Thursday, September 25, 2008

TE's Big Pie

One day, one of my subjects asked me a question. It was one of several, in fact, and like the others, it was a good one. She asked "how much land should I give to my subjects? Is there an optimum ratio?"

First, a bit of background as to the reason for her question. Anyone who plays Tiny Empires for any length of time (and by this, I mean more than half an hour) notices that the price of land goes up as you buy more land. The exact formula for land prices can be found on the TE wiki, but for our purposes, it's enough to say that the price of land goes up as the square of the amount of land you own. For those less mathematically inclined, let me put it this way: when the amount of land you have doubles, the income from that land doubles... but the amount that you pay for land will quadruple.

It doesn't take much to see that as you get more personal land, your ability to buy it decreases. The only thing that saves it from being a total disaster is that such things as census gold, gold windfalls, poll bonuses, and riddle bonuses all increase at the same rate as land costs.

But all of this leads to a basic strategy in Tiny Empires. As you buy land, pass it down to your subjects. By doing so, you increase their rank, their loyalty (one would hope) and you preserve your ability to buy land. At some point, in fact, you would hit a balancing point at which your ability to buy land matches your ability to give land away. At that point, you can sit and give land away all day and maintain your personal land throughout the whole process... while your total acreage and rank goes up if you're giving to your subjects.

There are other considerations, though, as I told the lady who asked me. For one thing, consider how many direct subjects you have-- the fewer you have, the less secure your position is. (This is explained in more detail in 'chains vs. layers') Accidents happen, and a subject leaving may not be an accident. Maintaining personal land may slow your ability to buy more, but it also makes your rank more secure, since less of it depends on those underneath you.

This last consideration leaves the realm of the mathematical and enters the realm of human psychology. A story has been told of a woman who was made the manager of an industrial plant. Unfortunately for her, this plant was in poor condition. Morale was very bad, production was bad, and almost everyone there expected it to go bankrupt. Her job was to prevent that from happening. Fortunately for her, she found a very wise man among her employees who taught her how to increase morale and productivity. One of his analogies applies particularly well to Tiny Empires. Consider if you will...

Imagine a pie. Fill this pie with your favorite delicious goody (apples, blueberries, rhubarb, whatever.) You'd love to have some of this pie, wouldn't you? Of course you would.

Now you look around and you see other people. And you realize that they want some of this pie as well.

You look at them.

You look back at the pie.

Now the question: How big is that pie?

There are two instinctive gut reactions here.

Little Pie people will see the pie as being too little to go around. They will immediately scheme ways to get as much for themselves as possible.

Big pie people will see the pie as being big enough for everyone. They'll gladly serve slices to others, because they know there will always be more delicious pie.

It's my contention that Tiny Empires is a big pie game. There is a potentially nearly infinite supply of land and gold. The only limiting factor is the time and enthusiasm of the people playing it. Thus, increase the time and enthusiasm, and the pie will always be big enough. (This is also why one expert on the game once told me, bluntly, 'war's out... TE is just not that kind of game'. A war game involves little pie thinking.)

So, when I want people in my kingdom, I want to make sure I get big pie people. Why? (Note that little pie people will instantly say 'so she can keep the pie for herself and convince the others not to complain about it')

But the real reason is that your expectations are a large factor in the eventual size of your pie. If you see the pie as being big, it will be big. If you see the pie as being little, it will be little.

Much of the drama in Tiny Empires comes from little pie thinking. Scheming and backbiting to increase one's position, rank, prestige, at the expense of others involves either fear that the limited supply of desirable land, rank, and position will go to someone else instead of you, or a malicious desire for such things in and of themselves.

As for me, I want a big pie! I want a pie that keeps growing because people are enjoying themselves in making it bigger. I want to see success come to me and those around me not as an "I win and you lose" little pie factor, but as the truly TE "if we work together, we can all win together" big pie world.

So, in the end, I told my Countess (now Duchess) that I couldn't give her an exact answer to her question. She nodded wisely and replied, "yes, it's the human factor."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Invisible Kingdom

One evening, I met with a Duke from another kingdom. During our conversation, he asked me to bring him into our kingdom "ASAP". Although we had been discussing his less than desirable relations in his current kingdom, his desperation finally made me do a double take. He had been told that he would be "deleted" from the game, which I translated mentally as "disowned." I finally stopped to ask him, bluntly, "do you know as a practical matter what happens when you are disowned?"

He asked what the outcome would be... "Deleted from the game?"

No, he wouldn't be, and I had the happy chore of telling him that the fears that had been instilled in him by his current kingdom were groundless. He would not be deleted from the game, his HUD would not die, his subjects would not be deleted from the game, either... all of those stories were, at best, misunderstandings on the part of those telling him. (I had my own personal suspicions of worse, but I can't prove anything, nor do I want to- it doesn't matter.)

So what is this 'disown' thing, and why would it be so frightening?

When you have subjects in Tiny Empires, you will occasionally get a message. The wording says, "A farmer knows when it's time to prune dead branches. Will you pay xxxx gold to disown the subject of yours known as ____?" You get to fill in the blank, and pay the amount it asks. (The actual amount varies depending on your personal land holdings.) If you do that, the subject is 'disowned'.

The list that I gave my worried Duke was as follows:

1. You can't get income from your land
2. You won't be in any kingdom
3. You can join someone else for free
4. You get offers to join a random liege decided by the emperor
5. Those under you continue their lives as normal- they just won't be in any kingdom

I finished my list with "as a practical matter, it's a bit uncomfortable for you personally, but hardly a huge disaster."

With his fears relieved, we were able to conduct our business in a better frame of mind and judgement. He is now a happy and productive Prince in Caledon, with a growing list of subjects.

One item that I didn't include on my list was that neither he nor his subjects would show up in the standings page. Understandable that I would leave an item out, I suppose. After all, this was an impromptu list, not a lengthy disquisition on the exact concepts and mechanics of being disowned. I left that for now.

When a person starts the game, she does not have a liege, and with no acres, she ranks as a Wanderer. With no liege, and thus no income from any land (even if she is given any), she subsists on the Emperor's charity. By standing next to someone of the right rank, she will receive a notice that she may offer to join them. If she makes the offer and they accept, she becomes their subject. While all of this is going on, she will receive occasional offers from the Emperor to assign her to a random subject.

This state should be familiar to any TE player, since every one of us started in that exact same position. (How long we remained there is, of course, a matter of personal experience.) My point in bringing it up here is to point out that if you are disowned, you revert back to that exact same state. The difference is that you now still have all of your land, gold, and subjects that you have accumulated in the game. You don't lose any of those at all.

Thus, you are a free agent again, and still with your current rank. Before, the only way to switch subjects was to apply to someone and pay gold to your current liege. Now, your current liege has paid the gold and broken the relationship, so you can apply to someone else and pay nothing!

As for your subjects, they find that their huds no longer list a kingdom after their name. They might also notice that they will no longer receive any tax amnesties, trader visits, or other goodies that depend upon being in a kingdom- but they are still free to get homage income from any subjects they have, and earn gold from their land, just as if nothing had happened.

The one thing that does happen, though, is that none of you show on the standings page anymore. If someone entered your or their name in the search engine there, they would receive "That citizen has no direct line to any of the Kings or Queens." as a result. Yes, you're still out there... somewhere... but in a limbo land, in an invisible kingdom that has no connection to the Emperor or any Monarch.

Which led me one evening to muse over an interesting idea... what would happen if a huge Prince were disowned, and neither he nor any of his subjects ever changed allegience to anyone else? They could actually still have people become their subjects, but the result would be a kingdom that didn't officially exist.

There are no doubt thousands of these invisible people- wanderers who never found a liege, people who were disowned and decided, for whatever reason, not to rejoin. No doubt the vast majority of them are loners, with no subjects... perhaps at most a handful. But considered as a single entity, they are very likely a kingdom larger than any in the Terra Aurean Empire... what would happen if they someday found each other, joined into a single kingdom, and.... who knows what would happen when the Invisible Kingdom realized its potential?

(pssst... want a way to help find the invisible kingdom? While nothing is sure, you do stand a better chance with the TE Companion.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Disappearing Kingdoms?

Abdication! The winds of change are swirling even more fiercely through the empire than usual. Rumors fly about Kings and Queens giving up their thrones.... whole kingdoms disappearing....

Could it happen? Perhaps! Keep an eye on that kingdom list, people, because you never know....

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My second set of eyes

Situation: You're offered a chance to bribe 'Count Procurator Gladius Ceaser'. You have no idea if Gladius is really a Count, or perhaps another Prince. Solution:

/2 Gladius Ceaser

You instantly have Gladius' actual rank, approximate number of people below him, and even his lineage from the Emperor down to himself.

Situation: Someone becomes a Prince in the announcements. You wonder if they are a fast growing Prince, with lots of subjects, or a slower one with few or none. Solution:

(click) display button
(click) new Prince's name

Again, the number of subjects and lineage is yours for the asking.

Situation: The new Prince has been demoted to Duke in the next turn. You wonder if he was automatically disowned of a knight. Solution:

(click) display button
(click) new Duke's name

Now you can compare the number of subjects, and- more importantly- the list of direct subjects for the once-again Duke. Did one of his direct subjects disappear? Then it's a good chance that is what happened. A fast way to confirm it is to look for them and see if they have a liege!

Situation: You notice news about a kingdom that sounds interesting. You wonder if they are a major or minor kingdom, and how big they are. Solution:

/2 /k KingdomName
/2 Monarch Name

You now know what the kingdom's rank is, and the size of the monarch's downline.

Situation: A subject has disappeared from your line. Who did they go to? Or were they disowned and are now floating in limbo? Solution:

/2 Subject Name

You now know who they went to... if anyone.

For those of you who are wondering how all of this is done, it is courtesy of my second set of eyes, more commonly known as the Tiny Empires Companion. Experienced Tiny Empires players will note that much of this can be done through the Standings Page.

One thing the standings page can't do is find players who are not connected to a kingdom- but this one does. If the line is only partial, you get the partial line, up to the point where it ends with a liegeless player.

Another thing the standings page might have trouble with is giving you the size of the downline. A small downline is easily counted- given time. A larger downline may be difficult to impossible. This gives you good estimates on the larger downlines instantly.

It's quicker than the standings page. You don't have to open another window. And if you're acquainted with the ways of Tiny Empires lines and how they work, you can glean a surprising amount of information in a short amount of time.

However, this is not free. In fact, it's the first item for sale that is more than just a single one-time buy: it's a service, and you pay continually. The current charge is 250L per month. Is it worth it to you? Let's put it this way. In the You might be a TE addict if... post, a couple of the items were:

  • You spend more time looking at your TE standings page than your friends list.

  • Your ninth and newest alt just made Count.

If either of these apply to you, it's a good chance you'll find the Companion quicker and easier. Plus, let's admit it... it's fun to be able to type in a name and instantly see who, what, where, and how many!