Malton Herald & Sun/MolSuskIntSP

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Moloch/Suskind: The Interview


Lord Moloch: Murray Jay Suskind has had a long and extremely distinguished career in the Ridleybank Resistance Front. Joining during the legendary Battle of Blackmore, he quickly established himself as a skilled team player, an enthusiastic propagandist and a gifted motivator of his team-mates, rising swiftly to the War Council and then becoming the fourth Papa of the horde in the spring of 2007, toward the tail end of the similarly legendary Battle of Santlerville. He led the horde for six months, rebuilding it after a time of great trial and stepped aside in November of 2007. Murray, let's begin where it all started for you, at the Battle of Blackmore. This was a dark time for the horde and a difficult time for a new player to join up. What are your memories of that time and to what degree did this long battle shape you as a player and, eventually, as a leader?


Murray Jay Suskind: Well, I was just a shambling noobie feral at the time, so my first peek into truly organized gameplay made it seem not so tough for me. I was really impressed with how organized the RRF was, even though the organization of the time would today seem very rudimentary. Silent Sister was still organizing everything for AU10 via PM at that time and when we got our own forum I was introduced to a whole team of players that made it a much more social experience. Basically as far as actual gameplay went during that battle all I really did was bash, get fed (because I think I was a level 5-10 at the time) and work with Tals on the forum, creating propaganda for our new team. It was kind of an odd convergence: Sister was handling the logistics, but in Tals and I she had these uber-enthusiastic players who were making things fun for everyone. By the time that siege fatigue began to set in Shacknews showed up and it was pretty much over.

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LM: Shacknews presented a pretty much unheard of level of force and coordination at that time. What impression did they leave on you?


MJS: I was stunned, pretty much like everyone else. At one point I thought it'd be awesome to grow our team to something the size of their main force. However, I quickly learned that doesn't really happen with people you encounter who are just playing the game; something like that pretty much needs to come from the outside, which was what happened with LUE later. The largest I've ever heard of an organic, in-game strike force growing was probably either Eastonwood Ferals, the old GMTBC or Team America nowadays. AU10 got pretty close around the time of both Special Olympics, but I think the most we've ever had striking regularly was 15-ish


LM: I'm going to fast-forward a few months now to a point at which Murray Jay Suskind is no longer just some newbie in the horde. In early 2007 members of the defunct Barhah Brigade started to reappear and they did not like what they saw in the RRF. You are one of a markedly few current RRF war counselors who can remember back to the split with the Barhah Brigade/Militant Order of Barhah. What is your honest, stripped down view of what occurred there?


MJS: It was like most dramas: It started off as people talking past one another and it blew up from there. I think Jorm just wanted to make a point, but he struck a nerve with the Gore Corps, particularly Goolina, and I rushed in to defend her. It kept growing from there as the Barhah Brigade members banded together. As far as the argument itself goes... We've been there a million times: Everyone knows that I think death culting is fine; they (the MOB/Brigade) don't (or at least don't think it's fine for the RRF) and that's that.


LM: Would you say that that metagame 'baptism of fire' helped you in the months to come, by strengthening your bonds with certain War Counselors?


MJS: I suppose. I think it just really cemented that generation of the RRF's leadership. Pat was still around from the time of Petro and Sonny, but he was about it. From there the core of the leadership was myself, Talunex, Goolina and deathbymoshpit. part of the reason the drama flared up then is that Pat wasn't around and DBM was about the most drama-averse War Council member ever, so really the three of us bonded over that, although the bond between the three of us was always close from Blackmore, the 5th of November and the Gore Corps and AU10 forming in such a short period of time. Oh, and hairyjim was doing his own thing with the GMTBC, because that's what he always did


LM: In addition to joining the horde at a difficult time, you also took over as Papa at arguably an even more difficult one, with almost no War Council and a horde trapped in what had become an unwinnable battle at Santlerville. From the outside it appeared to me that in addition to needing a leader, the horde desperately needed one who would be willing to be the public face for the defeat and so enable the horde to leave. What is your perspective on that?


MJS: Well... Where to begin on Santlerville? We were actually doing really really well leading up to Santlerville we were on Excursion (II) and we had been blowing through most of Malton, but then a number of factors converged. First, we were quickly outrunning our cloud of ferals; I remember taking a few days off right before then and I was like 3 or 4 suburbs behind to catch up to the horde in Heytown; then we got baited by the 4-H into a fight. Pat's original plan was to move on Giddings (I believe) because we thought Dowdney was a non-entity, but then this kid shows up on the forum talking about how they were going to kill all of the Gore Corps, etc. and we thought that we'd learn them a lesson. and then Pat disappeared for real life stuff and what initially looked like a pushover (we took down a lot of buildings up to the doorstep of Dowdney, including Dewes NT, with ease) suddenly became much harder once the Dribbling Beavers rallied the locals and a bunch of outside groups. So, for a while all of the strike teams went into automatic pilot and, as we discovered, it was hard to do that. I was the de facto leader the leader of the horde with Pat gone, but was not really acting it: All I did was the stuff that Pat had me doing on my own anyway. So I contacted other groups trying to get as many people together as possible instead of actually leading them.

By the time we figured out that Pat wasn't coming back to be Papa and installed me, we had gotten in over our heads. I was just starting to realize that I couldn't really find a chink in the armor and even with the allies showing up we didn't have the numbers to just bludgeon the locals to death, so we tried a few desperate last attacks; some were impressive, but not enough and the whole thing fizzled; that and there was some trouble in the homeland we needed to tend to, so, getting back to your original question, I don't think the horde itself was in bad shape; we were doing very well and did really well after Santlerville, it's just that there was a vacuum at the top when Pat left pretty much unannounced and I hesitated to step in. we still had Tals, Goolina, DBM and the Breakfast Club (I forget if Jim was still around or if Distinguished had taken over).


LM: You took over the post of Papa after it had been left vacant. Do you believe that it was harder or easier to take control in this situation?


MJS: Oh, I think being in the middle of a huge siege was the harder circumstance. I think it's easy for the Papa to overrate his own importance. If Pat had left for a month or so while we were motoring through suburbs we would have been fine, I think. But in the middle of a siege is when you need the Papa. When you need that one central figure on top to make the quick, decisive call.


LM: How much of an influence did it have on your leadership, starting our at that low point? Did you go in feeling that the only way was up, or were you feeling less optimistic than that? By which I mean, after withdrawing from Santlerville.


MJS: Well, at that point I think there was more relief that we were leaving Santlerville. Right afterwards we divided the horde into two parts again, flattening both the Survivor Security Zone and areas close to Santlerville. So it affirmed that we ran into a buzz saw more than that the horde was falling apart. Although I guess it's more accurate to say the greater homeland than the SSZ, since we were hitting areas like Barhahville and Galbraith Heights with DoHS and AU10. We were pretty much avoiding malls like the plague right after Santlerville.


LM: So there was a decision to avoid further potential sieges?


MJS: For a time. I mean, anytime you extract yourself from a major siege, win or lose, you kind of want to step back and do something a bit more easy and relaxing. That and I was micromanaging the horde, and at that time the groups (DoHS and Group 0) and the strike teams were used to more autonomy than they are now, so I let them do their own thing again instead of managing the entire show.


LM: That leads into what I'm about to ask. You mentioned there the comparative ease that the RRF had in taking the targets chosen immediately after Santlerville. Indeed, things seemed to fall relatively easily at that time (I had just joined the horde). That started to change relatively soon after. The reason appears to me to be that the horde which had unified at Santlerville started to break up into its constituent parts, reverting to the ways of the older and larger days of the RRF and becoming scattered as a force, with the Department of Homeland Security in the Greater Homeland and the strike teams, Gore Corps and Group 0 roaming around, often almost autonomously. How much of that was your own personal design and how much of it was down to the system and expectations that you had inherited?


MJS: A bit of both. Santlerville was hard on me and I wanted to take a step back. But at the same time all of the team and group leaders were aching to be given free reign again. I was happy to oblige them at the time. Offer general guidance instead of just issuing orders, which was more of the model that Pat worked off of and that everyone was used to.


LM: Moving briefly forward a few months to a related point, mentioning Group 0 and separation brings us to a difficult time back in 2007 when it became clear that the group was dying. To what do you attribute that demise and is there anything that you would do differently if you to go back and do all this again?


MJS: Hmm... Well, I think that the two group model had lived well past the point where it was effective. It had been propped up a while by the strike teams and by the fact that the homeland was ruined most of the time, making it so a lot strike teams were with Group 0 and that DoHS didn't need a large presence. And I mean DoHS as it was formulated at that time where it was pretty much a Ridleybank and surrounding suburbs only group. Basically, the numbers in the horde (and in the game in general) were slowly and steadily shrinking, so instead of having enough casual players to support two larges groups, we had enough to support one large group. Eventually it caught up to us and while Group 0 was historically stronger than DoHS, it wasn't at that moment so it ended up being the one that got axed.


LM: Well, it's not strictly true that Group 0 was 'axed' during your time. Rather it was rebranded as the Wrecking Ball and made a brief comeback.


MJS: That's true; I'm simplifying, but the whole Wrecking Ball thing just staved off the inevitable. I was thinking you were the one who made the call to put an end to the Wrecking Ball.


LM: Yes, that is correct. So, it would be fair then to say that one of the core themes of your reign as Papa would be that of transition. That the horde was adjusting from being a giant in a large game, capable of deploying forces all over the map, to being a large group in a smaller game. Still proportionally a giant, but no longer able to divide at will. Would you say that's fair?


MJS: Yeah. And I think we got into trouble for not recognizing that quickly enough when I had a two-pronged tour. I'm having a hard time remembering the names of them... One was the Heroes and Martyrs Tour, I can't think of the other one off the top of my head. Maybe Brain Bonanza or something along those lines. They were briefly lived as we needed to reunify the horde quickly.


LM: Brain Binge.


MJS: That's right. We needed LUE to bail us out when the husk of Group 0 the fail train of the Malton City Circus and AU10 couldn't take down a mall on their own; although to be fair, it was Buckley. The Randoms do have an idea of what they're doing, for real


LM: Yes they do.


MJS: Yeah. I think if we brought the whole weight of the horde to bear on Buckley, we would have had it. It's just that the GMTBC, Gore Corps (who I called in later) and DoHS (aka the stronger parts of our horde at the time) were engaged in Tollyton, I believe.


LM: Yes, I seem to recall a stark contrast there. Roftwood fell before the Heroes and Martyrs tour in no time, because all three of the strongest wings were there. If memory serves, that was the first time you and I really started to discuss tactics. I believe that my main tactic was 'Let's get the fuck out of here before this becomes another Santlerville'. In the end LUE hit the day before we were going to leave.


MJS: Your rise was a bit interesting, because I wasn't really paying attention to you (as I'm wont to do with the Gore Corps because I always wanted some level of separation there) and Goolina suddenly wanted this guy I hadn't heard of running the daily strikes and promoted to the WC. I think AU10 was comparable to the Gore Corps and GMTBC at the time, but yeah, basically. And then you came in guns a blazin'. Which I actually liked at the time.


LM: "Guns a blazin'". Pun intended?


MJS: No, but it works.


LM: Returning from our tangent, the theme of transition was not just occurring on the map, but also 'off-stage'. During those early months you were also required to rebuild the War Council almost from scratch. Which of your counselors were the greatest help to you, and in what ways?


MJS: Oh... Goolina probably. I originally wanted Talunex to be my #2, but real life took him down hard. She was kind of like the rock of support for me as everything around me changed. I don't think the problem is that things were changing, but the pace of the changes. DBM got claimed by real life and was replaced by Bongo and Bragz. Karek was running DoHS for a while, but had to step down so Kitten then had to and SomewhatDeceased came onto the scene. We had a rapid succession in leadership in the MCC and AU10 at the time too, and Pyro stepped for a time as the formal #2, and even though he did a capable job, he just wasn't what I was looking for (which was basically a clone of Tals). Oddly enough, when some semblance of stability was restored (except for in Group 0) was when the burnout really got to me, so I couldn't really appreciate that we had reassembled a good leadership group.


LM: Continuing the War Council theme, you are noted as a good talent spotter. What for you makes a good War Counselor or horde 'elder'?


MJS: The person who's willing to put forth the effort. I think I somehow got the sixth sense developed to tell the difference between the person would put in the effort and someone who was full of hot air. The notable exception being myself when I wanted to create a new strike team. Call it Don Tickles versus a certain former WC member who shall remain nameless. Don was very quiet when he joined the horde, but he was at the strikes almost everyday, and when he piped up it was something really valuable. I took note of that and punished him for it. The one who shall remain nameless talked a huge game, but never really delivered. In fact, he got so bad I had to boot him. Oh, one more thing in answer to that question: It's also spotting the people who are doing things on their own, versus the people who are asking you to do things for them. Spotting actual work over ambition.


LM: Insomniac By Choice, a long-standing and respected player in the game, said the following about the RRF: 'Essentially every noteworthy event in the history of the game has involved them, and it's highly likely the game Urban Dead wouldn't exist still without them.' We both know how it feels to be Papa, but for our readers, how did it feel to take charge of something so massive? Did the responsibility weigh heavily upon you?


MJS: This is going to make me sound like I have an ego problem, but by the time I became Papa, I thought I had earned it. There were some things that happened while I was Papa that helped deflate that ego a bit. But I had gotten over the mystique of the group before I was Papa. What weighed on me more was the daily grind and the fact that when you're the guy at the top you sometimes have to be the bad guy. In the end, I'd like to think that while I can get overly enthusiastic, it's still just a game. While I do think the RRF has earned a level of respect and mystique, it's something where when you get to the inner-workings of the horde, you realize it's just a bunch of normal people doing all of this stuff. And Nellie. Normal people and Nellie.


LM: Well quite. Continuing along those lines, I remember when I first joined the horde and took part in a secret project of yours that you characterized yourself as a 'bad loser'. How important do you consider winning to be in a game such as Urban Dead? Is it even possible to win at all?


MJS: Yeah, I'm a sore loser. I take things kind of battle by battle. Sometimes I get ahead of myself and plan something really big when I should be dealing what's in front of me, but I'm not stupid: I know it's impossible to "win" the entire game, but I still want to fucking destroy Santlerville. If we end up going there on tour you'll receive a PM from me outlining just how I want to completely and utterly fuck up the area.


LM: In stark contrast to that competitive streak, something for which you are praised by friend and foe alike is your diplomatic nature. How valuable do you consider diplomacy with both those sides to be, and how do you approach it?


MJS: I'm not sure. I've been told that I'm generally a nice guy. I can get quite upset if someone crosses a certain line, but at the same time I generally treat people on the other side like they're human beings instead of some faceless foe who must be destroyed. That and (especially when I was rising through the ranks and early on while I was Papa) I really enjoyed picking people's brains and getting their ideas on things. I think people like when you ask for their input on big idea, especially if you're not supposed to be playing the same side. Also, if I'm completely honest, I'm one those people who wants to be liked. I'll give people the benefit of the doubt, I'll go the extra mile to please them. Occasionally that gets taken advantage of, but in general I've found it to be more of a positive to actively try and find common ground with people instead of blowing them off.


LM: With as many allies as you've had in the game, who amongst them has influenced you and how?


MJS: Oh, I'd say Jorm's a big one. For a while after we put the drama behind us and while I was Papa he actually helped me a lot. We don't always see eye-to-eye on everything (obviously), but he got me thinking about things and helped and that helped me reign in some of my more... crazy tendencies. Along with Jorm, Beauxdeigh. The three of us had a few good discussions way back when. On the other side, Sexy Rexy and Ron Burgundy were great foes and always presented things from a completely different (survivor) perspective. That and they were a lot of fun. Sir Fred as well.


LM: That raises an interesting episode in RRF history. At the same time as being a militant zombie leader, you are also an ardent admirer of Quartly Library. How did this come to be?


MJS: I guess you just had to be there. It's really hard to make someone who wasn't there understand it. Back when the Quartly started inviting guest speakers, it was widely appreciated as an actual service of the game. Kind of a platform for people to talk about various topics and explore things. Then came the famous Quartly squaredance, which was probably the highlight of the Red Guards. This was before griefers had ruined the library every time someone opened the door, so the Red Guards then AU10 and some of the Gore Corps literally showed up and just danced. It was a fun, random thing that we decided "Hey, maybe we can make an exception for these people." Leave them be in peace instead of just eating them. That and Sir Fred and the other libraries genuinely appreciated the sentiment behind the squaredance: That it was more important for us to have fun than it was to crush, kill and destroy.


LM: A controversial moment in the history of the ties between the RRF and Quartly Library (probably far more controversial than you realize) came when you deployed the Gore Corps to actually defend the library from attack. How did you come to make this decision and how did you reconcile it with your fervent desire to separate zombie from breather?


MJS: I guess it ties back to the whole "you just had to be there" thing. Most of the people I deployed to do it weren't there and didn't get it. However, the library was being griefed by a bunch of punk-ass amateurs who refused to leave even after they ate and ransacked the library. So I wanted to show them how it was done. It's hard to do that through ZKing, so I sent the Gore Corps. Have your fun, but don't ruin the fun of others. As much as we may not like to admit it, there is the zombie equivalent of trenchcoaters. Those zombies were trenchy and I wanted to put them in their place.


LM: One of the things which I would say characterizes your time in Urban Dead is the 'quest for the epic'. I always had the sense that you were looking to make a big mark on the game in some way, via the RRF's tours, the attack on Caiger Mall and starting the second Big Bash. Do you feel that you achieved your quest? Do you even agree that you were on a quest at all? Did starting with an historic defeat have any bearing on that?


MJS: I don't think Santlerville had anything to do with it, I think Blackmore had a lot to do with it. The first Blackmore was so much fun for me that I've always been trying to recapture it. I've kind of come to terms with the fact that no siege is as fun as the first one. At the same time, I still think they're fun. The Big Bash was a combination of that impulse, along with a very misguided attempt to rekindle my interest in the game. Basically I thought I was getting bored when I was really getting burned out. And that goes with other things I did at the time, like the Know Nothings (actually a fairly proud achievement of mine, even if it's a modest one) and my involvement with Red Rum and another more anonymous PKer group.


LM: What you've just said tallies with something that I was about to ask. In the War Council we have a running joke about your lapsed strike teams, each of which had a distinctive theme and style behind them. Would you consider it fair to say that your greatest strength as a Papa lay in your inspiration and that your ability or desire to organise sometimes fell short of matching that?


MJS: Very much so. I can't really put it better than you just did right there.


LM: Let's look now at the last days of your time as Papa. Which did the most to claim you: Real life or game fatigue/burn-out?


MJS: A big dose of both. A huge project was looming at work in real life, and at the same time a wedding took me away from the game for a good period of time and I found it remarkable how little I missed the game. It wasn't that I didn't like the game or the people anymore: I friggin' loved the people, but it was just too much. Then there's the stuff you deal with as Papa... getting dragged into everyone's drama, having everyone approach you with their ideas and the strange wave of zergers we found late in the time I was Papa.


LM: The endless PMs (from me mostly)


MJS: It wasn't just you, not even close.


LM: Oh I know: I've inherited that mail box.


MJS: I remember being so disappointed the first time I PM'ed Jorm and he didn't respond. As Papa I figured out why. Well, I guess just a fraction since he's running an entire game. You don't want to crush people's enthusiasm, but you get to feeling that people are pulling you 80 ways at once.


LM: Looking back over your time as Papa, what do you consider to be your legacy and influence within the horde?


MJS: Well, I think a big part of my legacy is keeping this beast going. Whenever people tell me that I "saved" the horde, I think there's some hyperbole there. Certainly there are some Barhah Fundamentalists out there who disagree with that sentiment. However, I will say with no false modestly that along with Pat, Gooli, Sis, DBM and Tals, I played a big part in making sure that the RRF has consistently stayed the longest-lasting "megahorde" in the game.

As far as my influence goes... I think that's more about the attitude the horde has. We're fun yet badass. We're humble in defeat yet cocky as hell the rest of the time. We're a big ball of BARHAH that's greater than the sum of its parts. And as long as we maintain that attitude, and as long as we keep suckering enthusiastic newer players into this horde, we'll be around as long as the game exists.


LM: At the time you eventually decided to stand down it was widely, possibly universally, considered that there were only two candidates to be Papa: Distinguished, leader of the GMT Breakfast Club, and myself, the at-that-time second-in-command of the horde. Recently though you have stated that that is not the case. Choosing a death cultist as the new leader of the most famous and prestigious horde in the game was a huge and controversial step, especially considering that I had already begun to develop a reputation for being temperamental and prone to control-freakishness. How did you come to make this choice and why?


MJS: Well, I'm not sure who I asked point blank or who I just felt out, but in the month before I stepped down I pretty much asked or felt out Talunex, Don Tickles, Goolina and Distinguished. But there were some things in play. I thought you were pretty much Grim: Perfect second in command, but not really cut out to be the "face of the horde." That and I kind of blamed you for Talunex's abrupt departure, which in retrospect wasn't fair at all. What I didn't really realize at the time was that while I made a great "face of the horde," the horde needed more meat on the bones. We were kind of like an anorexic supermodel: Yeah, we looked good, but we needed to focus more on our own health and you ended up being the right guy for that. Now we're like a hockey player: People outside the horde may think we're ugly, but we're in damn good shape. That and you're not Grim. If I were to compare your personality and leadership style to someone else in the game, it would probably be Jorm, and if he reads this comparison his head may blow up, but I think it's true. You two have a lot in common. Including that you're both gruff and temperamental yet still good leaders, and once you make a conclusion about something or somebody it's damn near impossible to change either of your minds. You are more of a control freak than he is, though.


LM: What are your opinions on each of the other three Papas: Patrucio, Sonny and Petrosjko?


MJS: Pat was a really good Papa. Probably underrated. I'd probably rank him ahead of me. He had this really low-key style that none of the other Papas had, but it worked. And some of it probably was luck insofar as DBM, Goolina, Silent Sister, Talunex and myself all rose to prominence right around the time he took the reigns. But still, he was very chill, very fun and the horde did a great job under him.

Sonny... he didn't wreck the horde, and actually, in his defense ,the abandonment of the UD RRF to Nexus War, in addition to Grim throwing a hissy fit because he wasn't made Papa, dealt him a shit hand. At the same time, from everything I've heard it'd be difficult to call his term a success.

Petro... it's impossible for me to separate the man from the myth because I never played under him or interacted with him. The myth is remarkable. He had my ability to charm people, your ability to organize things, Pat's always level head. That and he was probably funnier than any of us. He created this beast and ran it at its most dominant, so it's probably impossible for anyone to surpass him. At the same time, though, so much of what we attribute to him can be attributed to Grim or Jorm or Dangermouse or Beauxdeigh or Jim or others who haven't been as well remembered. That's still partially a tribute to him, because a Papa needs to delegate and build a War Council. At the same time, he doesn't seem human enough. He had his flaws just like everyone else: We just haven't been told what they are.


LM: Urban Dead is a strange game, in that it essentially boils down to people. In an odd way I find that a person's true self emerges in it, whether they want it to or not. What did being Papa of the RRF teach you about yourself and about others?


MJS: My ideas are often bigger than my focus or ability to make them happen. People don't like returning to what they think is their home and finding a bunch of strangers in there who've changed all the furniture. People need to chill out and enjoy the ride more. And, in the end, UD is close to being a meritocracy. It's possible to cheat, but those who do things the right way (albeit there's more than one right way) tend to achieve what they want.


LM: Finally, what do you see in the future for the Ridleybank Resistance Front, for Urban Dead and for Murray Jay Suskind?


MJS: The RRF's going to be around as long as the game is. I hope not to be one of those people who disappears for a few years and then freaks out when I come back and find that things are somehow different. As far as UD goes, I don't know. I suppose if the economic crisis is impacting text-based MMORPG's, we're fucked, but it seems to be a low-overhead enterprise. And as far as I go... I think I'm back where I want to be. Most of my ideas (except about the impending doom of Santlerville... which has been in the works for about two years now) are smaller in scope. I'm respected enough that people value my input. But at the same time, I'm a casual player again. I can see myself keeping this pace up for a good while. Especially since the people are awesome.


LM: That's all we have time for today. Ladies and gentlemen, he's been Richard Nixon and I've been David Frost, proving conclusively that death cultists are more trustworthy than zombies. Murray, thank you.

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