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State of the Game—November 20, 2006

Leadership in Guild Wars

By Adam Sunstrom

Special note: Each State of the Game article presents the opinions and insights of one game observer. These observations are personal in nature and do not reflect the opinions of ArenaNet. While ArenaNet does review each State of the Game article to assure that it offers content that is respectful of all players, we intend to allow our reporters the freedom to inject some personal opinion into descriptions of the current atmosphere of competitive play in Guild Wars, and to express views based on their experience and observation.


Ask most Guild Wars players who the most important person on a team is, and practically everyone will give you the same reply: "The Monk." They are wrong. I have been around Guild Wars since before the first PvP map was put into the game, and my focus has always been competition. In my experience, what separates a good team from a decent team is nearly always the leadership. Not the leadership of choosing members and deciding play times, but the in-battle leadership that PvPers refer to as "calling." This article is about how to do it effectively over voice communication like Ventrilo or Teamspeak.


The Caller

The player who does the calling has to have certain qualities to be effective. The caller has to be able to think on his feet and adapt to unexpected scenarios. He needs to be able to speak loudly and clearly so everyone can understand him; good callers are usually talkative and somewhat cocky. He must be decisive and confident, because if he constantly second-guesses himself mid-sentence, the team will lose all direction.

In addition, the caller must have intimate knowledge of the game and the build your team is running, and she must be able to analyze an enemy's build quickly so she can adapt the tactics accordingly. The caller must also be experienced enough to be able to foresee the enemy team's tactics, like blocking the door and shooting the Trebuchet when Victory or Death arrives.

Positional awareness is another key skill, because the caller needs to be able to identify enemy movements and take advantage when they overextend away from Monk healing range or when they split up. Last but not least, the caller should be someone who has been around the guild for a while and has built up some authority and trust from the members.

One thing the caller does not need to be, however, is the nominal leader of the guild. If the founder or leader of the guild is not the person best suited for calling, she has to be humble and realistic enough to delegate the job to the person who would be best at it for the benefit of the guild.


The Calling

What follows are some tips that can help improve the performance of your caller. Hopefully there will be something useful here even for callers with a lot of top-level experience, because it's a difficult job and nobody ever gets it completely perfect.

  • ABC: Always Be Calling. Long silences leave room for confusion, and it's your job to make sure everyone knows what they are supposed to do throughout the game. Call targets to attack as often as suits your build, and make sure your team's positioning is good. If you are facing a team with strong Area of Effect damage, remind your team to spread out. During lulls in gameplay, such as while waiting for the enemy to come out of their base at VoD, discuss how you will adapt to different possible scenarios the opponents might put you in after the lull.
     
  • If you're sure the main team is under control, ask players not visible on your compass how they are doing and make sure they know what's going on. Follow up on the status of your earlier order, whether it be pushing in the Repair Kit or killing NPCs in the enemy base.
     
  • When calling targets to kill with a spike build, try to count down in actual seconds. Players with longer cast time skills such as Lightning Orb need to time the start their cast for a certain second, and if you count too slow or too fast you will ruin the spike.
     
  • If you or some players on your spike team are experiencing lag in the voice program, use the in-game clock to count down spikes. For example: If the clock shows 14:30, say "I want a spike on target X at 14:40."
     
  • When you want a player of a certain profession to do something, say his name instead of his profession. For example, if your flag runner has Death Penalty and you want one of your two Warriors with high armor to push the flag to the flag stand, say "Bob, take the flag from the runner and go cap." If you say "I need a Warrior to take the flag and cap it," you risk wasting the team's time in the confusion of deciding which Warrior does it.
     
  • Stay focused on the game at hand. If you're in a lull and you start discussing a great movie you saw last night, chances are you won't adapt quickly enough if the enemy team pulls something unexpected.
     

Effective Communication

Here are some further tips for effective communication everyone should observe, not just the caller.

  • Minimize noise. Subjects or discussions that are irrelevant to the game at hand take away focus from players and can clutter up the sound space when the caller needs to issue an order. If you are not the caller, keep your communication and commentary to the minimum necessary for your build. If you're a flag runner, update the team on flag status. If you're a Warrior, call for Blindness removal when necessary. The Warrior shouldn't talk about the flag runner's job unless it involves her.
     
  • Discuss problems, not players. If a player keeps repeating a mistake, discuss what needs to happen from now on rather than what that player should have done differently or that player's skilled level.
     
  • Save build discussions for after the game. If your Warriors are getting all of their attacks blocked or evaded, try to adapt by pressuring or interrupting whoever is casting the Aegis or Ward Against Melee. Do not say: "I told you this build needed more Enchantment removal, but you wouldn't listen." It isn't productive, and there will be plenty of time after the game to discuss it.
     
  • Keep it positive. No matter how badly it's going, don't give up hope on winning and, most of all, do not start to lay blame. If you allow the communication to degenerate into snide little digs or a shouting match, you not only risk losing that game, you risk losing the whole reason to play the game, which is the entertainment value.
     
  • Evaluate between games. Whether you win or lose, take some time between each game to think about what could be improved in terms of build, tactics, communication, and individual play. If you have a loss, let the caller be the moderator and ask each person what problems they ran into and what they think should happen. Show respect and let others finish before you reply.
     
  • Refrain from second-guessing the caller. Even if the orders seem like bad tactics, it's better if everyone follows orders and makes a bad move together than for a few players to go against the orders and render the entire team's effort ineffective. If the call was bad, discuss it after the game is over. There are obvious exceptions. If you think the caller is making a poor decision based on lack of information, provide the info, but still follow orders until they change.
     

Common mistakes

Finally, here are some common mistakes to avoid if you want to be an effective caller.

  • Faltering under pressure. It seems obvious, but this is the single most common mistake I see callers make. When the momentum of the game starts to turn in the enemy team's favor, you must not let it dishearten you and you must not let it make you quiet or angry. Some callers are superb when everything is going well but fall apart when under pressure. Try to keep your focus on the options you still have, keep talking, and don't let the team get disorganized.
     
  • Unclear wording. Avoid ambiguous terms that can be confusing to players. For example, "fall back" can be interpreted as either "disengage and retreat" or "stop overextending." When you can't find accurate words, draw on the map where you want players to be.
     
  • Wrong character build. The caller needs to be playing a character that is fairly straightforward, that stays with the main team and that targets enemies. If you are forced to play a complicated build that has to target allies, split off from the group or use many interruption skills, it will take away from your ability to direct the team. Ideal characters for a caller are Warrior, Elementalist, or Paragon as they allow for a lot of positional thinking, and these professions typically fight near the front lines where you can see if an enemy gets low on Health or overextends.
     

I hope this article has made it clear that communication is an important skill in Guild Wars, and that it's worth your effort to improve yours. I'm sure that you'll think of details I have missed or omitted from this article. Remember not to get complacent even if you're doing well, because there is always something you could do better.


Adam Sunstrom has been playing Guild Wars since February 2004 when he joined the Alpha test, and has been interested in the competitive aspects of the game from the beginning. In the early Beta Weekend Events, he led his former clan, The Fianna, with success. He is currently a member of Black Widow [Wi] and the proud holder of one [iA] stamp of approval.