Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Kungen and I - living in different worlds

Finally I’ve seen Kungen, the guild leader and main tank of the world famous raiding guild Nihilum. Not in real life, I’m afraid, even though we live in the same country. Nor in the game – he plays horde on another server and even if I was a bloodelf mage at his realm, the likeliness that we’d ever meet is infinitely small.

But I’ve seen him - in an interview in the latest issue of a Swedish Magazine called “World of Warcraft”.

Knowing that most of you don’t understand Swedish and probably never will get hold of this magazine, I thought I’d give you a few snapshots from it, together with my reflections.

Clean, fit and well cut young men
What first caught my attention in the article was the picture of Kungen and another veteran Swedish player in Nihilum, a druid named Marilyn. These two young men - staring into the camera, with a dark, riven sky in the background and some glimpses from the Stockholm archipelago in the background – are about as far as you can come from the stereotype of a gamer.

They look clean, fit, well cut and extremely well shaved (have they any facial hair growth at all?). They’re dressed in black and not knowing anything about fashion I think they’re at least not totally out of date in their clothing.

From the look in their eyes you can tell they’re serious and pretty focused. There isn’t the remotest sign of a smile, as a matter of fact it’s hard to believe that they ever laugh, judging from the pictures. They could easily pass for pop stars, singing sad lyrics and putting the hearts of teenage girls on fire.

So this is how they look, Kungen and Marilyn, or Thomas and Gustav as they’re called in real life. But what about the rest, what is behind the looks?

The article gives glimpses from their lives. What strikes me most is their uncompromising hunger for wins. They’re competitive in every fibre of their bodies. Now discussing the expansion they’re like horses waiting restlessly for the start to go. They’re full of confidence, claiming they’ve never been so prepared, convinced that they’ll win the race against the few other raiding guilds in the world that can compete with them.
They’re very cocky and I fall for it, even though I know it’s probably a part of a very conscious, smart myth building around them. They want to stay the icons they are to the WoW community as much as we want them to remain The Stars.

Same but different
What is it that makes us so spellbound? How come that there are thousands and thousands of players are looking at what they do, standing in queue at conventions for autographs, following their raids online whenever they come up? I think it’s got to do with the fact that we somehow can identify with them. And yet not.

It’s a mixed feeling; we’re playing the same game in one sense, while living in totally different universes in another.We’re obviously doing the same instances when you think about it. There was a first time to take down the Prince for Nihilum too. They too have been messing around with the things that are supposed to be passed from player to player at Lady Vashj. The difference is in the timeline. I killed Illidan for the first time the other day – they did it on the 5th of June last year. And in the meanwhile the instances have been nerfed heavily, not only in the last patch, but many times before.

Of course we’ve got completely different conditions while doing those instances. When Nihilum entered BT it was an empty sheet. They stepped out into the unknown and they figured out the fights and the strategies. When I enter the same instances I get it all served in dozens of strategy guides and how-to-kill-movies. I can read it, learn it and copy it the best I can and that’s how raiding looks to 99 percent of the raiders. Boring, if you would ask Kungen. What he really enjoys in the game is the analysis, solving the riddle that every new boss presents.

Theoretically it would be possible for a guild to agree about not reading forums, websites or watching movies before a new boss fight in order to recreate the Nihilum sort of challenge, to figure it out on their own. But in practice I think it would pretty hard to stick to it.

Little time played
Something that surprised me in the interview was the low amount of playing time. Thomas says that he currently doesn’t spend more than four hours a week in the game, clearing Sunwell once a week in a couple of hours, and then logging in just for a few minutes per night the rest of the week. I understand that this interview was made a while ago, during low season, waiting for the expansion. Probably their activity has already increased, as the release is coming closer. But still. How do they get their necessary supply of consumables and gold for one thing? I’m wondering.

Maybe they have some fans helping them out? In the interview they talk about how they fought to get the world first kill at AQ40 and how the whole server helped them to farm to make it possible. And that was way back, before they reached the height of their fame where they are now.

I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case, that there are fans or even groupies helping them out. Things seem to be insane at the Magtheridon server. Every time Kungen logs in he has some 40 people following him around, according to the interview. It must look pretty weird when he does his errands. I picture it like that scene in the Monty Python movie Life of Brian, with the growing number of followers joining him on his wanderings.

The Nihilum effect
I come to think of something I saw, not in the magazine, but on the Blizzard Forums. It seems as if the Nihilum effect has turned Magtheridon into a very special server. The ratio Horde-Alliance was about 90/10 if I remember it right. On a PvP server. I can only imagine what a nightmare it must be to be alliance under those circumstances. I’m not surprised that most of the Alliance guilds have left the server. A few remaining players are making posts with desperate cries for help, urging Blizzard to do something about it. But so far they seem clueless how to handle it.

I must say I can’t quite get it. What are all those players rolling new chars at that server thinking? Do they seriously believe that Nihilum will advertise for new guild members in the guild recruitment channel and that their chances to get in will be higher if they’re already at the server? Do they expect to end up pugging with Nihilum, showing up their skills in order to end up as members? Wake up!

Not that I don’t admire them myself. I really do, as much as anyone else. Reading this interview was inspiring. I love the attitude, the winner instinct they show.
Would I want to be a part of their team? It’s hard to say. The question is so out of the blue. You could as well ask me if I'd like to be a part of the Olympic athletic running team of Jamaica. I don’t have the talent, I don’t have the skill, the life situation or the requirements it would take.

The proud father
Playing four hours a week doesn’t sound very demanding, but soon they’ll start another rush, first to 80 and then to conquer the raid instances before anyone else does it. The article tells the story about how Thomas prepared for the release of TBC, stacking up with crisps, soft drinks and fast food to last several days. He became first horde player in the world to reach 70. (Now the competition is harder, so he doesn’t seem all convinced that he’ll be world first.)

Gustav tells about how he’s been warning his girl friend and other relatives that he’s soon about to start another period of progression, with all that comes with it.

Nowadays though, his family seems to be much more understanding than it used to be when he was living at home and found it hard to explain what he was doing and what it meant. There's a touching story about Gustav and his father. Gustav was live commenting a raid of Nihilum at Blizzcon, standing on a stage in front of an audience of 7 000 people. His father watched it online and cried out of pride of his son. He had finally come to realize that he's outstanding in what he’s doing.

Rumours and speculations
What about the rumours then? There have been all sorts of speculations flying around about the guild, suggesting everything from bribes to connection to Nazis. Of course nothing about this is mentioned in the interview, but shouldn’t I be more careful before I start to write admiring rants about those players? Maybe they’re hiding some dark secrets?

Well, to be honest, your innkeeper Larísa is a somewhat naïve lady who insists of assuming that people are good natured until there’s very convincing evidence of the opposite. There’s a saying that “There’s no smoke without fire”, meaning that rumours don’t come out of nothing. I really hate that expression since it’s a lie. There’s a lot of smoke without fire going around in the world, smoke that comes out of people being envious, greedy or plain stupid.

As far as I can tell, Kungen (meaning “The King” in Swedish) and his knights are inspiring examples with an outstanding fighting spirit. We’re living in different worlds, but I too can strive for my own goals, even though it’s in a smaller scale.
Part two upcoming
This is what I wanted to share with you from the interview with Nihilum. I loved the reading. Normally the magazine that published it is rubbish, containing nothing but screenshots, nonsense articles and stupidities like poorly written instance guides which you can find better for free on Bosskillers. I think it's amazing they find anyone willing to pay for it.
But this interview was interesting to this curious gnome and you can bet I’ll try to get my hands on the next issue as well so I can read the next half of the interview, when Kungen and Marilyn will share their reflections on the TBC raiding and the upcoming expansion.


Zakesh said...

There is alot of ways for high end guilds to make money for the guildbank and have the guildbank pay for repairs, consumables and respecs. Selling leftover recipes, items and taking in pugs that paying for drops is some ways a guild can make money.

AQ40 opening was diffrent in that the whole server needed the zone opened but only 1 player needed to do the opening so most servers pushed 1 or a couple of people through the questchain.

Dragon's Den said...

That's a really interesting piece Larisa and thanks for sharing it.

I don't know about all the rumour that swirls around these guys and like you, I'll just let it go until anything concrete comes out.

What is interesting is their focus that you mention.

I guess they're no different than, say, talented and dedicated people in the world of sport, business etc.

There's thouands of sports people - but only the talented few get to stand on top of the podium.

As I've always maintained, Wow mirrors RL

Jarla said...

Thanks a lot for sharing this, Larisa! Very interesting read.

I got a clear picture of your impression and of what the interview covers. I hope you will keep us updated about part II?

I've seen Kungen and two of his guildmates (I guess one of them was Marilyn) in television once and was quite impressed too.

I love the way they present themselves to the gaming and also non-gaming world out there. There are so many stereotypes and clichés in use when media talk about MMORPGs and gamers in general, it is really refreshing to actually compare the Nihilum leaders to these.

Also, I was quite touched by the part about Gustav and his father. It must be very hard to be dedicated to and love something so much (and actually be really really good at it)while those surrounding you (and loving you) fail to understand what you are really accomplishing.

Esdras said...

Hello again,

Love the blog today.

Seems wierd most people thinking of rushing to 80 when im debating even getting LK for a week so i can take time to level my Paladin and wait for the northrend rush to finish.

SolidState said...

Thanks Larisa for sharing that, as others have said, it was an interesting read,

I picture it like that scene in the Monty Python movie Life of Brian, with the growing number of followers joining him on his wanderings.

Follow the shoe! Hehe that brought back some memories :)

Zakesh is right. Not that long ago, sunmotes were selling for 2k each (and quite a few drop each full SWP run from what I hear). BoE crafted items from SWP recipes also sold for a lot. People were willing to pay over 10k gold (I've heard of 15k gold even!) to get a raid spot in a high-end guild and a guaranteed ZA bear mount. I would be really surprised if high-end guilds like Nihilum were not swimming in gold, without having to grind and without the need for help from groupies (although I am sure there are also some of those).

Sonny said...

Great entry!

If it wasn't for Larisa, us non-swedes would never have gotten a glimpse of this. So thank you.

Herc said...

Thanks for sharing! Good read.

oriniwen said...

Hero cults ocurr in every facet of our lives. There is always someone who is going to be "The Best." Even in my rather obscure field of study, there is someone who is at the top of the game, and he is my hero. I did get to meet him once and it was like meeting any other superstar.

When I don't know what to do in terms of spec or raid comp or professions or whatnot, I ask myself "WWND?" What Would Nihilum Do? What spec should our mages be? Fire, of course. Should we have dps warriors? Yes indeed! Should we have Surv hunters in our raids? Nope. And all these answers I find just fromlooking Nihilium up on the armory. They are at the top of the game, they are the acknowledges pinnacle of raiding, and we want to be like them. We want to follow along with what they are doing in the hopes that some of that magic of greatness will rub off on us.

Your comparison of them to pop stars is accurate. From musicians to politicians to scientists to olympic atheletes, we as humans feel the need to be near those who achieve greatness. If only to see and be seen.

Larísa said...

@Zakesh: ah... that's how it works. I've never been in such a guild where gold flows like water. We certainly live in different worlds.

@Dragon's den: I can't help thinking it's got a lot to do with mentality. I wouldn't be surprised if those guys would have succeeded if they had tried another field than gaming. They've got the willpower it takes.

@Jarla: I guess that when it's possible to make your parents understand, then you've gone pretty far and the game has come out of the geeky corner and become really established.

And yes, if I find anything to say about part 2, I'll give you some highlights from it. Though I don't think the next part will come until december, at the earliest.

@Esdras: hurry or not to hurry - I think it depends on what you enjoy doing most in the game. If my focus wasn't raiding there would be no hurry at all - on the contrary I think I'd want the game to last as long as possible.

, Sonny, Herc: thank you!

: strange enough I've never checked out the armory of Nihilum. Which I obviously should. Of course you can get inspiration for specs etc there. Though I guess you can't take for granted that you could copy it right off, after all they've probably got quite different gear to the normal mortal players...

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