Groupcraft Revisited

Dusting Off Skills

One of the very first features that got my blog noticed years ago was a series I called Groupcraft.  In it I outlined the general theory I take when trying to make a group happen out of thin air.  This was a process I had streamlined since when I first started trying to make groups happen back in Burning Crusade, and still continue to do this today.  This advice predates the existence of the dungeon finder tools, and even in a world where you can push a button and get a group… I still find most of it extremely useful.  Based on a discussion over on twitter yesterday, I feel like it might be time to dust off this topic and revisit it.  The Elder Scrolls online has grouping tools, but once again I find that a custom built group is far more successful as the queue times seem to be pretty extreme for anyone who is not a tank or a healer.

Taking Responsibility

Screenshot_20140404_220734 The very first step in the process is to take responsibility for your own happiness.  You can sit around in guild chat hoping a group will happen upon you and whisk you away to a dream land of epic loot…  or you can make one happen yourself.  Massively Multiplayer games are the refuge of introverts, and since I believe it or not am one of them…  this was a hard step for me to move past.  In other games I have hung out hoping things would evolve into a group… and then wound up disappointed when I pissed my night away waiting for it to happen.  In games like Everquest it was easier, simply going to a specific place in the world meant it was pretty easy for you to get into a group.  However in the post wow world this is just not something that works.

Be Specific

Screenshot_20140407_183815 It is simply unrealistic for you to expect that someone will form a group for you.  As a result you need to be the catalyst that makes sure the groups happen, and it really isn’t as hard as you might think.  Once you’ve decided you are going to step up to the plate and form a group…  you need to know what you intend to do.  This can be a pretty flexible mission of “run a dungeon”, but in doing so you need to know which one and what the requirements for that dungeon are.  The first dungeon you are likely to run in the Daggerfall Covenant is Spindleclutch.  It requires some kind of sturdy tank, some form of a healer, and then the rest of the party is pretty flexible.  By healer and tank, there are many different things that can work but they need to be able to take some damage and heal some damage.  Simply throwing a few points into healing staff is generally sufficient at least for the first tier of dungeons.

Surveying the Scene

Screenshot_20140416_060055 Now that you know what you want to do you need to lock down some people.  With the goal being Spindleclutch the sweet spot seems to be around level 14 with it technically being able to support people in the 12-18 range generally speaking.  While I took this screenshot from my own guild this morning when nobody much was on, you would hopefully see some names lit up and available.  What we are focusing on is the 12-17 section of the screen.  For example in Stalwart we have an entire screen worth of people to choose from.  If you can find at least four people on in the list then bam you likely have the makings of a group.  If you can find two or more, then you can shift focus and go do a public dungeon since those tend to be design for two or more players and are loaded with all sorts of goodies similar to instanced dungeons.


Screenshot_20140405_224903 This step is absolutely key to making your group work.  So many people simply broadcast to guild a message similar to “anyone want to do something?”.  These are NEVER successful, or moreso are only successful if the person on the other end is also trying to build a group.  Saying “I need one more person for Spindleclutch” is a bit more successful, but that still requires that someone is watching guild chat and comfortable in their own abilities to speak up and sign up for your mission.  What I find instead works so much better is to directly message players.  So if I were to be building this hypothetical group I would start pinging folks in the sweet spot with something like this. “Hey noticed you were in the level range for Spindle Clutch, going to be pulling together a group.  What roles can you fill?”.

At this point the player is going to do one of two things either say they cannot go, which is perfectly cool… or respond back with a list of roles they can provide.  You are already one step closer to a group than you were a few minutes ago.  I tend to just assume players want to run dungeons, and I skip the step of even asking if they want to go.  It might seem presumptuous but over the years I have come to realize that most players are waiting for something interesting to happen.  If you give them the opportunity, they more than likely will jump at the chance… unless they simply do not have the time to do “whatever” that night.

Lock Down the Required Roles

Screenshot_20140405_210040 Now comes the trickiest part.  We know that we need players between the levels of 12 to 18 with a sweet spot being around 14.  We know that we need a tank of some sort and a healer of some sort.  If you are yourself a tank or healer, it becomes a lot easier… as you need to only find the other half of the required roles.  As a more dpsy player you need to find two people before you have a viable group.  An instanced dungeon group cannot really happy before you’ve found both a tank and a healer, so those are the slots I tend to fill first.  Once you have locked down both positions, you have a viable dungeon group and can fill the last slots.  If you cannot find a tank or a healer remember you still have a perfectly viable public dungeon group.  Public dungeons are pretty awesome, and every one I have gone too has been a loot bonanza quickly filling my inventory.

Start Up the Group

Screenshot_20140408_195314 So at this point you’ve locked down the required roles, and identified a three other players who are ready to dungeon together.  One of the nice things about Elder Scrolls Online is that all that really needs to happen now is for a single player to zone into the dungeon.  At that point all of the other players can choose the “teleport to player” option which will pop them into the dungeon as well.  Hopefully your custom group will go smoothly.  However inevitably you will hit a snag, or a boss encounter you simply were not ready for.  I believe in a blame free dungeon environment, where you assess what is going wrong and try and fix it however you can.  Dungeons are hard, and they require complex skills.  Try and be open to assistance and provide blameless advise for what might be going on in the dungeon.  If you do all of these things, I think you are pretty much guaranteed an enjoyable night of dungeoning.

The fringe benefit of all of this is you begin to know more members of the guild, and what each player can bring to the table.  The more you do this, the easier it becomes to pull together groups on the spur of the moment.  You shift from feeling like you are forced to only solo, to being someone who has control over their own destiny.  The truth of multiplayer games is that the players generally would like to group up and do big things.  Not everyone has the time to do this all of the time, but folks come into this genre with at least the intent to do things larger than they can do on their own.  You just have to be willing to take your fate into your own hands and start the ball rolling.  Even today I get super self conscious at times when I step out into a new social environment that I did not bring with me a ton of familiar faces.  But this basic framework for making groups happen has never failed me.

Better than Dungeon Tools

Screenshot_20140414_195115 So I will throw out a final thought for the day before closing this up.  I first outlined my process for making groups happen in an era when we did not really have the grouping tools that exist today.  So this is the way you HAD to get groups, and relied heavily on social channels and guilds.  Now that we have role based dungeon tools… quite simply we have gotten lazy.  Building a group like this means you have to communicate with other players to make it happen.  The one thing that makes “pugging” so generally terrible is that players simply do not communicate freely.  How many times have you been in a pug and it is a silent train careening off the tracks?  No one is talking, and no one is trying to discuss what is going wrong.  The only time anything is said is when it is to curse out the tank or the healer for being “fail” at the game.  By talking to the players to form the group you have already broken down that crucial barrier to success…  communication.

Almost every game that has a “push a button, get a group” type tool also has other tools for you to try and build groups around.  So I always try and fill my groups the “old fashioned” way, and then if we are a single person short go ahead and queue us all together for the dungeon filling that last slot.  Even absolute assholes tend to behave better when they are out numbered in a guild group.  I feel like the modern grouping tools are best used to augment building a group from scratch.  Get as close as you possibly can to a full team, and then use the tool to fill the rest.  You can always pop into a public dungeon while you wait in the queue.  While I have mostly focused on Elder Scrolls Online, this general theory pretty much applies to every game I have played.  The most critical step is really telling yourself that you can do this.

#ElderScrollsOnline #ESO #GroupCraft #Dungeons

3 thoughts on “Groupcraft Revisited

  1. I’m with you on group finding tools. Honestly, I wish designers would start with a middle ground approach before going straight to the easy button clicks. I’ve always liked bulletin board-type systems where you can search for open groups, freely join, etc.

    From my experience, the best groups are ones I cobble together through communication, not absolute automation.
    Murf recently posted..Hajime no Ippo: Rising (Anime, 2013)My Profile

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