What Are Squads?
Squads are our solution to some of the communication difficulty we experienced early on in WvW. Good communication is an inextricable part of excelling on the battlefield, and our existing channels weren’t quite meeting our needs. Team chat was too large because everyone in the entire map could talk in it, resulting in too much noise. On the other hand, parties—which are capped at five members—were too small. In order to bridge that gap, we designed the squad system, which allows communication on a larger scale than parties, but in a much more focused manner than team chat.
A squad is a one-to-many command structure, with one commander at the top, and his followers underneath him. Each squad receives its own chat channel, which all members can see, but which only accepts chat from the commander. Normal members can only see what the commander says and cannot speak back.
Additionally, commanders gain access to a small set of squad map markers, which they may place on the map just like their normal party waypoint. All squad members will see these markers on their maps and compass. They represent orders such as “attack,” “defend,” “rally,” and “bring supply.”
We made squad communication flow in one direction because we wanted to keep it as simple as possible. We discussed complex hierarchical command structures, but decided they would be too difficult to learn and use. Joining a squad is simple and fast, and allows players to jump into the action right away with clear goals. Players in a squad shouldn’t feel alone or lost in the massive and hostile WvW landscape.
Joining a squad is just as easy as sending a whisper or a party invite. Simply select a teammate and right-click their portrait. If they’re in a squad, you’ll see an option to join their squad. Click that and you’re in! The commander doesn’t have to approve your request—you can join and leave freely. It doesn’t matter whether you click on a commander or a squad member. You’ll join the same squad as the person you clicked on, so you don’t have to worry about chasing down a commander in order to join a squad. In the party menu on the quick-launch bar, there’s a small squad panel. From there, you can leave the squad you’re in if you want to join a different one, or if you’re just done for the day.
This same panel can be used if you desire to become a commander yourself. When not in a squad, you’ll have the option to create one. Creating a squad will make you a commander. You’ll receive a special map marker that other players can see, and you’ll have an icon over your head that lets teammates around you know that you’re a commander. The icon is not visible to members of other squads, but it is visible to your squad’s members, other commanders on your team, and players not in a squad so that they can easily identify you. Once you’re a commander, you’ll have the ability to speak into your squad channel and place order markers on the map for your members. It’s definitely nice to strut around with your special commander icon, but being in charge is also a big responsibility. The right to become a commander must be earned.
In each team’s portal keep in their home map, and in the major cities, there is a Master Strategist merchant. For a substantial sum of gold, you can buy a manual that grants you the right to become a commander when used. This is a permanent right, so the manual only needs to be bought once for each character. The hefty gold cost is in place because we want to discourage people who aren’t really interested in being leaders on the battlefield from becoming commanders. The high cost also makes it likely that any commander you see knows the game well. We decided that gold would be a more fitting restriction for this than character level, because experienced players who start new characters will still have the gold required to buy the manual.
Not Just for WvW
All of these communication features make WvW operations easier, but they will also be helpful for big PvE events as well. That’s exactly why the squad system is currently usable in both WvW and PvE maps. It works the same way no matter where you are, so whether you’re attacking a keep or teaching a big dragon bully a lesson, you can squad up to help get the job done. As with all our features, we’ll continue to polish and adjust squads as necessary to make sure they provide what is needed and fulfill their purpose well. In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to seeing all of you commanders out there bravely lead your squads into battle.