We Rule stops by Minnesota

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon. Quieter than usual. The developers at ngmoco:) booked a retreat for their staffers to help them recharge for the coming year. They soon realized they would have to switch travel agents because  when they arrived at the Sidetrack tap with all of their luggage and wireless equipment Wally had to explain that what he said to the booking agent was that “the Sidetrack is about as close as you can get to a bed and breakfast in Lake Wobegon,” which is, you have to admit, not at all the same as saying it was a bed and breakfast. 

It isn’t his fault that people make assumptions, he told Evelyn later that evening after they put up folding cots and old army sleeping bags in the cooler. The sleeping bags were the old mummy style sleeping bags that wrapped you like a cocoon to keep you warm as a toasted marshmallow over a campfire and the tourists couldn’t really complain since the cooler was still warmer than it was outside.

This did not prepare Wally for the outrage the next morning when he explained the Sidetrack was wireless, every appliance was run from a single outlet. Zimidar, the team leader, explained that educated people know wireless means computers can download data from the air. Wally shook his head and replied, “Who would a dreamed they’d come up with something like that.”

Of course, Wally and Evelyn knew what wireless meant. They’d been to the Starbucks in St. Cloud many times and seen all those busy people hunched over their laptops. But the booking agent didn’t ask, “do you have wireless?’ She evidently assumed that the patrons at the Sidetrack would want to use their iPads with their beers and bumps. The only ones using iPhones in the Sidetrack were the kids who came in to pester their parents for spending money.

So Wally called Pastor Ingqvist to see if the ngmoco:) team could use the church for their team building exercises, and then the team decided the church was more accommodating than the cooler at the Sidetrack. So they moved everything to the church, where they could pretty much work uninterrupted expect for altar guild and Wednesday prayer meeting. But they still didn’t have wireless which meant the only new items they could get ready for release were the Bridge o’ Love and Outdoor Cafe to celebrate Valentines.

To make it up to players they had a 20 percent off mojo sale over the weekend, which was about time. There hasn’t been one since Thanksgiving even though two events have passed.

When they left on Friday all of the team members agreed Lake Wobegon wasn’t a bad place to visit, the men were certainly good looking (although they would never arm wrestle the women again) and they hoped their own children would be as polite as the local kids. But they agreed that maybe they could try some place other than Minnesota for team building in the future. 

At least not until they upgraded their networks.

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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

Tending your groves

If ngmoco:) developers thought for a minute that the stacking and moving controversies would eventually die down, they unwittingly opened the flood gates with Thursday’s release of the phoenix nest.

My first reaction was, “Oh, great, another magical creature they’re going to kill off in a couple of weeks.”

This is because I am not by nature one of those people who immediately sees the best in everything. I’m one of those people who expects the other shoe to drop before the first one does. I can’t help it. My many experiences as a teacher, community organizer and non-profit project manager have taught me that the one law that consistently operates in this universe is the law of unintended consequences. The best inentions often lead to catastrophe.

Of couse it may have something to do with being a Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK). In Baptist families, especially Baptist Preacher’s Families (BPFs), even the simplest compliment can end up sparking an argument based on verses you’d forgotten were in the Bible (there are so many of them) or never realized could be interpreted the way they are about to be interpreted.

“Mom, is this a new dinner recipe?” you might ask.

“Honor your mother and father,” my Dad might say.

“What does that have to do with dinner recipes?” you might reply and end up arguing about the meaning of the ten commandments, resolving your differences before you are dragged to court and an anecdote about cousins who broke every one of man’s laws but lived long lives because, by God, they respected their parents, followed by reminding your father that Jesus regularly disrespected his own mother only to raise the level of discussion even as the temperature of dinner drops.

You contemplate that maybe you should have said, “This is a really good dinner, Mom,” but that would have been a lie and Christians don’t lie, and—even were you just trying to be kind. And that’s not really the problem. The real problem is you would probably have started an altogether different argument because if there’s one things Baptists love more than Jesus it’s arguing about Jesus and all things Jesus-related, which, in the Baptist universe, is everything.

So please forgive me for not saying, “Oh look at that gorgeous new phoenix” and instead thinking, “Oh, great, another magical creature they’re going to kill off in a couple of weeks.” It’s hardwired into Baptist genes and the hardwiring doesn’t disintegrate even when you become Episopalian like your wife’s family even though they are so much nicer to each other.1

The phoenix nest and the good news/bad news joke

I can see the punch line now. The bad news is the phoenix poops a lot. The good news it, it goes away when the bird dies and the bird dies a lot.

Here’s the real good news about the phoenix nest. It delivers the highest cash and combined points return per hour of any building in the kingdom (even though, technically, it’s not a building). The phoenix nest turns over in 28 hours with 31 coins and 17 experience points an hour, making it one of the best investments you can make. Usually when something produces that high a return I try to put at least two in every kingdom until something better comes along.

Here’s the bad news about the phoenix nest. If you put two in every kingdom, you may not have room for anything else. Planting the phoenix nest requires more free real estate than any other building in the kingdom. This honor used to go to the jousting arena and unicorn’s meadows.

The nest itself doesn’t take up that much space, but the object reserves a good number of pixels in a surrounding square that can’t be occupied by anything else. I figured I could just lose a jousting area because that seemed to occupy more space than the phoenix. But that didn’t provide enough free space. In my main kingdom I had to move two buildings and sell two more (plus a ruby grove) to open up a large enough space. I had to sell off a couple of dragons in my north kingdom even though I had planned a large space for just such a building. And I had to sell two jousting arenas in my east kingdom.

Once I planted the nest in the east kingdom I was able to nudge it into a corner and squeeze in a new jousting arena, but at a net cost of 500,000 coins for the one transaction, I wasn’t happy.

On the other hand, the phoenix was gorgeous.

Until it died.

Sure it came back. It’s a phoenix. But after having to sell six buildings to make room for the nest, I thought the sight of the dead Phoenix was almost as pathetic as that little Griffin who can never learn to fly.

On the other hand, I don’t think the nest enhanced the overall aesthetics of my kingdom. Especially since I can’t fill in much of empty space around the cone with ash trees or other decorative objects. Even worse, the nest isn’t centered in the square it occupies, making it difficult to balance it with the objects around it.

The ash trees define the absolute outer boundaries of the phoenix nest.
As you can see the nest isn’t centered making it difficult to evenly align it with surrounding objects.
You should also be aware that almost twice as much open space needs to be available
just to plant it in your kingdom.
Oh, and doesn’t the dead phoenix look pathetic? He’s like that most of the time.
At least he’s not completely invisible like the fairies.

The phoenix nest should rekindle two debates current in the We Rule community—stacking groves and the need for storage space. As to stacking let me simply say that the more new toy, the game developers, introduce these super big buildings into the game, the more players are going to want to stack groves to make room for the new buildings. I ultimately removed three ruby groves in the process of planting the nest. That’s a net reduction in income of 1200 coins and more than a thousand experience points each day, not counting the incomes lost from the buildings I had to replace.

I ran the math, and I will return a small profit if all three phoenix nests have orders, but I suspect many players (and I’m one of them) would rather have the combined profit of the new nests and the old items we removed to make room.

Other players have been requesting a storage space for buildings while they’re rearranging their kingdoms. In the past I’ve commented in ngmoco:)’s forums that players actually make money by tearing down old buildings and erecting newer, more profitable ones. I still believe that, but as new buildings become larger and bulkier I find myself thinking a storage area should be included in the game as well. It would certainly make sense in cases like this, where players will have to scramble to find a way to make room in their kingdoms.

The developers may discover that the more they add these extra large items, the more players will be reluctant to buy them. Even with mojo. Normally, I would have put four phoenix nests in my kingdoms, and, if people kept visiting, added more. Three is my limit. I don’t want to make any more room.

Building your empire one grove at a time

More than any other item, groves will make your kingdom profitable. Some players, especially newer ones, will find this hard to believe. After all, groves are decorative. Sure they pop out a few coins and experience points, but the return isn’t any thing like the buildings.

If you doubt the wisdom of planting groves, go look at the top leaders on the board. They all plant ruby groves. Lots of them. Some of them plant nothing but ruby groves in their adjunct kingdoms. I will admit that you can make an aesthetic argument against packing a kingdom with groves, but financially they’re better than an IRA from the We Rule bank (oh, wait, there isn’t one) and, more importantly, they rack up experience points.

I can’t stress the importance of experience points. The game is not about earning money to buy stuff, it’s about earning experience points. The more experience points you earn the more quickly you level up and the higher levels offer more income generating opportunities. As a rule (although not always) the higher level shops generate better income than the shops at lower levels.

Even the shops that don’t actually provide a better return can still pay off because they attract buyers who don’t really get the numbers. The falconry and jousting arenas provide a terrible payout per hour, but the total coins and experience are relatively high. They are also cool to players who relish the medieval experience. I still keep a couple in my kingdom even though they’re dogs because people still like them, and will pass up better deals to purchase an order from them.

Sadly, players may visit your kingdom and find nothing but tailor shops (which are still a good bargain) and other lower level items. This alone will prompt them to move onto other kingdoms and never return to yours. The more choices they have, the more likely they are to shop. So you need to reach those higher levels, buy one or two of the expensive loss leaders and pack your kingdom with the profitable shops.

The orange trees get you there. Let’s say you collect $100K to earn the Banker III award. You can now spend it on the dragon’s lair (provided you’re at a high enough level). Or you could buy 33 orange trees for $99K. Those 33 trees return five coins and 50 experience points every six hours. Even if you skip one harvest to sleep, you still collect just under 500 coins and 5000 xp in a single day. In two days you earn around $1000 and 10,000 xp.

In addition, you earn 300 experience points for each tree you plant. That 33 grove installation will earn you just under 10,000 xp to plant them, which could push you past a level before the last tree’s in place.

If someone orders at the dragon the best you can do is $600 and 200xp in the same two days. If they don’t order from your dragon, you make even less. Which is the better investment?

Let’s put this in perspective. With 33 orange trees you could do nothing with your kingdom and advance from L15 to L16 in three days. You could jump from L21 to L24 in a month doing nothing but harvesting the same 33 groves three times a day.

I would never suggest that you buy groves and not shops, but I would suggest that you spend the money on groves first and then buy the shops with the revenue generated from the rest of your kingdom (or, if you can afford it, buy the shop with mojo and the groves with coins).2

Once you reach Level 23 you need to start mixing ruby groves in with your orange groves. The experience yield per dollar spent is much lower (85 xp every six hours for $10K investment, vs 150 for $9K) but you earn more experience points up front (1000 for each ruby grove vs. 300 for each orange grove) and the coin return outshines the orange groves ($100 for one ruby vs $15 for three oranges).

Lets say you invest another $100K to buy ten ruby groves. You will earn 10,000 xp just to plant them. Three harvests a day will yield $3000 and 2550 xp. Ten ruby groves produce half as many experience points as 33 orange groves and six times as many coins.

What about investment value?

Some players look at the initial investments and feel the ruby groves are a rip off. After all the orange grove costs less than a third of a tree but produces half as many experience points. Those players need to look beyond the intial investment. Each ruby grove outproduces an orange grove by almost 60 percent. In three harvests you will earn 150 xp from a single orange grove and 255 xp from the ruby.

But let’s not think in terms of experience points. Let’s think of the cash return on your investment. At 5 coins per harvest, the orange grove will pay for itself in 600 harvests (200 days, or six and a half months, at three harvests a day). At 100 coins per harvest, the ruby grove will pay for itself in 100 harvests, or less than a month.

Now we should consider the how quickly each grove pays for itself in experience points. Assuming each coin you spend for a grove is worth 1 xp, the orange grove will pay for itself in 60 harvests (20 days). The ruby grove will take 118 harvests (40 days), or twice as long to yield its value in experience. But in the same 118 harvests you will have earned 10,000 xp from the ruby grove and only 5900, or forty percent fewer, from the orange grove.

One ruby grove costs more than three times as much as an orange grove but by the time it pays for itself in experience, it will have outperformed the orange by a wide margin.

Planning for the future

At this point in our grove scenario you have 43 groves. Your net daily income is $3500 and 7550 experience points (more if you actually lose some sleep and collect all four daily harvests).

I think I mentioned that from this point on you should look toward creating a balance of 20 rubies for every 30 oranges in your kingdom. If you don’t feel you have the coins to add enough rubies to do this with your current fields of orange groves, at least strive for the ratio with grove purchases from this point on. Buy two rubies, then buy three orange.

By the time you reach L26, however, it’s time to stop buying orange groves and focusing on rubies.

After L26 the experience points required to move between levels increases dramatically. You will need to think 100,000 points or more to move between levels. That’s more points than you needed to reach L18.

Orange groves just won’t cut it any more. You need coins and experience, and the orange groves will nickel and dime you to death.

By level 35 start thinking in terms of a quarter million points. You can’t even afford to have orange groves in your kingdom any more. Like it or not, you need to start replacing those orange groves with ruby groves. You may wince because you spent so much for them, but they’re now a drag on your investment.

You may be concerned that I’m comparing one orange to one ruby grove even though you can buy three orange groves for the cost of a ruby. This, in fact, makes the rubies even more valuable. Three orange groves take three times as much space in your kingdom as a single ruby grove and as you climb through the levels space will become a premium. Three ruby groves will massively outperform three orange groves.

One hundred orange groves will earn 1500 coins a day if you make three harvests. You will need six harvests over two days to buy a single orange grove. One hundred ruby groves will earn 30,000. You can earn enough to buy six ruby groves with rubies in the same amount of time it takes you to earn a single orange grove with oranges.

By the same measure, one hundred orange groves only produce 15,000 experience points a day compared to 25,500 experience points for the same number of ruby groves.

This also means that once you start generating enough income to purchase rubies consistently, every orange grove in your kingdom is costing you money and experience points because it produces so much less than what you could be producing with a ruby grove. Put in those terms, one hundred orange groves are costing you $28,5000 and 10,500 xp a day in money you could have earned with rubies.

If that seems trivial, lets project it over a month. The orange groves will operate at a net loss of $855,000 and 315,000 xp for one month. You could have advanced from L28 to L30 and earned the coins for a ruby citadel by doing nothing other than harvesting rubies instead of oranges.

If you think you can’t afford to replace your orange groves with rubies, think again. By the time you hit L30, you can’t afford not to. If you’re serious about getting to L40 before your grandchildren graduate, you need at least 300 ruby groves scattered around your kingdom, and I suspect that number’s conserative. Yes, that’s three million coins worth of ruby groves, but with 300 ruby groves you will recover your investment in less than five weeks.

I’m including a couple of charts to illustrate. One chart shows the income generated by filling four adjunct kingdoms with nothing but ruby groves. The second chart shows how your money multiplies by adding one ruby grove a day for sixty days. The chart operates on the assumption that by the time you can afford to do this, you already have thirty-four ruby groves in place (for just under $100K investment up to this point).

Chart 1: The revenue produced by packing your four adjunct kingdoms with ruby groves. It doesn’t look pretty, but it makes your kingdom rich.

Chart 2: The rate of growth created by adding one ruby grove per day for 60 days (starting with 34, or $100K worth of groves). This isn’t the miracle of compound interest, you don’t get that, but it’s still pretty impressive.

When you look at the leaders, you will discover they have two to three times that many rubies. Many have filled their adjunct kingdoms with rubies, and each kingdom can hold 196 groves (with a half row extra). That’s without resorting to the controversial practice of stacking.

I would never advocate a player do something because other players do it, but in the case of planting groves, especially rubies, case we’re talking about best practices. If you do what the best players do, you have a better chance of being as successful as them.


1And sadly, even Episcopalians must have recessive Baptist genes. As soon as the whole “gay and women priests” thing started in the Episcopal church, a bunch of Episcopalians turned Catholic.back
2Believe it or not, the cost of groves in mojo is higher than the cost of most buildings in mojo. Ruby groves cost 10 mojo or $10,000 for a tenth of a percent (.001). Dragon’s lairs, which have the highest ratio of mojo to coins, cost half of that percentage (.0005). The university at 33 mojo for $275,000 is just over a hundredth of a percent (.00012). Of course this doesn’t include the additional cost of bypassing construction, but you can wait a few days for the building to install and avoid that question altogether. back


Visit my kingdom at totalthinker, and Carol’s at JennyManytoes. Write me at wrgrimoire@gmail.com.