2006 Syndicate World Conference
The Syndicate® celebrated its 5th Annual World Conference from Sept 7th to Sept 11th. More than 125 people converged on Niagara Falls, Canada to spend 5 days building friendships among guild members and proliferating game expertise. The Syndicate is not a guild that exists for any one online game. Rather, we are an online gaming community that uses online gaming as a tool for the purposes of advancing ourselves, our friendships and our success.

2006 marked our 10th anniversary as a guild and also the 5th anniversary of our annual conferences. To name just a few of our achievements since our last conference: our two guild trademarks were approved, we forged a lasting relationship with a very large 'print media' strategy guide company, were approached about a book deal, had numerous articles written about us, were interviewed by the BBC for a documentary they are doing and we developed and strengthened relationships with a number of development teams. The past year has been an incredibly successful one for us.

In addition to those achievements internally we are extremely proud of the fact that more than 400 of our members have been with us from 1 to 10 years. More than 200 of our members have been with us 5+ years. And those percentages go up every month due to an extremely low turnover rate. Because our guild is based around long term friendships, and not any one particular game, we are very proud of our incredibly high percentage of 'lifetime' members. We also feel that having a very large, very organized, very unified and extremely stable membership base allows us to develop relationships with companies that couldn't otherwise be formed. We are able to make commitments and deliver on those commitments with certainty because we know the limits of our members and they know, accept and believe in the expectations of the guild.

This year's conference featured a guest speaker that we were very happy to welcome. Stieg from Perpetual/Gods and Heroes attended our Saturday guild meeting. After listening to Dragons talk about guild business for an hour, Stieg stepped up and addressed the assembled Syndicate crowd. It is clear from the first few sentences he speaks that Stieg is not only passionate about GnH but that he is also incredibly knowledgeable about that game. You would expect that from the lead developer but he seems to project not only knowledge but also confidence in what he is saying and that it will be fun things that players will enjoy.

After talking about GnH for 45min or so and fielding some audience questions, the assembled crowd launched into a design contest. Teams were created of not more than 10 people. Each team had 30min with which to sketch out a high level overview of an end-game encounter. They were given a premise which was, of course, based around the theme of GnH. The teams were given a number of factors to consider in their design and they were asked to think outside the box but also to remain within the realm of what might be doable.

After 30min passed, the teams each had a couple of minutes to present their ideas and Stieg was the final judge of which were the 'best.' There were a number of really interesting concepts that came out of the designs. Besides the specific encounter designs, some interesting elements included:

* Reactive content that scaled in difficulty based on the average number of times the members of the raid had completed the instance. As things scaled up additional elements might come into play as well as, of course, the monsters getting more HPs and doing more damage. This would help keep instances from becoming repetitive too soon.

* Raids that involved individual challenges. In one design the raid entered the tower and each member was transported to their own mini-instance with a series of challenges that matched their classes skills. All of the players that completed the challenge within the time limit were transported to the final room. In this design the final room turned out to be a pvp battle between two different raids but it could just as easily be a fight with a boss monster.

* There were several interesting fight designs that involved defeating sub-bosses before the main boss. Rather than weakening the final boss, they instead gave the party special options they could use in the fight. So the boss didnt just get easier. Rather, players had to figure out how to use their bonuses and when to use them in order to help them against the boss.

* There was a neat design that involved the defending of a city against an attacking horde where the enemy would breach the walls and gates in different ways and the solution to pushing the different types of breaches back favored the skills of certain classes. For example, a portal may open inside the walls which favored the melee holding back the tide while the casters closed the portal. Ladders may appear on the walls and it took a rogue like character to stealth up to them and push them over. A hole may open in the wall and a shield wall formation may be needed to plug it.

The contest was a big success and Stieg ultimately picked the top 4 of the 10 entries and prizes were awarded to those teams.

At the conclusion of the meeting, it was back to the suites where there was a several hour break-out session with Stieg. He fielded a huge number of questions and discussed design ideas and gave the rationale behind why some decisions were made.

He conveyed the overall philosophy and direction of the game and once again his passion showed through in his answers. Stieg is a fairly imposing figure already and when he is speaking about a topic he clearly loves he tends to have a commanding presence that quickly convinces an audience of the goodness of a decision or a direction.

In addition to having our VIP guest there were many more activities that took place. We had a number of great dinners including a big group dinner right on top of the falls. We played some small poker tournaments within the guild. But really the most important aspect of the conferences is the building of long term friendships coupled with the proliferation of gaming expertise. We have already begun the planning of the 2007 conference and early indications are that it will be even larger than this years. Thanks again to Perpetual for coming to talk to us!

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