Shadowbane – the Holy Grail of PvPers everywhere, the game that couldn’t get released. Or could it? With a definite release date finally set (March 25, 2003), it appears that rumour could finally be true and the game to end all PvP MMOGs will finally make it out of development and into the greedy, sweaty hands of the Play2Crush crowd once and for all.
The beta for Shadowbane (SB) keeps expanding, with UbiSoft and Wolf Pack letting in more and more beta testers in recent weeks. This is a good thing, since it’s the largest amount of players the game has tried to handle since development began. However, even if there still wasn’t an NDA in place, the actual beta test isn’t want I want to talk about here. No, what I want to discuss are the faithful followers and eagerly anticipatory fanbase that the game had attracted and retained throughout it’s over 4 years of development, aka “Fanbois.”
A bit of history first. My guild, House of Sagacious, has been together now for over 3 years now, since forming up in Asheron’s Call (AC1) way back in early January 2000. In that time, we’ve grown from the small guild started by our Monarch and his brother-in-law, into a gaming clan that has players under our tag in 3 games now – AC1, 2 servers in Dark Age of Camelot – Morgan le Fay and Andred (DAoC-MLF and DAoC-And) and most recently, Asheron’s Call 2 (AC2). Between all 3 games, we probably have over 250 active, unique players. With SB finally approaching reality, we’ve decided to expand into this realm as well. We’ve had a few members that have been playing SB beta for a while now, and their efforts have helped other HoS members gain beta invites as well. All of our members that are currently active in the beta are doing their best to make their way in the SB world and to hammer out the best path our clan will take once retail hits. Now, even though I’m not an active beta tester, I do happen to have far too much time on my hands lately at work, and for me, this usually involves board trolling. Of late, my wanders have taken me to the Official SB Forums, or more specifically, to the Guild Hall forum located there.
I’ve been reading the various posts, gleaning what info I can from the give and take of obviously regular posters and newcomers like myself, and one thing I noticed was how almost everyone posting thought that something called ARAC was a baaaaad thing to do. ARAC stands for All Races, All Classes, and from what I’ve read, setting up a guild like this goes against every little bit of lore that has been pumped out for SB in the past 4 or so years now. Elves hate Irekei and Irekei hate the elves, and never may they meet in the same guild! This seems to be almost universally agreed upon on those boards.
I posted what I thought was a simple request and in return got the devout, almost fanatic role-players response in return. Other than a few posters saying that it would eventually be prohibitively expensive to maintain an ARAC guild, I ended up with the rabid RPers claiming that our deliberate breaking of the lore would result in a total eclipse, the moon falling from the sky and Ragnarok overtaking us all. So, it appears that the role-players have taken control, and the inmates are running the asylum.
Ok, the last few lines were an exaggeration. To be honest, I have no problems with RP at all. Every two weeks, along with a group of other RL geeks, I play D&D 3rd Edition (“Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil” – a marvelous dungeon crawl so far, if a bit uneven with the monster challenge levels, but I digress). I began my “career” in AC1 as an RPer, creating a back story for my main character and the mule that was to become my main character. I’ve RPed in game, on the message boards and in IMs even with players that I’ve kept in touch with over the years. It’s a natural thing for me, especially when dealing with certain people.
However, being a slave to the game lore can be extremely limiting as well, in my opinion. It’s one thing to say that (as in the previous example) Elves hate Irekei and vice versa. But the rabid RPers that I encountered over there made it seem as if allowing ARAC would be the downfall of the game and completely ruin their gameplay and life practically. One of the better quotes is this one, “People like you, no matter how you say it, ruin the experience of the role-player.” (The_Deranged) Now, that to me sounds like one of the most narrow-minded things I’ve ever read, in regards to a game. I’ve played DAoC before, and they have servers specifically set up for RP, geared towards those players that enjoy it, and want to RP all the time. These servers are clearly marked, and rules regarding RP are enforced rather rigorously (or they were last I played). You don’t want to RP? Then don’t get on the DAoC RP-only servers. Something similar was done for AC2, between the FFA PvP server, the two KvK servers and the other, non specific servers. The “specialty” servers are clearly marked, and if you don’t want to deal with KvK for full out PvP, then don’t log into Coldeve, Snowreap or Darktide.
Yet in SB, it appears that not only am I not going to have a choice about whether or not I (or my guild) chooses to RP the ingame lore, we will be the prime targets of choice by other guilds simply because we choose to be ARAC. The guild charter that will most likely be chosen is the Military Legion one (I think), as it appears to be closest of the thirteen (!!!) guild templates that allows us to set up as we choose. It is what fits our guild best, since in all the games we are in, running things our way, with military-like precision, is what works best for us. So from reading over the descriptions, that seems to fit our needs.
I think that is where part of my other problem comes in. As a guild, HoS has concentrated on AC1 initially, then DAoC, and now AC2. We have players in all 3 games, plus players beta-testing Star Wars: Galaxies. We have become a multigaming guild, with concerns outside the aspect of a certain game or game’s lore. Our goals are strictly for the guild first, the realm/nation second, especially in a full-on PvP environment that SB is designed to be. That sort of attitude has been shaped and formed by all the years that our “core” membership has been together. “We take care of our own.” If we could be said to have a motto, that would be it. Our CoC lays out certain rules of behavior, and one of the prime rule is that you never leave a clanmate to die alone. Another is that HoS grew from friends and family, and we do everything we can to hold true to that principle. So if I’m playing an Elf, and one of my clanmates chooses to make an Irekei character, I’m not going to even begin to worry about the ingame lore and how it tells me I should react. He’s my clanmate, we support each other no matter what.
To me, that is what it means when I see someone else with the House of Sagacious guild tag. It means that person will support me and back me up in game. It means that if I see another HoS fighting, despite any sort of personal feelings I may have for that player, I will help and support them. No amount of ingame lore, no matter how supposedly “integral” to the game that it’s supposed to be, will affect that support. And therein lays my other issue with so many of the guilds that I see listed on the official forum.
There is a list of guilds, compiled by a poster named Father Merrin that has so many listings it has to be broken up into 2 posts. There are roughly 148 separate guilds/nations listed, some with only the guild name and a link to their website, and some with fairly detailed descriptions of their purpose and philosophy. Checking out many of these sites can be a highly entertaining prospect. Not only because of my current interest in web design (I enjoy doing research, seeing what other guilds do that I like, and what I don’t like), and also to get a quick feel for the guild itself. Some are very well done, and others aren’t so well done.
Most of what I gather though is that the bulk of the guilds listed are strictly SB-only guilds, ones that have formed on the message boards and have been honed in the fires of flame wars. Some of the players have hooked up in beta, and have used their commonality to group together. Some are obviously just looking to run a guild and be “speshul“. The evil guilds are funny really. The recruiting posts are what get me though. Maybe it’s because my guild has never had open recruiting, and we have a strict recruitment policy in all our games. We don’t post looking for members, and we certainly would never take in someone solely based off of message board post count. These “guilds” strike me as being like a cloud – they certainly look solid, but once you get to them, you can see how thin and vaporous they truly are.
It’s the superficiality of these guilds. Ones that post that they now have spots for X more people to join, or that they have now reached their goal of X number of members, so they aren’t accepting any more, or just that they are looking for members now. Guilds that will take someone because they posted they are looking for a guild to join. It seems the warm body approach lives!
Now, I’m not trying to imply that just because these guilds have formed in SB alone, it means they are going to fall apart once retail hits and the real Play2Crush begins. I’m sure that some will weather the real thing with flying colors. But for many, I’m guessing that once everything goes beyond the planning stage (beta) and into implementation (retail), things are going to hit the proverbial fan and their houses of cards are going to come tumbling down (to mix my metaphors). In most cases, they seem to have no history between the members, at least none outside of the message boards and IRC. All the organization in the world isn’t going to help one iota if your members don’t truly feel a connection to the guild tag and to their guildmates. All the posts in the world aren’t going to help once that guildie gets upset and logs on you because he’s just died for the 3rd time and lost all his gold again, leaving you to continue trying to hold a hunting spot against incomers.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe ties formed strictly over a message board can be enough once you hit the real thing. Many of my guildmates are known to me only through the boards, but they are mostly the ones that either don’t play the same game as I do (DAoC currently), or they play off hours from me. I’ll admit that the members I am closest to are the ones that I speak to regularly over TeamSpeak. And maybe that one little invention is the reason why my guild doesn’t role play much at all. It’s hard to call someone by their ingame name when you are actually speaking to them in real-time. We have gone so far as renting a TS2 server for ourselves, one that has multiple rooms in it for the different games that everyone is in, and frequently top 30+ members logged into it at one time, between the all the games HoS plays in. We are a tight-knit group, or at least we try to be. It’s not perfect, but to be honest, there is no other group of people I’d rather game with. I guess that’s the best I can hope for in any of these games.