This is Part 2 in the First Person Teaming series.
In the Introduction to this series I outlined the general purpose and goals I have in mind and indicated I would begin with this subject: Observation and Communication (I reversed the order from the Intro for logical purposes).
The reason to start here is simple: without effective employment of those skills, you don’t and can’t have teaming in multiplayer games… especially in a virtual environment where real-world physical contextual cues are completely missing. Oddly enough, implementing these skills is simple too, but for reasons that escape me their proper use is rare in my experience. I’d hazard to guess that in the First-Person Shooter (FPS) games I play no more than twenty percent of the players truly get the concepts we’re going to cover today. So let’s improve that, shall we?
Well-designed FPS games offer a variety of cues and clues to inform the player of what’s going on. Common user interface elements include a Heads-Up Display (HUD) with player’s vital statistics, location, weapon in hand, ammunition count, etc. But beyond these features are those that can be even more helpful specifically for teaming, as follows:
- Play status announcements (“Red team has the flag!”)
- Goal indicators (objective icons, such as an arrow over a captured flag)
- Team damage feedback (“Hey, I’m on your team!”)
The play status announcements are key here. I’ve seen too many players ignore them to their team’s detriment. When the announcer or text update indicates that your team’s flag has been taken (or control point seized, etc) that’s your alert to alter your immediate behavior. In Capture the Flag (CTF) modes, returning a captured flag is priority one, always (capturing the enemy’s flag is priority two). Similar rules apply to other modes. So it’s important for players in the field to pay attention to these status alerts in order to effectively shut the enemy down.
Consider a CTF scenario I have encountered far too many times: I am a Blue gunner in the back of a jeep driven by a teammate intent on capturing the enemy’s flag. But halfway to their base I hear the feared “Red team has the flag”. Immediately my priorities change– I swivel around to face our base, knowing the flag thief will be coming from that direction. But at least half the time, my driver ignores this sudden game-changing event and continues on his original mission. That is, he is not observant.
That behavior costs games. But observation is only part of the solution…
I have an obligation to make sure my teammates are observant. They might miss the alert for whatever reason, so if I see their behavior has not adjusted to the new threat I need to make sure they know what has to happen. So in the flag-capture scenario above I need to insist that the jeep driver turn around and proceed toward the flag thief. I also need to instruct other team members to move to intercept if they can. This is where players who favor long-range weapons become valuable; snipers and rocketeers are good to have when a flag stealer makes good progress across the map. Just make sure everyone follows through on flag recovery, especially if a dislodged flag takes an enemy-favoring bounce!
But this is just one example. Instead of idle chatter, make sure your team engages in productive communications (but on the team chat channel, of course). Players need to constantly inform and update each other of their strategy so that others can choose alternatives and thus broaden team effectivity. You don’t want the entire team clumping together and taking the same route– the enemy sure won’t, especially if they see your team tends to do so!
In covering the skills of observation and communication I am laying the groundwork for detailed coverage of strategies in future articles. Going forward I will build on the advice provided here and show precisely how and why those skills work. But for now, I hope some players are already getting good ideas on how to improve their teams’ chances!