Sailing Off

If I had posted, a year ago today, that We Rule would close up shop most of you would have laughed. It would have been April Fool's, after all. A few wise souls saw it coming. I, who called so many things right, did not. In fact, I said it probably wouldn't happen.

This year my April fools joke is posted on Ask Tabby, where our polydactyl Siamese Jenny Manytoes explains bizarre people behavior to cats around the world. I type it for her, so you will still be hearing from me.

Shameless promotion aside (although you really will like her blog) (honest to goodness), is a day of morning for We Rule fans everywhere when the universal and final “unable to connect” was flashed on the game page.

(Speaking of shameless self-promotion, don't forget you can still buy my books Raising Hell and The Worst Noel for $1 on Amazon, Nook and iBooks. And we are finishing proofreading on Cigerets, Guns and Beer a thriller about bad cops, a bank robbery gone very wrong and maybe, just maybe, the crash site of a flying saucer. If you enjoyed this blog, you will enjoy those books.)

Yes, it's gone and we knew it was coming. Some of us simply gave up. Some mourned it's loss in the comments section, and others, like JennyManytoes tried valiently to leap through as many levels as they could. I took orders and sent them back, but really lacked the heart to progress any further. At 3 billion xp, it was doubtful there were any more significant milestones to reach.

Last night I redesigned my main realm to show ghost ships sailing off to tumble over the falls and crash into ships docked in the level below. Poor symbolism indeed.

And so the ghost ships sail off the edge, a symbol of my mixed feelings about spending (I am now embarrassed to admit) hundreds of dollars on mojo. I had more than 3000 so I could speed up buildings and plant numbers when ngmoco:) announced it would all be for naught. Had only they warned me.

The biggest tragedy of all is that they don't even maintain the small amount of server space that would allow players to at least visit and tinker with their realms. I hope you kept screen shots for your digital scrap books.

Players who enjoyed the game to the end can relish the memories, and it was fun. Players who still feel bitter and know a good class action attorney might consider pursuing a law suit. After all, players did blow hundreds of thousands of dollars in the belief that the game would be there as long as they wanted to play. If you know one, my wife an I may sign up.

I could end on a positive note, but there is no reason to celebrate. I no longer begin social network games because I know they're all dead ends. Snoopy's fair crapped out on me, leaving me with nothing as did every Zynga game I started. ngmoco:) has pretty much killed every good offering they launched: Touch Pets, Godfinger, and all the We games. I played Farmville 2 for a day, which was long enough to convince me I wouldn't be interested in We Rule 2 (should ngmoco:) raise the money to develop one).

I still play the Simpsons Tapped Out, but it's been a month since they added anything new and I have yet to trigger the events that would let me earn them. I'm not sure I have the patience to rack up 3 million points for a giant magnifying glass to torch the popsicle skyscraper that cost 2 million. The jokes are still funny, but I have seen them so many times now it feels like watching re-runs of Star Trek.

It's sad, because We Rule got a lot of things right. They were too frequent with new items, but at least they offered them on a regular basis. The characters were entertaining, and the events would have been really fun had they not crashed all the time. Looking back at all the social network games I played, there was a reason We Rule was so popular. It showed it's age, but it was still the best and most likely to keep players interested month after month.


Farewell, We Rule

The naysayers were right, and, to be honest, I was planning on posting the probability today anyway. I had been waiting for new “community output” promised after Thanksgiving and seen none.

Truthfully, I reached 3 billion points and realized the only reason I was playing was to fill orders.

ngmoco:) announced today that they will stop the game entirely on March 31, they will stop downloading next Friday from app stores and they are disabling in-app purchases.

My book will still be on sale for those desperate to get to L80 before the shut down entirely. And I will continue to fill orders in my main realm.

For those of you who still have a love for the game, I suggest you create the designs you always wanted before it shuts down entirely. Screen shot them and send them to me at with your real name and I will post them before the game shuts down.

After all, people won't be able to see your kingdom after March 31.

Stupid marketing moves

I think it's time for companies to realize they are shooting themselves in the foot. If they keep accelerating the pace of in-app purchases and then shutting down games, people will stop playing altogether. I, for one, no longer even bother to download if I see anything resembling game bucks listed as an “in-app” purchase.


We Rule Sequel on horizon?

After promising players that ngmoco:) would come up with lots of community events after Thanksgiving, we haven’t seen much. An image contest, a caption contest at Halloween and reintroduction of some old Christmas content. It seems clear ngmoco:) want to release an entirely new version of We Rule, but given the spectacular failure of Farmville 2, they seem to have gone back to the drawing board.

Who can blame them, really? Farmville 2 failed because it was little more than Farmville 1 with 2.5D graphics. I wouldn’t want to give up my old farm and start from scratch.

Trade Nations is actually chugging along, but they never choked the pipeline with content. They also added parties. Players earn token items from their shops and use them to stage parties that their friends can attend. But even they are going the sequel route with Trade Nations North Pole, which is Trade Nations with the addition of a sleigh to transport presents from factories to the main castle. It took all of three levels for me to realize I wanted little more to do with the North Pole than I did with Farmville 2.

They seem to have ignored my suggestion, which was to clean out a lot of those buildings and focus on new challenges, including possible combat.

So where can they go next? Well, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Springfield helping Homer Simpson clean up after he blew up the nuclear power plant while playing on his myPad. The Simpsons’ Tapped Out is actually a lot of fun. It’s modeled on Cityville, where players have to finished a number of tasks to earn the next building or character, but these tasks are fun. Going on a bender, robbing the Kwikie Mart, calling your alien mothership for backup. It even has a black hole at the center of town.

All of the Simpsons characters are there. Principal Skinner, Grampa, Melbourne and Mel the Bartender. Playing Tapped Out got me thinking about what the next level of We Rule should look like. Then I got it:

Monty Rule and the Holy Grail

That’s right, what better medieval source for a We Rule sequel than Monty Python? It may cost a little for the rights but it will be well worth it. Players will be able to build Camelot and let it fall into ruins while they go on silly multi-step quests. Some of the quests might include:

One of the tasks in We Rule and the Holy Grail could be to dismember the Black Knight one limb at a time. Your reward could be to unlock a tavern and a bard to sing your exploits (for 48000 coins and 10 grail berries).

  • Building an autonomous collective (complete with houses, crops and ironically literate peasants.
  • Fight the Black Knight. They would have to sever his limbs one by one until he admits he’s helpless, which he never will.
  • Avoid being seduced by the grail virgins.
  • Run away from the three headed ogre.
  • Fight off the killer rabbits

Completing each task will unlock a new building, a new character or a new task. When you touch each character they utter a humorous bon mot (except for the rabbits, of course).

I’ve given you the roadmap, ngmoco:). It’s time to get to work. Best of all, reaching higher levels in We Rule Legacy could also unlock buildings and tasks that you can’t unlock in the sequel. That will keep your current fans motivated and playing.

Halloween caption contest

Today is the last day for ngmoco:)s cutline contest, in case you missed it. They must have gotten the message because they aren't waiting until Thanksgiving to throw players a bone.

Provide a cutline for the frankenstein cartoon on ngmoco:)'s facebook page and you might win 2000 mojo. You can spend them on the legacy halloween buildings and welcome the return of Halloween characters next week.

What is Frankenstein thinking? Enter your idea on ngmoco:)'s facebook page for a chance to win 2000 mojo.

Contrary to rumors that ngmoco:) stopped supporting We Rule, the have simply transferred support. The game is now part of the mobage player network. I emailed support with a problem and, while it took several days to get an answer, they did reply.

The game still seems to be hanging on, and I still have plenty of visitors, so if you enjoy it keep playing. My feeling is that I would rather keep spending time with a game I like than investing lots of money in a new game that could go away as well.

Save our servers

For all my assurances that I believe ngmoco:) intends to carry on with We Rule, I still realize that the game can die simply from developer neglect. If developers quit introducing new items or wrinkles, players are going to loose interest and quickly.

This is similar to the mistake TV producers make when they start moving shows around to new nights and odd hours. They may convince themselves they are attracting new viewers, but the truth is viewers don't want to follow and the shows they move into their new time slots often do even worse.

ngmoco:) developers say their servers can no longer support new game elements, and this may be true. I accept part of the blame, overloading the servers with hundreds of stacked items. But they are so cool. And I didn't have to stack the new bird residences to add more than a thousand to a single realm. The developers did that on their own.

Are there ways to free up the servers to allow new elements into the game? Yes, although they may be painful.

First, ngmoco:) can email all players who have been inactive for more than six months and tell them their kingdoms will go away to make room for new players and items. Players who have really given up on the game can start playing again. If they don't start playing in a month, remove them from the servers.

Some players won't get the notice because they used bogus emails. Oh well. Players who have multiple kingdoms and no longer use them, will probably be willing to give them up to keep playing their main kingdom.

Next ngmoco:) can limit the number of any single item that can stay in inventory. I think 50 groves and residences, and 1o of any shop would be a start. ngmoco:) could also rotate more buildings out of service. It shouldn't be hard to run a query to find out which items have lost their luster to players. They should keep the original items because they are so easy to earn coins to buy, and the best producers.

But does anyone still want the cheese shop, or romantic bistro or bookstore? Probably not too many, and the ones that do can inventory three or four. First on my list, the shops that don't have cute characters but have mediocre performance: the pie shop, the chimney sweep, the roller coaster, gatehouses, venetian palazzo, chick chalet, corn maze, alpine lodge, bridal boutique, pelt shop, millenary, tea house and Rapunzel's tower.

Just for starters.

Do I want to see most of my inventory go or the remote kingdom I use to test new shops? No. But I would do it in a heart beat if it would help keep the game continuing.

ngmoco:) may not intend to kill the game, but sitting on your hands and hoping players will still love you is no solution either.

No contest

There was only one entrant in my hell kingdom contest and that was me, and I already have copies of the prizes. It dawned on me that it may be too close to Halloween and players may have been waiting for ngmoco:) to announce a contest too. So in case anyone would still like to try their hand, send me a screen shot of any halloween or hell kingdom and.

This is my hell kingdom complete with characters being developed for the show “Raising Hell,” being proposed at Amazon Studios. So far readers have a choice of being visited by Lucifer, Pilgrim, the male or female manifestation of Mephistopheles, and Mrs. Sternmother (the worst boss ever, after Lucifer himself).

One reader will win a free copy of the Grimoire, at least two more will get free copies of Raising Hell, and I will feature the ones I like. So it no longer has to be a hell kingdom, any Halloween theme will do.

Retraction, or, maybe, clarification

When I said in my last post that I wouldn't be surprised if ngmoco:) ended We Rule, I realized I used a phrase that may mean more (or less) than I intended. It takes a lot to surprise me. What it takes to surprise me could easily give someone else a heart attack. When I say I wouldn't be surprised I mean simply, I recognize it's possible. And anything that's possible tends not to surprise me. I do not, however, expect We Rule to end any time soon.

I tend to understate because usually, but not always, it seems safer. Since “surprise” requires a different threshold for different people, I thought I would lay out a scale to indicate how surprised I would be should ngmoco:) end We Rule. In the left column is things that would surprise me less (that I would expect to happen before I would expect We Rule to end). On the right things that would surprise me more. In other words, the demise of We Rule in the near future would be, in my opinion, more likely than any of these.

More likely to happen

  • The Texas Rangers make it to a 3rd consecutive World Series
  • Mitt Romney wins the election
  • Congress lets the country slide into fiscal disaster (sorry, Janet, but you're probably not reading any more anyway)
  • Tony Romo has a winning record for the Cowboys in December
  • United Artists decides Daniel Craig is too old to play 007
  • Marijuana is legalized

Less likely to happen

  • Martians capture the Mars Rover and hold it ransom
  • Ralph Nader and Pat Robertson run for election on the same ticket
  • Tom Cruise wins an Academy Award
  • Not only is there a second coming but a third and fourth as well
  • Soccer becomes America's national sport
  • I changed my mind. Put legalized marijuana here

So there we have it. I hope it's clear now how likely I feel We Rule is to end in November. But, just in case, buy “We Rule: The Hidden Grimoire” from Amazon or iBooks right away so you can rack up as many points as possible before it goes. Carol just finished checking our bank statement and she isn't happy with me.

The game is still on

Just to update yesterday’s post:

I have been busy trying to promote the pilot for an animated series of Raising Amazon studios so I have not been looking beyond the surface of the game. My fault (which is American for mea culpa). I looked at the most recent ngmoco:) blog post which has given some players concern, and while it does say new content releases will be slowing down (or going away), it does say ngmoco:) is looking for new ways to encourage player participation (which probably means less expensive).

Yesterday’s post was based on direct correspondence, and ngmoco:) insists the game is not going away, just changing a lot.

Two enhancements to indicate they haven’t abandoned the game are the new unlocked realms to kingdom 2 (southeast and southwest) and drastically reduced mojo prices. The carafe is half what it used to be (9.99) and the flask is down from $5 to $3 and the vintage issue down from $40 to $25. ngmoco:) eliminated the real bulk buys, but buying three vintage bottles still brings 400 more mojo than the old $100 cask.

The new unlocked realms also give you another canvas to build your hell realm for the Raising Hell contest. Remember one player will get a free copy of the Grimoire and at least two more will get copies of Raising Hell.

I am not so naive that I would be completely surprised it the game suddenly disappeared tomorrow, but ngmoco:) has always been up front in the past, so I feel perfectly comfortable playing on and even buying more mojo.

In the meantime, please visit Amazon studios and follow the series. The more response I get (even if unfavorable) the more likely Amazon is to pay attention. And then I can quit promoting it so heavily and get back to my first love, this blog. I will be posting a short promo video later this week.

The Game is On

To all those worried fans out there, the official word from ngmoco:) is that We Rule is not going away any time soon, if ever. But a few elements of the game are being reviewed sometime after Thanksgiving. This may include events (which are meeting with mixed feelings by players), their facebook presence and even future contests.

I didn't ask why, I didn't need to ask. The market is flooded with social network games demanding that players pony up real cash to buy game items. I've watched a number crash and burn, but they keep coming out. In fact, I've had so many social network games that use game center wipe out all of my progress permanently, I don't bother to even experiment with them unless they run from their own network (such a plus+, or OpenFeint). Game developers have to focus their resources to attract the dwindling dollars out there.

Actually, the only social network game I play now is We Rule. If I'm going to spend money, this is the game I spend for. But even I have a limited budget.

Enjoy the events? Then you might want to blow some mojo on the next one to let ngmoco:) know you want to make it worth their while to keep it around. Don't care? Don't play. The company is evaluating community components of the game, and the best way to tell them is to spend (or withhold) money.

So how can you help ngmoco:) decide what to keep and what to ignore? Participate (or not). Participation, or lack of it, is the best feedback a company can receive. If enough players spend even a little money on events, management will most likely decide to keep it. If you like the facebook updates, like them and comment every time they post a new entry. If you like the contests, follow the facebook posts and enter the contest.

Okay, this isn't completely true. Sometimes someone high enough in management gets obsessed over something and all of the wisdom and marketing share in the world won't stop them. But if the door is open, you should let them know. In the meantime, keep playing and inviting new friends to play. The game should survive barring a total meltdown in Congress next years and complete collapse of the economy because a certain party can't compromise at the fiscal cliff.1 And if that happens, we'll all have to hock our devices and stop playing anyway.

1I'm not going to name the party because most readers will have already decided it's the party they won't be voting for in November.back

Welcome to hell

It’s out at last. For real. The novel you previewed on this site, Raising Hell on Amazon. (You can find it on iBooks and nook after Thanksgiving). Best of all, it’s only $1. (Make sure to rate it.)

I am holding back on the release for iBooks and nook because Amazon will offer the book in their lending library if I give them exclusive rights for 90 days. (And because I let iBooks have the Grimoire first).

What the hell is Raising Hell?

Suppose you were Lucifer and you had lowered hell to the ultimate depths of agony and inefficiency. Every menial task is delegated, leaving you to punish anyone who displeases you for the least provocation. If the Lord It All Over You thinks he got the best of you, he couldn’t be more wrong.

Suddenly an innocent soul arrives in hell. There’s no explanation, just an untraceable administrative error. Even worse, this soul refuses to suffer. In fact, he can’t wait to make hell the best place of everlasting damnation ever. The only way to rectify the situation is to corrupt him as quickly as possible. If that isn’t bad enough, soon after you send him on an assignment that will seal his fate, the Allmighty Pain shows up and demands his return.

The fun doesn’t end with the book. I have also posted a pilot and proposal for a half-hour animated version at Amazon studios. Download the script and tell Amazon you love it. Even if you don’t, but you appreciate all these posts, the rating would help a lot. (After all, you don’t have to specify what the ‘it’ that you love is.)

Submit your own art

But wait, there’s more fun! I am encouraging fans to get their hands dirty and contribute themselves. I am looking for artists who would like to contribute character sketches (and even short stories based on the characters) for fans. I will post the submissions on the website g.d.i. Monday, the site devoted to promote the book and series. If you have talent or know a friend that does, check out the submission guidelines.

Design your own hell

If I like your hell realm I will feature it not just in the Grimoire, but on the g.d.i. Monday web site to reach a larger audience. How cool is that? Not to mention the prizes.

To celebrate the book, I’m also bringing hell to We Rule with a design contest. Design a realm that is so hellish, one of the book’s characters can come to visit. Designs I love will be features on this blog and the Monday site with snapshots of Raising Hell characters (maybe characters you designed or inspired) visiting. I will also award a copy of The Hidden Grimoire to my favorite design and a copy of Raising Hell to at least two additional designers.

To enter, send a screenshot of your realm to the grimoire. Make sure to mention the contest in the subject field as well as your player name and real name. Contest deadline is September 30.

Last pitch

In the meantime, don’t forget to buy copies of Raising Hell for yourself and gift them to all of your Kindle using friends. It will make a great early stocking stuffer and even your friends will owe you big time for thinking of them.

Surf’s up. If you can find the ocean.

That's right. This week's newest items are for surfing fans. You can install a beach house, surfer's hut and surfer's lounge. My question is: How can there be surfer's lounges when We Rule has no oceans? Think about it. We have rivers and lakes, but you can't surf on them because they don't raise surf.

The lounges also have the distinction of being the best value a customer can find and a terrible value for the players who install them. Most shops earn more for the players who install them than those who order. But these earn less than half. (Players earn 1390hcp, vendors, 630, or less than half). This means that when you order, you are actually taking income away from those players that they could be earning if you ordered from the dragonslayer's den or solstice temple.

Does that mean you shouldn't order from the lounges? Absolutely not. Get the income. But it sure places players at L72 in an awkward position. Should they even bother to install them? I have no answer to that question. If you want to attract more customers (or keep them coming), sure. But if you don't want to spend close to two million coins on a sucker deal, you shouldn't feel guilty about passing.

If ngmoco:) continues to release devalued properties, there is only one possibility. We Rule is going communist. Is there any question that this move is suspicious during an election year? No doubt about it.

Raising Hell to launch

Raising Hell, which has been posted to this site (or at least the first few chapters), has already been sent to Amazon. Unfortunately, we are working out some file formatting problems, so it can't be downloaded yet. (Does this sound familiar?) I will let you know as soon as it becomes available.

These are the new surfer's lounges. They don't come with surfers, or an ocean for them to surf on. And vendors lose money when you order from them. But maybe we'll get some Hawaiian palm tress with coconuts and even a surfboard shop.

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