The Lords of the Dead (LotD) was founded 12 years ago in a game called Darksun Online as a PVP-Roleplay oriented guild. It quickly grew to become the most dominant PVP guild in that game and remained so until moving to Ultima Online. LotD was successful in Ultima Online and began working with the first major fansite network, Stratics Network, to develop a PVP oriented sub-site called Hades Hall of Warfare. Since then LotD has developed strong ties to several gaming studios and fan sites (Stratics, Warcry, Coldfront, etc.), and has a created a list of their beta credentials. LotD has also been profiled in gaming magazines such as Massive Multiplayer and will appear in the June edition of Beckett’s Massive Online Gaming Magazine.
PlayerVox: Lords of the Dead has been active for 12 years. What’s the secret of keeping a guild together for so long?
Lords: The ability to find games the membership is interested in playing, being able to build a good leadership team with each new game, and the ability to rebuild the guild membership as we transition from game to game.
PlayerVox: LotD ‘s website focuses on the competitive (PVP) aspect of your playstyle. Is the competitive spirit something that has helped you retain members?
Lords: LotD is a competitive PVP guild, and we only recruit competitive minded players. We do play games for fun, but our idea of fun is competing in a serious PVP environment with a goal of being in the top 5% of guilds for the server or game. We are about as a professional gaming guild as you can get short of the new fad that is emerging in Pro Level Gaming Leagues. While Pro gaming does appeal to us, we’re not willing to quit our day jobs to enter into it because our focus is on MMORPG and CORPG PVP.
PlayerVox: Some games offered competitive, tournament-style PVP (Guild Wars, or even Counterstrike) whereas other feature world and instanced PVP events (Dark Age of Camelot, and aspects of World of Warcraft). Do these different approaches to PVP affect the way you recruit, and can one guild succeed at appealing to both forms of gameplay?
Lords: LotD used to be one guild, one game type of guild until 2005 when we decided to go into a multi-gaming guild format. We have some members who prefer open PVP or RvR environments, we’ve got some who prefer tournament/arena type PVP, and then we’ve got casual players who like both types of games. LotD usually has 2 to 3 gaming chapters open at any given time, and so it gives our members the option to play the game that best suits their tastes or schedules. Having multiple chapters open allows us to specifically target recruits based on the games we plan to play, but we do ensure that all members of the guild follow our Bylaws and we have an active guild Elder in each chapter who ensures that things are being run the LotD way.
PlayerVox: You’ve openly criticized guilds that lack any rules or structure. What’s your response to the people who say “games are supposed to be fun” and therefore shouldn’t have any conduct rules for guild members?
Lords: My response is that your guild is only as good as what you put into it, and that you have to structure your guild to suit your play style. LotD is a competitive guild, and our fun comes from winning in a competitive environment. We make this clear in our recruitment posts and the applications that we require recruits to complete. To ensure that all members know and live up to guild standard and expectations, we have rules, policies, and requirements (such as you will help your fellow guildmates or show up for PVP practice on set dates, etc.) that we expect our members to follow. People who don’t follow them are booted from the guild, and no one gets special treatment. One drama queen can and has brought down entire guilds, so our rules are there to prevent that stuff from happening.
PlayerVox: You’re also a bit different than most guilds in that you are trying to bring together both casual and hardcore players. The first question on this topic is what these labels really mean. What’s the difference between a “hardcore” and “casual” player of an MMO?
Lords: A casual gamer to us is someone who only plays 2-3 days a week, and a hardcore gamer to us is someone who plays 5-7 days a week. We do our best to plan the guild’s progression based on the hardcore players, and then work the casuals into the plan as best we can. Since we are now a multi-gaming guild, what’s been happening is that we tend to have one chapter for hardcore MMORPG players, one chapter for casuals, and one chapter for our are arena/tournament type players. It works out well because ultimately the guild quality is there, we compete in several different types of games, and it keeps the guild very visible.
PlayerVox: What are the challenges of integrating these play styles in the same guild?
Lords: The biggest challenge is that we allow any member to play in any active gaming chapter, but we always have to remind people that it’s up to them to work with that chapter’s membership to find the best place to fit into the scheme. If a casual gamer member goes to the chapter that is primarily hardcore, then he or she has to understand that they will not always be the priority. As a competitive guild you do your best to utilize all your members, but sometimes you’ve got to roll with your “A” team. Sometimes that “A” team might be a mix of hardcore and casuals, but everyone has to know, understand, and accept their role to make a chapter successful.
PlayerVox: What do you wish current MMO products did differently, and what gets you most excited about the current MMOs in the development pipeline?
Lords: I wish MMORPGs didn’t build in so many game mechanics that punish you for gaming with your friends or guildmates. In the old day’s everyone in a group would get the same quest rewards, so you didn’t need DKP systems. Also, there wasn’t such an emphasis on levels. In many games today you can’t game with your buddy once he’s 3-5 levels above you because you are a liability in the higher level group, and in a lower level group mobs give little to no exp due to him being in the group. Honestly, the game that gets me the most excited over the next year is Fury Online being developed by Auran Studios. The reason is that it will be a competitive PVP game that has something for everyone, and won’t force you into the stupid PVE before you can PVP grind that is in modern games.
PlayerVox: What’s the biggest thing MMOs could do to better support guilds and clans?
Lords: They could provide better in-game guild recruitment tools so that people can find guilds that are recruiting instead of all the stupid zone spamming that goes on now, they could allow things like “Guild Exp” so that the hardcore gamers could pass down some exp to the more casual gamers, they should get rid of stupid level restrictions so that higher level guildmates can more easily assist lower level guildmates in their character development.
PlayerVox: In closing, what bit of wisdom can you share with someone who is thinking about starting a new guild or clan today?
Lords: Since we’ve been around so long, I am always asked what makes us so successful. Finally, I wrote a guide called How to build and maintain a successful guild. I have linked it from our main site, and have done my best to get it published where ever I can.