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.