From Camelot to Tamriel: The Gaiscioch Story
By: Benjamin "Foghladha" Foley | : 1339
Looking back on times past is always a fun endeavor. Recalling the memories of epic adventures and friendships made is the easy part. But with these recollections comes the memories of hardship, obstacles, and how we evolved to overcome them.
With every story there is a beginning, a great strife, and an ending. With a lifetime, it’s not about how it began, or how it ends, but the journey in between that shapes our legacy.
The Gaiscioch Family was born in Dark Age of Camelot on the Nimue server, with a simple notion of creating an friendly environment for all levels of roleplayers to enjoy while sharing the stories and legends of the Irish people.
But this story did not begin there. For us to know the tale of how the Gaiscioch began we have to travel back before the days of Camelot.
In the days prior to my journey into Camelot, I despised massively multiplayer video games. I was a site lead for a company called Harding Marketing who oversaw the production of Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Siebel, SONY, and EO Products websites. I was in charge of staffing my team with the top talent in the industry.
By the time that Ultima Online and Everquest made their appearance finding talent that wasn’t affected by these games was rather difficult. I had 6 web developers leave the company to play Everquest full time. They told me they were making over 6,000 dollars a month selling virtual items in these games. Playing games, earning more than you could in the silicon valley? This baffled me. I swore I would never touch one of them in fear that they would consume my life and I would lose all common sense.
My free time was devoted to building map campaigns for the Marathon Trilogy and later a 6 part story told in the PC action RPG Vampire The Masquerade: Redemption. My story was called Death in Prague and ran for a little over a year.
Over the course of that time, more than 600 people went through this 6 part adventure and I got my first taste of community. Death in Prague was featured and sponsored by the GameSpy network, which then gave me an exclusive opportunity to test upcoming games while in alpha or closed beta stages. My passion for storytelling was piqued and I fell in love with sharing my stories with others.
The Birth of the Family
An alpha invite arrived in my inbox from an upcoming game created by Mark Jacobs, Matt Firor, and Rob Denton called Dark Age of Camelot. With my Irish upbringing, I saw this as a chance to share the stories I grew up with, to an audience of a much grander scale. I spent nearly a year testing Dark Age of Camelot and losing myself in the wilderness and theme of this game.
When it launched, I decided to join a guild by the name of Silverfist Brigade, where I enjoyed my time of roleplaying and adventuring. But the idea of running a guild of my own with an overlaying story was calling. I broke off of Silverfist Brigade and rallied a few people in Tir na nOg to help me form the Gaiscioch na Anu, the first chapter of the family. Upon asking passer bys if they would help me form a guild, three Silverfist Brigade members volunteered and four local volunteers agreed to assist. In the end Bondon, Caelliu, Breel, and I were the only of the eight, that remained after it’s creation.
It did not take long to grow. We held public events for everyone and people began flocking to the family. Our original design was to create an immersive roleplaying environment that players of all ages and skill levels could enjoy. Within our first year we were 250 strong. We began leading larger events, including the once a month dragon hunt, where for the better part of 3 years we assaulted Cuuldurach the Glimmer King and finally defeated him after our second straight year of trying. We also hosted Siege Night, an all out Realm vs Realm (RvR) fest for all on Nimue who cared to enjoy.
The family grew, the events expanded, and for four years the Gaiscioch na Anu were a major part of the Nimue community.
With all legends there comes a time of strife. Real life struck in a big way and with it took down the Gaiscioch family hard. I suffered two layoffs on the same day, two consecutive years in a row. Being life in the Silicon Valley requires people to have more than 1 job, I was not eligible to receive unemployment as I also had two part time jobs. This led to a mountain of debt, marital problems, and the whole time I just wanted to provide for my little girl. I had to step away to try to prevent the collapse of my family.
To try to prevent the collapse of Gaiscioch I entrusted our family to a council which would vote on decisions in my absence. The council was made up of my Wife at the time, my best friend, and three other active members. A lovers quarrel within this council would result in the council deciding to go a different direction with Gaiscioch. At this point, it was incredibly uncomfortable for me to make an appearance at all and I decided real life needed me more than the game. It took all of 3 months for them to run Gaiscioch straight into the ground. Gaiscioch would go from 500+ members to under 50 members. Over the next two years in my absence it would dwindle to non-existent say for one. Aldenn held onto the guild awaiting my return for 5 additional years. When I came back to revisit the game, he kindly passed leadership back to me and said, “I couldn’t let the family end up in the wrong hands so I kept it in case you ever came back.” Even though I’ve never seen Aldenn again, he was a phenomenal person who I will always have fond memories of and that completely selfless act spoke volumes of his character.
The Dark Ages of Gaiscioch
The whole experience was a wakeup call to me on so many fronts. While the gory details I will not share in this story, I can tell you that in my life there has never been more strife than in the Dark Ages of Gaiscioch from 2004-2006. My entire life was flipped upside down and completely wiped to the point I had to start completely from scratch.
Foreclosure, divorce, nearly homeless, my daughter taken and moved a thousand miles away, my cat slaughtered by neighborhood dogs, on the verge of bankruptcy, these years had it all. I saw the darkness that life had to offer.
I lost everything. I lost my family, I lost my home, I lost Gaiscioch. As you could imagine I fell into a pretty deep depression and looked for a way to come back.
That’s when I found Juliana. I met her while going through my divorce as she too was going through a divorce. We both were transplanted to Eugene, Oregon by our ex’s and then left there alone and without a friend network. We found each other while trying to find anyone to share our burdens with. We never expected the result.
It didn’t take long but shortly after meeting Juliana we discovered that we amplify each other. She made me better, I made her better. Instead of life fighting against us, it began to fight for us. She encouraged me to chase my dreams, no matter where they take me and do what I do best.
Over those 2 years I would go from having nothing, to having a home, and having my ambition back. That didn’t solve all the problems, but it sure helped getting me focused on the comeback.
It was late in 2006 that Caelliu, Breel, Don, and my friend at the time, Juliana, pulled me out of the darkest depression and put me back on my horse and encouraged me to chase my passion. My world was reborn and I had to adapt to a new way of living. Caelliu introduced me to Warhammer Online and asked if I would like to join him in recreating the Gaiscioch in a new image. One that was welcoming to all types of players, and focused on making lasting memories and friendships but not at the cost of real life.
We knew where we went wrong the first time. The “Council” and the democratic way tore the guild apart with arguments and debates that turned into feuds. I would not let that happen again, so we took on the new approach. Gaiscioch would be a sole proprietorship and I would form a group of elders to help ease the burden. I would become the voice, the choice, and the only person who blame could be passed upon. This prevented people from drawing lines in the sand which turn to fractures, and turn to divides.
By being the sole source of blame we have existed for over a decade without collapse. While democracy can work in real life, it can also divide your community, and people of late get quite offended quickly, which turns those divides into feuds and wars. This is the one thing we would not stand for. We created the rule “Blades out, Not in” to prevent any sort of infighting. We requested that controversial topics stay in the real world and not bleed over into our family so that we could prevent heated arguments. Our goal was to create a family friendly environment for all to enjoy regardless of their playtime or availability.
Something Remarkable Happened
We began with 5 people, a simple concept, and created the “Family”. We re-deployed our website which had been mostly rebuilt from scratch. Still today, you will find the doors at the bottom of the site which were part of the original design as well as the wood texture you find throughout. Remnants of an empire passed.
Over the first few months we began leading events with just me and Caelliu at the helm grabbing every random person that wanted to play and putting them into 2 warbands. Within a month we were 250 strong, within 3 months we had to create a second guild to house everyone. Our events grew in scale, our fun times amplified, and we began to gain server wide attention on the battlefield.
The Re-Birth of Public Community Events
We launched the Open PuG Nights as a fun and friendly event for both sides of Phoenix Throne to enjoy. We had a schedule of battles and both sides came to the fight. The events would top 600 people in attendance at times. But alas population in Warhammer Online began to decline and server closures began to happen regularly. Phoenix Throne stood as the last Roleplay server and would do so for about 6 months.
Unfortunately by the end November 2009, Phoenix Throne would be on the list of closures. The Gaiscioch Family moved to Badlands where Order stood the underdog and was commonly outmatched. During our very first event we pushed all the way to their city and gave destruction a real run for their money.
We rebranded Open PuG Nights as Battle for Badlands and started our very first major public community event series with a set schedule, set leaders, and a start and end date. It even had a website devoted to the contest. This brought the attention of players, journalists, and even developers. For the first time we began working on our public image and began networking with developers and journalists.
The Decline of Warhammer Online
Our numbers grew and by the time that Mythic Entertainment would start the decline we maxed our 3 guilds and were sitting at 90% full on the 4th. Unfortunately, a series of patches would hit sending activity into the ground. Players were leaving in droves and we saw a sharp decline. We put together teams to scout out new titles for potential homes.
I spearheaded the team looking at RIFT and Roger “Oldroar” Rall looked into Guild Wars 2. Both had promise of siege warfare and epic adventures. Both were scheduled to release in the next year. Trion Worlds contacted us and flew me out to their studio for a week to get a first hand look at RIFT. Immediately following they brought a significant number of our members into their alpha program. Unfortunately Guild Wars 2 would be pushed back, but Oldroar continued to follow the progress for us over the next couple years.
In August of 2010 our Warhammer chapter celebrated 1,106 victories during 79 events. By the time 1.3.6 launched in December of 2010 activity had dropped to 85 victories in 20 events. There was no way of hiding the truth that we needed a new home quickly or we would suffer another collapse.
A Refuge Established in RIFT
While our testing days ended in RIFT and the live game was launched several key factors were taken out of the game. All of the siege mechanic was taken from the game and promised in a future patch to be reintroduced. We launched into RIFT full steam anyways and tried to create our own siege battles.
We created the Telara Saga, a 22 week trek across Telara with 1 goal. The Siege of Meridian. The first few weeks were filled with massive consensual PvP warfare in various zones. Hundreds joined us for this epic mix of PvE and PvP.
It all lead to a climax at the gates of Meridian where over 800 people were in attendance for one final battle. As the Guardian forces rushed the gates the entire battle group totaling 8 servers went offline. When we managed to log back into game we stood in Meridian without groups formed and hundreds of angry Defiant players and NPCs surrounding us on all fronts.
We recollected and made another push killing several key NPC’s standing outside the gates of Meridian. The battle raged for more than 2 hours until it’s climax where a plot was revealed in story, to pit the Guardians and Defiants against each other to make them weak to an attack from Dragon Cults.
Season 2 launches as a cooperative adventure for both Guardians and Defiants to enjoy. The event series was praised by fans and the media and even earned the attention of Trions developers who Tweeted and Facebooked about the adventure.
The Birth of our PvE Family
Our numbers boomed in RIFT and with it came a new side of the family who enjoyed other styles of play from our traditional siege warfare focus. We experienced raiding for the first time since Camelot and spent time crafting, socializing, and running dungeons together. We went from 750 members at launch, to well over 2,500 in just over a year. This growth brought the necessity for structure and revealed the need for managed growth and absolute control over our reputation.
We expanded our eldership, refined our systems, and mastered our processes. In just a few short months we quadrupled in size. Feats, others deemed impossible, we made possible. We showed our server Faeblight that you don’t have to be hard core to overcome epic encounters. We became the server first to clear several of the major raids. We sieged Meridian and killed all of the Defiant Leaders which others said was impossible. We became a beacon for the possible impossible.
In addition, the Gaiscioch coined the term “Crifting” organizing large scale server wide crafting rift events several times a week. These events were friendly and casual and brought our server together.
While the PvE side of the family boomed, the RvR hungry grew discouraged as no sign of the siege warfare between the Guardians and Defiants was to be seen. We now found ourselves with two halves of a family and no common ground to stand on.
Tragedy Strikes Close To Home
We were on top of the world in 2011, seeing numbers higher than they’ve ever been, getting involved with development communities on a much more intimate basis. But our Siege War community was still without home. Roger “Oldroar” Rall continued reporting to the elder council about the progress of Guild Wars 2 and encouraged me to approach ArenaNet about lending a hand in their testing title.
I made arrangements to meet them at PAX Prime in August of 2011. At PAX, I met with Martin Kerstein and discussed what Gaiscioch had to offer. It was a good meeting and Martin said he would be in touch shortly. I excitingly shared the news with Oldroar and the Gaiscioch, about what I saw at the conference.
All seemed hopeful, and the Siege Warfare side of the family looked to finally have a home approaching. But on September 27th, 2011 tragedy struck in a big way. Oldroar was nowhere to be seen for days on end. After a week of him being missing we decided to give him a call. Much to our surprise his daughter answered the phone and shared with us the news of his passing.
This news hit our community hard, very hard. Many of us felt a profound sense of loss. Roger had been an inspiration to the family for years. He was a solid voice of reason that kept us on track and focused. His humor and kindness radiated to all of us. Just by being in the room he could change bad days, to good ones, take stress, and turn it into laughter. I have tried for years to describe the way Roger made us feel but there no words that can describe it. He was one of those people that brightened people’s lives just by being there.
A few days after his passing ArenaNet would contact me about bringing Gaiscioch into their Alpha Team. Roger passed before he could ever lay hands on the game he praised and loved for the last few years of his life. His quest to play Guild Wars 2 began before we ever left Warhammer Online and was finally coming to fruition.
We continued our course in RIFT while placing over 500 displaced members into the Alpha Test for Guild Wars 2. Our numbers flourished and continued to grow. In July of 2012 we began a letter writing campaign to try to get an in game memorial for Roger “Oldroar” Rall.
The Fall of RIFT
By the time fall season arrived, tides started to shift. We had seen it once before. In Warhammer Online the developers made the same mistake as the developers of Star Wars Galaxies with the NGE update. Wide sweeping changes that require players to throw away years worth of experience to relearn the game.
In August of 2012 the Gaiscioch Family celebrated 5,895 victories during 850 events, a record among our family history. This would all change drastically with the release of RIFT 1.11 on October 17th, 2012. The patch required every player to completely relearn their class. Activity dropped in October to 3,583 victories during 654 events, a 40% decline in 2 months.
Then in November they released the Storm Legion expansion, which again caused players to relearn their class, removed PvP conquest from anyone who was not rank 60 and placed an obscene experience grind between players and the way they liked to play.
By December of 2012, the Gaiscioch Family was down to 873 victories in 146 events, a 86% decline in 4 months. Shortly after the release of Storm Legion, Scott Hartsman would depart and most of the RIFT staff would be laid off.
The Rise of Rall
Just weeks before the launch of Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet notified me that they were going to pay tribute to Roger’s memory in the form of a server called “Sanctum of Rall”. The word of this spread through the media and gaming communities. Players from far and wide flocked to the community to be a part of it’s legacy.
It was here that we realized that it’s not the start, or end of a persons life that determines their legacy, it’s what they do with the time in between.
By the time Gaiscioch launched into Guild Wars 2 we had more than 2,000 unique players slamming into the 5 Guilds we created within. The launch was probably one of the most chaotic we had ever seen. Our elders spent days just sending invites to players. On top of that, several bugs made themselves painfully known making several of our rooms completely useless.
The siege war drew hundreds of our members back to the fold, however queues and the lack of an alliance system sent many of them searching once again. We maintained a foot in both RIFT and Guild Wars 2 through March of 2013 where we finally decided to pull the plug on RIFT and focus our attention solely on Guild Wars 2.
Life in Guild Wars 2 was ideal for the siege warfare lover and the casual gamer. Crafting was also wildly popular and players found much enjoyment in hunting the epic creatures throughout the land.
The Creation of the Great Tyrian Adventure
On of our greatest challenges was creating a public community event in Guild Wars 2. We originally wanted to host it in the World vs World area but queue’s and player necessity was not in line with flooding the World vs World lakes with hundreds of people. We decided to create a public community event focused on traveling through all of the zones in Tyria. We gave it a dry run in the first few months to identify any pitfalls we might find along the way and began building a plan for the first season of the Great Tyrian Adventure.
The first season of the Great Tyrian Adventure took participants across all of the zones in the game getting the waypoints, point of interests and skill points found across the land. In the 26-week adventure, 500 people joined us of which 203 won prizes.
The second season we shortened to 14-weeks and had 312 people join us. We changed the format to focus on the guild missions system by creating SOR Community Events [SORC], a temporary guild for use for the events to allow everyone on the server to get credit for this event. In this 14 week trial run we noticed something remarkable. Where Season 1 followed the same fate of Telara Saga by having consistently smaller numbers each week, the Season 2 of Great Tyrian Adventure, increased in numbers every week. In the start we had between 60 and 70 people, by the last event over 100 people were joining us every week.
This laid the foundation for our most ambitious Public Community Event to date. The third season dubbed “Legendary Edition” was drafted as a 12 week, 4 events per week, event that had a massive raffle pot at the end of each chapter and at the end of the event.
The Gaiscioch Family pulled together and put all of our efforts to work in gathering materials, running dungeons, and creating 7 Legendary Weapons including the mother of all legendaries herself Eternity. In addition we made 14 Mystic Forged Weapons, and countless exotic items. We decided to go all out for this event and raised/created over 30,000 gold in prizes.
Season three took off like a wild fire. Numbers consistently topped 300 weekly. We split the event up into 4 different runs per week at various timeframes to allow everyone to participate. In all 793 people attended this 12 week series making it the most successful event to date.
Finding a Home For Displaced Gaiscioch
Guild Wars 2 has been a wonderful home for some, but for the majority of the family who enjoyed Raiding and large scale Siege Warfare, Guild Wars 2 didn’t meet it’s mark. With the limitations put in Guild Wars 2, for how many people can be in WvW at the same time; the lack of raiding; and the general lack of challenge, a new home for the majority was clearly voiced.
The eldership team put together a list of over 200 things that help make running Gaiscioch a lot easier and keeps it healthy. This allowed us to create a scoring system to measure potential games against one another. Items were broken into 5 categories Critical, Important, Needed, Useful, and Added Bonus with each one awarding a different point value.
We started comparing titles and looked at several. The most standout among them were Archeage and Elder Scrolls Online. However early in the game Archeage would publish information about it’s guild system limiting it to 250 characters per guild. This killed any hope of us going into Archeage. Other contenders included Camelot Unchained, Pathfinder Online, Everquest Next, Lineage Eternal, Final Fantasy XIV, Bless, Gloria Vicits and Neverwinter.
None stood as tall and proud as Elder Scrolls Online. Our pre-existing relationship with many of their developers aided in learning and getting involved in the game quickly. In it’s first run through our scoring system 6 months before launch it scored a 86%, the highest on any branch we’ve ever had. It dwarfed all of the primary contenders. It was decided that this was the direction we would go with our 5th chapter in hopes we could reunite the Raiders and large scale siege warfare players under 1 roof.
A Home Established in Tamriel
Our life in Elder Scrolls Online started with a bang and off to the races we went. Players from our past games flooded to the scene to get a taste of our newest chapter.
By the end of the second month, we had experienced the traditional surge and fall as we have with all the games prior. We began with 5 guilds to support the load from the initial rush and have been able to reduce them to 4 now that the surge is complete.
We are now in a stable place where we have begun exploring our place in this world and have made some new friends within the community. In the days to come, are future will be ones of growth and adventure.
Every successful business, community, or family has a plan for the future. I was always taught that you should build a plan for the future based off of where you want to be a month, a year, 5 years and 10 years from now. While you may or may not achieve these goals, it is important to have them to keep your focus on track and moving forward.
Over the next few months, Gaiscioch will be growing within both Guild Wars 2 and Elder Scrolls Online further establishing their presence. We will find our role in the Elder Scrolls Community and begin hosting our newest public community event series. In Guild Wars 2, we will continue to be a leader and role model for those within the Sanctum of Rall community.
A year from now, our methods and reputation should be solidified within the Elder Scrolls community. As always we will have one eye on the horizon while continuing to be involved with the development process of the games we play. It is my hope, that we can help guide ZeniMax Online and ArenaNet into bringing some of the features, that have been crippling our community from thriving, into their games so that we can unlock their full potential.
Our 5 year plan is to continue our course of bringing fun, friendly, and memorable gameplay to various fantasy based games. It would be great if one of the 2 games we’re playing today were in this future, but the face of the MMORPG world has changed to the point that most games have a lifespan of 2-4 years. We likely will be onto our 7th chapter. Additionally, I am working on a few proposals for panels and would like to start getting our name out there at conferences as a panelist.
I have many dreams and visions of where I’d like Gaiscioch to go in 10 years. Some crazy ideas include creating a chain of restaurants and pubs to actually building an MMORPG. There is so much potential in the future we can envision, that almost anything we dream up seems possible. We have been blessed over the past decade with some amazingly talented people joining the community and I look forward to a future where we can share our success together. It would be great if in 10 years, we could actually hold a Conference hosted by Gaiscioch, focused on Gaming Communities. Possibilities are endless.
Regardless of where we end up, I look forward to the journey, of future memories, and epic conquests at every turn.
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About the Author
Benjamin "Foghladha" Foley
Benjamin founded the Gaiscioch Social Gaming Community in 2001 and has since been the founder & activities director for this well known community. His role has gone beyond just running the Gaming Community and now includes running the Athletics Program in Portland, Oregon, as well as acting as the Managing Editor of the Gaiscioch Magazine, and is the Lead Producer on the Gaiscioch Livestream Productions. Additionally he networks with game developers to form relationships between Gaiscioch and development studios.
His experience in publishing dates back to helping his Grandparents who operated a printing press for over 40 years. In high school and college Benjamin excelled in journalism and played an active part in the school newspaper. Benjamin currently works full time as the director of technology for a franchise trade publication & education company.