Obsidian was formed on paper sometime around February 28th. I remember thinking that I had never read an article on how to “form a guild” and that it would be an interesting challenge to tackle. Further, I knew at the time I wanted to do something different for Crowfall. The game itself brought back vivid and fond memories of my time in Shadowbane, which, despite being plagued by bugs remains one of my favorite MMOs of all time.
Obsidian was born out of a desire to both create something new, and to build an organization that could survive without me one day. It’s humbling when I try to see a future for this organization without me, but its necessary based on my experiences. One of my long-time multi-game-guilds I’ve played a dozen MMOs with over the last 7 years is really just a shell of the organization it once was.
What causes organizations to break apart? A rigid hierarchy with officers who cling to retain control of their organization and seek to keep it the “way it was”. I’ve seen it in action and while it may be a worthy goal to achieve, it’s impossible with the passing of time. Real life always tends to introduce hurdles that some players just can’t jump over. Children, Marriage, Deaths, Employment, and others can cripple a person’s free time and will to continue on with their gaming passion.
Such was the case with my old guild, where only a very few of the old guard linger. It was a slow death, but one easily avoided.
Obsidian’s organizational tree was created to allow charismatic leaders to move up in the organization quickly. There are pitfalls of course, an outside negative alliance of players could try to seize control of the guild. Yet, I think with a few minor additions to the charter even this could be minimized. Certainly it would prove a tale worth retelling to others and that is almost always worth the risk.
Stories are what bring gamers back to a world. Shadowbane was and remains like that for me. I could tell you stories of my unique encounters, the sieges, the battles… all of it bring me right back to that moment in time. It’s invigorating (and only mildly disconcerting) when you can remember the details of a game 10 years past and can’t remember when your next doctor’s appointment is.
One of the first things I did was seek out different ways of communicating with the guild. I found lots of potential options, almost all forum based. Yet it came down to a random EVE tweet that really caught my attention. EVE fans had opened up a public channel for an application called Slack. Slack is probably the modern equivalent of upgraded version of IRC. This is probably the single best decision I made, and it was potentially a huge gamble.
It was a gamble, because I’d never seen a guild using this application. Yes its a new application in the marketplace, but its also not really doing anything new. Its hard to describe how Slack makes communicating better, because it essentially is a hybrid of tools we already use. Remember AOL Instant Messenger? That use to be the key application in in-the-moment texting on computers.. Slack integrates that, email, IRC and file sharing into a platform that remembers your conversation eternally.
Why is this crucial to a guild’s success? Talking casually with your guild mates is difficult during the best of circumstances. Now imagine their being next to motivation to login to a Mumble (the voice-comm app we are using) because there is NO game to play right now. Sure you could require everyone hang out on mumble, but the opportunity for off-the-cuff conversations are greatly reduced. Further, you then have to address the fact that some people just aren’t comfortable talking in a group setting with people they don’t know. Slack addresses all of this in a guild setting because it allows for those casual conversations to occur at the speed at which its participants are able to participate!
For example; I login to this app on my phone and on my work computer. I might type up a response to someone who posted a question the night before at 3am. The moment I type a response a conversation starts up in our channel about that topic. In real time. Sure a forum might work in this case, but the problem is the feeling of a conversation gets lost when its merely a fragmented post that might not be getting the most attention on the forum. These immediate conversations are further enhanced by the subtle inclusion of being notified when someone is typing a response. Further connecting you to the Slack conversation because you know someones about to answer you. No more refreshing your browser hoping someones going type out a reply.
Slack has been immeasurably useful for us in a myriad of ways too numerous to mention, so lets just say… if your not using it. Start today.
Mumble, as mentioned before, is our voice communication tool. Its seen less usage as mentioned above. I did want to call out that I ran a fairly successful guild meeting this last Saturday with about 15 attendees. It was more of a town hall meeting where I went over my vision for the guild and how we plan to operate within the confines of Crowfall. Nothing “secret” was revealed, as I basically went down our website and elaborated for people with deeper questions. The entire meeting was recorded and many people enjoyed it and the conversations that it spawned. So far no one has quit over my “elaborations”. Interesting.
Obsidian stands poised to hit its recruitment goals. I wanted to get at least 50 members before the first alpha started this summer and I’m well ahead of that goal. Everything seems to be clicking into place. What seems to be the cause of this? Branding. Several aspects of the Obsidian brand seem to be resonating with recruits (as was my hope when designing the guild). It is essentially the reason my guild has members.
The website came out incredibly well, for something that was bootstrapped and templated it came out looking fresh and professional and wholly original compared to peers. I think many people were surprised that a guild site could look the way it does and be as successful as it has been. Several modifications are planned to add dynamic content to it for the games launch, but it’s clear that this design has resonated and told my guilds story well. The addition of quotes as breaks in the sections was another unique way of creating a feeling for how the guild plans on operating in Crowfall.
The logo was another success story. Shortly after publishing my articles I contacted one of my buddies who does design work for a living and asked him if he could create a logo for my organization based on the design of a few others I gave him for references. He agreed and the logo currently being used was created after a few very rough drafts. I only had to buy him a copy of the Crowfall game. I came out ahead in my opinion (another guild member + a logo!).
Having a great looking website and an awesome logo only goes so far. I’ve seen a few copycats pop up already on the Crowfall forums, copying my layout and approach to the guild website. They don’t seem to be getting any traction because their guilds goals are vague at best. Obsidian is very transparent in how it publicly tells people how it intends to operate and its focusing a very unique aspect of the game (which may or may not exist based on the little information available). That focus, to act as a covert “stealthy” guild, is another major reason for my early success in recruiting for Crowfall. That focused and defined niche purpose seems to be attracting people of a like mind.
Now let’s be honest here, spending some money building a website, having a niche, those are all things anyone can do. Being successful at this early stage is meaningless. The real challenge for me going on months 3 and beyond is going to be keeping the people engaged in the guild. This is notoriously difficult considering the fact the game is not coming out for 2 years (or so) for some of the members (regular backer status).
Some of my members have taken to playing some of the free to play games on the market, League of Legends, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and others. Some want to begin training right now, but it’s difficult to passion the hype surrounding Crowfall. The last thing I want is someone so burned out on the game by summer that I lose a member. Thankfully I seem to have attracted some really interesting personalities, and some talent that extends beyond the game playing itself.
In all, if you had to rate my Obsidian experiment; I would call it a rousing success. I’ll be sure to keep anyone who enjoyed reading the initial “Create a Guild” series up to date with these occasional updates. Thankfully it appears that Obsidian is here to stay. And with that said, remember…
We Are Always Watching.
#crowfall #designaguild #obsidian