Most seasoned WoW players eventually figure out ways to confidently move money and items across faction lines. On top of that, the proliferation of voice communications like Ventrilo, realm-wide forums, and the ability to make characters on both factions of even a PvP realm (it hasn't always been possible!) all make it easy enough to chat up players on the other side of the divide. It's sort of the reverse of what happened to Darkshore in the Cataclysm -- whereas picking your way across that ravaged zone today is perilous to hoof and limb, it's relatively easy to treat with the enemy across faction lines.
All those developments go out the window, however, if you're a roleplayer whose need for immersion and in-character realism trumps game mechanics. But speaking of trumps, lucky players on Cenarion Circle (US) and Thorium Brotherhood (US) hold a trump card when it comes to inter-faction relations: the services of the Anywhere Anytime Messenger Service, a set of guilds that provides delivery, translation and mediation services to Horde and Alliance characters seeking to breach the great faction divide. Our chat with the players behind the organization's CEO and branch manager positions is one of those interviews that'll make you want to create another character to join in this fun, social way to play (and the simple but charming guild jingle from the group's gnomish leader will earworm its way to your heart!).
Main character Yotingo, Horde-side branch manager (GM) GuildAAMS Realm Cenarion Circle (US), Thorium Brotherhood (US)
WoW Insider: CEOs, branch managers -- I love all these titles! Tell us about your guild hierarchy.
Derscha: The AAMS is in character a business, with two major branches, AAMS on Horde-side and AAMS Alliance Branch on the other. Each branch has a branch manager, usually the GM of that side's guild, who's responsible for organizing events and raking care of all those details like promotions and paychecks. The public face of the AAMS is the CEO, currently Derscha Kettlebomb, who is also acting as the Alliance branch manager at the moment. Our officer rank is supervisor, while the rest of the guild are couriers.
So in the context of all this business management, then, what exactly is the mission of your guild? What services do you provide to other players in game?
Derscha: [In character], we're a neutral delivery company that doesn't care whether you're Horde or Alliance. We're looking out for ourselves and do what we think is best for the company. We're not a "third faction" but just a group that tried to avoid faction politics.
The goal of the guild is to foster RP -- cross-faction RP, in particular -- and to provide a unique flavor to the realm's roleplay. If one player buys something in character from another, they can send it via AAMS. Why send that delicate package via in-game mail, when you can have it personally delivered by a trusted courier? It adds just that extra bit of fun to what would have been a mundane task.
Yotingo: We typically only provide these services to RPers; we don't want to break Blizzard's rules on cross-faction interaction and figure most RPers are not trying to skew PvP results or cheat anyone out of gold or items. Derscha: Deliveries are actually be very fun. They're a great way to meet other roleplayers; most of my friends I've met because I was on company business. Breaking the ice is often the hardest part of making new RP partners.
While most of our deliveries are packages and messages, we also provide money services and translations services. If you need to transfer gold to the other faction, we'll handle that for you using our own funds. At cross-faction events, we do translations by passing messages to the other faction to help with coordination among people who don't use Real ID or outside chat programs to talk to each other.
Real ID has reduced the need for us to do translations, since a lot of RPers can talk to each other now, but it's made it a lot easier for us to run events. It lets us focus more on the big picture and enjoy ourselves.
How much time would you say you personally spend on your economic transactions and business, as opposed to normal gameplay? What about other guild members?
Derscha: I easily spend several hours a week focusing on AAMS business, but most of my game time is spent in regular RP or questing. The amount of time spent doing business really depends on other players. Sometimes there's weeks where we have multiple deliveries and it eats up my time, and then there's the occasional stretch where nothing is sent our way and we relax.
Yotingo: Transfers typically take no longer than 30 minutes, assuming everyone is online. If they're not, it can take much longer to get it done, as we like to do our deliveries face-to-face, rather than use mail. Translations can go from anywhere from one hour to four, as they're often tied to events. How are jobs disseminated or assigned to members? Do members typically have one or more deliveries to handle every time they play?
Derscha: Deliveries are usually given to whomever's available at the time. We post outstanding deliveries on our guild website, and everyone watches out for the person we're delivering to. Whoever sees them gets to make the delivery. That's the most efficient way; otherwise it can take too long. There are exceptions for when we have a request for a specific courier to make a delivery for IC reasons. We usually have at least one active delivery.
For actual scheduled events, we'll discuss ahead of time among ourselves who will be available, and decide who will represent which faction, since most of us play on both sides. Having a character on both sides isn't mandatory, but it allows for a lot of flexibility.
Are either the guild as a whole or individual members paid in game for services rendered?
Derscha: Most players will pay our couriers when they commission a delivery, and sometimes we'll even get a tip from the recipient, too. We are providing a real service, particularly when it's a cross-faction item transfer, but we don't fret over getting paid. We do this for fun and to provide more opportunities for RP. I don't want people to feel they have to be willing to pay to interact with the AAMS.
The company compensates couriers for their time with IC paychecks for large events. For money transfers, we do charge a 5% cut. That cut, the guild money perk, and donations are the way the guild makes money.
What's the exactly methodology behind a transfer?
Derscha: Actual in-game items are transferred through the neutral Auction House. It takes two couriers, one from each side, working together. We always do it when we have two people available; we don't leave items up on auction where they can be sniped.
Yotingo: If they don't have each other on Real ID or are in Ventrilo, we work out a code of emotes to use for communication. We post the items up one at a time, for very low amounts -- usually less than a silver, so as not to break each others' banks. When each item goes up, we tell or signal to the other courier that it's ready; that way, the auction doesn't stay up for more than a few seconds, so less chance of it getting stolen.
There was one time a few years ago when there was a bot sitting at the neutral AH in Booty Bay looking for just that kind of auction to steal. Luckily she was PvP flagged, so we kept ganking her until she got the hint to leave. Several other guilds got in on it, too. Luckily, I don't think we lost anything to her.
Derscha: Money transfers are handled by depositing money in one gbank and then taking out the same amount on the other side, bypassing the Auction House. We have to watch carefully to make sure we don't get unbalanced.
Yotingo: Letters: This can be similar to an item transfer, as sometime we'll make real copies of the letter to pass around. You do this by mailing yourself with the letter, then clicking on the "make a copy of this." It'll create a readable letter in your inventory that can be traded and put up on the Auction House.
Gold transfer: Technically, this isn't a transfer. The gold goes in one guild bank on one side and comes out of the guild bank on the other. For this reason, having lots of gold on both sides is vital, and sometimes we've had to stop transfers to let one of the guild banks recover. Luckily, other guilds have been known to chip in and donate to help us out!
However, you can also post up a junk item on the neutral AH for a very high buyout. We don't usually use this method, as the AH takes a huge chunk out of the profit. Sneaky goblins, elbowing in on our business!
This sounds like a lot of hard work! Is there a point at which all of this starts to feel suspiciously like logging in for a job as a pizza delivery person on a stormy night? How do you guard against burnout?
Derscha: It really can be! But it's no more worse than for people who run IC crafting companies. We've had a lot of people come and go, and the leadership of the guild has changed hands often. The amazing thing is the way the guild has continued to survive despite that; there's always someone ready to take the reigns. How many roleplaying guilds can survive that?
No one in the guild is required to make a delivery; it's strictly volunteer only. This isn't like a raid, where you can schedule a set amount of time and reasonably expect people to show up. You never know when someone needs a delivery made and will interrupt what you're doing. Keeping it on a volunteer basis makes it less of a chore and more of a choice.
Yotingo: The RP part of it helps (if you like socialization), and the translation also allows us to be a part of other storylines where normally no one else would be invited. Sometimes we get very humorous deliveries to play with, too, like the time we were given 20 magical Ancona Chickens to pass around at random as a prank. The chickens were able to lay on command, so anytime anyone said the word "lay" they'd get a ton of eggs, too! For a while, we also would give out gold to people who we caught doing nice things for strangers. That was fun.
And, of course, we're highly respected on the server, which is always a plus!
But you're involved in much more roleplaying than economic transactions, isn't that right? Tell us about some of the other RP events the guild has been involved in. Is there anything you do regularly?
Derscha: The last event we had was a cross-faction swimsuit contest a few weeks ago at the resort in Feralas. We gave away prizes to the best or most interesting swimsuits people could come up with! We had orcs and dwarves mingling in swim trunks. It was largely a casual, light-hearted contest.
We also recently had a fun night with the Stormwind City Watch where we worked together to track down a stolen AAMS shipment. We also get hired to help out at other events, like the Grim Fate fashion show a while back. The AAMS is heavily involved in the realm's Spring Festival, although it's not officially an AAMS event.
One of the biggest events we're known for is the Armistice Day Ball in the fall, commemorating the Battle of Mt. Hyjal. It's a day both factions come together and remember that we once stood united. This will be its seventh year. I'm rather nervous about being the CEO this time, as Derscha'll be expected to give a speech!
Let's talk about the roleplaying life of your realm. Would you say the RP community is fairly developed and active? How does your guild fit into the larger picture?
Derscha: Cenarion Circle is an active RP server. One of the features of Cenarion Circle is that we're largely event-based, with regularly scheduled open RP activities every week. We have a global channel to keep everyone connected. There's a lot of inter-guild RP because of that. The AAMS has been one of the major guilds for a long time on the server, but one that tends to in character stay in the background of events. A friend once described us a "a small guild with the reputation of a big one." The AAMS Jingle became rather popular.
One of the things I enjoy about the AAMS is how often we play behind-the-scenes roles in stories. We've passed along secret correspondence between guilds, coded messages, and the occasional dinner invitation. We can deliver a package to a character and learn days later in the official story write-up that we'd passed on a spy's intelligence report. It's fun to do those type of things in character, rather than having it occur offscreen.
What changes do you expect will come when Mists of Pandaria launches? Any new developments or opportunities there you're looking forward to incorporating?
Derscha: I am very much looking forward to having BattleTags! That will make it so much easier to do events as a guild; we already use Real ID fairly often whenever the two branches get together. It's a lot less disruptive to immersion than using Vent.
Yotingo: As long as Blizzard continues to keep Alliance and Horde as separate factions with no communication abilities, we'll be here! We were excited to hear about the pandaren faction choosing and the mage glyph for speaking different languages ... until we found out they could still only understand each other within the same faction. We still might be seeing more mages when the expansion hits and that glyph is made available, though.
Besides that, our guild may have a rougher time from an IC sense. In Mists of Pandaria, the fighting between the Horde and the Alliance will worsen, leaving neutral organizations like AAMS as practically traitors. We already get some flak from diehard loyalists, so it'll be interesting to see what happens when that picks up.