It’s been roughly a year and a half since we talked to Sean
“Dragons” Stalzer, CEO and Guildmaster of the
longest continuously operating guild in existence (according to Guinness
on the eve
of his first book’s release. While Sean’s first
of the Syndicate
, traced the
history of the now-14 year old guild into the WoW
era, The Syndicate: Beyond the Legend is equal parts documentary and
field manual for the creation of stable, durable guilds.
We spoke with Sean about the more controversial aspects of his book,
including what the premier online gaming guilds next game might be and
The Syndicate’s seeming aversion to free-to-play MMOGs and
box-to-play titles (like Guild Wars 2
in our latest The Syndicate interview:
writing a several hundred page book while running a 1500+ member guild
is no small feat, but you’ve done it twice. Was it easier or
harder to write second book?
I think the ideas
came more easily, but the process was more difficult. I learned a lot
of lessons from the first book. Our first book was more of a
documentary – this is where we’ve been, this is why
we think we’re great. This one has the historical documenting
side, but I look at where massively multiplayer online gaming has been
from 2006 to 2011, this is where we’ve been.
But I was definitely more deliberate in the second book, in trying to
ensure that the people who buy it and read it get value from it. Half
the book is all about the feedback we got from our first book, which
was, ‘If you guys are so great, why aren’t you
telling anyone how you got to be so great.’ So it’s
all about giving people the tools to build a successful online
interesting that you got that kind of feedback, because from previous
conversations you’ve noted that the success of The Syndicate
is, to a large extent, not repeatable, especially in this gaming
climate. And in the book, based on the number of failed guilds in the
fourteen years of The Syndicate’s existence, you peg the odds
at 1 in 55 million.
To achieve the same
level of success, yea, it’s probably not likely. But my basic
premise is that if developers can do things to extend the life of
guilds even by a month or two, there’s a lot less drama for
the players and a lot more revenue for the developers. Our hope
isn’t to create other 15 year guilds competing with us for
the opportunities that go along with that; our hope is to achieve
greater levels of guild success so that players, in general, have more
From the book, it
seems like Star
Wars: The Old Republic
leading candidate as the next game for The Syndicate. Being an entity
that exists for the guild, not the individual player, are you concerned
that the game seems the game is too solo-centric?
I think what Star Wars
does to buy itself time is that, because it’s a story-based
game, and each of the classes has its own story. With subclasses,
that’s 16 movies you can participate in. Even for people that
don’t like to play alts, they may spend some time watching
and participating in 16 movies, which gives BioWare plenty of time to
crank out endgame content.
From a player perspective, at worst, you have a year of awesome
storytelling, and then at the end of that year, you’ve got
two more triple-A MMOs coming out that you can jump into. What the
community needs now is a bridge from WoW
to the next big thing, or maybe the next big thing.
You offered some
creepily prescient words in the book on account security. Since the
writing of the book, we’ve seen a pretty massive breach of
trust between SOE and its stakeholders. Has this affected your by all
accounts strong relations with SOE?
blame SOE for the security breach any more than any other company. What
I mean by that is that SOE is probably just as vulnerable as any other
company, but for whatever reason, the hackers decided to pick on SOE.
Unfortunately, the security posture isn’t where it needs to
be, across the board.
The silver lining is that hopefully this becomes the wakeup call that
corporate-level security needs to be beefed up, but so does
player-level security. Everyone’s got a role in that. Players
shouldn’t be sharing passwords, and I think devs have a
responsibility to protect players from themselves. I’d liked
to see more baked-in security when you buy the game.