Yesterday I posted my general principle of Tactics: "Focus on destroying the weakest target at any given time." I realize now that that could be shortened to "Focus on destroying the weakest target", and it essentially means the same thing, so let's pretend I said that instead.
Let's look at the first part: Focus.
The marketing campaign for Dungeons and Dragon 4th edition is good advice: "Don't split the party". Someone on their own cannot respond to as many situations as a group, since each player generally only has 2-5 skills, and a character on his own essentially loses if incapacitated in some way. In addition to these obvious benefits of sticking together, there's also today's topic: it allows you to focus damage. If one PC fights one comparable NPC, the result is a crapshoot, barring specific advantages/vulnerabilities. If one PC fights four comparable NPC's, the PC will generally lose. The reverse is also true. So why does a group of PC's generally defeat a group of comparable NPC's? The NPC's are usually bound to attack whichever opponent is nearest, or something along those lines, while the PC's are free to target one specific enemy until it dies*.
Let's have a fight with no luck and few variables. 5 fighters on both sides have 10HP each, and automatically hit for one damage each time they attack. Team Focus has decided to target one opponent until dead, and Team Random is going to attack anyone nearby.
The first round, Team Random and Team Focus do the same amount of damage, and all seems equal. Each fighter in Team Focus has 9 HP, and only one person in Team Random has been damaged, but he's down to 5HP. Round two, the same amount of damage is dealt, but Team Random loses a fighter. At this point, it's obvious Team Focus will win; they're now doing 5 damage for Team Random's 4.
This example is very simple, and the decision making logic is clear, but this same logic is often ignored in the context of situations with more variables. Right now I'm thinking of TF2 and L4D2. In both games, the idea of staying together and focusing damage are very important, and in both games, people will just run off on their own.
In L4D2, running off is generally suicide for Infected or Survivors, although sometimes the Survivors will get past all the Infected and do an end-run through the entire map for the win. I think the fact that it's technically possible to win while alone like that is what encourages people to run off on their own. Survivors remember that time they holed up in a corner and killed all those zombies, so they run off into a corner, ignoring the fact that their fellows are so far away that they can't come to help in time.
There's a similar effect in TF2. A player will remember the time they fragged 4 guys as a Demo, so they'll try to solo a Medic, two Soldiers, and a Scout. This does not work. In fact, if a Demo all on his own even sees those people, he's doomed if he does anything other than run for his life. This is something I need to work on: I know the "Correct" way a team should go, and if they're not going that way, I'll go there anyway. This leads to me trying to solo entire teams quite a bit, which generally doesn't work. I've been thinking about imposing a personal rule: Don't go anywhere alone. If you have to go a bad way, it's better than dying alone. This rule would probably result in me "suggesting" that players go the correct way, which would be to the general benefit, if I could be polite about it.
I'm at the end of this post, and I didn't even get to the "Focus" part of the word "Focus". The part about "sticking together" is only the first prerequisite to "Focus", and there's still a lot to talk about. The Team Focus and Team Random is a simple example of how it works, but I'll cover some more examples in the next post.
*There are obviously other reasons why PC's tend to win. Let's ignore them.