: dingy, stained wallpaper, cheap bedding, and a truly disgusting bathtub.

Doesn’t Housekeeping ever clean this place?

Despite the impossibility of adding much furniture, it’s been one of my favorite Home apartments. And it has just become more so, since the most recent change is the addition of a complete a fire-fighting mini-game.

To play, target the light switch beside the door and hit X. The ceiling fan begins to spark, and fires break out all over the room. You rush to the fire extinguisher – a new feature, mounted on the wall next to the bathroom door  – and use it to put out the rapidly-spreading conflagration. But the fire has left its mark. There are now ugly charred spots on the bed and carpet, which last until you re-target the defective light switch and select “Reset”.

With this addition, the Complimentary Hotel Room joins the select population of Home personal spaces that incorporate a substantial mini-game – all the more remarkable in a space that is totally free. Once again Digital Leisure displays their generosity and quirky sense of humor.

The VIP Suite is a definite improvement.

The second Paradise Springs room is the VIP Suite, which is included with the purchase of VIP Room access. It is also awarded when a player earns VIP Room access by reaching a total win of 100,000 points. Once again, this is not a space you purchase in the normal sense, though you can purchase it indirectly. It’s a perk of being able to enter the Casino’s VIP Room.

This space feels like it’s in the same hotel as the Comped Room, but the style is more upscale, as one would expect from something with “VIP” in its name. The room is larger, has better furniture and wallpaper, and its view is definitely superior to a blank brick wall. We can’t enter the bathroom, but we can assume the tub is clean.

A unique feature of this space is the inclusion of the outside hallway, with its elevator banks and closed room doors. The space is the whole sixth floor of the hotel, and your room is number 604. The hall is a fun place to furnish, since you can populate it with figures representing the other patrons. My hall was patrolled by VICKIE, Santa and his reindeer, and a militant-looking troop of Gnomes. I found that it was also a good space for shooting off interior fireworks.

We have the second room on the right.

The VIP Suite had some annoying problems when it was first created. The single spawn point didn’t let you move large furniture from the room into the hall, and you could not set items on the built-in furniture. These defects have been repaired, and the view out the windows has been much improved. It is now the same view as that of the Penthouse Suite, from a few floors lower. This reinforces the illusion that we are in a single massive casino property, with tiers of rooms based on the level of play. In other words, it’s an accurate comment on the economics of real-life casinos.

Like many real-world casinos, Paradise Springs has three tiers of play: normal player, VIP player and “whale”. In real life casinos, I am in the second tier. But my gaming companion has reached the lower reaches of the third, “whale” tier, which continues infinitely upward, to include players who feed stacks of hundred-dollar bills into slot machines and have a personal casino attendant to handle their tax forms. But, though his play is modest in comparison, my friend is still ranked as a whale, and so I get to experience much of what he is given, as his guest.

Believe me, casino whales are courted. They receive hundreds of dollars in free play, special tournaments, and sit-down gourmet Christmas dinners complete with a nice gift for each player, usually a piece of consumer electronics worth several hundred dollars. (Guests only get dinner, alas, but it’s a very nice one.)

The Penthouse Suite, Paradise Springs’ top-tier reward.

Whales are important in the Home economy as well. The small percentage of Home users that spends significant amounts of money is responsible for much of Home’s economic success. And they are especially important in a space such as the Casino, which, despite periodic gifts of free chips, is basically pay-for-play gaming. In this environment, it’s the big chip-buyers who drive the show. So it’s totally appropriate that Digital Leisure treats their top players like real-life casino whales, with special incentives, exclusive rewards, and public recognition.

In Paradise Springs, the stat that is tracked to determine the top players is total win, or the amount your payout exceeds your bet. This is unusual in my experience. Most real-world casinos base their tiers on total “coin through” — the total amount of money that has been wagered. They count on probability to convert a significant percent of wagers into profit. And from what I have seen, the laws of probability are solid. Luck does not hold forever. They may have lucky streaks and “break the bank”, but eventually the big bettors bring the most money to the casino.

For a long time I wondered why Digital Leisure uses total win instead of coin through to determine tier level. But now I have a theory about that. In real casinos, you are playing for the potential cash win. The comp dollars and tier rewards earned by your play level are a side benefit, insignificant except to the small group of “advantage players”, who depend on comps to make a net profit from their gaming.

A truly expansive space

However, in Paradise Springs, tier rewards are the whole game, and you structure your play to maximize them. Using the total win statistic as a metric of play discourages us from exploiting the safe, nearly-even bets that maximize coin through, but rarely produce large wins. Casinos aren’t the only people who employ statisticians.

Of the benefits awarded to Paradise Springs’ growing whale tier, the newest and most spectacular is the Penthouse Suite. This personal space is unlocked by a total win of a million or more points, which means that only a few hundred people own it. It is the highest, most exclusive prize offered by the Casino, except for the nearly-unique leader board champion jackets. So any analysis of this space has to be from two directions: how it is as an apartment, and how it is as a status marker? And, to these, we can add a third – how does this space complement the other two apartments, in the grand role-play that is the Casino?

Having become one of the few, proud owners of the Penthouse, I can say that it started out as a fairly good apartment. I would have given it a B+, or a solid 4.0 Bubble Machines. If you were purchasing it in the normal way, you would probably expect it to cost $6.99 — more than the standard minimum apartment price, but less than the truly premium spaces. However, there are changes coming soon which will make this space into truly unique. So our definitive judgement will have to wait until we see the results, probably after the next Home content update.

The view from the top!

It’s a very large apartment, with several furniture spawn points and fifteen well-placed wall-item spaces. There is a lot of nice detail and interesting textures. The effect is rich without being garish, and the view is spectacular. The space also includes two built-in games: Slots and Video Poker, straight from the Casino floor, which draw funds from your regular account. It’s the presence of these games that led me to set a theoretical price of $6.99, the standard for private spaces that include mini-games.

But the space is not perfect. Its sheer size weighs against it. There is some built-in furniture, but the space is still pretty bare. You are going to have to invest a lot of work to make it look lived-in. This is hard to do with a 100-slot furniture limit, especially if you want to include an EOD TV and some small, evocative accessories.

There are also some small, but annoying design flaws. The downstairs bathroom has no toilet paper dispenser. (Why this should bother me is one of the grand mysteries of Home. But it does.) And the upstairs bathroom has a nice-looking tub, but no shower, despite the fact that there is plenty of room for one. It does, however, include a linen closet, which is a very nice touch, though an odd choice for what is essentially a glorified hotel room.

But what bothers me the most is the faint ambient sound. There is a crackle from the animated fireplace, and traffic noise on the terrace, but the level is so low that I need to crank up the TV volume to hear it at all, and this makes other sounds too loud. The “dead air” effect is quite disturbing. I look forward to being able to put an EOD radio here eventually. In the meantime, I have added a Brimstone Dancer – my own personal Vegas showgirl, complete with soundtrack.

Coming soon, to a Penthouse near you!

However, changes are coming. There are three announced improvements: a glass wall on the terrace to improve the view, a bed you can lie down on, and a closet that displays the Digital Leisure themed clothing you have purchased or unlocked. This last feature is truly remarkable. If your personal space can change to match what is in your inventory, we are a very short step away from that perennial fantasy of Home users, a personal trophy room! I definitely look forward to seeing my Princess Daphne dress hanging next to my Orange Tuxedo and Cocktail Hostess uniform.

So, as an apartment, the Penthouse is good, but not currently a show-stopper. (This may change next week, when we get a look at the upgrades.) However, it’s already excellent as a status marker. It’s one of the few Home apartments that must be won, and it takes real dedication and a good-sized bankroll to win it.

The only comparable space is the Aurora Champions’ Apartment from nDreams, which requires reaching Level 100 in the various Aurora games. This in turn just about requires the purchase of various helping items, such as the Neon Goggles and the Aurora Island personal space, with its Island Defender game. But even with all the extra help, it can still take several months of concentrated play to win the Aurora Champion.

Another winnable space is the Underwater Apartment from VEEMEE, which is unlocked by completing the Go Fish! game. It’s a nice space, and winning it is a reasonable challenge. However, it’s not in the same class as the Penthouse and the Aurora Champion in terms of difficulty. All it takes is a little patience.

A game room within a game.

Winning the Penthouse is a definite achievement. You can work up to it over months of play, or storm the top level with a few intense sessions and a healthy bankroll. Either way, it’s going to take a major investment of time and money. If you’re just after the apartment, it’s probably not worth it.

But none of us are really, only just after an apartment. Because we are not buying real-world real estate here. What we are buying is an experience. In Home, a personal space can be a canvas for interior decoration, a way to experience a certain mood, a place to spend time with friends, a platform for mini-games, or a status marker. The best personal spaces fill multiple roles.

My reading of the Penthouse is that it’s going to be a good party space — it’s big, with lots of space for seating and dancing. And the built-in Casino games are fun. But its real strength is as a status marker. It’s a way to prove to others that you are one of Home’s top gamblers. In that way, it is exactly equivalent to the Diamond Earrings that came along with it. And, in many ways, the earrings are superior, because you can wear them in a public space, and anyone who has been paying attention will know you also have the Penthouse, without you saying a word. Adding them to the package was a stroke of genius.

Home sweet Home

For those of us who like to look at Home as a creative work, the Penthouse is also a fascinating window into Home’s economy, as mirrored in the Paradise Springs Casino. There is a sense of double vision here, because the Casino is both a fictitious entity and the real flagship property of its developer, Digital Leisure.

Paradise Springs is a parody of a real-world casino, and the developers have had a great deal of fun creating the slightly sleazy public face of that fictional property. But Paradise Springs is also a serious business enterprise. The two worlds intersect in the treatment of “whales.” Both the fantasy property and its real-world owners want to encourage big spenders to keep on spending. And so we have tier perks, including that ultimate perk, the Penthouse, which mimics what a real-world whale would be offered.

But, since this is Digital Leisure, the perks extend to the middle and bottom tier as well, in the form of upgrades to the VIP Suite, and the ever-changing hilariously funny, Complimentary Hotel Room. Which currently has its very own working fire extinguisher, and actually needs it.

November 8th, 2012 by | 3 comments
SealWyf is a museum database programmer, who has been active in online communities since before the Internet, and in console gaming since the PS1. In games, she prefers the beautiful and quirky, and anything with a strong storyline. She is obsessed with creating new aesthetic experiences in PlayStation Home.


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3 Responses to “The Three Apartments of Paradise Springs”

  1. NorseGamer says:

    The dynamic closet is a fantastic feature that Digital Leisure implemented. Other developers, take note.

    (Great article, btw.)

  2. Kassadee Marie says:

    I love your view of things, Seal -- especially the casino’s offerings. You see things at a depth a lot of others don’t and your articles always make me think, once or twice or more. Enjoyable as always.

  3. SealWyf_ says:

    I’m glad you liked it. It’s nice to be able to parlay my not-entirely-profitable career as a casino gambler into Home-related articles.

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