BF4: Changing the Nature of Squads

 
by  •  May 18, 2013

In our previous article we talked about how we might see a re-imagined evolution to the Commander Mode role. While we were musing over its forms and function we found ourselves unable to avoid its obvious ripple effect on the nature of squads and their own leadership, control and function. This is our concept not as programmers or game designers but as players with a military background.

Squad Size & Structure

Squads are structured so that there is no such thing as an individual. The smallest unit of measure is TWO. This is the buddy system and if you are looking forward, this is the other set of eyes in the back of your head. Everything from that point increases by two but in order to insure the best coverage and support we feel that the optimal squad size is 6 at least.

Each squad should account for three areas of focus

  1. Assault – Light weapons, fast movement. These are the quick reaction types for room clearing and bounding actions.
  2. Support – Engineers, SAW gunner, Medic (patch em up but dual duty as shotgun breacher)
  3. Security – Additional SAW gunner, Squad Designated Marksman (SDM or ‘Sniper’), Vehicle mounted support etc

Squads should learn Initiative Based Tactics:

  1. Cover all immediate danger areas
  2. Eliminate all threats
  3. Protect your buddy
  4. Rinse and Repeat

Squad Leader Duties

Squad leaders have been relatively an ineffective mechanic in Battlefield 3. Aside from forming a squad and locking it down, they act as much like any other member of the squad as the next guy. With Commander mode it is time to give these ‘leaders’ some form of leadership position.

By default you are the squad leader upon creation of a new squad but from that point forward it is about effective command and smart decisions if you wish to retain the position.

Squad Leaders would have the following controls available to them

  • Create squad rally points as points to gather, attack or retreat to.
  • Call for mortar, artillery and close air support (CAS)
  • Deploy squad level UAV (Raven) and utilize its ‘view’. This isn’t a radar sweep, the leader has to view and spot targets for the team. This means it takes control to determine where a good place to stop is in order to let the leader have the time to utilize this feature.

Getting Help from HQ

US Army Conducts Operations In Kandahar ProvinceAside from calling for fire, the Squad Leaders requests for outside assistance will come not from an interaction with the HQ Squad. This squad is housing the Commander as well as the battlefield assets like heavy vehicles, air support and artillery. Placing calls for these assets can only be answered if those assets are manned by HQ and special requests such as commander UAV assistance or artillery are at the discretion of the Commander.

Squad Visibility

Once again we talk of a mix of real world and gaming. In the real world squads do not head out for patrol, scatter to the four winds and mystically see a floating dot on the horizon representing your buddies or your squad leader. Scattering separates assets and separating assets usually separates you from your life. Squads are only as good as the support and protection they can provide each other.

In our model the Commander can see the squad LEADERS but needs to trust that the squad under that command is close and under control. This mechanic also follows the squad with Squad Leaders able to see other squad leaders in order to know if the overall operation is going as planned or if a sudden falling back of another squad indicates a problem.

The Squad Leader is able to see all members of their squad.

Squad members can see the Squad Leader and the Squad Vehicle location but all other members of the squad are based on visuals. If you don’t know where your buddy is, that’s a bigger problem you need to solve.

Squad Designated Marksman

short-sassMany times the debate is whether the Battlefield snipers are over or under powered. Usually the fix is to deal with the power of weapons or limit the class in some way. We went back and looked at this role and focused on the support aspect that it brings to the squad. In our new model the SDM provides the following features:

  • Auto spotting ‘perk’ or ‘spotter mode’ where an em-placed sniper (in position sighting a rifle) would automatically spot enemy in a standard visual cone out in front of them. Any enemy that is capable of being seen by the sniper would get tagged and ALL members of the squad see these enemy tags. This is the concept of OVERWATCH where the SDM not only engages targets to protect the squad movement but also reports movements.
  • The SDM is visible to the Squad Leader as a special visual identifier. This represents the typical communication specialization that keeps the lead in contact with the overwatch. If you’re going to get feedback on where danger is, it is important to know where your overwatch has located itself.

Squad Leader Rotation

The worst leader is a dead leader. Once you get beyond that little fact the rest is how you fill the void left by the dearly departed soul that once led your group. In the game the squad leader tends to re-spawn and regain command but with Commander Mode we feel it is time for our leaders to earn that spot. If you are the leader and you are killed, you undergo the same spawn systems previously mentioned but while you’re soul is catching a ride back via the crow from the afterlife your squad mates need leadership. In this case your void is filled with the next senior man. This can be the next person in the squad (visually on the listing) or based on points/experience.

The concept is that the old leader failed, headed to the back of the line and we let the next man get the promotion and see if they can do what the previous leader could not. You want to stay in command, teach your squad to protect you, keep your wits about you and for Gods sake, don’t do that running, shooting and screaming thing that everyone sees on the movies (it only fills body bags faster).

In all seriousness, this is our way of allowing for willing squad level leaders to hone skills and get a chance at commanding as they work up to commander.

Special note: We suggest an ‘opt-out’ of squad leadership. Not everyone is cut out to lead so whether it is a checkbox that says you’re willing to lead or simply a ‘decline’ when your turn arrives, it might be good to let people who know they are trigger pullers just specialize in that job if they wish.

090210-F-8308W-119

Mobility – Squad Support

Mobility is a key tactic, it allows you to bring more troops in or take troops out. One thing that has been lacking from Battlefield 3 has been choppers that provide primarily unit support work. A couple additions that we see as fitting for the Battlefield series include:

  • UH-60 ‘Blackhawk’ – Personnel carry, light armament and various configurations
  • CH-47 ‘Chinook’ – Primarily supply and troop mover, mini gun tailgate gunner

Obviously, the other factions in the game would have the counterpart equivalent

Replacements

We have grown very used to the instant appearance of our deceased squad mates. A seemingly endless supply of fresh troops has made FPS gamers impatient. When the going gets rough, hunker down for 30 seconds until a couple fully armed and now properly equipped personnel appear as if by magic to answer the call. In life there is no such mechanic. You plan to bring the right tools, the right squad boeing-ch47balance and the right level of movement or the only thing you do well, is get yourself and your buddies dead.

If you’re losing personnel then the thought process should not be to die so you can come back to life with a new weapon. You fall back, regroup and re-attack. How many times have we all fallen victim to the ‘spawn a squad’ sneak attack? This is the move where one single enterprising individual sneaks behind the enemy or wastes an aircraft in order to parachute behind the lines so they can create a spawn point for others.

Sure, in games we can endlessly re-spawn  it’s a game and we get it. What we would like to do is teach a few people that the lesson is NOT to die (as much as possible)

Where You Spawn

  1. In the HQ area (starting spawn) is the default location for new or re-spawning individuals
  2. At held objectives. Find one nearest to your squad so you can cover the least amount of ground in your return to duty
  3. Your squads mobile spawn point, a hardened troop transport.

Vehicle Spawn

MRAP – Wheeled Armored Personnel Carrier holds up to 6 (squad vehicle) and when outfitted with intermediate weapons can act as a squad support vehicle. Mk19 or M2 (.50 cal machine gun). This vehicle is available from your HQ area or established control points.

MRAPThe MRAP design is ideal for the relatively small squad size found in the Battlefield series. Six individuals can move across areas as a team safe from small arms fire. These vehicles can act as a squad rally point when you need to move, if you need to retreat or if you come under fire and the terrain presents a lack of cover. These vehicles can also be used to support assaults with turret mounted weapons.

This vehicle can represent the same kind of forward spawn point I mentioned earlier but in the game/authenticity trick we feel that sneaking around with a several ton very obvious vehicle is less likely to go unnoticed for long.

These vehicles are a lifeline, your squad would do well to protect it as the offensive and defensive asset that it is. Ignoring it or abandoning it could be squad death sentence. If you lose it, the only way to get it back is to have a re-spawned member drive it back to your area of operation.

The point: Spawning is a gift protecting you from stupid decisions and bad play but it IS a game and you need to get back in it. The current system doesn’t make you better, it makes you feel like superman with a mild kryptonite headache. Shake it off and you’re back in the game. Spawning in the ‘rear’ and taking you out of the action for a varied amount of time rewards careful play and offers a little hike and annoyance as ‘Rambo’ gets to hump his ruck back to the squad area for his trouble.

Support Flights

HQ Squad members in the flight rolls can support squads by queuing up re-spawning individuals at the HQ and ferrying them out to points near their squad. This represents a potentially faster rapid replacement that still enacts a personnel cost to the careless squad as it waits for your sorry dead butt to return to duty. Dead has a cost, but your buddies pay it.

Squad Summation

For many, the only reason to employ squads is to form the pieces that work together to act as an effective team. In the past these groupings havent been very effective at creating the need based bond that is necessary for this to work. Squads must realize that they always need a buddy, and that the team needs the other teams, squads need leaders, and leaders need other squads and all of them need an active commander. When the layout is formed that supports this ‘need’ and makes it essential to do well, then we feel that players will step up and embrace these new challenges and hopefully combat some of the frustrations we’ve seen in the past.

As always, this is how WE see it. We want to know what you think. Is there something that was unclear? Let us know since just like this article, we are only as good as the other members of the team, and that’s YOU.