Sheep, Simpsons, Apple Factory Workers & Zombies

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 9th October 2012.

I don’t usually do community announcements, however, I have been asked to remind you that the Cumnock Quickshear is being held on Saturday 20 October. This is truly the must see event of the year for fans of sheep shearing. If seeing animals getting haircuts doesn’t float your boat, you can always stay home and watch that funny Korean music video for the fifteenth time.

I’m still awaiting the delivery of my new iPhone 5. Clearly, the children who work in the Apple factory need to work harder. All kidding aside, the environmental and ethical considerations of our overwhelming demand for new technological products seems to be forgotten every time an exciting new iToy hits our shelves. Apparently, as consumers, our good intentions extend only to coffee, cosmetics, cans of tuna and eggs.

Our shiny new gadgets are such an important part of our lives nowadays, I think it is important that no-one has been exploited just so I can play funny Korean music videos on my iThingy. I suggest you visit SumOfUs.org for more information on this and other eye opening consumer issues. Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the fact that my current phone is on its last legs.

Forget The Hobbit. My most anticipated film of the year has to be Cockneys vs. Zombies. Set in the East End of London, this action comedy focuses on a gang of bank robbers who must team up with the residents of a retirement home to survive a zombie outbreak. The trailer is a hoot and features an old man who just manages to outrun a zombie with his zimmer frame.

With the latest Resident Evil flick just departing our cinema screens, the zombie movie craze of the past few years seems to be dissipating. It’s possible that Hollywood may well be saving the best for last. Let’s hope that Cockneys vs. Zombies meets expectations and joins Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland as the best in genre. For the record, my pick for worst zombie film in the past few years is Zombie Strippers (yes, it actually is a real film).

Cockneys vs. Zombies does not yet have an Australian release date.

I’ve written several times about the disastrous launch of The Simpsons: Tapped Out game. Launched in March this year, the game was so popular on iTunes that after 3 days, it was pulled from the app store due to overwhelming demand on the EA Games’ servers. Unfortunately, those who had successfully downloaded the game began to suffer from game bugs and glitches with little or no response from the game creators.

Months later, I am pleased to inform you that the game has been relaunched. Existing players such as myself had our towns restored and received bonus Donuts (the game’s currency) as compensation. Last week, a new Halloween update was made available and I’ve been having fun squishing zombies and sending the residents of Springfield trick or treating. Rest assured, I’ve learnt my lesson and will try to avoid spending my hard earned dollars on premium game items.

Published in: on October 9, 2012 at 00:48  Leave a Comment  
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The Simpsons Tapped Out Update and Universal Movie Tycoon Review

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 17th April 2012.

Back in March I wrote about a new game launched on iTunes that was so popular that it caused a server meltdown. The Simpsons Tapped Out, a time management game similar to Farmville and My Smurfs’ Village, was withdrawn from the Apple App Store a few days after release allegedly due to high demand on the servers of the game’s producers, EA Games.

It now appears that there was more to the game’s withdrawal. The thousands of players worldwide who had already downloaded the app were allowed to continue playing the game (and spend money on premium features). Within a week or two, reports started to flood into internet forums of lost game progress, missing characters and in-game dollars and points not being recorded.

My Springfield fused with another player’s town, leaving me with a mess of streets and houses that looks more like The Rocks than the orderly custom designed town my slightly OCD mind created.

Almost six weeks after the withdrawal and initial promises of updates and patches to fix the app, EA Games has gone quiet. The game is still missing from the iTunes store and there are no signs of any relief for the players who have already dedicated hours and hours of game play to Homer and company.

It seems that The Simpsons Tapped out was rushed out for release with major flaws and little beta testing. Apple has started to refund money to players but the lack of communication from EA Games may well have tarnished the cash cow that this game was destined to become, at least in the eyes of early adopters.

The void in the “freemium” game marketplace left by the MIA Simpsons has already been filled by a new franchise, this one based on movie making. Universal Movie Tycoon is free to download and celebrates the 100th anniversary of the famous film studio. As head of the studio, players get to build sets and remake famous films, selecting from an array of virtual directors and actors.

As expected, progressing through this game is painfully slow without spending real money on the premium currency of the app, Movie Magic. Unlike other games of this type, a couple of dollars seems to go a long way. There is, however, the ridiculous option of buying 5000 Movie Magic credits for $51.99. You could buy every premium decoration, set and building, upgrade every actor and director to the max and still have credits to spare.

Unfortunately there is no social functionality which is the norm for games of this ilk. What’s the point of building your own virtual film studio if you can’t visit other nerds online and leave them virtual gifts? Initially fun, the game soon becomes repetitive and boring. It says so much about the current sad state of the film industry when a game designed to promote Universal Studios encourages you to remake the same movies over and over again. So far I’ve remade The Fast and the Furious 33 times, Despicable Me 23 times and Seabiscuit 22 times. I don’t think this game will be on my iPad much longer.

Published in: on April 22, 2012 at 12:52  Leave a Comment  
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Your Smurfs are dead, long live The Simpsons

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 6th March 2012.

If you’ve been spending the last few months tending to your Smurfs’ Village on your smart phone, I have some bad news for you. You may have spent hours and hours forcing your little blue children to tend to their crops all day and night. You’ve occasionally broken their smurfy monotony by making them build new mushroom houses in order to increase your village population. Houses inside which your Smurfs will never be allowed to rest. You’ve woken up at all times during the night to play pointless mini-games to earn experience points so you can advance levels and add new crap to your virtual village. How does it all end?

This column isn’t about the rights of overworked Smurfs or the folly of wasting your life keeping imaginary creatures alive. I can’t talk. I had a tamagotchi in the late nineties and my Smurfs’ Village is up to a healthy level twenty four. However, I am predicting that we will all soon be abandoning our blue friends and replacing them with yellow ones.

The Simpsons: Tapped Out was released for the iPhone last week and immediately rose to number two on the Free Apps Chart. It has proven to be so popular that the EA Games server crashed and most players were unable to access the game. On Sunday, the app was pulled from the iTunes store and is currently temporarily unavailable.

Like its Smurfy counterpart, The Simpsons: Tapped Out is a free-to-play time management game that costs nothing to download but has the potential to become quite expensive. The game starts with a hilarious animated sequence that is worth the download alone. Homer, at work in the nuclear power plant, has become distracted at his console playing a Smurf-like game on his “myPad” which results in a radioactive explosion. With Springfield wiped off the map, it is up to Homer to put the town back together, one building at a time.

To earn experience points or XP as well as game cash, players must send Homer to perform various tasks which take different amounts of time to be completed. As you complete challenges and earn points and money, more Simpsons characters are unlocked and new buildings can be added.

Being a time management game, the challenges play out in real time. To grow corn on Cletus’ farm, it will take ninety days, literally. To overcome this, players may choose to use donuts to make time past rapidly. Donuts are the premium currency of the game and are earned very slowly as the game progresses, however, similarly to smurfberries in the Smurfs’ Village, those fine people at EA games will also sell you donuts for real money via your iTunes account. The high cost in donuts of premium buildings and features, combined with the slow rate of free donuts earned, suggests that you might be opening your wallet to spend some hard earned real dollars sooner rather than later,

The game features voices, artists and writers from the TV show, resulting in a novel approach to a familiar genre. The game controls and structure took a little while to get used to, but the lengthy tutorial should have you adding the Simpson’s house and the Kwik-E-Mart to your new Springfield in a few minutes. I managed to play the game over the weekend for a few hours before the server crashed and enjoyed it although I couldn’t help but feel like I was cheating on my Smurfs.

My prediction is that you’ll soon be ditching your Smurfs for Simpsons, however, until the game is restored on iTunes, your little blue friends have been spared for a few more weeks.

Published in: on March 6, 2012 at 07:26  Leave a Comment  
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