The Death of TSTO Friends

Back in 2012, Electronic Arts released The Simpsons Tapped Out. As this was the first (and still only) freemium mobile Simpsons game, promoting creativity in building your own town the way you like, it gained a lot of popularity at a rapid pace.

The game is still going but I stopped playing a very long time ago and I’m unsure on how active the community is anymore. There was a big push on collecting rent from houses every minute to every twenty-four hours, depending on its colour and setting all the residents off to do tasks, generally ranging from one hour to twenty-four hours, with a few exceptions such as six-second cleaning tasks and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon’s one week Kwik-E-Mart shift.

hammock
Oh, the joys of waiting for those timers to finish.
(from Tapped Out video)

Collecting rent from houses could easily be exploited by dedicating a huge chunk of your town to houses, with no spaces in-between, to collect huge chunks of money every now and then. Both houses and residents give better rates of money per hour for shorter tasks, though that means more tapping which can easily take over your life.

Even though I wasn’t the most efficient tapper, often only playing the game in evenings, I still managed to run out of things to spend money on, especially as the maximum town size was fairly small due to hardware limitations and the lack of optimisation the game had. Only one Escalator to Nowhere, Popsicle Stick Skyscraper and Giant Magnifying glass could be purchased, each costing $1,000,000, $2,000,000 and $3,000,000. All of those are from the very end of Season 4 Episode 12 “Marge vs. the Monorail”, so they’re not exactly the most memorable constructions.

I wonder how this donut will play a part. Homer would probably desire more sprinkles... (sourced from Pixabay)
I wonder how this donut will play a part. Homer would probably desire more sprinkles…
(sourced from Pixabay)

Being a freemium game, there was a large push on in-app purchases with the famous premium currency: donuts. Oh, go away, spell checker! For this purpose, it’s donuts rather than doughnuts. Anyway, since a huge number of buildings, picket fencing and characters required these premium donut things to purchase, it’s easy to either spend a fortune or not have a very fun time. Since I didn’t see the appeal to either of those options, I hacked some donuts in, first with a combination of Bluestacks and Cheat Engine, then with hacked APKs once EA made it trickier to do so.

Anyway, this post is about TSTO Friends and not Tapped Out, so let’s get back on track by talking about… TSTO Tips! Yes, yes, trust me, I’ll get to the point eventually. Writing is all about that word count, though, since with most online things I just skim through and look at the pretty pictures anyway. You know, this post doesn’t have enough pretty pictures. Let’s go get one!

Oh, that's beautiful! Now, how's this relevant again?
Oh, that’s beautiful! Now, how’s this relevant again?

This popularity of Tapped Out caused numerous fan pages and blogs to be created, one of which was TSTO Tips. If you hadn’t figured it out already, TSTO is short for The Simpsons Tapped Out. TSTO Tips was a very basic in appearance and was all about, well, tips for Tapped Out. It ran from early 2013 to early 2014 before just sort of disappearing. There were some hidden issues with it that I don’t know too much about, and now going to its URL just redirects to a random scam page. I do not know if the ownership of the domain has been transferred to someone else since it was running, but I assume it has. Their Twitter account has been suspended for reasons unknown to me.

Anyway, two writers from TSTO Tips sort of moved away from there and created their own site: TSTO Friends. Now, I think that they wrote for TSTO Addicts too but I never really went there so don’t know for certain. Point being, there was Patric and Ryan and they made a humble website to write Tapped Out stuff on. Yes, they can be known by different names but I’ll just be using their real names for simplicity’s sake.

Let’s just make it clear the Patric’s the main guy here. Ryan’s not even on the header image anymore but got replaced by a Ugandan child. I get that charity stuff is great and all, but it’s a little mean to remove Ryan. Then again, he abruptly stopped posting there July 2014 (at least officially under his own name) and it was just Patric from then on. Well, at least there was a little advertisement for his website, so people could follow him there if need be. I didn’t.

We’re getting sidetracked, though. Patric’s still posting over at TSTO Addicts by the looks of things, so he’s clearly not completely thrown in the towel, but perhaps just no longer sees the need of having his own website. Let’s have a look at some TSTO Friends stuff, excluding any content from his other websites, written for other websites et cetera.

There have been more than 1,800 posts on this site. Very few of them are less than 1,000 words in length. Every one of them had original graphics that needed to be created, edited and uploaded to the server.

There have been more than 60,000 comments moderated.

Take a second and do the math… The posts alone represent close to 2 million words.There are only a little more than 783,000 words in the entire King James Bible…and the Bible doesn’t even give you the answer to how to benefit from Cletus’s Corn Cheat!! I know. I’ve looked.

Now, that’s a lot of writing! Unfortunately, we have to look up from our screens for a moment and face reality… which is on the screen you’re looking at right now unless you’re using a screen reader or something. You’ll have a dreadful experience using this website with a screen reader.

tstograph

Yes, that graph doesn’t look healthy at all, does it? Starting from, well, January 2014, it’s all downhill. Granted, 127 posts per month is a lot to ask, but you’d expect it to at least stabilise a little rather than just continuously falling. I’ve included the raw data at the bottom of this post. I assume peak months are just when there was an exciting update or Patric had too much time on his hands, though there’s a definite fall after December 2014 and December 2015, going from 50 posts to 32 posts and 23 posts to 11 posts. Interesting.

A quick WhoIs lookup shows that the domain will expire at the end of this month unless it gets renewed, though that seems highly unlikely (update: see the end of this page). So, this is the end of TSTO Friends. It had a good run of nearly three years.

Yes, I edited the speech bubbles.
Yes, I edited the speech bubbles.

Oh, and if you’re still wondering about TSTO Tips, here’s a very hazy explanation from their book. Yes, I own a copy of it. No, I won’t be posting the whole thing online since it is available from Amazon. Just as a quick note, Mipps equals Tips.

The Final Chapter…or a New Beginning?

Much has been written about a nasty little chapter in TSTO blogging history regarding the creation, takeover and near dismantling of a certain TSTO blog site that rhymes with “TSTO Mipps.” We know the whole story…because we have been working from the inside of said Mipps Headquarters since mid–August…after the Mipps hit the fan, so to speak. But, it is important for us to let you know, neither Ryan nor I have anything to do with current or past ownership…we just write. That’s it. At least for now…

However, loads of past and present Mipps readers have speculated about what “really happened,” but little of what has been posted on the forums, blogs or Reddit accounts is accurate. As the original Mipps owner has been sworn to secrecy, and the current Mipps owner is more difficult to reach than Santa in July (unless you know his secret Miami beachfront property address), we can only share this ANALOGY of what happened with all of you.

The facts are correct…except all of the Italian Restaurant stuff…because, obviously, TSTOMipps had nothing to do with an Italian Restaurant…unless you want to liken it to Michael’s big scene in Godfather II.

Here you go…The REAL story behind TSTOMipps!

Let’s say you own a very popular Italian Restaurant. You started small, doing all of the cooking yourself, and gradually built up a substantial, and growing list of satisfied customers who were loyal to your brand of cooking to a fault. They revered you as understanding the nuances of Italian cooking like nobody else. You were…da bomb. There were loads of other Italian places to go…some wild and woolly, others just holes–in–the–wall without real patrons. But, yours was different. It had the right blend of ingredients, recipes, presentation and atmosphere…and ALL WAS WELL in your world.

One day, at the peak of your seasonal popularity, the supplier of your ingredients decided to get political, and publicly make fun of a dangerous subset of people who used their constitutional right to own…let’s say, pitchforks. Now…the supplier was just that…a supplier of the main ingredients, and really didn’t think much about those who cooked at the restaurant level. They just thought it was funny…and THEIR constitutional right to say whatever they wanted. After all…who couldn’t get the joke about people not needing so many pitchforks in a world with so little hay?

The people with the pitchforks didn’t think it was funny…at all…and because the supplier just dropped his supplies and left, they needed someone at whom to vent their displeasure, and decided to lump you (the first guy holding the supplier’s ingredients) in with the supplier. It’s not really fair…but then again, people with pitchforks often don’t think straight while they are yelling and waving their pitchforks for emphasis.

So…your wife says to you…”You know? I don’t see you anymore as it is…and now a bunch of your customers are slipping notes under the door with pitchforks drawn on them…and it’s…just not fair to any of us!”

And you say…”You know what? You are right! But, what am I going to do with the restaurant? I can’t just let it go…our real fans love our cooking!”

But, your wife, being a wife says, “Take some time off…give the keys to a couple of the fans and let them see how THEY like cooking 16 hours day, and dealing with the crazy whims of the supplier who is bringing snakes and all other sorts of stuff with every regular delivery now…just because they can!”

And you…being the smart, and burned–out guy who is tired of snakes, and pitchforks and whiners who want special treatment whenever you cook, do just that.

A handful of the restaurant’s best customers jump in to lend a hand. It’s not that they are bad cooks…but they are VERY different cooks from the original owner, and there is a great deal of confusion over who is cooking, and what shift everyone is filling, and pretty soon, it is just one guy, pulling 18–hour shifts…and the food quality suffers. All of the customers start asking “when is the Owner going to come back?”

This is made all the more difficult, because the owner is really enjoying his time off…and is seriously thinking about doing something different than cook Italian food for the rest of his life. He still LIKES Italian food…he just doesn’t want to cook it anymore.

After a short time, the owner is approached by a businessman who sees the value of having such a huge fan–base built up. He has a little side business that is based on reselling a recipe that has been bootlegged from another bootlegger, for several kinds of Wine. And knowing that Italian restaurant customers love their wine, he is pretty sure he can seamlessly move the customers from the Italian restaurant over to his new products…which are actually old products…just with a different name…and recipe…kinda.

A deal is struck…the new owner takes over, but nobody knows…especially the customers who were now trying to keep the restaurant open. Until one day, they come by to open up the shop, and find a sign in the front that says “FREE (French) WINE!” and there is a line out the door that goes around the block. And the locks have been changed…and they are escorted out of the building by the new owner.

 

Something seems weird, even to the most casual observer…

 

In fact anyone who has any common sense knows something is not right. Smart people tell their kids that there is no such thing as “Free” in this world, and certainly no way that you would feature French wine at an Italian restaurant. But they continue to go there anyway…and realize that there is a guy cooking, who is wearing the original chef’s clothes, and even his name tag, and is trying to speak with a fake Italian accent, while giving away “Free French Wine,” but then double–charging for the meals (which by the way, are still awful)…and are not served on time, if at all.

Many decide they can’t come back…they are done. They go down the street to another Italian place, “Luigi’s,” and as it turns out, is being run by the same “replacement chefs” from the old favorite place. Nice guys…really making a go if it…but really NOT the same as the original Chef.

In the void and uncertainty, a handful of other Italian places open up…all with their own variety of recipes, and all trading in part, on the mythology of “being personally close to the ORIGINAL Italian restaurant owner.” It’s suddenly very convoluted and competitive in the world of Italian restaurants.

After a while, people notice that the original place is almost in ruins…there are still a handful of people going there, because there is a “Restaurant Referral” service for people who like Italian cooking, and the OLD owner’s reputation still lingers. The place is almost abandoned…because as it turns out, the new owner doesn’t know how to cook…at all…and barely ever stops by the place, since people figured out his Wine scam.

Then after almost a month of nobody showing up to cook at all, a couple of guys who really like Italian food…one young funny one, and one old kind of cranky one, volunteer to cook…just for the fun of it. And their flavors and fun way of looking at cooking begin to be accepted again. They begin attracting a new crowd that starts to get almost as large as the old crowd of regular customers.

Every once in a while, someone will stop in and say, “Where’s the original owner? I liked his cooking better!” But after a while, even the those old original customers are coming back, and hanging out, and laughing with the new guys…knowing that it will never be the same, but is still a lot of fun

However…as they don’t own the place, the new guys are saddled with the same crappy equipment, decorations, and layout that has been around since the “old days,” without the ability (they don’t own the lease, or have the keys to the stock room), to make the changes they would like to make. But, there are all sorts of opportunities available for good Italian chefs in this world. So many options

As it turns out, these two not only become friends, but decide to write a BOOK about their love of Italian Cooking, and realize that in order to help promote the book (when it is done), they need to keep the restaurant alive. So they keep cooking for free.

And as of today…it is alive…and thriving…in SPITE of the fact that the “Free French Wine” guy still wants to shut it down…or figure out some way to get fans of Italian food to drink his “Free Home Brew Root Beer” which of course isn’t Italian at all. But, that is just the way he thinks. To him, “liquid is liquid…people don’t care as long as it appears to be almost free.”

OK. If you say so, Free Wine Guy…It’s all just a Game…Si? No? (He may in fact be Spanish…hard to tell by his Skype accent).

 

NOTE: It is almost impossible to know how this story turns out…because, after all, it is all just an ANALOGY…and analogies seldom end up working out in the end.

Whatever the case…no matter who ends up owning the Original Italian Restaurant, or the name, or the secret ingredient (Love of TSTO), it will always be a cautionary tale about the marketing and consumption of bootleg wine.

Nobody wins in the end… except those who play the game of life honestly, openly and with a smile on their faces.

 

Keep on Tappin’

CrankyOldGuy &Ryan S.I.

http://www.tstofriends.com

Just as a quick note: I’ve never linked to the TSTO Friends website because it will soon be gone and may end up leading somewhere nasty like Tips now does.

And here’s the raw data, as promised:

Month Post count
November 2013 2
December 2013 96
January 2014 127
February 2014 108
March 2014 75
April 2014 65
May 2014 55
June 2014 62
July 2014 45
August 2014 59
September 2014 48
October 2014 51
November 2014 42
December 2014 50
January 2015 32
February 2015 39
March 2015 39
April 2015 38
May 2015 32
June 2015 26
July 2015 33
August 2015 35
September 2015 29
October 2015 31
November 2015 27
December 2015 23
January 2016 11
February 2016 7
March 2016 4
April 2016 12
May 2016 27
June 2016 30
July 2016 8
August 2016 16
September 2016 1
October 2016 0

28/10/16 Update:
Just had a quick look at the WhoIs records and the domain name has been renewed for another year. I don’t know if this means anything though since possibly he just doesn’t want anyone else registering the domain, at least for a while. Renewing a domain is much easier and cheaper than hosting a website!

04/01/17 Update:
I meant to update this earlier, but only now upon sharing this page with a friend have remembered to do so. Anyway, the domain is now parked, courtesy of GoDaddy. Lovely. Welp, it’s dead now and most of what was written will probably lost to history, all of it if a robots.txt file erases everything from the Archive.org copy. Yep, that’s a thing that can happen.

I feel like if he had just stopped the site from being so slow with a day of fixes, there would be enough search engine traffic to keep the website bringing in new visitors. You know, I actually almost downloaded the whole website but decided against it since there was just so much there (1385 long posts, tallied up from the data above), most of which is no longer relevant. Too late now as I doubt he kept a copy.

We’ll miss you, TSTO Friends.

Also, in case this picks up for some bizarre reason, please don’t pester Patric over this as he has never really discussed it with me and has removed his TSTO Friends character design from the header image and background on his CrankyOldGuy website so I think he wants it gone.

 

Author: Ten Hour Guy

Oh look, I own this site!