The Perfect Squad Size Is 3 People

If you were paying attention to this week’s E3 announcements and also care about co-operative games, you might have noticed something: There are a lot of three-player co-op games. Rainbow Six Quarantine, the new Escape mode for Gears 5, even Battletoads.

To this I say: It’s about damn time. Three people is the perfect squad size, and I am tired of games that want me to find a fourth.

The Division 2, Anthem, every Borderlands game, Diablo 3, most online role-playing games — they all want me to round up a whole three other people in addition to myself when I squad up.

Granted, they all don’t require a full four-person outfit, but the mere suggestion of a fourth means you’re always aware of the gap in your roster, suspicious that you might not be performing at the optimum level thanks to your missing party member.

I always struggle at finding a fourth person. Part of this is due to the fact that many of my friends don’t play video games — at least, they don’t play the kind of video games that I do, on a similar schedule to mine. I’m at that age where everyone is getting married and having kids; it’s only natural that gaming happens at an irregular rate for most of my peers.

Besides, rounding up two other people is significantly easier than rounding up three. That’s just maths.

You might say, “Joshua, this is also true of two-person squads, and much easier. Why not just roll through every game in a duo?”

“How astute!” I would say, out loud, like a university lecturer. And it’s true: I do like playing games with just one other pal.

But to me, squadding up is about a sense of camaraderie, of being on a team, of having more than one person to high five when the job is done. Three people is the perfect number for that — all the benefits of teamwork, but low-key enough to still make things feel chill and casual, you know?

There are more practical concerns, too. The more crowded a voice channel is, the more obligated you feel to only talk when necessary and to shoot the breeze less. That is a bummer, since catching up with pals over a video game is nice.

Of course, the ebb and flow of conversation very much depends on who’s present and what your relationship is with them, but I’ve found that three is generally the sweet spot.

In my usual trio, this extends to trash talk, too, since our odd number makes it easy to ensure an even and varied distribution of burns and dunks between the three of us.

Regardless of how much you talk to your comrades, a trio is just nice for solving problems — when you only have two other partners, it’s easy to read a situation and tell where you’re most needed. Not to say that’s impossible with a team of four; it’s just the point where you can intuit less and have to communicate more.

I suspect this is why I don’t mind being randomly placed in a three-man squad for Destiny 2 or Apex Legends, despite primarily playing both games solo and without a mic. I can keep track of two people easily, and they can keep track of me. We don’t have to say much. If we did, though, we’d probably have a good time.


Comments

    And the new Battletoads game looks terrible.

      It’s like they actively try and miss the point of why some of these older games were cool.

        I'm actually legit wondering if the designers even played the original games.

    I miss Lord of The Rings Onlines 3 player dungeons.

    I'm the opposite. I looked at all those and said, "Damn. Why'd they have to be squads of three? Four is the perfect squad size." Now someone's going to have to sit out and when we need to split up (To flank or to explore) there's going to be an odd person out with no one to cover their back.

    Obviously it's a subjective thing but it's kind of irrelevant because the laws of gaming dictate you will always have too many or not enough.
    Usually your group of 3 struggles to find a forth but the second it's a 3 person game another mate will come online wanting to play.

    It's more about options than specific sizes. DC Universe Online did so much wrong but it got group sizes right. Solo, Duo, Alert (four) and Raid (eight) combined with content that can be ran quickly enough that you can run it again if someone misses out. It doesn't sound much different but it created a lot of wriggle room. They also made it super easy to flip back and forth between class roles so finding healers and tanks was less daunting.

      The character customisation was some of the best I've seen in a game like that too, I chased gear for looks more than I did for stats.
      (Although farming those bloody question marks for one bloody hat become a little bit of an obsession)

    The perfect size is 2 humans, plus two adorable AI companions. My partner and I, no outsiders.

    I often struggle finding the fourth as well most of the time, I have two friends that are solid players in most games, getting a fourth is difficult mainly due to skill than avaliblity.

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