Good day to all,
Dragons, Guild Master of The Syndicate, has been
gracious enough to take time out for an interview with Shadowbane
For those who are not familiar with this guild, The
Syndicate is arguably one of the oldest and largest
official MMORPG guilds around. With roots dating back to
March of 1996, this guild has been a strong fixture
within Ultima Online and Everquest. Organizations such
as The Syndicate add great depth to the gaming
environment, likes of which cannot be delivered by the
original game development team. Now with the up and
coming release of Shadowbane, Dragons and his group look
to take another step towards further expansion.
Rage: Thank you for taking a little time out for
Stratics. With the release date of Shadowbane pushed back
to at least early 2003, how much member anticipation is
Dragons: The Syndicate is still closely tracking SB
and has a migrations team dedicated to working hard in
the beta and keeping our guild informed as things come
along. There is still a lot of anticipation that it will
be the game we all hope it will be. I think recent
progress in the beta as well as UbiSoft's dedication to
Wolfpack and Shadowbane (as demonstrated by giving them
more time and by Vosx to attending our 2002 conference)
are excellent indicators. To make a game like this
successful you need not only a skilled dev. team but
also an understanding and supportive publisher. We can
see both of those exist and that’s a good sign. We
chose to look on the delay not as a negative thing but
rather as a chance to get final bugs ironed out for as
flawless of a launch as possible.
The Syndicate is a very large and diverse guild
though and we don’t keep all our eggs in one basket.
Our migration team continues to explore other worlds as
well and should things implode and not pan out, we will
redirect our attention elsewhere. I don’t think that
will occur as I see a lot of commitment on UbiSoft and
Wolfpack's part to get things done right.
Rage: Now I am sure the meeting with Vosx put some
wind in your sails. News of the beta spots given to your
guild spread very quickly within the SB gaming
community. I’d like to hear your point of view
regarding what seems to be a general feeling of
unfairness and disappointment within this community.
Dragons: Without naming names, The Syndicate is not
the only guild to receive a block of accounts. A number
of other groups will also receive large blocks of beta
accounts when the time comes. Anyone who levels criticism
squarely at us, is uninformed (or unaware) and the criticism
Secondly, The Syndicate is a very big and old guild
and we're very active in the MMO industry. However, we
don't advertise the guild on public message boards. It's
a big world, so people don't always know about us or the
work we do. Everyone is frustrated about Shadowbane
taking a long time to get finished so, when we get some
PR people like to take potshots at us, which is fine. We
understand that, so comments made don’t bother us. We
let our record speak for itself and we are very strong,
very unified and very team focused internally. We don't
engage in public flames and rarely post with any tag
letting people know the poster is a Syndicate member.
What matters is what our members and our allies think
and we will always operate in the most professional,
community focused way we can.
Rage: It is said that guilds will have a direct
effect on the future story of Shadowbane. Do you see The
Syndicate playing a major role in the shaping of this
lore? If so, how?
Dragons: UbiSoft said that a person could declare
themselves the long lost heir to the throne, ruler of
Shadowbane and if they could rally the support, perhaps
a plot could revolve around him. Whether something like
that is feasible remains to be seen and how we would see
ourselves fitting into options for players to affect the
world also remains to be seen. For the time being, we
just hope to play the game and have fun. If something
like that comes up, we'll see how we fit into the story
Rage: Ubi has stated that game design will keep so
called "uber" guilds from "taking over
the world". "Holding on to territory will
require more than just game expertise - it will require
that a group of players work constantly towards a common
goal." How effective will The Syndicate be in
maintaining a certain level of land ownership?
Dragons: Being an old guild, we are also very
organized since to survive this long, you have to be. We
aren’t a guild built around a specific game. We are
very stable and very organized and we've been through
hard times in the past and know how to deal with them
internally without causing the downfall of the guild or
a mass loss of members. If our town burnt down, you wont
see the guild crumble as Wolfpack anticipates many
guilds doing when that occurs. We don’t exist for
Shadowbane. We exist for ourselves and we happen to be
looking at Shadowbane as one of the games we might play.
I’m sure we will be effective at creating and managing
a town and owning land should Shadowbane pan out to be
all it's expected to be. I’m sure we will work closely
with friends and allies and aggressively defend our area
and theirs. The requirement of a group of players
working towards a common goal basically describes The
We don’t tolerate any members among us who offer
anything less than that.
Rage: A fascinating characteristic of The Syndicate
is its structure. With some members not interested in
the PvP aspect of SB, do you plan to expand on the
differing branches of the guild to accommodate the play
Dragons: Vosx has made it abundantly clear in his
speech to us (which all players can view soon when we
send it over to Ubisoft for release) that there are
roles inside Sb that are not purely PvP related. Vosx
has made it clear that running a town is a big deal in
and of itself. Vosx will tell you that PvM is a big deal
as well since things cost a lot and require a constant
influx of new gold into the system since the system eats
gold regularly in the form of maintenance, siege, and
defense. Vosx even went so far as to say a group of
people who solely role-play can find a home here by
partnering with a guild that has a pvp army and forming
a symbiotic relationship. Because of all that, we expect
the various types of Syndicate members would find roles
in Shadowbane to strengthen the team and that are fun
Rage: How will SB affect the time spent by the guild
in other MMOG’s?
Dragons: That remains to be seen. The Syndicate has
more than 525 veteran gamer members and gets more than
4000 applications a year to join. We have the assets to
put into any task we chose to take on. Assuming SB pans
out and assuming we have a presence there, we will have
the commit the resources to be successful. If we chose
to remain in other gaming worlds, we will also maintain
sufficient resources directed at them to continue to be
successful there. Most importantly, we need to see what
our members want to do and then we respond accordingly.
We're pretty sure they will really like Shadowbane so
we're setting the ground work.
However, until they get in there and play it, it's
hard to be sure if they will want to leave their current
Rage: Your guild has "opened" several other
games in the MMORPG industry. How do you plan to start
off with SB? Will you do anything differently?
Dragons: We're going to approach Shadowbane with more
flexibility in our structures and plans. Every game
poses its own unique challenges. I can still remember
the pre-UO days where people thought ships and navies
would be important. And in EQ people thought they would
get guildhalls and that guildwars would popup often.
Regardless of how good the information anyone thinks
they have now, including beta testers, the game will not
proceed down the exact path they think it will. Things
will not work out the way they think and some things
that are promised will never come to pass. That’s just
the nature of the beast. Anyone who has a fixed plan is
doomed to fail. We have our plan. We are flexible in its
implementation, and we'll react as needed. We definitely
have learned many lessons over our years as a guild.
We've made mistakes and we've grown stronger for them.
Those lessons will hopefully enable us to make fewer
mistakes should we enter the world of Shadowbane.
Rage: Does SB fill any of your "ideal"
requirements for a MMORPG, or are you still waiting for
that perfect game?
Dragons: SB is not the perfect MMORPG but it is
several steps closer than the upcoming competition by
our estimation. It has features that are very nice and
innovative and it's a step forward in the genre but it
is not the perfect MMORPG. You will find some who argue
that unless its pvp everywhere all the time with full
looting and griefing is ok, that it "sux0r".
Others will argue that unless players can chose to pvp
or not then it can’t be perfect. People will argue
sieges takes too long or that it’s too short. People
will point out features of other games that it’s
missing but should have. There is no perfect MMORPG and
never will be. There are MMORPGs that are more right for
some player types than others. This one happens to be
more focused towards pvpers and is a step forward in the
MMORPG evolution in that area. It’s a step backwards
for those whose desires life in other areas.
Rage: Based on your experience, where do you see the
future of MMOG’s?
Dragons: PvP is a niche. If you look across most
major MMORPGs out there, its clear that the vast
majority of players (70% or more) are interested either
in no-PVP or optional PvP (i.e. can fight when they
chose). Players are very concerned about investing tons
of time into building up something (like a city) and
losing it. As such, while pvp is an important element
(100% pvp is a very vocal minority) and will continue
(and in my view, should continue..) to have a very
important role in gaming, I think the trend will be
towards optional pvp. Gaming is a business. You make
money by having the most customers. When most customers
prefer to having large areas of the world they are safe
in and then other areas they can go to and fight as they
chose, then that’s the target audience for most
publishers money. DAOC, AC2, EQ and UO all offer flavors
of this. Looking across the 90+ MMORPGs in development
now, the vast majority does as well.
The challenge now will be for game developers to all
players to have a rich, full gaming experience without
pvp while enticing them into the pvp areas by making it
worth their effort and risk to do so. AC2, for example,
make everything in game player built and in order to
build some of the top end things, you have to control
resources in PvP+ areas (that’s a simplistic
explanation of their system). So players are encouraged
to pvp to control assets but aren’t required to do so.
As such, AC2 is likely to have a large following when it
The fact is, nobody has done PvP "right"
yet so while we have high hopes for Shadowbane doing it
"right" we're still mindful of the overall
trend in the industry for a mixture. I'm not real sure
how that can be done "right" either, but I
think that some mix will be the future.
Rage: One more. What can we do as a fan site to best
help your game?
Dragons: Stratics has long been known as
"the" site to go to for information about
skills, maps, character guides etc.. By keeping that
information accurate and current and available to all,
you provide an invaluable service to the gaming
community. Shadowbane is very complex when you mix class
+ race + profession + disciplines and factor in the
human element. How to make a char that’s "the
best" at XXXX and how to best level from A to B
level and what different things do and maps of dungeons,
explanations of items etc.. are all things Stratics is
famous for and continuing in that effort will be a big
asset to players in Shadowbane.
While the base game is the same, each server will
have it's own set of geographies, politics, and
storyline's. We hope that Stratics will work to
individualize its reporting to each server as well as
the overall community.
Rage: If there is anything you would like to add,
please feel free.
Dragons: The excitement about Shadowbane has been
going on for years and years. As such, people have used
their imagination to "play" the game in their
heads. As fantasy-fiction lovers we're all capable of
enormous imaginations. The problem is, we're imagining a
world that has yet to exist so it's easy to dream up a
game that is perfect in every sense. I would caution
people to remain flexible in their assumptions about how
the game works or what their plans are until they
actually get into the game, in its final form, and see
I'd also like to thank you for this opportunity to
talk about my guild and its future. Shadowbane is going
to be a lot of fun and we're looking forward to it!
Rage: On behalf of everyone here at Shadowbane
Stratics, I thank you for your time.
It does seem that The Syndicate has the time proven
principles that will allow it to conquer anything that
may come its way. I think it is safe to say that future
uber guilds who rise from the masses would be wise to
follow the lead of this glorious group of gamers.
Until next we meet.