Shadowbane Stratics - Syndicate Interview
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Syndicate Interview

Good day to all,

Dragons, Guild Master of The Syndicate, has been gracious enough to take time out for an interview with Shadowbane Stratics.

For those who are not familiar with this guild, The Syndicate is arguably one of the oldest and largest official MMORPG guilds around. With roots dating back to March of 1996, this guild has been a strong fixture within Ultima Online and Everquest. Organizations such as The Syndicate add great depth to the gaming environment, likes of which cannot be delivered by the original game development team. Now with the up and coming release of Shadowbane, Dragons and his group look to take another step towards further expansion.

Rage: Thank you for taking a little time out for Stratics. With the release date of Shadowbane pushed back to at least early 2003, how much member anticipation is left?

Dragons: The Syndicate is still closely tracking SB and has a migrations team dedicated to working hard in the beta and keeping our guild informed as things come along. There is still a lot of anticipation that it will be the game we all hope it will be. I think recent progress in the beta as well as UbiSoft's dedication to Wolfpack and Shadowbane (as demonstrated by giving them more time and by Vosx to attending our 2002 conference) are excellent indicators. To make a game like this successful you need not only a skilled dev. team but also an understanding and supportive publisher. We can see both of those exist and that’s a good sign. We chose to look on the delay not as a negative thing but rather as a chance to get final bugs ironed out for as flawless of a launch as possible.

The Syndicate is a very large and diverse guild though and we don’t keep all our eggs in one basket. Our migration team continues to explore other worlds as well and should things implode and not pan out, we will redirect our attention elsewhere. I don’t think that will occur as I see a lot of commitment on UbiSoft and Wolfpack's part to get things done right.

Rage: Now I am sure the meeting with Vosx put some wind in your sails. News of the beta spots given to your guild spread very quickly within the SB gaming community. I’d like to hear your point of view regarding what seems to be a general feeling of unfairness and disappointment within this community.

Dragons: Without naming names, The Syndicate is not the only guild to receive a block of accounts. A number of other groups will also receive large blocks of beta accounts when the time comes. Anyone who levels criticism squarely at us, is uninformed (or unaware) and the criticism unwarranted.

Secondly, The Syndicate is a very big and old guild and we're very active in the MMO industry. However, we don't advertise the guild on public message boards. It's a big world, so people don't always know about us or the work we do. Everyone is frustrated about Shadowbane taking a long time to get finished so, when we get some PR people like to take potshots at us, which is fine. We understand that, so comments made don’t bother us. We let our record speak for itself and we are very strong, very unified and very team focused internally. We don't engage in public flames and rarely post with any tag letting people know the poster is a Syndicate member. What matters is what our members and our allies think and we will always operate in the most professional, community focused way we can.

Rage: It is said that guilds will have a direct effect on the future story of Shadowbane. Do you see The Syndicate playing a major role in the shaping of this lore? If so, how?

Dragons: UbiSoft said that a person could declare themselves the long lost heir to the throne, ruler of Shadowbane and if they could rally the support, perhaps a plot could revolve around him. Whether something like that is feasible remains to be seen and how we would see ourselves fitting into options for players to affect the world also remains to be seen. For the time being, we just hope to play the game and have fun. If something like that comes up, we'll see how we fit into the story line.

Rage: Ubi has stated that game design will keep so called "uber" guilds from "taking over the world". "Holding on to territory will require more than just game expertise - it will require that a group of players work constantly towards a common goal." How effective will The Syndicate be in maintaining a certain level of land ownership?

Dragons: Being an old guild, we are also very organized since to survive this long, you have to be. We aren’t a guild built around a specific game. We are very stable and very organized and we've been through hard times in the past and know how to deal with them internally without causing the downfall of the guild or a mass loss of members. If our town burnt down, you wont see the guild crumble as Wolfpack anticipates many guilds doing when that occurs. We don’t exist for Shadowbane. We exist for ourselves and we happen to be looking at Shadowbane as one of the games we might play. I’m sure we will be effective at creating and managing a town and owning land should Shadowbane pan out to be all it's expected to be. I’m sure we will work closely with friends and allies and aggressively defend our area and theirs. The requirement of a group of players working towards a common goal basically describes The Syndicate.

We don’t tolerate any members among us who offer anything less than that.

Rage: A fascinating characteristic of The Syndicate is its structure. With some members not interested in the PvP aspect of SB, do you plan to expand on the differing branches of the guild to accommodate the play diversity.

Dragons: Vosx has made it abundantly clear in his speech to us (which all players can view soon when we send it over to Ubisoft for release) that there are roles inside Sb that are not purely PvP related. Vosx has made it clear that running a town is a big deal in and of itself. Vosx will tell you that PvM is a big deal as well since things cost a lot and require a constant influx of new gold into the system since the system eats gold regularly in the form of maintenance, siege, and defense. Vosx even went so far as to say a group of people who solely role-play can find a home here by partnering with a guild that has a pvp army and forming a symbiotic relationship. Because of all that, we expect the various types of Syndicate members would find roles in Shadowbane to strengthen the team and that are fun for them.

Rage: How will SB affect the time spent by the guild in other MMOG’s?

Dragons: That remains to be seen. The Syndicate has more than 525 veteran gamer members and gets more than 4000 applications a year to join. We have the assets to put into any task we chose to take on. Assuming SB pans out and assuming we have a presence there, we will have the commit the resources to be successful. If we chose to remain in other gaming worlds, we will also maintain sufficient resources directed at them to continue to be successful there. Most importantly, we need to see what our members want to do and then we respond accordingly. We're pretty sure they will really like Shadowbane so we're setting the ground work.

However, until they get in there and play it, it's hard to be sure if they will want to leave their current games.

Rage: Your guild has "opened" several other games in the MMORPG industry. How do you plan to start off with SB? Will you do anything differently?

Dragons: We're going to approach Shadowbane with more flexibility in our structures and plans. Every game poses its own unique challenges. I can still remember the pre-UO days where people thought ships and navies would be important. And in EQ people thought they would get guildhalls and that guildwars would popup often. Regardless of how good the information anyone thinks they have now, including beta testers, the game will not proceed down the exact path they think it will. Things will not work out the way they think and some things that are promised will never come to pass. That’s just the nature of the beast. Anyone who has a fixed plan is doomed to fail. We have our plan. We are flexible in its implementation, and we'll react as needed. We definitely have learned many lessons over our years as a guild. We've made mistakes and we've grown stronger for them. Those lessons will hopefully enable us to make fewer mistakes should we enter the world of Shadowbane.

Rage: Does SB fill any of your "ideal" requirements for a MMORPG, or are you still waiting for that perfect game?

Dragons: SB is not the perfect MMORPG but it is several steps closer than the upcoming competition by our estimation. It has features that are very nice and innovative and it's a step forward in the genre but it is not the perfect MMORPG. You will find some who argue that unless its pvp everywhere all the time with full looting and griefing is ok, that it "sux0r". Others will argue that unless players can chose to pvp or not then it can’t be perfect. People will argue sieges takes too long or that it’s too short. People will point out features of other games that it’s missing but should have. There is no perfect MMORPG and never will be. There are MMORPGs that are more right for some player types than others. This one happens to be more focused towards pvpers and is a step forward in the MMORPG evolution in that area. It’s a step backwards for those whose desires life in other areas.

Rage: Based on your experience, where do you see the future of MMOG’s?

Dragons: PvP is a niche. If you look across most major MMORPGs out there, its clear that the vast majority of players (70% or more) are interested either in no-PVP or optional PvP (i.e. can fight when they chose). Players are very concerned about investing tons of time into building up something (like a city) and losing it. As such, while pvp is an important element (100% pvp is a very vocal minority) and will continue (and in my view, should continue..) to have a very important role in gaming, I think the trend will be towards optional pvp. Gaming is a business. You make money by having the most customers. When most customers prefer to having large areas of the world they are safe in and then other areas they can go to and fight as they chose, then that’s the target audience for most publishers money. DAOC, AC2, EQ and UO all offer flavors of this. Looking across the 90+ MMORPGs in development now, the vast majority does as well.

The challenge now will be for game developers to all players to have a rich, full gaming experience without pvp while enticing them into the pvp areas by making it worth their effort and risk to do so. AC2, for example, make everything in game player built and in order to build some of the top end things, you have to control resources in PvP+ areas (that’s a simplistic explanation of their system). So players are encouraged to pvp to control assets but aren’t required to do so. As such, AC2 is likely to have a large following when it debut's.

The fact is, nobody has done PvP "right" yet so while we have high hopes for Shadowbane doing it "right" we're still mindful of the overall trend in the industry for a mixture. I'm not real sure how that can be done "right" either, but I think that some mix will be the future.

Rage: One more. What can we do as a fan site to best help your game?

Dragons: Stratics has long been known as "the" site to go to for information about skills, maps, character guides etc.. By keeping that information accurate and current and available to all, you provide an invaluable service to the gaming community. Shadowbane is very complex when you mix class + race + profession + disciplines and factor in the human element. How to make a char that’s "the best" at XXXX and how to best level from A to B level and what different things do and maps of dungeons, explanations of items etc.. are all things Stratics is famous for and continuing in that effort will be a big asset to players in Shadowbane.

While the base game is the same, each server will have it's own set of geographies, politics, and storyline's. We hope that Stratics will work to individualize its reporting to each server as well as the overall community.

Rage: If there is anything you would like to add, please feel free.

Dragons: The excitement about Shadowbane has been going on for years and years. As such, people have used their imagination to "play" the game in their heads. As fantasy-fiction lovers we're all capable of enormous imaginations. The problem is, we're imagining a world that has yet to exist so it's easy to dream up a game that is perfect in every sense. I would caution people to remain flexible in their assumptions about how the game works or what their plans are until they actually get into the game, in its final form, and see what happens.

I'd also like to thank you for this opportunity to talk about my guild and its future. Shadowbane is going to be a lot of fun and we're looking forward to it!

Rage: On behalf of everyone here at Shadowbane Stratics, I thank you for your time.

It does seem that The Syndicate has the time proven principles that will allow it to conquer anything that may come its way. I think it is safe to say that future uber guilds who rise from the masses would be wise to follow the lead of this glorious group of gamers.

Until next we meet.


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Last modified: September 09 2002