They were the first in history to finish Destiny's mind-boggling raid, and -- despite lives, jobs and significant others -- they're not going anywhere.
1605 deaths. That's how many times uber-clan PrimeGuard collectively keeled over before finally finishing their ten hour run of Destiny's mad minotaur labyrinth of a raid, the Vault of Glass. They survived (well, eventually survived) nebulous objectives, very not first-person shootery puzzles, and bosses that gave Dark Souls a run for its reputation, and they triumphed.
It was a hard fought victory, and one for the history books to boot. The first group ever to finish Destiny's first ever raid. I wouldn't mind mounting that title over my mantle piece, right next to the dead-eyed heads of everyone who's ever crossed me, that's for sure.
Turns out, however, this was a long time in coming. PrimeGuard's been preparing for months -- since before Destiny even came out, starting all the way back in February -- for a single purpose: to be first. Always first.
"If you're going to do something, be the best," clan co-leader Justin Watts said to me via email. "Every member of PrimeGuard is here because they believe in trying their hardest to achieve something they care about. You will find that the raid isn't the only outlet in which we're vying to be the best. We have folks who make YouTube videos, hunt Grimoire score, and strive to stomp face in PvP. Everyone pushes everyone else to achieve, accomplish, and crush their goals."
PrimeGuard, he explained, doesn't actively seek members so much as they wait for the right people to find them. After that, joining is as simple as an application (people without extremely impressive video game accomplishments, probably don't get your hopes up) and an interview to gauge personality. Small hurdles on paper, massive expectations in practice.
But that's why PrimeGuard started so early: to make sure everything clicked. No Destiny to play together? No problem.
"The real test," Watts said, "was staying together before the game was even released. We've all been together for months, spending hours in TeamSpeak talking about Destiny. Being that the game is actually out, everything has really just become quite easy. We love the world that Bungie has created and want to spend as much time here as we can. We believe it is an absolutely quality place to put forth our efforts."
That's not to say, however, that the raid itself was child's play. PrimeGuard tried to prepare as best as they could, but the truth is nobody knew what they were getting into. Bungie lobbed a curveball. Instead of a series of straightforward FPS encounters, they served up a piping hot platter of bizarre environmental puzzles and tough-as-nails (or whatever laser-based equivalent they use in the sci-fi future) bosses.
"Early on, we tried to focus on creating Fireteams and Raid Teams, and all those plans ended up being moot," said Watts. "We didn't know what to expect at all. I do remember getting a text from [clan member] Fraser the night before saying simply, 'I bet this is going to be a breeze.'"
It was not.
"We were prepared, but that didn't stop it from single handedly destroying our sleep schedules," he continued. "Our six man team was actually broken down into two smaller teams. We had Team UK and Team US. For them, the raid opened at 10am and for us it opened at 5am. Syncing up schedules wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be but the sheer endurance it took was quite taxing."
"Death defying jumping puzzles, stealth mazes, and time travelling robots are no joke!"
If nothing else, though, they had time on their side. They made damn sure of that. "We had heard rumours of 16 hour raid tests out at Bungie Studios," explained Watts, "so we all took off at least a week from work and spent a ton of time with folks we cared about. Then we locked the doors to our battlestations and made it happen."
Even then, though, there were times when it looked like it might not happen -- like they might not be able to bag the big one, the world first.
"Our biggest success and setback can actually be described in one single moment," said Watts. "Two hours before we actually defeated Atheon, the final boss, we had gotten his health down to two per cent before wiping. That moment was so heart-wrenching."
But they pressed on, and they were rewarded for it. "Only after that did we know the risks we could take," he said. "We knew we had it. After that it was simply executing."
It's a spectacular conclusion to a story remarkably long-in-the-making, so it comes as little surprise that the people behind it are pretty spectacular themselves. Watts gave me a rundown of the winning group's roster, and these are folks with Some Serious Stuff Going On -- definitely not the pale, basement-dwelling husks unfortunate stereotypes have told us to expect.
"Rex works for a defence contractor in [Washington] DC," Watts said. "To prepare, he took off vacation from his job and spent a ton of time with his girlfriend. Twidget is a PhD student in Manchester, England. Let's just say he has a very understanding PhD supervisor. The time he took off was the remaining entirety of his yearly leave."
"All we know about Waffles is that he's a sous chef. Fraser frequently calls him *scottish accent* "the grillmaster." Also, first thing he did after the raid was call his mother. Not much is known about Fraser other than he eats Haggas 24/7 and rides Nessy through the Scottish highland. Yoshi lives in the UK and also took most of his yearly leave to play for extended hours. He says he works for MI6. We know he's lying."
"As for myself, I'm an IT manager here in Georgia. I took most of my yearly vacation and spent a ton of time with my girlfriend. Also, this game spurred me renovate my home office."
They came together from disparate corners of the Earth (or at least the US and UK) and blew through a challenge many players are still struggling to even cut their teeth on. So then, what now? They definitely plan on sticking together, for one. They have only just begun to conquer Destiny, and with Bungie in this for the long haul, PrimeGuard have their work cut out for them. More raids, more PvP modes, more endgame stuff -- it's all in the cards. PrimeGuard's on top of a mountain right now, but off in the distance all they can see is taller mountains, more to climb.
Right here, right now, though? Well, Destiny's first raid does have a hard mode. Bungie itself challenged PrimeGuard to world-first that too, so there's little time for rest. When asked how long he thinks it will be before PrimeGuard topples that too, Watts simply replied, "soon."
Beyond that, the future's wide open. Unsurprisingly the clan is growing and thriving, and with Destiny's first ever world-first under their belt, it's unlikely that will stop any time soon (fun fact: another PrimeGuard group also got the world-second; these people don't mess around). And so, if all goes according to plan, they will continue to expand, and then they will conquer. They plan to rule, however, with a surprisingly benevolent fist.
"We understand that some folks don't have as much time as others and can only commit so many resources to the clan," said Watts. "However, that isn't to say that we don't have members who aren't completely and totally focused on being the best, because we do. I would say it's really a hodge podge those types of people. Clan-wide, though, everyone focuses on being a force to be reckoned with. We're very much a hardcore group that has ambition to be nothing but on top."
"As long as we attract wonderful, like-minded people that want to exist in this great universe, I don't see us going anywhere anytime soon."