The people that be over at EA have answered some user asked questions. The full Q&A session is below. Enjoy guys!
Matthew Edwards, EA Senior Producer and J. Stewart Burns, Game Runner and The Simpsons Co-Executive Producer have responded to your questions! You can see the Q&A session below.
[Matthew Edwards] I’ve been working on The Simpsons: Tapped Out for over three years now and one of the distinct pleasures I have has been being able to work with J. Stewart Burns and the other writers of The Simpsons. The humor and creativity that he and the other writers have is shown in everything they do from helping develop our updates to answering questions about the game, as you’ll see below.
I hope the answers that Stewart and I have to your questions will give you a fun behind the scenes look into our latest update, and the making of The Simpsons: Tapped Out.
1. What was the inspiration for developing this year’s Halloween update?
[Matthew Edwards] The original inspiration was to actually try and emulate the show, and do three separate stories over the month that were revealed in the end to be a plot from Kang and Kodos taking over Springfield. Each story was wildly different from the last, and the whole thing just started to get bigger and bigger until we realized we wouldn’t be able to accomplish it successfully. We ended up deciding it would be best to focus on the kernel of the idea that we were most excited about, which was Kang and Kodos’ alien invasion, and put all our energy into making that great.
[J. Stewart Burns] The inspiration is this is our third one! When Tapped Out did its first “Treehouse of Horror”, that was 1 for every 25 Halloween episodes the TV show had done. Now we’re 1 for every 9 the show has done. At this rate, in a couple years we’ll have done even more Halloweens than the show!
2. How did the game producers and show writers work together on this year’s Halloween update?
[Matthew Edwards] We’ll typically put together a core concept and key ideas around a particular set of content, and then we’ll pitch the idea to the show writers. We’ll then collaborate together around the core concept to develop it to a final state. Then we get into production and develop a draft script that we hand over to them. They punch it up, tighten the story and generally bring The Simpsons specialness to it. We get it back, put it into the game and then there’s usually another round of feedback and last minute tightening from both us and them before we release it.
[J. Stewart Burns] Similar to how we work on most big updates. Matt and the developers approached us with the idea, I claimed to look at it but actually just handed it off to the writer, Carolyn Omine, and way too many weeks later we got the script back to them. Then there were a lot of emails back and forth, with us trying to make the developers’ job harder because we’re jealous of how fast they get stuff done. And then the game came out and we all started squishing aliens.
3. How many people worked on this year’s Halloween update?
[Matthew Edwards] It’s kind of hard to give an exact number, because lots of people will touch an update during the course of its development. The core team for Treehouse was about twelve people, but they were supported by the game’s leadership, QA teams, deployment, operations, marketing and of course, the writers of The Simpsons Stewart Burns and Carolyn Omine, who wrote the Treehouse update, Gracie Films, and Film Roman.
[J. Stewart Burns] That’s easy, just count the number of people credited with working on the game. The answer is none.
4. What is your favorite part of this year’s Halloween update?
[Matthew Edwards] I really like watching the aliens come out of the Portal to Rigel 7 and then squishing them. When I first saw this during development, I really liked how they were arriving together and then would move off into the town together — like they were working together. It was a small thing, but actually influenced how the rest of the aliens in the event spawned. We wanted to achieve this feeling with the rest of the aliens too and make sure there were clusters of aliens rather than just twenty lone aliens running around.
5. How long does it take from concept and planning for an update to go live?
[Matthew Edwards] We try to start working on ideas at least six months ahead of time and give about four months to take it from idea to launch. Long-term view, we like to try and be at least two events ahead in our thinking, but as we’re constantly learning from our current event, it can sometimes be tricky to stay ahead. We want to stay open to new learnings and inspirations that could make an idea stronger, or play better for players.
[J. Stewart Burns] It’s surprisingly fast. With the show, it often takes over a year, but we do game updates in a matter of months. And then we write and animate promos for those updates in a matter of weeks. Honestly, it makes me wonder why it takes us so long to do the show.
6. What is your favorite part of working on The Simpsons: Tapped Out?
[Matthew Edwards] It’ll probably sound cliché, but having a chance to work with Gracie Films is very humbling and educational. They’ve developed something that is not only a cultural icon but has lasted for twenty-six years and shows no signs of slowing. Seeing people with their dedication, their passion and their unwavering pursuit of their creative values is rare; but, it’s also balanced by a level of realism and practicality that makes things happen. It’s a hard balance to maintain and makes me aspire to bring that to our team and studio.
7. What has been your favorite update so far? Why?
[Matthew Edwards] That’s a tough one. It’s probably a tie between our first two Treehouse of Horror events. The original was our first major update and really proved that The Simpsons: Tapped Out was going to be something bigger than we’d ever imagined. Also, everybody loves zombies. The second Treehouse, I think, had one of the most distinct moods we’ve managed to create in any event with our Halloween effects that year. I think we really succeeded in creating the sense of a “haunted Springfield”. We see Treehouse as our unofficial anniversary and kicking off our second year, for me, really solidified that The Simpsons: Tapped Out was here to stay.
[J. Stewart Burns] Man, there have been so many good ones, and other ones. I guess I’d say the first Treehouse of Horrors, when we introduced candy as a new currency. No matter how long you’d been playing, suddenly you were poor and had to grind away in the game like a first-time player. Then at the end of the event, all the candy went away. That’s been our template for engaging and disappointing people ever since.
8. How is writing for the game different from writing for the TV show?
[J. Stewart Burns] We write almost as much content for this game as we do for show, yet there are fewer of us and we’re working mostly in our spare time. There’s a lot less over-thinking… also a lot less thinking. That may sound bad, but if you’ve ever painted a picture and liked it but thought it could be better and ended up turning the whole thing into a brown-grey mess, you’ll understand that it isn’t always.
9. Were you a fan of mobile games before making The Simpsons: Tapped Out? What types of games did you like?
[J. Stewart Burns] No way, mobile games are dumb. I particularly didn’t like city builders, and definitely didn’t waste hundreds of hours playing Trade Nations… which was why I was not excited to work with Matt on this game.
10. Were you a Simpsons fan before becoming a developer for the game?
[Matthew Edwards] Definitely. I grew up watching the show and probably quoted it way too often. In fact, in one of our first meetings Stewart was able to guess my age within a year or two based on my particular show references.