We Rule Design Contest

I have two announcements today:

First, I will be taking a month away from blog Monday entries. I will return on Monday March 7 (which is actually only four entries missed).

I will still be updating the site with new building information on the day they are released, with a new analysis each Thursday. And if there’s something I really need to tell you, I will.

But I’m presenting at an international conference on religion and spirituality in society (who would have thought from this blog?) and I need to focus on finishing the slides and travel.

But that’s not the big news.

Readers may be aware that there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the status of stacking (or sliding) in We Rule kingdoms. Some players report locks on new ruby groves. I have also received emails about random scans counting the number of groves in player kingdoms.

ngmoco:)’s official position, at least in their correspondence with me, is that they haven’t been removing groves. But I haven’t received any promises that this will continue to happen. So Acehound has done a number of experiments designed to allow players to maximize the use of sliding while remaining under the radar.

This guy knows his stuff. I’ve posted screenshots of his amazingly well-designed pre-purge wall-to-wall stacks in the past. And this brings me to today’s announcement, the first We Rule: The Hidden Grimoire

We Rule design contest

Players can enter any of three categories:

  1. Theme design for a realm. Players should devote one realm to a specific theme (winter, Santaland, mediterranean, evil dead).
  2. Best use of building repetition. It can’t just be trees, rivers, roads and walls. Players have to build a symmetrical or assymetrical pattern using one to three buildings. They can use decorative objects and additional buildings to compliment the pattern or design.
  3. Most creative stacked object. It can be groves, sleighs or even (good luck on this) oases, but it should be something that returns income.

The prizes

Each winner will:

  • Have their realm presented with a screen shot on this site.
  • Receive a PDF file with Acehound’s stacking secrets. This is stuff I’ve never published on this site, and never will.
  • Be gratified that they have been recognized above the three+ million other players for their efforts.

We will also display screenshots of any other kingdoms we feel have merit. So even if you don’t care about learning Acehound’s secrets to stacking (although I can’t imagine anybody that wouldn’t want the secret just in case), you still have plenty of reason to submit.

Contest rules

  • Entries must be emailed by midnight CST February 27, 2011
  • Players can enter more than one category, but not with the same realm.
  • Players can only win in one category (they don’t need two copies of the PDF brief).
  • Themed realms shouldn’t have any objects that don’t compliment the theme.
  • Entrants must email a screen shot of their entry to wrgrimoire@gmail.com and ace_hound@yahoo.ca.
  • Entries must include “we rule design contest” in the subject field.
  • Entrants should include their plus+ id so we can look at the kingdom.
  • Entrants should include their name and the name of their theme or stacked object.
  • I reserve the right to disqualify any entry I feel is getting too squirrely with the few rules I’ve laid out. If you submit your entry at least one week before deadline, I will let you know if there’s a problem.
  • Neither Acehound, Carol or I can enter this contest.

So get to it. You have a month to go wild in any realm. That should give you plenty of time to harvest crops, plant groves and earn the coins you need to go wild.

Why wouldn’t my gorgeous realm win the theme category? Because the Medusa and chimera really don’t belong in the winter wonderland. The troll bridge and founts could pass, but definitely not the medusa and chimera.

Click image to see full size

See you in the blog spot in a month, and every Thursday with new shops analysis.

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

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.