Eighteen years ago, in February 1996, a community known as The Syndicate (www.LLTS.org) was formed. In that era, dial-up modems were still used by many people to connect to the internet. Speeds of 1200 baud were lightning fast. Computers that we gamed on had a small fraction of the power of your droid or iPhone. The colors you could display on your monitor, for most people, were limited to 256 different colors. If you were one of the fortunate few, you may have had a 3DFX graphics card with a couple megabytes of RAM on it, which was the ‘king’ of graphics back in the day.
The Syndicate community was founded with the hope, belief and dream that players would want to come together as a team of friends; who wanted to stick together for years; and who would be able to work through the challenges that often tear communities apart. Right from the beginning, the community faced big hurdles. Initial recruiting practices were abysmal with an applicant merely needing an email address to join. Sometimes they didn’t even need that because entire other guilds wholesale merged with The Syndicate. Those were challenging times but as player expectations were low back in those days, we were able to weather that storm. Now, 18 years later, we look back on those mistakes as opportunities we were fortunate to have as they helped shape us into what we are today.
We have watched as over 66,000,000 other communities have risen and fallen during that same time. We weathered the storms of criticism that you can’t be a “large” guild yet still be unified and friends. We have overcome the challenges of seeing entire gaming universes, that players dedicated years of their time to, get shut down and having to migrate communities of people to new worlds without falling apart.
While there are other successful, fun loving and friend focused communities in the online gaming space, The Syndicate is very proud of its unique achievements within the gaming and community space.
* We created the largest, single guild, annual conference known as SyndCon. This year will mark the 13th year we have held that event.
* We hold the Guinness World Record for the longest, continuously operating, online gaming community.
* We have a retention rate that is unrivaled in the online space. On average, we lose 1-2 people per year. That is a .08% loss rate or said another way, a 99.92% retention rate. That metric is key to us because our people are our reason for existing.
* We have our own studio that does strategy guide writing and game and hardware consulting and testing.
One of the more interesting things about this anniversary is that it is the harbinger of change in the MMORPG universe. As our move into our 19th year as a community, internally we are growing our future not just with friends and significant others of our members, but also from the children of our members as they are now turning 18 years old (which is a requirement to join). Internally that means we have a whole new set of expectations entering into our community. New members who have only known MMORPGs similar to WoW or EQ or UO or Rift are heading off to college and expressing their preferences and expectations and desires within the community.
Why does that matter? It matters because the MMOs of the past 18 years were created, in large part, by a community of developers who knew the world of BBS gaming via a modem… who played MUDs and MOOs… who, in the more senior levels, knew gaming before there were computers. We are just now reaching the point where the future programmers, designers, producers etc.. are heading off to college having never known a world without MMORPGS. Some of the core mechanics and concepts that shaped what “success” is in the MMORPG world are things they have never experienced, and that isn’t a bad thing. It means there is change coming to the MMO space.
Those new developers and new community members have a vision that grew up and evolved under a different set of circumstances than those that created Ultima Online.. or that created The Syndicate for that matter. The future of gaming and even of gaming communities is going to be evolving in the next few years. What “success” means to a game… what a “successful community” means in terms of the services it offers to its members… are all changing and evolving even though the future, key influencers don’t even realize who they are yet or how their vision is and will change things.
So while The Syndicate turning 18 years old may or may not be of interest to you, the idea that it is a harbinger of change coming to the MMO space is one we should all be watching eagerly over the next few years. There is a growing chorus within the online community that there is too much rehashing of the same ideas, same mechanics, and same ways to ‘win’ a game. Fresh ideas and the change they bring is an exciting thing to contemplate. Some of those fresh ideas are coming from old veterans of the industry such as EQ Next or Shroud of the Avatar or Star Citizen. However, from here forward, an increasing number of the fresh ideas will come from players who never lived in a world where Wing Commander was a single player game and that was all anyone knew. Where Utima 1 was a game where a “walkthrough” was not a website you sent your buddy to but was a conversation over lunch to try to compare notes and share your experiences. There are definitely some exciting times ahead as future developers start designing without many of the preconceived notions, born from a time before MMOs, that drive many of our current day gaming worlds.
Source: The Syndicate