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The Guild Counsel: What I learned at the SOE Live player panels

Karen Bryan

It was easy to overlook, but hidden among the mountains of new announcements and game panels at this year's SOE Live were several panels that were organized and run by the players themselves. Players were asked to submit ideas for panels across a wide spectrum of game topics. They came up with some terrific ideas, and Linda "The Brasse" Carlson, SOE's Global Director of Community Relations, used every tool at her disposal to fit in as many as possible in the lineup.

Thanks to my time-turner necklace, I was able to catch several of these player panels in addition to the regular game panels, and I've summed them up below. There were some great moments from each of these panels, and if you missed them, you'll want to check out the highlights below!

Making data sexah

If you're an EverQuest II fan, chances are you've visited EQ2U, an impressive database of basically everything you'd want to know about your character and items in the game. We've reported on how the site came to fruition, but at the player panel, Morgan Feldon and Dethdlr went into detail about the effort it took to build such a thorough site. This project required a collaborative effort between EQ2Wire and the EQII development team, and both groups did an amazing job not only in setting up an accurate and up-to-date data feed but presenting the information in a way that's easy to access on the site. They exchanged over 1,000 emails and countless chat sessions to get it right, but ironically, the convention was the first time that Feldon and Dethdlr met face to face. The big takeaway? This was a unique partnership between players and developers that not only led to the creation of EQ2U but opened the door for something similar across all SOE titles. I'd guess it also factored into SOE's decision to officially support Wikia, too.

Military gamers

There are a surprising number of military servicemen and women who play MMOs, and they're often some of the best guildmates and finest people you'll ever meet. Brandon Sivret and Matthew Sienkiewicz have worked on creating a central hub to allow military gamers to find each other and game together. Their site is, and at the panel, they gave an interesting talk about how military servicemen and women use their tactical knowledge to coordinate (and often dominate) in MMOs and games in general. But for me, the second part of their talk was probably more important than the first part; they explained what they do beyond the game. Their site has become a hub for military gamers to seek help with a variety of issues that active and retired servicemen and women deal with every day. They offer advice on seeking out medical assistance and help sort through the volumes of forms to fill out. They share experiences and help each other cope with the physical pain and chronic stress from combat. They want to expand and branch out even more so that they can provide gaming equipment to injured servicemen, some of whom have to spend a long time in hospitals and physical therapy. In short, their original idea of gaming with buddies over a few beers has turned into a large-scale effort to use gaming as a way of helping military members deal with all of the challenges they face. It's a noble effort, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they're able to do.

Guild panel

I've organized unofficial panels of guild leaders at Fan Faire in the past, but this year it was great to see one listed as part of the official convention. It was headed by Matthew Bannerman of EverQuest and Rob Miles of DC Universe Online, and both went through tips on things like how to keep track of player needs, how to manage your roster, and how to maintain a happy and busy guild atmosphere. While the two are in very different games, their talk emphasized the fact that guild leadership shares many common approaches no matter what the game.

For me, the big takeaway wasn't so much the advice they offered but the interaction between the audience and the panel. This panel could have easily continued right through the morning, and probably through the afternoon as well because there were so many questions the audience had and so many topics to address. It's rare to have a face to face meeting of guild leaders, and that's unfortunate because running a guild is one of the most challenging things to do in an MMO, and yet there are very few resources to consult for help.

The Guild Counsel  What I learned at the SOE Player Panels
EverQuest Players

The EQ player panel was hosted by a group of longtime EQ vets and moderated by Eric "Piestro" Cleaver from the Community Management team. It was a more laid-back discussion on topics like favorite raid content and memorable moments. But what I enjoyed most the fact that this was one of the panels with the largest turnout, which is surprising to see for a game that's over a decade old. These players could write volumes on the history of the game, and even after all these years, they're still as enthusiastic about EQ as they were when it launched. I'm used to seeing arguments over why a particular MMO is lousy or why a certain MMO failed to meet expectations, so it's nice to sit with a large group of players who are content with their game.

This was the first time that player panels were added to the lineup, and while they were an overall success, there were some rough spots here and there. Going forward, I think the panels would benefit from a clearer and perhaps more specific topic of discussion. There were times when the panels got off track, and I think that was caused by trying to cover too much in just one hour. There also should be more time set aside for Q&A, so perhaps have 40 minutes of discussion and 20 minutes of Q&A. Often, the back and forth discussion with the audience was as valuable as the presentation itself, and it's rare to see players talk face to face about larger gaming issues. But in general, these panels were terrific, and it's nice to see SOE put the players in the spotlight for a change. I believe this will be a regular part of the lineup going forward, so if you're planning to go next year, start working on your PowerPoint!

Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.

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