Halcyon Epsilon: What Went Wrong
Halcyon Epsilon Fleet is a role-playing fleet for Star Trek Online, formed several months prior to launch — or, it was. HEF’s doors have closed for good, and I feel like examining what went wrong that caused it to die not with a bang, but a whimper.
Now, I did love HEF, and still do – without it, I never would have gone on to form Halcyon Academy (which is still going strong and is insanely fun, and I am very proud of it) or met some of the awesome friends that I have to this day. But a number of factors contributed to the guild’s death.
- The Member Cap
A decent idea in theory, we instituted a member cap of 25 in an attempt to ensure that the guildies we did have would be more encouraged to interact, get to know one another and play together. That, and at the time we instituted it, Halcyon Academy had swelled to well over one hundred individual players (nevermind alts!), something that made my fellow officers’ eyes go wide in sheer terror. I can’t blame them. Managing that many people is intimidating as hell in a group like HEF, where there was such an emphasis on cohesive storytelling.
This worked well — for a time. Then the second contributing factor reared its head.
- The State of STO at Launch
STO, like many MMOs, had a rocky launch. There were bugs, there wasn’t quite as much Trek in the game as people would have liked, and most importantly, there wasn’t as much game in the game as people would have liked. There was barely enough content in place to hit the level cap, and what there was was pretty repetitive. As one of the members put it, STO blew at launch. It just did.
Between this and how quickly people hit the cap and found themselves out of things to do — I hit it within the free month, and I wasn’t even trying that hard! — a lot of people got frustrated and took a break from the game… including a lot of HEF’s members.
The same problem occurred with HA. Champions was really rough at launch, and the Day One Rebalancing Patch of Doom sure didn’t help matters. The thing is, HA had a hundred people. Lose ten of them and you won’t even notice. It sustained itself and carried on. When ten people is over a third of your guild, people notice it a lot quicker. They also tend to notice when the officers stop connecting regularly, which brings us to…
- The Officers Stopped Connecting Regularly
When you are an officer in a guild, you have to be visible. If you don’t show an interest in things, why should anyone in your guild? When even the people in charge aren’t logging in, why should the members stick around when they could find another, more active guild to join? They aren’t there for the words that appear under their name — they’re there for the company.
Unfortunately, there was little way of foreseeing or avoiding this one. One officer was unable to purchase the game right away – that’s one. One officer had a sick baby and a new house to worry about – that’s two. Then, there was me. In addition to helping Corwyn survive a crazy term at SCAD, I hit the level cap very quick, and then I started to see members logging in less and less frequently. It didn’t help that I was not a founding officer (I was “hired” later, after one of the founders went MIA), and thus had less invested in the guild in the first place. Those factors, paired with seeing the changes happening over in Champions (and having Lifetimes for both), led me to decide that a change of pace couldn’t hurt, and I started playing CO again while keeping an eye out for STO-side guildies via the global friends list.
I rarely, if ever, saw anyone. This did not encourage me to log back in. Not when I had a vibrantly active guild in CO to spend time with instead. So… that was that.
HEF died a slow, agonizing death. It didn’t happen recently, though we only this week actually dismantled the guild – it happened within two months of the game’s launch. The guild was too small to survive the inevitable exodus that comes with low content and realizations that the game isn’t what one had hoped. It just took us a while to admit that it died (or, it took us a while to care enough to admit it).
Happily, with the state that STO is now in, I’m having fun playing again — and a lot of people are wandering back. Being able to see what went wrong with HEF, and what went right with HA, is proving invaluable as I lay the groundwork for the fleet that’s going to be replacing it. A looser theme, no member cap, an application process designed to weed out anyone who would be a poor fit… and being able to access the in-game chat channels via Trillian should be very useful for maintaining an active presence.
I’m spending my evenings writing up documentation for the guild and making plans for the inevitable website and forums that will be coming this fall. Hopefully things will go a little better this time.