The Simpsons Tapped Out Review

The Simpsons Tapped Out Review

Mar 22, 2013

The Simpsons is a national institution. It embodies everything so wrong — and right — with our family units. Long before South Park, The Simpsons made us gasp in horror and rueful self-recognition. Thus, for anyone who grew up in that era, The Simpsons Tapped Out should be a welcome trip to yesteryear.

Homer is definitely Homeric in this game. Inexplicably, he is still the safety inspector at Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, and, as we all came to expect, his incompetence (and apparent love of goofing around on a tablet) finally destroyed Springfield. My job was to manage this construction simulation game and rebuild Springfield, as well as find the other eponymous members of the Simpson clan.

The tutorial can best be described as quite thorough. It includes an interesting opening cutscene that I actually enjoyed; it reproduced Homer’s safety console novelty. I then learned how to build and recreate stuff using the resources that I had.

For folks that have played any of EA’s Sims games, a lot of the gameplay will feel familiar. I built properties, found other characters, completed tasks and also spurred cash-garnering activities for the characters. A lot of the activities matched the well-known characterizations of the main players. I liked that Lisa could read a book, or that Apu could go into work extra. There was a lot of personality built into the game engine, and the developers capitalized on the built-in storylines quite effectively. Even allowing Homer to slack off watching endless TV marathons had a ring of believability to it.

Different activities had different payouts, so there were opportunity costs to consider. There were also completion times to consider. The dialogue was funny without being smarmy. The game has in-app purchasing to expedite speed of play, but I was able to play without paying. Donuts were real commodities in this game.

I thought the game ran the risk of becoming monotonous at times; I also think that some tasks could be expedited.

Still, for true fans of the series, the faithful reproduction of the graphics will be especially sweet, especially when viewed with the rest of the package. It looked like the original, down to Homer’s lumbering gait. In this case, familiar is very, very welcome.


The Hills Are Greener: Concerns Raised by Always-Online Games and DRM

The Hills Are Greener: Concerns Raised by Always-Online Games and DRM

Mar 11, 2013

The rise of the internet has done wonders for gaming, but there’s been plenty of new annoyances thanks to digital distribution and internet connectivity. No one who got a Sega Genesis for Christmas had to worry about updating the firmware before playing the new Sonic game. And in modern times, forced online connectivity is having an impact on our games. Look at EA’s SimCity. Or don’t, because all you’ll get is the inability to login.

For anyone making online-focused games, the rule is to always have servers ready. Have many of them ready. Do not let people who want to play be turned away due to technical reasons. Especially for major companies like EA, who have major marketing campaigns behind their titles, the fact that they have let SimCity become a server debacle is embarrassing. However, there wasn’t a lot in the way of positive harbingers for EA, as they took months to get The Simpsons: Tapped Out back on the App Store. The game now does extremely well, so there’s no telling just how much revenue they realistically lost by not keeping that game up and running. And with SimCity sales shutting down at some retailers like Amazon, they could be missing out on more money. Plus, people that want to play the game cannot because EA could not provide the experience they advertised.

However, there’s a secondary component to fearing online-only games, and that is digital archiving. Digital distribution is fantastic and convenient, but DRM makes it harder to preserve these games. We can easily go back and play Super Mario Bros. but how will we play games like Temple Run in a decade or two? Android is better for this because it’s easy to get APKs for games without DRM, but Google Play’s billing services and license confirmation could be an issue. Still, Apple’s DRM, especially for games, has been cracked in the past. In a way, while piracy can have an effect on the sales of games, it’s also doing a great job at preserving games, because those files may exist in a freely-accessible form somewhere. Pirates are doing good things in a way! But still, for other technical reasons ,we are at risk of someday losing access to the kinds of experiences that have defined a generation of gaming. Digital should not mean that we lose what we have.

I’m not saying that digital distribution is evil, because it is not. Digital can provide tremendous access that physical distribution fails at. But just because we can distribute games (and other forms of media) digitally, it does not mean that we should lose the physical aspect of it, because we should lose a generation our culture due to technological advances over the long-term. And in the short-term, the digital revolution is causing new problems that should not exist. Developers and gamers should consider how the games they make and support respectively have an impact on the culture, not just if they are playable.