[This article reprints selected extracts from the upcoming Avari Press-published book, 'Legend Of The Syndicate' by Sean Stalzer, which looks at the history of one of the biggest MMO guilds of all time from the perspective of its members.]
Dawn Of A New Age
Dragons, the guildmaster and founder of The Syndicate first became involved in online gaming back in the days of the Commodore 64 with a 300-baud modem. In those days, gaming was limited to playing your daily allocated series of turns in text based games and then logging off of the BBS (Bulletin Board System) so someone else could dial in and play their turns.
Most of the gaming ‘worlds’ had some level of persistence in that your character may be there so that others could see it and sometimes kill it. It was from those early Commodore 64 days, playing games like Questor and Ultima 1 that Dragons became hooked on fantasy gaming and on the idea of online gaming with friends.
Years passed and the technology advanced to the dawn of the PC era. Modems slowly became faster and soon they were up to a blazing fast 14.4kbps speed followed not too much longer by the previously unimaginable 28.8kbps. America Online and a few other Internet Service Providers sprung up and this thing known as ‘The Internet’ began to grow in popularity.
The internet brought a whole new revolution to online gaming with MUDs (Multi User Dungeons) and MOOs (MUD Object Oriented) and even some basic graphical games like the early AOL hosted version of Neverwinter Nights. Dragons played many of those and in doing so began to get involved with different guilds.
Guilds in those days were fairly small in size and not all that numerous. Often they existed for purposes that weren’t clearly evident to the new member and nearly all of them lacked any direction or focus beyond whatever the people online that day wanted to accomplish. They were a communications tool, in many respects, for people to do game related tasks together.
Time and again Dragons, who was going by the online alias “Warlord” at that time, joined guilds only to be disappointed by the lack of organization, direction, leadership and friendship. What was the purpose of playing an online game, with other people, if friendships weren’t being developed?
You could log off and play any of a large number of single player games that were elaborately written and had better graphics and were more fun. The real draw for online gaming was competing with and against other people and forming the friendships that went along with those friendly competitions.
Things really came to a head when Dragons joined one guild that claimed they represented all of those things he was searching for. They appeared to be well led and they appeared to be on the same path he was on. In the process of playing, Dragons had become friends with a young player named Eli and he convinced him to apply and join the same guild.
It was during Eli’s first week in the guild that a rival guild decided to declare war and battles began erupting all over town. Nearly the entire guild was gathered in the tavern one night discussing what they were going to go hunt when the rival guild attacked. Outnumbering them, an aggressive counter attack with a little bit of coordination probably could have won the day.
Instead, when the call to attack was given, Dragons found himself and his friend, a rookie player with skills nowhere near high enough to defeat a veteran player, were the only two standing their ground and facing the onslaught.
It was in that pivotal moment, in Feb 1996, that Dragons realized a change was needed. The persona of Warlord was left to the history books and a fresh start was created using the name Dragons.
He realized that if a guild was going to be created that espoused the values he wanted to see fostered then he was going to have to try and form it and lead it himself. Maybe he would succeed. Maybe he would fail. But, if he didn’t try, he was doomed to a cycle of moving from guild to guild due to none of them measuring up and most of them imploding and failing before he even had a chance to measure their worth.
A Look Back In Time
Perhaps more telling than what occurred in 1996 are the things that many of us take for granted today that did not exist in 1996. Those, perhaps more than anything else, indicate how much the world of technology changed in the first ten years of The Syndicate’s existence.
So in all likelihood if you had a top end gaming PC back in 1996 then you had 150Mhz, 32MB of RAM, a 1GB hard disk, an 8MB 3DFX card, a 4 to 8 speed CDROM, a 3.5" floppy (and maybe even a dual 3.5 + 5.25), a 15" monitor and an uber fast 33.2kbps modem, if your ISP supported v.90 otherwise you were limited to 28.8kbps.
That is the era The Syndicate was founded in. By today’s standards it is amazing we were able to game effectively at all much less communicate and form a huge, thriving virtual community.