Running with non-optimal groups

It doesn’t typically take very long in a new MMO before theorycrafters start wondering about ‘the perfect group’. That is to say, given group content in game that’s designed for a fixed group size, what’s the optimal combination of classes/ specs/ etc to take? People spend a long time obsessing over exactly how many off-healers might be needed, whether the various buffs interlock in an aesthetically pleasing way, making sure that the hypothetical super-group has a good balance of melee, ranged, single target and AE damage potential, whether the phases of the moon favour fire or frost damage and so on.

Sometimes alternative potential groups are invented based on alternative strategies — you see this more on the PvP side of things, a crowd control group full of casters involves a very different composition from a melee assist train. And in a kind of platonic gladiatorial arena, the competing concepts actually get to duke it out in the field.

But somehow, the most memorable instance and PvP runs I have been in all involved non-optimal groups. There is a special kind of feeling of achievement in knowing that you’ve beaten either the game or other players with the odds stacked against you.

I was thinking this over the weekend when I looked at the 10 man signups and saw 3 warlocks, 2 druids, 2 paladins, 2 shamans, and me (ie. 1 warrior) and realised that I was going to have to turn up as my offspec and let the druids tank because we had so few melee signed (and it just so happened that no one else had a melee offspec, go figure).

We had a great run, knocked out Hodir for the first time, and smooth kills on all the other bosses we attempted — hurrah for warlock powah! The only frustrating part for me as raid leader was having to skip Thorim because of not having any instant-cast healers (the arena is a bitch for healers/ casters because there are slow effects).

But I think it felt even better due to knowing the group balance was so oddball. What do you think? Do you get more of a sense of achievement when you feel as though you’ve gone with a really weird group composition?

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7 thoughts on “Running with non-optimal groups

  1. I think MMOs are actually a lot more flexible in their group make up than people believe it’s just that players always want the ‘best’ group and have pre-defined concepts of what that is.

    In EQ2, the ‘best’ setup is probably something like a tank, 2 healers, 2 dps and 1 support. However, I’ve been in some amazing groups that had wild mixtures of classes.

    I get annoyed when people say ‘oh you can’t join this group because we already have X’. They’d rather wait another 30mins for some other class even if that player sucked.

    • I’m absolutely sure that you’re right! Although I know in games that I’ve played, it can make quite a difference to the difficulty.

      I think the problem is more with the players really. But then again, I can see why people might prefer the easier option if there is one.

  2. The absolutely most failproof 5man-groups will run 2H,2T,1D. The only exceptions are bosses with (soft/hard) enrages.

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  4. My dream is a game where the PvE encounter adjusts itself to maintain a fairly constant level of challenge in response to whatever classes you bring. Of course, this is hard to do, but I can still dream.

    It’s very easy to do in PvP on the other hand – both teams simply swap after the first match is complete. That way there’s no point in bringing a min-max build because the other team will just get it in the next round. Instead, you bring the build that you think is the most fun…. and the other team will do the same, such that hilarity will ensue.

    (some restrictions would probably be smart, such as no all-healer griefing teams, etc).

    • Oh yeah, definitely.

      I think that’s one of the holy grails of (current) MMO design, really. Is it possible to design instances/ worlds that adjust their difficulty to the players capabilities?

  5. I think the more classes there are, the harder it would be… in an exponential fashion.

    Maybe it could be done with a data mining / evolutionary algorithm. Like, for a given dungeon the server makes minor random alterations to the monster composition for various categories of adventurer group. The alterations that produce, say, the desired percentage of players completing the encounter on the first try, would be kept.

    So, it would probably be messy at release (but still no worse than current MMO’s), and slowly get better and better over time as it collects more and more data.

    Until it achieves ‘awareness’ and launches armageddon, aka, flings all mobs at the local quest hub :)

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