|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
[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
[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
[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
[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
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 battle.net fanboy
community yet. I'm sure there will be lots of fun for you as an anti
[Dragons]: hehe sure we have. We played Diablo and Diablo II with them :)