Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Transient Group Type

More and more MMOs are attempting to incorporate open-world content into their games. However, participating in open-world content often conflicts with queuing for formal instance-based group content.

For example, in FFXIV, a dragoon signs up for a dungeon queue that will take 20 min. While waiting, the dragoon participates in FATES in the open world. But the dragoon cannot join a local group working on FATES without conflicting with the queue. This is true even though such FATE groups are very transient in nature. People join and leave such groups fairly often.

The major issue here is the nature of a formal group in most games is very rigid. Once you join a group, the entire group signs up for queues, participates in content as a unit. This type of group is a little too rigid for open-world content that is continuous and on-going, with no real defined start and end.

Consider a world PvP battle like Tarren Mill-Southshore in the old days. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to join up with a group to participate in the battle, but still be able to sign up for dungeons and battlegrounds? Your queue pops, and you simply leave the open-world group.

Essentially, we need a new, more transient group type (maybe called a skirmish?) that only exists in the world. The skirmish cannot sign up for queues, but individuals in the skirmish can do so. Maybe everyone can invite people to the skirmish, or other people can automatically join the skirmish without needing an invite. The skirmish becomes the default form of group for open-world content. The more formal "group" and raid are reserved for explicit teams, or instanced content.


  1. Well, the main reason you need a group rather than just everyone rushing the world boss is because of buffs, tanks, heals, and crowd control.

    That is to say, you need a easy way to distribute buffs among people close to you. A way to distinguish people meant to take damage. A way for healers to target you. And a way to know what you're supposed to polymorph.

    The first, you could simply make auras actually auras, that is to say, something like marksmanship aura (+10% attack power, WoW) would affect, say, the one hundred yard radius around your character. Same for stuff like blessings, one cast, everyone in a 100 yard range gets buffed.

    Next, tanks. Well, just have the tanks yell out or something. (Alternatively, just assume whoever the boss is hitting is the tank.)

    Healers, however, would need a good interface to target everyone in range. It could get a little crazy, so the easiest way is to have smart heals that target automatically. Obviously these have to be too inefficient for raid use, but for open world content, where damage is spread out and healers are probably a lot more numerous than necessary, that's perfectly fine.

    Crowd control... well, I call it that, but it's the ability to assign raid marks. Stuff like a moon over a polymorph, a skull over the first thing to kill, a square on the tank you're supposed to stack on.

    That's a little harder.

    You don't want all marks to be visible by everyone, that's simply too easy to abuse. But maybe you could simply have mark challenge you join like the chat channels for WoW. (General, trade, etc.)

    Anyone can join any channel, but you can only place marks if you made the channel or if the creator of the channel gave assistant to you. So just yell, say, 'everyone to channel 104z' and you'll be able to see marks.

    Rather than making a new type of group, just make grouping up for world content unnecessary.

    Buffs being AoE. Heals being smart but inefficient. (Tank healers can just target tank anyway.) And markers being visible by anyone who joins the proper chat channel.

  2. Edit to the above:

    4th paragraph from the bottom.

    You don't want all marks to be visible by everyone, that's simply too easy to abuse. But maybe you could have mark visibility depending on the chat channel you join.

  3. Well, I'm proposing a relatively small change adjustment: a new group type where you can queue as an individual.

    You're proposing reworking all the fundamental game mechanics, especially healing, so that formal groups become unnecessary.

    That seems like overkill. I like the current game mechanics. I would just like to join FATE groups while in queue for a dungeon.

  4. Creating a second user-controlled group type might just complicate things too much, but if it just happens automatically and consistently in certain circumstances that would be convenient.

    FATEs already have a radius.. if everyone running in and out of that radius were automatically added/removed from a single skirmish group, that'd be awesome. The same could be done with Hunts. Party missions might need defined areas instead of a simple radius. Don't need a new chat channel, given "Say".

    I do agree with above that buffs, such as Protect, should be turned into an aura. Probably should be anyway, really, and they don't have to lose their durations. Would be annoying to feel obligated to recast them everytime someone shows up or exits and re-enters the skirmish.

    Probably have to limit skirmish sizes so that flash mobs will get juggled into multiple distinct skirmishes of 5-10 people each. (UI, networking, ... - Jita in EVE Online?)

    I was actually surprised to see that the Chocobo counts as a party member. Have to dismiss it to queue for a dungeon so you can't even do solo content with your own chocobo while you wait. Now that's just silly. Shouldn't be an issue for the game to automatically dismiss it when necessary for groups/skirmishes.