21/01/2012

Five tips to help you get into groups while levelling

The game's barely been out for a month and already people are clamouring for a dungeon finder. Oy vey. I can't comment on what it's like at max level right now, but while levelling I've had no problems getting into groups. I wish I could share the secret of my awesome group-finding powers, but I'm afraid that I'm not quite sure what it is myself. However, I do have some more obvious tips for asocial people that want to increase their chances of successful grouping:

1. Bring your own friends. Even just one!

Socialising online not your kind of thing? Okay. However, surely you must have at least one friend in meat space that is somewhat interested in gaming and could serve as your gaming buddy - maybe even a significant other? Even if they usually aren't into this kind of game, it could turn out to be a surprise success!

It's not necessarily a matter of having to play together all the time either (though that can make for an awesome experience) - the point is that it's simply nice to have someone around whom you can ask for help if you need it without feeling shy. One of the great things about SWTOR is that due to the way the companion system works, two people are enough to tackle pretty much all levelling group content, even if it's advertised as being designed for a larger group (more on this later).

If you do decide to look for help from outsiders after all, having a buddy by your side is also a great way of attracting more people. It's the principle of the first follower at work. By signalling to others that you already have a group, just not a full one, you'll immediately look more trustworthy and likely to be successful. Think about it, if you were looking for a group yourself and saw two different people advertising in chat - would you be more likely to respond to the one saying LFG or the one saying LFM?

2. Look around you!

No friends want to play with you? Okay. All is not lost, even if you don't want to join a guild or don't think that you'll be making long-term friends in the game. However, you won't be able to avoid talking to people entirely. I've been utterly baffled by some comments I've seen where people stated in the same breath that they had trouble finding groups but that they were also ignoring the chat window and the LFG tool. I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but how do you expect to find out about grouping opportunities then, or for other people to know that you would like to group? Magic? Sorry, but this game doesn't have a magic insta-group button.

I find this attitude particularly fascinating because in real life I can't think of a single situation where anyone would consider it even remotely acceptable to expect help from other people while insisting that they didn't want to talk, see or otherwise interact with those same people in any other way. I reckon this kind of thing is why gamers have a reputation for being weird...

Anyway! The point is, you might not want to read all the rubbish in chat, but it's really not that hard to at least keep an eye on it every now and then to see whether the name of a quest you have pops up somewhere. The current LFG system is quite poor, but you might as well flag yourself as available anyway. It takes little effort and you never know who might look! I hear that some servers also have user-created LFG channels already. Just keep an eye out. A lot of what we commonly call good luck is actually simply people being aware of their environment and spotting opportunities where others don't pay attention.

3. Take the initiative!

I know most people don't like to lead. I don't, really. But being the one to put a group together is not the same as being a guild or raid leader. It requires minimal effort and no particular leadership qualities. Unfortunately, most people still prefer following, all day, every day, and that becomes a problem if there aren't enough leaders around.

This isn't something that came with the dungeon finder either. I remember back in my TBC days in WoW, certain guildies were always whining about not being able to get heroic groups - but they never did a damn thing to get one going either. Duh, people!

So next time you'd like to get a group quest or flashpoint done and nobody else has brought it up in a while - why not try speaking up? At worst, nobody responds and you continue on your merry way. At best, you get to be someone else's hero for doing something as simple as initiating the formation of a small group. It's a pretty sweet feeling.

4. Be flexible!

I understand that people have limited time to play and may want to spend it according to certain plans. But really... it's a game, where else are you going to permit yourself to randomly go off the rails and do something different? Yes, that storyline you're working on right now is interesting, and the group quest for which someone was just looking for more in chat is on the other side of the map, but you did want to do it, right? Go on, hop on a speeder or quick travel or whatever, and off you go! The other stuff will still be there when you get back to it later; those other players might not. Don't wait around for the perfect opportunity that might never come; work with what you have. (This is a piece of advice that applies to many aspects of real life as well by the way.)

On another note about flexibility, don't be afraid to supplement your group with companions. Yes, real people are obviously better, but the companions in SWTOR are more than just glorified hunter pets. In terms of strength and throughput they are pretty close to player characters, with their main limitations being that they have fewer abilities and not the greatest AI. So basically, replacing a player with a companion in group content is like having a dpser who doesn't know how to CC, and a healer who stands in the fire. Not ideal, but I'm sure we've all been in a group that had one or more of those and still got the job done! I facepalm every time I see someone spam chat with "LF1M [4-person quest]" for ten minutes instead of simply pulling out a companion and actually getting started. In any group I join and that isn't full yet, I immediately encourage the other party members to get going with companions if we can't fill that last spot within a couple of minutes. Most of the time it works just fine.

5. Don't be desperate. Relax.

In a way, this is the least practical but also the most important advice I have for anyone looking for a group. I shudder every time I read a post by someone where they mention "spamming LFG for an hour" (or more). I always hope that they are just really fond of hyperbole. Nobody would really do that, right? It sounds horrible. I've done a lot of grouping in my time, not just in SWTOR, and I've never done that. I wouldn't want to, and to be honest, I wouldn't be keen on grouping with someone else who does that either.

The thing is, putting a group together involves social skills (if not many); it's not some kind of achievement that you're bound to get if only you grind hard enough. Treating it as if it is, is only going to make you look weird. People want to group with players who seem like fun to hang around, not with awkward spammers, even if they wouldn't consciously express it that way. You might turn away more potential party members than you end up attracting!

Not to mention that sitting in one spot all day and stubbornly repeating the same message in chat over and over again is going to burn you out. You're going to get worked up about your failure, until it feels like grouping in this game is just impossible and damn, it sucks. This isn't fun for you or anyone!

So, if you're one of those people, I say: relax. I don't know what it's like at endgame (that might be a post for another day once I get there), but for levelling content, Bioware has managed to strike a wonderful balance between solo and group content. You can see all the good stories by playing on your own if you want, all the way to the cap. The group stuff is completely optional, and from what I've done so far, very light on story (with few exceptions). If you just want an excuse to play with other people, it's great, but if you don't feel like grouping, you don't miss anything important.

Sometimes there simply isn't anyone around who wants to do Hammer Station with you. So what? Do something else and try again later. Try again tomorrow - not for hours, just a quick shout-out before you set out to quest some more. And if it still doesn't work out... well, this game is really encouraging you to level alts, won't it be nice to have some content to explore on another character, content that you haven't seen on your main yet?

5 comments:

  1. I think you already hinted at this in the first part, but it probably needs restating: If you go with 3 people, the game will make it harder than with 2 and even harder with 4. Companions don't count.

    So basically... 2 people + 2 companions have an easier time (throughput wise) than four players do. You'll be notified of this by entering a heroic area (any type, not just 2+) - you'll get the message "Enemy reinforcements arrived" (or some such).

    Don't be afraid to try a 4+ heroic with only two. Bring sensible companions (a healer one never hurt) and you'll be fine. Really.

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  2. Actually I didn't know that, Sith! In fact, I'd been wondering what the "Enemy reinforcements have arrived" message meant whenever I saw it... thanks for sharing this!

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  3. I agree 100%. People are seriously too spoiled by the dungeon finder systems creeping into all MMOs. I spent years in WoW grouping very regularly simply from a small friends & family guild and the network of friends our members have.

    We very rarely pugged dungeons. Sure there was the odd occasion where we didn't have a full group but in WoW that was never an issue, you just chose a slightly easier dungeon for the group.

    I take the same attitude into SWTOR, I want to see the world, I want to group with people for heroics and instances. Personally I'd rather do that the old-fashioned way, it's one reason why I'm on an RP server as the community there is generally better for that playstyle.

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