Q. Introductions.

My name is Dragons. I am the guildmaster of The Syndicate . We are one of the oldest and largest online gaming guilds have more than 500 members. We tend to recruit adult, mature, team focused professional acting players so our average guild age is about 29 years. We currently have a very large presence in both Ultima Online and Everquest and are exploring some future opportunities like Shadowbane which we have members involved in the beta process. Despite being very large, we are a very unified team due to the type of player we recruit. Only those we know and only those of similar values to our own. We stick together and we work well together so we are large, experienced and unified.

Q. What was the original motivation to start the guild?

Many years ago, I founded The Syndicate. At the time there werent too many guild around, compared to what exist today. I knew of a game in development called Ultima Online but it wasnt even in its alpha stage yet. I wanted to create a community of players larger than any one game and focused on friendship, fun and teamwork. Online games, like UO and EQ were still in the future. The things we take for granted now were still being defined. Great sites like this didnt exist and the gaming world as we know it was in a stage of change from what it was into what it has become now. I hoped to seek out mature, dedicated, motivated gamers who want to build strong friendships and work as a team to overcome the challenges game developers would throw at us.

Q. What challenges the guild faced on the way to becoming a guild?

The Syndicate has had it shares of challenges. Perhaps the most misunderstood one is our recruiting policy. Since we play on the side of "good" in games we play (i.e. we believe in honorable play. We don't cheat or pkill. And we tend to fight against those who do) we have made our share of enemies among kiddies in the gaming world. We get along well with mature players on the side of "evil" since they realize its a fun game with two sides but kiddies tend to base their self worth on pixels and who can press the macro button the fastest. As such, we have our detractors in that community. One of the most common things they say is that we are "newbies" because we will accept anyone which they assume since we are large. In reality, we get more than 4,000 applications to join every year and nearly all of them are rejected. We only take mature, team focused, friendly gamers that we know, have adventured with and like. Getting into the Syndicate is not an easy process. One might think so because we are large but we are large, not because its easy to get in, but because once in, members have found a guild for life and very few of them wish to leave. You wont get in overnight but if you do get accepted you will be part of a huge, very organized, very loyal and friendly team that you will likely wish to remain in for years to come.

Q. What are your plans for the future with the guild?

The Syndicate has an entire team, led by one of my top leaders named Faust, who is dedicated to looking to the future. We are always looking at future games and which may be a good move for us. We dont take on too many games at once so that we remain focused and unified.

Currently we are exploring Shadowbane as a possible future game. There are certainly alot of intriguing features it offers and it appears, on paper, to be a great game. How it pans out in the end, remains to be seen. There are other things out there as well like Horizons, Warcraft, Everquest2 etc.. As you can see, we tend to stick to the fantasy RPG realm.

Our Game Migrations team is hard at work looking at new games and evaluating them for us. They will be at E3 this year and we will continue interfacing with developers, participating in beta tests and looking for new challenges in the future.

Q. Are there added benefits to being in a guild?

There are benefits to being in a GOOD guild. Guilds are easy to form and each day, more than 200 guilds are created and more than 200 guilds fold between UO and EQ. Those numbers, compounded over the lifetime of the game are staggering. So many groups rising and falling clearly shows not every guild adds enough value for its members that you can say it benefits them to be in it.

However there are a number of quality groups out there. And those quality groups do offer value to their members and it is beneficial to be in one. The Syndicate offers its members immense value. For one thing, the ability to have more than 500 people you can count on, who wont stab you in the back and who arent self centered is an asset to any player. Second, to have that pool of resources to support you in game makes development there faster and easier and helps all members overcome the learning curve or a tough break. But since The Syndicate is not a guild about a specific game, we offer our members a structured, virtual community of like minded players to talk to, hang out with, become friends with. We have had members meet and get married while a member of the guild. We've had gathers around the US of members. Members have helped each other with jobs, computer issues etc.. So there are many tangible benefits to being in The Syndicate which is why, in part, our turnover is so low and we are so unified.

Q. What are your thoughts on current game communities?

Gaming communities have changed alot over the years. Sites like this one didnt exist when we first began as a guild. The amount of resources available to the modern gaming is immense and extremely helpful. I hope to see those sites continue to thrive and expand. They help bridge the gap between developers and players and have been responsible for a number of industry changes that benefit the players. Without the services they provide, players would not know many things going on in the gaming industry nor would gaming companies have as good a forum to get feedback directly from gamers.

Q. What are your thoughts on the current game industry/current offerings?

There are some great games out there now and some even better ideas in development. Customer service is always the bane of every game and probably the area that needs the most work. On the one hand, its a business. And if you try to help every player with every tiny problem you can chew up any CS groups budget. Add to that the fact that too many people think the partial anonymity offered by the internet is a license to lie and decieve, its very hard to tell real issus from made up ones. On the other hand, when a player is paying hard earning money and investing hours of precious time, they deserve to have their issues resolved and corrected.

So a couple of things need to take place. First gaming companies need to develop better Customer Service mechanisms to help more players, in a shorter amount of time with greater ease. For example, the Everquest team has been excellent about helping players restore hacked accounts but it can take several weeks before all the logs are checked and the actions that led to the loss confirmed and processed. A more automated way to enter the request, have log records stripped out and placed into a trouble ticke for a CS rep to review and approve which then can kick off one of several canned recovery operations, would improve on that process. So I think the gaming industry is faced with some challenges where they need to develop better, faster and more comprehensive policies so they can deal with ever growing volumes of gamers and the issues that bring. No player wants to be told "sorry cant help you" when they did nothing wrong and just lost hours or weeks of hard work but at the same time, any one player is a tiny tiny fraction of their customer base so cannot disproportionately consume scarce CS resources. There is definitely room to grow there.

Second, more focus on bug testing versus getting things out the door would be a good move. That reduces the chances of a glitch causing errors which lead to lost time for players that then requires CS resources to fix.

The gaming industry has come a long way and is doing a good job offering alot of fun for players who in turn are offering them substantial profits. However as the gamer base is ever increasing, a new level of service needs to be developed to meet that growth.

Q. What role would you like to see player guilds fulfill in the future?

Player guilds already play a valuable roll internal to the games themselves. What role does need to be expanded is that of groups like The Syndicate. Online Gaming Groups/Organizations/Communities. Groups that have stood the test of time, have solid membership bases and who are mature and well structured are a valuable resource for developers. The Syndicate, for example, has been involved with developers on numerous levels during the gaming development lifecycle. Gaming companies should seek out OGGs and tap into that resource base more. Its a pre-canned, organized testing group that understands gaming, isnt going to fold overnight and is likely run in such a way as to offer them valuable, structured feedback. Its a largely untapped resource right now.

Q. What advice would you give to people wanting to start their own guild?

Running a guild that offers value to its members is not an easy thing. It is time consuming. It can be thankless work and it can be hard work. Its not about being "in charge" and wielding power. That attitude makes guilds fold. With so many tens of thousands of guilds out there, what motivation do people have to join yours? How are you different from the other guy who claims to be the coolest and best guild out there? Find that niche and live in it. Dont try to be everything to every one. 99.999% of all guilds will fail. Most in under 6months. So if your goal is short term, have at it. If your goal is long term, plan to overcome the pitfalls that destroy most guilds.

Q. Do you have a message to people interested in joining your guild?

The Syndicate is a private guild. We have a number of communications tools but all are restricted to members only. Interested people can find information and an application our website (www.llts.org) or they can seek out members in games we play


The Syndicate

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Many thanks Dragons!
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