Out-of-match squad mechanics might work and would require minimal preparation beforehand. Let’s say a group of friends want to join a match together. They’d share their usernames and some sort of private code and get put into a chat room (but that’s not even necessary). The squad leader would initiate joining a match and they’d all get put in there as one entity.
If a player wants to join a friend in an ongoing match, I guess some sort of invite system from people already in matches could work, provided the match balancing algorithm (if there is going to be one) determines that it won’t skew the balance. If two friends find themselves on opposite sides of a match, they could just leave the match and form a squad.
Or make it possible for a person to be involved in multiple matches at once with a limit. After all, nobody is going to play a match in just one session, so there need to be inactive player slots anyway. Why not let a player switch between ongoing matches?
Thanks for pointing out that in what timescales. in this case it is reasonable to think about this problem somewhat as it does behave much differently than many other online games.
One additional thing I keep in mind is that the game probably won’t have as many servers or concurrent running matches/instances as other, lower player number per match games.
I don’t think a lobby system will help with the problem, it’s most effective with games that have very short match times. It’s very unlikely that friends will group up for hours. They may join a match together but requiring that to play together isn’t helping the game or isn’t making the problem go away in my opinion. A friend system might somewhat but there are situation that may be exploitable like when you have friends in multiple different teams on the same match.
I’m surprised that Planetside has this problem because you have to create a whole new player Character to play on another team on the same server … with totally separated progression system.
Same with EVE:Online really. There you even need an additional subscription … although CCP did embrace the problem there somewhat instead of trying to fight it till eternity.
The Idea of combating spying by adding spy gameplay is a good one in my opinion. I think that might be somewhat effective … I don’t know what spies really like about the activity though. With a multi hour game it might be attractive to them to exploit team switching …
Still … friends trying to play together, anytime they want to play together has a much higher priority in my opinion than fear of exploitable freedom.
My first intuition would be to make all of this don’t matter. Winning won’t net you any additional progress, unbalanced matches get compensated by bots hard. Scouting isn’t global but a “per player” thing and isn’t shared, not even with your own team. You only see your immediate surroundings + Natural Formations (Planets, Moons) + Your Orders (Get to Station Name at planet name).
But that would result in exactly that … it not mattering if you win or loose. You may win or loose a battle but bot compensation might make every battle too balanced and scouting might get you xp and help the npc commander but no other players directly.
On a more practical note though. What if scouting itself wouldn’t benefit from the information someone could gather by spying?
It’s already very difficult to find a location without a marker … even if you know that there should be a location near a certain region it might still take you minutes to find each and every location and make it usable to your team.
I think with a somewhat “randomized” star system players will learn pretty quickly how the algorithm for station, bases etc. placement and/or team allocation works and will be able to guess pretty well in which team resides in what region of the solar system.
People will know even more if there are curated star system configurations … people are used to “learn the maps”.
As has been said several times already, if bases are always visible to everyone (as they are in all non-mmo multiplayer games I can think of) then that mitigates the use of team-switch spying.
However, that assumes ships will move around a lot making intel on ship positions out of date by the time the spy has switched back to their preferred team. In the case of the carrier however, it would probably be desirable to hide it somewhere to be used as a respawn point rather than taking it into battle, so it’s position wouldn’t be constantly changing.
The answer to this is a team switch cooldown, as discussed, and resetting credits and ‘experience points’ to 0 when you switch, as discussed.
You join a match and friends are on another team - you’ve just joined so have no credits or points to lose so no reason not to simply switch to play with your friends.
It doesn’t sound like that all bases and stations will be visible to anyone ingame. I wouldn’t also throw away the possibility of fun game-play made possible trough procedural tech due to potential exploits.
As I argumented, even with a full blown map showing the exact position of all your installations and not your enemies, that may not be such a problem, because space and planets are so stupidly big that without in-game aids the spy won’t be able to transfer that information to the enemy efficiently anyway.
Other than that I agree with your post. I think a time-limit is acceptable.
I may also suggest triggering the cool-down on first team-join as well, providing additional incentive to first check in what team your friends are before joining as well as additional discouragement to use that initial join for exploit reasons … but that’s not much of a difference.
Spying could be fun, if taken into consideration as a gameplay mechanic. How it could work:
-at the beginning of the match, someone decides to play the role of a spy and joins the enemy team
-spying consists of personally flying to a station/convoy and then ‘meet’ with someone from the other team to exchange data
-if found out the spy will be forced to go into the team he had been spying for
-meeting could be cloaked as fighting (firing lasers/rockets that dont deal a lot ofdamage but instead transmit data)
-double agents provide wrong data, lure people into traps
Apart from that I would prefer if people couldn’t just change teams.
Having Friends and Rivals lists would address the “playing with friends” issue.
A Friends where the other party has to agree to the connection, and is bidirectional, would allow people to find matches and teams that their friends are in/on. When joining a game, if you were told the names of only “Friends” on each team, players could make informed choices about which team to play for wrt their friends.
The Rivals list would not be bidirectional, of course. Instead of telling you the names of your Rivals on each team, as with Friends, just have the game tell the player how many Rivals are on each team.
That let’s the player make a choice before entering the match based on the social situation.
My opinion in short: teams should be locked, no switching after a player is assigned to a particular team.
Since both autobalancing and allowing players to join their friends teams seem to be prerequisites: maybe you should investigate an in-game squadron / guild / clan feature where players can group together long term and the autobalancer assigns them to the team which already contains at least one squadron member. This could also prove helpful with balancing known player groups (since they would thusly have an incentive to formally be known as a group) against lone players, considering that a formal group is much more efficient than players on the same team which don’t actually play “together”.
If that turns out to require too much dev time, then go for a simple “friends list” feature, where players can select a friend in their list and have an option “join this player’s active match” (the active match being the latest match they played in, even if they’re not online).
If you leave the read team for supper and later find your friends have joined the green team then you can safely assume that none of them have bothered considering to play with you that evening, so you put your mind at ease and blow them out of the skies with impunity.
As for the spectating question, restrict spectating to the player’s own team and do not allow spectating for players “outside of the match” who have not joined a side yet. I don’t really see a benefit for allowing spectating outside of the match for the greater audience. If you want to implement free for all spectating for marketing purposes, for example to be able to make a montage with quick cuts from a 1v1 or even allow real time broadcasts with commentators somewhere down the line, then by all means implement it, but restrict it to developer accounts or partner accounts. YouTube content creators, people who you would have formal contact with etc. etc. Not your average Joe standard license customer who just happens to snipe for his main.
Concerning what you said about Spectator:
A “see all” spectator could be possible while dodging your concerns by making it behave like a faction. Once your a spectator you are locked there for the duration of the match. No special accounts needed in my opinion.