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What is Spark?

What is Spark?

Spark is a 2D top-down team-based internet-multiplayer capture-the-flag game, with compelling gameplay that is simple to learn for beginners but offers years of depth for the committed player. Spark has a loyal and dedicated community, where players group together into like-minded 'clans' to compete in a variety of community-run leagues, ladders and tournaments for ultimate bragging rights. It has a rich history, a wealth of subtle strategy, and best of all, it's 100% free! Download it here or Learn to play!

Clans Guide

Clans Guide

Starting a Clan from Scratch

Starting a clan from scratch can be a daunting task, and not everyone can do it. Very few can do it the first try, or do it well. There are many different things to consider, when creating a clan, such as:

  1. Why will people want to join your clan over any other existing clan?
  2. Do you (and the officers/council members you have yet to pick) have the glue it takes to hold together through thick and thin?
  3. At what level are you looking to compete? Do you have what it takes to compete at that level, and do you think your clan will attract players of that skill level?

Once you can answer these questions, you may be well on your way to starting a clan. Whether or not your first clan is successful or not will depend heavily on how much time you are willing to invest in it. If you can find a player or two who are willing to sacrifice their time and effort as much as you are, you will have made a good discovery, and you should do your utmost to keep them around. Once you have laid the foundation of your clan (creating a clan name, getting a few members who are interested in starting a clan with you), you can work on building it up.

Getting Organized

The next foundational step is getting your clan organized with a rank structure. This is extremely important (especially for large clans), for the following reasons:

  1. Officers/council members can take much of the load directly off the clan leader's shoulders, helping to prevent clan leader burnout.
  2. Different tiers of leadership, privilege, and respect will give newer members something to look forward to, and work towards, as they play with your clan and help out in various ways.

Appointing Council Members

Note: When referring to clans in Spark, the terms 'officer,' 'council member,' and 'high council member' are generally synonymous. We will use the term 'council member(s)' to alleviate unnecessary text, as the term will be repeated continually.

When choosing your council members, you will want to be rather careful. These players will not only be in charge of the rest of your clan members, but will represent your clan throughout the Spark Community. If they are motivated, helpful, and well recognized in the community, this will reflect well upon your clan and its members, including yourself. If they talk a bunch of trash and anger other players, the reputation of your clan will suffer.

Appointing a Co-Leader

Some clan leaders forego the process of choosing a co-leader entirely, and in its stead opt in favor of just having the council members run the clan in his or her own absence. This can be beneficial, to ensure that more voices are heard when discussing important matters. However, dissenting voices can also cause a rift between your clan members, perhaps even causing a faction to split off from your clan, or the dissolution of your clan entirely. To avoid this, many clan leaders opt in favor of choosing a 'number 1,' or a co-leader to run things in the event of their absence.

When appointing a co-leader, a good practice to observe is choosing someone whose ideals, morals, attitude, and demeanor most closely resemble your own. This will ensure continuity in the direction the clan will take in your absence. A good clan co-leader will always try to make the decision that the clan leader would have made, were he present; not use the leader's absence for his own gain in some way. You can read about this as much as you want, but when it comes down to the line, you'll have to use your own judgment.

Setting up a Website

Most clans of any skill or stature have a website of some kind. Some only have forums (which are easily obtainable on free forum websites), but some have a full-fledged multimedia website with downloads, member profiles, forums, contests, and/or other attractions. The main perk of having a clan website, of course, is having it be your clan's claim of legitimacy. A clan with a website is more easily recognized as a legitimate organization among the Spark community, as opposed to a ragtag rabble of players that have figured out how to append a clan tag to their name, and who only speak to each other when they both happen to be logged in to Spark concurrently. Having a website allows you to keep records of your clan's history, manage and organize applicants' applications, discuss clan policies, have a download area for your favorite maps or patches, and many other things that you could not do without one.

Creating Forums

Forums are perhaps the most important part of your website, and some clans entirely forego creating the rest of the website, and instead decide only to have clan forums. This is not a bad choice by any means, but it denies your users the convenience that the other areas of the website would offer, and leaves your visitors with less of a sense of the clan legitimacy discussed previously.

Setting up forums can be accomplished in two different ways, each of which are both viable solutions, but one of which we highly recommend over the other:

  1. Our preferred method of forum hosting is to purchase forum software (which is affordable), and set up your own forums in a subdirectory of your clan website (i.e. forums.clanname.com or clanname.com/forums). Good forum software is not hard to come by, and there are many choices, such as Invision Power Board, phpBB, vBulletin, and YaBB. Installing and configuring your website is explained in detail, in the Installation and Configuration section.
  2. Some clans sign up for free forum hosting from a forum-hosting website. Advantages include that it is free, and that you don't have to install or configure anything. However, free forums are ad-supported, and usually offer limited options for skinning or theming. Consequently, these forums rarely look anything like the rest of the clan's website. Free forum hosts are also quite simple to find. Some of the more commonly used forum softwares in Spark are ZetaBoards, freeforums, forumotion, and Simple Machines Forum.

Installation and Configuration

Starting off with a forum, you'll first have to configure everything, input your server information, and hook up your forum software to your database (any forum software listed above requires database access). This section can be skipped if you're creating a free forum from a forum-hosting website, as the free forum-hosting websites configure and install your forums for you.

Increasing in Skill

All clans want (or should want) to continually increase in skill from the get-go, progressing from their current skill level to ones far beyond what they could have imagined when they started together as a clan. Members will come and go, but the rise of the overall skill level of the clan should be a heavily-sought-after goal.

Maintaining Competitiveness

All clans—be they fledgling clans or established ones—once they achieve a state of general competitiveness with other clans, should want to maintain that level of competitiveness.

Clan Practices & Scheduling

The only way to stay competitive is to practice, practice, practice! Schedule easy times for your clan members to be online, and schedule the practice times accordingly! Many of your Sparkers may have school or work, so the best time to practice is usually in the evening or night time. Schedule practices often; have them every day if you can! The more active a clan is, the more quickly their skill level will increase, both as individuals and as a team!

Playing in Leagues/Tournaments

Joining leagues or playing in tournaments is a surefire way to keep many members of your clan active. Clan members must not only show up for games, but if they expect to win, they must practice all the time as a clan in order to achieve cohesive teamwork and have a positive outcome on the games that your clan plays throughout the duration of the league.

Communication & Voice Chat

The only way to succeed as a team is to communicate, and a very important part of many clans' efficiency as a team is a voice chat client that they can use to build camaraderie, and converse at any and all times of the day. The voice chat client that we recommend, and that most Sparkers use is called Ventrilo (www.ventrilo.com). Also known as 'Vent', it will allow you and your clanmates to speak with each other in a third-party environment, and as such, you can use this while in-game. This is extremely important, and will prove to be one of the most effective ways to play together efficiently and skillfully.

Longevity

Many clans rise through the ranks through the bandwagon effect, quickly picking up many skilled players, and making a decisive mark on the league scene; only to falter just as quickly through the reverse bandwagon effect, when everyone jumps from a sinking ship, leaving only a few members left or none at all.

The art of maintaining clan longevity is a delicate thing, and is somewhat of a lost art, as many clans who have lasted for years on Spark have been around for a decade or longer, and there are few clans who have what it takes to stand extended periods of inactivity or a rift in the High Council. Most of the existing clans that could stand these events have a few things in common, and we'll try to capture the essence of these common elements herein.

Controlling New Members

Invitation

As a clan leader, there are very good reasons not to just let anyone join the clan at any time they want. When starting a new clan, a good way to start is with a group of close friends who have been friends for a long period of time, and then build from that established core group of members and add new members at a cautious rate, carefully maintaining fluidity of play and making sure new clan members don't rub current clan members the wrong way with their attitudes, and vice versa. This is where having a good high council or group of clan officers comes into play. Complete and competent clan applications also help to highlight possible trouble areas before any conflict occurs.

Often, first-time clan founders on Spark invite many people to the clan that they'd otherwise not want in the clan, and do not even require an application or high-council vote. They do this simply because the player's skill level is above that of the current clan members. Often, this causes strife within the clan and may cause a rift, with some players leaving the clan. Letting members join or leave whenever they want creates bandwagon and reverse bandwagon effects as well. There have been many instances in which a promising new clan was formed very quickly around a few core members, and then when the clan ended up not performing as well as expected, or a disagreement flared up to which no quick solution was reached, the clan dissipated just as quickly. This is unnecessary, and isn't a smart way to make clans.

Conduct

As a clan leader, you can't just let new members act however they want now that they're wearing your clan tag. Whether the new clan member has been around the community for a decade or has only been around a few weeks, new members should act with respect toward other clan members, and their conduct should reflect credit upon the clan that they are now a part of.

Often, new clannies (even in top-tier clans) act flippantly and may unwittingly cause an atmosphere of edginess among longer-tenured clan members. This can be harmful as well if left unchecked. Make sure to keep an eye on your new recruits so they are not causing any situations that could blossom into a larger problem later.

Last but not least, there is always the potential that your clan could accept into it a member who by nature of who they are has an element such as charismatic appeal or long-standing prowess as a player, which draws other players to himself or herself, while at the same time plants seeds of discontentment throughout the clan. When both of these elements are present, the following usually happens: These members try to organize a secession of some sort, either seducing members along with them to another clan when they leave, or staging some sort of uprising within the clan to reorganize leadership and upset the chain of command that currently exists. Watch out for these players, they've ruined many a good clan.

Keeping Players Active

The best way to keep players active is to lead by example: Be active yourself. A good way to maintain activity over a certain period of time is to sign your clan up for leagues and tournaments. They'll show up for league games, and hopefully to clan practices as well. Have practices scheduled every day, and make sure to attend these yourself.

Also, give your clan members a reason to show up, and don't allow the clan to stagnate. If your clan rarely plays together, you are not doing your job. You should be playing with your clan often, and make sure everyone is increasing in skill at all times. Newer members should be focused on especially, and brought up to par if they aren't already there. If there is a reason to show up, most Sparkers will sign on.

When it comes to real life getting in the way of Spark, and causing inactivity, there isn't really much you can do to combat that. Obviously, real life comes before a video game for most of the Sparkers out there.

Maintaining Clan Image

Everything that one of your clan members does reflects upon your clan positively or negatively. Make sure your clan members are serious about being in the clan and doing their best to reflect well upon their clan. This applies stringently to newcomers, though oldbies can often get into strongly opinionated fights as well. Either way, infighting never bodes well for a clan, and should be avoided for more reasons than just that of trying to maintain a good clan image.

Also, make sure that whenever involved in leagues and tournaments that your players follow the rules entirely, and preemptively maintain any problems by doing your part as the clan leader to organize necessary elements that involve your clan, such as floating schedules, organizing practice schedules and league reschedules, and the like. Do your best to avoid issues and conflicts entirely, and your clan will benefit from not having its name dragged through the mud by being involved in disputes, protests, and forum arguments.

Maintaining Loyalty

The intangible character trait of loyalty is surprisingly elusive in Spark, because it is a game where so many people know each other, and have known each other for years. All bets are off when it comes to maintaining alliances between players, factions of players, or entire clans of players. Thus, maintaining loyalty is a futile quest for clan leaders without loyalty themselves.

Often, the loyalty a clan member has for his clan stems directly from the loyalty he perceives other clannies to have, specifically the clan leader or leaders. There is no magic bullet to ensure your members will all be loyal, but if a bad apple joins the bunch, it is better to prune him from the clan than to allow him to sow seeds of discontent before leaving of his own accord at some fateful juncture. This may only prompt other members with previously ignored gnawing discontentment with some aspect of the clan to pack their bags as well.

Handling Disputes

When there is a dispute in your clan, you will often be called upon to resolve it. Try to remember, the best way of handling things isn't always by ruling with an iron fist. Make sure to accept all sides of the argument before making any decision either way. Just because you may not like someone does not mean that he or she is wrong, and vice versa: just because you like someone does not mean that he or she is right.

Do your best to be as impartial as possible when settling disputes among clan members, and when possible if you feel it is necessary call on the high council or clan officers to help you out if you don't think you can be completely impartial in making a decision regarding the situation at hand.

When to Boot Players

Kicking or booting players from the clan should be done under few circumstances, and only as a last resort when resolving a dispute. If someone really cannot be agreed with, or is causing too many problems in the clan, kicking them may be the only way to resolve the problem. Remember, as the clan leader, it is your prerogative to kick anyone you feel is necessary to remove in order for the clan to function properly, and for social matters to be repaired to what is fun for the majority of members.

Additionally, if you suspect a player falls under the narrow umbrella of the last paragraph in Conduct, this is also a good reason to kick the player in question from the clan. A good thing to be mindful of is that you don't kick anyone while in a state of heightened emotion, because if the reason for kicking him or her is rather silly and you make a rash decision, they will probably never come back to the clan as long as you are in charge.



New Maps

Deadlock - 8-16+
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Madwars-Mini - 12-20+
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Cold - 8-16+
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Backlash - 12-20+
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New Patches

Classic ARC Patch
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Forest Patch
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Wave's Patch
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Bouncy Patch
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