With the big WvW updates looming, the Scrying Pool sets its sights on the commander and squads.
In each article of The Scrying Pool, I look at what is and what could be. After taking a look at what is present in Guild Wars 2 now, whether that be lore or game mechanics, I then ask What If? What if this happened in the lore or this feature was added in a future patch. With the upcoming patch bringing some updates to World vs. World, I wanted to take a look at a lackluster feature tied to WvW that could use a little polish: the Commander.
What is the commander?
Commander is an unlock that allows the player to start and lead a squad of players. The squad has been likened to raid parties in other games in that it allows the formation of a larger party, reportedly allowing up to 50 members.
Along with the increased party size comes a few extra features. First is the expected squad only chat channel, which is exactly the same as a party chat channel where squad members can chat with each other. The squad commander then gets a few map icons. Anyone on the map, including players not in a squad, will see a blue chevron-like icon over the commander's location. The commander then has access to a set of three icons he or she can place on the map. These icons are for Attack this Point, Defend this Point and Rally Here commands and will only show up for those players within the squad.
The only other feature for commanders is a couple of new chat command codes that only work for the commander while they have a squad created. These new commands are /squadinfo and /supplyinfo. The first lists all the members of the squad and their supply count, while the second lists the supply of those in the very immediate vicinity. The chat command /squadinfo is the only way to see a list of the players in a squad and is only available to the commander.
Unfortunately, however, the lack of any viable squad member interface is not the only thing missing from commanders. Citizens–do not fear! ArenaNet has already stated that they plan to make improvements to “the commander system as a whole.”
The features already listed here (increased party size, squad chat, four map icons and two chat commands) comprise the squad and commander system. So, before we get into adding features let's take a look at how things can be improved for the current ones.
The increased party size is the big feature of squads. The default party size is only a maximum of five players, so having 50 members is an insane increase in the party size. I had said that reportedly squads allow up to 50 because I don't usually have more that 20-30 friends or guild member on all at once. Fifty seems like a good maximum number, because any larger and other features, such as the squad chat channel, will suffer.
The squad chat channel is pretty basic. While in a squad, players can type in the chat (/d for the shortcut since /s is already taken up by Say) and other players in the squad can see and chat in kind. The squad chat probably doesn't need to be more than basic in most cases, but imagine having the squad at 50 members and the commander trying to give commands. Giving commanders a different color when in squad would be very helpful to this end as well as in cases of PUGs not be familiar with the commander still being able to recognize who is the commander through chat.
This different color chat would be similar to the Instance Leader chat in other games where the leader of a dungeon finder group would have a slightly different color for instance chat compared to the rest of the party. The squad chat color is yellow, so maybe giving the commander an Orange-ish color could work, as long as it doesn't get too close to the current Guild chat color.
To go along with a chat color change to help squad member notice the commander's chat, a similar change and addition to map icons would be needed. The blue commander icon is already good at catching attention due to its eye popping blue and that it moves with the commander. The other three icons however have colors that blend into the background, look very two-dimensional and don't move until replaced. Giving these icons the same tangoed treatment as most of the other map icons in the game would help. In addition to this, giving them a constant, animated glow similar to (but smaller than) the glow surrounding the personal story waypoint when you hover across the story tracker panel would help them become more prominent.
While the constant animated glow might seem a little overkill, these three command icons should be something that players notice in an instant so that they can follow them. In fact, I'd like to see it taken a step further, where an automated message in chat (like what is seen at the start of guild missions) and in the center of the screen (like the messages notifying players of new nearby events) so that players in the midst of WvW can easily see new standing orders as they come up. Seeing the message “Your commander has set and Attack Order.” in chat and the middle of the screen would be much more effective than the current icons that can go completely unnoticed.