Seperate or Equal?
January 5, 2010 6 Comments
Like I said in my previous post, I get a lot of my ideas for topics from my reading of the forums. Recently at the Alliance, I was involved in a discussion that was centered around the idea of splitting off scenario queues between premade groups/warbands, and solo queuers (PUGs). The idea behind this is that no one likes to be farmed, or to farm. The separation will create a more equitable basis of competition, leading to more enjoyable matches. This topic became particularly active on the forums most likely due to Mythic’s statement about upcoming changes to the scenario system, and everyone likes to gossip and theorycraft!
When looking at the idea, it’s important to fully understand the base realities of the two separate groups, in general. Obviously, outliers and exceptions will exist within each group, but statistically, I think it will remain fairly consistent. This core understanding of how the two operate is integral to making a strong case for this change. Without this common ground of understanding, an agreement to the reality of the situation, the conversation cannot progress. So, if after reading my understanding and take on how the game operates, you don’t agree, you can save yourself some reading time and just click comment and tell me how wrong I am.
PUGs and Premades a world of difference.
Without looking at the motivations (I’ll do that later) behind these two groups, I want to talk about what seperates them. Fundamentally, a PUG is a group of randomly assembled people with none to little connection, individuals forced together and operating in their own way. A Premade is a group of familiar players joining as a team with a shared goal, similar play styles, and performing as a unit.
There are further, more glaring differences, but the details may vary more from the above base differences. Methods of communication are probably the largest split in the two groups. Where a PUG usually has to rely on the written word to communicate, a Premade is usually on some type of voice communication. Invariably, the premade is made up of higher ranked, better geared players as well. Practice is a huge and underappreciated benefit of being in a premade as well. People who frequently play together will work together better. Familiarity breeds comfort (and contempt, but we’ll ignore that truism!), as well as knowledge of the other person being able to be relied upon. Continued playing with the same people frees you up to do the things that you do best, while the other person does the same. Over time, the premade will learn better how each member of the team operates and will increase efficiency and cohesion.
As an overly-nerdy analogy, think of Star Wars and R2D2 and Luke’s X-wing. In the Star Wars universe, astromech droids are routinely wiped of compatibility memory with ships, this way they maintain their adaptability and flexibility in use. However, Luke was so partial to R2D2, that he always used him in his ship and never performed the wipes. Because of this, his ship and droid had a near symbiotic relationship that massively increased performance, and saved his ass when Thrawn tried to tractor beam his ass to do mean nasty things to him. In much the same way, premades learn the moves, habits, and playstyle of their comrades. The excessive repetition of being always in combat, spending days of played time together leads to a symbiotic relationship that increases performance. In a premade that has played a long time together, their voice communication often carries the resounding quiet of a group concentration, sporadically broken by monosyllabic comments of target changes or shifts in focus of objective.
None of the above exists in a PUG. Each member of a PUG plays in a manner unique to them, with habits, routines, outlooks, and styles solely their own (or even worse, conformed to a different groups behavior counter to their current). So while each member of the PUG may have the flexibility to be adequate individually, they do not share the cohesion and focus of intent as a group to achieve the desired goal against an enemy that does carry those traits. Additionally, PUGers tend to be of far lower rank and less well equipped than their premade counterparts.
When a PUG faces a Premade, they have the chance of a single sandbag of holding back the flood. The end result is almost always the same. The PUG gets pushed back to their spawn point and farmed for 15 minutes by the premade. The PUGers get frustrated, and possibly leave the scenario to go grab a drink while their debuff fades. The Premade becomes bored, distracted, and sloppy, pulling guards, going AFK or just sitting back to watch the fight, because if they aren’t going to have a fun fight, why bother for the joke of a reward you get for it (i.e. the PUGers aren’t worth anything AND they don’t present a challenge). Either way, noone is having fun and actually participating in the game.
The Final Solution
So, what can be done to bring fun back to this portion of the game? Separate out the two groups, so that they don’t face each other. Create two queues for scenarios, one for groups of players trying to play together, and one for solo players. Of course, this isn’t the perfect solution, but it’s a start. From the inception of the idea, it will (most of the time) immediately eliminate one of the biggest discrepancies, communication. It’s very rare in today’s MMO scene that people who are playing together do not have a way of quickly talking to each other that does not interrupt gameplay. Even in PvE games, it’s rare to see groups not in the same voice chat channel. MMOs are cooperate/competitive, and communication is vital to success in them, even if it’s only two people.
Of course, that leads into one of the main problems of the system. Where do you draw the line? What do you determine to be a premade? I’ve seen arguments that only two groups really represent a premade, and anything else is just a group of players (I think that argument is a ridiculous attempt at boosting self-worth at never losing in “premades” given the difficulty of getting two groups into one scenario but that’s a different discussion). Still, what’s the minimum for people to be a premade? Two is perhaps too small, as it does not possess the holy trinity, but three might be as well, as it would only represent a quarter (25%) of the entire force for that match. I’m of the opinion that a good premade consists of at least four players, that’s the magic number that seems to be able to turn the tide of battle in a SC. A group of four is enough to be one of each archetype, and carries a third of the total power of the scenario. They are just strong enough to be reckoned with, and to control objectives.
Of course, there are ancillary problems to deal with. How do you stop a group of people from queuing up solo at he same time, for the same scenario? Do you allow PUGers to join the premade queue if they want to risk it? If taking this step, why not go further and start to create matches based upon rank, gear, and group composition? How do you deal with the inevitable increase in queue times if they are completely separate?
These are all questions that I think can only be answered by time and play testing. Seeing how it responds to the real world game to discover the viability/necessity of each option. But overall, this idea would lead to a greater enjoyment of all parties. It creates an equitable starting ground for each competition, as well as providing rewards appropriate to each group. When PUGs get farmed, they gain no renown, and most Premades don’t make any noticeable renown off of PUGs and definitely don’t see the crests they need for gear progression. The proposed solution solves both the problems of fun and advancement, with no discernable downside that I can forsee.
What are your thoughts? Good/bad idea? Am I an elitist bastard for thinking this? Have at me.