Interviews – Dragons of LLTSReturn to: Atlantic
by Lady Alessandra
Greetings fellow Sosarians! As I was wandering earlier today I was having trouble deciding where to go. I decided to do a little early Christmas shopping, so I stepped through the moongate and entered Luna. As I came out of the moongate, I noticed a small book on the ground, and being the curious one I am, I picked it up and found a book from a group known as The Syndicate. I have been wandering Atlantic for about four years now, and other then possibly an auction, I knew little about this guild. I had been contacted by the guild master of The Syndicate, and I realized what perfect timing it was. I am pleased now to bring to you the interview with the guild master of The Syndicate, also known as LLTS…
Lady Alessandra: When was LLTS founded as a guild?
Dragons: LLTS is actually our slogan. It stands for Long Live The Syndicate. The guild is The Syndicate or TS for short. We were founded in Feb of 1996.
Lady Alessandra: Who was the original leader of LLTS?
Dragons: There has only ever been one leader of The Syndicate. That is Dragons who is the current leader of the guild.
Lady Alessandra: When was the name LLTS trademarked, and why would you trademark a name of a guild?
Dragons: The Syndicate is not “just” a guild. A regular guild is an entity that exists to play a game. The Syndicate is an online community that does not exist for UO or WoW or any other game. We exist for ourselves and we use online gaming as a way to grow our community.
Specifically we are an online gaming guild providing in game opportunities for proliferating game expertise and camaraderie among gamers supported by a web site featuring multimedia materials. Said another way, we play games to build our community stronger. But in addiiton to the games themselves we have a number of other gaming related activities that we are involved in. We have partnered with Prima Games (the industry leader in print media strategy guides) to help write gaming strategy guides with them. You may have seen our name and logo on the cover of the recent BF2142 guide or the recent Might and Magic: Dark Messiah guide. Several more are in the works now. We have an online store. We have a book deal with a book publisher. We were approached by the BBC to be filmed for a show they are doing. We are part of a world travelling MMO photo exhibition. We have written articles and chapters in books about gaming. We consult/have consulted for a number of MMO companies. We have several formal beta test relationships with companies. We have a corporate sponsor. We have annual conferences attended by 120+ members and numerous developers.
In short, there is so much more to The Syndicate than a title hanging over some characters heads in UO. That persona that players on Atlantic shard see is just the tip of the iceburg.
We trademarked our name to protect our nearly 11 years of invested time in the mountain of achievements. Our name isnt some pixels in a game. It is an entity in and of itself and we use the games to help build and strengthen our community.
Lady Alessandra: How many members do you currently have? What would you like people to know about your members? We currently have around 560 active members(by active we mean participating in UO, WoW, our beta testing team, our guide writing team or some other activity like that within the guild). We also have about 100 on an inactive list that are not currently active in online gaming.
Dragons: Our average age is about 32 years old. More than 80% of the guild has been a member for 1 to 10 years. Our turnover rate is extremely low. We lose, on average, about 1 member every 3 or so months who choses to join another guild. We actually lose more people who have to leave gaming entirely, for health reasons or work or school than we do to being unhappy in the guild. That is primarily due to the fact that we are very very picky on who we add. We only add people that share our values and goals and who have compatible personalities to ours. That means that we spend weeks or months getting to know them to ensure they will fit in and that we offer to them what they seek from a guild for the long term. We dont need warm bodies, but there is always room for another long term friend.
Lady Alessandra: Are you only active on the Atlantic Shard? Would someone be allowed to start a chapter on another shard?
Dragons: We are only active on Atlantic shard. We regularly turn down offers to create chapters on other shards. To do that doesnt serve our guild purpose. As I pointed out above, we arent a UO guild. UO is a game we play to further our guild friendships, comraderie and gaming expertise. That is best served by playing together as one team in UO. Lots of little (or even lots of big) chapters across servers doesnt further that goal.
Lady Alessandra: How many games is LLTS active in? Would someone be allowed to start a chapter in a new game, or is there a process for that?
Dragons: We are active in UO and WoW. I have a general rule that we will only have major presences in 2 games at once. Administratively that is enough and more than two and we start to lose the focus on the purpose of the guild, much like branches on lots of shards. We do not allow branches in games that we do not formally support. But again, since we are a virtual community our members arent playing UO for the sake of playing UO. They are playing UO for the purpose of being with their friends in the guild and having fun together. So the game is almost irrelevant. Its the team that is the driving force for our members. Dont get me wrong though, we love UO and have been here since the prealpha and plan to remain for years to come.
Lady Alessandra: How would you describe your guild? How would a new member describe your guild?
Dragons: I would say a new member, other than being completely overwhelmed by the size and scope of everything, would describe the guild very similarly to how I would because we recruit people with the same vision, purpose, play style and who have compatible personalities.
As such the overall view of our guild is that we are a team of friends who does not exist for any specific game or games. We are a virtual community that pretty much everyone regards almost like a family or at the very least like close friends. Most of us have met in real life through our annual conferences, monthly dinners, lan parties etc… so although we are huge, we are very close. There is no infighting.. no backstabbing.. no drama.. Its just a big team of friends having alot of fun together.
Lady Alessandra: What do you look for when recruiting new members? Do you find a lot of people that join LLTS and then leave for other things, or do most member seem content with what LLTS offers?
Dragons: Very few people who join,leave for reasons other than needing to quit gaming entirely for health, work, school etc.. reasons. We receive more than 4,000 applications to join each year. We accept very few of them. The primary requirement to join is to be referred by members that know you very well. Going along with that is to have the same values, playstyle and goals as we do. And along with that is to have a personality that meshes with the guild. We have no need for warm bodies to take up a roster slot. We have enough members to fill guilds in 10 games if we wanted to. So we dont look for people. We look for long term friends that we like being around and that like being around us. With that kind of focus, the rest takes care of itself.
Lady Alessandra: What kind of gaming experience does LLTS offer to its members?
Dragons: From a purely gaming perspective, we participate in all aspects of every game we have a presence in. With hundreds of members in each game there are always people online to hunt with and always friends to hang out and talk with. In addition to gaming there are many private beta test opportunities, guide writing opportunities, internal projects, yearly conferences, monthly dinners, lan parties and more. We even maintain a section of our internal site that lists things members specialize in, in real life, that they can and will help other members on. Need medical advice? We have doctors in the guild willing to give it. Need legal advice? We have lawyers willing to help out. And the list goes on and on. We are a very robust virtual community that seeks to offer our members everything they need. If we dont have it now, eventually we will set it up and offer it.
Lady Alessandra: What would you contribute to the success of LLTS when so many guilds have come and gone and yet LLTS remains a large prescence in UO?
Dragons: Ahhh that is the real secret isnt it? The reality is that 99.999% of all guilds will fail before they are even 2 years old. Most fail within 6 months. But fail may be the wrong term. Most guilds exist for some game related purpose. Once that purpose is achieved there is no need for the guild. Or once that purpose no longer holds value (i.e. you get bored with it) then the guild doesnt need to exist anymore. Guilds are a dime a dozen. Successful virtual communities are extremely rare. How you build a successful virtual community could fill a book. And it so happens we have a book coming out in 2007 all about the history of our guild that provides alot of background on how we became what we are and decisions we made and why which might help aspiring communities to grow and thrive.
Lady Alessandra: You must have seen many changes to the land of Sosaria… In your opinion, which ones would you say have helped and which ones have been the worse changes?
Dragons: Item Insurance is the worst change that few saw coming. Players wanted insurance. They were tired of losing items. They wanted to keep their best stuff. So EA gave them what they wanted. But in getting what they wanted, a large part of the economy imploded. Inflation exploded. And a large part of the drive to “play” UO went away. Im a firm believer that having “loss” in a game helps give us all a reason to keep playing. If you get everything you want and have 100 spare swords of uberness in your house, why login? What more is there to do? If you went toe to toe with a boss and died and lost your stuff and had to rearm, you now have some motivation to use better tactics, work with friends and become a better player. Item loss is something more games need but few have.
One of the better changes made was to make pvp optional. I am actually very pro-pvp but I also believe in making it optional. What making it optional did was dramatically curtail pvp. There was a huge outcry that pvp was destroyed by creating Tram. The reality is that the players voted by virtue of chosing where they play and for a long time, 90-95% of all players never came to Felucca. In fact there are players today that have never been there. That says something. It says that whether you are a pro-pvper or hate it, the decision to make it option was a good one because it pleased 90% or more of your paying customer base. Its hard to argue with numbers like that. Im glad to see that more people have chosen to get involved in pvp in recent years and that factions, champ spawns and extra resources in Felucca have all helped with that. But I do think making it optional was a necessary change because clearly, despite the vocal minorities protest, the vast majority wanted it that way.
Lady Alessandra: What changes would you suggest for the continued success of Ultima Online?
Dragons: The KR expasion is a good thing. I like the new engine. UO needs to add more content, more rapidly and in a more varied format. Some of the really cool things done on the Halloween shard were great proof’s of concept that should be allowed to be taken into practice. Players chew up content at an alarming rate and its very hard to stay ahead of them but UO is very slow at new major content. There are in game events but only a small percentage of players can participate in those. Things like the town invasions though were a good example of persistent events that equated to new content. More things like that would be great as they give players fresh new things to do.
Lady Alessandra: Is there anything that you think is a misconcept about LLTS? Is there anything that you think people should understand about LLTS, or something they might not know?
Dragons: hehe there are lots of misconceptions about us. That is due primarily to the fact that we are fairly secretive. We dont share alot of things publically and that is by design. As such, people assume things. There have been all sorts of wonderful rumors of the years. Dragons was Lord British. Dragons was a GM. And all sorts of fun ones. I read on boards every so often things like “oh they lie about their turnover rate!” That is one of my favorite ones. I am in the process now of mailing out very nice embossed membership certificates to all of our members with 5 or more years in the guild. I have a couple hundred to do. My cramped hand and the envelope glue taste in my mouth kind of refutes that one. But the reality is, there really isnt anything negative anyone says about us that really matters. We are insanely successful. We are very good at what we do. We have a great time as a guild. We are an extremely close team of friends. And we make no apologies for it. We also work very hard to give back to the community that we feel gives alot to us. We sponsor a real life charity. We host in game events for players that are open to all. We help new players out. We have done such a good job at building a reputation of friendliness and integrity that it is quite common for players we dont even know to ask us to hold onto items for them as they change chars knowing full well a Syndicate member will ALWAYS give the item back. Pixels in a virtual world are never worth as much as their place in our community so we always behave with integrity and honor. And getting that thank you for an event or for helping someone out is more than enough. So yep, im sure there are misconceptions and rumors and stories out there. For those people we have a website that gives a fair amount of information about us and our values that should speak to anything anyone may have heard. And if not.. well that reminds of a quote “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not, none will suffice.”
I have been invited to come and see how the largest and oldest guild on Atlantic runs. I would like to thank Dragons for taking the time to answer my questions and I look forward to seeing behind the scenes of LLTS in the very near future!
November 23, 2006
Last modified: August 16, 2011