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 Scripts : News : View News.phtml 

Evaristin's Inferno: Interview with Dragons of The Syndicate

Today I managed to get a hold of Dragons, leader of the guild known as The Syndicate, a very old, large and successful guild.

[Evaristin]: Why don't you start by introducing yourself and the guild.
[Dragons]: My name is Dragons, guildmaster of The Syndicate. We are one of the oldest, and largest gaming guilds out there numbering around 525 adult (average age of 29) members. We are primarily focused in UO and EQ right now with a good sized beta testing team as well. WoW is a game we are migrating to in the future and hence we are also heavily involved in that community.

[Evaristin]:So why are you flaunting that silly "LLTS" tag, I don't see how that adds up to "The Syndicate". Tell us what it stands for and the history behind the tag.
[Dragons]:hehe that "silly" little tag is actually our guild motto and stands for Long Live The Syndicate. It began as our motto.. turned into guild abbreviation for the UO guildstone. Then it became our slogan and a greeting and a battle cry. LLTS was heard all over UO and all over EQ and to some non members they use LLTS to mean The Syndicate. In reality its our motto, battlecry, slogan etc... and something heard often in games we play on the servers we play on since we have so many members and we are so unified.

[Evaristin]: I'm sure it was heard "all over". I mean, with so many members, it's hard to go by unnoticed. Strength in numbers is one thing, but aren't you taking it to an extreme?
[Dragons]:One of the most common things said in the online world, and in general I also agree with it, is that large guilds arent unified and large guilds arent organized thus too much size is a bad thing. In general I agree with that sentiment and it definitely applies to most large guilds in existance but not to us and here is why... Our focus ISNT size. Our focus is quality, team focused, friend focused, veteran, mature gamers who share our values and goals and are looking for a long term guild. So... by having that focus we ONLY recruit people we know. We ONLY recruit people who have our values so our RETENTION is huge. We lose very few members over time, compared to others and more than 75% of the guild has been with us for more than a year. Thus our size comes over time. Its very unified and very team focused

[Evaristin]: Exactly, LLTS is pretty well known, but not always in a good way. When most people refer to "zerg" guilds, they think "The Syndicate". Is that in any way justified?
[Dragons]: Hehe the Zerg thing cracks me up :) And here is why. That term, brought over from Starcraft, was applied to a "kiddie" guild in EQ. They were so proud of the fact that they zerged other GUILDS out of mobs that they put the picture on their webpage. Eventually they decided it was really an insult and started calling others that name. Due to our size, they called us that. We actually dont mind. Our belief, in UO terms, is that if you pk a member of ours, or declare war on us, we arent going to attakc you back with the same number of members you have. If you are dumb enough to attack us, 500 people will attack you back. In EQ terms, we feel that we shouldnt tell members "sorry, you are our friend but go away.. we already have 30 people for this mob and some OTHER group deems any more than that is a zerg". Screw them. We play for ourselves.. and our friendships so we dont limit who can do something a part of the team.

[Evaristin]: So winning is more important than a fair challange?
[Dragons]: If a guild choses to go to war with us, they do so knowing full well they are engaging a guild of hundreds of organized players. We will throw everything we have at them to defeat them (but we dont cheat or exploit) and we arent going to hold anything back just because they have a tiny fractio of our numbers. If you dont want to get bit, dont kick the big dog in the ass. Shadowbane is a great example of that. We were THE dominant beta power for several builds and are still talked about today. You attacked our cities, you were crushed. But by the same token, we didnt go invade helpless people. We didnt pk. We didnt hurt others just looking to have fun. That isnt our style..

[Evaristin]: What about managing such an "impressive" size then? Lots of premature grey hairs?
[Dragons]: yes I have premature grey hairs. Managing a guild this size does take many hours a day and that, in part, is why there are very few large guilds in existance. The world load is so huge. But I have a good team of leads that help me out. And I also take alot of personal pride in the friendships and tangible real life results that come from the virtual world and those things make the effort and stress worth while.

[Evaristin]: * Evaristin wipes a tear from her eye. How sweet. You came off sounding a bit ruthless when it comes to PvP, which I'm sure you are. But LLTS is actually what's usually referred to as an "anti" guild, no?
[Dragons]: Yes. We are not a pk guild and actually dont allow them in our guild. We also dont go seeking out guildwars and fights with others. In general, if you leave us alone (unless you happen to be a roving band of pk kiddies) we leave you alone. But if attacked we respond with overwhelming force. We are anti-pk, pro-consensual pvp, anti-cheat and anti-exploit.

[Evaristin]: So how have you been doing in PvP in the past? I've heard stories saying both this and that, but in most of them, you end up short? Are my sources just lying bastards, or is there some truth to it?
[Dragons]: Well, your only source is a single pk from the old UO days from a guild we fought all the time who couldnt field a fraction of the forces we could but who was good at killing single members caught unaware. So take the source with a grain of salt. But more specifically in response to your question: That really depends on who you ask. From a Shadowbane Beta standpoint, we are still used as a model to compare success to months after the game is live and we arent even playing it. In UO terms, there is no doubt there were some very skilled pks in their day who killed more people than the times they were killed. But we never faced a guild that we didnt defeat in the end. We had our share of losses and we had more than our share of victories. You can cry foul that we brought an army to fight a smaller army but that is really the fault of the moron who picked the fight with us. One thing, in UO PvP terms, we were known for was the taking of dozens of pk houses/bases for our own. We would camp their bases waiting for them to come home. Kill the pk. Take the key. Loot the base. And then when OSI allowed you to claim houses with the house key. We took over the bases and gave them to needy non-member players. So yes, we have lost battles. We have never lost a war. There are some very very good pvpers in our guild. And there are some very very good pvpers who opposed us.

[Evaristin]: Is it true that you actually began this journey prior to UO beta? Are you living proof that "Vapor Zerg guilds", to put it in the most common phrasing, can succeed?
[Dragons]: Yes, we actually began prior to the UO Alpha test and our first UO experience was in the Alpha in 1996. There werent any other UO guilds then but tens of thousands have come and gone since then. Actually in UO something around 100 guilds are created and 100 guilds fold each day. And given the number of guilds who are really nearly 8 years old, and how many rise and fall, 99.999% of all guilds will fall long before reaching this point. So yeah, a guild can grow and succeed but its almost a sure bet to say one will fail.

[Evaristin]: I'll be honest, if I saw a "WoW guild" now with 200 members and no prior MMOG experience I'd laugh in their faces and tell them they might as well save themselves the pain and just dissolve right now. Perhaps that's jsut being cynical, or is the gaming world different nowadays?
[Dragons]: Running a long term guild is much more than a webpage. I think your characterization is accurate. Most of those guilds (even the ones with 10 or 20 people) wont survive until the beta.. or the final.. or 3months into the final. That is just the nature of the online world. The GM will quit. They will drift apart. The GM will do a bad job. They will get bored. Many many reasons exist but your cynical view is grounded in alot of reality. Nearly all the guilds you see today, you wont see in a year. Almost none will you see in 2 or 3 years. A rare few will live on. Great for them! They found the magic formula that works for their members :) They provide the continuity between gaming worlds that does add value to the community at large.

[Evaristin]: So, let's take a step back again if you don't mind. Due to your huge roster, aren't you afraid cliques and rivalry will arise? Surely you've had some groups rift off to become independents in the past (Like PRX), what have you learnt from your/their mistakes?
[Dragons]: There were cliques in the distant (3+ years ago) past. But that doesnt exist today. That is because we have learned from the past and over the years we both revised and refined our guild policies and also our recruiting focus and requirements. These days we only recruit people we know very well. We only recruit people of similar goals, personalities, mindsets, playstyles etc... So basically we are putting like minded, like goaled people together so their personalies mesh and we are all working for the same things and thus those issues dont arise. The example you sited, PRX, was the last time we had something of that nature occur and that was a whopping 12 people that left out of 500...hardly a speedbump. And that occured over 3 years ago. Things are awesome in the guild since then as we finally got rid of the last of our people who didnt share the goals, vision and values of the guild. We do get the occasional poor recruting decision but nothing systemic or large scale. Just the occasional oversight or person who wasnt what they appeared to be or who covered it up well. One example of how noncliqish we are is that each year we have a conference at some city in the US. More than 100 people from UO, EQ and beta testing members show up for that. It doesnt matter who you are, what game you played, where you lived, what you look like etc.. everyone is treated as a friend and has a wild time for 3 or 4 days :) Its the largest single guild event in all of online gaming and illustrates how tight we are :)

[Evaristin]: I can definately see a guild like this thriving in UO where everything was more centered on players and guilds, but what about content-based guilds like EverQuest and World of Warcraft? Most of their content is tweaked for guilds around the size of 50-100 persons. How do you manage?
[Dragons]: There are several ways to manage that. First off, the reality is, unless you have a preplanned major goal (like defending the guild from attack or a huge event) you arent going to have 500 people online at the same time. Second, if you have far more people than you need, then you simply do more than 1 thing. WoW has instanced dungeons. It is highly likely The Syndicate will have several instances running at a time on days we "raid" actively. We dont all have to be together at all times to be friends and move forward. And we have the luxury of both picking our targets and in taking on more than 1 challenge at a time if we wish to. Its all about having members that share common beliefs and goals and having a leadership team capable of organizing things.

[Evaristin]: Do you use other mediums than in game to communicate? I noticed a lack of a forum on your site (or I'm just exceptionally stupid today).
[Dragons]: We definitely have a forum. It is private to members only. We arent interested in pissing matches with nonmember kiddies looking to stir up trouble so ours is private. We also have a private IRC server run by the guild, for members. We also use ICQ and as needed we use misc voice tools (like Roger Wilco can be seen used for some PvP things). Of course emails are also an important part :) Communications as a whole are very prevalent in the guild and very detailed, but we also keep them private.

[Evaristin]: As for WoW, you have members spread out in how many games now? Do you expect them all to follow your command, or do you intent to recruit to get up to full gear in WoW once more?
[Dragons]: We will probably recruit more people in WoW but only those we know well and meet all our other requirements. As for following my command... there is no issue with that. I lead the guild in every game we play. The guild is technically a dictatorship but we have NO issues with that. We have a very solid structure, great communications and we all talk, all the time and are all on the same page. No one is without information. No one is out of the loop. So a move like this is not a big deal for us. We just change what EXE we load when we play the game. How we work. What we do. What our policies are. Who leads. What to expect etc.. is all done and worked out. So a move like this is almost a nonissue for us.

[Evaristin]: I think I've covered most of what I want to cover. (Either that or I want to pleasure myself watching those new Gnome models.) Do you have anything you want to add?
[Dragons]: I think you definitely touched on areas that some other interviews havent which, in my view, is great. The Syndicate, being very large and very successful but also very secretive is an easy target for those with shallow egos in the gaming world. Zerg! They cant be organized they are too big! They stink since they ganged up on me when I tried to pk them! But the reality doesnt meet the image the kiddies might wish you to beleive. We dont engage in public flame wars. We dont get into pissing matches. We do definitely have high standards to join and reject the bulk of the 4,000 people who apply to join each year. We do fight pks. We do defend ourselves to the max. We do bring any members who wish to help out, on raids and events and dont leave people out. So pick all you want... but after 8 years with hundreds of members and stronger than ever, Id say our record and success speaks for itself :) The Syndicate is THE Premier guild in online gaming.

[Evaristin]: We'll let the future decide that. You haven't met the enraged blizzard fanboy community yet. I'm sure there will be lots of fun for you as an anti guild.
[Dragons]: hehe sure we have. We played Diablo and Diablo II with them :)