As a scrum master currently working from my home, I got bored late one night last April. So I started to play hero wars — an online browser game which I got forwarded to by clicking on a youtube ad.
The ad for the game suggested it would be about solving riddles, but when playing the game for some time I noticed it had only about 10 riddles in there. All of those combined could be solved in about 10 minutes.
Inputs and Outputs
The developers proclaim their game is an MMORPG (Massive Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Game). You have a campaign mode and can staff a squad of five heroes to fight against monster NPCs (nonplayer characters). Fights are in auto mode where you simply get to watch what happens. Your heroes are bought and made stronger by emeralds and those — being short all times — can be bought with money.
You don’t get any money out of the game, so buying a hero (actually only fragments of a hero — the game mechanics are too advanced to make the real dollar price of a hero visible to the users) and those emeralds are only input. Since I have been bored more nights, I continued to play.
I gained some more levels and could go to arena mode — finally seeing and collaborating with other players. Collaborating meant: Looking at the five heroes the other player set up and having my squad slaughter them. Or getting slaughtered because I didn’t spend enough emeralds for hero resources or having worse heroes than the other player.
At higher levels, the Grand arena mode opened. This now was three squads of mine against three squads of the players I’m collaborating with. I found a simple strategy for the grand arena: The players don’t have enough resources to level up all their 15 needed heroes properly. Many had one weaker team among their three squads. So setting my weakest team against their best, the other two fights would mostly be easy wins for me. I moved up in the grand arena hierarchy.
Some more levels and a guild mode opened up. I could either join a guild or start a new one (by paying emeralds) — so I joined. Guilds have one guild lead, generals, officers, and members. You might change these titles (by paying emeralds) but only the guild lead may do this and the members have to respect this decision.
Being German, I joined a German guild. My guild lead Spalter (who I some months later learned was Dieter from Düsseldorf) managed to gather the guild's maximum capacity of 30 german members. I learned he has been paying about the same amount of money as I have been. When I started with this, I didn’t intend to pay anything of course. Two months later I set the limit for the total amount of money I’m going to spend on this game to “one PS4 game” which equals about €60. I’m now at about €270 — all transferred with micropayments to the developers which copied this system from other similar browser games.
Guilds are allowed to fight in guild wars. The guild lead staffs one castle with only the teams of the 15 best of the 30 members of the guild. Guild Generals are allowed to give commands — and the members attack. We won against Brazilian Guilds, some French and other German ones — those seemingly had worse strategies or were not paying enough money, maybe both.
Guilds also have their own chat channels. Every one of the 30 members is allowed to collaborate in this, but this rarely happened. There simply seemed no need for exchange of thoughts. Because of this silence in guild chats, the developers included funny Hero Wars emojis to compensate for this. So there were some Hero Wars emojis posted in our guild chat every now and then.
My guild lead Spalter did a mistake in the general guild settings. He activated an inactivity ban of one week. After six weeks our guild was down to 4 members because of that, and no one was joining our small group anymore. One of the remaining four members started to complain, that we’re not moving up in the guild hierarchy to Bronze, Silver, and Gold League where he wanted to go. He left our guild shortly after. With three members you are not allowed to collaborate in the guild wars anymore.
Hostile takeover and staffing
My guild lead Spalter was frustrated about this and simply dropped the guild lead role on me. We agreed, that I’ll try for one week to get this running, or the two of us move to another guild. This being a nice challenge, I started recruiting.
In Arena and Grand Arena mode you could see for each player which guild he is in, or whether he is lacking one. When clicking on the player you also can write text messages in a small browser window. I scrolled through the endless list of players spread over 13 servers each hosting some thousands of users. I sent a filled template of a recruiting advertisement for our guild changing the addressee to the name of the player to have it personalized somehow. To my frustration — those arena players rarely answered, seemingly having dropped their squads in this without caring anymore.
Server Chat recruiting
I went into the overall browser server chat to hunt down some other potential members. I rarely used the server chat prior to my new recruitment efforts — there has been no need for it. The language in server chat is harsh, it seemingly had no administration least censorship of four-letter words. Writing wtf is time-consuming, it’s only tf. The server chat language was 90% English with also some ASCII art floating around and many insults with spelling errors, and many complaints about the server chat itself. The players had their levels and guilds shown behind their names, but server chat was ruled by those who type swear words fast.
Knowing that the chances of finding German players in the server chat would be slim, and now being guild lead, I changed our guild's language to English. I also turned off the inactivity ban and reduced the minimum player level to join us to 40. Five days later we were at 30 members and could actively participate in guild wars again. Spalter was happy, I placed our squads. Having the guild hierarchy in german language and all members speaking English made no sense to me, so I spent some emeralds and translated this to an angelic hierarchy with me as guild lead now being Morning Star, Spalter being Archangel, some Cherubims, and Nephilims. I kept the german guild name and banner Spalter set up for us months ago. Those have been his two remaining settings and vision. Spalter — up until now — is the most powerful member of our guild and no one would question his priorities.
Members again started to complain because we were not moving up fast enough in the guild wars. I investigated, and it has been because some of our other members staffed their squads seemingly arbitrary. A five hero squad usually is set cross-functional with supporting roles, healer, tank, and fighters. The players seemingly have chosen other themes like “only female characters”, or “characters with pets”. Those squads lost miserably in guild wars, but the players didn’t seem to care. I reminded, that we were supposed to win.
The developers of the game had the interest to be represented on youtube, Twitter, Discord, and maybe some other sites I don’t know about. To get clicks on those sites, they have been placing links that provided some smaller presents to users, which they could use to staff their heroes with. I copied one of those links in our guild chat. Maybe our guild members don’t know about these resources. One complained, that his school firewall doesn’t allow Twitter links. I used an URL expander to generate a link that works for him. I’ve been copying those expanded links in our guild chat ever since. Our members are thankful for this and are expressing this by including emojis in the chat.
The Guild Chat itself got to be more alive. We even began to coordinate some broad strategy for the guild wars. Spalter knew when members didn’t attack the right positions, they listened to his advice gratefully and adapted their plans. I’m giving them insights on how their squads should be structured. By now I watched many youtube tutorials on how to counter special enemy squads and on how to generate team synergies.
Two guild members on the other hand started posting whereby links in addition to my daily resource links. They were requesting me and others to join. Whereby is an in-browser video chat client which can be set up rather easy. Being suspicious because of a school firewall being mentioned earlier, I asked about how old they are. They told me they were 8 and in US grade school. I politely declined the video chat, telling them they could easily be my children.
Distributed Team and Guild building
Since I did my recruiting at night we had members of many different timezones by now. US, Japan, France, Germany all collaborating asynchronously in our guild chat. Someone mentioned in there, that two of our guild members don’t seem to be active anymore. I asked, whether someone knows about them and contacted them in private chat. They didn’t answer for two weeks and I removed them from our guild. Other players wanting to join were found quickly in server chat. Even high-level players stayed, now that we are an active guild and resources are being provided to the guild with my links the members didn’t need to hunt for separately anymore. I included some general rules in the chat on how the guild members should act in guild wars. Over time the general rules were understood by all members, and they started to teach new guild members on their own. I changed “general rules” to “question of the week”.
Having a job I had to work long on two days. I forgot to check our castle defenses back then. One member left our guild in this period leaving a spot open. I decided to enable every guild member to set up defenses by making all of them Archangels. For new members, the Archangels decided on when they got promoted.
Spalter (whom I by now knew as Dieter, after many friendly chats) told me he needs to go to the hospital and would be away for one week. I could still move his armies in guild wars, but this was only for defense as he can’t coordinate attacks when not being here. I wished him the best of luck and told him that the game certainly can work a little time bit of time without him. We didn’t win those wars since I didn’t really coordinate attacks and Spalters squads were missing. Our children with their “only skeleton”, “beautiful magic users”, “only blue heroes” squads didn’t care and the other adult members didn’t complain. They had fun in the guild chat and liked looking at and caring for their heroes. Magic_Plays left our guild with a heartwarming message on how much he’ll miss us and how much fun the last three months had been for him. He is moving to 5th grade and his parents wanted him to work more for school. Spalter got back still under medication. He wanted to tell us that everything went out fine and he will be fully recovered in some days moving armies.
At someday I got a PM from someone outside of the guild. It included a hero wars emoji, but directly below the player said sorry for this. This was atypical, my usual private messages were from leads of other guilds trying to poach me, those of guild members in need of support on how to structure their squads, having questions on whether the hero they just got is any good, sometimes complaining about other guild members being inactive, describing school challenges they have, or asking when I’m putting out the links to presents. Infrequently I got invites to video chats, which I all declined.
I didn’t react to the emoji PM from outside, but the next day the “sorry” was followed by a “how r u?” and I started to text. The player only had a one-hour timezone difference (average in my guild was certainly above 4h) and is placed in Manchester/England. “Manny,” he told me. He asked about my spoken languages, and after, whether learning German is hard. I told him it isn’t hard for Germans, but it might be very hard for people not to have been born here or understanding the culture. After some chit chat, I asked, why he did send me the emoji PM in the first place. “Another game,” the player told me, “Truth or dare”. He and his cousin had been playing truth or dare in his room with him being logged in. The cousin dared [BlAdE]Shadow to send a PM to someone, not in his guild.
Server Chat evolved
One day when scrolling through the server chat again searching for high-level players without an own guild I noticed something is different in there. The chat was more lively and the participants were writing no insults anymore. Instead, they were adding stars to their texts:
I observed this for some time to find out what my potential guild recruits are doing: To my surprise, they were playing a new game in there, sometimes adding whereby video chat links. Theirs has been similar to the pen and paper role-playing games which we used to play as kids. Yet without dice, without a dungeon master, character sheet, rulebook, or a guild lead, and still without an administrator in there with players spread all over the world. One player simply states what he intends to do, the content being completely up to his imagination, the other players write consequences, or their own actions, thereby telling a collective story with only the stars as a limit.
Reading this text didn’t cost you €270.-, but some of your time. I’m sorry for having advertised my article as “Hero Wars, Scrum and *”. To compensate, I’ll include at least one riddle for you — and I didn’t even promise riddles upfront:
Now where tf was scrum in this?
Guild lead FYI/Authors note: Only read this hint, when you’re at a complete loss on the question.
In above text you might find resemblencies to many models of organizations: enterprises, wolf packs, the single fighter, military, maybe family… and it’s ending with another model where players decide all rules in collaboration (they didn’t need many), there is free energy flow, the currency “fun” constantly growing, everyone can choose freely between all nuances of observing, participating or leaving at any time without penalty. Good distribution of wealth between all players is provided by the system itself and the agility in movement is only restricted by your mind.
The last system came from somewhere else — basically the rude ur soup server chat. It didn’t evolve from all others — those have been refined, getting the best combinations of family and worklife. Some of the players came from the previous models (they were not allowed to transfer their squads, titels, emeralds, dollars, levels or even heroes). They have been playing the other games previously gaining levels and rank, but obviously didn’t like dealing with their limitations or distribution of wealth. I’d like to think, that the values needed and taught in guilds and their chats enabled the players to see value in not insulting each other in server chat constantly, and we made this somehow possible.
My next steps will be playing some of this new game. I can still understand most of it, having played similar games as a child. But the server chat players are transforming their rules and behaviours more quickly than we are. I think the new model evolved in less than two weeks and it certainly will again. Maybe I’m not so lucky to discover the next non-linear iteration, maybe it is still linear, but also in that case: whereby links are already floating in there, and probably they’ll include them in the next version of their game. This will be the end for me, since I’m not a child anymore.