True Buddy Gaming

My buddy and I started really hitting Guild Wars pretty hard again after the update.  It goes hand in hand with us taking a small break from Lord of the Rings Online.  The thing is my guild is pretty dead (my alliance has a low pulse).  His guild has been dead from the start, nearly.  So except for all the intelligent PUG players, it’s just us.  And, it’s wonderful.

The concept of “buddy gaming” embodies the veritable no-man’s land between solo play and full-on group play.  In many EQ-style MMOs, having a buddy to group up with to make things more efficient (read: kill/heal faster) has been around for a long time, but that’s not exactly buddy gaming.  Buddy gaming is more aimed at content designed for a party of 2-3 players than just doing content designed for solo players faster.

In Guild Wars, buddy gaming is best achieved with two to three players and Heroes filling out the remaining slots.  Unlike henchman, Heroes can be outfitted with a very specific build, and this helps to make the event more personal.  Plus unlike henchmen, Heroes can be individually controlled by their owning player.  The supreme majority of content in Guild Wars can be played and beat this way.  Some of the elite areas are still very hard to do with less than a full ship of human players, but that’s mostly it.

Lord of the Rings Online also implemented something designed for buddy gaming in the Eregion zone: 3-man dungeons.  The detriment is if a player is just gaming with one buddy then they still have to pick up that one other person.  It’s a small difference, but the personal-feeling players get from buddy gaming is a skittish creature.  With Book 8, we will be getting more 3-mans, but further down the road Turbine is working on “skirmishes.”  The skirmishes will be a dynamic instance that responds to the size of a party.  This is not a new concept as Blizzard has been doing group-size responsive dungeons for some time.  The only difference, and this is a big one, is that Turbine is going in the opposite direction.  Things will dynamically respond as the party gets smaller.

That is the critical “flash of genius” that I believe has been missing in most EQ-style MMOs.  There has been so much content across MMOs that look to engorging party-sizes.  The advertisement on the party size on the forthcoming dungeons seem to be nearly equivalent to super-sizing value meals or movie theatre popcorn and soda dimensions.  But, many developers seem to have failed to notice that the personal feeling then became easily lacking.  Players just became cogs in a wheel or “that one tank.”  I think buddy gaming has a lot of unexplored potential and effects… good ones.

–Ravious
ain’t been droppin’ no eaves sir, honest

19 thoughts on “True Buddy Gaming”

  1. Myself and the wife ate up the whole “Heroes” concept in Guild Wars. A game that only WE could play, without the need to coddle anyone elses needs or concerns…because sometimes babysitting gets old.

    Guild Wars is the perfect husband-wife, best friends game ever.

    Cheers

  2. My wife and I love GuildWars for the same reason! We always play as a couple (mostly LORTO now) and we’re very excited about idea of the skirmishes. It’s a step back to the glory days of LAN gaming when ALL games had a multiplayer co-op mode that could be enabled over a local network.

  3. The buddy gaming is what I miss most about the game in Warhammer. I am trying to get a static 6 man going. Too me the accomplishments feel so much better that way instead of Warband zerging.

  4. > This is not a new concept as Blizzard has been doing group-size
    > responsive dungeons for some time.

    Have they? There are dungeons that are tailored for 5, 10, 25 and 40 man groups, and the newer expansion have “heroic” (harder) modes, but as far as I know they don’t scale to the size of the party. I don’t think a 5-man gets easier if you go in with only 2, or harder if you go in with 7, for example. I may be wrong — can you point out a source?

  5. I didn’t mean perfectly dynamic. I just meant that the same dungeon would change depending on whether you did it 5-man or 10-man, etc. I am not sure whether skirmishes are going to be perfectly dynamic either. They could be solo, three-man, and 6-man… for example.

  6. City of Heroes would probably be a better model for an existing MMO with dynamic scaling content. CoH instances have scales with group size (and optional sliding difficulty) for years.

  7. Without having played LotRO, so this may well be a feature there as well, one of the things I’ve thought other MMO’s needed since I saw it in early DDO is the difficulty selection for instanced dungeons. Later I heard they added a solo difficulty as well, but if you did only have 2 or 3 people you could play the dungeon on easy difficulty and usually get through it alright.

    So if Turbine were to combine these features, difficulty selection and scaling difficulty based on the number of party members, things could get really personal. In a good way.

  8. The existence of the Sidekick, Exemplar and Level Pact systems also makes CoH a great buddy game, by ensuring its always possible to play with a friend without level difference getting in the way. And yeah, CoH has pretty much nailed instances that scale to the size of the party. (which is just as well considering that 90% of gametime takes place in instances)

  9. Yes, Zubon gave me a good incentive to really try CoH again. I know they do so so many good things. I just didn’t have the expertise to add CoH in this post too despite their obvious place in buddy gaming.

  10. I’ve just started playing Guild Wars, and I’ve only bought Prophecies (as I read that that has the best introduction/tutorial/learning curve). I’m finding it really hard once I move on out of post-searing Ascalon – there’s a group of dwarves that kills me and my bunch of henchmen right off.

    I originally got it to play with my boyfriend, but I’m sick of getting my ass kicked. Should I just skip to whichever chapter has heroes? Will I need to get to level 20 first? Should I just try another class (Mo/Wa at the moment)? I’ve been finding it really hard to find a place to discuss all of this as the only thing that turns up on google is the official wiki which hasn’t been much help for anything so far :(

  11. Monk is a hard first time ‘solo’ class to be… I would suggest Ranger (ranged toolkit) or Elementalist (ranged nuker)… then Warrior (melee) and Necromancer (pet/debuff).

    Monk is hard because you are a healer class, and your DPS line does not get good until you get a lot more skills. So you end up trying to heal the henchmen while they try and decide who to kill… it’s a mess.

    1) Prophecies is not the best campaign to start with. It has IMHO the hardest difficulty curve, and some tough missions right away. I would buy Nightfall and start with that. It’s much better, and the “tutorial” is just as good (although maybe a little quicker).

    2) If you are going ‘solo’ most the time learn to call your target. Henchmen/Heroes are mostly smart, but they will “decide” what to do for themselves… a lot like PUG players. If you call a target it focuses the output of the H/H onto one thing (usually).

  12. @Katherine

    Oh man, I feel your pain.

    I did exactly what you did. Bought Prophecies, rolled a monk as my first char. (And still my main 5 months later!)

    But I know exactly where you are (I think), and what is killing you.

    Yak’s bend.

    Go out and die. Die. Die.

    I can’t really help you except telling you that once you win through that part it gets better. :(

    …or you could poke me in game and tell me you’re poking me from Kill Ten Rats and I will gladly help! =)

    (Add Wren Brownfeather to your friends list and you should be able to find me.)

    P.S. I hope it’s not bad form to leave in game names here… If it is, I r sowwy!

  13. Re: Guild Wars

    From what I can recall of the Prophecies campaign, there’s a lot of explorable areas with towns in between, and separate story mission chapters to progress with. Which are you attempting? Some of the explorable areas may not be suitable for your level, if you’ve taken off on a side quest.

    (I remember an epic journey through 4+ explorable areas through Stone Summit and undead beasties trying to get to some necromancer’s tower. That was fun during preview weekend and the first few months. On my second go-around with GW, I was rather disappointed that I carved through that same quest without much effort. I’d evidently picked up a lot more tactical sense playing CoX, of all things.)

    If it’s a story mission you’re having trouble with, that official guild wars wiki (http://wiki.guildwars.com) can be very helpful for providing a map and tactical tips.

    Identify which mobs do what. Guild Wars isn’t your typical MMO where you fight one enemy at a time. They come at you in a big group, akin to PvP, and generally you target monks, mesmers, elementalists, all the squishier support targets first. Then clean up the warriors; the rangers are quite tanky in GW, and can hang on quite stubbornly to life.

    I find as long as you are hitting a target, spacebar to attack, the henchies will generally key in on that target after a few seconds. Shift+space to target call, to make yourself feel better if the henchmen don’t seem to listen. :P

    Controlling aggro is very important in GW PvE too. That aggro radius circle on the minimap. Always keep an eye on it. Groups patrol in GW, and they’re designed to converge on top of people charging straight ahead, getting tangled up in one spawn, and having two patrols flank right into them. Ouchies. Pull backwards, retreat if you see groups of red dots coming near, etc.

    The key, really, is to rework your skills build if you’re banging into a brick wall. Prophecies locks you into those two professions until much later in the storyline, but Monk and Warrior give a lot of tactical leeway.

    You could forget the primary class for a bit, put on a warrior weapon, equip warrior skills and hack away. If the standard healing magic monk isn’t working, protection might cut down on incoming damage.

    Builds can get very complex in Guild Wars. See pvx.wikia.com/ for examples. Most of them will probably be useless to you right now as they rely on skills crossover from all chapters, but the ideas behind them are quite an interesting study. Find skill synergies and take ruthless advantage of whatever skills the opponent is carrying.

    That’s all the general tips I can think of.

  14. I thought Prophecies was supposed to have the easiest learning curve, according to the GW Wiki :(

    nugget said:
    But I know exactly where you are (I think), and what is killing you.
    Yak’s bend.
    Go out and die. Die. Die

    Exactly right.

    Jeromai said:
    Shift+space to target call

    I didn’t know this one, but it seems like if I click on a target I start attacking straight away when I really want my henchmen to run up and start hitting it.

    I picked Monk because I read someone’s opinion that said the henchmen suck at healing (my experience agrees) so it is better to be the healer and actually be able to keep your group alive. So if I play a damage class I’m worried that my group will just constantly die anyway.

    nugget: I will definitely give you a call in game if I decide to persevere.

  15. “it seems like if I click on a target I start attacking straight away when I really want my henchmen to run up and start hitting it.”

    Hmm. I -think- there is another modifier key you can press to indicate no action on your part. Might be ctrl or alt or something you have to customize with in your key options.

    What I normally do is equip a long range bow and plink from afar while the warrior NPCs head towards my target. Or use an offensive spell at range.

    The other thing I have bound is the NPC “goto” command for the entire party. It’s bound to ‘x,’ so I hit that, target and click the ground near the monsters I want them to engage and they run there and do their automatic aggro thing. They won’t focus fire until I start hitting a target though. With a hero, you could get more specific and only send the warrior hero in to get initial aggro, but I’m lazy – the monk NPC must be in range to support the warrior too, so what the heck, they’re just NPCs. :P

    Generally, I put two monks in a party (hero + NPC) and they can keep everyone upright quite well that way. They fend off the inevitable enemy warrior-type rush into them pretty well too while I’m leading the charge to cut the head off the enemy healers. Good enough for a lazy man’s PvE playstyle.

  16. Just thought I’d check back in, I bought us both Nightfall and we’re having tons of fun :) You guys are tons of help :) Hooray buddy gaming!

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