When it comes to designing games, I’m not the one to go to for an opinion on this site. Normally I just accept a game’s design even if it is somehow flawed (see Deadly Premonition). However, lately I’ve been playing a lot of iOS management type games where the technicalities and design of the games are less than adequate. Okay sure Jojo’s Plaza Extravaganza sounds like it was made by an amateur, but EA’s The Simpsons Tapped Out does not.
Tapped Out has too many disappointing faults to go through, but the most offensive feature would have to be the way the game was designed. It functions just like any other iOS management freebie in a problematic and very suspicious way, almost as if the game was intended to mislead players into a money hole. But this is the Simpsons we are talking about. Well it seems even the Simpsons aren’t immune to money hungry schemes.
You see those triangle-arrow things on the sides? That tiny thing is the scroll button. Why EA couldn’t make it bigger is anyone’s guess, though it may not be a problem for most. Yet if you happen to be in the premium options menu where donuts (real money currency) are spent, and just so happen to “accidentally” tap the inner square instead of the outside arrow, you potentially almost wasted premium currency for a dumb mistake. Since the game doesn’t give you the pre-warning of “Are you sure…,” it just jumps into placement management mode. Luckily, the game will only collect on a purchase once the building is placed somewhere. Even so, the design of the scroll menu looks pretty shady to begin with.
This next flaw is a bit farfetched, at least on the conspiracy side, but still one to look out for. Though I don’t know the technicalities of touch games, Tapped Out would seem to need a microscope of some sort to help iron out the sensitivity issues. When tapping buildings and people, the game functions fine. When tapping people near other people or buildings, the game starts to assume you are tapping something you’re not. It’s a bit hard to explain, but this scenario isn’t too uncommon in the game.
Say you are collecting the rent. As you do the rounds by tapping on each house/building/person, the money and XP springs right out of them and onto the ground. They’re near a building. You tap on each piece but suddenly the game reads it as tapping on a building. The screen centers on the building and pulls up an options menu. You, still in money collection mode, tap the “speedy” option and the game proceeds to fast forward the buildings time delay to zero. At this point, however, you just realized you entered the buildings option menu and tap the exit button before it dawns on you that precious donuts were wasted to speed up something you didn’t want in the first place. Yeah, I make it sound like a dumb person would only do something like this. But if you played the game, you know how easy it is to “accidentally” hit the donut option since it’s near the center of the screen. I’m sure this is just bad/lazy designing, but really. For a game based around the Simpsons brand, I expect something better.
This last one is less a bad design choice and more of an obvious money grabber. On the new content, the Halloween themed Treehouse of Horror, the character Kang flies around town every now and then covering the middle of the screen with his flying-saucer. The alien will continue to fly around town once awhile – say, every 45 seconds – unless you spend a hefty amount of donuts to shoot his ship down. It’s an optional quest, but a very annoying one at that. Every time Kang decides to wave up and down the screen, the game is telling me two things: 1) EA really wants me to throw down cash on this thing and 2) the game is about to crash. Ever since Kang showed up, I’m never able to stay on the game for too long due to some kind of overloading issue. I suppose the game can’t handle so much content at once, but I’m blaming Kang and, essentially, EA.
A note to EA: if you really want my money, make a better game. In-app purchases are a quick cash in, yes, but a fan base who loves your games will last longer than a short term business model.
For those who have played Tapped Out, what is your opinion of the game’s design: Bad design or conspiracy?