Friday, 13 October 2017

Using GW2's LFG Tool For Fun And Profit

Guild Wars 2 is an MMO which, by design and intent, relies more heavily than most on co-operation between players. In large part the underlying ethos of the game rests on the assumption that players will help each other as a matter of course. For that to happen they need to be able to find each other.

Almost all content in GW2, from the smallest local event to the mightiest of World Bosses, scales to some degree but by no means everything is intended to be soloable or even single-groupable. Many major events or event chains, like Tequatl, Triple Trouble or the Orr Temples, call for the equivalent of a raid force, while map-wide metas, found in just about every map added in the last three years, are most successful when everyone on the map joins in.

Click me!

Back in 2012, when the game launched, the expectation seemed to be that there would just somehow always be enough players around to get things done in a busy, bustling world where "Dynamic Events" popped all the time. That worked well enough for a while but when the first wave of explorers reached Orr they soon discovered that more organization was needed to succeed in the increasingly lengthy, complex event chains they found there.

Some of these are more useful than others...
At that time, the population was spread across a large number of individual servers but even then there were provisions for players to server-hop using "Guesting", a now all-but-forgotten feature of GW2 that ANet promoted heavily before launch but didn't actually get around to adding to the game until 2013. Guesting was intended to allow friends to play together even if they happened to be on different servers but players soon worked the system into a de facto group-finder for large-scale or hard-to-find events.

For a while that worked well enough, albeit in a make-do and mend, Heath Robinson fashion. There was even an out-of-game website that monitored which Orr Temples were open so players could readily Guest to servers where the vendors they needed were available.

All that changed in the spring of 2014 with the coming of the Megaserver. Server identities were
retained for World vs World but in every other respect all GW2 players occupied the same gamespace. Except not really.

We don't know how many people play GW2 or what the concurrencies are. Neither do we know, exactly, the population capacity of the individual maps. We do know, however, that even before the base game went F2P, sales were numbered in the millions, while the cap on an individual map is in the low hundreds. Added to that, the population doesn't spread itself evenly: it clumps.

This is the one I use most
To accommodate increased demand when a World Boss spawns or a popular event chain begins, the Megaserver technology spins up extra instances of specific maps as required. It also closes them down when players move on to the next feeding frenzy, warning those that remain that the map is underpopulated and bribing them with an experience bonus if they choose to be redirected to a busier instance.

You can sometimes see the evidence of just how many instances of a popular map are available at once if you hang around after whatever big event drew people there finishes. I've been redirected up to five times from instance to instance of Frostgorge Sound as the The Claw of Jormag is defeated slightly out  of sync by succeeding maps.

While Guesting still works and although there are a few arcane ways to influence which instance of a map you spawn into, Megaservers effectively put an end to elective map-hopping. Fortunately, ANet moved to replace the system players had evolved with an increasingly sophisticated and effective Looking For Group tool.

Three in the morning on the West Coast
but there's plenty happening in Vabbi
Unfortunately, it appears from comments and questions I often hear, both in and out of game, the LFG system doesn't seem to be nearly as well-known or understood as it should be. That's a shame, because, after several years of iteration, it's one of the most flexible, effective LFG systems I've used in any MMO.

It's so good, in fact, that knowing how to use it can be a game-changer, literally and figuratively.  There's a detailed explanation of how it works on the wiki but it makes it sound more daunting than it actually is. Instead, I recommend logging into the game and playing around with it.

Just click on the second icon from the left on the row at the top left of your screen, the one that looks like a bunch of heads. That opens the "Contacts and LFG" window. Then click on the second icon down, the magnifying glass, which opens LFG itself.

From there you can see a list of categories, each of which opens into a further list of sub-categories. Most of them are self-explanatory, although your guess as to what "Adventurers Guild" or "Fountains of Rurikton" might mean is as good as mine.

I don't know who Aerl the Silent is
and it appears no-one else does either.
The relevant one for most casual players trying to find active maps for big events is the very first on the list, "Open World". It lumps the base game into two categories, which is where you'll find groups or squads doing the Orr Temples (yes, people still do them), Champ Trains (yes, they still exist) and the like. Below that comes "World Bosses", very useful if you want the biggies like Jormag or The Shatterer, or to find where the WB Train is right now (there's always one running somewhere).

After that you'll see a separate entry for every map added to the game since Dry Top. With all those maps having some form of mapwide meta, finding a currently active map can be essential if you're doing more than just pottering.

The LFG tool is easy to understand and intuitive to use but there are some important aspects that won't be immediately obvious. Firstly, don't worry if, like Aywren, you find initiating contact with strangers stressful. In LFG no-one expects you to socialize. Or speak.

Things can be as specific as you like
Indeed, they don't even expect you to stay grouped. The primary function of the Open World section of LFG is to allow you to find an instance of the map where people are trying to get a specific thing done. Groups or, more commonly, Squads, are formed first and foremost to bring people to that map, a practice known as "Taxiing".

The LFG entry will often say "Taxi" in the  description. The idea here is that you click and join the squad and use it to transfer to the active map. You may then leave the squad. Sometimes the description will even ask you to leave when you're safely in the map because the map can hold more than one squad's worth of people and the squad is merely a conduit to be used until the map is filled.

The key thing to remember here is that when you join the squad you may not immediately arrive in the right instance. If, for example, there are 30 people in the squad but the little icons for 25 of them are greyed out, you're in the wrong instance.

LFG is mostly LFS these days
That's normal. You just need to right-click one of the greyed-out icons and select the option to join that person in their map from the drop-down menu. (Remember that whilst you can join a squad from anywhere, you have to be in the relevant map to swap to another instance of that same map - if you want to do Tequatl you must be in Sparkfly Fen, for example).

You may have to do that more than once to find the right instance because players in the squad may be spread across several at the time you join. Keep going until you hit the one where most of the icons in squad are active not greyed-out.

You may also find that the main instance is full and won't let you join. If you really want to do the event, don't give up. Keep clicking on one of the icons in the full instance, especially if you can see from squad chat that the event has begun. People go link-dead and drop out or have to leave for whatever reason all the time; in events lasting anything from ten or fifteen minutes (Tequatl) to an hour or more (Dragon's Stand) there's a good chance you'll get in eventually.

If you open LFG to look for a map for a particular event and there isn't anything showing, don't be afraid to start a party or squad for it yourself. Just click on "Advertise Your Group" at the bottom of the window, write a description and off you go.

It pays to advertise
Anyone can form a party or a limited squad of up to ten people (technically known as a Raid Squad). For the full 50-strong squad you have to own a Commander tag, which costs 300 gold. It's not worth considering unless you play a lot, I'd say. I have one and I've found it very useful on occasion but it's far from essential.

Obviously if you're starting a party for something small and specific you may have to run it as well, just as you would in any MMO but if its a big event then, as before, don't worry that it will mean you have to lead or organize or chat if you don't want to - you can make it clear in the description that you're just taxiing people in to get things started. Once a critical mass of people forms, some born leader will step up and take over - they always do.

I'm sure there's more about LFG that I've forgotten so please chip in with a comment if I've missed something important or obvious. The main thing is to be aware that the LFG tool exists and that, to a considerable degree, the community uses it to make the game work.

If you're finding it a struggle to get content done, if you're not seeing the events you need or there don't seem to be people around to join in when you do find them, it's entirely possible that the solution to all those problems is just a click or two away.

8 comments:

  1. Oh, wow. I didn't even know this was a thing! This could certainly be a big help with my griffon bounties -- though I don't know if a standard party is enough to take a legendary down (?). Thank you for taking the time to write this!

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    1. You're welcome! Although as far as the Griffon events go I have found that just announcing the event/mob is up in Map chat and mentioning it's needed for the Griffon quest brings people running. Lot of people working on that one right now, I think.

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  2. This is a fantastically helpful post. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks! MMOs are complicated enough even without most of the the mechanics going unexplained. Happy to shed a little light on this one dark corner.

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  3. To zone into the correct instance, I've found it useful to pause and scan for the greyed out player that carries the commander tag. Some squads are nice enough that they'll be in a separate party to make it easier to spot, others are like find the needle in a haystack. But the commander is usually always on the correct map instance unless he or she was unlucky enough to dc.

    Oh, and if you see a lot of numbers referring to map ips, e.g. "ip 127", you can also check if you're on the right instance by typing /ip into your chat channel. This will show the ip adress of the particular map, and the last three numbers are what they're referring to.

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    1. That's a really good tip about the Commander tag. i'm going to use that!

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  4. I think the gold i spend for the commander tag is some of the best gold spend ever. If you need some people to help you with whatever. Pop up a tag say something in map chat and people will show up. Sometimes a lot of them. If you need a lot of people advertise in LFG. Works every time. And I'm not one of the most socially players. Often i did not even say something after the initial advertise.

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    1. Yes, the tag is amazing for getting people to take you seriously. The Mentor "apple" doesn't have nearly the same effect. I use mine at Teq sometimes to organize defense and it's amazing how people come and join on.

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