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Most if not all of us have had a negative experience with a guild, and it's often said that the people you play along side are the best and worst thing about MMORPGs. Today, however, we have an interview with Sean Stalzer, guild leader of The Syndicate, which just celebrated its fourteenth year as a multi-MMOG guild. Sean shares a few secrets of The Syndicate's longevity and tells us why the social game is still important in Loading... Guilds - The Mess Worth Making.

cellspacing="0" width="100%">

The Pulse

You vote with what you
view at Ten Ton Hammer, and the
result
is the Ten Ton Pulse ( href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/thepulse/" target="_blank">What
is The Pulse?).

Here
are today's top 5 Pulse results over the
last week:

  1. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow">World
    of Warcraft
  2. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/eq2">EverQuest
    II
  3. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/43">EVE
    Online (UP 1)
  4. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/ddo">Dungeons and
    Dragons Online (UP 3)
  5. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/lotro">Lord of the
    Rings Online (UP 1)

Biggest
movers today
:

  1. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/183">EverQuest (UP 10 to #14)
  2. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/254">Aion
    (down 3 to #6)
  3. Warhammer Online (down 2 to #7)
size="-1">Recent Releases
  • size="-1">2/1
    - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/926">Global
    Agenda
    (release date)
  • size="-1"> style="font-weight: bold;">2/1
    - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1004">Mortal
    Online (release date)
  • size="-1">2/2 size="-1">
    - Star
    Trek Online

    (release date)
  • size="-1">2/16
    - href="http://everquest2.station.sony.com/expansions/sentinelsfate/index.vm">EverQuest
    2: Sentinel's Fate (expansion)
  • size="-1">2/16
    - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/81479"> LotRO:
    Oath of the
    Rangers (content update)


size="-1">Upcoming
Releases

  • size="-1">March
    2010

    - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/998">APB
  • size="-1">April
    2010

    - href="http://www.cityofheroes.com/news/game_updates/issue_17/issue_17_overview.html?utm_source=COHemail&utm_medium=US&utm_campaign=banner">City
    of Heroes: Issue href="http://www.cityofheroes.com/news/game_updates/issue_17/issue_17_overview.html?utm_source=COHemail&utm_medium=US&utm_campaign=banner">17
  • size="-1"> style="font-weight: bold;">Spring 2010
    - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1801">Mytheon
  • size="-1">TBA
    2010

    - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/2079">Final
    Fantasy XIV

  • size="-1"> style="font-weight: bold;">Spring 2011
    - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/swtor">Star Wars:
    The Old
    Republic size="-1">



size="-1">Upcoming
Events

  • size="-1">3/9
    - 3/13

    - Game
    Developers
    Conference 2010
  • size="-1"> style="font-weight: bold;">3/26 - 3/28
    - href="http://www.paxsite.com/paxeast/index.php">PAX
    East 2010



Loading... Daily

Over the weekend I saw an advertisement for a seminar titled "Relationships - The Mess Worth Making." Since the best guilds I've been in were always about relationships and transcended the boundaries of a given game, I thought the nifty slogan might apply to a special GDC week Loading... on guilds and their impact on today's games too.

I contacted Sean "Dragons" Stalzer, guild leader of The Syndicate, partly to congratulate him and the guild on their record-setting fourteenth year of continuous existence, and partly to get his take on the state of the MMORPG as a social institution today. I always enjoy talking to Sean, not only because he's an all-around good guy and a straight-shooter in conversation, but because The Syndicate is no ordinary guild. The guild has authored or co-authored nine Prima guides to date, is routinely used as consultant for a number of games in development, and has an entire division devoted to its business pursuits outside its pure gaming interests in Ultima Online and WoW. Though they'll never talk specifics, they're seeing lots of stuff before you and me will ever see it in beta.

I asked Sean whether it bothers him that the measuring stick for guilds is their ranking on the server or sheer number of members rather than the guild's longevity and culture. "I think it is a case of misplaced priorities for two reasons. One, you need to kill the content, but killing it first really contributes nothing to the game. Two, the number of guilds that are in contention on server or world firsts is less than 5% of the total population. From a business standpoint, building content for those groups is a really dumb idea. You're never going to be able to build it as fast as they're able to play it, unless you make it really hard, in which case no one's going to beat it. You want to make it winnable by the masses. But you should never design for the power gamers - they could all quit tomorrow and the bottom line of these companies would be negligibly affected."

One thing Sean and I both lament is the lack of tools and attention given to guilds and guild officers in most of today's top MMORPGs. Since better a better guild interface, including chat, recruiting, and promotional tools accessible outside the game via a website don't look as flashy on a press blast, these features tend to get backburnered in favor of content and features that look good to new players. If history serves, what we can expect in social tools (aside from guild housing in DAoC and LotRO, and better recruitment tools in EVE Online) what we get at launch is pretty much what we can expect.

But while Sean couldn't talk specifics, he did note that he thinks that, "In the next generation of MMORPGs coming out, I think we're going to see a number of really cool enhancements." But Sean did note that these enhancements are long overdue. "Frankly, these tools don't cost very much. They're not rocket science; you're not building a complicated raid environment, you're building web interfaces, you're giving them tools in game to manage things and more fine-grained controls, you're not re-inventing the wheel here."

Another trend coming among MMOs is to decrease the group size target of content. You needn't look farther than WoW for an example of a game whose raid size has decreased from 40 to 25 to 10 and 5. Is this the natural result of game designers neglecting large guilds? "One reason I think is the natural consequence of paying attention to the 80-90% of the game that's not a hardcore gamer - trying to make content as accessible as you can to as many people as you can. The second thing it's a result of, and this is sort of a self-correcting thing, is I think companies are still in the process of developing the methodology of making content dynamically scalable, where showing up with 40 people is just as challenging as showing up with 10 people... There are a number of teams working on that kind of technology for future games, but I think the natural first step of making content more accessible is to scale back the difficulty and number of people you need."

My last question was whether another guild repeat this fourteen year feat today? Without ruling it out, Sean noted that The Syndicate had a lot of advantages that today's guilds just don't have. "When we first were formed, there was very little concept of what a player should expect out of an MMO or a guild, so we had a lot of room to fail. We could make mistakes that today might be killer mistakes - that would cause a guild to implode. Back then, we could learn from them, adjust, and move on. There weren't these expectations that, if the guild doesn't meet them, you just move on.

Open communication, leadership structure, at what point do you cut off debate and make a decision, who to recruit and how to recruit - all these things Sean cited as areas that The Syndicate improved upon in its formative years. They've been rewarded with amazingly low turnover and sustainable growth, as their current number of 631 can attest to. And, according to Sean, an astoundingly low number of people, only 7, left the guild in 2009.

The Syndicate is a true institution in today's MMORPG scene, but why haven't we seen more Syndicate-like endurance among other guilds? Why is it so hard for players to resolve themselves into longstanding social groups when that's such a core part of what these games offer? Share your thoughts in the Loading…
forum
.


Shayalyn's Epic Thread of
the Day




From our Tavern of the Ten Ton Hammer forum

MMO and gaming numbers in cultural geographies

Don't let the thread title fool you, this is an interesting topic, I promise.

OneEyeRed
learned a little something about MMOGs in his college Cultural
Geography class. ("Yes," he says, "It's tough, and it sucks.") The 2010
edition of his textbook has a chapter that opens by talking about
MMOGs, specifically that "The ESA (Entertainment Software Association)
stated that 67 percent of
U.S. households play video games and video game sales exceeded $9.5
billion in 2007. 40 percent of the population in Europe play video
games between 6 and 14 hours a week making it the most popular form of
leisure activity. In terms of annual sales, the video gaming industry
now rivals the Hollywood film industry."

OneEye's topic has sparked some good discussion. Join it!


==============================

Awesome Quotes from the
Epic Thread



"Funny thing is back in the days those numbers used to be put on
TV watching and shows etc. etc. but you didn’t hear anyone say that
people where wasting their time, or that they were addicted.
"

- doomtheflame

==============================



Have you spotted an Epic Thread on our forums? Tell
us
!


New and Exclusive Content
Today at Ten Ton Hammer

5 new Ten Ton Hammer
features today! 32 in March! 262
in 2010!

PREVIEWS

StarCraft II Multiplayer Beta Preview & First
Impressions
http://www.tentonhammer.com/starcraft2/preview/multiplayer_1stimpressions
Nearly twelve years after the release of the original Starcraft, the zerg,
protoss, and terrans are back for another go round in the StarCraft II
multiplayer beta. Ten Ton Hammer's David "Xerin" Piner offers his first
impressions of the beta, and we'll update you on some of the changes
and improvements from the original, in our exclusive first impressions
preview of the StarCraft II multiplayer beta.

REVIEWS

WoW U.I. Mod Review - Underachiever
http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/reviews/addons/Underachiever
Underachiever is an add on for World of Warcraft that claims to allow
the user to be able to not only link, but claim false credit for any
achievement imaginable. The mod won’t actually give you extra
achievements, but it may secure your spot in once out of reach PUGs.
Does the mod live up to it’s claims and, if so, what issues may arise
from using it? Find out this and more as Mem gives his take on
Underachiever.

FEATURES & GUIDES

EQ2 Priest Spell Lists
http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/54741
Rounding out the complete revamp of Ten Ton Hammer's EQ2 spell
and combat art lists, we have updated the priest spells for levels 1 through 80 and
added the new 81 through 90 level spells now included with the Sentinel's
Fate expansion.

Star Trek Online: Interactive Engineering Officer Skill Page
http://www.tentonhammer.com/sto/federation/engineering-officer
Whether you're a freshly appointed Lieutenant just starting out or an
established Admiral within the fleet, you can't conquer space (let
alone the Klingons) without choosing the right skills. Fortunately for
you, our new interactive class skill pages have all the information
you’ll ever need to make those choices that best fit your playstyle!
This week, we've added the Engineering Officer Skills page.

WoW - To Buff, or to Nerf: That is the Question
http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/81817
The nerfing and buffing of classes is a near constant in World of
Warcraft. With every patch (and sometimes even between patches) players
can expect changes both small and large that have a direct impact on
class balance. But are these changes really needed and, if they are,
which is the better option, buffing or nerfig? Join Mem this week as he
shares his opinion on the nerfing and buffing of classes.

Today's
Hottest Articles and Guides

  1. StarCraft II Multiplayer Beta Preview & First
    Impressions
  2. Aion Update 1.9 Interview with NCsoft
  3. CCP Interview About EVE Online's
    Tyrannis Expansion
  4. WoW U.I. Mod Review - Underachiever
  5. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/81501">An
    Exclusive
    Interview

    with Video Game
    Composer Matt
    Uelmen
  6. WoW - To Buff, or to Nerf: That is the Question
  7. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/81640">Aika
    Class Interview Series Part
    2 - The Cleric
  8. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/sto/captains_blog_5">Star Trek Online: Captain's Blog - Marketing Mayhem
  9. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/81640">Global Agenda Patch 1.1 Overview
  10. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/eve/guides/ships/omen">EVE Online Guide - Flying The Omen style="font-weight: bold;">


Thanks
for visiting the Ten Ton Hammer
network!

- Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle
and the
Ten Ton Hammer team

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Jeff
Jeff joined the Ten Ton Hammer team in 2004 covering EverQuest II, and he's had his hands on just about every PC online and multiplayer game he could since.

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