SBVault's War Room - Interview with Deyth of the Combine
 

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Interview with Dragons of the Syndicate- Via Email

Sachant- About how many members do you have planning to enter into Shadowbane?

Dragons- Alas I dont have a straight answer for you right now on that question. Its common knowledge that the Syndicate has more than 550 active, mostly adult (our average age is 27) gamers in the main part guild and an unknown number in the intel branch. We are active in both Everquest and Ultima Online right now with very large presences in each. We dont accept members who are not active in games we play so we dont have any of the "vaporware" factor or roster padding you see sometimes in the gaming world. All of our members are veteran gamers, often with years of experience and are active in gaming worlds. We also have a huge list of people interested in joining us in Shadowbane.

However, since the vast majority of the guild hasnt seen Shadowbane yet and we dont know all of the particulars, who can really say how many will play it. There is alot of interest among the vast majority of the guild but the public beta test will really be the deciding factor for most members, like it will be for most players. There has been alot of "doom and gloom" predictions lately due to limited information from Wolfpack and Ubisoft however we remain positive, supportive and hopeful for an outstanding game. Its an ambitious project and if it lives up to the expectations I suspect it will garner a following larger than similar MMORPGs have mustered.

Sachant- What will be the focus of the Syndicate in Shadowbane?

Dragons- Again, another question that I cant give you a firm answer on. Since we dont know what features will make it into the final on Day 1 and since we dont know the specific dynamics of building a town, conquering a town, PVM combat, PVP combat etc.. specific goals are hard to name. I think anyone who has specific goals now, is going to be revising them or scrapping them and beginning again once they see how the game really plays.

Some governing principles that we list on our website are things like we dont support random pkilling so you wont find roving bands of Syndicate thugs killing players. However we do support pvp and we will engage in it when appropriate. We have alot of allies and friends and many of them will be with us in Shadowbane. We dont support bug use, cheating, scamming other players or hacking so you wont find us in those arena's of game play. We currently run a very large player town in Ultima Online so its probably safe to assume we will get to that point in Shadowbane as well.

However, until we see the beta in action and even figure out what server we will be on and what, if any, special rules it has (i.e. is it a server thats permanently in winter? where magic doesnt work? etc..) if any, specific goals cant be made. Some servers are going to be pretty peaceful places where many guilds get along and large empires form and there are fun battles between them along their borders. Others will be constant warfare with lots of little outposts trading hands often. And the biggest unknown factor is what role the GMs will play. We know they are going to be involved to "force" world dynamics to occur so there could be a server with a heavier emphasis on plotline and taking out some GM controlled evil where there is another that has more focus on razing the other guys city. Thats the beauty of Shadowbane, in my view, in that there are many different possibilities and its entirely possible one server will be a very different game than another.

Sachant- Have you decided on what kind of government system you would like to run?

Dragons- The Syndicate itself is structured most closely with the SB monarchy system. As guildmaster im ultimately responsible for decisions made and once made, they are "final" (until/unless circumstances dictate a revision). Under me I have several advisors. We have a cadre of squad leaders under them with each squad having a purpose. Lts, Sgt etc.. all exist within the squads.

The Syndicate is a very old guild and also incredibly large. In order to become "old" and remain large, a very structured guild setup has to exist. Otherwise things become chaotic, the guild ceases to be unified and it falls apart. More than 100 (closer to 200 now) guilds are created each day and an equal number fail. The average guild life expectancy is under 3months with under 20 members. So just about any guild out there that exceeds those thresholds has a structure that works for them of some sort. In our case it most closely aligns with the monarchy style in Shadowbane and that will likely be the choice made there.

Sachant- What kind of character choices will the members have? Will the Syndicate be an ARAC (All Races All Classes) guild or will you focus on a more defined national foundation?

Dragons- The Syndicate prides itself on its diversity. We dont force members to play a specific class or race so we will allow most things in game. There may exist some mutually exclusive choices though depending on game rules and server rules. We dont know those things yet but given the vague things we've all read, its theoritically possible there could exist some mutually exclusive combinations. Barring those, we dont restrict members on what they can/cannot be in game.

Sachant- Could you share with us a bit about the structure that the Syndicate will take within Shadowbane. As you know, many of the larger guilds are looking to split into different sub-guilds in order to take advantage of both the guild bonus as well as the organizational advantages this could give.

Dragons- Ashen made a comment on the SB boards a few months back. He was asked about the casual gamer and if they could be left behind by powergaming people and would it take them a year to reach max level. Ashens comment was something to the effect that a casual gamer could expect to make a powerful char in a few weeks effort (which implied to most readers, about 2 months). Given that, subguilds that offer a small experience bonus may or may not play a key role in the game. I wont rule anything out in terms of Syndicate structure but i will want to see how things really work before deciding that. We are already a very structured guild with squads and role definitions that work well for us. We will try to leverage the strengths of the game against our existing structure to give our members the necessary advantages without taking on added things that offer little return value but make guild management more of a nightmare.

Sachant- Many guilds are worried about the possibility of spies, be they mole or other, what sort of checks and balances do you have in this regard being that the Syndicate has always been a very large guild?

Dragons- Spies are always a threat and could play a role in Shadowbane under the correct circumstances and guild structure and recruiting practices. The Syndicate, however, has several things going for it in that area. First off, in a guild as large as ours, most spies are useless. One person (or a small group) cannot effectively harm a large guild or a small but well established guild or a very structured guild. There wont be much physical sabotage one person or a small group can do since in those types of guilds, key assets are controlled in such a way that they arent vulnerable to spies. And a well structured guild isnt going to give a weeks advanced notice they are marching on your town. You will know minutes before or when they appear at your gates. So a spies value there is limited. Conceptually its thought spies offer alot of value but in practice their value is less that commonly thought.

Second, the Syndicate might be very large but we also have very strict recruiting policies. We take no members that we dont know well and arent friends with. We take only veteran gamers and no brand new chars. We have another internal safeguards as well that take effect throughout the recruiting process. And it is a process. You cant come up to us in game and ask to join and we will never come up to a random person and ask them to join. We have a process that takes time to get through and involves effort on the person who wishes to join. But again, that all goes back to the type of players we seek. We accept only mature, professional acting, team focused, friendly people. Those types of players are willing to put in extra effort to get into an organization like ours and those types of players tend to stay members for years and everyone tends to know most everyone else. In Shadowbane terms, we are accepting no members until after the game starts. We do maintain a recruit list of people we will get to know in game and of them we may take some new members if, among them, there are quality, mature, team focused, friendly people we get along well with.

Sachant- If the Syndicate ends up with their own city (or if you like...when they do) what sort of things can people look forward to finding there? Will you have an open and free trade city?

Dragons- Its too early to say for sure but The Syndicate is widely known in UO as running a very effective and commonly visited city and set of merchants. We are also widely known for running very larger player events for all players to participate in. Without sharing all of our bag of tricks, I think its safe to assume we will continue those traditions in SB and run alot of fun player events and also have a strong merchant presence. The Syndicate is known for high quality at reasonable prices in the merchant arena and has quite a few members who specialize in that.

Sachant- With the Syndicate's history of being very community oriented, what sort of things can we expect both in game and out in that regard?

Dragons- Aye, The Syndicate does like to play a very active role in the community. We like to offer things back to the server we play on and the community as a whole. The types of things we are known for include:
A) In game sessions to train new players on how to get the most out of the game
B) Very large and fun player events often with great prizes that are free to enter and open to all players
C) Many of our members participate in the various news sites and game information sites. In the UO world, for example, we run/own the BlackDagger.com site via a very old veteran member. We have reporters on many sites and write guides and reports and articles for the sites often.
D) We will maintain our own set of player guides as well and make those available to the public via our website (www.llts.org)
E) We participate in bug feedback to the designers and in any online chats/feedback sessions that some game developers commonly host.
F) We have members who are involved in the various "volunteer" programs within the games we play itself
G) We have members who are employees of some game developer companies themselves where we are able to offer direct feedback to them and help shape some of the future RPGs coming down the pipe.
H) We maintain a page of roleplay stories written by members (www.llts.org/stories.html)

Sachant- Please sum up the general stance of the Syndicate when it comes to Allies, Enemies, PvP, Role-Play and Expansion of territory.

Dragons- The Syndicate has a number of allies we are good friends with. We tend to look for similar minded guilds and make alliances with them. We believe in PvP but we do not support nor participate in pkilling. You will never find a roving band of Syndicate thugs wacking all players they come across. We do support roleplaying but we are not a roleplaying guild. We dont speak "in character" at all times for example but if members wish to roleplay some, thats fine.

Sachant- If there is anything else you would like people to know of the Syndicate and what they can expect from the Syndicate in Shadowbane, please feel free to let them know here.

Dragons- I think you have covered all the major points of interest. The Syndicate is a very old guild and a very large guild but we are also tightly knit and very unified. Most members know most other members. We function as a team 100% of the time and dont allow kiddies or loose cannons as members. We have high hopes for Shadowbane and have many members who will be beta involved but we will make most of our final decisions once we see the beta and see how the game mechanics really work. Since the beta will cause things to change and since many things we assume now, wont work exactly as we assume, decisions made now are likely to be premature and incorrect. If a player wants to learn more about us, our publically available information is located at www.llts.org