WoW Warcry Interview
Jonathan from Themis/The Escapist/WoW Warcry interviewed The Syndicate about the guild and our WoW presence. The following are the questions and answers for that interview:

1) When did The Syndicate® decide to move into WoW?
The Syndicate has an overall policy of having a presence in only 2 major games at a time. We have been in UO since the pre-alpha test and have remained a loyal supporter of that game ever since. UO is very easy to play and remain playing as it is very open ended and very flexible in what players can do. We were in EQ for years. We knew we were likely to have a massive number of members move from EQ to WOW when it debuted so for about a year before the WOW beta we were talking and planning. Around March/April of 04 EQ had a large implosion. Many people left the game and we were among them. The game had become unfun for many members and there was little point in grinding more when the WOW beta was a couple weeks away. So we left EQ. We were given a large block of WOW beta accounts for our guild so we passed those out and entered the beta full bore to test it out and see how well it suited us. We very much liked the instanced content and the way the system worked so we continued our commitment to have a large WoW presence. The game launched that November and we entered it with about 300 members. We currently maintain a presence there of 275-300 members (it varies based on real life things that pull members from gaming for a time) and are enjoying it. We maintain a UO presence of 200-240 members. And the remaining members, of our 550+, are inactive or helping to beta test games or are playing around in other gaming worlds part time.

2) What do you do, in-game, that's special?
We actually have more 'special' things OUT of the game than we do IN the game. IN the game every player has the same opportunities for defeating content. OUT of the game is where we excel the most with yearly conferences.. LAN parties.. monthly dinners.. and much more. I would argue that our guild communications and comradery are second to none.
Within the games, what is most special is that we simply do not recruit people that are aholes or that backstab guildmates or that are kiddies and morons (well.. occasionally one slips through the cracks but its very rare and we deal with it rapidly). So because of that we foster a very friend focused, fun focused environment where every member matters. We definitely participate in all aspects of the game but we do so at our pace. We couldn't care less who kills which set of pixels first. We don't measure our success by how fast we move. The real measure is that after 10 years we are still here and still going strong and hundreds of thousands of other guilds are not. So we foster a very fun, very friend focused gaming experience. Members that want to pvp have lots of other members to do so with.. the same goes for raiding.. the same goes for crafting.. the same goes for questing etc.. We work as ONE team. We have no infighting. We don't backstab. We don't have internal pissing matches. It's just a wonderful environment to be a part of and that, in part, contributes to 10 years of success and that all feeds back on itself and helps us remain strong.

3) Why did you trademark the guild?
The Syndicate trademarked our name and logo to insure that our efforts at developing The Syndicate for over 10 years would be protected in the online gaming world. We do recognize this is a relatively new topic for the online gaming community, but it was done to address an issue common in the gaming world where aliases and identities are so easily assumed and discarded. Over the past few years we have dealt with individuals and guilds not only using our name but outright claiming to be us. This has happened a lot over the past 10 years and I am sure it has been an issue for some other old and/or well known groups.
Our marks’ application is described on the registry as “Entertainment services, namely, an online gaming guild providing in game opportunities for proliferating game expertise and camaraderie among gamers supported by a web site featuring multimedia materials.” We are proud of our involvement in a host of services that include, but are not limited to, our annual conference, submissions to game development books, articles we have written for gaming publications, guides for specific games or aspects of games, and a line of gaming related products and clothing. We are also developing a service for providing the development community feedback from gamers on what they really want. We even have a paid position on the advisor board for a small MMO company that we hope, one day, will result in a vibrant next generation gaming world that has a positive impact on the whole community.
The Syndicate® is not simply a collection of people playing MMO’s that share a title. We are an online gaming community that strives very hard to provide outstanding services and benefits for our members and also for the gaming community as a whole. We think our efforts are a positive contribution and encourage feedback. We firmly believe that trademarks don’t discourage creative enterprise, they nurture it by allowing the people engaged in those enterprises to protect their reputation and their investment.
It is our view that trademarked guilds are stable guilds. Nearly all guilds will implode and fail at some point. When that happens gaming companies lose subscribers. The more guilds that a company can retain that are stable, the more customers they retain for a longer period of time. Most of our members do not play the games we are in because of the game. They play the game because the guild is there. If they guild moved on, so would nearly all our members. When guilds implode the animosity and shock of the experience very often results in lost revenue. Trademarks are an inherent sign of stability in many cases. Stability is good for gaming companies and good for the community. The value of any one guild to a gaming company is almost nothing since they come and go all the time. The value of a stable, long term entity, like The Syndicate, can be measured in tens of thousands of dollars of revenue per year per guild.

4) Do you worry doing so makes it all too commercial, like the Frag Dolls?
Being trademarked doesn't change the way out guild works at all. Being trademarked is an offshoot of how our guild is and has been for many years. So it certainly doesn't make us too commercial since we haven't changed anything about ourselves. We have merely protected our name, logo and motto's due to our large amount of invested time and energy and capital over the years. We produce a large number of services for our members and we wished to protect those services and our overall entity by obtaining the mark.

5) Have you run into much trouble since trademarking The Syndicate?
We have run into very little trouble. There are certainly some angry people in the community that can't believe we have done this but there seems to be a huge groundswell of support both from players and developers. The biggest negative comment we hear is that we 'cant' trademark our name since it has to be based in commerce and most people attribute commerce to be a tangible product. We are actually servicemarked and that means our commerce is in the form of a service to our members (or to the community at large if we so chose). In order to get a mark you must prove commerce which we have done. Because this is a new area of the law and we are the first guild to do this, what is normally a 6 month process took basically 18 months to complete. That was due, in part, to our commerce being reviewed and evaluated as legitimate. So no, we haven't run into any real trouble. We have a legal mark. We have the services/commerce to back it up. And we have demonstrated those in a number of cases to have the mark enforced.

6) Are any guilds trying to fight having to change their names?
We have chosen the tactic of dealing with gaming companies rather than individual guilds. Naturally some groups would resist having their name changed and we seemed to have come across a couple of those, in the past, who felt they were legal experts and wanted to argue every point of things they didn't fully understand. It wasn't worth our time and effort to deal with guild's one on one because of that. Instead we are working with the gaming companies themselves. That has proven to be much better route for all involved. The gaming companies review our mark with their legal departments and make a decision on how they will enforce it and then they take the necessary steps to do so. The most common method is to add our mark to their filters for guild creation which pretty much fixes the issue for all future guilds. If there are existing entities they commonly get renamed to something that doesn't violate the mark. It is very inexpensive for the gaming companies to add the word to their filters and in most cases there are only a few groups to rename so that doesn't take much time either. So far the response from the many gaming companies we have dealt with has been extremely positive. We are very grateful for their support.

7) Have you run into much drama? How do you handle that when it comes up?
Internal to our guild there is very little drama. Once in a blue moon we have someone explode over some decision they didn't like or with a personality conflict but those are pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. We simply don't recruit people that are likely to lead to causing drama and we don't keep members that do cause it. We recruit members who share the same values and goals.. who have similar personalities.. who want what we have to offer and who can give back to the team in a way that adds to the greater good. By keeping our recruiting focused on that we eliminate nearly all internal drama.
There is occasional external drama. For example, we firmly believe we are the premier online gaming guild and that phrase often pisses off a few hardcore guilds who feel that since they killed 'uber pixelman 101' before we did that they are better. They may be faster at killing pixels and if so, kudos to them! But in the grand scheme of things, years down the road we will still be here doing our thing with a fun loving stable guild community and in most cases, they won't be. We were doing our thing before they existed and will be doing it after they are gone. We don't wish them ill.. and in fact we wish them all the best.. but killing 'uber pixelman 101' first isnt a measure of success of a guild over the long term. Stability, unity, and actually being around 10 years from now are a much better indicator. Strong relationships with developers are a much better indicator. Being invited to author chapters in books or sit in many advisory panels or being asked to privately consult and test for gaming companies are all better indicators. We wish all players well as we want to see the gaming community thrive and grow for years to come but we do believe that when taken as a whole, we are the premier guild. So that belief and not being ashamed to say so on our site does ruffle the feathers of some and occasionally it leads to flame posts on boards.
As for how we deal with it.. well.. we don't. The reality is that the more the flamers post about us, the more it ends up helping us. The same is really true for most guilds that get flamed. There really is no such thing as bad press unless you really are acting in a mean spirited anti-social way. Instead, flame posts just draw attention to a group from people that otherwise wouldn't care or wouldn't know they existed. It sends people to a group's site to look up more info about them. And ultimately, it ends up with alot more positive benefit than negative. Most flamers don't get that so they flame away but it works out to our advantage in the long run. Lots more hits to our site. New contacts with other friendly guilds and players. New contacts with developers we haven't met yet. And even the making of new friends that eventually turn into great members. So there is no reason to deal with public drama since ultimately it works to our advantage since we aren't anti-social players.. we do work to help the community.. we do make alot of friends.. and we are nice, helpful and friendly to anyone that treats us the same way. It is common for random people to come up to our members, that they have never met, and ask them to hold onto items for them as they swap chars since they known they can trust us not to steal them and run off. That kind of reputation makes it so that we don't care about drama at all :)

8) Blizzard recently waffled on whether or not homosexuals were welcome to openly announce their sexuality in-game. How do you feel about that particular issue, specifically gay marriage within the game, as well as people's right to be who they choose to be in Azeroth?
We really don't care what other groups chose to do or believe. Our focus is on making our guild a success and on helping those that are friendly with us. Really, does it really matter if another guild only admits dwarves or if they only allow people ages 25 to 26 and kick you out if you turn 27? Who really cares since it is their guild to do with as they please? It isnt hurting us. I don't see it as hurting the community unless a group tries to impose its values or beliefs on others. So long as a group isnt trying to do that, is it really anyone's business what they decide to do within their guild? Not in my opinion. It is a fantasy world after all.

9) Farming has been a problem in-game since day one. How do you feel about real money transactions?
Our overall guild policy is that we support the gaming company's policies when it comes to those types of activities. If Blizzard says it's not ok, then it's not ok for our members to get involved in and therefore we don't support others who get involved in it. My assumption is that Blizzard is formally opposed to it due to the legal liability that can come with endorsing those transactions more so than some greater moral judgment that selling stuff is bad. Given the things people sue over these days, can you really blame them? Within the WoW world it has taken on an overall negative social connotation for most players as well. Within our guild we do not buy or sell items, gold etc.. per the policy of Blizzard.

10) Do you think Blizzard should really crack down on the practice, so no one would be able to trade in-game items and gold for cash, or should they take SOE's tack on the issue, where they would go after farmers, but honest players could still make a buck off the stuff they don't need?
That is a business decision really and not an 'opinion' one. There have likely been a great many discussions internally on the liability issues so if the policy is "no selling" then there should be enforcement to go along with it. They are up against a determined and strong market force so it may not be a winnable battle.

11) How casual or hardcore is The Syndicate?
I would say we have members that range from casual to fairly hardcore. The difference between what you may typically think of as hardcore and our hardcore members is that all of our members are not here for the game but rather are here for the guild and all it offers. WoW.. or UO.. or any game we play isnt our reason for existing. They are simply tools that we use to enhance our guild community. So while some play them casually and some play them hardcore.. while some raid and some pvp and some do neither.. when the day is done its never about the game but rather its always about the guild. As I mentioned above, if we packed up and left WoW tomorrow the vast majority of the guild would pack up and move with us. WoW is a wonderful game but for the bulk of the guild, The Syndicate is of far greater value to them.

12) How do you feel about each playstyle? Can they coexist?
We have a member of our guild who once commented on tattoo's. Who said the difference between people with tattoos and those without is that those with tattoos don't look down on those who don't have them. Regardless of whether or not you support that statement there is a parallel between it and the hardcore and casual playstyles dynamic. While this certainly doesn't apply to ever hardcore player, there definitely appear to be far more hardcore players that look down on casual players than vice versa despite the fact that casual players far outnumber hardcore ones. In UO terms, the most 'hardcore' ones are often the pvpers yet they are less than 10% of the total population. Rarely do you see a nonpvper posting 'd00d you suxorZ cuz you pvp!' but its fairly common to see the reverse.
Can they co-exist? Certainly.. and in an instanced game like WoW that really makes coexisting of different playstyles much easier to achieve because there is no blocking of content by 'ubah' guilds and everyone can basically play their own game at their own pace. This leads to not just the "haves" and the "have nots" but really a full spectrum of groups. Groups that might never have been able to ever raid in EQ, due to content being crushed the second it spawned by the 'haves' can now raid in WoW at their own pace. Sure, they may proceed slower than the hardcore players but who really cares? MMO's, for most players, are there for personal enjoyment and playing with friends and having a relaxing fun time at whatever pace game you play. The real irony is in the fact that while casual players far outnumber hardcore ones, you won't often see a casual player slam a hardcore one for going too fast but you will see the opposite just about daily on the server forums. In sure there is a really interesting sociology research paper in that phenomenon if someone wanted to put the time in to study it.

13) Finally, how did you like the Scout We'd appreciate any praise or constructive criticism.
hehe hey look! a plug for your mod! Which is located here: We have been testing the mod for over a week now and so far we have only had one member run into an issue with it. I have heard only good feedback from our members about it. It is similar to what some other sites have done in the past but what I personally really like about the Warcry one is that it feeds into your really easy to use and very slick searchable database off the site. I have always liked Warcry's presentation of information and I think when Scout catches on and data comes pouring in from large numbers of players there will be plenty of deep content to go with the presentation and that will really be a big benefit to players.
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