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.

Keeping up with the birds

After months of frustration We Rule: The Hidden Grimoire the book is one step away from publication. I would like to tell you it’s ready, but I’m gun shy after months of frustration with Book Baby.

I did finally receive my iBooks account, the account that allows me to sell books, today. So unless another major setback occurs (like when iBooks accidentally sent me to the free books set up without explaining the difference, forcing me to set up a second account with a different id and email), I should be able to announce the book sometime this week.

Once I have the book available in iBooks, I’ll start preparing it for sale in Kindle format for Android gamers.

The good news for gamers is that with all of the setbacks, I was able to make some last minute rush changes to make the book as up to date as possible. The published version will include the new challenge to groves for upper end players, residences.

Carol and I are also rushing to finish the final proofread of Raising Hell, which you can sample in the pages section of the blog.

Speaking of residences

In case you were worried that ngmoco:) is getting ready to abandon the game, some of the new additions give hope for the future. Developers most recent releases have had major bonuses for players at higher levels, which means they are looking for strategies to keep players interested.

Remember the old days when players would stack row after row of rubies in their realms? In the days before ngmoco:) decided to shut the practice down, albeit unsuccessfully? They didn’t stop the stacking but they limited the number of groves you could buy with coins.

Players with lots of coins who have reached L61 might be interested in the new bird residences which, at least until ngmoco:) reads this blog, has no ceiling for installations in one realm. They deliver 350hcp and cost 50000c. This can get expensive, but you can actually pack 1365 into a single realm (leaving room for a very necessary harvest orb) without stacking.

They released the residences after the chess king (L80) which delivers a whopping 450hcp idle. I spent 140 million coins installing 70 which deliver 943000cp every 30 hours.  A realm filled with bird residences costs 68 million coins by contrast and delivers 478000cp every hour on the hour.

I was able to fit 1365 bird residences and a harvest orb into one realm without stacking. ngmoco:) developed them to overlap on two sides so that you can add 37 to a row.

In other words, for half the investment, you get the same return if you only collect twice in thirty hours. If you collect six times a day, you get three times the return. Realistically, you can only collect twice every three days from the chess king. If you only collect three times every day for three days, you earn three times as much as the chess king delivery.

This is one of those cases where hourly return doesn’t always result in the best payoff. In addition, if you start to fill two realms with bird residences starting from the time they become available at L62, you can buy all the chess kings you want when you reach L80.

You don’t have to do this at one. Two rows of bird residences cost 4 million c. By L61 you should be able to add a couple of rows a week. And by the way, in case you were wondering, if you did stack you could fit just under 5500 residences at a cost of 240 million c and a finger tip worn to the bone.

I think I’ll just wait for a new realm to open.

Will black Friday move to We Rule?

Based on the sheer amount of shops dumped onto the We Rule Market in the last ten days, I fear for the prospect of a We Rule Black Friday.

With luck we’ll have a Thanksgiving event poaching the king’s royal woods. We could capture turkeys, ducks and rabbits, who are easy to catch. The rare creature challenge would be to hunt wild boar and deer and the delicious but useful goose that lays golden eggs.

Maybe we could even keep one of each to wander around our realms between now and Christmas.

The last ten days have made me feel we are more likely to get a feast of conspicuous We Rule consumption. More shops with higher returns, making us desperate to spend mojo for those grand farms and dragonslayer’s dens we could otherwise not afford.

In the past it’s taken about three months to replace the top earning shop with a new one. It was a matter of weeks before the necromancer’s lair replaced the thunderbird, and the dragonslayer’s den arrived to top the necromancer four days later.

The dragonslayers are eating the thunderbirds. For the first time since I can remember, ngmoco:) has replaced the top earning shop, not just in a matter of weeks, but over a single weekend. I hope you didn’t install more than a couple of the necromancer’s lairs over the weekend because they cost $3 and fell into second place with the next new release.

Here’s a quick run down of shops in the last ten days:

  • Adventurer’s tavern, L22
  • Axesmith, L44
  • Paladin Citadel (gift)
  • Magic wand shop, L32
  • Necromancer’s lair, L55 (top earner)
  • Dark Knight haven, L50 (outperforming the previous L50 leader, the Black Dragon)
  • Dragonslayer’s den, L68 (new top earner)
  • Fall trees, L11 (decoration)
  • Corn Maze, L18 (super high idle income producer)
  • Pie Shop, L42
  • Turkey Pen, L24
  • Cider Mill, L34
  • Grand Farm House, L62 (third highest performing shop)

That’s 13 different items in a ten day period (15 if you count the three different fall tree varieties).

If you add the seven Spanish items in the two prior releases, we’re talking 20 new items in two weeks. Can you say, “conspicuous consumption?” The only other competing developer I know who can come close to that pace is Zynga, who is ahead of ngmoco:) in gross profits.

Trade Nation usually introduces about six items a month, although many of those items require extraordinary gem expenditures. Would you pay 750m for a poodle?

I just want to remind readers that you don’t have to buy something just because ngmoco:) releases it. Buy shops only when they improve the return of the shops at your level. You may think you need that turkey pen for Thanksgiving, but by the beginning of December you will have forgotten all about it.

I save my coins to invest in the highest producing shops available at my level (which will usually be the highest producing shop for the next several levels, at least for a few weeks). If you’re below L20, look to invest in two or three. From L20 to L30, invest in four to six. Above L30 try to install as many as ten (or until you find no one’s ordering).

You don’t have to do this at once. Add them as you have money. Then invest in decorative items like rivers, trees and roads to spruce things up until you can afford to add shops just to decorate.

Here’s my Black Friday request to ngmoco:): Fifty percent off mojo and fifty percent off every shop available. You’ll still make a bundle and your fans will feel a little more appreciated.

The lure of the necromancer

Harry Potter’s final installment hit home theaters this weekend and ngmoco:) celebrated with a magic wand shop and necromancer’s lair. The wand shop looks kind of cool and the necromancer’s lair is supposed to glow in the dark.

Oops.

It never gets dark in We Rule.

Even more interesting, ngmoco:) added a new wrinkle to high stakes shopping. The necromancers lair is officially the highest paying building available (at least until the next event) and pays almost double in coins the value of the next contender.

See how the necromancer’s lair is supposed to glow in the dark? I thought that would be so cool until I realized it never gets dark in We Rule.

Not only does it kick the thunderbird lair in the rear on total points by almost two thousand, it offers a significantly higher hourly yield. Furthermore, the thunderbird lair has only been around for a few weeks. Usually ngmoco:) waits three months before replacing the shop leader.

There is, however, a catch. Catch 299. As in $2.99. Each lair costs three dollars. To make up for it, ngmoco:) claims they gave everyone a free Merlin’s Keep, but really? Three dollars?

Would I recommend you install one? Absolutely. Would I recommend that you fill a realm with them the way many high level players do? No. Not a chance. Not on your life.

This doesn’t mean you won’t find some kingdoms with ten or twenty, but put this is perspective. Ten necromancer lairs cost $30. ngmoco:) now seems to allow players to take more than forty orders (at least players at L70). That would be $120. I’m not spending that much for items in a game and I recommend you don’t either.

Within a week or two ngmoco:) will release another event with shops that yield even more. Their pattern has been to top the thunderbird lair with the mastery shop every other event (and that would be the next one). Even though I haven’t seen any messages about strange creatures on their Facebook page I wouldn’t be surprised to see kangaroos and koala bears Wednesday.

Even worse, if they top the necromancer’s lair in four weeks the way they replaced the thunderbird’s lair, you will have to replace your entire investment. That’s not the worst possible scenario. If ngmoco:) sees that players will blow sixty to a hundred dollars to pack realms with top shops, you can bet only the people who can afford a hundred bucks a month will be able to add them.

This is Dragonvale where players have to buy dragon eggs with hundreds of gems, only they can’t earn gems. You have to buy them at a rate similar to buying mojo. Let us bow our heads and pray ngmoco:) doesn’t think of this as a good idea.

I looked at Dragonvale based on a reader’s recommendation. Some of the dragons cost 500 to 1o00 gems (which cost twenty five to fifty real dollars). I remember thinking that ngmoco:) might not be so outrageous with the mojo after all. The necromancer’s lair says they’re thinking about it, though, and I think the market needs to say, “NFW.”

Early Return Special Event Edition

From dragons to flutterflies

I planned to return from my sabbatical on Monday, but now seemed to be the better time. After all, ngmoco:) kept everybody waiting for a special event, moved it back from Thursday to Friday and then, at 10:30 PST (after midnight for half the country) when most of us had given up waiting and decided to party, they released the flutterflies.

Many of you may have been disappointed. Dragons seem a noble quest, flutterflies slightly less so. Had they been the ferocious turbocharged Mothra style monstrosities depicted in the early press release, players may have felt themselves up to a noble challenge.

Players may have been disappointed by the difference between the mammoth beast promised and the cute creature who finally arrived. I tracked the progress from promotional art to concept art to the final version in the game. I’m fine with it personally, but for many players I imagine it would be like ordering a Porsche online and finding a Kia in your driveway.

Maybe I’m being unkind. The reality of game design is that the more complex the creature the more pixels required to compute and redraw, the more processing power to refresh the screen with each flap of each wing. The more computations, the slower the game. On the other hand, cute butterflies wouldn’t have whipped up as much anticipation.

So the designers, developers and promotion team were faced with a dilemma, and they solved it by promising Mothra and delivering Flutter Fly. Maybe if they had the flutterfly breathe fire out of his ass instead of little butterflies, however, players would have been mollified.

Where are the rare creatures?

A number of players were frustrated on the last quest because they never spotted the crystal or crimson dragon. When those players embark on this quest I can only offer two pieces of advice:

  • Plant and harvest those lures at least as often as it takes them to mature.
  • Check in every couple of hours and capture every flutterfly that pops up even if you already caught one. You don’t have to use mojo, just keep catching them.

As with the last quest the creatures follow a pattern. The garnets are so easy to catch you don’t need the mojo net (I’m 32-2 with the free net). The amethysts are much harder to catch (I’m 0-7 without the mojo net) and the jades only show up once in every couple of dozen. I haven’t seen any of the rarer creatures but in my experience with the dragons they show up once or twice a day if you keep catching the common ones.

The amethyst temple for the first level is okay, with 1800cp for customers and about 76cp hourly.

Don’t wait to the last minute. Play now and often. Plan on using mojo for every type but the garnets. Multiples you catch in one round will not count for later levels but catch them anyway (but not with mojo).

The amethyst temple for the first level is okay, with 1800cp for customers and about 76cp hourly. This is a great deal for players at lower levels, not much use for players further up the level ladder. But the rewards will definitely improve with each new goal.

Beware of the downside to this event. If you really intend to play, your screen will fill with those little pests, and they will begin to seem like pests quickly. Even worse, all those little pests will really eat into your iPhone and iPad 1 processor, so expect a few more crashes than usual.

I’ve had to do a hard reboot on my iPad every time i wanted to play.

If you’re L65 and have all the cute crap you need, you may want to sit this one out. But if you want to play, and those temples look pretty, I would still go for it.

Special Update: Crystal Dragon Lair Unlocked

So I finally unlocked a crystal dragon lair and here is what I’ve learned:

This is the crystal dragon lair which is available as a goal at L2. This is probably another gateway to mojo purchases, trying to get even beginning players hooked on the big doses.

  • The value is relatively low at 83cp hourly and 2380 total cp over 30 hours. The vendors return is moderate at 105cp and 3175 total. You will have to decide if it’s worth it.
  • ngmoco:) claims the crimson lair which can be earned once you complete the crystal quest will be the most valuable building in your kingdom, but you will only get one and the value remains undetermined.
  • Once you earn a dragon, additional dragons don’t count toward the crimson quest. The counter resets at zero.

The six dragon pictures don’t really show the rarer dragons which have stripes and artifacts on their backs. The emerald, ruby and crystal dragons are really rare and hard to catch, especially the ruby and crystal. Use the mojo to catch one if you want one.

I don’t know about the crimson dragon, but the crystal dragon is not worth the sixty plus mojo it will cost to earn it.

In spite of ngmoco:)’s assurances that they are releasing more of the rare dragons, I haven’t seen anymore than usual. I’ve seen three emerald, one ruby and one crystal in three days.

I wouldn’t spend mojo on every dragon you see, but I would try to catch as many dragons as possible with the free net in case they trigger even more of the rarer dragons.

I haven’t been able to confirm whether or not you can catch one of the common dragons (green, purple and orange) with the free net before you catch one with the mojo net. It has yet to happen for me in either of the two quests.

Based on my experience, the free net catches about one in three purple dragons, one in four to five green dragons, and one in ten orange dragons. Since the free net costs nothing, and each dragon caught is passed on to another player.

The no mojo approach to leveling up

First of all, let me apologize to fans about the math in Friday’s special update. I intended to say 100,000 coins every four hours (approximate, of course, 112,000 if I really used my calculator or spreadsheet). Then once I typed it wrong, the wrong number got locked in my head and I somehow projected it to 400,000 for four hours.

Carol would have caught this in proofreading, but I post the special editions without proofreading because I want to get them up and hate to ask Carol for yet another favor.

It’s been fixed now. Thanks for all the comments trying to keep me honest.

I stand by my original statement that the black dragons are twice as big as the red and purple dragons. I did discover later, however, that black dragons exist in two states—the large, puffy state and the smaller wing flapping state. This could just be a bad entry in the code scaling the one graphic.

As the screenshots indicate, the black dragons are twice as big as the others, at least before they take off. Once they flap their wings, however, they seem to shrink. Not quite Shroedinger’s cat, but they do seem to exist in a similar dual state.

Click image to see full size

No mojo kingdoms

Two players have stepped up to the plate recently to prove you can build successful kingdoms without mojo. One, Fendora, commented this weekend that he is only a day or so away from level 50. Fishnships has been running a thread on the Mojo Farm to keep players abreast of their community approach to kingdom building.

Both reflect different approaches to overall kingdom design as well. Fendora has focused on increasing his experience through shops and groves. Fishnships has chosen to build a kingdom that reflects the communal vision of a real community.

I really want to point out that Fendora has chosen to focus on installing two types of high-yield shops. His main kingdom exclusively features chateau’s and Olympus mounts, with a commitment to double down on the chateaus. I know some players may be skeptical of this approach, fearing that customers will want a wider variety of shops, but his shops seem full.

Fendora’s kingdom was built with no mojo purchases. It took him awhile but he’s a step away from L50

Click image to see full size

I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts swapping these out with black dragons as he earns more coins.

His other strategy has been to stack groves within the published limits. You will notice the ruby stacks which are consistent from kingdom to kingdom. I haven’t counted them but I’m betting they’re very close to the 192 grove limit that has been bandied about by readers and fans at different sites.

This also limits his kingdom’s overall growth but it also demonstrates how players can move up in the standings with just groves and high-yield buildings.

Fishnships poses some grammatical problems when it comes to writing and editing this issue. The entity Fishnships is singular but since the activity behind it is collaborative, the reference could also be considered plural. So Carol and I had a long discussion on verb/noun agreement and whether or not the pronoun reference should be “it” or “they.”

Fishnships is a collaborative kingdom with a lot of fans. Fishnships’ emphasis is more on design, but they’ve still reach L50 with no mojo

Click image to see full size

The players in Fishnships keep track of just about every move and change on the players’ thread comment thread. Fishnships isn’t a single player, but a community effort to build a collaborative kingdom. Not only do they keep readers posted on their progress, they recommend the shops with the highest yield (although the black dragon has moved to the top of the list).1

Fishnships has also managed to build to L50 without stacking or even a heavy emphasis on groves, which is also pretty amazing.

Click image to see full size

Both kingdoms will probably forego upgrading to the regal castle to add a few black dragon lairs to their kingdoms first. This is something else to consider when building yours. Install the money making elements first, and the decorative elements next.

I know that many players want to avoid spending money for mojo, and these kingdoms prove it can be done. I try to keep players abreast of ways to play and spend as little money as possible. If you feel tempted to speed up your kingdom, but have an extremely tight budget, use these guys as your inspiration.


1By the way, did you notice how we dodged the plurality problems?back


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

The advantages of bulk installations

Several players have written comments or emailed me to ask my advice on the best buildings to buy for their kingdoms to get ahead. Before I answer that question I usually drop by to see what they’re doing.

One thing I’ve noticed is that novice players (and even experienced players) prefer to invest in one of each building rather than concentrating on multiple copies of the more lucrative buildings.

You can build an attractive kingdom and still focus on adding multiple copies of the more lucrative buildings. This layout is available by L6. Spend six dollars for three ice sculptor’s abodes and you will be able to attract repeat business. I didn’t add the abodes because I didn’t want to spend the money just to do this illustration.
Click image to see full size

I understand the reticence. Until you really study the leading players its easy to follow the model of the players you order from every day. When players do stumble onto kingdoms that concentrate shops, it’s easy to think they’re the players making the wrong move.

There are a couple of other reasons I can imagine.
A game is rarely defined by its rules. Those are merely the stepping stones for players to develop strategic responses. These responses include making the rules and guidelines work to their advantage, often in ways the games’ designers never intended. It takes a lot of practice for players to see the difference between strategic and ordinary moves.

Another reason is that players follow the game’s achievements lists, which basically take players through a basic set of moves for building their kingdoms. What many players never consider is this: You can take the achievements on at your own schedule. You can earn the coins and experience first, then fill in the shops for the achievements lists later.

Players begin to make moves up the leader board when they realize they don’t have to build their kingdoms based on the buildings available at each level. The real goal is to reach the level where they can purchase the buildings with the best return.

Unfortunately, I think a number of players are afraid to install six or seven mines or ponds—even though the return per cost is better than many of the shops at higher levels—because they are afraid they will lose their money.

Players also seem to be extremely reluctant to sell back shops because they think it will cost them. They fail to understand a basic business principal that applies to this game: You have to spend coins to earn coins (and more experience).

Now that you can move buildings back to inventory, you shouldn’t have that fear anymore. When you finally reach a level where you need to install multiples of a better shop, you can move the older shops into inventory and put them in another realm later.

You should also remember, however, that every new shop you install also earns a lot of experience points up front. Items in inventory don’t add additional experience points. You will do even better to sell those old buildings off and add new buildings for the experience points.

Attracting customers

The number one reason why you should concentrate on multiples of the best shops rather than one of every shop is to attract customers. Players who want to move up in the game want the best return for their visit. If they know that your shop will have six viking ships and six medusa’s lairs that means they will have a better chance of finding a good shop than a kingdom with one of everything.

If you doubt this, think it through yourself. A young player orders from you so you return the order to keep her business. The player has several friends already and only ten different shops. Almost always the only open shops will be the mine and the lumberyard.

You return as soon as you get the notice that she returned your order, but the others remain filled. The odds are likely that you will not be able to place better orders, and the ones you can place just don’t return enough to make coming back again and again worth your while.

Another lower level player has four ice sculptor’s abodes, four cemeteries and four tailor shops in her kingdom. Which kingdom do you think is more likely to provide a higher paying return for your visit? Yes, this is a rhetorical question but even rhetorical questions have value when they remind you of what should be obvious.

Customers will go to the kingdoms with the better payoffs.

If you’re still not convinced, visit the leaders (and the leaders among your friends, whom you can also access from the leader board). You can look for two things:

  • How many copies of the better shops do they have?
  • What are customers ordering?

Most of the game leaders not only have tons of ruby groves, they also tend to concentrate their kingdoms on three or four shops. And these shops are almost always full.

The second question is probably more illuminating. In my experience, orders will always flock to the high value shops with only the occasional order being placed with the occasional lower valued shops placed for decoration or balance. The higher-return shops always get better traffic than the lower return shops.

Still pretty

I think young players may also be concerned that their kingdoms should have one of every kind of shop because they will look better. This isn’t necessarily true, at least later on as they reach higher levels and more decorative objects become available.

Great designers frequently repeat elements to create distinctive patterns and looks (and I will talk about this in the future). With thoughtful placement you can make a beautiful kingdom out of nothing but ponds, tailor shops, pine trees and roads.

If you don’t have multiples of one or more shops, but you do have some customers who drop by regularly, try an experiment for me. Invest in three of the most profitable shops available at your level before you add anything else. Make sure they really have a good total point and hourly payout.

If the customers gravitate toward the three shops, add another. You should find that the four copies of the same shop are always full and your other shops aren’t. This should be all the convincing you need.

If not, move the extras into inventory to use when you add new realms, and go back to the old way.

Reviewing investment strategies for the new year.

If I have one New Year’s resolution this year, it’s stop playing every online game. There’s just too damn many of them, and—as many of you know—they hook you with a formula that you already love or you wouldn’t have downloaded the free trial.

I’ve gone from a half hour every few hours to being sucked into playing hours at a time. I find it really tough because I review these games for iPad Envy. I have to give them enough playtime to make an honest evaluation and then I discover I’ve invested all this time getting my island, city, restaurant, farm, smurf hideaway, cat rooms or fish tanks set up and, damned if I don’t want to hold onto the little fiefdom I’ve built online again.

But I have to. Sorry Mi Mi, Buster and Velvet, my touch pet kitties. But Teddy Bear and Jenny Manytoes and Coco Puff, my real cats, deserve my attention and nothing hurts Teddy Bear’s feelings more than being told he can’t sit on my shoulder and purr because it interferes with harvesting coins from couches.

We Farm will probably be the next to go. I mean, honestly, aliens, polar bears, llamas and NASCAR? Farmville? It’s definitely on the chopping block. After all, who really wants their names posted all over Facebook for making level 12 in Farmville. The Smurfs? Already gone. They were cute, but how many cherry cakes can you bake before you run out of interest?

Adventure Bay looked really interesting, but I made it to Level 30 in two weeks (without blowing a lot of money on spice) and I’m not sure I want to wait around stacking jungles for a couple of months until they add another five levels and a new island. The game has a lot to make it really attractive and it it’s at my top of the list of new iOS social networking games. You can order, help players sail on expeditions as well as sail on your own, and you can also hunt for treasure.

The point of the game is to have fun.

That’s the point of all these games.

We Rule is still fun for me, but I notice a lot of the players I used to trade with have abandoned their kingdoms. So it’s luster seems to wane for some. The good news is, this means you can move up the leader boards as they fall off.

But this is my message for the New Year. Play it while it’s fun, and when it stops being fun, (or your spouse checks you into social game spenders anonymous) find something more fun.

Honestly, however, We Rule remains the standard for iOS social networking games.

If you read this blog because you actually like the writing, I will be posting somewhere even after you move on.

Quick Thoughts

Last seasonal decoration tour

If you’re still looking for a few seasonal decorations to enjoy, one reader suggested zenxacred’s east realm, and I finally got tired of working decorations around the layout in my west realm and redid just about everything.

Zenxacred went for the kingdom of darkness encroaching on Christmas approach. I didn’t see this before the Christmas posting, so I’m including it now. Thanks to reader Superknight98 for the tip.

Click image to see full size
After postponing the inevitable, I finally gave in and completely redid my west realm to reflect the season. Notice the stacked sleighs toward the bottom of the window. It didn’t dawn on me that I should do this until the night before ngmoco:) removed them from the game.

Click image to see full size

While I was redesigning I also noticed a new character, which brings me to my next quick topic.

ID alert

We have another new character I can’t identify. Since he’s holding the block of ice in his hand, I suspect he’s the ice sculptor. But the original release illustration showed the house without a character to accompany it. So I could be wrong.

Who is this guy? He just showed up in my east realm the other night. I’ve never seen him before. Any thoughts?

Click image to see full size

New content not downloading

Has anyone experienced a message that you need to relaunch the app so new content can download only to have the same old content download? This happened to me today for the second time in a month and it got me to thinking.

Recently a reader asked me to evaluate the sleighs in the comments and I didn’t know what he was talking about. Two days later, sleighs showed up in my content.

Is it possible that some players get items before others. Or is there a problem with iOS4 that blocks new content from downloading right away. I know this seems wierd, but if anybody actually got new content today, please let me know.

Investment Bets

Players continue to wonder what the best investment strategies are: groves, buildings or (the now defunct) sleighs. Should we pay real cash for buildings? Shouldn’t we consider the investment costs when making purchases?

The answers will always depend on the player and what you hope to accomplish from the game. But let me sum up some of the thoughts I’ve posted over the last few months:

  • It’s better to invest on items that will return on a regular basis—especially both coins and experience. Wait until you have a lot of spare cash before blowing it on a lot of decorations with a one time experience return.
  • Don’t worry about the up-front investment cost. The items with the better returns will pay for themselves over time. The buildings with the best return for you are the ones with the best returns for your customers. The more you buy, the more they will come to shop (provided you build your network).
  • The more you spend the more you make, provided you spend wisely. So don’t be afraid to buy.

I have changed my mind about total points. I think they’re as important as hourly return. But I try to balance both. For instance, the 650 points for the Falconry is still a high performer compared to others, but since it takes 72 hours to earn them I still think players are better off placing an order with something that pays off fewer points far more quickly.

On the other hand, total points earned is far more important for items that return in less than a day. Most players will accept and turn around overnight orders that process in the same day, but no quicker.

I still think groves are the best of the regular return investments, especially the ruby groves. Poseidon’s Founts also have a good return, but they take longer to earn the money to invest (90K verses 10K). Until you have built up a large fortune, the groves will get you where you want to go faster for less money.

This doesn’t go against my argument about ignoring the cost of buildings. Players don’t shop at groves, they cash in every six hours. I wouldn’t spend 350000 coins for a building that only returns 20c and 15xp an hour, but an expensive building that pays off 2000 points to players in a couple of days will bring customers back to your kingdom, especially if you have several of them.

I missed the boat on the sleighs because of the Christmas holidays and my thoughts were elsewhere. For most of the season I thought they were cute but for 7500 for only 100xp return I felt they were pricey. Then on the last night of the season it dawned on me that since I had lots of coins to spend (and more groves than I could make room for already), they made sense for a player in my position. They also take up almost no space, can be stacked side-by-side without being difficult to tap for harvest.

Thank goodness, they stop coming with reindeer after the third one. Other wise I would have a reindeer infestation.

The sleighs may be gone for now, but they will be back next year and something similar will probably show up in the meantime.

I consider these a luxury investment. If you have stacked your kingdom full of rubies and you have a couple million coins to invest, founts will pay off more in the long run as will the next version of the sleigh they release. But players below L40 usually need cash, and rubies still provide the best return for the investment dollar.

Should you buy buildings?

I would say, yes for the viking. Maybe for the Wyvern’s Forge. Probably not for the castles unless you want to decorate with them (and players who have been to my kingdom know I do).

I know they’re costly. Three dollars for the wyvern’s forge is a lot, but unless you buy mojo in the 2000m cask, three dollars is still cheaper than the cash equivalent of the 50 mojo they would have charged otherwise. And the fewer mojo you buy at a time, the more expensive the cash cost will be.

And remember, you can shuttle them between realms. If you need to remove the other shops to make room for something new, you have to lose them for good.

But let’s return to the Wyvern’s forge. It offers the second highest hourly payout and the fourth highest total payout. If I were a player at L26 who couldn’t order the prestigious chimera, red dragon or chateau, I would have to consider making the investment. If, on the other hand, I were an L40 player with tremendous coin reserves but not a lot in my real bank account, I would go with the big ticket items that require coins.

Personally, I wished they would give players the choice of paying with cash or coins. Personally, I wish they would allow us to move everything back into inventory the way other games do.

Most of all I wish those forges weren’t so butt ugly. They remind me of the trailer house parked next to the gorgeous mansions of Olympus.


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.

Click image to see full size

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.

Click image to see full size

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.

Click image to see full size

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.

Click image to see full size

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?

Click image to see full size
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.

Click image to see full size

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.

Click image to see full size

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

Previous Older Entries