Oct 14, 2015

Posted by in Editorial, Featured | 3 Comments

Friendship Is Magic (In Team Based Shooters)

starwarsI get more comments on my blog posts on G+ than I do here, so let me refer you to the comment thread on Monday’s post “Try Not; Do, Or Do Not” for the background commentary that lead to this post.

In my post, I said that “[h]aving friends around was a plus, of course[…]”, which is true, and for many people who commented, this seemed to be the key sentiment which helped them in deciding to play or not to play a team based shooter as well. The question that came to my mind as we were discussing, then, was “how important is having a friend in the game, really?”

In a team based shooter, the answer is probably “very” if you look at it from a performance point of view. Star Wars Battlefront‘s 8v8 or 20v20 missions, like almost any team shooter, will reward the team who exhibits the most amount of cohesive team-work. The best way to achieve legitimate team-work, then, is to have communication, and unless you’ve got the iron stomach to sit through an entire match on voice comms with the kind of random strangers who gravitate towards these kind of  games, your best bet is to game and comm with friends. With communications, you can quickly figure out where to go, where the enemies are, and how best to approach the goal.

If you look at it from a “get it done” perspective, then the need for friends fades into the background just a smidge. With friends, you at least know that some of the people you’re playing with aren’t assholes who are going to go off an spam dance emotes while the rest of the team picks up their slack. But if you’re on a team where everyone is focusing on the objectives at hand, there’s no reason why your team can’t pull off a win. Working alongside other people, shooting at the other team, and completing objectives is really the point of the game; it’s just a little more difficult when you can’t easily coordinate with other people, or when other people refuse to coordinate with the rest of the team.

Even playing with friends, you’re going to get random folks on your team, many of whom are probably just soloists anyway. In the 8v8 map, there’s clear-cut objectives, and the only way to win is to complete those objectives. I found that everyone on the Drop Pod missions was focused on doing what was needed, and because there was only one objective at a time, it was stupidly simple for the entire team to be on the same page and working together despite not actively working together like we would if we were a team of friends, and especially a team of friends with voice comms. In the 20v20 Hoth battle, playing with friends is probably far less relevant, simply because of the map size, the number of people, and the fact that the goals were completed whenever they were completed (ideally, as quickly as possible).

In my original, original post on SWB, I said that I didn’t want to even give Drop Pod a shot because with a smaller team my individual contribution would be much more obvious than it would be in 20v20, and since I’m not super great with team based shooters, my mind just decided that I’d end up on the business end of some kind of slur which would have soured me on the game (and reinforced my expectation of the people who usually play these kinds of games). When I tried the more anonymous 20v20, my disgust came from my apparent inability to commit to doing something.

Instead, friends help friends overcome the reticence to try. Sucking at something alone is difficult; sucking at something with friends makes it less terrible. And think about how we behave when we’re alone compared to how we behave when we’re with friends. Alone, we’re probably more reserved and less willing to stand out. In a herd of friends, we’re looser and easy-going, and generally care less about how people see us. If that’s not your personal experience, just go to wherever teenagers hang out in your town or city and you’ll see that herd mentality in action.

When I originally tried SWB alone, my opinion was unfavorable. When I tried it with friends, my opinion changed significantly because having friends around helped me overcome the mental block that pretty much negated the original experience before I experienced it. Most of my time in game was spent focusing on myself and what I was doing, so while I had friends present, there wasn’t a lot of actual coordination. We followed one another, but there’s no reason we couldn’t have followed random people we didn’t know, paring up without any communication at all. I tried the different modes, and each time we won (and we won a whole lot), it wasn’t because it was Team Chris; it was my friend, myself, and a whole bunch of people on the same team who were just doing what they had to do.

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  1. Playing with others in MMOs can be fun! Whoda thunkit? 😉

    • It’s not exactly the same thing. When playing with others in MMOs, you’re providing direct support for one another. In a team shooter, you’re just kind of coordinating your activities to achieve a goal. In some cases you get support abilities in the shooter, like the protective force field you can throw down in SWB, but otherwise it’s pretty much everyone for themselves.

    • I play World of Warships and in FFXIV team-based PvP. When someone steps up as a leader, usually people are glad of it. Most everyone WANTS to play as a team, but is reluctant to step up or ask for input.

      When someone breaks the ice — and it’s easier with friends — suddenly everyone is working together. Nobody wants to be the noob, but usually everyone is actually really motivated to help people. Just takes one person usually.

      There are no strangers, just friends you haven’t yet met.

      Sure, the sociopaths are the loudest, but mostly when there are no other voices.

What do you think?