Last week Buzzkill posted an article about the way Nihilum was and how it ended, and you guys seemed to like it quite a bit. Having read it myself I couldn't help but continuously say "yea, but..." on a lot of the points he made, and it just seemed like he was talking about a completely different guild than the one I was in for four years. Nothing he said was incorrect or anything like that, and yet I just couldn't reconcile the picture he was painting of the guild with my own memories of it. And then it hit me. "Hanging with the wrong crowd" might most commonly be something parents think in regards to their children, but it definitely applies here. Perhaps "wrong" isn't really accurate, more like "different" or, in this case, "mean" or "aggressive".
Falling in with a "bad" crowd
Obviously I'm exaggerating for effect, but there is something to it. When he first came to the guild, Buzz was your usual recruit, very nice and polite, not really daring to ask much for fear of looking stupid or uninformed. You could say he even got to a bad start instantly, since he joined with Zucc, a notorious member of the "angry" brigade. In any case, as happens with all good players eventually, the ego reached a zenith and he actually started behaving normally around the rest of the guild, normally being a relative term. Enter the Danes.
As you may or may not know, Nihilum was always composed of factions: groups of people that stuck together and knew each other either from outside the game or from previous guilds. The Swedes, The Danes, The Brits, The Turks, etc. The most powerful of these were the Danes (aside from Kungen, who was basically a faction unto himself) as they were probably the best players around (at least as a group, there were better players in the guild at various points but not concentrated like that) and were there from the start. Now, as you'd expect from highly skilled former Counter-Strike players, their egos were, uh, shall we say not small. Add to that the significant amount of power they had and you got yourself an unpleasant combination. The most annoying thing about them, though, is that they really were nice guys at their core. If they liked you they were the most loyal and best of buds you could have in the game, or even in general. They'd always have your back, even excuse your failures or mistakes and always try to get you into raids if you didn't already have a spot. The prerequisite there, of course, was that you were at least somewhat good at the game. But, if you weren't good, or somehow angered them, boy were you in trouble. As for me, I had the good fortune of being on their sunny side and I actually really did enjoy their company.
I had just been invited to NCL (the leadership chat channel) by Kungen and was talking to Zucc about it when suddenly a whisper popped up from Nessaj and my heart almost stopped. He politely reminded me that I should be careful when voting, since voting against the Danes wouldn't be the smartest thing to do.
Even back in Karazhan Buzz got everything he wanted!
What made Nihilum Great
And so our hero, Buzzkill, was instantly in that "crew" and fit like a glove, along with Zucc, Ghorok, etc. As the old saying, that I just this second made up, goes: "You are who your friends are" and that's how it happened. Nihilum really was different from most or even all other guilds, it had two sides to it. And I don't mean the ones Buzz talked about, these were more of a philosophical nature. The aggressive, hyper-skilled ego maniacs that couldn't help belittle and insult people that they perceived to be bad players or that just pissed them off for random reasons, and the other side. Since Buzz covered the former quite well in his article, I'll focus more on the "soft" side.
While there is no doubt that the harshness of the guild on the surface was what made the trials into really good players later on, there is also an additional part of that equation that wasn't mentioned. While the isolation and "we don't care about you" atmosphere did bring out the best in players' skill as they struggled to get noticed and carve their niche in the guild's structure, it did nothing for guild unity and actually wanting to play with these people you just joined. And that's the part Buzz didn't mention, simply because he wasn't really ever exposed to it (the reason for this being that when he joined the guild was basically in hybernation mode, we had stopped raiding Naxxramas altogether and no one was really around). So, for example, when someone got yelled at for failing on an encounter or not showing up to a farm raid or whatever issue there was, there was almost always one of us that would approach the trial in whisper and tell them that it's not such a big deal (unless, of course, it WAS a big deal, but then you were in trouble anyway), that it's normal for trials to be yelled at and that everyone screws up a few times. It didn't happen often and it wasn't the default thing to do when someone got yelled at, but it was definitely there and it kept people invested in the guild more than just because they wanted to be No.1. It showed them that there were actually nice people there that maybe even cared about the new blood and whether they do well or not, even if the main line from the leadership and the more vocal members was "how can you fail at something so simple what is wrong with you you totally won't get invited to raids anymore if you don't shape up". All this "secret good will" wouldn't mean anything if you weren't good, of course. If you couldn't cut it then it really didn't matter who you were friends with (unless it was Kungen, but let's not get into that right now) and if you were popular or not: you were gone.
My favorite examples of why the guild did so well are still the ones of us kicking or getting people to quit. In particular, these were INCREDIBLY ego-centered people who basically everyone in the guild either disliked or didn't really care about. The twist is that these were some of the best players we ever had. Two examples pop to mind: Podbot the tank and Tolg the Hunter. Podbot came in, best gear available at the time, several bank alts filled with the best pots flasks and foods for raiding, even posted screenshots of said banks on the forum to show how ready he was. This, of course, instantly made all the warriors hate him in an "so you think you're better than us" way. He didn't really help himself with his attitude either, talking down to old members because he was always prepared and they weren't, constantly thinking and acting as if he was the best. The thing is he really might have just been the best there (aside from Kungen), except it didn't matter. He completely didn't fit in and even though he was a huge asset for the guild we managed to convince Kungen to kick him (after a good long while). Something similar happened with Tolg, who was also an amazing Hunter, except this time literally the entire guild hated the guy (aside from Kungen and some of the Danes) and were actively working to get him out. In the end he decided to quit because he realized that he really couldn't play in this kind of atmosphere (and apparently we didn't "appreciate" him for the amazing player he was). He even got Striken to hate him, which was an unprecedented thing at the time, as he was the cuddliest bear you could ever imagine and loved everyone!
Both approaches, together, are what made the guild great. If you made it out of the grueling (and often nigh-endless) trial stage you not only proved yourself and your skill at the game, you also got a sense of community from some of the people that helped you through those flame-fests Buzz mentioned. Frankly the guild Buzz described in his article wouldn't have made it to world 213213123th, and it certainly wouldn't have been a guild I'd ever have played in. As to a more general reason Nihilum did so well for such a long time I'd have to say it was the core. Even though we did have many recruits and new people joining all the time there was always a core of people there who knew each other so well and actually LIKED playing with each other and achieving these great things. All the bad stuff I said earlier about the "mean girls" part of the guild didn't change the fact that I really loved playing with all of them, and they (Nessaj, Zucc, Nme, Cloze, Epi, Todie/Remi, Ghorok, Buzz etc.) were among my favorite people in the guild. And as new members came in some also got integrated into that core, and so it kept going as the older members stopped playing.
At least until Sunwell came along.
What Made Nihilum Fail in the End?
Now, I wasn't really around that much for Sunwell, I basically stopped raiding after Black Temple due to college and the utterly weird hours I had to attend classes at there. I was still there for a lot of the stuff, but I wasn't a core raider anymore and I didn't even want to HC raid that much, so I can't claim to know more about it than Buzz, but I'll give you my version anyway!
I think a big misconception in the Sunwell Nihilum image was that it all started to go wrong at M'uru. There's a very good reason why that's the general opinion out there and that reason is the Eredar Twins World First that came before it.
Now, hold on to your seats, but that WF was a complete fluke. Or well, not exactly a fluke but a stroke of genius. The guild was in bad shape throughout all of Sunwell, from the start to the end and there wasn't anything that happened during that period that changed things. We were basically dead in the water as soon as we started the instance. The Twins were perhaps the biggest testament to Kungen's leadership in the history of the guild. What happened was that after a day or more of tries late one evening the raid was over and Kungen asked if anyone wanted to stick around to test stuff out, only 10-15 people just so we had a minute or two of the fight to test. Buzz and I were in there (I wasn't raiding at the time but was around and thought why not help out) and had a lively discussion about whether this was completely pointless and Kungen was just wasting everyone's time. And while we were in the middle of that, going back an forth between genius and asshole, around an hour or so after we started Kungen just declared he got it. We did a few more tries to test it out and that was that. The next day they got it down and claimed the World First. Now, I don't really remember what exactly the revelation was, it had something to do with how the aggro worked on each of the twins, I THINK each one had the other's aggro list (the only thing I'm sure of is that it had nothing to do with lamps or any other exploit mumbles there are out there).
So that was it, that blip of a World First, 100% Kungen just trying things out late one night and finding the right answer. My 2 cents on the end of Nihilum is pretty much the same as Buzz's, the core of the guild simply eroded further and further, with new recruits having been in the guild for far too short a time to be able to really "be" Nihilum, in the end it was just a collection of people who kinda knew each other and wanted to hold on to the No.1 spot. And it's the holding on that's also a big part of the problem, as it wasn't really about getting or earning that "best" position anymore, it was a chore to keep it and still be considered the top. It's always been my opinion that just having good, great or even the best players in a guild simply isn't enough, even if they are fully motivated and primed to get those kills. It might just be my sappy romantic side wishing it were so, but I think that a good atmosphere and playing with people you actually LIKE is the key to being the best.
That is, if the people you like are any good at the game.