Upgrade features hint at more to come

The promised We Rule 1.6 upgrade went live late last week, with five new realms and five clearly in the waiting for release with a future upgrade. As with all upgrades, ngmoco:) isn’t profuse with details other than to tell us the realms tab is on the left and you have to touch and scroll to find the new realm.

What’s missing from their blog posts is the implication of this development. We Rule developers intend the new interface to be a gateway for the continuous addition of new kingdoms and new realms. Like the social map, gamers can access realms by scrolling further and further to the left.

The new realms can be found to the left of the current realms by scrolling the realms window.

We can also watch the leader board scores explode again. Currently four players are tied for the lead with almost 218 billion (that’s right, billion) points. (This strange identical score could be because all four players are maxed out, but the fact that we have a four way tie for fifth place makes me think there’s a problem with the calculations).

The last time ngmoco:) expanded the realms the old leaders were ousted by new leaders with new energy (and maybe more money to spend for mojo) and this may happen again. Zimidar will probably remain in the top ten as he has since the game’s release. And scores will soon jump to 300 billion because players can now pack their realms with rubies, sapphires, diamonds and high-yield items.

Currently the leader boards feature two statistically weird four-way ties: one for first and one for fifth (or second for people who don’t understand how rankings are determined).

The creeping crawl

The downside of the new realms is that adding new buildings has become a painfully slow process for those of us on first generation iPads and next to impossible for older iPhones. I was building a sample realm for the cover of the iBook release of the Grimoire and it took the server almost a minute to place one item and accept a second item of the same kind.

This will not be fixed with graphics, it really is a problem of bandwidth, server response time and the devices’ processing power. But I suspect ngmoco:) will be able to use the influx of cash from new mojo sales to add and upgrade servers.

New harvest orb

I looked on all of ngmoco:)’s sites for information about the new harvest orb but can’t find anything. Readers may have more luck.

Most will have noticed that the harvest orb can now be used for free, although they no longer deliver a 15 percent boost. What I can’t tell is whether or not this is a permanent change or a temporary move. I’m hoping it’s permanent.

The new harvest orb is now free, but provides no additional boost. Most players will make up for this by checking in more often to harvest since they won’t have to pay every time they use one.

If you regret the loss of the boost, don’t. You can still come out even, if not ahead. I suspect most players have been using the orbs as I have—harvesting from realms with the most groves and residences and harvesting manually in less lucrative realms. I had also harvested only when groves blossomed because that was when I could get the best return for using the orb.

With the free orbs I can harvest as often as I want and move the orb into even the least lucrative realms because I don’t have to buy mojo to use it. I save time and earn more, probably as much as I earned with the boosts.

What? No citadel?

Were you as surprised as I (or at least as disappointed) that our new kingdoms didn’t come with upgradable citadels in the main realm? I would have thought there would at least be an auxiliary outpost to anchor the kingdom. I’m even more surprised because ngmoco:) could have charged outrageous citadel upgrade fees which would have spurred players to use mojo to buy more items to earn the upgrade fees.

What were they thinking? Or not thinking?

New event coming?

Readers may have noticed the following on ngmoco:)’s facebook page:

Reports are flooding in from the citizens at the borders of your Kingdom. They all claim to have witnessed hulking beasts marching through the outskirts of the Realms, being led by smaller, unidentified creatures. We’ve sent Scouts to verify these reports. It’s probably nothing to worry about!

Since I haven’t seen these beasts and creatures, I have to wonder if they aren’t gearing up to another event. In the first round we collect the smaller creatures, whatever they are, and graduate to beasts. ngmoco:) has been announcing they will remove the gift cart during the next event, so this little blurb may be their second hint.

It’s possible that they earned so much on mojo from the flutterflies that they won’t need to charge mojo for the harvest orbs any more.

We can only hope.

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Early Edition: Sneak release and promised update

I don’t know how many players noticed it, but ngmoco:) actually released a couple of major items with no announcement last night. I have no idea why. I simply noticed the “new content” bar and decided to check (even though quite often the new content is nothing). At the bottom of the featured items I found the Thunderbird Lair. On a whim I checked the castles and found the new azure fortress.

The thunderbird is quite electric. Similar to the phoenix he collapses for a while and then revives to take flight. He’s also a very valuable creature, the first to top five figures in combined points.

As I predicted a couple of weeks ago, the crimson dragon lair wouldn’t be the second most valuable item in player kingdoms for long. The thunderbird’s release topples all other building for return, by almost 6000cp. It also breaks the million coin price barrier, clocking in at 1,250,000c (60m).

I’d been saving up my coins for a while because I know that ngmoco:) releases a blockbuster item every three months or so, but this almost doubles previous returns. It also means even more expensive buildings in the future, but as return values rise with them they should be more affordable. More experienced players may remember the paltry 4c return every four hours for the cottages at the beginning of the game. Last I checked they were 10c every 5 minutes.

The azure fortress is even more expensive at a million and a half coins. It’s incredibly large, hiding a number of groves and fields.

The azure fortress is absolutely enormous. It’s a deeper shade of blue than earlier fortresses, although I think the dark castle was the most attractive so far. The emerald and orange fortresses were fairly pretty too.

Click to see larger image

Save those coins

ngmoco:) has announced the pending release of version 1.6, which apparently will include a new kingdom with five new realms. So start saving coins to fill those new realms (and buy them). They also promise a lot more stability.

Developers are reducing the bit depth of the graphics which will make them a lot less processor intensive. If you don’t understand, the number of bits in an image drastically increase the processing power required to render them. Since the game isn’t photorealistic the reduction in pixel depth should’t hurt the look of the game at all. In fact, they could probably do it with eight bits and still get decent results.

Finally, ngmoco:) says they will be removing the gift cart during future events, so this also means we will see more flutterflies, dragons and their offspring in the future.

It’s been a busy week so we’ll count this as Monday’s post. Hopefully the game will get more exciting and a lot less aggravating.

Dobbie doesn’t know these elves

Important notice! I’m taking a few weeks off the main blog to pull together and update the best pieces and organize them into The Hidden Grimoire for release on iBooks to give readers a more convenient access to the essentials of the game.

I will continue to run the numbers and post them as usual, so I won’t be abandoning you, just not doing the weekly blog. I’ll be back around September 12.


Harry Porter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weezley1 found themselves in the kingdom of totalthinker with no idea how they arrived. Harry adjusted his glasses and scratched the phantom lighting bolt on his head that still seemed to pain him long after his last battle with Volderwort. “How did we get here again?” he asked, casting an impatient glance at Ron who had his nose buried in the want ads.

“Someone said there were new magical abodes in this kingdom and the prices have to be lower than the real estate prices around Hogwarts.”

Hermione slipped her arm through Ron’s and said, “Now that our twelfth redhead is on the way we need a larger house.” She put her free hand on her belly, a belly Harry imagined was now covered with stretch marks like a the paint patterns on a Jackson Pollock painting. He was so glad he married Jenny, who it seemed, did not share the Weezley proclivity to breed like flying bunnies.

After giving birth to Minerva Pamono Trelawney Porter, their third beautiful but non-magical child, Jenny cast a vasectomy spell while Harry was sleeping, just in case he he had his own Weezley moment and got cold feet at the muggle doctor’s. Which was fine with Harry. Royalties were down on his autobiography because Volderwort was a distant memory. Even his own kids shouted, “Dad, get over it. The time of dinosaurs has passed,” if the name ever came up at the dinner table.

“I don’t know,” Harry said. “This neighborhood looks a little wrong.” He swept his arm to indicate the orange trees and green and gold houses and the vast fields of orange grass. “Where are the giant spiders and the hippogriffs? Where are the magical abodes you came looking for? This looks more like the condominium nightmare of a game designer who dropped one tab too many of orange sunshine.”

This was the new subdivision Ron and Hermione visited to look for a bigger house. Everything in sight was green or orange and the trees all looked like homecoming mums.

“Those are in the southeast realm with the magical theme,” said a voice from behind them.

They turned to see a green creature that looked like a half human, half wart hog with a crown of tusks, a ram’s head staff and a purple kilt. He bowed before them. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am the goblin king, but since the Republicans took control of the house and no’d the economy back into a mudslide I’ve had to double as a real estate agent.”

“How’s that going?” Ron asked.

“I’m just glad I’m a character in this game, and not someone on the outside.”

Ever since he identified himself Hermione had been shaking her head violently. “You’re no goblin. I know goblins and they’re gray and sit behind desks and look down their noses at you because you don’t have any of the money they’re guarding in the vaults.”

“I do,” Harry said.

Hermione cast him a glare that Ron knew well. It meant I will make your life so miserable you will wish you stayed at home playing with your spells and never dated. And since Hermione couldn’t punish Harry herself, she would insist that Ron stop going over to Harry’s to watch the Manchester United Quidditch matches on his 70 inch high def TV. Which was really a punishment for Ron since it was the only evening of the week he got away from the kids.

Unlike Hermione, he sympathized with the goblin king. The damn Republicans had even slashed the budget to the ministry of magic as a “job creating measure,” and as a consequence Ron and his brothers were all laid off and his father’s pension slashed in half. Now Hermione was the sole bread winner and she never let him forget that either.

“Those are Hogwarts goblins, our distant cousins. They spend too much time indoors and lose all their color. Besides, people don’t know bank goblins get paid worse than anybody else so they have to sell their green skin pigment to the Federal Reserve to print money.”

“What’s the big deal, Hermione,” Harry asked. “You’re all about equal rights for magical creatures.” Ron cringed inside. Harry didn’t have to back down to Hermione because he didn’t have to live with her. It was hard to imagine she had been so agreeable, and so hot, back in school. When the upper classmen tweeted those nipslip photos of her at the beach, she’d been furious, but he’d been proud because that was his girl.

They wouldn’t be tweeting any pictures now.

“We need to move into a larger house,” Ron said. “We have eleven at home and this one. We’re living in my parents house and they had half as many kids.”

“Whose fault is that?” Hermione challenged. “Some of us do work for a living.”

The goblin king/real estate agent (GKREA) quickly beckoned for them to follow him, clearly a seasoned veteran at dealing with home buyer bickering. “This is our newest subdivision, the elven estates. We may have exactly what you need. All of the homes are modular and can be arranged to house four families, or one family of sixteen.”

As they followed the GKREA up the quartz steps they passed a siamese cat holding a sign that read: “More symeze catz, not black ones.”

Ron leaped back. “Holy muggles. How many claws does that cat have?”

“Thirty-five at last count,” the GKREA said, “but she’s actually from another blog. That’s Jenny Manytoes. She was upset that there were no cats in the kingdom, then someone pointed out that they were all black and hid well. So now she’s trying to save face by demanding siamese cats.”

A beautiful female creature with pale skin and pointed ears floated by, her feet about six inches above the grass. “What kind of creature is that?” Hermione demanded.

“An elf, of course,” said the GKREA. “I told you this was the elven realm.”

Ron and Harry could both see it coming. “That’s not an elf. An elf is short and dumpy and almost as gray as a goblin. What kind of place are you running here?”

Harry said to Ron, under his breath, “You’d think with all those thousands of books she read she would have stumbled across Lord of the Rings.”

“That was before she discovered the real magic weed in wizardry grad school,” Ron whispered back. “Hundreds of ‘study sessions’ and twelve kids later there isn’t too much space left in the memory banks.”

Both shut up immediately when they noticed Hermione’s glare was withering the orange grass at their feet.

The GKREA brought them to a courtyard filled with green, gold and glass houses. The sharp angles and arced roofs reminded Harry of lazy Bauhaus architecture. “I would sign up now,” he said. “The price is lower because of the rolling brownouts the developers created with this newest series of designs. Sometimes the kingdom disappears entirely several times a day. And elf houses are sturdy but they feel flimsy on account of elf materials being mostly air.”

A black dragon swooped at them and he beat it off with his ram’s staff. “Bloody buggers,” he swore. “They used to be the most rare and precious creatures in the kingdom. Now they’re as common as pigeons.”

He noticed all three staring and said, “Well, go on. They don’t breathe fire or anything. They just beg for food and petting.” He segued back into his sales pitch with nary a pause. “People can’t even place orders at the creekside properties, they just get a blank page or the order won’t process. We’re supposed to get a Pegasus Aviary and Assembly Hall, but the king has tried the gift shop several times and just ended up with another dozen giant spider webs.” He shuddered. “Who wants those?”

“How much for one of the corner residences?” Ron asked.

“Ron, don’t you think we should take some time to consider?” Hermione asked, in her casual stern threatening way. The bullying way that all positively cheerful girls develop when they reach middle age and discover other people still have minds of their own.

The GKREA jumped in ahead of her. “Better act quickly,” he said. “Unlike Hogwarts, things in this kingdom tend to go away entirely in a couple of weeks. If you wait, you may get stuck with sub Saharan mud huts or vampire mausoleums.”

“Can you loan us a couple of hundred thousand quid then, Harry?” Ron asked.

“Why call it a loan?” Harry answered. “It’s not as though you ever pay anything back.”

“We take mojo,” the GKREA said. “It’s the only real currency in play around here. And after the house Republicans tanked the economy by playing chicken with the debt deal, the mojo beats the pound or the dollar any day.”


1Even though the actual character names should be in the public domain, regardless of the status of the books and movies, I couldn’t afford to take the chance that JK Rowling might be as litigious as Disney.back


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.

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)

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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.

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Qbert Extravaganza award

Susan Moon Escujuri (moontown)

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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.

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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.

Building your customer base

Let’s get the happy chit chit out of the way. We definitely seem to be on a three day a week product release cycle in We Rule. For the last two weeks ngmoco:) has released new items on Monday, Thursday and Friday. We also have a new level, 45, and a rounder castle to go with it (at almost a million coins).

According to the Mojo Farm, who have a much less tormented relationship with ngmoco:) than I, you will need almost ten million points to move to L45. Go for it, but be aware that ngmoco:) may be making it more and more difficult for newer players to get there than it was for those of us who have played longer.

The new citadel is still orange. I thought it might be gold, but Carol and I discussed it and both decided this was a stepping-stone citadel between L40 and L50. We decided the next citadel should be diamond. Perhaps when they finally unveil L50 we’ll also get a diamond cathedral for two million.

The developers have also been escalating the stakes. This week they released Olympus and the Chimera’s Temple, both of which have the two highest combined point payouts. Olympus blew the totals off the charts with 90cp per hour and the Chimera’s Temple follows with 75cp. The previous highs are in the 50s.

We have also seen some really weird shops. The Ferry of the Dead and Poseidon’s Fount both deliver high hourly combined totals, but in one hour. It hardly seems worth the effort. In fact, Poseidon’s Fount pays better when it’s idle than when it’s in use.

Who knows where this trend could lead? Certainly it forces players to keep spending on new buildings to stay competitive. What’s most interesting is the price inflation. The ratio of coins required to purchase versus mojo required to purchase is increasing rapidly.

The big ticket item when I first started playing, the dragon’s lair, sold for 100,000c or 50m. The next big ticket item, the jousting arena, also sold for 50m but the coin price increased to 150,000. Olympus and Chimera’s Temple still sell for 50m, but the coin price has leaped to 450,000 and 500,00c.

Both the original dragon and chimera were released as premium shops. The mojo price hasn’t changed, but the chimera is 400,000c more expensive.

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The coin price has increased 500 percent, while the mojo price remains the same. You do the math. The incentive is to clearly to buy with mojo where the purchase price has remained level.

In fact, when you think about it, the mojo purchase price has fallen significantly in terms of real dollars. The previous discount price for mojo had been 800 for $50, or 63¢ per mojo. This made the price of a premium item slightly more than three dollars.50.

Currently you can buy 2000m for $100 ($75 or $80 during sales). That brings the real cost down to a nickel per mojo at the non-discount price, or $2.50 per building—a 60¢ reduction. The numbers make it clear that ngmoco:) is building a subtle incentive to abandoning coin purchases and moving toward mojo.

Consider the real cost. If you add twenty new buildings a month to keep up with the competition, and you buy them with mojo, you could be spending upward of fifty dollars a month to do so. That’s four movie tickets and ten six-packs of cheap beer.

Or a week’s worth of groceries for one precious child.

But you need to invest in the best businesses available at your level to attract customers, and that brings me to today’s strategy tip.

Attracting customers

Kort22 wrote that he’s a L39 and still doesn’t have many customers. He wanted to know what advice I could give him to attract customers.

He already made his one move in the right direction by posting the question in the comments section and inviting readers to his kingdom. Nor is he (I’m assuming Kort is a masculine personna) alone. I frequently visit high level kingdoms with few customers, and I often see players slowly lose their customer base over time.

The player’s dilemma is not only attracting customers but keeping them. I found myself in the same position, but I started to address this much earlier. And while it’s never too late, the earlier you start building your customer base the better. Nor will I downplay the difficulty. Attracting and keeping customers is the most difficult challenge players face.

Not all players, but most.

Pure magic or luck

Carol started attracting customers right off the bat, and we never could figure out why she was more successful even though I put in so much more effort. And she remains just as popular even though I have the blog.

You just have to accept that some players attract more customers.

We have several theories, none of them provable, but they do come from our experience with promoting non-profits we’ve worked with in the past.

First, Carol chose the cuter name. Don’t laugh. Who would you be more attracted to for an impulse visit: Totalthinker or JennyManytoes?

Second, she had a cuter icon. She started with the pink kitten, and then we used the real Jenny’s face. I stayed with one of the generic icons for Godfinger for far too long. There’s something about pets for icons, they’re irresistible. One of my favorite players to visit is NYCaveDweller, partially because of the American Eskimo in her icon. He reminds us of our favorite dog Pooka, now long gone.

(Pooka was just like me. He always tried to find wiggle room in the rules. We trained him to do a down stay (lie flat on the floor with paws in front) and he never broke the position. What he would do, however, was ooch across the floor, on his belly, to wherever he wanted to be. And he would do it when we weren’t looking. How could you not love a dog like that.)

You don’t want to change your user name, but you should think long and hard about your player icon. I finally settled on variations of Bob Dobbs for all three kingdoms, not because people know who Bob is, but because the image is so iconic. And sales picked up.1

However, I will stick with cute as the standard. You can’t go wrong with puppies and kittens, maybe an endearing monkey if you can find one. But puppies and kittens are best.

Stock your kingdom with shops that give the highest return

I only shop with people who have shopped with me. That list is more than 100 names long so I have to rotate through it. I guarantee I would not start shopping from a kingdom that had low-paying shops if I didn’t already have a relationship with them.

Sorry, readers, but the sad news is that players who already have a customer base are not going to start buying from you if your best shop is the tavern or the inn. Yes, some players will cut you slack if you’re L16 because we want to help you get started. But if you’re L30 and your best shop is the cheese shop or the cobbler, we’re not coming back.

Which of the two kingdoms would you order from if you wanted to earn a higher return on coins or experience? Most players would rather order from Zimidar (the top kingdom), which is one of the reasons he’s ranked second. The bottom kingdom has a ruby citadel, so the player isn’t doing badly. But Zimidar’s kingdom is full.

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Suck it up, save the coins (or buy some mojo) and invest in the best shops available at your level. Not the most expensive, but the ones with the highest returns. Right now those would be Olympus, Chimera’s Temple and the Vineyards. Even if you add just two, you will start attracting customers because they hope to get the good shops on the return visit.

The shops that pay huge returns over a longer period of time are always the most popular. The shops that return in less than two days tend to take less orders, even if the hourly payout is better. People like to park their investments.

Throw in a couple of well-paying shops that are less popular, such as the red dragon, cartographer or apothecary and visitors will still probably place an order even if the best shops are taken.

If they return and see yet another high-return shop they didn’t see on the last visit, chances are even better they’ll return again.

Location, location

Don’t keep the old shops in your main kingdom and put the better shops in the new realms. A lot of players won’t make the jump if they don’t see the best shops right away. Sorry, but those are the cold hard facts.

You don’t have to clear out your main kingdom and keep all the best shops there, but that’s where you should install the first ones. Unlike me, you don’t have to plant shops just to find out what the return is. I try to have the numbers on each new shop posted by the end of that day and the Mojo Farm stays current too. Look for the best shops on the lists and buy them.

If players see a good shop in your main kingdom, even if it’s filled, they’re more likely to look for others in your additional realms. Even the top players don’t turn over their main kingdom overnight. So you can add more good shops in other realms as long as visitors see at least one in your main kingdom.

Here’s how I do it. If a new shop turns out to be the top earner, I put two in my main kingdom, even if something older has to go. If it pays in the top five or ten, I put at least one. Then I start adding more through my other realms as I earn the coins. If a shop stays full, I add another one immediately, and I continue to do so until one or two of them stop taking orders consistently.

In the past I’ve carried as many as fourteen red dragons, and I currently carry about that many vineyards. Now that the red dragons are starting to turn up empty, I will begin to replace them with new copies of Olympus or the Chimera’s temple.

Build loyalty

If you order from a player several times, chances are they will begin to order from you (if you have the best shops for your level). New players are desperate to find buyers so they are also good players to cultivate. If you find a kingdom at L30 or above with a lot of good empty shops, they also tend to return orders.

Keep track of who you order from, and—more importantly—who orders from you. If someone does order, you should return the order as soon as the kingdom is open, especially when that player is also trying to build their kingdom.

Screenshot the names of players who order before you accept. The name information often gets lost in later dialogues.

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When someone places an order take a screen shot of their name before you accept the order. This was the only way I could make sure I didn’t spell the players’ names wrong. You will discover that shop dialogues frequently truncate player names once the order is accepted so that opening dialogue is your best opportunity.

I kept a record of everyone who ordered from me and whether or not I had returned the order for several months. I only stopped when the log began to consume several hours of my day.

I kept a log of every customer and their order, and whether or not I had returned it, in Filemaker for the iPad. A spreadsheet or text file will work just as well.

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Players at my level are less likely to return orders quickly. Sadly, I’m just too busy to visit other kingdoms with the frequency I used to visit, and my list is now three time as long. I try to get back to work through my list of friends at least every two or three days. But I’m an exception and many players at the higher levels don’t return orders at all. So they are not the best customers to try to attract. Your main target is players who want your business too.

On the other hand, if I ordered from players more than three times and they still didn’t return the favor, I moved on. If they really want your business, they’ll give you theirs.

Keeps your shops open

Never ever order from shops if it will keep people from ordering with you. You can only have thirty orders in and out of your kingdom (give or take a couple). If you have ten shops and twenty five orders out, that’s five shops people can’t buy from.

As your shops multiply, you may want to stop ordering from your primary user id entirely (except for quests). Set up a second account with the same player icon and a number at the end of your current user name (e.g., leadbelly and leadbelly2). Keep it as simple as possible. I started with ttringer (totalthinker ringer) and it was nowhere near as successful as totalthinker2.

Advertise

When you return orders from your auxiliary kingdom(s), make sure to let people know they should order from your main kingdom. Roads or bushes are useful for writing messages. Keep the message simple. “Visit leadbelly” or “order from leadbelly” should do the trick.

Carol and I argue about this, but I don’t think it’s wise to add shops to your adjunct kingdom. Too many people simply order from those shops and don’t order from the main kingdom. I stuck a ship in one realm of totalthinker2 to simply decorate a lake and people kept ordering from that. I even put empty fields by the boat, but they still kept ordering. Don’t make your life harder.

On the other hand, Carol does allow people to order from her second kingdom and it’s reached L44. So there are arguments both ways.

Advertise anywhere you can. Post notes at Get Satisfaction letting players know you’re looking for customers. Write a review at the app store and leave your username so players can find you. Do a google search for other We Rule forums and post messages as well.

Just make sure other players know your We Rule username because your forum login can’t help them find you if it’s different.

Finally, you can even write a self-promoting ad in your username information box.

Play other games

I only started playing We Farm, We City and Godfinger because some of my customers invited me. I thought I would go ahead and shop from them in those games as well. I soon discovered I was bringing friends from We City and We Farm to my kingdom in We Rule.

The only way to get people to your shops is to let them know you’re out there and to let them know you have better deals than the players who don’t want to spend their coins on keeping their kingdoms up to date. You have to treat your kingdom like a business. I wouldn’t actually write a business plan, but if you have no experience with marketing do some research yourself and see if you can find new marketing tricks you can bring to your game.

Special Second Post: Stacking controversy continues

After my hopeful post on stacking a couple of weeks ago, ngmoco:) has decided to play hard ball with stackers. Yes, officially you can stack, but only within narrow guides. And now they don’t want building on building stacking either.

From what I can pick up on the grapevine, ngmoco:) is cracking down on grove and building stacking, albeit inconsistently. But the trend does seem to be there. One player, Albert70, was banned for life without warning. You can follow his thread in the Mojo Farm’s forums.

I don’t know what level he had attained, or how much stacked. Nor, so far as I can tell from following different forums, is there official information out there.

This is the information from Acehound’s comment in this blog. Evidently this comes from Joe Wagner at the ngmoco:) support desk.

“240 total groves in the main realm – regardless of type, combination or method of purchase.

196 total groves in directional realms – regardless of type, combination or method of purchase.

Sliding business on groves will not be tolerated.

Sliding business on business will not be tolerated. (my emphasis)

Although the game console allows you to purchase additional groves via different currency or alternate type of grove, it is up to each player to know the limit and play within it.”

I think ngmoco:) should write every player to announce this policy. I don’t understand why they aren’t willing to make an official communication. I get emails all the time about new quests and new buildings. It can’t be that hard to send an email explaining company policy on stacking.

Yes, there are supposed to be posts from players explaining the new conditions, but expecting players to spread the word hardly constitutes an official policy statement. And they seem to be inconsistent in their enforcement, as I discussed last week.

Most players don’t follow forums or blogs. Many aren’t even aware the posts exist. And even if they did, many couldn’t speak English.

We should have been informed of this policy before we made the mojo purchases to buy the diamonds (and in many cases rubies). I’m sorry, but this is the first case I have heard of where the seller demands an unconditional refund of the product from buyers without giving the money back.

I certainly understand why they would want to stop players from stacking twenty or thirty businesses together. I can even begrudge them the desire to avoid having a kingdom with a thousand rubies in every realm.

I think they are stepping over the line when they banish players for sliding one or two buildings together for aesthetic reasons.

I also suspect their lawyers would tell them they can’t tell players how to use items after they’ve purchased them through the game in good faith without attaching an official disclaimer prior to purchasing the mojo or the building. I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. But I have been involved in legal wrangling over similar circumstances involving other parties, and this is how I would interpret the situation.

Nor should they say it is up to each player to know the limit, when, in fact, it hasn’t been included in any disclaimers.

Here’s the bottom line, however. Suppose I cull 100 groves from one realm to get closer to the unofficial/official 192 ceiling. At 8m a grove that means I have just thrown away 800m in purchases (or the $50 package, assuming I bought at the discount).

That’s $50 I pissed away for groves I built in good faith. Let’s assume Acehound lost five hundred groves a realm in the purge and he bought the bulk of the groves with mojo. (I’m also assuming they left 196 groves rather than purging everything; otherwise he lost far more). That’s a thousand dollars he paid ngmoco:) to rent groves for a couple of months. Even if he bought one of every four groves with mojo, he still lost more than $200,

He’s being nice about it. He admits he took a short cut, and other players have played the game closer to the developer’s intention. The fact remains that it was an expensive short cut which he took in good faith.

And, yes, I do think that mojo makes it easier for players with the money to outperform poorer players. Stripping his groves isn’t going to make the game more equitable for players with less disposable income; it simply rips both the wealthier and the poorer players off.

But there you have it. You have to decide what you are willing to risk as a player.

The fine line between creative license and abuse

Sadly for defenders of the free market, there will always be people who can’t see the difference between creativity and abuse. And, as with any ethical question, there will always be examples that border on the ambiguous.

Conservatives hate regulations because they try to define a line where the ethical boundaries have been crossed. And, in their defense, a defined line will always create injustices both the people being regulated and those the regulations are intended to protect.

Unfortunately, without a defined line, someone will abuse the market or game at every opportunity. Almost everyone finds himself defending both ethical extremes at some point or other. For instance, those who want looser business regulations because it is better to allow a few businesses to abuse the market in order to protect the license and freedom of responsible businesses, would be perfectly willing to maintain capital punishment because they believe we can’t let the possible execution of innocents deter the certain execution of the guilty.

Fortunately, We Rule is a game and the creators have much more leeway to deal with situations where players discover solutions to the challenges of the game. To set such a precise number or threaten banishment for life (or mow down entire kingdoms of rubies) seems a little rigid.

Sliding one chimera’s temple slightly into another to break up the rigid symmetry of the grid seems like a good design choice. Should a player be banned for life for this?

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Should a player be banned for life for creating sight gags with buildings, like this boat crash? Or does a lifetime ban seem a little severe for expressing a sense of humor.

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Is a player who stacks six vineyards to create a wine condominium cheating, or is she experimenting with design? What if she builds a swimming pool from bridges, lakes and fences and places it behind the condo in the middle of a grove of trees? And then adds some tents and a gazebo for landscaping?

Too warm, too cold or just right? We can understand why stacking red dragons as tightly (as in the top example) might push the envelope too far. But I think it’s a shame that the example on the bottom would no longer be allowed. It completely changes the dynamic of positive and negative space without overpacking or making it difficult for players to select.

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How do we interpret her intent?

Is it fair to say a player with six buildings that he stacks so he can add a large lake with several ships is breaking the rules, when another player plants nothing but vineyards and groves from border to border, but doesn’t stack any of them? Or, in accordance with the standards, fills a ream with 192 stacked groves and wall-to-wall vineyards squeezed slightly together in the remaining space?

What if a player wants to stack 768 groves in one realm and none in the other three? Why force him or her to distribute them evenly?

It will be difficult to say determine when a player crosses a line, but I think, going forward we could establish rough guidelines rather than rigid rules followed by draconian punishment. Rather than placing a precise limit on the number of groves, especially since so many were placed before the uproar started, ngmoco:) might offer players the option of removing their groves, or accepting a reduction in their place on the leadership board. I would gladly move back a couple of hundred places to have more leeway with my design.

Why not simply set a limit on the number of productive groves a player can buy? Rather than locking them out of the ability to purchase a grove at a certain point, they could allow players to continue to stack but no longer earn experience points from the new groves.

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot

What makes even less sense to me is that ngmoco:) has been encouraging players to use mojo to buy ruby and diamond groves with no indication that they will punish them if they go too far. But even if they don’t see the contradiction, isn’t the anti-stacking campaign going to financially undermine mojo sales?

Think about it. If I have a ceiling on groves I can purchase, and I can’t stack buildings, and I can’t expand into additional realms, what incentive do I have to buy mojo? I might as well just take my time and buy everything with coins. Sooner or later I’m going to end up in the same place as every other player who maxes his or her limits.

This is especially true since ngmoco:) still isn’t letting us inventory old purchases. Trust me, it is very hard to convince my readers they should be selling off older shops to invest in new ones (even with coin purchases which are financially painless). Why would they do so when they face a limit on what they can upgrade?

If however, they could slide a new building slightly into an older building’s space to make room for both, they might spend the mojo.

This brings me to a conclusion that seems really strange considering the fact that we’re playing a game.

We do have some power

I hate to say this at this stage, but it might be worth discussing a boycott on mojo purchases for a specified period of time.

I have already noticed some of the top players are bailing on the game, or cutting back their participation. I can’t help but think it’s the new unwritten rules that have encouraged their departures.

Why not make it clear to ngmoco:) and their overseas owners that banning players or forcing to sell off what they bought runs against their bottom line?

I don’t care if you oppose stacking or like it, ngmoco:) has made it clear that they are willing to change the rules of the game without telling players in advance, even when that means players will lose their investment. You may not like how players used that investment this time, but you may discover that the next time your innocent mistake will cost you money.

And we have to be honest. We Rule has become a big business. They are begging us to not only play and spend on We Rule, but countless other games too. The business tactics they take against these players in We Rule today, may become the business tactics they take with your game and your strategies tomorrow.

I’ve seen this happen before. Making an impression on a business takes teamwork. Carol and I have learned this over the years. She plays good cop, and I can play good cop or bad cop depending on the situation. In situations like these the best strategy is to combine the positive fan support of a site like the Mojo Farm and the threat of customer backlash from a second source.

So I’m throwing this out there. I will be scaling back my own stacking, but I want to see something back from the company because I put time, effort and money into the groves I’m about to start culling.

Nor was I upset when they locked me out of additional grove purchases—with coins. But it irritates the hell out of me I’m still allowed to buy them with mojo, which I paid for, in a gamble that they will overlook my stacking. Or that they expect me to take the initiative to search the blogs and forums to discover how much of a gamble that is, or to even become aware that it is a gamble at all.

And that is the ultimate gesture of cynicism and hypocrisy.

Beginning a discussion on the possibility of boycotting mojo (and Gro, and Zap and Awe) purchases for a week or two, or longer, is something we should consider. Hopefully the discussion will lead them to rethink their new approach to player relations.

If they continue to ban players for life, without warning, we should stop discussing. We should do it.

Power to the players.


1Do a word search on the web and send your hundred dollars. The invasion may be late, but it’s still coming.back

Abbreviation key:

  • c = coins
  • m = mojo
  • xp = experience points

Turn the Heat On

Monday evening update: As is this wasn’t long enough, I have to eat crow and admit the ghost girl did finally show up along with a new cemetery and tiny flying bats.

The truth is, I’m glad she waited so long. It allowed me to carp one day longer. Here is the ghost girl in my north kingdom.

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Spoiler alert! I will post next week’s blog on Sunday as a Halloween special, We Rule in Hell. A reader asked me for stories about We Rule characters and I promised him I would, but I decided to write an entry about people who play the game instead.

I originally intended to post a short blog today and post the special on Saturday. Then I wrote a long blog anyway because I can’t keep my mouth shut.


Halloween Bonanza

Let me start with a happy note. After ngmoco:) shamelessly promoted Tampa Bay’s baseball team in We Farm, the Rangers beat them and now they’re in the World Series against another team who’s gone just as long without a World Series championship, the Giants (at least they won a series since the move to the West Coast).

This is what ngmoco:) gets for shamelessly promoting a cause that has nothing to do with their games. I would never do that in this blog. At least not something like baseball.

Go Rangers.

Now, back to important stuff.

Aren’t the Jack O’Lanterns cool? And they actually give off reasonable experience points.

The Jack O’Lanterns are pretty cool and they actually provide a decent hourly return in experience points, which very few crops do. What I really want to know, however, is how do those pumpkins carve themselves before they’re ripe?

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After requests for seasonal items, ngmoco:) is really going overboard with Halloween trinkets. We have Halloween in spades. In addition to the Jack O’Lanterns, We Rule has already given us a Haunted House, a Broomstick Boutique and two kinds of spooky trees. With another week before Halloween we could still get a cemetery with dancing skeletons, a witches cauldron and even a fairy princess, because little girls love to be fairy princesses on Halloween.

Maybe we’ll even get turkey groves and pumpkin pie shops for Thanksgiving. And Indian canoes for our lakes to go right beside the naval ships. Perhaps a funny little Puritan hat factory. Wait until Christmas. We could get a yule log, and elf toy factory, reindeer stables. Maybe even a chimney for Santa Claus to drop down. I’m spinning with anticipation.

But you know me. I can never be happy. According to the splash pages, the house and broomstick were supposed to come with a dancing scarecrow and a ghost girl. The scarecrow didn’t show up in my kingdom until yesterday, and then only in my west realm. I have yet to see the ghost girl. Carol says she finally saw her jumping around late last night, but I never saw a screen shot of the fairies and I’m waiting to see a screen shot of the ghost girl before I’ll believe.

What’s going on here? I know ghosts and fairies are supposed to be invisible, but they have to pop up sometime.

The scarecrow didn’t show up until yesterday and I still can’t find him (or her) in my main kingdom. Somehow, he doesn’t look as comical as he does on the splash screen now that he’s reduced down to that tiny size.

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The bonanza didn’t stop with We Rule. On Friday, Both We City and We Farm gave us a Haunted House, and a Pumpkin Patch. We Farm also gave us Candy Corn for a crop. Godfinger added coffins, pumpkins and gargoyles. How cool is that?

Here’s the candy corn in We Farm. I bet you thought they made it in factories didn’t you? I did. This just goes to show how little you can know these days even with a post-graduate degree. Even my cousin Lee, who is a farmer, didn’t know you could grow candy corn.

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And we still have a week to go. Who knows what other holiday treats are in store? I hope you have room in your kingdoms.

By the way, you can see We Farm’s ghost girl. She started haunting the farm the moment her house was erected.

Here is We Farm’s haunted house. You can see the ghost girl floating nearby. So why can’t we see We Rule’s ghost girl? Or the fairies?

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See? Here’s We Rule’s haunted house, but no ghost girl. I want a ghost girl, don’t you? As a side note, isn’t it cool how I got birds in the spooky trees?

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They fixed the Vintage Chateau by giving us grape girl after the fact, so I want to see ghost girl and the scarecrow. You can add them late. We know you can do it now. And maybe you can make the fairies show up too.

Some people don’t have any more room, and that’s caused a flurry of new posts about storage for older buildings. And perhaps a little anger. Perhaps it’s time to segue into a new subhead.

Hey, ngmoco:), are you listening?

What should have been a happy weekend for ngmoco:) may have become a nightmare instead. After an initially positive response to the diamond groves, players are turning on the developers like Americans turned on Obama.

In Obama’s defense, we were in deep doody when he took office; the economy arguably would have been much worse for everybody without him. But he didn’t go far enough. The only people who seem to have benefited from his initiatives are the bankers who got us into this mess, took our money when they needed it and paid it back when they didn’t, and still never gave out loans to stimulate small businesses and the economy.

And Republicans. They benefited because Obama didn’t go far enough and now people forgot that they helped the bankers get us into this mess. (And Clinton, we can’t let his administration’s willingness to loosen banking standards off the hook).

Wait a minute, readers may be thinking. This is a game blog, not a political blog.

Fear not, I am not making a political point here, or encouraging readers to keep the Republicans from returning to power and mucking things up again. The Democrats have proved themselves just as capable of mucking things up so I say, let them stay in office and clean up everybody’s mess.

Nor am I making a political endorsement, I am drawing an analogy to the Obama-like decisions of ngmoco:). They to promised change in the form of a major upgrade. They listened to suggestions and gave us diamond trees and Halloween stuff. And just like American loved Obama for a week before they ran out of patience, gamers loved ngmoco:) for a week before they ran out of patience.

Why? Because they compromised and gave us half of what we wanted.

After many happy comments about diamond trees on this blog, I pointed out that they weren’t quite the diamond trees we asked for and now readers are comparing the diamond trees to a windfall for rich players who can spend freely on mojo while poor players fall further behind.

Okay, I agree on that one.

Come on ngmoco:), how hard is it to add diamond trees for 15,000 coins? That would price them at a comparative value to rubies (10,000c for 100c and 85xp six-hour return compared to 15,000c for 150c and 105xp six-hour return). Hell, chuck the price to 20000c if you have to be tight-fisted. I would still rather spend coins than mojo, and then I will have paid for them the American way, by earning them.

But I think what really set players off was all this Halloween stuff, especially the part where lower level players have to pony up real cash to buy mojo to enjoy Halloween in their kingdoms and they have no more room to place them.

Yes, President Obama, we all wanted health care reform (well those of us who weren’t making a profit on health care) (oh, and Republicans). But we wanted the economy fixed first. I know you were afraid that if you fixed the economy first the Republicans would kill health care just like they did during the Clinton administration. And, yes, the economy is better but who can remember that far back to make a comparison? You should know Americans well enough to know that better is never good enough, we want the economy fixed. You should have gotten your priorities straight.

And guess what, ngmoco:)? You should have learned the same lessons. Sure we wanted diamond groves and seasonal stuff, but we really wanted storage space so we could move items from one realm to another, or to store stuff like the new seasonal items when Halloween is over and the Thanksgiving items show up.

You should know players well enough to know that diamond trees and haunted houses will never be enough.

Listen to some of the posts on the Get Satisfaction site last week:

“Dan replied to We Rule realms: moving buildings and objects, a question about ngmoco.

IT’s BEEN 4 months since this was asked and they have still not done it. If your not doing it then please tell us.”

So what if he misspelled “your” (sic)? He’s angry.

How about this one?

“TurnTheHeatOn:

I agree with Dan. If you’re not going to do it, then just tell us so we don’t keep waiting for it.”

Or this one?

“Cindy:

I agree, I posted something months ago! It seems as if they figure if they just ignore it long enough, it will just go away. Keep offering more things to buy, but running out of places to put them. To bad that Ngmoco doesn’t have enough repspect for its followers, to at least like you say, tell us ‘we can’t or WON’T do it’ then we can move on and let this go……”

This may seem a little extreme, but ngmoco:) did reply to the original post, more than four months ago, that they were definitely taking this under consideration. And they did announce a major upgrade a few weeks back. Not just more shit. A “major upgrade.”

All I can say is, ngmoco:) had better deliver or the voters may kick them out of office in a couple of weeks.

Oh, wait.

All I can say is, Obama and the Democrats better act fast because unlike ngmoco:) the voters can kick them out of office in a couple of weeks. We Rule fans just have to enjoy the game we’ve got.

And keep complaining. Trust me, if we have to pony up for mojo, we have the right to complain.

Speaking of space

I’ve noticed comments on this blog and ngmoco:)’s Get Satisfaction site that some players don’t see the point in paying good coins for realm upgrades when they don’t get anything out of it.

This leads me to this week’s strategic analysis. If you don’t upgrade your realms you lose coins and experience. This may seem counterintuitive, especially since customers can only place thirty orders and you can fit thirty shops in a single realm.

This is true, but if you fill all of your space with shops and crops you won’t have any room left to plant groves. Investing in more space does provide a return on your investment. You can invest in more groves and properties to generate more coins to buy more realms and invest in more groves and properties. It was painful, but I invested in land as soon as the land became available. And I would invest in more land if ngmoco:) would make it available.

My revenues grew faster the more land I bought because I could stack the land with groves. You don’t have to spend mojo on diamond groves either. Ruby groves are extremely profitable too.

The maximum upgrade provides room for almost 200 groves (I think Carol and I figured 192 but I forgot to write it down so I would be exact). It costs about 350,000 coins to buy the maximum upgrade (unless they’ve dropped the prices since I last upgraded). Those rubies will pay for themselves in six days if you harvest three times a day (of course you also have to pay for the groves). Once the land is paid off your realm will generate almost 57,000 coins a day.

It’s not a question of whether or not you can afford the realm upgrade, its a question of whether you can afford not to.

Besides, if players finally upgrade all their realms, maybe ngmoco:) will get off their behinds and release that major upgrade with storage space to allow us to move and redesign our kingdoms.

I certainly hope so because I’m tired of buying stuff I need to sell off a month later to make room for new stuff. Some things I just want to keep because I like them.

Like fairy trees and unicorns’ meadows. And they’ll probably make the Halloween stuff unavailable while our kids are recovering from their sugar rushes.

And the Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and Valentine’s Day stuff like champagne factories and little heart-shaped red hot plants.

Funky Foto

Oh, and one last special entry. My funky foto (sic) of the week (not that I will do one every week). I caught our college professor, whom I’ve already ridiculed mercilessly, practicing self-decapitation for Halloween. Does ngmoco:) think we’re still living in the days of Amos and Andy? Come on, give the character some dignity and upgrade him already.

Where’s the professor’s head? Why is this guy so clueless? When are they going to replace him with a medieval Moslem scholar, a brother with dignity? Someone to acknowledge that both people of color and Moslems were actually better educated than many Europeans once upon a time.

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