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.
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.
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.
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.