Hollow Earth

The Guilds Part 2: The Guild of Maintainers

It’s been quite a while since my first entries on the then-newly-formed Uru Guilds. Sadly, time has not been kind to most. The Maintainers are the newest casualty, but by no means the most affected by Uru’s lack of development/Cyan’s lack of communication.

As was recently reported, the Maintainers had a poll of who in their forum considered themselves an “active” Maintainer. the result was 2. While the objectivity/validity of this poll could be questioned, the core implication seems pretty obvious: the Maintainers are (for all practical purposes) dead. This doesn’t mean they’re gone (“It’s just sleeping!”). It does mean now is a great time to reorganize.

An unlikely, and largely unknown, leader rose from the Maintainers in MarcusWheeler. There are plenty of bad Maintainers, Marcus is not one of them. In all of my discussions, Marcus has shown he is willing to work with the Writers and others in a closer partnership but, like many, do not like the animosity Writers have towards Maintainers.

So why should we solve that animosity?

First consider what happens if we don’t. If both sides say “we don’t need them.” The Maintainers will be left only pre-testing the Ages “independent” writers give them (or others who don’t follow this hypothetical GoW). Ages would be released with bugs still in them because we wouldn’t have that crucial “Phase 5” of “Limited Access” or beta testers. The Writers would be left to do their own testing. This isn’t a major problem since the Writers have been doing that for a while with few side effects. But the issue is that it limits the testing pool to Writers (or, in some cases, just the writer him/herself) and thus increases the chances that a bug will be missed or deemed “acceptable.”

Next, consider what we have now: Nearly 100 Ages which have yet to be reviewed/inspected and Writers feeling increasingly distant from a Guild they already have major organizational differences with. Somehow (and I’m not sure how) the Maintainers felt that there was nothing to do, thus they went and tried to recruit more Uru players. As a consequence, they naturally began talking about these other games (just as I have talked about EVE and will be talking about Half Life 2, etc.). This contributes to the distance I and other writers have felt towards the GoMa. It has felt like the GoMa was the “Guild of Maintaining Second Life” when, in reality, they have simply been promoting Uru as a nice place to be. Because of this, Maintainers have felt more connected to the other game communities they are a part of and thus neglect their duties in the GoMa.

Finally, consider how the community would benefit from a closer relationship between the Writers and the Maintainers. First, Age-quality would increase because Writers would have a more individual level of testing attention. Second, the Guilds would fell more comfortable with each other and feel more free to discuss and resolve their differences because it would no longer be criticisms “The Writers” have against “The Maintainers.” One group would no longer be seen by the other as a monolithic structure, which is too often the case in Uru. Finally, the community outside the Writers and the Maintainers would benefit from potential joint ventures by the Guilds. Imagine the All-Guilds meeting dominated by a joint GoW/GoMa presentation on the newest addition to the Uru Age toolset, HDR lighting, a feature which has required both Guild’s help (Writers/”Book/Ink Makers” writing code and performing initial tests, Maintainers doing large-scale testing).

So how do we solve that animosity?

The simplest way would be to implement a “voluntary Writer-Maintainer buddy system.” Emphasis on all those words. A program Writers and Maintainers could agree to participate in if they choose to (those Maintainers who didn’t could review the Ages of those Writers who didn’t). One Maintainer would get grouped with roughly 4-5 Writers (the number subject to change in either direction if the Maintainer gets overwhelmed or bored) and those would be “his/her” Writers. That Maintainer does all the testing and communication with the Writers and becomes the Writers’ buddy, someone who knows what they like, how they prefer to do things, what their skill level is, etc. An important point is that this relationship is two-way: The Writers can provide feedback to the Maintainer and the Maintainer to the Writers. In this way, the relationship becomes a problem-solving device. If the GoMa makes a rule that rubs a Writer the wrong way, they can voice that issue to a friend, their Maintainer. In short, you would see higher-quality, fairer rules under this system. Gone would be the days where the Writers sulk or ignore the Maintainers because of a rule change (I haven’t seen this, but I have seen a change in the tone of discussions after controversial statements or rules). Gone would be the days of the Maintainers telling the Writers they’ll do what they want without input (I’ve not seen this, but a watered-down version of it).

I discussed this with Marcus and Andy (who has now returned as a Maintainer) and one issue brought up was that the Maintainers supposedly tried this idea out before. If they did, I never saw it. This either means it never happened or it wasn’t publicized enough (if it happened before the Messenger’s formed). Either way, it merits trying. The route the Maintainers are on leads to nothing. Even if there were many who considered themselves “inactive” Maintainers, the fact that two (including Marcus, the poll-starter) consider themselves “active” is the surest sign the present system has failed. On the other hand, Andy remarked that he felt that he would upset this delicate peace between the Guilds if he posted his tutorials at the GoW. This I take as a sign the Writer’s system has similarly failed (though not with the same effect). The Writers are for another post, though.

If there is a simple lesson here, it is that you rarely reap benefits alone. Whether it is a lone person or a lone Guild, you are generally making yourself more trouble (there are notable exceptions like Tweek who produce fantastic areas almost exclusively on their own). The Maintainers have imploded, now is an excellent time to rebuild. The only way to rebuild that would improve the situation is for the GoW and GoMa to work closer with one another. It is a chance to revitalize the Guilds in a way we have yet to see. It will require pride-swallowing and potentially rule-changing. It will require both sides to ignore or resolve their differences. It will be hard work. The rewards are worth it.


Retraction: The article previously stated that there were nearly 100 un-inspected Ages. That assertion was false.

Filed under: The Guilds, , , , ,

4 Responses

  1. Leonardo says:

    Really nice review Whil! And it also seems like a very good plan to me

  2. GPNMilano says:

    Excellent post Whil. As we move into the new year I think we all need to take a hard look at what’s going wrong, not only with the lack of communication/development with Cyan, but our own guild problems, which are many. And your ideas for improving relations between the Maintainers and Writers are spot on.

  3. Dot says:

    Buddy plan is a good one. It did happen informally at the start, as you yourself must remember, Whilyam (you had your own private GoMa subforum for your WIP ages back in 2008).

    The animosity between writers and maintainers is not universal, just between individuals (as would happen in any group). The roots of it are not just a matter of historical IC “rules” (which were in fact put aside in June/July 2009: the key “rule” on the forum now is to be civil).

    Rather, the attitudes and behavioural tendencies of individuals play a strong part. That works both ways.

    Whatever happens, it needs to be enjoyable for the individuals concerned. This is our leisure time; if it isn’t fun, we won’t spend time doing it.

  4. B'ni Rabbit says:

    Good posting and I agree with almost all of it. I would agree entirely a while ago, but now it seems the biggest problem with the Guilds is getting active participation from a largely apathetic player community. Those who come into the Cavern these days don’t seem to want to be part of the Age creation process. That will change when Cyan begins to move forward with the game, but until then I am not sure what can be done to get things moving and create a momentum.

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