Please help us be better at collaborative gaming
February 22, 2015 8:27 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I are playing Borderlands 2 and World of Warcraft (WoW) together, which is great fun, but we are sort of terrible at combat. He's never done collaborative gaming (but has played a lot of Borderlands) and I haven't played games in years (but I used to play a lot of WoW).

In our games, he always tanks (e.g., gunzerker, rogue) and I always play a ranged or DoT character (e.g., assassin, warlock). We need better strategies and a clearer understanding of our roles, how to fight, what we're supposed to be doing to help each other, etc.

What we're currently doing isn't really working very well. For example, in WoW, we tend to run/wander around, killing things somewhat separately, and button mashing. When we try to kill things together, one of two things tends to happen: 1. He sneaks up and kills everything before I can cast a spell or get a shot in. 2. I aggro something and end up taking damage and dying. Without a clear strategy, my warlock minions are a bit useless (and am not sure which to use), my partner isn't sure how to crowd control, and we're just kind of stabbing at the game. However, we are really good about sharing resources, crafting, and generally getting around (at least one of us knows the territories and mechanics of each game). It's that our combat sucks.

We play in the same room together, which helps, if only we knew what to communicate! So I guess we are looking for some ideas or explanations to help us that are either specific to gunzerker/assassin duos (Borderlands 2), rogue/warlock duos (WoW), or couples gaming together. Ideally, we'd love a step-by-step of what each one of us should be doing in various scenarios. Thanks!
posted by iamkimiam to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total)
Maybe it's a matter of finding the right games where you can cooperate more effectively? Have you considered strategy games? A lot of them will let you play on the same team and it's easy to play cooperatively. This is what my husband and I like to do (same set up, play in the same room).
posted by polywomp at 9:35 AM on February 22, 2015

My wife and I play Borderlands and similar games - we don't have a strategy as such but we do constantly, uh, discuss what we're doing. "Very hard guy, top of the stairs!", "Grenade", "There's health here", "I'm going left, you go right", "Shoot it! Shoot it!", "I'm dying!! Help!", "Run away!" It works out well enough, obviously we both get frustrated with each other but that's part of the fun, right? Better than watching TV.

The Army of Two series (which I don't particularly like, but she does) turned out to be pretty good for building teamwork skills, because of the silly 'aggro' mechanic built into the game.

I can in no way provide a step-by-step, but if I have one single suggestion it's that if someone is about to run into the middle of a load of bad guys and possibly need support, they should mention it first! (Great, you shouted for help and you were surrounded by badasses, and now I'm dead, thanks.)
posted by dickasso at 9:57 AM on February 22, 2015

Best answer: One of you should be a healer or a tank (at a minimum you could go demo and use warlock tank pet) - both being dps (especially one ranged and one not) makes it hard for you to play together without bending over backwards, especially since your partner might still be in the tank mindset (grab it first!). Another thing that helps is that you take turns "leading" rl, and if you have 2-person mounts then hopping on one for travel is great. I think these things would help a lot, but there is also another factor - not everyone enjoys playing cooperatively all the time, it might be best to have other characters that you play separately and allow time for that too. If you always play a game together it could start to feel like forced bonding instead of fun.

For improving in combat you can read and watch guides (wowhead, icy-veins->classes, wow class forums, youtube) that can give you great simple starting tips, and start small/safe by doing old content, the proving grounds and LFR. At max level you can get add-ons like recount and use a training dummy to check your dps. Also get dbm so it can tell you about mechanics you might miss and GTFO which tells you if you are standing in any sort of fire. You can look on curse and see the most-downloaded addons and pick and choose for your needs. You can also spend no-pressure time on activities like collecting and battling pets and managing your followers etc for variety.

I have been half of a gaming couple for 7 years now, but also like to game alone.
posted by meepmeow at 10:28 AM on February 22, 2015

My first thought is to know what each other can do and ask for it. For example, if you accidentally draw aggro say "Oops, too much damage! Need your XXX skill!". A place to start is to try to get one "set play" down for starting combats. Maybe it's you letting loose with a powerful ranged attack and then him rushing into to draw the aggro back. It might mean he needs to slow down a bit exploring so you can get it off.

But, not to get all couples therapy, does your partner agree you suck at combat right now? It's a game, there's not a right way to play, just whatever you both enjoy the most.
posted by meinvt at 10:30 AM on February 22, 2015

I haven't played Borderlands, but I do know that WoW gets a lot more fun after you start perfecting your class's specific rotations instead of just facerolling it. (I'm speaking as a Level 100 rogue who has only just now discovered that I can use more than eight different keyboard buttons. I mostly just like the lore, crafting, trading, and sightseeing.)

Lots of guides out there. For rogues, at least, there's lots of material out there depending on specialization.
posted by mochapickle at 10:33 AM on February 22, 2015

Best answer: In WoW, there's not really any content that's designed for two people, except maybe pvp. If you're leveling/questing, there are a few multiple-person quests, but to be honest they're usually doable by one person, especially 'lock.

If he likes to tank, he should change to a tank class; that way, when/if you decide to do dungeons or harder content it'll be easier. My favorite is druid because you can tank, heal, range dps or melee dps depending on how you spec. The cat form is basically a rogue, too.

As far as minions, you should be using the void walker or felguard (lvl 42 or something) to tank for you. If you really want to kill stuff together, ask him to wait for your pet to go in and get hate before he attacks. Ideally, though, you'll have the same quests but kill separate groups of mobs, otherwise stuff is going to die so fast your DoTs will be kinda useless. Make sure to do the muti-person quests, those will be fun with two people.

Crowd Control isn't really a thing in WoW anymore, except in pvp. When I play rogue I use sap all the time because it's fun, so if he wants to cc he should use sap.

Most importantly: You should have a way to communicate other than chat... either play in the same room or use teamspeak or similar. That way you each can easily talk about what's going on. This makes the game a LOT more engaging.

If you don't like button mashing, wow probably isn't the game for you, just saying.

Finally, if you don't mind trying another game, Rift is very wow-like and has some two player dungeons at the later levels. I think it's free to play, now.
posted by Huck500 at 10:43 AM on February 22, 2015

My wife was a tank. A berserker tank and loved it, so I wound up adjusting to her play style - I knew she was going to charge, so I was ready with healing and a powerful ranged attack to finish off the ones she softened up. Then we'd loot/heal/reload and head for the next area, deifined as 'the area where that doesn't have any dead bodies in it yet'. The other key was playing 'simpler' co-op games, like Baldurs Gate for PS2.
posted by Mogur at 11:43 AM on February 22, 2015

Best answer: We've played WoW here for FAR too long. My husband and I used to play together all of the time, but basically the game has changed so much that it's not challenging unless we're doing the groups that require 3+, we queue for dungeons together, or we create our own challenges by pulling ALL of the mobs.

Have your Voidwalker (make sure the taunt is on) pull as many mobs as it can, and let the rogue go crazy with fan of knives/shadowstep/whatever fun trick he has. In the meantime, you can toss your spells on them knowing that you'll be able to kill some too.

When we do game together, our communication is very basic, as in "I'm going to do something stupid" or "RUN!" Marking each other with the raid symbols (skull, star, etc) will help you find each other without using the minimap, but we usually find the other by finding the person with 10 mobs chasing it. For added harmony, make sure you don't have the same professions. Things could get nasty over an herb.
posted by kimberussell at 11:46 AM on February 22, 2015

Best answer: My wife and I have played a ton of Borderlands 2 (and TPS) together, and the tank/ranged combo is a really hard one to enjoy. We tried for about 15 levels with Gunzerker/Assassin (sniping) and it was hard to make it work, since the Gunzerker needs to charge into the fray to fight, and once he does all the enemies will start running around, making sniping near impossible. We ended up enjoying it a lot more when both using a similar run-and-gun playstyle, using different combinations of Gunzerker/Mechromancer/Siren. (The Commando is probably fine, we just both thought he was boring. Neither of us is good enough to make good use of the Psycho.)

I would try BL2 with different characters and really try to stick together - you should be in the same area about 75-80% of the time, and you should be close enough to revive your downed partner 95% of the time. If you split up it's not as much fun, and if you both stumble into separate fights you tend to die. Also try to find a good pace for searching for treasure, etc. - if one person always wants to press on and the other likes to find all the loot you'll be inclined to get too far apart.

We enjoyed BL2 a ton and have put countless hours into it - I found it ended up improving our communication and cooperation a lot in the long term. Hopefully you can get into it in the same way.
posted by pocams at 11:52 AM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think maintaining situational awareness and communicating actions/threats is really important in a small group, as other people have suggested. I don't play MMOs, and have only a bit of time in Borderlands -- most of what I play is co-op tactical simulator stuff. Figuring out the right level of detail to communicate would probably help, as would working out patterns that leverage each others' strengths. I think pocams might be onto something re: selecting skills/class balance that complement each other, though that may involve one or both of you doing new things you're less familiar with.

One thing that my casual co-op group does is to use a set chain of command for a given play session, and then stick to it. Having a clear leader makes coordinating easier, but changing up who that leader is gives everybody experience in all the roles. It also lets people change it up so nobody gets stuck in charge, or always taking orders, which I can see being very important in a relationship context. That may be hard to pull off in games with RPG-style skill points and advancement, however. A certain build/type of character may be well-suited to a certain role and you may not be able to swap as easily.

On the other hand, since there are only two of you, the "chain of command" thing may be less important, and just making sure to communicate clearly and concisely may help! In something like BL2, maybe focus on learning to communicate who/what/where quickly. My co-op play usually involves working as part of a 4-person fireteam with a defined axis of movement and access to an in-game compass, so "Incoming, three o'clock!" or "Orient two-two-zero" calls make sense, but you might have to work out your own version ("Psycho coming down the stairs," "Healing behind the scrap pile southeast, cover me," or something similar -- reference level geometry?) Then again, BL2 is much more frantic than the co-op sims I play, and that may just end up being useless. Food for thought, anyway.
posted by Alterscape at 12:24 PM on February 22, 2015

My husband and I play WoW together fairly regularly. My best suggestion to you is that you create 2 new characters and level them together. Learn to play together, perhaps try different classes. A rogue is not actually designed to tank in WoW, but paladins, warriors, death knights* (which would be less effective for new characters unless you are both leveling death knights, which might be fun), druids, and monks are.

Warlock wise, depending on what kind of warlock you are, I have different answers. If you're an affliction warlock, you are going to be just as effective killing 3 things as one thing. However, it sounds like you both might benefit from reading up on how to play your classes. I recommend Icy Veins for build and rotation guidelines. While they are intended for end game raiding, they typically have suggestions on leveling builds and rotations, and I find them very helpful even just for casual players.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 2:27 PM on February 22, 2015

Best answer: Disclaimer: I unsubscribed from World of Warcraft over a year ago, so this is all based on the state of the game as of midway through Mists of Pandaria.

I agree with previous posters that part of your problem is that your husband is trying to tank without playing a tank class. Around the time of Cataclysm and the great talent tree revamp, Blizzard decided to draw a much harder line between DPS classes and tank classes. Tank classes were given abilities, like the Protection Paladin's Righteous Fury, that massively amped up their ability to out-threat DPS classes. While it's not impossible for one DPS to hold threat on a group of mobs against another DPS class, it's certainly a lot harder because the second DPS will always have to be watching their threat (and possibly using lower-threat-generating abilities, like AoEs or DoTs instead of direct damage.)

So there are a couple different things you could do. Number one, if you want to stick with the rogue/warlock combo, you'll need to go Demonology and focus on beefing up your voidwalker/voidlord. Talents you might want to take are Soul Link and Grimoire of Supremacy at higher levels. Glyphs to look at might be Demon Training, maybe Health Funnel. You'll want to make sure you have your blueberry set to auto-taunt, send it in to a pack of mobs, and then have your husband come in and start his rotation while you keep your DoTs rolling.

Alternately, if your husband likes tanking more than playing rogue, he could reroll as a class with a tank spec. Like Huck500, I'd suggest trying druid because he could dual-spec as bear tank for running with you and cat as his solo spec, which has a very rogue-like style. He might also like a Brewmaster Pandaren -- I never tanked as a pandaren, but I believe it's got a lot of the same combo point/special ability aesthetic.

Or if you want to try a caster class without worrying about pet management, you might try rolling a priest. Shadow has a lot of the same kind of play as a warlock (especially an Affliction lock) but you get some additional survivability through PW: Shield and Devouring Plague, which helps on those accidental pulls. You could also try a mage, but they're super-fragile, don't use dots, and can't heal, so maybe not so much. I say this with love. My main of four years was a mage.

One thing you might try to up the challenge is running low-level dungeons as a two-man group (you'll need to physically go through the portal for this instead of using Dungeon Finder.) You may have more of a chance to actually kill things when you have half of Stockades aggroed on you!

There isn't really a lot you can do to help each other as a rogue and a lock, unfortunately. As Huck500 said, CC is pretty much dead outside of raids. Plus, your best CC is going to be fearing, which will scatter mobs everywhere, and your husband doesn't have a taunt to bring them back. His CC, Sap, should be used to lock down healers or casters in groups of mobs. His interrupt, Kick, is very important and he should get in the habit of hitting it every time his target starts casting.

Are you using any threat meter mods? As a very fragile clothie, threat mods were my best friend. I always used a combination of Skada and Tidy Plates: Threat Plates so I had both single-target and multiple-target threat displayed.

Communication will come as you get used to playing with each other. I had a tendency to call out if I had aggro or if I was crowd controlled in some way so my group knew to help me. Probably the best thing you can do is target marking. Focusing on the same target will help with your aggro issues because then you're both putting max threat on the same target. Something like LuckyCharms will make it easy to set target markers.

As far as resources go, it's been so long since I played regularly that I'm not sure what is still relevant, but here's a couple of sources that are likely to still be good:
Wowhead warlock guide
Wowhead rogue guide
Icy Veins warlock leveling guide
Icy Veins rogue leveling guide
MMO Champion forums
posted by dislegomena at 3:11 PM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: So much great advice, thank you all for the suggestions so far!
posted by iamkimiam at 3:46 PM on February 22, 2015

Best answer: For WoW specifically, everyone's touched on a lot of helpful advice, but what I haven't seen mentioned that I think is really important is this: if you're still leveling, you're not going to be very effective at killing monsters together. They'll die too fast. Leveling content and individual mobs are tuned around solo players. It's not intended to be group content. Frankly, it's so undertuned even for on-level toons that I mostly don't even bother with stealth on my rogue and feral druid because it's just too slow and too much of a hassle to go into stealth, set up your opener, blah blah. Mobs die so easily anyway that it's not worth the effort.

It's normal that trying to kill the same mob will be frustrating. The only way I can level with my friends is if we roll a tank/healer/optional DPS combo, basically round up an entire camp of mobs, and cleave it down deathball style.

Really, my advice is: get on voice chat if you're not, and group queue for instances together if you really want that "team" feeling. Otherwise, just doing the same quests but soloing your own mobs will be way less frustrating.

Or if you really want to have fun teaming up, you could try PVPing. WoW leveling is just not conducive to teamplay, it's not at all what it's designed for.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 6:01 PM on February 22, 2015

Best answer: The way I've described group mechanics in WoW: The tank drives the car; the healer's in charge of the gas, and the DPS is the size of your engine.

-If you have underpowered DPS, your progress will be glacial. BAD
-If the healer's underpowered, you'll constantly have to stop to refuel. BAD
-If the tank's mindlessly careening around and pulling mobs, then you're crashing into everything. BAD
-If the DPS start trying to drive, this is VERY BAD

At the moment, you have two DPS trying to drive the car, so that'd be what I'd fix first. As suggested upthread, your partner might be happier playing a hybrid class that can tank and do reasonable DPS, since that's his play style. I've been a druid since Vanilla and love being able to tank, DPS, and heal all in the same battle, so I'm biased. :) Or, if he doesn't want to change classes, make your voidwalker be your tank.

Second, you can almost never over communicate when grouped with other people, even when (especially when!) the other person's your partner, so practice that. Go into an older dungeon that you've leveled past, and practice there. Use the raid icons to mark targets (the usual raid convention is skull dies first, then X; CC the blue square, sleep/sap the green triangle), and verbally call out what you're doing to which mob. It will seem painfully laborious and excessive at first, but after a while, you become a well-oiled machine.

Also, if one of you decides to tank — when tanking, turn yourself around so that you're facing the people you're grouped with, and the mob you're tanking is facing away from your party. It makes it much easier to see when a mob's decided it needs to go melt a clothie's face.

If you practice communication, marking targets, crowd control, and get those squared away, you'll be better than 90% of the people you'll run into in PUGs and LFRs.

And if you don't install Threat Plates, Skada/Omen, Deadly Boss Mods, GTFO, kittens won't die or anything… but combat will be a lot harder.
posted by culfinglin at 10:05 AM on February 23, 2015

I've played way too much Borderlands (1/2/TPS). It shouldn't be terribly difficult, but it's not clear what's not happening for you. Here is some very general advice, maybe something will help...

Quests have a difficulty level-- if you're doing ones marked "tough" and above, do lesser ones, such as side quests. Or replay areas till you level up.

Get the best shield you can and watch its level. Get behind cover to let it recharge. If you're dying a lot, check the skill tree, there are usually skills for health regen, shield regen, etc. There are health regen items (though they are rarer in BL2).

Revive each other quickly. You'll be very squishy after a revive, so try to get behind cover till your shield is up at least. Don't get too far apart. Call out if you find health if your partner needs it.

Zer0 is hard to play at lower levels... it felt to me like he got swamped easily. I liked playing Maya and Gaige. But a lot depends on what guns you get. Max out damage * firing rate, use elemental weapons, and adjust based on enemy type (corrosive vs armor, shock vs shields, fire vs others; don't use an elemental effect vs monsters with that same effect).

BL doesn't require much strategy... mostly you just kill all the enemies and loot everything hoping to find that really awesome gun.
posted by zompist at 5:00 AM on February 24, 2015

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