Declaration of independence from bugs (if only)

Readers who follow this blog on their iPads may have been surprised to discover (as was I) that the familiar appearance of this blog was replaced with an iPad based swipe interface featuring multiple threads and a Volvo like box-based appearance.

This decision was made by host WordPress and not by me, and implemented without warning. Oh, I’m sure there was an article on the WordPress site, but that assumes I actually have time to blog and read all their posts as well.

To make matters worse, the automatic posting feature stopped working so that blogs I save as a draft weren’t posted when instructed (this happened on my other blog as well).

I fixed the first problem so that the blog looks the same on your laptop and iPad, but I may switch back in a few weeks as I have more time to play with the design options (there aren’t many). I realized the post wasn’t up and manually posted it Thursday.

I have already posted a request on the WordPress forums asking that WordPress give readers the option to choose the iPad or standard browser interface rather than making me force all readers into the same box. Hopefully they will find a way to do this.

More gifts

Was anyone really surprised when ngmoco:) extended the gifts “by popular demand”? This would be like the decision to extend mojo by popular demand. Hey, ngmoco:), we would like you to offer free mojo every week by popular demand.

Or how about 50 free mojo as one of the gifts?

Nor were all players happy with the new friends realms feature that lists the players in order of who logged in last over their listing in the plus + friends section. This is understandable. I spend a lot of time deleting and adding friends again to keep the list in the order I want. To have this automatically replaced based on log-in sequence is kind of irritating and I’m not sure it makes ordering easier.

The bug hunt is over

Should ngmoco:) read the comments for this blog, they should no longer be under the illusion that the problems with We Rule can be attributed solely to the iPads themselves.

In fact, I reset my iPad to factory settings and tested We Rule as the first app opened, and it crashed immediately and several more times during the harvesting session. I’m sorry, but when a game crashes on an iPad rest to factory settings as the first app opened and only one running, the problem is ngmoco:)’s.

The crashes are so severe for some players that several are ready to abandon the game (and I might if it weren’t for the blog) and one, coffeebuzzard went so far as to complain:

My next step is to submit a formal complaint to Apple, and ask them to research the many other obvious user complaints, for accepting and allowing a broken app that takes users money in their store. Since Apple is accepting the money on ngcomo’s behalf and taking a percentage for themselves, they are culpable. The normal course for Apple is to pull the game until the developer can prove the issues have been fixed.
If this game were completely free, I would simply delete it and abandon its use. But due to ngcomo’s continued negligence, I have lost patience and money and clearly others have as well. They are no longer causing frustration for their users, they are committing a crime.

I’m not sure I would go that far, but I certainly understand his or her frustration. Players reported a lot of bugs, but three seem to occur to multiple players:

  • Constant crashes
  • Items in inventory can’t be returned to play
  • Missing mojo (sometimes because players used it without meaning to, others because it simply disappears).

iPhone players noticed some bugs too:

  • Crashes when switching from kingdom to realms and back
  • Crashes when notifying that payment was received
  • Ads float into friends realms hindering ordering

By and large the crashes are the biggest complaints.

People with older iPhones are also experiencing problems, and I think this has a lot to do with the combination of iOS 4 and We Rule Quests. It would be nice if ngmoco:) could work out something with Apple to let an older version (Red or Gold) run on 3GS and 3G iPhones.

There have been a number of causes suggested. Some blame stacking, and crashes due to stacking won’t be fixed. But kingdoms that don’t stack crash too, so we can’t blame the stackers. One reader suggested that crashes may be caused by players who don’t shut down completely but leave the game running in the background under iOS 4 and tying up the server. This very well could be, but ngmoco:) needs to fix that because players can’t be counted on to understand how background apps work.

I do think demands on the server, but, as I’ve said before, I suspect
memory leaks. Even after I restored to factory settings, I noticed that We Rule would launch other apps, shutting the game down. At this point I realized those apps were always apps in the same folder as We Rule, so I moved the game back to the main screen and it started launching those apps instead. Basically something in the code accesses the iPad’s memory stack or general system code.

Readers have suggested and I agree that ngmoco:) should devote their resources to fixing bugs before they add new items to the game. If you agree please copy and paste the following message to both ngmoco:)’s support address.

As a frequent player of We Rule I appreciate your tireless efforts to listen to player requests and add new features such as inventory, additional realms and site navigation. But I am also tired of the bugs that have plagued the game since it launched last year, specifically: 1) frequent crashes on both my iPad and iPhone, 2) the inability to return items to inventory, 3) the loss of mojo, often from an inability to make a final confirmation before I spend it, and 4) the app closing down to download new content while I am in the process of harvesting (often costing me the crops).

I read the blogs and forums and know these bugs aren’t specific to me but are frequently reported by other users. Please stop introducing new items and new features until these bugs are resolved.

Feel free to add any notes of your own.

I also posted this on ngmoco:)’s feedback page, “fix bugs before features.” If you feel strongly, please log in and vote this as your number 1 request.

Susan Moon found the most puzzling bug, a movable white square. This actually means the graphics aren’t refreshing after an operation, but if I had thought to have a weirdest bug contest, she would have won this one too. Readers also reported a spade or shovel over new buildings keeping them from accepting orders.

How’s this for weird. If anyone can explain the floating white box please comment.

Hopefully, with enough votes and comments ngmoco:) will get the message and at least cut the crashes back to one or two per session.

Contact me at Email iPad Envy, or
Email The Hidden Grimoire.

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New realms, new bugs

This was supposed to be posted monday, but i’ve been having problems with my iPad and this new weird wordpress ipad interface. I apologize.

It almost always happens. Whenever I talk about the need for updates or player requests, ngmoco:) answers that week. Last week I asked readers to comment about the bugs they were experiencing and they commented in spades. Of course, the same day I posted, ngmoco:) announced a major upgrade. You could play without downloading this one (unlike the last) but the upgrade added some cool features. Much requested features, I might add.

We finally have a “Gone fishing” sign. I don’t know why we needed an upgrade for that; We Farm adds signs without upgrades. We finally received my biggest request—more realms. And to solve the problem of getting to them without arrows in the corners as well as the sides of the main kingdoms, ngmoco:) created a new navigation tab (which has been another popular request).

The new navigation tab comes with a menu that allows players to jump to any realm without going back to the main realm first. The new realms can be used to express your creative self, or spend more mojo to stack yet for more realms.

The really good news is, now that navigation isn’t a problem, ngmoco:) can continue to add new realms every six to nine months (provided they continue to add servers and upgrade bandwidth and scalability).

They also added player gifts, a popular feature in Farmville and Team Lava games like Restaurant Story. Of course, if you want to open all your gifts you need to spend mojo (which is something the other games never did but will probably start doing now). And the gifts will go away at the end of the week.

The gifts feature is nice, even if it is short term. But not even Farmville required players to spend game cash to open their gifts.

Unless, of course, players actually spend mojo to open gifts. Then it will most likely become permanent.

The biggest addition? More bugs than ever before. The additional crashes have added half an hour to every one of my harvest sessions. Carol and I have both noticed that the Mardi Gras floats no longer give coins, or, if reinstalled, count down to more coins.

The good news is: You can actually place the royal dragon in every realm. You aren’t limited to one.

So the bug hunt continues for another week. Please let us know if you notice any new bugs (I’m sure you will).

If you haven’t upgraded yet, however, check and see if you can still get the new gone fishing sign (if you want it). If you can, and you don’t plan on adding new realms, I’d hold out until you hear the bugs get fixed. The new navigation won’t be that convenient.


Contact me at Email iPad Envy, or
Email The Hidden Grimoire.

Bug Hunt

No one is more grateful for some of the new items in We Rule than I. I advocated for winter items, diamond groves and sapphire groves and ngmoco:) delivered. As players level up they can build their kingdoms around the Mediterranean, Mardis Gras and even Mechanical wonders.

Admittedly, the new mechanical wonders may be perplexing players. We could see the mythological, Egyptian and even far eastern elements with a little bit of rationalization. After all, commerce and mythology were important elements of medieval civilization and no university student could be considered educated without a through grounding in the classics.

We could even embrace Santa Claus and Mardi Gras. After all St. Nick has roots in customs dating back to the third century and Carnival was the church’s attempt to accommodate the Roman practice of Lupercalia while letting Christians blow off steam before getting down to the serious business of lent.

But machines? I felt as though I had stepped from the pages of Le Morte d’Arthur and into one of Michael Moorcock’s multiverse novels. (It doesn’t matter which one, he’s written hundreds.)

Surely we could have stayed closer to home. How about a Da Vinci helicopter? Or an alchemist’s studio with beakers and green smoke? If developers insisted on mechanical devices, why not take their clues from the Inquisition? They came up with racks, iron maidens and any number of devices which later inspired the Bush administration to reinterpret the Constitution.

The cog quest

The cog quest may be the most bizarre launched so far. To finished the quest, players have to successfully place orders at the brand new steam ship, flying machine and inventor’s studio. Since the studio requires L45 and 7o0000c and the flying machine requires L37, there aren’t going to be many out there. In fact I looked in more than a L37+ dozen kingdoms and only found quest shops in mine and Carol’s.

ngmoco:) seems to have figured this out because you don’t need to finish the quest to get the steam-clock reward.

Which leaves the question, why bother with the quest? By the time players have their shops installed, ngmoco:) will probably discontinue the steam-clock anyway.

Number 1 player request: More bugs fixed, fewer new shops

I find myself agreeing more and more with players like glitchcity: Less stuff, more bug fixes.

Partially I say this because I would like to get a little of my life back. It took me forever to process Thursday’s three new shops to crunch the numbers. Usually I install a shop, use mojo to vacate two or three orders and then place a sample order with a dummy kingdom.

Thursday people were placing orders faster than I could clear them out. After spending about a hundred mojo to clear out shops in a futile attempt to place an order, I finally had to reject several just to get in to order from the new shops. Then I had to use mojo to build two of them and mojo to process the orders.

When I say more bug fixes, I don’t want ngmoco:) to get too hasty. They’ve spent a lot of effort (and, by some accounts, still are) trying to prevent stacking which many players still see as a cool feature. I think players are doing fun and creative (as well as admittedly unsightly) things with stacking and no longer even consider it a bug.

So maybe I should say, less stuff, less attention to stopping stacking and more attention to the bugs that make it difficult to play the game.

I would say the number one player complaint remains a bug that has plagued players from the beginning. We Rule likes to crash. Some evenings it crashes six or seven times (not counting the “can’t connect to server” messages) in the course of ten or fifteen minutes.

With iOS 4, dealing with excessive crashes is more complex. You have to shut down all of your running apps (double click on the home button, hold your finger on the app until the “x” appears) and do a hard reboot (hold power and home button at same time until the apple appears). If that doesn’t work, you may need to delete and reinstall the game.

Since the game crashes for players with different frequencies I suspect there are a couple of places to look. The first is the server. Crashes tend to happen more often in the evening (at least for me), which is when I suspect more players are logging on.

But I also think the game has some serious memory leaks. I suspect this because two or three times a week I will touch an item to harvest and suddenly another game app opens (usually another ngmoco:) game app).1 In addition, if I put my iPad down with We Rule running in order to run to the bathroom or flip through the channels, it shuts down.

Carol reports entirely different problems, so I have to suspect the game bugs react differently with different apps running in the background. This also tends to indicate there may be some problems addressing memory.

Let’s start a bug hunt

I know there have been a number of comments about bugs, but I honestly don’t have the time to review the hundreds posted (and keep up with the charts and my life). So please submit the most irritating bugs and crashes in the comments over the next week and I will compile them for ngmoco:).


1Notice how their company name (ngmoco:)) screws up the whole open and close parentheses thing? suddenly the smiley face turns into a double chin. Maybe they should have done more focus testing. back

Design contest winners

Thanks to all the players who took time from making their mojo videos for We Rule to actually design a realm.

The entries were close and the decision was tough but Acehound and I agreed unanimously on the theme and stacking categories. In the repetition category both judges reversed on one-two but one of the judges thought they practically tied. The virtual tie by one judge decided first place.

Your stacking secrets should be on their way.

I created a special category to recognize that fourth entry—the Qbert Extravaganza award. Readers will know why when they see it.

I also selected several other entries for display that I felt showed exceptional merit. I wish I could have showed them all.

I want to thank everyone who entered. If you missed the cut please feel free to invite players to judge for themselves by posting a comment with your player id and a link to a screen shot. Just because we ranked other players doesn’t mean people wouldn’t have picked you.

Theme

Jorge Rojas (joegodfinger) Egypt

Jorge’s theme exploited a water motif with rivers and bath houses. Notice the greater and lesser pyramids. Clean and elegant.

Click image to see full size

Repetition

Amanda Perry (amadnaveronica)

Click image to see full size
Amanda’s realm is highly symmetrical, almost a triptych, but plays off flipping sand and water. Notice how she shifts from warmer colors on the left (yellow, green and orange) to cooler colors on the right.

Stacking

Joost Visser (eendje001)

The stacking is very subtle in this highly patterned entry. Joost creates his entire design from groves, walls and battlements to evoke a highly festive feeling.

Click image to see full size

Qbert Extravaganza award

Susan Moon Escujuri (moontown)

Click image to see full size
Susan’s effort shows in this highly patterned entry, that reminded the judges of a video game from our distant pasts. If she could have emulated Pac Man she might have won.

Special attention

LP (mannanan) contributed a winter village. This may have been left over from the Christmas designs, but I don’t see that as a criticism.

Click image to see full size

Click image to see full size
Robby Cochran (Confuzed1)’s realm could have been entered in any of the three categories. It is both symmetrical and asymmetrical depending on your point of focus.
Deni T. ( JDTagish) may have dropped some acid and listened to the Dead through sound tight headphones when stacking this realm. It finished second in the stacking category.

Click image to see full size
Chuck Henderlite (chenderlite) took second and third in realm design with both Egypt and Rome. This was his Roman entry. Did the Vikings actually invade Rome? I think it was the Visigoths, but my history isn’t that strong.

Click image to see full size

Contact me at Email iPad Envy, or
Email The Hidden Grimoire.