Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Taking Bribes

Hello, new peasant in the mighty Terra Aurean Empire. You have just been offered fifty gold if you will join Dame Lady Steele and accept her as your liege. Accept?

How many times has that come across your HUD... (or how many times have you caused it to appear on the HUD of others?)

One of the first things a new player starts receiving is offers of gold to come join someone else. It's probably the most common automated event in the game. So...

why should you accept that bribe?


Particularly for new players who don't have a full understanding of what is happening, this is often the case. Say yes and see what happens. Well, what does happen? Your kingdom may change. Your liege's name certainly changes. And that's all of the differences that you see on your hud. However, your lieges- past and (new) present- see your acreage either appearing or disappearing from their total holdings... and will be either happier or sadder (depending on which side of the change they're on) because of it. Rank is often gained or lost because you, dear player, hit yes on a bribe offer. As a new player, it may not mean much- particularly if you're not sure or don't care which kingdom you're in, or don't know any of your current lieges.


It happens. Lag, a misread line, "I thought I clicked no!" and other things. A lot of people decide- or are told- to not even click no on bribe offers, just in case a no click gets treated as a yes. Often the cause of a lot of excitement and drama.


You've been offered gold to change, and it's often enough to buy a few acres of land. Why not augment your income and switch? (More answers to that later...)

Join Friends

You know the person sending you the bribe, and want to join them. The money is nice, but the chance to play with friends is even better. Sometimes, you may not have known them before, but they IM you and it sounds like a nice place to be, with people who are really interested in you.

Leaving a bad situation

You don't like your current liege, or you feel forgotten. Perhaps other drama has taken place that makes you feel uncomfortable or unhappy where you're at. It's even possible that you've been told to "take the next bribe out". Hitting 'yes' on that bribe offer may be a relief, and a chance at a new career.


You know a fair amount, but want to see how it is done in other kingdoms. Perhaps you're an alt of a more experienced player who wants to keep his or her finger in other pies. This is a good opportunity to get into the inside of another kingdom, and perhaps gain access you wouldn't have otherwise.


Same old, same old. The kingdom doesn't change, the liege doesn't change, and nothing is happening. Perhaps you even quit playing for a while because it didn't seem worth your time. Then you see an interesting new name pop up on the hud, offering gold. Why not? It's at least something new...

And why wouldn't you want to do it? What are the downsides to taking that bribe?

Burnt Bridges

Leaving someone behind can reduce their rank, certainly reduces their holdings, and if they're active at all (or if their lieges are active) is likely to cause hard feelings. The polls say that most people will take someone back if they're "genuinely sorry"... but those polls can't be fully trusted.

Lack of subjects

People tend to drift away from someone who switches a lot. They liked it back in the kingdom you left- maybe they were friends there, or people who first joined in that kingdom, and aren't interested in changing. Or perhaps your now former lieges/friends approached them and asked them to come back, since you had left them. If a rolling stone gathers no moss, it's also true that a wandering TE players tends to gather no subjects. This may not be a huge factor for beginning players, but is more likely to be a problem later. You could end up as a Marquis or Duke with no one under you and no immediate prospects of anyone.


You decide to join a new kingdom that sounds inviting, and once you get there, you find that your new liege and his or her friends don't fully accept you. They know that people who come usually go just as quickly, and even after perhaps paying millions in gold to get you, they still put you "on trial" and don't really accept you, or treat you as "one of them". I once had someone tell me of an alt that they had used to explore other kingdoms with, using bribes. He said that out of about a dozen lieges, only two had even bothered to speak to him. It's a self-reinforcing cycle that often occurs- you're more likely to leave because no one trusts you, and no one is likely to trust you because you're more likely to leave.

So, there you have it from the viewpoint of someone being offered a bribe. Any other reasons to add, anyone?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Sooner or later (usually sooner) every Tiny Empires player will get a message that reads something like this:

The opportunity comes to sabotage an enemy of your choice. Use small arrows below. Will you pay a rogue 4,000,000 g to damage a few acres belonging to [Cereal Killer Miles Baran]?

The name in brackets changes-- you get a choice of five different people. The actual amount to pay varies, depending on land holdings. Usually it is between two to four times the price of an acre, though people with large amounts of personal acreage report lower prices, suggesting there are other factors at play. Whatever it is, though, it's a significant sum of money.

Why do it?

First, let's review what it is. For this huge sum of money, the target that you select from the dropdown list will be sabotaged and will lose a few acres of land. (Usually one to five.) Originally, that was all that there was to it, though the scenario is more complicated now (complications to be discussed later.) But how does this help you? Back to our original question... why? It seems so much easier to find good reasons not to do it... and the general consensus that I normally hear is "sabotage is stupid." So, unless someone is "stupid"... why is it done? It happens all the time. Here are some possible answers:


It happens. You think you're sending out a bribe, and instead it was a sabotage offer. I know of a friend who did that. She was sooo embarrassed- she IM'ed the person, apologized, and offered to donate the land back to them if they wanted. It was reported that the person in question was quite surprised by the offer.


According to this mindset, the goal is to be number one, regardless of what it takes. So if you have three more acres, or if someone else has three less, the outcome is the same: you win. This reasoning tends to fall apart when you consider that there are thousands of players. The money you spent on sabotage, if spent on buying land, would give you a lot more land in comparison to everyone else. Sabotaging one person may 'hold them back', but that's just one person- thousands of others are still gaining on you, unaffected by your sabotage. To someone with a very competitive nature, though, this reasoning may not be obvious, and may also pale in comparison to the emotional satisfaction of "beating them" that they get from sabotage.

Inter-kingdom rivalry

Back in the early days of Tiny Empires (meaning about a year ago, now), Lothlorien was the largest kingdom in the Empire. Avalon, however, was growing, and was looking to pass them. For a while, several Lothloriens openly, publicly, made Avalon a target of sabotage. For the record, the effort failed. Avalon became the largest kingdom, and remained that way for some time. However, it illustrates the larger principle: kingdoms may seek alliances or rivalries among one another. These alliances/rivalries are usually expressed by the monarchs in terms of whether or not players from the other kingdom should be sabotaged, among other things.

Personal animosity

Once I sent an IM to a friend, sympathizing with her on a sabotage that had just been done on her lands. She replied, laughing. She said she knew the woman who had done it in real life. What she said about that woman's lack of a life (first and second) doesn't bear repeating, but suffice it to say, my friend attributed it solely to personal envy and spite on the other woman's part, and in general had a low opinion of her. In all of the drama that takes place within and without the empire, it's not surprising when the randomly generated list contains someone you genuinely dislike and don't mind spending the money to hurt them. The reasons for the dislike are, of course, as numerous as the people involved.


For some people, simply 'buying land' just doesn't keep them interested. They want more buttons to push, more things to do, more 'fun'. Sometimes, their idea of 'fun' involves sabotaging others. It's more variety, and an enjoyable sidelight to the game. When confronted or condemned for their actions, these people treat those who object with scorn and ridicule, characterizing the objectors as "whiners" or "babies", etc... and justifying it by pointing out that the Emperor obviously intended for people to do it, or he wouldn't have put it into the game. The general advice they give is "grow up," though it may not be phrased that politely or cleanly.

If anyone else can think of any more reasons, feel free to add them. I think that covers about every situation I can think of. Now, in the interests of personal disclosure, let me take the time to answer two questions:

Have you ever been sabotaged?
Yes. In the more than a year that I've been playing, I have been sabotaged exactly once. (Now that I've publicly stated that, watch it happen again in the next week...) I lost four acres of land, and there was no clue as to who did it. My friends among the monarchs informed me that meant that whoever did it was a direct subject of the emperor- that those people got cheaper sabotage and that it was always anonymous.I suppose I should feel flattered that someone- likely a King or Queen (not all direct subjects were monarchs then) should take the time and money to single me out. But, it was long ago, and I'm sure long forgotten by whoever did it.

Have you ever sabotaged anyone?
No. Once I was seriously tempted, but I remembered a lesson that I've learned the hard way: the rotten, mean, nasty people that probably deserve it are also going to be a lot more mean and nasty to you, and will make you more miserable, than anything you ever do will them. (What I learned about the potential target later, his actions and career, only confirmed my earlier decision.)

Now, on to more details-- the complications of sabotage. (Note that this is purely technical, the personal drama I leave for the reader to decide.)

In the beginning, if you paid the money, you got results. The only thing that mitigated the damage was if the target had a castle built on their land (this is the million gold piece castle that you finish upgrading your housing to, if I recall correctly.) But then things became more complicated. A would-be saboteur now has two more things to consider:

1. If the target has allies who are online, they can 'fund an investigation' and bring the perpetrator to justice. If this happens, the person who paid for the sabotage pays for the lost land out of their personal holdings. Net result? A lot of money spent for sabotage, some money spent by allies, and the lost land is suffered by the person who spent all of the money on sabotage. Not necessarily a pleasant outcome, though I've been told at least once that "it was worth it." (see the 'personal animosity' section above as to why)

2. If the target has researched crime and is immune to it, they (and their direct subjects) will not suffer any loss from sabotage. This isn't something that is enforced by simply not having their name appear on the list of targets, nor is it something that the player hiring the rogue is warned about. You pay your money, the rogue tries, and fails. Net result? Money spent for sabotage with no damage done. So far, I haven't heard of a failed sabotage also resulting in the would-be saboteur's identity becoming known.

...and that pretty much sums up the sabotage scene. As to the question of is it worth it, I leave that to the reader to decide. People being people, the answer probably depends on whose name comes up in that list of targets...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Life in other Kingdoms

As I've written for the blog, I think the best thing that's happened to me is that I've had a chance to meet and learn about the other kingdoms in the Aurean Empire. Before, I may have known how the game is played, and I certainly knew my own kingdom (why shouldn't I, they're my friends)... but other kingdoms were largely a mystery. But as I've had a chance to talk with some of the monarchs and others, I've had a taste of what is out there. Now I wonder what it would take to help bring that to others.

This past weekend, a friend showed me his stargate. Most of you have probably seen the movie(s) and/or series based on the concept of the Stargate: a huge ring of stone, about 25 to 30 feet across, which can be used to open a wormhole to another stargate many light-years away. The concept has been adapted for Second Life. For those of you who haven't seen it, you may want to find it... there are several hundred "stargates" within Second Life, all connected in a network that lets people travel instantly (via teleport) from one to another, either randomly or to a selected location ( once they learn the commands. ) My friend tells me that his stargate has dozens of people coming through it every weekend-- explorers traveling the network at random.

Many kingdoms within the Aurean Empire have "headquarters". They are often full sims, devoted to a particular kingdom. As my mind wonders about how to bring about greater communication between them, I see a vision of some sort of gate... perhaps not the form of a stargate, but something similar... that lets a traveler go from one kingdom to another within Second Life, and have a chance to see for him or herself what each one is like.. and what they have built for themselves and for any visitors.

On a much more modest scale, the TE wiki already lists a few websites for the various kingdoms within the empire... perhaps simply having people add their own kingdom's link there would provide a good starting point for explorations... if not in the world of Second Life, then at least on the web.

Or, if it were made part of the Tiny Empires system itself, a monarch could have the ability to specify a website url and slurl for their kingdom... information which would be available to all players within that kingdom via the 'regular' hud, and to players of other kingdoms through, say, the TE Companion.

In the end, of course, kingdoms are people. People create places. People make websites. But if you want to know what those places and websites really represent, talk with the people themselves. I know I've talked to a few, and the little bit I've done has only given me a small idea of the many tales that can be told of events within the Terra Aurean Empire! Perhaps others will be willing to share their stories... if not in a public forum, then among each other.

And, though I don't know about you, I personally find that a fascinating idea, indeed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


As the Halloween Jack-O-Lanterns are turned into Pumpkin Pies for Thanksgiving, I felt it appropriate for me to thank those who I have met and who have meant so much to me in Tiny Empires.

If anyone else feels like doing the same thing, by all means do so in the comments below... or if you send me a notecard in-world, I'd be happy to post it here in its own post for you.

(Also, please excuse any typographical or grammar errors, and if this seems a bit clumsy as well. I'm just writing this into the blog without the usual review. Perhaps less professional, but hopefully sincere!)

I suppose, in order of occurrence...

Ellie Bearcat for giving me the original HUD. Who knew it would turn out like this...

Erzsabet Bergbahn and Happe Hax for inspiring me to actually use the HUD and join under them.

Balto Allen, Burtrum Forester, Gloriana Maertens for being among my first subjects. It means a lot to have friends who want to be with you and help you, and they did.

Reinhardt Stenvaag for helping me become a Princess (you never forget that time... except for me, I was asleep when it happened...) and for being the key to help create Caledon later.

Becky Book for joining the two parts of Caledon into one kingdom, and helping us achieve our dream.

Deva Babii for her help in creating Caledon, and providing a goal for us during our last holiday season!

Juls Rosca for joining us when we needed the boost... and I mean in morale, not just land. It's been a gift to have your enthusiasm and energy by my side!

And of course so many more that I've met and enjoyed. I look through the page and find so many friends and people I've had the good fortune of learning to know. Miria, Dub, Caisha, Dagda, LadyArtista, Kandace, Mordecai, Bridget, Francesca, Loracenaj, Giga, Christofer, Josefina, Gorilla, Tigerchub, Calixus, Crias, Nanlee, Aldebaran, Prabal, Lavendar, Patty, Kiralette, Bullpup, Elixia, Viderian, Mariana, David, Brian, Aries, Bellafia, Brooke, Clairvaux, Manannan, Nanami, Swiftly, LadyStargazer, Kwerbleburb... all of you have been there with me in this enterprise at some point. And, of course, there are others- how could I forget Nerk, Muse, Art, Sunny, Marsha, and Mike?

Each and every one of you have been a joy to work with, fun to be around, and in general good company and loved friends. My main regret is that there are so many others that I see in the lines whom I haven't met personally. Perhaps that can be remedied soon!