Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2’s enhanced Squad UI factsheet

    
13
I’ve already brought you my initial impressions of the Gorseval raid encounter followed by a quickfire interview with Guild Wars 2 Associate Game Director Steven Waller to clue you in on the first Heart of Thorns raid wing that launched yesterday, but there’s still so much to say in this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles! I managed to spend some time raiding last night, and I was particularly keen to test out the enhanced squad UI functionality that has also been introduced to Guild Wars 2 expansion. Although the new system is multipurpose and doesn’t just apply to raiders, it seems particularly apt that its release coincides with this type of endgame content.

Today I’m going to take a good look at the enhanced squad UI that has been created to more efficiently handle the community’s grouping needs. I’ll talk about its features and impact on grouping to save you having to dig too far to get to grips with the new grouping functionality.

The basics of the enhanced squad UI

Squads can have a maximum of 50 members, giving plenty of scope for both WvW and open world, Tyria-at-learge applications. To join up with a commander’s public squad, click on the tag on your minimap, right-click on the commander’s name or portrait, and add yourself to the group. To create a squad of your own, use your party UI as normal and you’ll find the additional functionality is automatically available.squad ui

Commanders have several options in terms of how open or private the squad created is. Open squads are those that allow any player to join without the commander’s specific approval, closed squads allow anyone to put in a join request, but each request is approved by the commander, and invite-only squads are exactly as the name suggests. Invite-only group commanders will not have a visible tag on the map of all players in the zone, and their tag will only be visible to those who are in that squad.

The squad can be further divided into a maximum of 15 subgroups, allowing the commander to easily divide a squad between several different combat roles, PvP units, or points of attack. Commanders must create a raiding squad of ten people to enter Spirit Vale. Leadership is transferrable to any other squad member who has a commander tag, and if the commander drops out, the group continues as a leaderless squad and any eligible members will be offered command. The first to accept will be the new commander.

New UI features

We’ve learned quite a lot about the new UI features over the last few days. The basic UI is clean and simplistic, with all members sharing a solid green colour to avoid a cluttered, busy look. Commanders can drag and drop to place members into subgroups, and the option exists to lock those subgroups to avoid members moving themselves around. The squad UI shows pertinent information about your squaddies, including each member’s health and whether or not a player is downed or even defeated. The UI also shows each player’s profession and elite specialisation.The UI is resizable, but smaller settings show less information and useful details such as character names can be lost if you opt to do this.

Commanders can also broadcast messages to the entire squad that appear both in the chat pane and in the centre of each player’s screen. They can also choose to broadcast to a specific subgroup only, which will filter the message out for those who are not part of that subgroup. Group chatting has become much more efficient with the introduction of subgroups. Each subgroup can simultaneously communicate with both the entire squad and just its own members. Commanders cannot see the conversations that happen in subgroups that they are not members of, so squad chat and broadcasts are still very much neccessary for group coordination.squad ui 2

My favourite new feature is a firm favourite with MMO players: a new ready-check system has been added, allowing players to indicate to each other that they are ready to go without any time-consuming VOIP questioning or in-chat confirmations. It’s such a simple thing, but it definitely helps to reduce the downtime between boss runs and prevents folks from being left behind in larger-scale content.

Boons and conditions are not shown on the squad UI, though players can toggle into the new subgroup mode to see more detials about their subgroup, and this does include condition and boon information. The subgroup mode is capped at 10 player names, which makes sense when you consider the issue of adding an extra layer of UI clutter to already intense content. Squads have a set boon priority order that should be considered: The priority is firstly your own subgroup, then your squad members, and finally your and the squad’s pets or minions.

Some features are locked to commanders

As expected and explained to us in advance, some features of the enhanced squad UI require a commander tag to use. While players can indeed make leaderless, invite-only Spirit Vale raid teams without the tag, more advanced options such as sub-group assignment and invite options won’t be available. I’m OK with this limitation: Commander tags aren’t very pricey for a level-capped player (if you’re stuck, raid your material stash in the bank and you’ll have the required amount of coin) and I’m happy with how it prevents high-population maps from being flooded with tags.

Want to know more?

A quick factsheet such as this is a handy reference point for those who are looking for some quick information about the new enhanced squad UI, but extra details and content are always welcome in my book! The latest episode of Guild Chat featured Gamplay Programmers Jon Olson, Trevor Bennett, and Branden Gee alongside Rubi Bayer, and they got together specifically to talk us through the new UI. I’ve embedded the video below for you in case you want to catch up, and I highly recommend tuning in on November 20th for a special episode that explores the first raid wing.

In closing

At this point, I still haven’t managed to down a raid boss with my gang, but I’m relishing the opportunity to spend so much concentrated time with my raid squad while we tackle such challenging content. We’re getting close now, so hopefully I’ll be able to share some boss kills with you in a fortnight in my next Flameseeker Chronicles edition. The squad UI goes hand in hand with my (so far!) positive raiding experience, and I’m blown away by the fact that Trevor Bennett worked on the feature singlehandedly for so long!

I would love to see some more customisation tools, though. Perhaps I’m spoiled by the plethora of addons I use in my other favourite MMOs, but I wish I had some enhanced raid macro options, customisable raid squad panes, and other fancy improvements. Now feels like a great time for the gang at ArenaNet to open their baby up to the world of addons… wishful thinking, or could this be a thing by this time next year?

Over to you!

What do you think of the squad UI so far? What type of content have you used it for so far? Are there any tweaks you’d make to the UI or functionality it provides? Do you think that addons would enhance your gaming experience? As ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so get sharing in the comments below.

Tina Lauro has been playing Guild Wars 2 since it launched and now pens the long-running Flameseeker Chronicles column, which runs every other Wednesday and covers everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see covered, drop a comment Tina’s way or mail her at tina@massivelyop.com.
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Kanbe
Guest
Kanbe

If I’m reading this right a commander tag is kinda sorta required to organize a raid is that correct?

mosselyn
Guest
mosselyn

I’m a bit flabbergasted that the info they chose to drop out of the interface in compact mode was the name instead of the big ol’ space-wasting class icon. “Hey, warrior #2 in group #3, move up.” Um.

Craywulf
Guest
Craywulf

Lerxx I love how you assume everyone needs/wants/should have a commander tag.

Craywulf
Guest
Craywulf

paragonlostinspace Dude your disgruntled rant has absolutely nothing to do with article. Reign it in or go rant where the topic is about ArenaNet’s billing services.

paragonlostinspace
Guest
paragonlostinspace

tobascodagama Lerxx  I only have money in the bank when I bought it with the gems I was able to purchase “once” after lengthy emails and a phone call to just get them to approve one 100.00 gem purchase. (stares off) So yeah I think gold is a huge sum for many players.

paragonlostinspace
Guest
paragonlostinspace

Just a comment about “too busy”. Brains are interesting things, personally I love using different colors for different jobs or classes. I prefer it over different symbols actually or at best a combination of the two. Makes for instant “oh yeah they are supposed to do that” in my brain clicking. Anyhow interesting stuff on the UI.

Can we “move” the Squad UI stuff? One of my major and I do mean major complaints about GW2 is the inability to control “more” aspects of what keys do what and where UI elements go. Personally I like to have player groups set on the right side, it’s where I tend to set my mouse pointer as the mouse itself is on the right side of my keyboard. (As a left handed person living in a mostly right handed world I need every little thing to make crap like this less distracting to how my brain works) 

 Also from what I see below by the comment of Lerxx, they’re charging gold for this UI Squad stuff? Tina you should go more into detail about that aspect. I didn’t see it in the article so I assume it’s in the video which I’m not planning on watching. Guild Chat gets on my nerves so I skip it if I can. So I think it would be good if you went into detail on that.

 Funny thing, ArenaNet misses out on a decent amount of cash from my wife and I, since we keep running into so many issues purchasing gems with their BS system. Bioware and now Blizzard (Since they sell tokens that I turn around and sell for 30k to 40k depending on market) get quite a bit from us. Just saying ArenaNet, get your shit together on that and stop giving me bullshit none answers or telling me to go to some silly store and buy a card, I’m not a teenager and do everything pretty much via our cards. Ease of use etc. 

 I’d love to give you money but that billing company you use and how your customer service department operates makes me grind my teeth. Glad I no longer live east of you all in WA, I was always tempted when visiting our son at UW to drop by and say, “here, here’s my #@$#@ license, my passport, proof of residence, four different credit cards, I and my wife are indeed who we are and we’re trying to throw money at you!” Never did but man after each email back and forth and phone call etc, I surely was tempted or to fax the damn information. After a bit you shrug and just don’t want to play their game. I’ve still not hit 50th because I log in for a few hours every month or so.

Esoteric Coyote
Guest
Esoteric Coyote

tobascodagama Lerxx You gotta remember though, those mats took you months or longer to accumulate. Sure you could sell them in a day and net a hefty amount, and I’d argue it’s closer to 300g the cost of tag you got lying there since mat prices jumped, but it’s not like you farmed them up in a day.  Mats end my being my “Coyote wants a shiny” fund.  Sell everything, convert to gems, get what I want, but it literally takes me month of casual play to get my collections tab decent again.  You could give https://gw2efficiency.com/ an api key and figure out how much your account is really worth.  It doesn’t value gem store purchases though.

tobascodagama
Guest
tobascodagama

I’m not psyched about raids, but the new Squad UI stuff looks pretty spiffy. I wonder if we’ll see more meta-event successes in the HoT zones now that people can organize into squads more easily.

tobascodagama
Guest
tobascodagama

Lerxx Agreed. Granted, as a pretty casual player player, I still have about 80g in the bank and 160g worth of materials… But the tags are still a bit much for level-capped players.

That being said, why would a solo player want a tag anyway? Most commanders are going to have some level of guild backing, which makes the 300g entry price less of a barrier to them.

Esoteric Coyote
Guest
Esoteric Coyote

Lerxx In before the “I make 20g in a hour, you could do it too!”