The we-Bay Manifesto

It would be nice if players could trade items (We Rule EBay) so that players who boosted their gift cart and ended up with six can trade with players who missed. Maybe if players spent mojo to make a trade ngmoco:) would actually consider it.

This weekend was a good example. A number of players boosted gifts to get the twilight flowers for the twilight meadow quest only to end up with more of the same trinkets they already had and no twilight flowers.

(Seriously, if you want the meadow and its purple unicorn, just spend the 50 mojo on the goal rather than blow it on a useless hunt through boosted gifts. And at the rate they’re giving out twilight flowers, you may not get twenty.)

Think it through. Make sure you want to spend 50 mojo on this building that’s slightly bigger than the caterpillar perch. I won’t know what it returns as idle income (50 hours delivery time) until sometime today.

Click image to see full size

This unicorn may look large on the splash screen but he’d no bigger than the other one. Hopefully you can hold off and buy it on we Bay in a month or two.

Consider this inventory: 11 wedding chapels, 14 shipwrecks, 23 naval ships, 16 blue Venetian palazzos and eight Machu Piccus. What could we possibly do with all that inventory? What could a player possibly do with that?

Trade it and sell it on we-Bay. I propose that ngmoco:) (after they fix the bugs) add a third tab to the news/realms tab that launches the we-Bay site. There players can sell used inventory, and players looking for better deals can bid on it.

So let’s say I somehow ended up with six golden red dragons. I could take bids on four of them. The four best bids win. Or I could offer a direct-sale price of 400000c. I could clean out my Machu Piccu extras (they’re so big and no one needs more than one) for best offer above 20000c.

Did you install seven houses of worship and now only need one? Rather than sell them for 10 percent, why not see what you can get on we-Bay? The seller enters the item under her username and the buyer bids with his.

What does ngmoco:) get out of this? What do they always get out of it. They can charge 2 mojo for every transaction. Knowing ngmoco:), (and I might as well say this because they’ll come up with it on their own) they would charge 10m to buy 20 bids as well. Or 100 bids for 40m.

This means, as we all know, more players buy mojo so they can trade on we-Bay. If ngmoco:) can get a second-hand items market going (either in-app or online) they could pass Pages as the number one grossing app of all time.

If ngmoco:) does create we-Bay, of course, or anything remotely resembling it, I want the 10 percent of every mojo spent making trades credited to my account (better yet, the cash equivalent). 1 It was my idea, after all, and my readers were my witnesses. And Carol’s been pestering me to start making money on this blog.


1Call my lawyer, ngmoco:). He’s my brother in law and his specialty is real estate so you’ll probably do better than you would with a contracts specialist.back


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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.

To Buy or Not to Buy?

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon and We Rule as well. But not the Stephens family who firmly believes that no crisis should be addressed until the holidays when it’s too late resolve the situation to anyone’s satisfaction. Usually we wait until Christmas, but this year one sister and her daughters are headed to Africa meaning this all has to be resolved by this week.

Fortunately, ngmoco:) only released new items on Monday so I didn’t have much to write about. Unfortunately, they didn’t bother to tell anybody so I waited until Friday to update charts that I could have finished on Tuesday.

Usually, family holiday crisis is perfect fodder for writing, but this time the fallout won’t end until well after the New Year and, depending on how the pieces fall, it could take another year before I can figure out how to make it funny. By then we will probably have moved onto to another game.

Still, there have been a couple of developments in We Rule worth commenting on this week, and by next week I hope to be back in full swing with more fun stuff to talk about.

Resurrecting old deals

This is the first time I completely missed the mark on predicting new product releases. I anticipated some kind of Thanksgiving oriented product, and ngmoco:) ignored the holiday altogether. I think the prediction was reasonable since they flooded the game with Halloween products of marginal value.

The Halloween-themed releases did put them in line with other games, such as Farmville and the eighty dozen Tap games (TapZoo, TapKitchen, TapCity, TapFish, etc. I didn’t bother to go back to check and see if I had the names exactly right; they’re mostly iPhone games anyway). And at least ngmoco:) didn’t put a countdown on special items the way other games do. But in spite of cornucopia houses and pilgrims’ huts in Farmville, We Rule stuck with Greek mythology.

This leaves Christmas a toss up. We could see a Yule Log, since that plays into the game’s original medieval theme, but how far the developers will go with the holidays remains to be seen. And the fact that ngmoco:) is now a Japanese company could also be an influencing factor. I’m not sure Jesus and Santa top the cultural charts in that part of the world.

They did, however, resurrect the fairy tree, unicorn’s meadow and broomstick hut. These have little commercial value anymore; there are better shops out at all levels with similar or better returns. But for L11 players, they do provide a decent payoff, and some of us have a sentimental attachment to one or more of them.

I was hoping the fairy trees would have fairies this time, but, no, the fairies are still hiding. A reader once promised to send a screenshot of a fairy. Hopefully they will send it soon.

If you love medieval magic, however, the fairy tree and unicorn’s meadow do help tie your kingdoms back to the roots of the game, and they do pay better than many of the older active shops. It wouldn’t hurt to decorate your kingdoms with one or more if you missed them the first time around.

What I am hoping is that this will become a trend, especially since We Farm brought back the aliens. It would be nice to know that if we need to remove an item, it will show back up once or twice a year should we change our minds later.

We Farm and We City grow up

We Farm and We City both added realms this week. We Farm seems to have gone off the deep end with their Safari mode, but We City is going international. This week they added some Japanese items, perhaps as an homage to their new owners.

Or under orders from their new owners.

If you’ve gotten bored and abandoned one or the other (as I had been tempted to) these moves might pique your interest. We City is also adding some high value items slowly but surely.

Mojo blowouts

I am posting this before the mojo sale ends hoping that a few of you will have a chance to read this in time.

I would never encourage players to buy or use mojo, but I will admit that I indulge. One of the main reasons I use mojo is to mature new properties fast so that I can have the return values to post online the day a shop becomes available. But, I will also admit that spending the money on mojo allows me to open more of the newer shops than I might otherwise.

I try to buy one shop with cash for every shop I buy with mojo, and, if I am flush with cash, I don’t use it for shops at all. And, if you’ve visited my kingdom, you know I buy diamond groves with mojo because that’s the only way you can buy them (again).

Still there are some mojo strategies you can follow.

Save your money and only buy mojo when it becomes available for a 25 percent discount (as opposed to the 20 percent discounts which they also offer). This usually happens once a month and never less often than every other month. Buy the 2000m cask if you can afford it, and the 800m flask if you can’t. These give you the most mojo for your hard dollar.

Only spend mojo when buildings and groves are also discounted. Unfortunately, ngmoco:) doesn’t always put both on sale at the same time. Most importantly, wait to plant diamonds until a 25 percent off sale. Because ngmoco:) can’t sell groves for 7.5m, they have to discount them by a full 30 percent.

This means that you can plant 14 groves for the price of 10. The savings increases because of the fractions involved. If you bought and spent 2000m you would be able to plant 285 groves, or 85 more than you would when the sales are gone.

I combined the 25% off mojo sale, plus the 25% off groves sale, to take advantage of a peculiar number. Reducing diamond groves by 25% forces them to round down to a 30% discount (from 10m to 7m). In essence this cuts the total real dollar cost of diamond groves by half, or from 5¢ for one grove to a fraction over 5¢ for two. This makes it more cost effective for me to replace a stack of ruby groves with a stack of diamonds, reducing the real dollar cost to replace 35 rubies from $1.75 to 91¢.

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Let’s put this back in a real dollar perspective, however. If you took advantage of the mojo sale, and waited for the building sale, you still spent $75 for those 285 groves. That’s a hell of a lot of money for a game.¢

Stacking mystery deepens

John Wagner, the publicist for ngmoco:) posted a comment on this site that nobody has been banned for life from We Rule. I think we should take him at his word. I did my best to verify that the player who claimed to be banned was actually banned. His kingdom was gone, but it is possible something else happened.

I’ve asked both the player and Wagner for further details, but since this week was a holiday, I doubt we will hear officially for a while. My advice: Stay within the limits I posted last week for now (or close to them) if you haven’t reached them already.

If you have passed them, don’t get honest like I did and remove them. At least not until you hear something official.

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