World of Warcraft - The Syndicate Interview - By The Traveler
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The Syndicate Interview - By The Traveler
Recently I had the opportunity to do a Q&A session with The Syndicate ( guild. At first I thought this would be a look at The Syndicate and World of Warcraft. Before long I realized this was actually a look at the guild and it's members. The answers given provide an interesting view of the people that keep a guild alive for over 10 years.

Thank you to Dragons and all members of The Syndicate for taking time to answer these questions.

1) What hobbies do you enjoy away from the computer?

The Syndicate is a guild composed of more than 600 members from all over the world. Our noncomputer activities are as diverse as our membership. Here is a sample of what our members are up to when they are not on the computer:

Daisho - Scuba Diving!

Bebadd - I watch hockey and drink beer.. I am a Canadian after all

Dor - bowling, disc golf, ultimate, bike riding (motorcycle)

Aura - Crafting of all sorts, horseback riding, scuba diving and reading.

Caesaria - Playing guitar, driving, card/board games. And most recently I picked up this being a dad thing, I have to admit, it's pretty cool.

Firethorn - I spend a great deal of time renovating my house. The word "enjoy" depends on the task. Finish carpentry, yes; plumbing, not so much.

Darvo (on Deployment in Iraq) - Guitar/Bass, finding bombs in Iraq

2) Growing up did you play table top fantasy games like D&D or Gurps?

The average Syndicate age is 32 years old but we have a couple of members in their teens and a group of members over 50. So the experiences growing up can be similar for a large part of the guild, there is still a great deal of diversity. Ironically there are a large number of members that played no fantasy games at all while growing up. For those that did, some of their personal favorites are as follows:

Viktel - I started my nerdiness around 12 or so with D&D and Palladium. Since then I think I've played in groups in everything from Legend of the Five Rings to White Wolf. I get a kick out of roleplaying, its like
an excuse to yell at someone.

Dreygor - I played AD&D some but I mostly played Rifts, Shadowrun, Warhammer 40k and TMNT.

Randall - I played Hero Quest in '93 and a home-made D&D-like game where the game board was made out of plywood.

Parmenio - Played a bit of D&D, but mainly played tabletop war games, such as the Avalon Hill series of games

Faethore - I played D&D (started in 1977), Champions, Car wars, Battletech, a few of the Gurps games, Warhammer & Warhammer 40k and I even play tested the pen and paper Shadowrun game.

Cinella - We had AD&D every Tuesday and Thursday. Mondays we would spend time painting little metal figures to use with huge dry erase mats to create our own dungeons. It was awesome when they made Baulder's Gate, to see AD&D battles being played out on screen.

Reken - Yes I played D&D in a full time group that use to rent out a hall ever Friday night and play all night. I still play table top with that group today. We played all type of tabletop V&V, twilight 2000, top
secret and some others.

3) What was your first computer and what was the first game you played on it?

Dor - Atari and Pong if you count that....first comp was a TRS 80

Aura - Ouch, showing my age a bit here but: Atari (yes the one with a cassette tape as a hard drive) and pong.

Parmenio - TRS-80 and the first game I remember was sci-fi based empire building game

Faethore - My first computer was a commodore 64, and the first game I ever played on it was Ultima III.

Firethorn - Commodore Vic 20 although that was quickly upgraded to a Commodore 64. I can not remember one specific game that I played as there were so many.

Cinella - I don't think I owned my own computer until 1998. It was a Compaq. I used to use it for evil AOL. I remember playing Baulder's Gate and versions of board games or game shows until I stumbled across EQ.

Celte - NES: Super Mario Brothers if that counts. Otherwise, it would be Diablo I on an old Pentium.

Reken - The commodore vic 20 and I played shamus it was kinda like robotron.

Viktel - My stepfather bought me my first PC when I was around 7 or 8. I was already an addicted Genesis player and the first game that I played on PC with Doom 2, which scared the hell out of me when I was that young. It was almost like sealing my fate as a video game nerd for all eternity.

4) Which game, or games, on the horizon are you looking forward to?

Syndicate members, being a diverse bunch of people, also have diverse gaming tastes. While we do play MMOs together, we have a wide ranging list of games that we enjoy outside of MMOs.

Dreygor - Warhammer Online (although I want to see Warhammer 40k MMO very badly) and Star Trek Online. I am curious to learn what Heatwave may be up to.

Bebadd - Mass Effect, Skate, NHL 08, Army of Two, Rock Band, Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, Star Trek Online, and anything from Bioware.

Parmenio - Have some interest in Tabula Rasa

Caesaria - Hmmm.. I'd have to say.. Rayman Raving Rabbids 2. RR1 was a completely good game, fast, completely stupid and near pointless but the fun factor was huge. Those Rabbid guys should be in all games. And of course, Halo 3. Ahhh and I can't forget Metal Gear Solid 4 starring Burt Reynolds... I mean Solid Snake - the geriatric years. And the last one I'm trying my hardest not to think about since we have no clue when it comes out and it will destroy the competition in it's genre again, Starcraft 2. Now where the hell is Diablo 3??

Firethorn - Hellgate: London and TF2 are my top two.

Kapin - King Story, Final Fantasy XIII, Starcraft 2, Mario Kart Wii.

5) What online game besides UO and WoW do you enjoy?

The Syndicate maintains an official presence in two major MMOs at a time. We also have side presences in a number of MMOs because of our members playing them. We do not recruit for those games though. We limit recruiting to only the major MMOs we have official presences in so that we can get to know the people very well. We do participate in almost every MMO beta that comes out and many of them at the request of developers to help evaluate various systems and designs. A fair number of our members do play other 'online' games but not necessarily MMOs. Some of the ones we participate in are:

Celte - Warcraft 3, specifically the Defense of the Ancients (DotA) scenario. Halo 2.

Firethorn - BF2142, Soldier of Fortune II (still, after all these years), a few on the Xbox 360.

Faethore - Besides UO and WoW I am currently playing Everquest II.

Caesaria - Quake Arena. And I guess you can count Starcraft in as well as Diablo 2.

Enkidu - Fishing Champs and Silkroad Online

Bebadd - Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, Battlefield 1942, EQ2

Dreygor - Quake games, Yahoo online games, every once in a while I stop in on Shadowbane to see whats going on.

6) One of the most important aspects of The Syndicate is friendship. Can you share a story where friendship helped you? (in or out of game)

Our core value and premise behind the guild is "In Friendship We Conquer" and we try to make that evident in all that we do. Here are a few stories from members about how that impacted them personally:

Dreygor - I recently returned to UO after being away for almost 6 years and I was embraced as if I never left and outfitted me with everything I needed including A house.

Taboo - When i started wow i didnt really know anyone in guild well. I made a priest and started to level. A few days later Kaladam asked me to group with him and Viktel. I was never without a group after that. I had alot of fun and made two realy great friends.

Daisho - I live in Canada and shipped some bathroom faucets my wife andI wanted to purchase to a member in the US since the company only offered free shipping to US addresses and it saved us a bunch of money. We took the couple hour drive down to visit, have dinner and pickup the faucets

Bebadd - This past conference was my first one. I finally met the members in person. I was told by one member that I came off a little arrogant and that's why some people never gave me the time of day. I
didn't know this. But since the people have met me they realized that I wasn't really what appeared in game. Now the members have helped me finish my WoW character and we have a personal bond that will never be the same as a online only bond.

Enkidu - First story that came into my mind was when I was just getting the hang of Ultima Online. The Atlantic shard was so packed that there was no space to place a small house. So a fellow guildmate, Kanaka, offered that we be roommates. That meant a lot seeing as how at the time I did not know a lot of people online at the time and it really helped me out a lot in the game.

Aura - When my mother got very ill the outpouring of understanding, good wishes and advice helped me cope better with all the things that happened.

Parmenio - In general, I can say that my life has been enriched by the friendships that I have formed since joining the guild. Some online are more important to me than many people in my "real" life. Many that don't have online friendships probably have a hard time understanding this, but the basic components of friendship....comraderie, trust, self-sacrifice, compassion, understanding, tolerance...very easily fit into an online friendship, unclouded by physical appearance, race, ethnic background, social status, and even, sometimes, gender.

Xayla - I have SO many... but the one that sticks out is someone who has been a rock to me. I have been going through a breast cancer scare for almost 2 yrs now. The dr's are taking their sweet ol' time with tests, etc. Valynn has been there for me and knew what I was going through, right from the beginning. She has talked with me and has made me believe everything will be OK.

7) People move on to other games and others just stop playing (i.e. Inactive status in the guild). Do these people still stay in touch with the actively gaming members?

The Syndicate recruits the person, not the toon. While we only recruit people who are active in the major games we play, that is done so that we can develop the deep, lasting friendships with them. If a person goes "inactive" in the games we play, they remain members of the guild with access to our forums etc.. and invariably they get active again in a game we are playing.

Cinella points out - We make friendships to last, whether there's a game there or not.

Firetorn says - I've been around for two years and in that time members have retired from WoW, the game I play and I would say, "Definitely". I see them in Ventrilo and met up with a bunch of them at the Conference.

Caesaria adds his two cents - Of course, real life always drags us away from our hobbies from one time or another. But when you play these games like WoW or UO which require good, solid teamwork, you build strong personal relationships with these people you play with and it's like becoming drinking buddies in college. Those are the relationships you cherish no matter what.

8) Which do you prefer and why: PVP or PVM?

The Syndicate is primarily a PvE/PvM guild. But with that said, we have some very skilled PvPers on that team that do so quite often. Here is a breakdown of a few people's opinions on one versus the other.

Taboo - pvp, i like the challenge of going against someone who is thinking an who wants to win the match as much as you do. I like the challenge and the rush you get from it.

Randall - PVP, it teaches one to think on the run, as to where PVM has a more structured strategy to go against whatever you are facing. PVP is more of a challenge since your facing real people.

Dor - I do both, but think I enjoy pvm the most running multiple comps.

Enkidu - I prefer PVM, mainly because it is what I grew up playing and learning how to play. I honestly just find it more interesting fighting the biggest, baddest Mob in the game. Also, my reflexes are not quite quick enough for PvP.

Aura - PvM, although I did PvP for a while in UO. I got very tired, veryquickly, of trying to ignore the immature attitudes of many of the players.

Parmenio - From an excitement standpoint, I prefer PVP. However, PVP seems to force peope into "cookie-cutting" characters into very specific tasks that take away from the enjoyment of developing a character.

Kapin - Neither balance of both is fun. Sometimes PvM is fun for scripted stuff, while if you want to really make yourself think pvp is a lot better.

Celte - Each has its place. When I just want to relax and unwind after work, I like to PvM. If I'm feeling competitive and looking for a fight, I PvP.

Viktel - Pvp will always be a big thing for me. PVM content can be beaten a few times before it gets old. But PvP always changes. A person never does the same thing, and some of the most interesting (if not
successful) mmo's have been based on player interaction, not mob interaction. Take UO for example, They don't pile in tons of content like WoW, they don't really have to. They've built a game based on
player interaction, not beating the next dungeon.

9) World of Warcraft: Trading Card Game, do you play it? If so, what do you enjoy most about it?

We had a hard time finding people that play it regularly. A bunch never got it. Some bought it but dont play it. We did manage to track down a few that do play it.

Dini - Yes, I play it actively. I enjoy getting a kick out of seeing the cards that match in-game professions, abilities, spells, and powers. It gives the TCG it's own little world, but with a table-top game feel to it. I have a ton of cards, and each one is unique and special to me.

Caesaria - TGC is extremely fun. The newest expansion also has introduced a system that allows you to turn in "materials" cards for items the you can USE in game like Felsteel Reaper or Netherwing Gloves.
THAT is very cool. Plus, the Ogre trinket! You dance like Chris Farley! WooT!

Dreygor - I don't play, however I do collect the cards. The artwork on some of them is awesome and others are very humorous.

10) You have shut down your computer for the night. On your way to the couch you turn on the stereo and pick up a book. What music are you listening to and what book are you reading?

Much like everything else about The Syndicate, our musical tastes are run the spectrum. Here a few examples:

Taboo - Disturbed, saliva, drowing pool, mostly rock. And my fav author is Lynn Flewelling so most likey a book by her.
Daisho - I'd read books from Terry Goodkind and as long as the music isn't Country or Rap or Heavy Metal I'd probably listen to it. If I were reading it would probably be Jack Johnson or Supertramp or something melo like that.

Dor - Modesitt, Cussler listen to country, 80's, irish, classical mainly in that order

Enkidu - Music would be System of a Down, or music like that. But if I am going to read then I do not play music. The book would be anything written by R.A. Salvatore.

Faethore - The stereo can be playing anything from classic rock (Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, & Eric Clapton) to hard rock (Disturbed, Metallica, & Rob Zombie). The books I enjoy vary according to my mood. My favorite series are Anne McCaffrey's Dragon Riders of pern, Frank Herbert's Dune series, all of Clive Cussler's books, Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series, and of course Brian Lumley's Necroscope series.

Viktel - The music is deffinately something of the tune to Dropkick Murphy's or Flogging Molly, and my top shelf reading is the Prince by Machiavelli and Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations.

Firethorn - Generally, my wife has either U2 or Frank Sinatra as they're the only two artist we agree on. Right now I'm reading Winston Churchill's "The Gathering Storm" about the build up to WW2 although usually I am reading Sci Fi.

Xayla - If I am listening to music while reading, it is Light Classical and I would probably be reading something on true history, christianity, or HP

Cinella - It would have to be my iPod playlists. I don't stick with 1 genre of music, I mix it up. As for a book, I just finished Harry Potter but I really love Thrillers.

Darvo - Mission briefs for the next day. Misfits, Social Distortion, Horrorpops, Nekromantix

Celte - The music is probably something calm and conducive to reading; perhaps some slow jazz or classical. The book is "The Legend of the Syndicate" by Sean Stalzer. (hey! thanks for the plug Celte!)

Reken - I listen to pretty much anything if I reading I don't like to have music on. Right now I am reading the complete DUNE series.

11) Role play, how important is it?

The Syndicate recruits the person, not the toon and we build friendships with the person behind the toon. As such, roleplaying is 'fine' so long as it doesn't interfere with the friendships. For example, it would not be acceptable in the guild to roleplay that your char hates all chars in the guild of a specific race. That doesn't support our core values of Friendship and Team Focus. So roleplaying really isnt something that gets done very often within the guild. We are not a guild that exists for gaming. We are a virtual community that uses gaming as a way to grow our friendships. It is an important different to most other online organizations out there.

12) According to the book Legend: The Syndicate, The Syndicate only participates in two major MMORPG at a time. Has any thought been given to setting up an official guild in Second Life considering it isn't a MMORPG in the sense UO/WoW/EQ/SWG/etc... are?

It is something we have considered and are still looking into. Right now there are simply so many opportunities and projects underway that it hasnt percolated to the top of the to-do list. Between our alliance with Prima Games to write strategy guides... and our book (Legend of The Syndicate) with the misc things related to it... and our annual conferences... and beta testing, consulting and design work we do for various developers... not to mention our massive UO and WoW presences... our monthly dinners.. our twice yearly Lan Parties.. and numerous other internal projects and efforts underway, there is alot going on. It is something we would like to look into more but it just hasnt worked its
way up the list yet.

13) Are there any plans, or hopes, to put together a team for competing in the World Series of Video Games?

Much like the Second Life question, that hasnt worked its way up the to-do list yet.

14) After reading Legend: The Syndicate I do have a question for Dragons, do you plan to write some fantasy fiction for publication?

That is something we are considering. We have had a number of requests to take some of the fictional story lines in the book and expand them into their own series. That is something we are discussing with the publisher and that may come to pass in the future. Book sales of Legend of The Syndicate are doing extremely well and that certainly helps make future projects more likely.

And so ends the interview. Go back over it and answer the questions yourself. You may be surprised how much you and your fellow gamers have in common away from the monitor.
-The Traveler


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