You all probably know that I spend a lot of my free time reading MMO blogs and participating in forum discussions. To remain up to date with what is happening in the industry and keep my creativity flowing on Epic Slant it is pretty much a necessity. I spend most of my time reading about MMO Design since Guild Leadership isn’t something widely discussed. Sometimes, however, I end up in random places reading random things and they give me “old gamer rage.”
Not too long ago I was asked some questions by Tesh about being a guild leader and it brought back some memories about why I got into it to begin with. At virtually the same time, I happened to fall into a whole group of posts about how hardcore raiders are the devil and only care about having better gear than everyone else. We were being characterized as nothing more than greedy, epeen waving alpha males. To be frank, it upset me. That characterization might be true of this generation of competitive raiders (and I’m not saying it is) but it certainly wasn’t true of the original one.
In my MMO career I have had the distinct honor of being a member of three different competitive raid guilds. I was also blessed with the opportunity to take the top office of Iniquity for just over two years. I can say with complete confidence that during those days it was never about the loot. We were never chasing “the carrot.” Loot was a reward, of course, but it was just a tool that let you get to what really mattered: the win. That is right folks, in every “uber guild” I’ve ever been in, (and we’re not talking just one), we were all about the win. We won as a team and we lost as a team.
Tesh asked me if raiding was even fun and I had to be honest. A lot of times raiding was not fun. Learning new encounters was very difficult back then. Most guilds kept all their information hidden and only those who kept close ties exchanged information. We didn’t post full strategies and youtube videos that said, “Here is how you kill the dragon.” We would suffer through death after death after death just trying to work out the best tactics for our group of people. It was thankless and always a rush against the clock. We weren’t just competing against the mob but also against every other guild that wanted a shot at it. If we didn’t win someone else surely would. Most players these days cannot stomach that many losses. I want to tell a story about what it truly meant to be competitive.
In EQ2 Classic there was a group of weapons called “Prismatics.” They were at the time, peerless. To get one you had to complete an incredibly long quest and defeat multiple raid targets. The last of which was a dragon called Darathar. In those days, not a lot of guilds had defeated him and he was horribly bugged. In some fights he would simply heal to full when his script went badly. He was changed numerous times but Darathar 1.0 was the most difficult encounter out there at the time. Iniquity had worked all the way to him and for a week straight, hours a day, I threw us at that dragon. I could not count how many times we lost. It got so bad and we got so low that Khallid and Durrel, who at the time were playing at my house, looked over at me and said outside of Ventrilo, “Dude, we need more gear. Lets call it and farm a bit longer and we’ll get him. We’re close.” I had heard rumblings that they were going to tone Darathar down a bit and I did not want to miss beating the hard version. That is the thought that went through my head. Not “I want my epic now.” Not “We want his loot.” It was “I don’t want to beat 2.0 when only an elite few beat 1.0.” In the hardest moment of my life I looked at some of my best friends in the world and told them we weren’t leaving and they needed to just suck it up and win. They were understandably frustrated with me. I pushed and pushed and pushed, though, and that very night we won. We beat Darathar 1.0.
It was a labor of love, however, and any good raider will take the bad with the good. Each time that you got a mob a little lower than the last attempt there was a thrill and excitement. When the mob that you’ve been working on for days or weeks gets under 10% and you’re saying as calmly as you can in Ventrilo, “Settle, it isn’t dead yet – keep going,” your heart can do nothing but beat erratically. Each percentage takes an eternity but when it hits zero and the mob falls you would have heard in the Iniquity Ventrilo server cheers and elation the likes of which could rival any professional sports game. Nobody cared what it dropped the first times; it was that win that we wanted. I honestly could not tell you what Darathar dropped that night and, in truth, I don’t care. The only thing that I remember or care about is that my officers and I lead one of the finest group of players and friends to defeat something that only a few guilds across the entire game had. That is my passion. That was my drive.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ve long since retired from that lifestyle. My work and personal life just don’t allow me to manage a guild 60+ hours a week and help it stay competitive. I have friends that do, though, and they’re part of the old school. They are not chasing after purple and gold items for the sake of the items. Guilds like ours use loot for two reasons. The first is pretty simple. If we don’t get that loot we can’t move to the next challenging encounter and win. The second might be what players who never have raided competitively are misinterpreting as greed. Winning was about the time. We won and lost because of the team. Loot was for rewarding individual achievement. Those who played well, attended consistently, and were team players were rewarded individually. The item means nothing. Being singled out and rewarded, however, was priceless. Ask any old Iniquity member, even those that hate me, and they will tell you that even though I was usually in the top three when it came to total points I rarely ever took an item first. I wanted to give it to a member and let them be rewarded. My reward was leading and winning.
In my life I have achieved a fair degree of success both professionally and in my private pursuits. I do not say that to brag or puff myself up. I only mention it so I can put the next statement into context. I am not yet a father, so this will change, but to date I have never felt more pride, more joy and more successful than when my guild defeated an incredibly difficult encounter. You may think it sad that I can get so involved in a game but I don’t see it that way. I see it as a group of friends, lead by myself and other officers, achieving something that only a handful of human beings could without cheating, exploiting or using dubious tactics. To me that means a lot and to have it tarnished by the notion that we were in it for the loot wounds me deeply. The loot is long gone but many of my closest friends are still my guild mates in Sodality. It is a testament to the bond we share and our loyalty to one another.
You may call me a jerk for being an advocate of the hardcore raider. You can say that we are (and in my case were) a minority that consumed the most content in the shortest amount of time. You may even say that I only cared that my guild and I had content to do but do not tell me that it was about loot. The old school wasn’t about loot. We were about camaraderie, loyalty, integrity and the win and we always will be.