I had a fairly lengthy discussion the other day about what makes someone a great player. There are all sorts of different types of games and gametypes, so for the sake of making things simple, this post mainly refers to FPS games. One of the topics we covered was how teammates affect gameplay performance and that’s what I want to talk about today.
In my eyes, there are two types of shooters, those where you utilize your teammates and those where you’re dependent on your teammates. This may seem like a subtle disctinction, but I assure you it is not. Essentially what I’m suggesting is that there is a spectrum to team based games, and utilizing your teammates is on one side whereas depending upon them is on the other.
Left 4 Dead is a great example of a dependent game. In L4D, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. This is true to an extent for all shooters, but I’m not going to be 4 capping anyone if everyone on my team isn’t on the ball. An effective infected team is going to be running a diversion, throwing in a boomer, and then striking simultaneously with the last two infected. The best survivor teams consistently move as a group, spam melee, and are always aware of where they’re at, and where their teammates are. They know the appropriate choke points and are anticipating attacks coming. They are very, very difficult to hit with just about anything and 4 capping them is borderline impossible.
The Call of Duty series is a great example of a utilization game. Granted there’s nothing you can do if everyone on your team throws down their controllers and walks away, but on average you have much more room to utilize individual skills than in L4D. The Battlefield series by EA is another great example of a utilization game. An amazing team of average players will beat an average team of amazing players due to strategy and teamwork, however having a clutch player in all categories (infantry, tank, plane), wreaks havoc on the opposing team and depending on the map can easily be a gamebreaker.
In my opinion utilization games are ideally where it’s at. Games that depend heavily on teammates are too easily swayed in pubs which consist of the majority of playtime. As anyone who can attest to who has played L4D or Team Fortress 2, there’s simply no reason to keep playing if your team isn’t on the ball and you’re getting rolled by the other team. Short of you getting on the horn and calling in your 8 best friends, you can’t simply invite 2 or 3 guys and expect to have them make a difference.
In a utilization game if your team is getting destroyed it’s much more likely that if you’re an amazing player you can rise above your teams level. What this means is that while your team got destroyed, chances are you still had a great k/d and did well personally. This type of game is much more affected by having 1 or 2 ballbanger friends who can come in and turn the tide. World of Warcraft has slowly realized this over the course of the last 7 years by knocking down the raid requirements from 40 people to 10. Large raid groups have the additional and unfortunate side effect of decreasing the impact of any single player. Nowhere was this more evident than in the Wrath expansion where 25 man groups would sell 10-15 spots to players with very little gear in the hopes that they would buy gear and contribute to a group pot that was split at the end of the raid.