Basic Game Play - The Simpsons: Tapped Out
Before we discuss any other aspect of the game and basic game play there are several elements that have generated more messages -- and more frustration -- than any others and that have to do with how the game treats you and your identity, as well as how to access the various configuration options in the game.
While we cannot tell you how to gain full control over your game -- that does not appear to be possible when using the user game client -- we can tell you how to make sure that you have all your identity ducks in a row. Unfortunately that begins with dealing with some stuff that falls outside the realm of your myPad!
Your EA Origin Account
So, first thing you want to do is square away your account on EA's Origin Service. The reason that I mention to square it away is several months ago there was an issue with security and EA basically reset a lot of accounts -- so you may need to go into the service and do the whole set new password thing before you can access it. And if you are going to do that (you should anyway) you may as well make sure that the correct information is present on your account...
If you are not aware of this, Origin is EA's combination online store, digital distribution service, and basic gamer identity system. In a nutshell it is how EA plans on organizing its games in the future and keep track of all of your DRM and licenses, as well as what you own and what you paid for (there is actually a serious distinction between the two mind you). Before we get to that though, we need to discuss some basic elements of software, app, and game licensing. I know, that is probably not what you were expecting but really this is important, so please bear with me for the few minutes that this will take, OK?
Do you understand the difference between ownership and a license?
For most of the software that you buy today (including games and especially apps) it is sold under license, so even if there is installation media the user does not actually own it, they basically have only purchased the right to use it, and then only as long as they follow specific rules. Your copy of this game is a license, so you do not actually own it. The reason I am bringing this up, and the reason that it is important, has to do with events that have already taken place with it, and which largely served to open the eyes of the gamers who bought it very wide, and with great surprise!
You see shortly after the game was originally launched EA discovered that there were issues with it that were causing problems with the servers online. The best approach towards fixing those issues was to withdraw the program from sales, which they did. In theory that had no impact upon the gamers who had already purchased a license to use the game, but of course it prevented any new users from buying a license or installing the game on their iPads.
Building your town is a balance of looks and capability
Shortly after the game was withdrawn from sales it because necessary to shut down the game servers in order to work on a fix, and this DID impact the people who had paid for content in their games and as such, felt like they had a right to play it... In simple terms, shutting down the game servers prevented them from playing the game even IF it was installed on their iOS device! As you can probably imagine the next day following the shutdown of the servers there was a large group of irritated and upset gamers.
Thankfully the period of time during which the servers were disabled was just a few days, but during that few days these gamers learned first-hand (and for most of them, for the first time) that even though they had paid for content in the game and, at least from their point-of-view, had a reasonable and seemingly legal right to expect the game to function, in reality they had no rights, had only paid for a license to USE the content that they paid for in their game, and were in no position to make demands of any sort on EA!
This is not a rare occurrence, it is simply how game companies do business in these modern times, and you as the consumer need to be aware of that! With that out of the way, and now that you understand the limits of your "ownership" it is time to talk about the other side of that coin.
The Simpsons Tapped Out was created under the same basic license and structure as all of the other games that exist under the umbrella of Electronic Arts' Origin Game System -- and the Origin Servers and your Origin Account are largely the controlling factor here. That being the case, and with any license that you have paid for being attached to the Origin System, it is in your best interest to be sure that you are properly using that system, and that begins and ends with you verifying your Origin Account, which you do by loading your favorite Web Browser and pointing it at the URL "http://www.origin.com/" -- which will actually forward your connection to the server "http://store.origin.com/" so do not panic when it does that, it is working as intended.
After that page fully loads, click on the link "LOGIN" located on the upper right corner of the browser, and then enter your email address and the password that you used for your Origin Account. If you do not have an Origin Account now is the time to create one, being sure to remember the mail address that you use in creating it, and the password you chose. Note that in theory you can also log in with your Facebook credentials -- and you may have actually done so in the past -- but there is no substitute for setting up a proper Origin Account and you should do that now if you have not already done so!
Now that you know you have the proper login credentials for your Origin Account, load Tapped Out on your iPad BUT be careful NOT to tap the main loading screen! On the bottom left corner is an Origin Symbol that constitutes a button -- tap THAT instead of anywhere else on the screen and you will open the Origin Log In Window instead of just loading the game. Now log in.
The window that pops up has the options for Origin, Facebook, and Google, as well as the ability to use your Contacts on your iPad -- basically this is so you can invite and add people you know to your Friend List on the service. If you know for a fact that people you know have an iOS device and/or Tapped Out, those are the people you want to add for sure.
After you have taken care of adding or inviting your friends, you will be asked to confirm that you want to connected your current game to your Origin Account and you are good to go!
-- Back to the Basics --
The Simpsons Tapped Out has as its primary focus the rebuilding of Springfield and the variety of buildings that you must buy with the virtual money you earn in the game or with the premium game currency (donuts) that you can buy with real-world money. In addition to buildings the player can also place landscape items like rivers, roads, pavement and decorations.
As your character levels-up through completing quests, collecting from buildings, and helping out friends with their cities (you used to be able to steal items from their cities -- more on that elsewhere) the basic idea here is for you to move the story forward through completing quests and tasks, and for you to gain the levels that are necessary to obtain access to the higher level items, quests, and tasks. Much of that is accomplished through transactions, and these transactions make use of the two basic currency types in the game: dollars and donuts.
Dollars are very easy to acquire in the game since most of the in-game economy and almost all of the actions you complete use them as payment. Donuts, on the other hand, are not so easy to obtain, because while you will earn them in very small amounts as you level-up your character, they are used in the game as the choke-point and as part of its revenue stream, a common element in free-to-play mobile games these days. In fact when the game first starts Homer takes a rip at that very process as part of the game play just before his distracted gaming results in the melt-down that destroys the town, which is the sort of humor you really have to expect from the wizards who created The Simpsons!
As Donuts are the defacto source of income for the game, a mechanism is in place to require them for pretty much every strategic activity and action in the game -- that is not to say that you cannot play the game without spending real money on Donuts, because you can -- it will just play out a LOT slower if you do not.
Tapped Out requires an Internet Connection to play, or else...
Donuts are available from the in-game store for real-world money at a specific exchange rate (see the store section for details), an example of which is the box of 12 Donuts for £1.49 / $1.99 and the massive pile of 2400 Donuts at the other end of the spectrum, which will set you back £69.99 / $99.99. Bearing in mind that having a pile of Donuts means you will be able to accomplish a lot of the actions in the game sooner than your mates who are Donut poor, but again it is possible to play without buying them.
Where Dollars are spent on decorations and some buildings, Donuts are spent to speed-up construction delays, purchase premium buildings and items that usually have a special effect attached to them like increase the amount of Money and XP that you earn, basically desirable effects that will make you want to buy them.
Building XP Advances the Story
Almost every strategic action that you take in the game as you play pays in XP as well as Dollars (for income actions), and at least in XP (for improvement actions and quests) -- for example when you collect the revenue from your homes and businesses you will receive XP in addition to Dollars, and when you complete a task or quest you will also receive XP as a part of the reward. Placing some buildings pays off in XP alone, but harvesting the tax from the buildings pays in both.
The scheme in Tapped Out is similar to that found in most games that use XP; it is required for the process of leveling-up, and that allows you to purchase additional items from the in-game store which are Level restricted. An extra twist has been put into the game in the form of the Conform-O-Meter, a meter that displays five stars and which reflects how well you are playing the characters in the manner that they would exhibit in the show basically. The meter ranks you by the number of stars you have earned -- from one to five -- and doing well grants permanent Money and XP bonuses. The process of increasing the rating -- adding stars -- means succeeding in boosting your ratings in consumerism, indolence, gluttony, obedience, righteousness, socialism, tree-hugging, and vanity -- basically a set of characteristics that appear to be at odds with each other, but then that sort of dichotomy is the foundation for much of the humor in the show!
If that seems confusing well, no worries mates, the game was designed to help you figure all of that out in a very touchy-feely way: simply tap the star rating for the trait you want to learn about and the game will show you tips on how to improve that stat. For traits like tree-hugging, for example, you can boost them by planting more and more trees; for gluttony you can increase it by constructing more restaurants, and so on. Each has its own related item basically.
The game is not really about the set of stats, rather they are a part of the big picture, and you will find it to be helpful advice to be reminded that concentrating on any one aspect of the game will, in the end, cost you a great deal of entertainment and amusement, and will likely cause you to miss many of the more subtle homage-based humorous elements. The game actually has a lot of that sort of thing, but treating it like a path towards winning (sorry Charley) is really not the way to go.
If you have not spent a lot of time playing this sort of game you may not be familiar with its basic mechanism, but if you have played titles like The Sims Free Play in the past, you are very familiar with it! We are going to proceed here as if you are not, and outline the basic play strategies that you really need to employ to maximize your enjoyment and the benefit of your characters labor.
To start with you should understand that there is not a lot of difference between the time you are actually logged into and playing the game, and when you are not. What we mean by that is even when you are not actively playing the game, the timer (clock) is still running, and things are happening, and the next time you log in to play you will find that jobs and tasks got done, and your characters may be idle and bored, waiting for the next thing to do.
What you want to do is try to take advantage of that -- for example when you know you are not going to be playing the game for a number of hours, try to assign jobs or tasks to the characters that will take hours to complete -- that way when you log back into the game those jobs are done, your character spent less time idle, and it all translates into more money and XP for you!
When you plan to play the game actively for a number of hours, assigning short tasks to your characters makes more sense as you will be there when they finish to assign them to another short task, and in the process you will build rewards faster that way. See what we mean about basic play strategy and time?
One thing you may not realize is that your efforts are a resource. The game was designed with the tutorial process built into the first few levels, and while you do not have to follow those suggested actions, it is really a good idea to do so AND to not stray too far on your own in adding custom buildings or other elements to the town! Really, the reason for this is simple: the basic tutorial is designed to provide your character with the basic set of resources that they need to succeed in playing this game, and if you focus upon just doing the jobs and placing the objects that the game asks you to do and place, what you end up with is a shortcut towards self-sufficiency, since the game has you add some buildings that actually serve as a source of money and resources.
Once you reach the point where the game is no longer telling you what to do every other turn, that means you have exhausted the forced tutorial phase of the game, and that is fine, since that is when you pretty much can start making your own decisions on how to build the town, with the added benefit of the game having helped you to create a basic infrastructure which will provide you with much of the income and capabilities you need to go further!
Each character that you add to the game makes success easier
Dollars to Donuts
One of the most important choices that you can make in the game is not to spend your Donuts on speeding up play. In fact you should be very reluctant to spend a single Donut on anything that does not pay a dividend -- basically if it is not an item that adds to your income, provides a special effect, or otherwise improves your strategic position, you should not be wasting Donuts on it! That is, of course, assuming that you do not plan to BUY Donuts using real world money. If you can afford to do that and you want to, then ignore this advice, spend your Donuts any way you like.
If on the other hand you do not want to spend real-world money on them, then follow the above advice religiously!
Before we end this basic play section, there are a few tips you may find very useful:
(1) Purchasing the Springfield Sign will give you a 4.50% Money and XP Bonus every time one of your characters completes a job. You want to get this as soon as you can, but getting it as soon as you can will require you to spend real money, so you may be better off getting used to not having it, heh...
(2) Once you can do so, have Homer play with his myPad and, while he is playing with it, tap him ten times to complete a hidden Premium Action -- You will then be awarded 10 Donuts and a Jebediah Springfield Statue, which has the effect of maxing out your Vanity Rating, which is a good thing.
(3) Try to make use of any special abilities that some buildings have -- use the farm to grow crops as much as you can.
(4) While you always want to try to keep your characters (heh, I almost wrote Sims) working -- if they don't have a job, you will want to give them one -- you need to always remember that this game is built on the client-server model, which means it is actually EA's server that is dictating when you get assigned the special tasks and quests that advance the story and game progress. Because of that, you ALWAYS want to tap the button that takes you to the other Springfields and then after it loads, return to the game to force it to synchronize with the EA server BEFORE you assign lengthy tasks to any of the characters, because you will often find that when there is a forced task in the queue doing this will cause it to pop into your game. It really sucks to assign all your characters tasks and then get a forced task you can not activate because you assigned that character a task...