Editorial: Then and Now: Tapped Out

Some people were forced to accept their humble beginnings multiple times.

Humble beginnings.

The Simpsons: Tapped Out is a freemium game for iOS and android. The game was developed and published by EA Mobile and launched on both devices over the course of February 2012. The game is supported by EA’s Origin which acts as a social bridge to where players log in to their Origin accounts and visit friends towns to collect cash once a day. The connection to Origin servers was not without problems after launch, and coupled with serious bugs left many gamers unable to play the game.

The Simpsons: Tapped Out is a city-building game at heart. Iconic buildings from the TV show are placed as the player chooses to create their own vision of how Springfield should look. Each building generates cash and residents can be given tasks that also reward money which is used to buy additional pieces for the town. Generic building are also available to buy to speed up the process. XP is given at the same time as cash, and most items that can be purchased are locked behind a level or quest barrier. Quest come often and will usually only give a little extra rewards, though there is an overarching story that unlocks extra characters for the town. Some residents can only purchased with premium currency, which in this case is doughnuts. Doughnuts can also be used to speed up construction and buy decorative items.

I wish I could find money lying around like that.

A fully decorated area of town.

Some voice acting is used whenever a resident of the town is selected or instructed to perform a task. This is a short video when the game first begins that explains why the player needs to rebuild Springfield. It is amusing that in this video, Homer complains about exactly the type of game that EA has created. Enabling push notifications on iOS will have Homer announce when tasks are complete with an appropriate piece of voice acting for whatever has been completed.

The Simpsons: Tapped Out launched with a great deal of excitement. The game was highly polished, featured recognisable characters and was backed by high profile names on social media sites. Each town can be associated with an Origin account, and those with a connected account can visit their friends towns. Regardless of whether a twon is connected or not, the game needs to connect to the Origin servers to be played. In what would eventually become a trend with EA’s online games, the servers could not cope and produced some serious bugs for those who were “lucky” enough to be able to play the game.

I wouldn't be surprised if EA blamed Bart for all their server issues.

Players were often greeted by this screen multiple times while trying to access their towns.

Most players were not able to access their cities while the servers were under considerable stress and had to play during off peak hours. Those that were able to get into the game often found it was not as they left it. Decorative items had randomly moved to another location, hours of progress lost because information was not passed to the server, or in some cases even a full reset back to the beginning. I was not unaffected by the bugs, and found that although my town had not changed much, the game had “forgotten” I had completed the quest that allowed me to moved objects around. When my decorations started moving around, this left me unable to fix my town!

EA pulled the game from app stores while they took the time to fix the issues with the servers. It was three months before they manged to resolve the server issues and make the game available again. For those that had little or no problems, their games were credited with sixty doughnuts. For everyone else, their games were reset to a custom state based on their level and any doughnuts they had spent were refunded to them. These people were ultimately told that they would need to rebuild their town the way they wanted it.

So how far has The Simpsons: Tapped Out come in the last year? Well, there have been several updates to the game adding seasonal content. The most resent update even allows the player to expand onto the sea. Limited time content is periodically made available to coincide with the TV show, such as the Fruit Bat Man signal from the episode “Dark Knight Court”. The majority of players have hit the level cap (currently thirty one) and are waiting for a future update to allow them to progress further. Sadly, the server issues were never fully resolved. Android users have been having trouble connecting to the servers for the last three months and some users on iOS have found other peoples towns when logging into their own Origin account!

Have you played The Simpsons: Tapped Out in the last year? Were you there during the server problems at launch? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

6 comments on “Editorial: Then and Now: Tapped Out”

  1. Tapped Out is awful. I speak from being inside the beast. It is a hard drug but without the high. I was addicted for two months (maybe more, that time in my life is a dark cloud) and I never once enjoyed it. It was obvious from the initial download – done to humour my girlfriend’s sister – that it was one of those new genre of mobile games designed completely around squeezing money out of people. It is brilliantly done in that respect, but nothing about it is a game. Nothing. My girlfriend and I hated it but “played” it every day for over two months. We finally went cold turkey and have never been happier since that night when we deleted it at the same moment. What a horrible scourge upon our Earth that application is.

  2. My brother pestered me to download it again after he picked it up. I can play it for fine minutes and put it aside, but ten minutes later Homer will yell at me to play with him again. He carried on doing this for half an hour >.<

  3. When I was a kid, I occasionally played the Simpsons arcade game but I have grown beyond weary of them now.

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