Join or Die

Join or Die
Utopian Sedition

Joe Blancato | 13 Sep 2005 08:02
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For a while there, I was part of an elite search and destroy team. We wore all black, flew without a flag. It was our job to find small villages of people, potential threats to our empire, and snuff them out before they had a chance to develop into a real problem.

We were a grim manifestation of the dark, imperialistic side of a socialist society, our existence was tolerated because we helped keep a status quo only a handful of people actually appreciated. Rumors flew about us. We were the secret police. Some sort of rogue Gestapo of bored killers, waylaying people too weak to defend themselves. We were a guild's hit squad.

Shadowbane's early days were one of the grandest social experiments ever applied on a massive scale. Guilds had to form gargantuan nations in order to survive, relying on members and vassal guilds to generate income, which was used to fund the day to day upkeep of cities, which became home to hundreds of people. I was in a very large guild, one of the holdovers from beta who perfected city building two months before the game went live, who had a head start coming out of the gate, who were bent on keeping everyone else from being as rich and safe as they were.

We were proof that socialism works. We'd provide a place to hunt and level and get you all the gear you needed. All you had to do was surrender the majority of the income you made while fighting in guild territory. It was a perfect set up. The city grew rich nearly instantaneously, and its inhabitants were well provided for. Our empire was growing, our ranks salty and well-fed. While other guilds were struggling to build walls around their city to protect it from harm, we were marching 20-deep into their land, obliterating anything in our way, like a plague of flesh-eating locusts. And that's when things fell apart.

The upper brass decided it was time to exploit the fact our enemies were licking their wounds, and began swallowing up the larger guilds as vassals, and leaving the remainder to flounder while our great society shone brightly on their world maps. And it made sense; even with our experience and efficiency, it took almost two months for our city to be finely tuned into perfection. Losing a city in Shadowbane was the equivalent of permanent death for a guild leader. Even if you could rebuild, most of your vassal guilds were loyal to your city, not to you; they'd go on to bigger, better, still standing cities, and you'd be at the bottom rung of a ladder that's very hard to climb. Leaving your city, your status symbol, your mark on the world, to something as random as a battle was just crazy.

And so began a long time of peace across a game world whose premise was built upon total destruction. A few upstarts sprouted up, and my group was sent in to harass and demoralize them until they succumbed to the larger guild's standard. It was peace, utopia ... boredom. Guilds began dropping like flies. Players quit the game in droves, because there was nothing to do other than make new cities rich and spread like wildfire across the globe in a wave of Pax Shadowbana.

On one hand, we were witnessing some sort of online gaming world peace, where no one was without hunting grounds and opportunity abounded. On the other, we realized that world peace is really boring.

We somehow made the game more perfect than the real world, but we also managed to scare away anyone who dared oppose such a notion with the threat of a strike force capable of hammering opposing guilds cities 24/7 until they lost the will to exist. Our efficiency was our downfall; we were a perpetual motion machine that spun so fast it broke its axle.

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