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09-08-2013, 01:44 PM #1
[VS] Strategy, Tactics and Communication - Thursday's lessons
I was putting together a reply to the StratGir thread regarding last night's attempt at a tactical evening, and it bloated into something a little oversized for an established thread. I'm disinclined to a complete rewrite so I'm going to edit it and post it here, with a link in the StratGir thread (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/foru...-Live-The-King)...
This is a large post, being comprised of two halves, the original edited reply and a set of observations/lessons learned, along with proposals for further comms refinement. Take a deep breath before you dive.
... I had some real fun, for one of the first times, while playing a squad leader during what I might term a mini-event. Make no mistake, I love leading squads, and even the platoon when I'm needed, but during 'event', 'theme' or... well, nights with expectations - I don't tend to find it a very comfortable experience. And I don't think I'm the only one. Lastly, I don't think this is unavoidable - I think we can fix it.
Those of us in charge tend to have a lot of weight placed upon us, both from 'above' and 'below', whether actual or purely imaginary. We try to hold ourselves to a high standard to keep our regulars happy and potential newcomers interested.
Our platoon leaders in particular tend to live in a nest of paranoia or guilt that they'll be failing to give so many people a 'fun experience' when they're using their leisure time to play a game, and I know the pain - felt it a little early in the night, when our attempt at a leading counsel rather than having a single platoon leader led to a dreadful absence of communication, and to me taking up platoon lead suddenly in addition to Alpha lead, without the clarity of authority or communication lines I needed to do so, while admittedly... Not actually wanting to be the platoon leader. It was a case of stepping up to try to manage a safe crash-landing because I felt frustration was going to set in for our confused troopers soon. I managed to glide the burning fuselage toward break-time at around 20.35.
Cooper kindly took over for me at this point. It was only the beginning of the stress xD
Where to start...
The initial suggestion that the night be a 'tactical night', during which ALL squads were going to emphasise tactical, tight-knit gameplay led to an attempt on the part of most squad leaders to more directly manage their troops, to practise a more effective and entertaining, a more MILITAREH method of movement on the battlefield - problem is that as far as I could tell, not everyone was entirely in the mood for this. I don't mean that anyone was actively unhappy or that anyone argued against it, merely that it didn't suit some of our players. They aren't all here for that. They aren't unwilling but they're not motivated to respond with precision and punctuality to a rather stressed leader. They're trying to unwind with a bit o' murder. So it's Thursday, so what? Many of them were here because they wanted to play Planetside, like any other ordinary night. Themed days do not mean themed players, and we can't alienate people for the sake of these themes.
Tactical squads are something we run 'in addition', specialists outside the main with a greater degree of autonomy, who can respond to the needs of the main platoon leader without troubling him for orders, but available when he needs something from them. Rapid response, rapid deployment, volunteers from among our regulars who want a more intense experience.
I feel this works well. Attempting to push this upon a general populace of RPS players would, I feel, detract from the relaxed, silly atmosphere of RPS. I understand SRSBSNS attitudes during a Call to Arms, and within specific volunteer squads of tactical-minded players, but I do not believe in the name of theme weeks or 'Strategic Thursdays' or whatever we run that we should ever be pushing this obligation-to-organisation upon casual players.
In short, 'tac' events, in my opinion - small or large - should always be opt-in - voluntary, not a universal experience by either orders or an atmosphere of obligation.
Besides the arguments of fun and freedom, of catering to the tastes of the casual majority, I also feel that in terms of combat efficacy it is useful to be using both the hammer and the knife - the crude blows of our general squads distract and pin the enemy in place and place pressure upon control points and enemy spawns, while granting those players the kind of gameplay they're prepared for and enjoy. The precision strikes of our 'tactical minority' take out key threats, flank the embattled enemy and prepare the way for the main force on the next major objective. Both roles are equally important, and in their own ways equally entertaining.
A 'tactical' force of 50-60 people is an attempt at surgery with a machete. It's too large, it's too slow, and it's too loud to fulfil its own ideal role, while straining communications channels to capacity due to the regularity of specific orders, the more complex objectives, the greater need for reconnaisance data, in addition to the weight placed upon squad leaders and radio operators, depending upon configuration, to take part in both squad level and platoon level communications.
On this note I'd like to thank P4riah one more time for his excellent work as Alpha radio operator while also defending our AMS during the long siege of Echo Valley. He suffered so that I didn't have to - having already tasted the stress as the evening's first platoon leader, I opted to be 'one of the grunts', leading Alpha Squad during the second phase from within the main channel - deaf to the squad leaders and platoon leader by choice, so that I could coherently direct Alpha operations on the ground, as the tactical ambitions of the evening implied.
Here I come back to the beginning, forgive the ramble: I had fun. As a squad leader on an intense night, I enjoyed myself, because I delegated platoon level communications appropriately to a brave radio op. This allowed me to direct the squad in a 'tactical manner' as the night suggested with far greater efficiency - an efficiency wasted, admittedly, by our dreadful luck with the disposition of NC forces on Esamir through the evening, and by our considerable communication difficulties. I got to kill people and know what was going on for my squad, while leading them. I felt like an NCO directing my little crew, instead of a clueless Officer handing down vague orders from above, blind and blinding. This isn't always the case. I'm not sure this is even usually the case.
... So, a few things could, I think, be learned from the evening. Bear with me only if you're interested in communications and the application of squad lead, radio op and platoon lead and their responsibilities.
Our communications systems have seen a few revisions, and have improved - the best change to my tastes being Platoon 1's current setup, in which everyone can speak to everyone using one key, and to their squad using primary PTT. It suits the mood of RPS perfectly, and needs only the occasional bang of the gavel to keep the noise down.
For more organised evenings, however, we need to decide how we're going to apply the roles of PL, SL, and RO. We have a few different ideas of what these should be, the least coherent of which is what we tried to use last night, with the SLs talking to the SLs and PL via one channel, while talking to the troops on another, plus the Radio Operators... Not entirely knowing what they were meant to be doing.
I hope I don't cause any offense by suggesting that the current communication setup has problems - I feel last night showed this, at times. By stepping outside the default system by electing not to use the Squad Leader channel, and finding it easier to lead my squad as a result, I think I've shown there are other options, depending upon the level of organisation desired and the willingness of volunteers to serve as radio operators.
Some SLs were frustrated that they couldn't reach me, while I was very glad they couldn't - I didn't want to talk to them directly, because in taking part in the chaos of the main SL/PL communications I would have been less useful to my own squad, and would have had to BREAK BREAK BREAK them with uncomfortable frequency, something that frustrates players and diminishes their effectiveness by denying them in-squad communications - and so the loop runs, with my squad becoming less useful to the platoon in consequence. It is my preference and opinion, which I'd love to discuss with other regular SLs, to be a soldier when I am leading a squad, not a radioman. A squad leader who isn't on the front line cannot give coherent orders in a timely fashion.
An SL should fulfil a combat role, a radio operator should be behind the lines, with combat as his secondary priority, ideally sitting inside a parked AMS manning a decent gun while he relays sitreps to command and orders back to the Squad Leader. As this role isn't necessarily very stimulating for a player, I'd like to foster a system of regular rotation for radio ops, with sessions of 30 minutes as an ideal - and in this I am willing to be a little pushy, to obligate my squadmembers to step up and take responsibility, because our current regular ROs are, I feel, making a sacrifice for others to have more fun already, as are the squad leaders and the platoon leaders. We volunteer because we want to, and we enjoy our roles, but they are tiring and challenging compared to simply following the waypoint and shooting the enemy.
This way we'd simply have better radio operators getting less stressed out for less time, if a few more people can be persuaded to step up. I don't give a soldier a choice, in a tac squad, of whether he wants to be pointman. I tell him to get to the front and lead the charge. I'd like to be able to ask the same of a radio operator from any player who regularly uses his mic, for short periods.
I also see the ROs being rather stressed out by dealing with comms 'from above and below', in terms of having to deal with squad noise with last night's setup. I feel the RO should have contact with only his squad leader and his platoon leader with regularity. What do you think of the ROh earing everything the SL says, so he maintains a picture of the battlefield and can keep the PL and other ROs informed of events with autonomy - but not be deafened by the general banter of the squad, or he too will have to call for frequent breaks.
Platoon Leader as a role is by necessity a non-combat experience. To coherently read the map and maintain communications with three or more squads, the Platoon Leader is too busy to dedicate himself to a fight. He might man a turret or pilot a Galaxy but driving a Sunderer through enemy territory or contributing to an infantry assault will inhibit his ability to communicate and also, likely, get him and others killed. Subsequently I feel the Platoon Leaders should be nudged, firmly, to rotate more frequently - we have few volunteers in part because we all know that PLs get trapped, with no-one willing to take the mantle for hours at a time. I feel that an hour to ninety minutes should be the span of a PLs residency - before someone else takes over and puts their own spin on things. A quick chat between the old and the new to align their objectives and battlefield awareness before Onward!
Next, the PL needs better eyes - the PL relies too heavily upon the ROs/SLs for information when they're almost as blind, individually, as he is - RPS has been ignoring the role of recon for too long - the use of sniper-infiltrators and scythes to know of threats before they're on top of us and keep a coherent picture of the battlefield. I know we'll have volunteers for these roles because I've seen them pop up in Call to Arms events, and because.. Frankly, it's a rather sexy and entertaining role for the more thoughtful player.
I'd also like to discuss the realism of using an AA-kitted Battle Gal as a combination recon unit and platoon leader in one - Pilot, and two or three gunners, one of whom is the PL himself, taking care of battlefield awareness and communications while also able to provide secondary, minor transport duties - such as dropping six angry MAX units directly onto an enemy squad.
Another issue is that asking a single PL to manage more than one platoon is simply unreasonable and inefficient. It isn't totally unworkable, as we've proven many times, but it isn't optimal, I'm sure. Ingame systems being what they are (no platoon linking), I'd rather obey that form. Let two platoon leads operate independently with periodic direct communication to discuss the grand strategy, managing different flanks of the same large battle, different satellites of the same base, and so forth. The Great Lump caused by two platoons, 5-8 squads, pushing a single objective under the orders of a single individual is an ugly thing I've not seen used to a fraction of the effect it could have been if split into two manageable halves.
So I'm going to cut off here and hope I've not written as much as I feel like I have, welcoming any and all input on whether or not tactical-for-all is appropriate, the role of tactical squads and how we might arrange our comms in future.
Image below depicts proposed communication structure - PLs can talk to other PLs by choice but not by default, and otherwise speak solely to ROs, barring a 'blare' channel when they give major announcements as usual. ROs speak only to their own SL on one channel, the PL on another channel, and one another on, if possible, a third - I don't know how easy or not this may be to set up.
Squad leaders meanwhile speak solely to their squads on one channel and their RO on another. I depict this as a proposed ideal for communications efficiency and comfort, not as something I consider necessarily apt or easy to set up, as I'm not proficient with Mumble setup. The RO, per his name, has the most complex setup in that he can whisper in three directions. Only two of these, however, are strictly necessary - up and down.
If you've read this far, you're either mad, dedicated or find this stuff as compelling as I do. My thanks and sympthies.
09-08-2013, 02:26 PM #2
- Join Date
- Jan 2013
StratGir is extremely well established, people know that this is what Thursday night is about; if you want casual play during that ONE night, you can opt-out by getting your own squad going or getting someone else to do it for you. Making these things opt-in ... meh, tac play is opt-in on every other night.
I think the system failed yesterday. There was entirely too much chatter, most of which was pretty superflous. We used to be quite a lot better at making them work; maybe it's because it's been a while since we've been in earnest 'serious mode' and everyone is a little rusty? So, while rotating ROs is not a bad idea (aside from having to get volunteers to step up), cutting down chatter should be the first priority. Last night, I didn't hear a single word from my squad for minutes at a time. Ideally, RO comms should be quick one sentence status updates and short requests.
I'll read the rest of that wall some time later
P.S.: That graphic is pretty much our comms setup from like 4 months ago, i think?
09-08-2013, 03:12 PM #3
Included the image for clarity, rather than any notion of originality - I think a key difference, correct me if I'm wrong, is that the ROs are separated from the squad. If we had channel muting on hotkey this would be a lot simpler, but.. Uh.. Fuck Mumble <3
Yesterday was a big chunk of fail, yes. There were a number of problems. I'd like to see them solved. There were fuckups in our infastructure, our expectations of our players *and* our choices as leaders, but all can be fixed.
09-08-2013, 10:05 PM #4
- Join Date
- Sep 2012
EDIT: As Wally helpfully pointed out, I was pretty wrong on the above part. Ignore that last paragraph, and sorry about that.
I really dislike the idea of secluding ROs. Having them only be able to hear the SL doesn't solve anything, as the Squad Leader could still easily talk over the PL leading to the multiple-conversations problem, and at the same time the RO has to try to figure out what's going on from only half of a conversation. That's just something else the RO has to focus on, another complication for them to deal with, and yet another link in the command chain which honestly isn't necesary.
Last edited by BowlSoldier; 09-08-2013 at 10:21 PM.
09-08-2013, 10:20 PM #5
I would be willing to try the PLs and ROs together in a "command group" being able to discuss strategy and overall tactics, while leaving squads and their leaders out of it. It sounds like it would be a very different experience, but might be worth testing at the very least.
09-08-2013, 10:21 PM #6
- Join Date
- Jan 2013
What i meant with the RO thing is that the command channel should be more quiet, while the squad channels cam be lively with frequent orders from the sl, intel, and banter whenever there's time. That's what the whole thing is about. On that note ... i'd also be quite apprehensive about isolating ROs because i don't see why there has to be so much command chatter on a night that supposedly has a single person in charge, which means that nothing but orders + sitreps are required.
Last edited by qaz; 09-08-2013 at 10:24 PM.
12-08-2013, 10:30 AM #7
09-08-2013, 04:35 PM #8
Yeah, that's the main difference. What I fear is that it might make RO a very lonely job, driving people away from it. I appreciate that RO can be hectic and overly chatty, but I am unsure if cutting RO off from squad is the solution. If we do try that, we should probably make it so that RO is heard by the whole squad, so that they know to shut up when RO and SL are talking, otherwise we'll mostly be back at the problematic place again. I wouldn't mind trying this some time, to see if this is a problem in fact, and not only in my head.
09-08-2013, 08:19 PM #9
- Join Date
- Jan 2013
Slight refinement of ye olde RO system. Any thoughts?
edit: Also, everything Jakkar said seems to make sense, there are a lot of good ideas up there, don't mean to just turn this into a comms discussion.
Last edited by Rizlar; 09-08-2013 at 08:27 PM.
09-08-2013, 10:14 PM #10
The original post for StratGir says it all really:
What to expect:
* Friendly atmosphere
* 12 person VOIP channels (which makes asking questions as a new player easier)
* Squad leaders who will direct you through the fights
* High-level coordination between our platoons and allied outfits.
What not to expect:
* Very strict discipline
* Anything vaguley militaristic
Requirements:* A desire to shoot lasers (or revive allies, repair vehicles).
* Skill in hitting targets not necessary.
* Be excellent to one another.
* Mumble We don't need you to have or use a microphone. But it will be necessary for you to join our Mumble server & listen-in. Any problems please send an in-game whisper to me. (Type: "/t Cooper" and then your message into the chatbox.)
Basic ground rules:
- Be in Mumble
A Mic is not required, but listening-in is. Those not in Mumble will be kicked from the platoon
- Follow orders & be quick about it
No going off and doing your own thing. And if an order is giving to get somewhere; go there. If the order is to reform at Warpgate, then type "/suicide" immediately.
- This is not a democracy
On most nights decisions are discussed first. Not on Thursdays. Only question orders if you think the SL has missed something incredibly important. (Which is not anything that can be seen on the map such as "base at waypoint is already being capped": If it's on the map, assume the SL knows)
- Stick together
This means: Not re-spawning straight away: Assume a medic is nearby and wait a little bit. It also means waiting at the sunderer / spawn room for fellow squad mates and moving out together.
- Communication is only for relevant info
During 'downtime' when not in the middle of a fight, chat and joke all you want. However mid-fight comms should only be used for the usual battle info: Enemy locations, status updates, coordination etc.WallyTrooper = TrooperWally
Wally is now on Steam!
10-08-2013, 09:38 AM #11
1. I'd like to mention the "3 squad platoon and command section" option we've tried a couple of times.
2. I'd also like to re-mention the idea of "rotation on failure".
Having the PL in a squad with only couple of scythe scouts and a gal/sundy/harrasser command vehicle driver as his "social group" and using either the Broadcast or the RO system to transmit orders/get sitreps.
The night of the "dewi comms trials" I PL'd in such a situation and had the most fun I have EVER had PLing.
+ Social Contact for PL
+ Eyes available to provide Sitreps on demand
+ No/Less Command Channel Spam from PLs/ROs trying to get info, just Orders being passed
+ Ties nicely to TopGir command/basing ideas
- 3 Squads not 4
- Needs people willing to operate as scouts/batmen away from the squads with less banter
- deliberately places PL in a comms channel which might involve combat comms between scouts
- deliberately assumes the PL will do no fighting.
It doesn't force a choice either way on RO's, the squads can have them or not and the PL can either broadcast ("Crosstalk" or "Dewi Method") which I prefer - or talk only to ROs which others do. What it does is stop the PL isolation issue and also provide a firm non-combat base for then while letting them have scouts - we have players who would, I assume, love to be freed from the squad discipline 'rules' and told to get in a scythe or harasser and roam the map looking for things to annoy/report. We also have players willing to sit back in a support role ferrying people in a gal or doing AA duty by a command sundy - which by default would be the platoon backup spawn.
2. Ages ago Boris and I and I think perhaps Cmaster or Dewi were having the usual wrangle of "Who wants to PL" and we decided (I was forced) that Grible would do it. I did, we fought and lost a big fight for an hour or so. Boris took over and lead for a bit, then I took it back the next time we had a "well that's lost where do we spawn now" moment and so on all night. It works this "handing off when we have to regroup" thing if we are going to be serious about this short stops every few hours then that is the time to change PL and people should really accept that as a thing and do it.
10-08-2013, 12:29 PM #12
The idea being cut comms chatter whilst still keeping the fun, give the PL a better night, gosh it can be lonely, work off the FOB that worked so well for the air squad and provide scouts.
In this diagram: PL's needs sepearte whispers to seperate squads, whisper to whole squad, only SL channel can communicate to PL. Could add another whisper between SL's, and/or between squads for cross chatter.
Pl's communicate to crew via "Alpha Whisper" and between any toher PL's with PTT. Last could be reversed.
Of course I'm not sure if this is possible mumble wise. Platoon structure would be different in game, but why be limited by the basic platoon set up the game has to offer. Alter it and make it our own. No one says specifically we have to run a 4 platoon squad, will certainly split the load for PL's and will cut cross chatter whilst still enabling it.
The idea is also scalable to multi platoons very easily, just add another platoon "block" and connect via PL. Done.
Downside is the number of binds the PL has, but as he is a deliberately non combat role, usually repairing or rearming others close but away from the fight, that shouldnt be too much bother.
Does this make sense.
And yes, this is another comms discussion. Haterz gonna hate
10-08-2013, 01:05 PM #13
- Join Date
- Jan 2013
I do like the sound of Grible's ideas, making smarter use of our structure/forces.
One comment on Dewi's diagram: perhaps the PL crew should just be in the same channel as the PL? I realise they don't need to hear from other PLs and SLs, but having them in a separate channel increases the crosstalk the PL will receive. Might be best to keep it simple so the PL crew are in the same headspace as the PL, keeping crosstalk minimal (they should be able to handle SL sitreps and PL conversations, right?).
10-08-2013, 01:21 PM #14
Tried that. It was a mess with yells of "incoming air" over sit reps.
10-08-2013, 01:26 PM #15
- Join Date
- Jan 2013
I don't get it, who was saying 'incoming air' over sitreps? Seems like there would be more crosstalk with separate channels than without.
edit: Ah, you mean a mess for the crew, who were acting like a unit themselves? I was interpreting the diagram via Grible's ideas of the PL's crew being their social group/batmen as well.
Last edited by Rizlar; 10-08-2013 at 01:29 PM.
10-08-2013, 01:28 PM #16
It was the pl crew, at the time scouting and doing the FOB.
11-08-2013, 05:53 PM #17
The PL crew has to be a unit for the PL to use for scouting and his own mobility only.
If it becomes an independent fighting force then it needs to go get a channel as a squad. I would see this being PL+scout scythes then we get to 8 people, we have a sundy a lib and three scythes so 6 of them bugger off and become a TopGir squad and the PL is left with a driver.
Bodies who join being routed straight to TopGir or coming into the PL crew if they want to do PL crew things.
It becomes imperative to make sure descriptions of recruitment and mumble channels are clearly labeled!
12-08-2013, 10:50 AM #18
I wasn't there during the aforementioned event, but as mentioned during outfit introduction,anyone is free to ask for split coms if it gets too chatty, and no one can refuse it. "Break Break" "Can we split coms please?" Job done.
12-08-2013, 02:29 PM #19
Firstly, it's hard, sometimes, to get that "break, break" off. Perhaps I (and any other newbies) need to just be more assertive about it. I suppose if everyone in the squad started using "Break" before each combat-relevant transmission, rather than politely keying their mics and waiting for an opportunity to speak, it might well have worked better. But it can be hard to know when it's appropriate to interrupt, because to an extent it's a question of individual preference. Some people might prefer or simply be able to cope with a bit more banter, even in the midst of combat, and I feel like I'm being a bit un-excellent to those people if I have to interrupt them when they are clearly enjoying themselves. Maybe this is just me though.
Secondly, splitting comms doesn't necessarily help. In fact, when this happened I'm fairly certain comms were already split and the chatter was either platoon-wide via the whisper bind or we were doubling up squads in channels as we often do. I forget which, but the point is that splitting comms by itself doesn't necessarily address the problem.
My feeling is that we're simply too loose with our comms discipline during combat in general, and especially as the size of the group starts to get bigger. I don't think it should be a question of needing to use "break, break" to interrupt the chatter; if we're in combat, especially when there's a lot of us, people should just be keeping the chatter to a minimum. Splitting comms is a tool which can make this easier to do, but fundamentally you still have to keep the chatter during battle battle-relevant for it to work.
I have to say writing this makes me feel a bit like the Misery fairy, telling people they shouldn't be having fun.
12-08-2013, 02:42 PM #20
- Join Date
- Jan 2013