We Rule

Logo for We Rule at GamersWithJobs.com

Tap.

Ruth sits down at her desk, her newly acquired mug of coffee clinking as she places it beside her keyboard. I hear the click of her mouse, the rustle as she adjusts her keyboard. It's 9:05am.

Tap.

"How was your evening?" she asks. I don't think she's looking at me. I certainly don't look up.

My evening was fine. Tap.

"Everything okay? You're staring at your phone."

I'm planting beans.

Ruth doesn't press further. She knows better.

It's not like I'm enjoying this. We Rule, the iPhone game I'm compulsively tapping, isn't about enjoyment in the typical sense. It’s difficult for me to define the draw of the game. The closest I can figure is that the game is built on a foundation of rewarding frivolous responsibility. I could be doing something else, but I'm delivering gowns for Julian's tea party. For the good of my kingdom.

Typing that last sentence filled me with much self-loathing.

We Rule is essentially a Farmville clone. Like that titan of social network gaming, the object of the game is to tend to your land: building farms, constructing cottages, setting up trade areas, sprinkling in a few decorative trees or ponds. The reward for this virtual landscaping is gold and experience points, naturally.

These actions also take time—a plot of corn may grow in a few minutes, but beans take twenty four real time hours before they're ready to harvest. That can slow the process down quite a bit.

Unless I use Mojo. Essentially a magical Miracle-Gro, Mojo makes your plants practically leap out of the soil and demand to be eaten. It also hastens construction of new buildings, fulfillment of trade goods and anything else that can take up precious time on your road to high-level heaven. Mojo is the miracle drug of We Rule—in modern gaming parlance, it's We Rule's wall hack, except it's fully endorsed.

So of course it comes with a price.

In the 12 levels I've obtained in We Rule, I've accomplished the following bullet points:
• Upgraded my town hall to a citadel
• Developed a small but thriving agricultural trade
• Established a diverse marketplace, including a tailoring shop, mine and wizard's tower
• Taxed the ever-living snot out of my people

I've mostly built this charming kingdom without performance-enhancing drugs, but can already see the writing on the wall. I'm routinely checking my phone throughout the day to harvest pumpkins and build pine trees. My friends in We Rule, culled from my iPhone's address book or my Twitter feed, are easily outpacing me. My gut tells me they've been taking shortcuts.

And if they can, why can't I?

Welcome to We Rule's revenue model.

This is just what developer Ngmoco wants me to think. With prices that range from $0.99 for 5 Mojo to $50 for 800 vials of the good stuff, there's plenty of room for players to spend a little to get a lot. It's incredibly tempting to tap in my credit card number and keep progressing through the game's 20 levels. On principle, the microtransaction model doesn't bother me since I'll get what I'm paying for. So why not? Everyone else is doing it, right?

No, I must remain strong. I'm not there yet. I'm simply not ready to take the easy way out. There are crops to plant, fences to erect and I should probably answer that work email if there's time. We'll see.

Is We Rule a fun game? Honestly, there's very little game to be found here. There's no overall goal—certainly no story—to keep me progressing through levels, except for the self-imposed rat-race of trying to keep pace with my friends' kingdoms. Virtual landscaping for ego.

Instead, We Rule provides more of a community experience, wrapped up in the superficial trappings of a strategy game. That constant interaction—seeing their kingdoms' layouts evolve, commissioning trade goods from them—has consumed more of my attention than I would have guessed. For the price of a free download from the App Store, that's impressive.

Having caved, though—having finally jumped into the pool of these social games, where what matters is the vanity of having a pretty kingdom or having spent the most on items that essentially let you cheat your way though the game—that's the ultimate price. In that regard, I've paid in full.

Screenshot for We Rule at GamersWithJobs.com
Screenshot for We Rule at GamersWithJobs.com
Screenshot for We Rule at GamersWithJobs.com
Screenshot for We Rule at GamersWithJobs.com

Comments

TheCounselor wrote:

Aren't all games trying to do that, though? Peggle is trying to get you addicted. Bad Company 2 and Modern Warfare 2 are trying to do the same thing, as is Final Fantasy XIII. The developers of every game wants people to stick around and keep playing. (OK, maybe not every game. I'm pretty sure the guys who crap out some of those licensed titles are just there to get a paycheck, but still, the point stands.)

Does it matter that the "task" is planting virtual seeds or slaying a virtual dragon? I don't see the difference.

The key difference there is that you've already paid for Peggle, Bad Company and Modern Warfare. They don't need to get you addicted - they already have your cash. Sure, DLC blurs that boundary somewhat in that *if* they can get you addicted, they can get more of your cash, but the onus on a Peggle or MW2 is to make it easy for you to justify your earlier expense, which I think is a wholly different set of mental gymnastics from convincing you to part with cash down the line.

TheCounselor wrote:

Aren't all games trying to do that, though? Peggle is trying to get you addicted. Bad Company 2 and Modern Warfare 2 are trying to do the same thing, as is Final Fantasy XIII. The developers of every game wants people to stick around and keep playing. (OK, maybe not every game. I'm pretty sure the guys who crap out some of those licensed titles are just there to get a paycheck, but still, the point stands.)

Does it matter that the "task" is planting virtual seeds or slaying a virtual dragon? I don't see the difference.

I'll admit it's a completely fuzzy and semi-arbitrary line, but to me the issues start to crop up when the rewards the game is giving out become the whole point. I think the persistent unlocks in Modern Warfare 2 are just as cynical a ploy to make people play for longer, but are tempered by the fact that people would play even without those carrots on sticks held in front of their faces. There's a system there that is entertaining in its own right without the need for the constant promise of a reward just around the corner.

To borrow your metaphor, it's not that planting seeds is a worse task than slaying dragons. It's whether or not you need to trick yourself into thinking of the task as an investment in order to want to do it.

Basically, I worry about Chris Hecker's nightmare future.

edit: damn, I was beaten to that link.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
pignoli wrote:
grobstein wrote:

It's funny -- a game that is nothing but grinding, and that asks you to pay to avoid grinding.

How much do I have to drop to not play at all?

My thoughts exactly. I'm really struggling to find reasons to keep calling these games.

grobstein's description sounds like a half-dozen MMOs that no one here would question as games.

I was thinking the same thing. Also, I'd probably still be playing WoW if they just let me buy levels and money.

Switchbreak wrote:

I'll admit it's a completely fuzzy and semi-arbitrary line, but to me the issues start to crop up when the rewards the game is giving out become the whole point. I think the persistent unlocks in Modern Warfare 2 are just as cynical a ploy to make people play for longer, but are tempered by the fact that people would play even without those carrots on sticks held in front of their faces. There's a system there that is entertaining in its own right without the need for the constant promise of a reward just around the corner.

But are the rewards ever the whole point? No one would play Farmville, We Rule or any of these other games if they didn't find some attractiveness in the "gameplay." Granted, that may not be the challenge of no-scoping someone before they can kill you with a shotgun, but there is gameplay there, above and beyond the rewards. My main attraction to We Rule is seeing how other people set up their kingdoms, and how creative they can get. The rewards just give me more stuff to put down, and more space to put stuff.

Jonman wrote:

The key difference there is that you've already paid for Peggle, Bad Company and Modern Warfare. They don't need to get you addicted - they already have your cash. Sure, DLC blurs that boundary somewhat in that *if* they can get you addicted, they can get more of your cash, but the onus on a Peggle or MW2 is to make it easy for you to justify your earlier expense, which I think is a wholly different set of mental gymnastics from convincing you to part with cash down the line.

If that were the case, then developers would have no incentive to ever make a game good beyond the minimum needed to convince people to buy it. Valve has proven with TF2 that if you make a good game, and get people to play it, then you'll make money from it, whether you charge directly or not. How many extra Left 4 Dead 1 & 2 sales did Valve get solely from the goodwill they garnered from TF2? How many copies of MW2 were sold solely because COD4 was an amazing game? Every company is trying to get your future dollars. The only difference is in how they go about it.

TheCounselor wrote:

But are the rewards ever the whole point? No one would play Farmville, We Rule or any of these other games if they didn't find some attractiveness in the "gameplay."

If that's true then fine, but from my (admittedly limited) time checking out FarmVille, I'm not sure that it is. And when I read articles about these games losing huge chunks of their userbase just because Facebook put a stop to them bugging people to water their crops before they shrivel and die in a publicly viewable and embarrassing fashion, I become even more dubious.

For me, there's no issue of whether or not it's a game. If you're having fun doing it, it counts, and to those who are into it, more mojo to you.

The problem I have with this and Farmville and the like is that it's too hard for me to suspend disbelief. If a game (or any media, for that matter) can't get my brain to ignore the awareness of its underlying mechanics, I won't have fun with it.

That said, the bar isn't particularly high for me to be able to get lost in it. I've finished Torchlight twice as well as Rune Factory and both Puzzle Quest games on DS. I just can't get into this one.

Clemenstation wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:

For those who don't think of We Rule as a game, what do you think distinguishes this from something like SimCity 2000?

I'm not saying We Rule isn't a game. But key differences:

-Time as commodity. You can only do so much per day in We Rule: the player is restricted to the game's allotted actions. Sim City 2000 can be picked up, played, and advanced as the player's schedule allows.

-Social comparison as a core component for We Rule: 'Keeping up with the Joneses' as a motivator.

-Additional (real world cash) purchases as a primary means of mastery. If everyone can only do so much per day in We Rule, advancement is predicated upon either a) Keeping a regular schedule to the point where you never miss out on an allotted opportunity, or b) Purchasing items that allow the player to supersede these standard allotments, thereby advancing beyond the players who don't make similar purchases.

There was a Eurogamer piece about Farmville recently that covered a bunch of this stuff.

The social networking aspect takes the reward mechanic which makes farming games so satisfying and throws in the ability to show off. You get the same feeling of power and control as with a real-time strategy game, but everyone can see how you wield that power, and instead of launching air strikes you get to breed pink cows.

"Basically I love it AND I hate it," wrote Kim, in one of her more lucid emails. "It gives you that pleasure of changing something around and making something pretty and prosperous, when you might not have that sort of control over your day-to-day life."

TheCounselor wrote:

If that were the case, then developers would have no incentive to ever make a game good beyond the minimum needed to convince people to buy it.

Exactly. I believe that is actually the crux of the dispute here. I think people who resent We Rule believe that it exemplifies exactly this point. The game is only implimented enough to get people to buy it and no more. Whether that is actually a "game" or not isn't actually the point (and is, in fact, just semantics). I suspect that the fact that people who want MORE than this in a game appear to be vastly outnumbered by the folks who are happy to just mash buttons to plant crops is the actual source of the disagreement.

It'd be a more honest complaint if they levied the charge against games like Rune Factory and Anno 1701, both also building games and both also somewhat shunned by the console gamer mainstream.

So, this is a totally unfair argument, but those of us playing "We Rule" are in good company apparently:
IMAGE(http://28.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_l0f8qbNVwL1qzp1doo1_500.jpg)
source

One seeming deficiency in the social aspect of We Rule (unless I'm just missing it) -- there seems to be no way of browsing/hooking up with friends of friends, significantly reducing my ability to interact with others.

So, friend me up! 'Deadron'...(shoulda done Deadron GWJ but didn't think about it in time...)

I must now confess: I am playing We Rule on my wife's iPad. As I write this, I'm listening to DGR's take on it. I agree that it's casual and engaging but not incredibly absorbing - just what I want.

I will never buy mojo, because that'd remove much of the charm which is: plant a bunch of stuff then return in the morning.

My name in-game is the same, so look me up if we aren't connected yet.

Signed up for this and started building my kingdom. Added docbadwrench and deadron so far. If you're still playing this, friend me up as luggage101.

Nice. I'll make sure you show up in my friends list. Also, add my wife [who plays plenty]: afreemantle. Also, glad to see another Pratchett Fan.

I just found out that one of my childhood friends is one of the developers for We Rule. It's a small world, after all.