I've been playing video games for years. I started with the Super Nintendo and burned out an old CRT TV playing Starwing. Seriously, there was smoke and everything and I was just about to rip Andross a new one! I love open world games, and games I can spent hundreds of hours in, immersing myself in the lore and the environment. The best games for this are RPGs and MMOs. I've dabbled in World of Warcraft but came to it during the Cataclysm event and felt like that one guy who showed up after the party had begun to wind down. I was on the band wagon for Star Wars the Old Republic from day one and to this day it is the only game I have ever pre-ordered.
SWTOR is atypical as MMOs go. It's perfect for beginners and is a mostly narrative experience with every quest giver being voiced instead of the usual text box quest line. It also has an immense number of cut-scenes. It must have taken forever to make! It was built to be a mostly solo story adventure, which as a fan of narratives and an anti-social individual, suited me fine. The fact it was based in the Star Wars universe and I got to be a kickass Sith Warrior helped too.
Because of its nature with being stripped back and easy to pick-up it left me ill-prepared when I moved onto new MMOs. The Group Instances, known as Flashpoints, weren't so much class focused and once you got to a certain level everyone went full on damage dealer. This'll only get you so far in other MMOs. At a certain point, playing with others is innevitable and, if done right, is really rewarding. If you're like me and have had little experience with MMOs and their mechanics when it comes to knowing what is happening and what you should be doing during group play then see below. Here are the five things you really need to know before jumping into a Group Event!
#1 - Know Your Roles
This seems like a little bit of a no brainer but there were a few points, before my first group instance, that I hadn't even considered. Not only is it important for you to know your own role but it's also important to know what is to be expected of your companions. So what roles permiate all MMOs and what does each specific class need to be doing?
#2 - How To Party Chat
Getting into a Group Instance was my first experience with the chat function. Before that I had kind of ignored it as an annoying log of quest feats, emoticons and people yelling in ALL CAPS about their guild and why you should join it. This was, of course, stupid of me. If you can't communicate during a Group Event then you'll find it really hard to achieve anything as you all need to be on the same page. In FFXIV specifically you can left click on the speech bubble of the chat and switch between the different settings of speech and change who can hear you. As default it is set to SAY which just enters whatever you type into the general local chat that everyone can see. If you are not a monthly subscriber you can't Whisper/Tell (speak to one player and one player only) as you don't have access to this feature but this is a common way of speaking you'll see in World of Warcraft and SWTOR just to name a few. You want to switch from SAY chat to PARTY. This will keep the conversation just to your group. When running an instance the best use of this is giving the other members either direction or advice. When I was running the second story Instance in FFXIV our Healer wasn't great and there wasn't a clear leader. All four of us would wonder along different paths as Instances can include numerous routes to the same end. I called for healing when needed and used the PARTY chat to tell them to follow me, politely of course. Don't be afraid to take charge if you feel you'll do better with more direction.
#3 - When To Pull Aggro
Pulling Aggro is the life blood of the Tank and very VERY important if you're going to have a successfuly experience and complete the Instance. Aggro is an algorithim like a threat indicator. It tells the enemies who they should be targeting based on a number of factors including threat presence and damage. As the DPS will be pulling the most damage it is up to the Tank to keep the interest of the enemy combatants which at times can seem like a bit of a juggling act. In FFXIV Aggro is actually called Enmity but it's the same concept. As a Tank you should have abilities to pull Aggro, a kind of over here you stupid ugly creature button. In FFXIV this comes in the form of FLASH, which is an area of affect ability that grabs the attention of nearby enemies and flags you as someone to fuck-up.
This sometimes won't work, dependent on how much Aggro the other DPS members of the group have built up. Waving a come kick my ass flag might not bump you to the top of the list. In this scenario you'll have to use PROVOKE, which you unlock at Level 16. Other games have similar abilities but this one bumps you up to the top of ONE enemy's shit list. So, for example, if you are fighting a boss and are unable to get his attention with FLASH and there are multiple bad guys I'd advice pulling the Boss with PROVOKE. As the Tank it's your job to pull the biggest damage dealer away from your companions. As well as doing this you need to KEEP the Aggro. I kind of operate with a 3 Attacks followed by 1 Aggro Builder ability (FLASH or PROVOKE) and keep rotating like that which usually after 3 attacks gives my Aggro Builder time to cool-down for re-use. Some attacks build Aggro faster and if done one after another cause more damage. For example, as a Gladiator (the base Sword and Shield Tank) you can use FAST BLADE followed by SAVAGE BLADE and BLADE OF HALONE which is a three attack combo. The damage dealt stacks and so does the Aggro. You'll be able to see stackable attacks easily in FFXIV as the icons on your task bar get a yellow dotted border that indicates that should be pressed next.
#4 - Loot Etiquette
Loot and Group Loot is not something I've ever had a problem understanding but knowing exactly what you are commiting to for novices is pretty invaluable as it will stop the group descending into bickering. Rewards for instances are pretty high and as well as a decent experience bump and in-game monetary jump, Dungeons and Instances often hand out rare gear. Most MMOs operate a group loot system which is the fairest way I've seen it handled. It's a group voting system that gives each member a chance to decide where the item goes. The options you will be given are generally NEED, GREED and PASS. NEED can also be substituted for WANT but they mean the same. NEED, or maybe WANT, is simple enough. It means you would like to throw your lot in for a chance to be given the item. GREED means you want the item but don't really need it. Usually this means the item is unable to be used by your class or has less attributes than your current gear but is good and rare enough for you to sell it for a profit to an NPC vendor or on the player marketplace.
As a general rule I never press GREED and have never felt the need to as there is generally always someone in the group who could make use of it. I have seen people spam the GREED button in a number of games and if they do this on every drop it can be hugely frustrating as it carries a similar weight in the lottery algorithm as NEED. So, for example, both NEED and GREED are like buying a lottery ticket. The game roles a random number in the background between 1-100 and the player who gets the highest number wins the loot. Picking NEED or GREED means you're in it to win it whereas PASS is if you never bought a ticket at all and you'll automatically roll a 0. PASS is employed when something drops that you don't want or need. Usually that means it's lower quality than what you have or cannot be used by your class, like a wand dropping for a TANK or a bow dropping for a HEALER. Unless it's something I can use I always press PASS. There are other ways to make money in-game that don't include making enemies of your team-mates. I'd only press GREED if every other player has passed on the item. If an item cannot be used by your class you sometimes cannot even press NEED as the system knows you're a liar liar pants on fire.
#5 - Bring Potions
Whether a situation turns south fast or maybe your Healer just isn't that good, bringing potions is a must. Sometimes, as a Tank, you'll be getting low on health and might not be sure you'll get a top up in time. Maybe the Healer is waiting for a cooldown so they can cast again or maybe they're just twiddling their thumbs in the corner. You've not got time to turn around and check, there's a demon on your face with an axe about to make a killing blow. I'd bring a decent supply of health boosting potions with you on every adventure with the attitude of if you don't need them then great but if you do then thank the maker you brought them. Health potions are generally in-expensive and can come in a variety of sizes that restore an ascending amount of health. The more it tops you up the more it'll cost you but it'll be worth it. If the Healer isn't doing their job and you go down during an Instance there is generally no recovering from that.
So there you go, that should be enough to better inform you fellow novices in the art of running your first MMO group event. There's so much more to cover like AOE abilities and large RAID groups but that should be enough for now. To further illustrate the above I'll be releasing a video just flushing out the topic on Wednesday!