In the previous two sections I have covered a basic theory of networking in online games, and some pointers in how to better communicate your needs and intentions to your fellow players. Each of these lays the key groundwork for grouping, but has little to do with the actual building blocks of the group itself. Today’s topic however will cover the true meat and potatoes of dark art of GroupCraft… the ability to assemble a group from nothing.
Assembling the group relies very much on the two tenants covered earlier. First as I have said before, you will need a stable pool of players to draw from, and in order to achieve best results you are going to have to bring more to the table than just the looking for group channel. On top of this, you need the ability to communicate your intentions clearly to the players that you are attempting to recruit into your group. Not everyone wants to be a leader, but there comes a time where you must decide to learn to fish for yourself. These guides are my attempt to pass on some of the knowledge I have accumulated.
Know The Roles
Everything we ever needed to learn about building a group we can learn from the original Final Fantasy for the Nintendo console. For the time being we are going to forget those abominations known as Red Wizards even existed… damned dirty hybrid casters. Essentially the world can be divided into 3 teams for the sake of GroupCraft.
Tanks – This is the heavily armored badass who gets his jollies by pissing off the mobs. The more mobs he has pissed off, the happier he is. This is the guy who keeps everyone alive by deflecting all the attacks his way.
Healers – This is the life giver who furiously watches your health bar making sure that you get topped off when you need it. They are the heart of the group, and make it possible to keep moving at a steady pace.
DPS – These come in various shapes and sizes but essentially all perform the same role. They make things dead. Since burning crusade DPS classes have pretty much all been interchangeable for the sake of grouping, and all you simply need is a player behind the keyboard that can pay attention, and react to changes in the environment.
Final Fantasy was really the first game that introduced class balance, and allowed the players to pick and chose their own groups. The “core” of the group was always comprised of some class that could take large amounts of damage, and some class that could heal the group up. From that point on it was left to the individual style of each player. Granted this concept has been alive in pen and paper gaming since its inception, but FF1 was the first title to really display this well and clearly for the video gaming audience.
Build Your Core First
The key to building a group easily is to lock down your core classes first. Every group must have one healer and one tank to remain successful, so it is always best to make arrangements for a tank and a healer first before filling any other roles. For me this was easy, considering my main character Belghast, is a tank. All I had to do to complete my core was find an able bodied healer. For DPS, you need a ready reserve of tanks and healers to be able to pull in for grouping purposes.
I have a number of DPS Alts however, and have been able to do this all pretty simply, so long as I get to know the tanks and healers and their personal preferences. I always find it amusing when you see someone looking for more, stating all they lack is a tank and healer. In truth, if you do not have a tank and healer, you do not have a group. Locking down the core, allows you gauge what kinds of dps will complete then quintet the best.
Tanks and Healers more than any player live in a constant deluge of people asking them to do things. A few months after the release of Burning Crusade, there was a great drought of able bodied tanks. As a result I found myself logging in every night to a barrage of 15 or more tells. With Wrath of the Lich king, the absence was initially healing, so as a result all of the healers I knew were the ones in high demand. As I stated in the communication topic, it is always best to try and directly communicate with your healers and tanks. More than any other classes they are almost always in high demand, so it is not realistic to expect them to respond to open channel questions. However once you find a handful of stable tanks and healers, your group assembly will go much easier.
Know Your Missions
When assembling a group it is extremely important for you to know the mission at hand. Each dungeon or raid requires a few key elements for utmost success. For example, it is impossible to complete the Deathknight wing in Heroic Naxxramas with at least two able bodied priests for the mind control. Another example, is that for Emalon, Deathknight tanks have the ability to completely negate the “Nova” effect through the use of their Anti-Magic shell. Regardless if it is a raid or a 5 man instance, each favors a specific balance of classes.
It is important that as a leader, even if a reluctant one, that you do the basic research into the various abilities that the mobs will utilize in whatever dungeon or raid you are focusing on. It is important by the same token to know the abilities of each class that you can utilize. There are key judgment calls that allow the leader to know when best to utlize crowd control methods, or when to just try and AOE tank the content. Each group combination you choose will place very specific constraints upon the encounters.
Know Your Classes
It is important that you familiarize yourself with the various abilities that different class and spec combinations offer. Get to know details like that a Retribution paladin offers passive AOE, so you have to be wary of the crowd control you choose, and that they offer the strongest replenishment and have an often times under utilized crowd control method called Repentance. Another example is that you should know that a Feral Druid and an Arms Warrior feed off each other since both classes rely heavily on bleed effects, or that a Mage and a Balance Druid are best friends so should always be placed in the same group.
There are numerous traits that each class and spec combination have, and it takes time and research to learn how to best utilize the inactions of each. If you take leading seriously, you will do the leg work on wowhead or wowwiki to understand how each class works and various things you need to watch out for when that classes uses some of its core abilities. In addition to DPS complimenting each other, you will learn that certain healer/tank combinations work better than others. There is no easy way to digest all the information at once, but it is something you need to be aware of as you start piecing together groups.
Over the course of these three posts I have tried my best to present some ideas on the general topic of how to best get groups rolling. As I have stated before, I originally started formulating this concept with the release of Burning Crusade. I noticed that some players were able to pull together groups easily, and others were not, and slowly I began to learn from the techniques each was using very subconsciously. As members of my own guild complained at a lack of being able to get into groups, I compiled the first draft of this in the form of “Bel’s How to Get Groups Started Primer”.
Since then I have collected and refined my methods and these last three posts have been a much expanded version of the core concepts of that guide. Ultimately, no matter what I say, some players will still be hesitant to get the ball rolling, preferring to wait in the wings for someone else to do it. This is fine, we can’t all be chiefs… however in my opinion you have to take responsibility for your own happiness. When something is not going like you had hoped it would, then you need to seize control of your own destiny and figure out how to make things happen. I hope this guide can serve as a starter, for players to go off and formulate their own grouping theories.