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[NEWS] Dragons Discusses the Development of LLTS in Ultima Online

Discussion in 'UO Atlantic' started by Fallon Valor, Feb 21, 2010.

  1. Fallon Valor

    Fallon Valor Guest

    ATLANTIC—The Syndicate (LLTS) is one of Ultima Online’s oldest and largest guilds. Founded in February 1996, this historic fellowship has gained notoriety not only for its in-game presence, but also for its charitable work and accomplishments outside of the realm of virtual reality. As LLTS celebrates its 14-year anniversary, this author endeavored to learn more about the guild’s history from The Syndicate’s founder and Guild Master, Dragons.

    Founding

    At the time of its founding, the mission of The Syndicate was to establish a virtual community of friends – not an easy charter, considering the technological constraints of the mid-1990s.

    “We played on 28.8 Kbps modems (unless you were really high tech and had a 32.2 Kbps modem),” Dragons said. “And in many ways, the whole community was a rookie at what it means to be an online gamer. So expectations were different and the methods to achieve them far less sophisticated. Saying something like, ‘We wanted a friend focused group that was loyal to each other and put a focus on building their community,’ is not a statement that could be taken lightly 14 years ago. These days, it is a common goal for many guilds, but back then things looked much different than they do today.”

    Elements of Success

    Presently, the Syndicate is perhaps best known for its weekly “Craftsman Day,” during which the guild furnishes a variety of free crafting services to Atlantians, including item repairs, crafting, enhancing, lockpicking, and more. Community outreaches like this one have often thrust LLTS into the spotlight, but the core of guild’s success runs deeper than community promotions, according to Dragons. He describes a “Perfect Storm” of events that allowed The Syndicate to develop a large, stable member base in a short period of time.

    Said Dragons, “while it would be ideal to say every bit of our success comes from careful planning and execution, it is more fair to say that some of that success comes from the reality of when we were founded and what the state of the online world was at the time, and its tolerance for allowing us to make mistakes, and learn from them, and grow. We were able to stand out from the crowd very early on and maintain and grow that visibility over the years. That is nearly impossible for a group to do today given there are millions of guilds in existence with thousands rising and falling each day.

    “Additionally, the drive to learn from mistakes and then not repeat them was a major player in our success. Creating a group of 625+ people, with dozens of game developers as members, contracts with development companies, our own studio with Prima Games to write strategy guides, featured in a movie, having a book etc., inherently means there were lots of [opportunities] to make mistakes. We have a firm commitment to analyzing mistakes that we do make and putting things in place to not let them happen again, if at all possible.

    “And finally, I think perhaps the single biggest factor in our success is our membership. We recruit a certain type of person and that inherently means very few issues occur and there is a very high motivation level to support the team, and that those individuals remain members for many years. As such, there is a constant accumulation of sweat equity in the guild by each member and a constant growth of our culture, camaraderie and passion for the entity we all helped build.”
    Challenges

    The growth and success of The Syndicate is evident. Less evident are the challenges that the guild has faced throughout the course of its development. According to Dragons, the guild’s biggest challenge at one time was a high turn-over rate. In response to this challenge, LLTS was required to reconsider its recruitment process.

    “In our early years,” Dragons said, “we had a very open door policy. We had entire guilds merging into us. We accepted large numbers of people. Frankly, that is a dumb policy if the desire is to build sustainable, team focused, friend focused, drama free environments. That type of policy breeds issues and is a reason many guilds have ceased to exist, and why many groups have large turn-over rates. We learned from that and tightened down our recruiting practices and have molded the process into what it is today, where more than 52,000 people have applied to become members, but very [few] pass the quality check. Now we have virtually no turn-over. By way of example, in the last calendar year we have lost 7 people who quit us to join another guild or who were unhappy with some aspect of the guild. So we had a 99.98% retention rate for last year. Recruiting is where the rubber meets the road for guild development and we made some major mistakes with it early on and then adapted and learned from them.”

    Evolution

    Ultima Online has changed a great deal over the past 14 years, as has the Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMO) industry as a whole. The Syndicate has similarly evolved in response to these changes. Although The Syndicate’s core values of “Friendship, Loyalty, Team Focus and Guild First” have remained unaltered over the past decade and a half, the guild as an enterprise has developed into something of a trans-game, trans-genre organization.

    “When we were founded, we were a guild that intended to play UO. Today, we are a virtual community with an incorporated arm of the organization that does play UO, [World of Warcraft], and most other MMOs out there, but does so much more than that.”

    Beyond gaming, LLTS has involved itself in many real-world causes, including conducting charitable work, legally tradmarking and incorporating the guild, authoring books for publication by Prima Studios, hosting conferences for members and gaming industry professionals, serving as consultants for MMO development, and being featured in numerous articles, books, and documentaries. According to Dragons, it is endeavors like these, as well as the guild’s trans-game presence, that sets The Syndicate apart from other Atlantic-based guilds.

    “The primary difference,” said Dragons, “is that we are not an Atlantic or even a UO based guild. UO and the Atlantic shard are an integral part of our roots and our history, but long ago we moved from being a ‘guild’ that was on [the] Atlantic shard of UO into a virtual community spanning many worlds and reaching into the real world, and then finally morphing into an organization that has a day to day impact on the future of MMOs, has massive success in the strategy guide market, has a hugely successful annual conference, and really blurs the line between game playing and game developing.”

    Despite the guild’s ventures beyond the realm of Atlantic, Dragons affirms their steadfast commitment to the Atlantic community. In Dragon’s view, 14 years of existence is only the beginning and he looks forward to the future development of LLTS.

    “Longevity, Size, Leadership, Loyalty, Membership, Retention, Impact on Game Development, Industry Influence, Recognition – for virtually any meaningful metric of success, The Syndicate sets the standard,” Dragons said. “With 14 years under our belt, in many ways we are just getting started. New strategic partnerships continue to be forged that will result in continued positive impact on the future of MMO gaming. We are very excited about what the coming years hold, not only for us, but for the entire gaming community. Long Live The Syndicate!”

    Dragons has played Ultima Online since its beta. His guild, The Syndicate, is celebrating its 14-year anniversary this month.

    The Syndicate Castle
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Ahuaeyjnkxs

    Ahuaeyjnkxs stranger diamond

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    Very interesting ! Thank you for pushing it further !