[MUD-Dev] Exploring the guild phenomena

J C Lawrence claw at under.engr.sgi.com
Wed Jun 3 13:30:50 New Zealand Standard Time 1998


By MoOk [Last Updated: 6/2/98], mailto:MoOk at o-s-c.com

Exploring Two Guilds 

I had planned to spend only one installment of The Communal Voice
devoted to the Guild phenomenon. I thought that more than that would
be overkill, pushing the virtues of a guild on my readers too
much. However, I have received, since the publishing of my first
installment, numerous emails and ICQ messages with praise for the
topic, and ideas for potential future articles. It seems the topic of
guilds is a hot one!

It's now my intention to spend several more articles devoted to this
topic. In particular, to do several features on some of online
gaming's best known guilds. The guilds featured will be ones that are
well known throughout the gaming world they inhabit. On top of
supplying some much deserved exposure for these guilds that have
worked so hard to create a lasting impression on the game they play
(as well as a fun and sociable environment for their members), my hope
is that this series of articles will also further my ultimate goal to
increase gamer's awareness of the benefits of an online community.

I am a huge fan of the CRPG (computer role-playing game) genre. It
only makes sense then that "RPG" games playable online would be one of
my favorite genere's. For this first article in the "mini-series", I
wish to focus on what has been perhaps one of the most controversial
games in recent memory. Anyone who has played it either loves it or
hates it, but no matter what side you are on, it's hard to deny that
it has been one of the games best geared towards guilds, and indeed
any type of online community, ever. I speak of course about Origin's
Ultima Online (UO).

I attempted, in preparation for this article, to contact several of
the most well-known guilds in Ultima Online. Not wanting to be biased
by my gaming choice, I tried to get in touch with both "noble" guilds,
(whose in-game play mostly focuses on helping each other and other
players) as well as "PK" guilds (whose goals often involve the killing
of other players for personal gain). It is unfortunate that the only
responses I received were from the noble guilds, as I was truly hoping
to be able to represent both sides. However, I am pleased with the
response I received from two guilds in particular which, to me, embody
everything that is good and beneficial about on online gaming society,
particularly in UO.

When contacting the guilds in question, I sent them a slew of
questions, arrived at with the help of Gasper from the UOVault, along
with a brief explanation of what I planned on doing with the responses
(cut and paste their answers with my witty commentary to arrive at the
work you see here.. :c) ). The questions included:

1) How long has your guild, in its current form, been playing UO?

2) How many members are currently active in your guild? (ie: How many
play UO within the guild structure on a regular basis?). If, at some
point, there were a lot more members in your guild, why do you think
the numbers have dwindled? Is it for the better? If there were a lot
less members, why do you think your numbers have grown? Is it for the

3) For those of our readers that have not played UO, or never heard of
you, what type of guild are you? Can you very briefly describe your
guild philosophy?

4) What are some of the things your guild does (in game and out) that
you particularly enjoy? These things do not necessarily have to be
unique, but they should be activities or guild features that increase
the enjoyment for all your members.

5) What was your guild's crowning moment in UO?  What was its worst
moment? If you care to elaborate, please let the readers know if (and
how) these moments strengthened or weakened the ties that bind your
guild together.

The first guild, The Lost Order of Akalabeth, has been playing Ultima
Online for almost a year and a half. There are 82 full and accepted
members all of whom "have proven to us beyond a shadow of a doubt that
they have our ideas and objectives in their hearts...are actively
involved, and respect our online "family" for who and what we are." 
This guild also has an extremely well thought out initiation scheme
that prevents players not entirely devoted to the overall success of
the guild from gaining admittance. Interested players can look forward
to at least a month-long waiting period, as well as participation in
numerous meetings in order to gain member trust and respect.

"The Lost Order of Akalabeth is a Guild devoted to role-playing and
ensuring the maximum enjoyment of Ultima Online for as many of the
people within the Ultima multiverse as possible. We are a Guild firmly
rooted in the concept of "Goodness" for all that the term implies. We
see the Lost Order of Akalabeth as a large family, and actively
encourage all members to assist each other wherever possible, within
the constraints of the game and our policies." The use of the word
"family" is significant here. Many tightly knit guilds, and indeed any
type of community online, develop bonds and ties as real and as strong
as those they have in real life. The absence of a physical presence of
people to interact with has not limited guild-mates from becoming best
friends in many cases, and it shows hearing LOA talk about their

It has long been my personal belief that the key to a guild's success
is what it provides the members with. A guild that bases its community
solely on it's name, hoping to reap the benefits a group of players
brings without putting in the necessary work is destined to fail. Just
go to any of the UO guild listing pages and see how many of the links
are still active and updated, compared to the number that are
obviously no longer in existence.  LOA has taken a unique stance on
member privileges (although one that seems to be catching on as more
and more groups realize the merits of the practice). Many guilds hold
in game events (quests, feasts, races, etc.), as is expected by all
involved. LOA, however, has taken this practice one step further,
organizing real life events for members to participate in. According
to Brimstone (the founding member of LOA who answered the
questionnaire for me) participation in these events has "strengthened
the bonds (and friendships) of our guild". They had a "Gathering" in
Michigan, where some of their members had lunch together, an "East
Coast Gathering", where several members had dinner and visited the
Baltimore Inner Harbor, and they also have a paintball event planned
where not only guild members, but also friends and allies of the
guild, are invited to play.

>From the answers Brimstone sent to my above listed questions, it's
evident that the "pride in this guild is phenomenal". Many members
have remained in the problem filled world that is Ultima Online out of
simple dedication to the guild, willing to pay the $10 monthly fee not
because of the game itself, but because of the environment they have
worked so hard to develop.

The second guild I wish to profile, The Burning Heart, has been in
existence for nearly 2 years, having played UO since shortly after the
pre-Alpha test. They have a current active member roster of some 105
players, of which maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of those are "retired" (meaning
they no longer play UO, but wish to remain in the guild, waiting for
the next online RPG). This is a common practice in guilds where strong
ties have been formed. As mentioned above with LOA, many guild members
prefer the guild to the game, and stay active members, even after they
are no longer interested in the primary game played. Daylar (founder
of The Burning Heart) put it perfectly when, in response to question
#3, he ended with: "If you polled most of the members who are active
in the BH, I think they would say that they enjoy the guild
relationship more than they enjoy the game that Origin has provided."

Both in game, and out, the BH take extra steps to ensure member
satisfaction and enjoyment. A very well thought out system for
organizing events inside UO means that members can look forward to
something special in UO every week. Being a guild founder myself, and
involved in such event organization, I can tell you it is no easy
feat.  The BH, through the use of inner-guild "divisions" (called
Hands), have 5 such events each week to choose from. The goal? 
"foremost...to build that family feeling". Of course, they are as
active out of game as they are in UO. Weekly meetings on IRC, web page
message boards, ICQ contacts, and real life meetings all serve to
strengthen the bonds formed between members, and thus increase the
enjoyment of game time.

Every guild has what I would call a "crowning moment". A time in their
existence that stands out in the minds of all the members as the
greatest accomplishment. The BH is no exception, and in fact are quite
remarkable in this respect: "I would have to say that our biggest
achievement is the publishing of our Strategy Guide. We are the only
guild in existence, to my knowledge, to be approached by a long time
game strategy guide publisher (Sybex) requesting we author and publish
a guide for an online, ever-changing game. As coordinator on our end,
it was amazing seeing how people could work together during the Beta
test compiling information on anything and everything they could. From
start to sending our final draft to Sybex, we put together this guide
in less than 3 weeks...we sought to provide newbies hints and tips on
how to survive, earn money, and avoid 'PlayerKillers'... we are very
proud of what we published." The level of communication and trust
between members that must have been necessary for this project is
staggering. At the heart of any strong guild, is a communication
system that enables members to stay in touch despite the obvious
geographical difficulties, something that the BH obviously posses and
take advantage of.

The Burning Heart is a guild also deeply involved in role-playing to
the greatest extent allowed by the game. I urge anyone interested in
role-playing "good" to check out the BH's web page to learn more about
some of the projects they have lined up to make the world in which
they play in a better place.

Before I close this edition of The Communal Voice, I would like to
make a brief plug. Two years ago, I founded a guild with the simple
goal of providing members with a large database of people with whom to
play. Humble beginnings for sure, but at the time, even that seemed
like a daunting task (for those of you curious to see what said guild
has become, check out www.o-s-c.com). This column will always be
written from the slightly biased viewpoint that a guild is a good
thing! I urge anyone who has not yet done so, to check out the
numerous online communities that exist in whatever game you play, for
as this article has attempted to show, they make the game a much more
interesting place for all involved.

Next month...Quake (and Quake II, and CTF and TF etc etc!). If you are
in a Quake clan and feel your clan belongs in the spotlight for a
short 15 minutes, please contact me.


J C Lawrence                               Internet: claw at null.net
(Contractor)                               Internet: coder at ibm.net
---------(*)                     Internet: claw at under.engr.sgi.com
...Honourary Member of Clan McFud -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...

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