Perfect Ten: MMO grouping advice you shouldn’t bother giving
It’s time for a new expansion in Final Fantasy XIV, and that means for me that a lot of people are going to not know how to get through content. Heck, I don’t know how to get through all of the content; it’s new to me too. I’m still figuring it out, and while there are a few people who are progressing even faster than I am and know how to clear everything, they are in the decided minority. I mean, the expansion, counting early access, has only been out for five freaking days.
So that means I get to enjoy the old standby of offering advice when clearing group content. And some people are… let’s be polite and say that they’re better at it than others. An entire guide about how to give advice which will actually have a positive impact is a bit beyond the scope of this article, of course, but we can at least look at the advice that never, ever works. Or if it does, it is entirely by coincidence, not design.
1. Telling someone else how to play
This one is just fraught with all sorts of problems, but we’re going to start with the very simple and basic one: You probably are not sure what your fellow players are actually doing. Oh, you can see if they’re doing a lot of damage or a little, but you can’t actually see if they’re using optimal rotations outside of checking their cast bars and watching them act obsessively. Unless you’re spending all of your time observing their actions, you can’t actually tell them what they should be doing because for all you know you missed something they were all doing while you were watching their actions and ignoring your own.
But even if we assume that you know how to play that character and can actually give useful advice, that advice is useless without the muscle memory and understanding that goes with it. I like to think that I’m pretty good at playing Enhancement Shaman in World of Warcraft, for example, but I routinely think of my abilities as the components making up my hotbars and forget their proper names. And the patterns of play I have are based on my keyboard, my mouse, my setup, and my understanding. Even if I have an idea about what someone else is doing wrong, trying to play the game through lines of text isn’t going to work out well for either of us.
2. Advice with insults
So your party died for whatever reason. Unpleasant, but it happens. You offer your advice, and it is, in fact, totally right. But then you feel the need to append it with “you idiots” or “you morons,” and you can’t understand why the rest of your group then ignores it. What morons, right?
Of course, if someone gave you advice filled with mockery, you’d be right there alongside everyone else ignoring the heck out of it, buckaroo. And so would anyone because no one wants to be insulted. Basically ever. However accurate your advice might be, if you can’t deliver it without wrapping it in a solid coating of derision, it’ll get filed along with other insults and tossed in the trash.
This one seems unpleasantly frequent in PvP, I’ll note. Right along with…
Party leader is not an elected position. You are not the commander of an elite force; you are the person in charge of what is probably a group of random people and most likely is not made up of people who respect your authority. So if you’re trying to bark orders in Star Wars: The Old Republic battlegrounds, you’re as likely as not to get people doing the exact opposite of what you suggest just to spite you.
I vaguely recall a management seminar years ago that stated something similar even for people who actually had power; the more you phrase orders as requests or even questions, the more people are inclined to actually go along with it. And that’s in positions where you can actually fire someone rather than just being designated a group leader.
4. “Why can’t you…”
This one is a particular favorite, and I have to admit, sometimes I get to a point where it nearly passes my lips. All you have to do is dodge the thing. Dodge the thing. Why can’t you just dodge the thing? What are you trying to do?
Of course, then I smack myself until I shut up, because I’m right; that is all you have to do. So if the people in question aren’t doing it, that means either they still don’t get it (unlikely after better advice has been given) or are trying to do just that and failing. Asking why these things aren’t being done, under the circumstances, is substantially missing the point.
This one is my personal favorite, especially as it’s often accompanied by a threat. “If you guys aren’t going to defend the fort properly, I’m not going to try to help you anymore,” says the would-be advice giver, sounding for all the world like a petulant five-year-old throwing a tantrum. I like to imagine these players as the same people who get very offended when their supposedly expert-level play in Overwatch doesn’t move them out of low rankings.
Of course, it doesn’t move them out of those rankings because these players are the ones who also insist that while they aren’t taking part in the objective, that’s because they know how to do something better. Telling your group that they shouldn’t bother trying is unlikely to encourage them to try, and it mistakenly attributes all success or failure to one or two factors instead of a number of reasons all happening at once.
Also, petulant stomping.
6. Idle speculation
“Hey, maybe we should try taking back the farm.” The player giving this sort of advice is, at least, trying to avoid the obvious pitfalls. There’s no demanding tone, no condescension, no cruelty. It’s an effort at just phrasing advice as if someone is musing aloud. And it still doesn’t work because one of two things will happen.
The first possibility is that it’s phrased so ambiguously that it doesn’t even seem like advice. Maybe we should try taking back the farm. Maybe we should all drink Red Bull. Maybe ketchup and ice cream is better than you think. Maybe lots of things are true!
The other possibility is that you’re obviously being a sniping passive-aggressive sort. “Maybe Kyle should get his act together and heal the rest of us.” Dude, you’re not fooling anyone.
7. “Watch the video.”
This one always strikes me as odd because it doesn’t come up in any other situation. I mean, if you call AAA because your car is having a problem, the person at the other end doesn’t sigh and tell you to go open Wikipedia and start a research trawl. But sometimes you’ll ask “hey, what should I do with this boss” or “is there anything I should know” and the response will be a sighing “you should watch the video.”
First of all, unless it’s found under YouTube filed as The Video, that’s not actually helpful. Second of all, a majority of video guides spend a lot of time covering unnecessary subjects and taking more time than is useful; I can unpack a lot of information quickly from text, less so from video. And perhaps most relevantly, I am right here right now, so just answer the question instead of making me spend another five minutes looking up a video and then watching it!
Just outright refusing to give advice is better than this.
8. Advice with constant references
On this first boss, he fights like the second boss of DuckTales but in three dimensions, and he’s also got the ability footprint of the third boss in Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Dodge most of the AoEs, but get in the ones that look like the pizzas from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 on the NES. Got that?
If you do… well, congratulations, that was just idle nonsense. The point here is that it’s not assured your fellow players have played or even heard of these games before; the best you can hope for is that someone may have. I usually will ask if people are familiar with game X or boss Y before using that as a point of reference in very rare cases. Yes, the Cordana Felsong fight is basically the same as the Charibert fight, but you can explain one without referencing the other.
9. Acronym soup
I’m not usually a huge fan of acronyms in MMOs simply because an acronym that isn’t universal or immediately intuitive makes communication more difficult. Giving advice laden with acronyms or technical terminology makes it harder for people to understand what you’re trying to actually get across.
And this isn’t even counting the people I’ve encountered who make up acronyms just for their immediate circles, then start using them with everyone like anyone else will know what they mean. “QCF the other team, guys!” You want me to quarter-circle-forward them? What?
10. “I heard a rumor that…
This one isn’t hard to listen to; it’s just that every single statement prefaced thusly is about to kill your group. Always.