Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The King is dead

...long live the king.

Early this morning, the player behind the King Chester Capalini passed from the TE throne of Heaven to his real life reward. Various in-world memorials are being made, anyone wanting more information should contact Queen Spunky Young of Phoenix Rising.

The Kingdom of Heaven is currently ranked 15 among the kingdoms in size, apparently having never risen higher than rank 11. For tomorrow, another act of respect is being planned by Queen Alamiga Anatine of Angels of the Empire and King Swankhaven Blitz of Swank. They will temporarily combine forces and send part of their kingdom to nobles in Heaven to boost it to that top ten mark.

If anyone would like to join this for a day, contact your own liege and make whatever arrangements are necessary. I'm sure that Queen Alamiga and King Swankhaven would be glad to help you find where to go in this.

Queen Alamiga will be sending about half of her kingdom to the Kingdom of Heaven. "[I] think it would be nice for Angels to be in Heaven for a day," she said, adding that she had never heard a bad word said about King Chester.

This isn't the first time a monarch has passed away in real life. King Luz Susenko did so as well. A lot of kingdoms had a "no touch" rule concerning the kingdom afterwards, and it has only slowly dropped in rank, becoming a minor kingdom relatively recently.

Taken the next day...

January 1st, 2009...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Interview with Valentine Janus

Valentine Janus and Vulpine EldrichQueen Valentine Janus (left) and blogress Vulpine Eldrich (right)

Vulpine Eldrich: Good evening everyone, and Merry Christmas (which it is right now). I'm here with Queen Valentine Janus of New Deseret. Thank you for giving up part of your holiday to talk with us, Valentine.

Valentine Janus: Thank you for interviewing me.

Vulpine Eldrich: So, what or where is 'New Deseret', and why do you think it describes your kingdom?

Valentine Janus: We got started in a nine-sim community founded by Latter-day Saints, or Mormons. The name comes from one of those sims. It reflects our origins, although we certainly have branched out beyond one small part of the grid. Also, the word Deseret itself means honeybee--kind of a nice metaphor for a TE kingdom, unity and industry.

Vulpine Eldrich: I seem to recall that a coin minted by the Mormons in Utah had a honeybee on it. Not an accident?

Valentine Janus: Not at all. The beehive is still in the state flag of Utah.

Vulpine Eldrich: So how many in your TE Kingdom of New Deseret are from Utah, or are Mormons, in real life?

Valentine Janus: Not that many from Utah. I'd guess slightly over half are LDS. Of my five direct subjects, only two share my faith.

Vulpine Eldrich: How has it affected your kingdom, its growth, how the word gets out about your group, others joining or leaving from elsewhere within Terra Aurea?

Valentine Janus: I think it is mostly a positive influence. People can join our kingdom and know that the standards will be PG in Second Life terms. Some, of course, won't want that. One of the great elements of TE is that you can find many different styles among the kingdoms. If you don't fit into one place, another will be available.

Vulpine Eldrich: So true! So do you have- or plan to have- any sort of central meeting place here in Second Life?

Valentine Janus: As of mid-October, I own two of the nine sims I mentioned. We have a group hangout on the City of Enoch sim, with ready access to a lot of recreation facilities. I have been a recreation center operator since my first month in SL. We also have a kingdom website out-of-world, http://newdeseret.wordpress.com

Vulpine Eldrich: Ready-made for a kingdom's social events! How have you found that career helpful to your TE Kingdom building?

Valentine Janus: It's one more way to have fun -- and TE has the added advantage that the game mechanics force players to interact with each other, to get together. I spend more time with interesting people that I might have barely met otherwise. One reason I think the game took off in our community is because many of us are a close-knit bunch with a lot in common; TE built on existing relationships.

Vulpine Eldrich: I've seen that happen more than once, myself. So now that you're the Queen of this Kingdom, where do you go from here?

Valentine Janus: First, we get back on the map. One very successful princess was at home in Camelot and did not want to leave. So we talked it over. Sje and all her people stayed to see the kingdom formed, and went back at a small send-off gathering the next day. Beyond that, just continue to grow, meet people, have fun. One day my other personal goal is to spin off a daughter kingdom.

Vulpine Eldrich: So you knew before you became a Queen that you were destined to start out as a minor kingdom, and you still did it... why now? Why not wait until later, or have tried to do this sooner?

Valentine Janus: I didn't know until I was in the 16,000 acre range that there would be a split. Once it was clear, we decided that it would be best to finalize things rapidly rather than possibly have lingering sentiments fester. Everyone had plenty of opportunity to go where they would be happy. And the limits on a minor kingdom are really only two: no custom titles, and no map spot. Both are nice, but neither is crucial to our fun and our success.

Vulpine Eldrich: But you do still have plans to become a major kingdom.

Valentine Janus: We do. Our senior princesses are really pushing hard to get back.

Vulpine Eldrich: So do you have any particular ideas or programs to do so, or an estimate of when you think you will be on the main map?

Valentine Janus: Our goal is to return by Easter. Mostly, we plan to do this with the same dedication that took us from zero to kingdom in under six months. I expect to do some special events for recruiting and building spirits, but I think we have been energized by the creation of the kingdom; the 'minor' distinction is a minor distinction.

Vulpine Eldrich: Very good! So what would you tell someone- say a Duke or Prince- who says "I'm considering being a part of New Deseret, but I'm not sure why I should.”?

Valentine Janus: We have a nice community, in a pretty setting, for mature people who don't have a need for so-called "mature" activities. It has ties to a two-year-old SL nation and a lot of committed, very friendly people. Most of us have been in SL for the long haul; we expect that to continue.

Vulpine Eldrich: And the same holds true for Tiny Empires?

Valentine Janus: Yes. Again, the community where this kingdom was born has shaped it -- here an in-world presence came first, not the other way round. But we welcome all in TE, just as the nation has, who want to play nice and have fun. I try to set the tone by absolutely refusing to offer, accept, or solicit bribes, or to sabotage.

Vulpine Eldrich: Do you have any plans to set up fishing?

Valentine Janus: I had a fishing place before I joined TE. I still do. It's busier now.

Vulpine Eldrich: Well let's hope that there are still some big ones left, anyway. So what got you started in Tiny Empires?

Valentine Janus: At heart I am a gamer. And the mix of feudal overtones into a really big game . . . well, I am a dual national of Caledon as well. Princesses and dukes and knights and things resonate with me anyway. The social aspects actually became clear later, as I realized the genius of the design in bringing people face-to-face often.

Vulpine Eldrich: So you started it. How long did it take to decide you would be a Queen?

Valentine Janus: Six to eight weeks after I started, my three largest direct subjects, then two princesses and a duchess, came to me and asked if I would consider it. They both thought that I should and that I could.

Vulpine Eldrich: How hard was it to convince you?

Valentine Janus: Not very. I didn't start out planning to do anything beyond rising to princess. But knowing that you have strong people backing you makes a big difference. Also, I got one huge break early on with a fortunate choice of allies-- an old-line princess of Avalon who just happened to have an ally slot for me. She sent me a few citizens to celebrate. Only 150,000 died of the 600,000 that came to me. That gave me a huge income base for my size. This fueled more rapid growth than I might have had. So I had the people and the resources, and the gamer in me said full speed ahead.

Vulpine Eldrich: In other words, Census Gold. So you took good care and they multiplied. How has the new research option changed things for you and your kingdom in regards to all of that?

Valentine Janus: The only hard thing is deciding which way to go. I am advising people to pick famine unless they expect to have several direct subjects, then disease is an alternative. I researched disease very early on. Knowing that the abbot will be forever half price and always gives to your direct subjects is a useful thing. But if you lack directs, famine is better.

Vulpine Eldrich: Or don't have many, I agree. So what would you say to someone who was considering buying the Federation HUD? Any advice about when or if they should get it?

Valentine Janus: I have a detailed article on the kingdom website about the Fed HUD. My counsel is to get it if you are count or higher with at least one direct subject, as long as you are comfortable with the extra attention it requires. The gold you can earn is worth it, provided you don't miss a lot of turns while online.

Vulpine Eldrich: And as the game continues to develop, what would you like to see added or changed?

Valentine Janus: The viceroys were a much needed addition for the rulers of large kingdoms. Perhaps there are ways to provide specialty involvements for other princes and princesses in a kingdom short of the path to royalty. There is a huge gulf between the many princes and princesses and the much smaller number who can be rulers or viceroys. But overall, Ultralite's work is outstanding; I look forward to seeing what he comes up with.

Vulpine Eldrich: What would you say if he appointed himself god and let kingdoms coalesce into multiple empires?

Valentine Janus: If he develops the subsequent game play as well as he has so far it might be interesting. Whether or not he really wants to be "a god" is a matter for his own personality and values. I think it would be fraught with challenges, but I know that he's done well so far. One thing that might be noticeable is that monarchs have a bit of a community with each other and with the Emperor, notwithstanding in-game rivalries. It operates to the good of TE as a whole. Could this be harmed? I don't know.

Vulpine Eldrich: Speaking of monarchs, there are quite a number now. Did you have any particular insights, experiences, or interesting things to find out when you joined that community?

Valentine Janus: I read everything I could find preparing for the jump. But a lot of things by design are not published. Learning the monarch powers is a matter of trial and error. I have found my brother and sister kings and queens to be very helpful and supportive when asked. I think the large number is mostly a good thing, because it offers players more choices. I know some think that being a king or queen is somehow less "special" with 127 kingdoms. But trust me, it's still a sea-change from being a big princess to being the queen.

Vulpine Eldrich: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to try and make that sea change?

Valentine Janus: Do your homework. Dig up the materials that are out there and read them. People will be turning to you for leadership in a new way, and expecting you to know more. Next, be open with your downlines. Accept that some will not want to go with you, and strive for harmony. Also, be open with your liege and your current monarch. You do not want them to feel like they are being stabbed in the back. Finally, remember that you are nothing in this game without a team of people supporting you. Love your people. They will return it when you need it most.

Vulpine Eldrich: Thank you! Good advice for anyone in a leadership position, I would say. So now, perhaps the best question of all... what did I miss? What thing or things did you want to let everyone know about that I didn't know (or forgot) to ask?

Valentine Janus: I think I should close with our kingdom motto, which originally showed up when I wrote my Q and A notecard about the upcoming ascension: "It's a game, not a lifestyle." Play, play hard, play well -- but play nice and have fun. If it stops being fun, take a break and review where you're at. And you can check us out in-world on the City of Enoch or Deseret sims, or on the web at http://newdeseret.wordpress.com. We look forward to meeting you!

Vulpine Eldrich: And there you have it, straight from the Queen's typing fingers. Thanks so much for your time and consideration, Valentine, and best wishes for your continued career.

Valentine Janus: Thank you for everything you've done for the game!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yes, Virginia, there really was a Santa Trader

It was mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve. I was wandering through a new store, appreciatively eying a set of Penguin avatars which used clothing layers for much of their effect. As usual, the Tiny Empires HUD was in its upper corner, giving me messages every three minutes.

Then a message came up which I couldn't believe... what did it mean? A mysterious stranger, dressed in bright red, had been sighted? As the messages continued in the next few months, we found that this mysterious stranger drove a sleigh with reindeer, and that he would be available for anyone to sit on his lap.

By this time, I was laughing and enjoying the excitement. Usually jaded senses, dulled by hundreds- nay- thousands- of "same old same old" months were getting a workout on this new twist. It was a Mysterious Trader... but not the usual sort. The messages flying in the chat rooms showed that I was not alone in my speculation and appreciation.

What would this be all about? What would the outcome be?

Finally the last month came, and we met the new stranger face to face. He didn't look at me with a "piercing gaze", he had a bright twinkle in his eye. And gold? Not a breath about it. He simply wanted me to sit on his knee. That was the question it asked- "Sit on his knee?"

What did I have to lose? I said yes.

And what to my wondering eyes should appear but cheap land! It was the usual prize that the Mysterious Trader gave out... but this stranger left with a light and empty sleigh.

This happened twice more on the next day- Christmas day itself.

And from then till now, there's never been a breath about him. But I know he came, because I was there- and I caught him all three times. He never charged me anything, but the prizes were just as good as that mysterious man in the black cloak ever gives out.

But now it's coming Christmas time again. Will it happen again? I have no clue. For those of us who spend much or all of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at home, on the computer, in Second Life, playing Tiny Empires... we will have a chance to find out.

But I do know one thing. Yes, Virginia, there really was a Santa Trader.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Interview with Alamiga Anatine

Vulpine Eldrich: I'm here tonight with Queen Alamiga Anatine of Angels of the Empire. Thanks so much for making time for me, Alamiga :)

Alamiga Anatine: My Pleasure!

Vulpine Eldrich: So, tell me, what particular quality or affinity made you decide your kingdom was "Angels of the Empire"?

Alamiga Anatine: It's from the name of my dance troupe, Angels of Dance. The bulk of the Kingdom was made up of them. The Angels of Dance term came from a deceased friend. I had asked her what I should call my group. She said I was an Angel, and should call it likewise.

Vulpine Eldrich: So you perform dance here in Second Life?

Alamiga Anatine: Yes we go to various venues and dances. It’s donation based, more fun for members to gather, dance, and chat.

Vulpine Eldrich: And play TE while they dance, I take it :)

Alamiga Anatine: Well originally, no. But now many do, though it’s not a requirement to play TE.

Vulpine Eldrich: So what else do the members of the TE Angels kingdom do?

Alamiga Anatine: Many have clubs and their own businesses. I allow them to mention them in group chat, so we can see what others do. Or they can come to Jazz—I have the ballroom, TUX! and the Angel Clubhouse, which is rocking blues. Oh, and 7Seas fishing at the TE Common. (TE Common used to be called Sanctuary Gardens, but a new Kingdom sort of made that confusing.)

Vulpine Eldrich: So Jazz functions as a central meeting place for the Kingdom?

Alamiga Anatine: No, the Angel Clubhouse is for that.

Vulpine Eldrich: I see. And where did it all start in Tiny Empires... I assume you had the Dance group first, then one day- something- got you into Tiny Empires.

Alamiga Anatine: Members of the dance troupe kept bugging me to join. I was resistant to it for the longest time.

Vulpine Eldrich: So when you finally did join, you were a peasant amid friends who were already TE nobility?

Alamiga Anatine: I looked at what the game was about and decided that Queen was my goal, though most of us were low ranks at the time...

Vulpine Eldrich: So the kingdom was formed, in theory, from the moment you first stepped into it. How long did it take from that first step to actual ascension?

Alamiga Anatine: let see... Started trial 2008/02/27, ascended 138 days ago...

Vulpine Eldrich: So, roughly six months.

Alamiga Anatine: Yes, my path to royalty was delayed mid way by Ultra. I had about 490 acres when he changed the requirement from 500 personal to 1000.

Vulpine Eldrich: So you had to stop and get more personal land before continuing. That must have been a bitter moment.

Alamiga Anatine: Yes, it was frustrating.

Vulpine Eldrich: But you finally made it. And now that you're a Queen, what goals do you have?

Alamiga Anatine: To title everyone is one, and to keep Angels happy and drama free

Vulpine Eldrich: Have you ever had to seriously use any of the "punish" options in pursuit of that goal?

Alamiga Anatine: no

Vulpine Eldrich: Has there ever been anyone or anything that made you regret becoming a Queen?

Alamiga Anatine: Not really. There were those dramatic occasions... but they are all history.

Vulpine Eldrich: What advice, encouragement, or warnings would you give to someone wanting to become a Monarch?

Alamiga Anatine: Make sure you have a solid 20k acre foundation, never depend on promises. Starting in the minor Kingdoms is a little daunting

Vulpine Eldrich: Is that what you did?

Alamiga Anatine: I was at about 12k after ascension.

Vulpine Eldrich: And how did you get from there to number 26 in the Empire?

Alamiga Anatine: Well in the minor kingdoms, you have no title powers until 20k, so I used the website as a way to title people and recognize them. It’s something I still do.

Vulpine Eldrich: Very good! So others joined you, and now you have a good-sized kingdom. What's been the best part about the whole thing?

Alamiga Anatine: I get to give back to those who help me

Vulpine Eldrich: And how many people in the kingdom are there to give back to?

Alamiga Anatine: Oh, I really dont have a count! All of them!

Vulpine Eldrich: lol! Have you ever found yourself wishing for any other ways within the rules or features of the game to reward your subjects? Any concrete ideas as to how you'd like to be able to?

Alamiga Anatine: I think things like tracts of land should be more frequent. Abbots who do more than my directs would be great. And a constructive way to give gold would be nice.

Vulpine Eldrich: What about in general- any new features or ideas to add to the game lurking on your Christmas wish list?

Alamiga Anatine: Well Ultra has the Gold Bar thing he’s working on, hopefully that will be a tool of reward.

Vulpine Eldrich: What about the new viceroyalty feature? Have you used it, or plan to?

Alamiga Anatine: I will when I can, but presently I don’t have anyone in position to do so.

Vulpine Eldrich: Do you have any particular person or people in mind for the position?

Alamiga Anatine: Well the one closest to it, but she’s been away, so I haven’t had the chance to talk to her about it.

Vulpine Eldrich: Do you think it will slow the rate of ascensions any?

Alamiga Anatine: Well the position may slow it, but really it’s more of a helper role, their powers only come to life when I’m not online.

Vulpine Eldrich: At present, according to your website, we have 122 kingdoms in the Empire. Have you, or other monarchs, ever wondered if that's a few too many?

Alamiga Anatine: Oh yes, I've heard that complaint from my first day :) I don’t see it as an issue.

Vulpine Eldrich: lol and you were kingdom number what?

Alamiga Anatine: I think I was 70 something. Maybe 80's. I really didn’t pay attention to that when I got there..

Vulpine Eldrich: So, roughly 40 kingdoms created in 138 days

Alamiga Anatine: I’m not sure, Ultra would have the exact numbers. But yes, others and myself ascended en masse after the 1000 acre delay.

Vulpine Eldrich: So amid all of those dozens of kingdoms, how do you make Angels of the Empire unique?

Alamiga Anatine: Well, I run it openly, don’t hide secrets, the kingdom group is open invite, not a secret society like many kingdoms. I try to treat everyone the same, no matter their rank. That’s why I title everyone, as an example.

Vulpine Eldrich: At least on the website, and follow up in the actual kingdom as you can, I assume. What's the greatest number of times that you've given any one person a title?

Alamiga Anatine: Twice, but only because no one else was available. It’s better to title and give the 5 acres than not at all—it’s a cheap 5 acres for the Kingdom. 30M for a title, acres are 12M each for me.

Vulpine Eldrich: cheap at the price! So did you give them the same title over again?

Alamiga Anatine: Yes, you can give the same title, or change it if they wish. I let people pick their own. I think most Kingdoms do that, but many limit titles to higher ranks.

Vulpine Eldrich: In one form or the other, I'm sure they do. So, is there anything else interesting about your kingdom that I've missed?

Alamiga Anatine: Well, I hope people here find everyone helpful. My door is open for all. We don’t sabotage or retaliate, and try to avoid issues with other kingdoms.

Vulpine Eldrich: Well, your door was certainly open for me this evening. Thank you for the time and chat. May you have the best of success in your future endeavors!

Alamiga Anatine: Thank you Vulpine!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Interview with Buckaroo Mu

Vulpine Eldrich: Hello everyone! I'm here this evening with Prince Buckaroo Mu, who not only is King of nothing, but is the former King of Nothing. If that sounds confusing, perhaps he can help straighten us out. Buckaroo?

Buckaroo Mu: I certainly hope so! It's a long, difficult, confusing story, but I think we can get it all sorted.

Buckaroo Mu: A bit of history. I'd been with the Kingdom of Gianfar since before it was formed, technically - I started playing in early January 2008, in the Kingdom of Ayodhya, recruited by a friend of mine. My very first recruit was Soo Novi, a friend through the Dragons of Pern RP group. At the time, the DoP was going through a transition. The person who created and organized it was leaving SL and had given the group over to Soo. She was in the process of building the Gianfar Peaks sims, a 6-sim RP community based on the Dragonriders of Pern books to house the RP. With her help, my line blossomed more than I could possibly anticipate.

Buckaroo Mu: By the time I reached Prince, Soo became interested in having a Gianfar Kingdom - both to help get out the word about the RP, and to help build camaraderie within the RP group (among those who played TE, at least). She spoke to her good friend BigBadaBoom Bing, who was also part of the RP, had been playing TE longer than us both, and was prepared to ascend. He agreed to use the name Gianfar, with Soo's permission, and ascend, giving us the Kingdom we were interested in. We entered the lists at #16 on February 5th. A short six months and one day later, we became the largest Kingdom in the Empire.

Buckaroo Mu: We attributed this leap to the dedication we all put into the Kingdom. Everyone in the Kingdom was intent on helping out new players, and King Big (as we called him) was extraordinarily generous - we led the Empire in the number of Special Titles even before we became #1, he never missed an opportunity for tax amnesty, and we had a place to gather (in the Gianfar sims) for weekly parties, Trader appearances, and other gatherings. We kept alliances with any Kingdom that ascended from us, and some sister Kingdoms - meaning we all agreed not to bribe from each other. We had a strict no-sabotage policy, and banned recruiting from within the Kingdom. We had a HUD fund to help pay for full HUDs for new players.

Buckaroo Mu: I soon become the largest Prince in TE history, with over 350,000 total acres at my peak - at the time, over half of Gianfar's total. I (and many others) petitioned the Emperor for additional powers for high-level non-monarch players, to make operating a Kingdom of this size easier. I didn't know it at the time, but he had recently begun work to implement this via the Viceroyalty.

Buckaroo Mu: Unfortunately, we soon became just too big. We had a large number of people join us simply because we were the largest Kingdom. The group chat lost much of its friendly attitude. Some players began recruiting lines from within the Kingdom, and those that lost acres or rank took their frustrations out in chat. After one such incident, I spoke to the King, urgently requesting that we have more discipline within the Kingdom. By that time, Prison and Banishment had become options. He agreed to use these powers, despite the "negative publicity" it might put on the Kingdom. However, when it came down to it, the harshest penalty ever used was expulsion from the Chat Group.

Buckaroo Mu: Soo and I both spoke to the King several times about Abdication, which had also become an option. Soo still owned the rights to the name "Gianfar", and was rapidly becoming concerned by the negative image being associated with her business name through TE. At several points, King Bing agreed that his abdication, and passing the Kingdom to one of us, would be the best thing to do - but he never arranged it, and changed his mind every time.

Buckaroo Mu: We started losing lines in droves. The drama became thicker than the friendship. One day, I received word that two large lines under me were planning to leave the Kingdom. These were my friends, and they were running away. I convinced them both to stay with me, on the condition that I ascend to remove us from the Gianfar Kingdom. I saw it as the only option to keep us together, so I did it, on November 13th.

Vulpine Eldrich: So you ascended, and chose 'Nothing' for a kingdom name. That sounds like Ulysses telling the Cyclops his name was 'nobody'. Why... 'nothing'?

Buckaroo Mu: There are several reasons for the name "Nothing." First, my last name, Mu, is the Chinese ideogram for "No-Thing". Second, I thought it defined well the object of our Kingdom - no drama, no concern for numbers, no fighting to rise above other Kingdoms. We did not seek fame and fortune. We only wanted to play the game. And lastly, I couldn't pass up the opportunity for all those puns. Besides, when it comes down to it, all TE Monarchs are Kings or Queens of nothing - it's a game, it means nothing in RL.

Vulpine Eldrich: And yet, for something that means nothing, a lot of time and trouble is spent. But now the Kingdom is gone. Why?

Buckaroo Mu: Well, it was probably not destined to last. Being in a different Kingdom, without the name Gianfar, Soo Novi became worried about her copyright on the name of Gianfar. While King Bing was using it with her permission, she was concerned that she could be seen as not defending her copyright. She spoke with the Emperor, and with King Bing, at length about these issues, and about revoking King Bing's license to use the name. Again, at several points, the King agreed to abdicate to her, or change the name of his Kingdom - and then subsequently refused.

Buckaroo Mu: After several weeks of fruitless negotiation, she asked the Emperor if she could ascend using the Kingdom name "Gianfar Peaks", which would provide due diligence for her copyright. She and I spoke at length, and I agreed to support her as she had supported me for nearly a year. I agreed to abdicate and move under her once she ascended - and she agreed to take the core principals of Nothing with her. She'd been my most dedicated subject and a very good friend, I had to support her. On a personal note, I'd like to thank all of my subjects for trusting me, because they all suffered patiently through the abdication and came to Gianfar Peaks with me (despite a flood of recruitment offers from other Kingdoms).

Vulpine Eldrich: And now Soo is your liege. So how has all of this played out within the Gianfar sims themselves, with people - I assume- in two TE kingdoms instead of mostly one?

Buckaroo Mu: There are three types of reaction to all of this. The largest contingent stayed happily in whichever Kingdom they preferred - a lot of swapping back and forth happened in the times around both ascensions.

Buckaroo Mu: A smaller number said nothing - and just followed their liege. Possibly alts, possibly those who aren't playing anymore - or just those without strong opinion.

Buckaroo Mu: Regretfully, there are some people within the original Gianfar Kingdom who continued to stir up problems - starting rumors about Gianfar Peaks, and making personal attacks on Soo and many of her subjects. Soo continued to discuss the problem with BigBadaBoom Bing, who continued to ignore it. Thankfully, the discussions have finally born fruit before the lawyers had to be called into action. King Bing has finally agreed to stop using the name, and has requested that the Emperor change the name of his Kingdom from "Gianfar" to "Paradise", and has created a group for the Kingdom's players and started moving them into it. I am very happy that this situation was able to be resolved without the use of the courts, and regret that it had to come so close to that.

Vulpine Eldrich: So where does the name 'Gianfar' come from?

Buckaroo Mu: Gianfar is one of the names of the last star in the Draco constellation, the tip of the tail. Soo found it while looking for good Sim names for the Dragons of Pern RP group, and loved it. She searched most thoroughly to make sure no-one else was using it, RL or SL, and chose it for her business name as well - clothing, boots, and such. It has become the base name for the Gianfar Peaks estate, and the website where our RP meets.

Vulpine Eldrich: So it hasn't been used anywhere but here, at least as in regards to anything relating to Pern.

Buckaroo Mu: Correct. Or, that is, not that we know of.

Vulpine Eldrich: So as you look back, do you ever find yourself thinking "if he did this " or "if she hadn't done that", it could have all been avoided?

Buckaroo Mu: Very much so. I must first say that I have nothing but respect for BigBadaBoom Bing and the Kingdom he helped to build - yet, the lack of discipline, and the fact that it became more about being #1 than being family - these are the real points where things started to fall apart.

Vulpine Eldrich: So what would you do if you had the number one kingdom?

Buckaroo Mu: Hahah - I could never see it happening. When you get that large, too many people come to the Kingdom just to be close to the top - and those are the trouble-makers. If I suddenly were King of the largest kingdom, I would encourage ascensions :D

Vulpine Eldrich: lol, well how many ascensions were there from Gianfar- that you know of, I suppose I should add.

Buckaroo Mu: Big could tell you off the top of his head - he seems to keep records of everything. I would say, if you include ascensions from daughter-kingdoms, it would be on the order of 7.

Vulpine Eldrich: How big was it at its peak, in acreage?

Buckaroo Mu: Such numbers were apparently state secrets. However, I can tell you that when I left, I held over half of Gianfar's total acres, at 350,000. My guess would be on the order of 600,000, at its peak. I can tell you that it was larger than any of us ever anticipated.

Vulpine Eldrich: And now Gianfar (aka Paradise) is #2 and Gianfar Peaks is #13. Do you see either of those ranks changing significantly soon?

Buckaroo Mu: Well, I can't say - nothing in TE is fixed. I can tell you, however, that Gianfar Peaks is not interested in Rank. Our focus is playing the game because we enjoy it, not because we want to "win".

Vulpine Eldrich: How would you define "win"?

Buckaroo Mu: I don't, really. In TE, there is no "win". Unfortunately, some people in TE do have a definition for it - being #1. Being on top of the Empire. Those are, in general, the people who caused much of the problems with Gianfar - by poaching lines from other lieges, even within the Kingdom. I have been at the top. I was the largest prince in TE history, in the largest Kingdom in TE history. If that's winning, I want nothing to do with it.

Vulpine Eldrich: So have you left all of the troublemakers behind, now that you're in Gianfar Peaks?

Buckaroo Mu: I can't possibly believe that we've left all the troublemakers behind. I hope that we have. If someone does cause trouble within Gianfar Peaks, they'll be dealt with - first, by trying to work with them to find out what the issue is. Many of the problems we had in Gianfar were players who were never contacted by a new liege, or whose liege would move lines out from under them without consultation. We're trying to foster communication, and make sure that any move is coordinated ahead of time and with the consent of all involved.

Buckaroo Mu: However, if we find a situation that refuses to be dealt with diplomatically, we will exercise the option of banishment - something that King Bing was loathe to do, because "other kingdoms might use it against us"

Vulpine Eldrich: So if you had the whole thing to do over again, what sort of thing(s) would you have done differently?

Buckaroo Mu: The way I ascended was, I openly admit, horribly under-planned. I felt rushed, and was only able to give any notice to a handful of my downline, and that only a few minutes. Much of my downline was furious - their loyalty was to the King, rather than to their direct liege - and nearly half my line returned to Gianfar within an hour of my ascension. If I could do it again, I would have assured those who wanted to leave that I was ascending soon, but would have given the rest of the Kingdom a little warning.

Buckaroo Mu: Part of me wonders if they would have left if they had realized that, at my ascension, I was larger than what remained of Gianfar. No-one knew this because I didn't show up on the map until the Emperor approved my Kingdom name, and by that time, I had sunk to 19th place. Another, larger, part of me doesn't care - because the people who cared about rank aren't the people I wanted in my Kingdom. And they aren't the kind of people we want in Gianfar Peaks, either.

Vulpine Eldrich: Has there been anything good to come out of this? It seems like so much trouble.

Buckaroo Mu: Yes, there have been good things and bad things.

Buckaroo Mu: Best part: Getting to a place that feels like home. This feels like TE used to, before Gianfar became the #1 Kingdom. Everyone's happy and friendly, and working to help each other.

Buckaroo Mu: Worst part: Losing friends. Seeing people spit out vile lies, rumors, and accusations about what was behind this all. And most of all, seeing some of the same people who caused all of the mistrust and drama gloat about all of those accusations, and prod them further along when things started to quiet down.

Buckaroo Mu: Other best part: Seeing some people recognize what those people are doing, and call them on it. And then there were the puns....

Buckaroo Mu: I tried to come up with a new pun for each tax amnesty (30% of Nothing = Nothing), title/acre giveaway (/me gives Prince Whoever 5 acres of Nothing, because 5 acres of Nothing is better than Nothing), etc. My one regret is that no-one ever followed up an acre giveaway with "Thanks for Nothing!"

Vulpine Eldrich: What would you say if someone else decided to use 'Nothing' for a kingdom name?

Buckaroo Mu: I certainly wouldn't object. I think more people need to see this game as... well, a game, and have fun with it. I would heartily endorse a new King of Nothing (or Queen), but they wouldn't be getting me as a subject.

Buckaroo Mu: They'd probably get tired of me suggesting puns for them, though :P

Vulpine Eldrich: hmmmm perhaps I should tell my PunSlingers group.... no, that would be too much of a good thing.

Buckaroo Mu: Hahahah

Vulpine Eldrich: So it would seem a lot of problems were caused by just too many people and not enough management. How does the new viceroyalty position affect that equation?

Buckaroo Mu: The Viceroyalty is the first step of a long-needed change. The Emperor himself said he never envisioned such "mega-kingdoms", so never envisioned the need for a non-monarch with near-monarch powers. The Viceroyalty is a step in the right direction, and I think he's said he may add further powers to the position in the future. It's going to become necessary. Right now, too many people are at the point where they have no reason to put the hud on other than to pass land down, or ascend. The Viceroyalty gives them further options.

Buckaroo Mu: Just since the Viceroyalty was announced, within hours there were a great number of them given out - which tells you how many people were capped, and ready to ascend, but not wanting to leave the kingdom they were in. That's where I was for a long, long time.

Vulpine Eldrich: So you think it will slow the number of ascensions?

Buckaroo Mu: Definitely. Those people who've capped, who've taken the Path to Royalty but not the Ascension, now have an option to stay with the Kingdom they love (if they so choose), and be of more use to the Kingdom, without risking friendships over ascension

Vulpine Eldrich: I'm told there are 122 kingdoms in the empire now. Have you ever wondered if that's too many?

Buckaroo Mu: Well, a number of those are "inactive" Kingdoms - monarchs who quit playing before abdication was an option, and encouraged their subjects to move to other Kingdoms. At the same time, I'm sure the Emperor never anticipated such growth. The popularity of the game doesn't seem to be waning, though, and with new people joining SL all the time, I don't see it ever "ending". I personally would like to see other options - separate empires, a rank above King.

Vulpine Eldrich: Another Emperor?

Buckaroo Mu: Multiple Emperors. Remove Ultralite from the game, or make him a recognized omnipotent force (rather than just "The Emperor"). I could see a couple of options - don't allow interaction between Empires, which would be like having separate instances of the game itself; or do allow, and just have the higher position as a reward for the best players.

Vulpine Eldrich: Are we talking ascension from Emperor to Diety?

Buckaroo Mu: Yes, make Ultralite Diety rather than sole Emperor.

Vulpine Eldrich ponders what an Ultralite diety would be like, then decides to just ask the next question....

Vulpine Eldrich: So are there any other ideas you have for making things more interesting for TE players?

Buckaroo Mu: I had an idea that the Emperor has ruled right out, but I still like it - War. Right now, there is only one way to lose acres - sabotage. I'd love to see a way for players who've gotten "too big" to be brought down, give them further options for play. Don't ask me how I'd implement it, though. It's just a thought.

Vulpine Eldrich: Still, an interesting idea. So now that you've been through all of this history, is there anything left for you to do in Tiny Empires? Is there any reason to not just sit back and say "I've done it all, have fun everyone"?

Buckaroo Mu: My plans are to stay with Gianfar Peaks until I can't stand to wear the HUD anymore - i.e., for a very long time. Soo would like to reward me for my past leadership with a Viceroy position, and I intend to accept as soon as I am eligible. I am happy to say that, due to the timing of the introduction of Viceroyalty, and the circumstances surrounding my ascension and abdication, the Emperor has granted me the boon of shortening my "Abdication Penalty" from six months to one - meaning I can start the Path to Royalty again at the end of December rather than May, and get the Viceroy position that much faster. I believe he did this because he agreed with me that this kind of position could have prevented, or at least mitigated to some degree, the kind of problem that caused the fracture within Gianfar to begin with. The whole point of TE is to meet people and make friends. The Emperor has said that TE is all about socializing. That's what I intend to use it for.

Vulpine Eldrich: That sounds like a perfect plan to me! So when do I get to chat with your Queen and find out her history firsthand? :)

Buckaroo Mu: I'm sure she'd welcome it, but please! Wait a few weeks. The Gianfar Peaks sims are undergoing renovation starting next weekend, due to the Open Spaces changes. We're going from 2 full/4 open to 3 full/1 open, and that means a LOT of rebuilding. She's swamped with it.

Vulpine Eldrich: Well it sounds like you all have your hands full with everything. Best of luck with it, and thank you for telling me your story! Did I miss anything interesting in it?

Buckaroo Mu: No, I think that about covers all the important parts. I hope it helps people understand what happened, and why.

Vulpine Eldrich: I'm sure it'll be at least a good start.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Call for writers

The Emperor has sent out a notice to the empire which reads as follows:

Dear Terra Aureans,

Are you feeling creative? I am requesting proposals for new Gold Windfall notices.

If I accept your proposal to be part of the game, you will receive five acres of land and have your entry be a part of Tiny Empires.
The format is 7 lines of text, with no line being too much longer than 32 letters, including spaces. The notice must include the amount of gold received.

One well-known example:

A fortuitous event has occurred.
A messenger's cart overturned
on the road near your land.
Some gold fell out of the
back, unnoticed by the driver.
Nobody claimed it after 30 days,
so you kept the $$$$$$$$ gold.

Please submit your entries to me via notecard in the format above, and put "Gold Windfall proposal from " in the title of the notecard. You may submit as many as you like in the same notecard or different notecards.

Contest ends at 11:59pm SLT Wednesday December 10. Thank you and good luck!

Ultralite Soleil

Yes, of course I will be sending in submissions, and I encourage everyone to do so. When you are searching for ideas, I would point out one thing. The current group of gold windfall messages have many humorous ones. The idea is not just to construct a plausible scenario for gaining gold, but if you can, add a twist that makes it funny. Regular players who are acquainted with the stereotypes generated by the game may have a treasure trove of inside knowledge to use. For example, who buys anything valuable from a short, fat trader?? And the list could go on...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Interview with Birdie Fairymeadow

On the evening of Sunday, November 16th, I interviewed Birdie Fairymeadow, Queen of Wight. Due to the contents of the interview, I have withheld it until this time. Read on to understand why...

Vulpine Eldrich: I'm here this evening on the beach at the kingdom of Wight, talking with the Queen of Wight, Birdie Fairymeadow. Birdie, thanks so much for the time. So tell me, why is this sim and kingdom named 'Wight?'

Birdie Fairymeadow: It's my pleasure to be with you tonight, Princess. The name Wight originated from the RL Isle of Wightwhich is a British island and county in the English Channel south of the county of Hampshire and is separated from mainland Britain by the Solent.

Vulpine Eldrich: So you have a special connection with, or fondness of, the Isle of Wight?

Birdie Fairymeadow: I do now! History is not my forte, but I love it. The Isle of Wight has a rich history including its own brief status as a nominally independent kingdom in the fifteenth century. It was home to the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Queen Victoria built her much loved summer residence and final home, Osborne House, at East Cowes where she died on 22 January 1901. Her reign lasted almost 64 years, the longest in British history.

Vulpine Eldrich: Oh, very good! Just out of curiosity, is this sim around me modeled after the real Isle of Wight- the shape, topography?

Birdie Fairymeadow: No it isn't, I’m afraid. I was hoping to eventually make it more topographically correct. Our original island (full) sim had many aspects indigenous to the RL Wight, such as the red squirrels, vegetation, reptiles, birds etc… with signs to educate visitors.

Vulpine Eldrich: Ah, so this is really your own individual Isle of Wight. When did this kingdom start?

Birdie Fairymeadow: Wight Kingdom was born on January 26th, 2008 in the year of our Lord- and September of the year 1223 in the year of our Emperor :)

Vulpine Eldrich: Yes, the lovely job of keeping track of two calendars. So you've been a monarch now for most of a year. What sort of things have you personally seen come and go, and remember especially?

Birdie Fairymeadow: This past year has proved to be a whirlwind of changes and happenings, good and not so great. I have discovered much and realized some things that were not so comforting about people. But I am richly blessed by much of what I have experienced. True friendships have been formed in the past 11 months.

Birdie Fairymeadow: One thing in particular, though. When I ascended, Monarchs were able to set the taxes regularly. That is no longer the case. The emperor imposed a new rule several months ago.

Vulpine Eldrich: Do you think doing away with that was particularly good or bad?

Birdie Fairymeadow: Good and bad. Many kingdom members enjoyed the tax breaks regularly. However, some monarchs sacrificed even sleep to maintain those expectations. This new rule ended that.

Vulpine Eldrich: Right. And for you, personally, how much time do you spend tending to "kingdom affairs"?

Birdie Fairymeadow: Personally? Hmm. That has varied greatly over the months. I have spent many countless hours helping our family to achieve their goals, but I dare not boast. They are the true workers.

Vulpine Eldrich: I know that feeling well. Would you have any estimate over, say, the last month or so? How many hours per week, or the like?

Birdie Fairymeadow: I don't think I would be underestimating to guess an average of 20 hours per week.

Vulpine Eldrich: That sounds like a part time job! How many people are in a kingdom that needs that much attention?

Birdie Fairymeadow: I assumed from our kingdom group that we had somewhere around 450 kingdom members, but just this past week, Emperor Soleil reported us having more than 600 members.

Vulpine Eldrich: A fair-sized group, indeed. What do you have to do for that twenty or so hours a week to keep them all happy and productive?

Birdie Fairymeadow: There are so many things a Kingdom needs in order to thrive. Let’s say there are exactly 600 in this kingdom. That means there are 600 individual personalities and moods. And believe it or not, many come to the Queen for the littlest things. I have never minded that, as I adore the people in this kingdom and appreciate their trust in me. At times, I have had to remind some of their power and ability to do what they have asked me to do, but alas, such must be done with respect as we all have more than this kingdom to tend to.

Vulpine Eldrich: Amen. Do you think you would have ascended, knowing ahead of time how much work would be involved?

Birdie Fairymeadow: That is a very good question. I had a feeling of how involving it could be, but I had no idea just how heart wrenching some of it could be. You see, Miss Eldrich, I never aspired for greatness, just goodness. It was my subjects who pushed me towards ascension. They assured me I would be a "great queen".

Vulpine Eldrich: So have they been happy with what they helped create?

Birdie Fairymeadow: Indeed! This is one content Kingdom. :)

Vulpine Eldrich: lol very good! Your hard work has paid off, then. So we have a sim here, and we have the name- heritage, perhaps?- of the Isle of Wight. What else makes this kingdom a kingdom, with its own identity?

Birdie Fairymeadow: Ah! our pride and joy. Look m'Lady—northeast— the Needles :)

Vulpine Eldrich: Amazing! What exactly are they?

Birdie Fairymeadow: The Needles is a row of three distinctive stacks of chalk that rise out of the sea off the western extremity of the Isle of Wight, England, close to Alum Bay. A lighthouse designed by Scottish civil engineer James Walker has stood at the western end of the formation since 1859.The formation takes its name from the former fourth needle-shaped pillar called Lot's Wife that used to stand in its midst until it collapsed in a storm in 1764. The remaining rocks are all short and squat and not at all needle-like, but the name has stuck.

Vulpine Eldrich: Yes. For a minute, I wondered if it might be a sea serpent's coils... ah well. Most interesting! So with all of this water around, the fishing must be good?

Birdie Fairymeadow: Ah yes, the fishing here. Bass are the main quarry for beach anglers, but pollock, conger, mackerel, pouting, thornback rays, flatfish and wrasse, with occasional tope, are also taken. (A bit of info for the true fisherman ;)

Vulpine Eldrich: Whew, it sounds like an aquarium, writ large. Have you caught all of those yourself, or just watched others in the kingdom haul them in?

Birdie Fairymeadow: Ha! I do enjoy fishing, and I've caught a few now and then, but a Queen has many duties that do not allow her to enjoy such leisure too often.

Vulpine Eldrich: Too bad, it sounds like an absorbing pastime. Are there other pastimes and things available here which members enjoy?

Birdie Fairymeadow: Indeed there is. We haven’t had as many kingdom-wide events in the past few months as we once did, due largely to a move to this new sim. But we have enjoyed many gatherings, including formal balls, Friday night at the Cup-N-Spittle, a Fall Festival, and even a good old fashioned Greedy Tournament, to name a few. Last year, we turned our former kingdom island into a winter wonderland. Many kingdom members pitched in to help. We had a gingerbread village, ice village, and an ice skating rink.

Vulpine Eldrich: Nice! No wonder you spend so much time at this, to simply oversee all of that. So, if there were a single new feature or change that you could add to the Tiny Empires game, what would it be?

Birdie Fairymeadow: Actually there are two things that come to mind. One is something many speak of— having more opportunities to "pass gold down”.

Vulpine Eldrich: And the other?

Birdie Fairymeadow: The other is my own thought. Change the HUD offerings when you decline an offer to join a new liege. I just thought it might add a touch of 'flavour' to the game if one could choose "how" they decline an offer. For example, "Declines your offer with a smile of appreciation,” or "Declines your offer with a haughty smirk". Hehehe!

Vulpine Eldrich: Oh! So do you see this as a set of choices to choose from? Accept, decline with smirk, decline with appreciation, etc?

Birdie Fairymeadow: Yes. Those are just a couple of ideas. I think I am not the best writer.

Vulpine Eldrich: It would definitely add color! And speaking of color… in all of this experience, have you developed any good methods, rules, or conclusions about how to handle drama?

Birdie Fairymeadow: I truly believe that what SL folks call drama (conflict, turmoil, crisis) is a part of every relationship in every aspect of life. How to handle conflict is different in every circumstance. In Wight, we haven’t had much drama nor many rules. We have held an expectation of respect of others, and have asked that vulgar language be left out of our group chat.

Vulpine Eldrich: And beyond that, leave it to common sense?

Birdie Fairymeadow: Exactly! However, the drama we have had to endure was quite intense and left us with scars, but together we survived and came out stronger, a more tightly knit family.

Vulpine Eldrich: Very good! So in the future, what changes do you see for the kingdom of Wight?

Birdie Fairymeadow: Your question comes at a sensitive time. We are in the midst of some powerful changes in Wight.

Vulpine Eldrich: Oh? What sort of changes?

Birdie Fairymeadow: I have chosen to step down from the throne and pass my crown to a worthy Princess of Wight who has aspired to ascend for some time.

Vulpine Eldrich: I... see. I can't imagine that such a decision was made lightly. What prompted you to decide this?

Birdie Fairymeadow: Not lightly by any measure of the word. I have agonized over this decision for many weeks. I love my kingdom family dearly, and it troubles me so to think of them confused or lost in the process. I will certainly inform them of my decision before my abdication and before this interview goes to print. I have spoken with most of my immediate court and close friends, and am in the process of writing a notice to the kingdom to inform them all of my decision and explain my reasons which I will do with you now.

Vulpine Eldrich: Thank you for your confidence. What exactly were the reasons?

Birdie Fairymeadow: I live a rich, full real life, and though I have enjoyed working closely with our kingdom family helping each wanderer to find a home-- each Sir to find the answer to his questions-- each Princess to reach her goals-- I have come to realize that the very vitality of my real life has been compromised by the hours I have spent nurturing our kingdom members in the many ways they need.

Vulpine Eldrich: And that, no matter how caring and devoted, you're only one person with twenty four hours per day?

Birdie Fairymeadow: Oh? There are only 24 hours in a day? I thought there were 30. hmm…

Birdie Fairymeadow realizes now why time hasn’t added up for months

Vulpine Eldrich: lol

Birdie Fairymeadow: The main reason I chose to abdicate is that I am a real life student. I only have 1 year left to complete my degree program. I do not wish to take a chance at missing that mark.

Vulpine Eldrich: I think that pretty much answers the question! So how do you decide on someone else in a situation like this?

Birdie Fairymeadow: Another good question. I have had a few Wight members come to me to express their desire to ascend some day. Princess Zelinna is one Princess who is active, consistent and caring of her subjects, very much as I have been. Though the other princesses are as qualified in stature, Zelinna loves this kingdom and wishes to keep it as intact as possible.

Vulpine Eldrich: And you've been talking with your other close subjects. Their reaction has been positive?

Birdie Fairymeadow: Oh yes. I still haven't spoken with all of them yet, but those I did speak with were most supportive. They said they love me and they totally understand.

Vulpine Eldrich: That's good to hear. So after abdication, where do you plan to go? What will you do?

Birdie Fairymeadow: First and foremost comes RL school. I will, of course, be spending as much time as possible promoting our kingdom as a Princess, which is what I have always wanted to be.

Vulpine Eldrich: So will the Kingdom of Wight continue with Queen Zelinna?

Birdie Fairymeadow: Yes, it will. Once I abdicate, I will join under Zelinna who has decided to keep the name Wight for our kingdom. This makes me smile and should give many in our kingdom some comfort.

Vulpine Eldrich: I can see how it would. So, some stormy days ahead, but hopefully a safe harbor at the end. Do you find yourself regretting the end, even though you know you have to do it?

Birdie Fairymeadow: I do have a sense of loss, but I cannot regret what I feel is best for me and my kingdom family. You see, madam, I spent many hours nurturing each member who I had the honor of meeting. I will always feel they are my own.

Vulpine Eldrich: A very good point, indeed. Well, I think that covers about everything, unless there's something more that I missed?

Birdie Fairymeadow: I would like to conclude with a note of appreciation to you for taking time to find out what makes Wight tick. We are and shall remain a loving family.

Vulpine Eldrich: Well thank you for your hospitality, and my best wishes for what lies ahead. I know it's not going to be easy on anyone.

Birdie Fairymeadow nods and smiles.

Birdie Fairymeadow: farewell :)

Today, December 2nd, Queen Birdie Fairymeadow abdicated the throne of Wight, and Princess Zelinna Jacques become Queen Zelinna Jacques of Wight. Long live the Queen.