Command Decisions is a column where Republic Troopers can get the skinny on the ins and outs of guilds and the officers and members that keep them running like well-oiled war machines.
Too many times have I seen things taken for granted in MMOs. What most of you may be thinking is “Yeah, company x, didn’t do y about z and now it’s @#$%ed.” While that statement wouldn’t be wholly inaccurate, what I am referring to is the lack of ownership we players sometimes fail to acknowledge in our own digital playgrounds.
BioWare is taking things to a whole new level in their commitment to a thriving and healthy community, and as readers of this site likely know, community is something we take very seriously. That’s why when I hear about groups of players rising to the challenge and taking on their share of the responsibility for a healthy server community it brings a tear to my eye—and, much like Chuck Norris, I never cry.
So when we were contacted by the Server Health Alliance regarding their mission we were more than happy to sit down with them for a meeting of the minds to help spread the word to the far reaches of the Galaxy. We sat down with Carsonlees, a Republic side leader of the Server Health Alliance to interrogate him on what the SHA is all about.
Republic Trooper: How did the Server Health Alliance come into being?
Carsonlees: The Server Health Alliance was formed by the Empire guild Strictly Business in an effort to avoid the problem of “bad launches” that have plagued other games. Their goal is to create a group of strong guilds that will build a competitive and respectful environment for both PvE and PvP content. Having a strong community across both factions with a close ratio will be ideal. Putting several “Moderate-Hardcore” PvE and PvP guilds on a server will help prevent a server death. My own guild, Methodical, is a Republic guild for adults who want to enjoy high-end progression raiding in a respectful, mature atmosphere without sacrificing their real lives. We discovered the Server Health Alliance on the official forums, and we have developed a great relationship with the leaders of Strictly Business along with the other members of the SHA.
RT: Tell us a bit about your personal gaming history.
Carsonlees: I grew up PC gaming. My first game was the RPG “The Bard’s Tale”. I played it on a 10” CRT monochrome screen and thought it was the most amazing thing ever. I was hooked. I continued to play games like the Might and Magic series, Baldur’s Gate, & the Elder Scrolls series and also developed a fascination with console sports games. Life and career limited my game playing during the early 2000′s. My first MMO experience was with World of Warcraft in early 2008. I picked the game up at the recommendation of a work colleague and did not look back for about 2 years. The expansive world and seemingly endless action hooked me. I played casually through the end of The Burning Crusade. I joined a more serious raiding guild right before the Wrath of the Lich King expansion and raided through most of the Lich King encounter. This guild, Lux, was composed of working professionals who focused on raiding smarter on a limited schedule. This is the same mantra I am bringing into Methodical. I played a Rogue during this time and loved the min/maxing aspect of the class. I spent many nights studying combat logs and building spreadsheets to maximize the performance of our guild. A new career and general burnout caused me to leave WoW at the end of the WOTLK expansion. Since that time I have dabbled in just about every other AAA MMO that has launched; Age of Conan, Aion, Lord of the Rings Online, Rift, etc.. I have yet to find a game that captivated me like WoW had. I am hoping Star Wars: The Old Republic will give me that same feeling.
RT: Since BioWare only allows up to four guilds to be linked, how do you intend to get more than that placed onto the same server?
Carsonlees: The Server Health Alliance is using BioWare’s phase 3 program, with a twist. Our Empire guilds have formed a chain or web of alliances. For example, Guild 1 would form an alliance with guilds 2, 3, and 4. Guild 2 would form an alliance with guilds 3, 4, and 5, and so on. Thus, all of our Empire guilds will be linked, and will hopefully end up on the same server. This is similar to the chains being formed by Oceanic guilds or guilds looking to roll on an RP-PvP server, since neither option is offered under BioWare’s existing program.
Once Phase 3 is initiated, the SHA will determine which server contains a majority of the Empire member guilds. That server will be declared the SHA server, and the remaining Empire guilds, and ALL Republic guilds, in the Server Health Alliance will manually create their guilds on the SHA server once the game launches.
RT: Which guild(s) began the SHA?
Carsonlees: Strictly Business, an Empire Guild focused on world ranked PvE progression raiding.
RT: How many guilds currently claim membership?
Carsonlees: The SHA membership currently claims the 12 guilds listed below.
RT: Do you plan on consolidating all of your member guilds onto a single server, or will there be multiple servers that feel the influence of the SHA?
Carsonlees: Yes, all of our member guilds will be created on a single server.
RT: How do you intend to keep the numbers of players on each side closer to a 1 to 1 ratio? Is each guild leader carefully balancing their member count? Perhaps more importantly, how do you plan to bring an entire server population into the fold?
Carsonlees: Our research indicates that there is a 1:2 Republic to Sith imbalance across US West PvP realms, and that imbalance moves to 1:3 when we look at guilds who define themselves as “hardcore” under BioWare’s 20+ hours/week definition. One of the main goals of the Server Health Alliance is to create a server that helps to mitigate this imbalance, because we think that balanced servers are better servers.
We will do this by not including our Republic guilds in the alliance/adversary chain discussed above. Thus, when BioWare creates the server where the majority of our Empire guilds are placed, they will add a certain number of non-SHA Republic guilds to balance out the population. However, because there are more Empire players than Republic players in the general pool, each individual server is likely to reflect the 1:2 imbalance in favor of the Empire, despite BioWare’s best efforts. By adding our Republic guilds to the SHA server outside of BioWare’s phase 3 process, we add additional players to the Republic side, bringing the ratio closer to 1:1. We expect that the Republic will still be the underdog on the SHA server, but slightly less so than on other servers, and with a very solid group of initial Republic guilds.
RT: The logistics of something like the SHA must be considerable. Can you touch upon any of the specific challenges you’ve come across so far?
Carsonlees: The hardest part about the SHA is explaining the process to potential guilds and their members, because it requires some work outside of the process that BioWare already offers. It can be a bit confusing at first, but once players understand the goal of having a balanced server, they take the time to figure it out and are generally very excited about joining. We have a Server Health Alliance website and forums at http://sha.enjin.com/home, which helps all the member guilds coordinate with each other. We tend to attract guilds who are very organized outside of the game, and the speed and quality of communication on our SHA forums has been great. Because much of the planning has already been done, we don’t foresee any significant logistical problems transferring our network of guilds onto the SHA server at launch.
RT: Does the SHA have plans for events outside of standard Warzone and World PvP?
Carsonlees: One of the great side effects of the SHA is that the leaders of guilds on each faction have already started building valuable connections with top guilds on the other side. When we want to organize fun PvP or other events on the server, we know who to talk to and already have an existing relationship. We anticipate that there will be many opportunities for friendly rivalries between the two sides, whether that takes the form of impromptu world PvP battles, scheduled Warzone events, or some really awesome thing we haven’t even thought of yet.
RT: Are there any other facets of the SHA that you would like to elaborate upon?
Carsonlees: I think one reason many of us are excited about The Old Republic is the chance to experience a bit of the community that has been lost in other games over time. Organizations like the Server Health Alliance demonstrate that people still care about the server they will be calling home. While we don’t have any official policies in place that bind our member guilds (aside from rolling on the same server), all our guilds are led by mature, experienced gamers. We each have our own cultures, but there are certain things none of us would tolerate among our members, such as being a loot ninja. By staying in contact with each other and setting an example for other guilds, we can quickly spread the word about potential “bad apples” and hopefully minimize their impact on our server, creating a better culture for everyone.
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Tags: Adversaries, Age of Conan, Aion, Allies, Baldur's Gate, Beastmode, Bioware, Burning Crusade, Carsonlees, Casual Heroes, Crescendo, developer walkthrough, Diabloic, EA, Elder Scrolls, Electronic Arts, Enigma, Exile, Flashpoint, Galactic Republic, guilds, launch, Lord of the Rings Online, LucasArts, Mastercraft Mandalorian, Methodical, MMOs, Past Redemption, PvE, PvP, Rift, Server Health Alliance, Sith Empire, Sith Team IV, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Strictly Business, SWTOR, The Aristocracy, TOR, World of Warcraft, Wrath of the Lich King