How we got here
When my clan picked up Squad and started running with it, it didn't take long for us to start seeking competitive experiences. Playing on public servers was the thing that got us hooked but we required more from our game time: we wanted to explore and improve our movement, tactics, communications and overall strategies.
We began to reach out and try the various community offerings that were/are out there, most set a day & time to play and have some approach toward building teams, providing some rules and structure and pitting clans against one another in several permutations.
These didn't work out very well for us. They were either too inflexible, carried schedule conflicts, had frequency problems or, more often than not: devolved into some kind of ego-fueled drama which would result in administrative turnover or creating/ignoring conflicts. Furthermore, the game is inherently poorly suited for quick and easy private engagements: you're not likely to raise – let alone find – another team of 40 players for a scrimmage within the next hour.
The moment it all changed
We found ourselves lamenting that we had an itch that we couldn't scratch and started throwing ideas around. One of these ideas ended up sparking what we ended up running with – what if, rather than STACK in to one squad we SCATTER evenly across the whole server? – here's how it played out:
- Two of our members (though we invited everyone, you do not have to be a member) take on the title of ‘Commander'
- These Commanders select a map and their chosen SLs (also, don't have to be members, any keener in our Discord will do)
- Commanders go off in private with their SLs and begin making the plan together
- Every Monday, we have our clan help populate our server until it's full
- At 9pm we introduce the Commanders to the server and inform everyone that they have been preparing all week long to battle it out, here, now, with you. Squad leaders are provided, good luck, have fun!
- The map switches and a briefing session takes place where the battle plan is revealed to the people on the server.
- Another map restart and the battle goes live.
Honestly: it turned out to be a beautiful thing and couldn't be any further from where my existing esports experiences had positioned me. Over 20- years of competitive gaming from amateur to professional and league building and administration never really gave me the inclusive and open environment that we had fallen in to.
Splitting up my team and having them battle it out with the support of dozens of random people created a competitive environment where the vast majority of the folks involved were really keen to play. The level of gameplay was immediately and obviously heightened, strangers helping strangers and cooperating for team victory, even with totally boring jobs or varying levels of experience. Heck, it even restored a bit of my faith in online humanity..
The pieces to make it happen
There wasn't that much that went in to it:
- I'd built a web page where I explain the above and we provided a little backstory that one of our clan mates had written to the events.
- The web page also served as an archive: we kept score and recorded the CMDR/SL rosters.
- The page also provided links to the various video recordings that come in, for some I'd opted to use admincam so that I could give anyone else some B-Roll to work with.
- There's a map where, as best as I could, I plotted out the actual geographical locations of all of the maps and tracked “movement” with lines between the locations. (linked below)
- There's a document that provided movement logic (winner can attack any of the two adjacent maps), and victory conditions (basically: holding a percentage of territory)
- Private group chats for planning.
- A passionate group of players that likes the game and keeps going with this concept!
It wasn't all peaches'n'cream, here's some of the challenges, solved and unsolved:
- The length. We often only have time to play one side of a map, the scope of the whole event doesn't easily allow gamers like us who now have families and careers to sit down and play for four hours straight on a weeknight.
- The strategies. The perception of the work involved in making a strategy is larger than the reality but it's a challenge nonetheless, the commander role is the hardest to fill. It's also harder to evaluate the success/failure of those strategies since, well, you can't step in to the same river twice.
- The tactics. They often have to be taught, on the spot. It's the internet, we all love cats but herding them is still a challenge especially if you want to move them in vanguard formation in to a compound overflowing with the sound of gunfire.
- The administrative requirements. I enjoy it, but updating the scores and collecting and linking videos and listing the rosters, etc. takes some effort.
- The troublemakers. There's remarkably few (maximum of maybe 4 one night that tried to disrupt the briefings). We have a strict: warn, kick, ban policy so there's 3 chances for someone to try to wreck things. It's so awesome that this rarely happens; the symptom of a great community.
- Repeating it. I think we can do this maybe twice a week, we would love to do it every night if we could, but we can't. It needs more people doing this.
- Situational awareness. Watching these play out really underlines the value of communications and what a difference a UAV could make. So many times you're working with no information in the game and tend to take things slower/faster than you should. If you knew that no one was waiting for you in the forest you'd run through it, but if you don't, you take a lonnnng time looking for trouble where there likely isn't any