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,

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 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!

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