Please note: This guide is a treatise on cooperation with non-communicative teammates and does not deal specifically with Escort Mode; for advice on that game mode, See This Thread.
Players of online games are rightly impressed with the potential of real-time voice communication to enance the cooperation of a team - giving such teams an advantage over randomly-selected Pick-up Groups. However, there is also a certain amount of mythology and magical thinking on this subject. Players often assume that premades are unstoppable juggernauts, or that being on such a team trumps the need to cooperate with the other 8 players on your side.
Neither of these attitudes is correct: I have seen PuG players with superior playing practices (developed through the Darwinian process of our faction being outnumbered ~5/3 on an open-PvP server) routinely stomp dedicated PvP guilds under voice communication - because we all followed the same set of general practices.
Thus we have the fine art of PuG cooperation: The purpose of this microguide is to outline a few simple, general rules which will greatly increase the effectiveness of any PuG that uses them. It is NOT a post advocating "bull-rush lemming" tactics, nor ANY specific tactical doctrine other than what is specifically mentioned. If the Fracking Atlas charges alone and no one can/is supporting him, you may need to hang back until they get liquored up for the end-game. If all of your assaults are Highlander poptarts and Banshee AC snipers, you may end up playing bodyguard for a while if they don't want to move. Be flexible, and understand the principles behind these rules, rather than treating them as an absolute dictum.
Rule One: Follow the Fracking Atlas.
Stay together and support the heavy hitters (it doesn't have to be an Atlas, per se - it just made a good tag line.) If you're in a big 'mech, group up with other big 'mechs - you may need to resort to talking to them, or just follow along if they're not up to using their words. Remember that the rest of the team relies on you to be the linchpin of the battle. The reason we all stick together is because the effectiveness of firepower is greater when it is massed - "the more you use, the less you lose." If you split off and run into their main body, you'll do a lot less damage to them than they will to you - and you'll be crippled or dead, your firepower lost to the team. So stay generally with the team and don't let them cut you out of the pack. And if you see a group of your teammates charge into the enemy team, for Comstar's sake, go with them.
Rule Two: Be Their Eyes.
As a special exception to Rule One, it's vitally important that light 'mechs scout out the flanks, especially after the long-range fight is joined. Yes, I know, some of you are ECM snipers, or backstabbers - or Locusts. I'm not telling you you should expose yourself to light hunters by running around the map: you dropped with a certain build; by all means, play it! But whatever your build, always be on the prowl around the edges of the space controlled by your team. You don't want to be destroyed for no reason, but you are the only ones with the speed to escape an unexpected move by the enemy, and we need your eyes. Heavier 'mechs are not exempt from this rule either, however; cored 'mechs, priority targets, and flanking maneuvers are all important pieces of information and may be vital. Take the time to let your team know. Finally, if you are not making use of voice coms, well, you're living in the Stone Age. Certainly, not everyone has needed a mic in the past, or can justify the expense of getting a headset - still, no matter what, hit that Team Chat key and relay critical information! It takes literally two seconds to snap out some kind of warning to your team, and that information can make all the difference.
Rule Three: Cull the Weak.
Always try to focus fire on one person whenever possible. Certainly you can't ignore any target that's attacking you - even a Commando will core you fairly quickly if you just let him stand behind you and pound your rear armor in. However, don't get tunnel visioned on trying to kill him. If your opponent breaks off, do not pursue him unless he's damaged heavily and no focus fire target exists - instead, swap to the best target that's still fighting you. The more firepower you can put on a single target, the faster that target will die, and the less damage he'll be able to do to our team.
Rule Four: Support the Team.
This rule is quite simple; we are a team. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and we need to help one another. Don't be too far away from the team for help to reach you - even if you're a Gauss Rifle sniper or LRM maniac. Optimal engagement range for LRMs is roughly 300m, and while sniping across the map may feel safe, it opens you up to being tracked down by fast movers and destroyed. Try to get a feel for what the team needs done: if your Assault brawler has three light 'mechs camped in his rear arc, or your LRM boat has someone face-hugging him, go help them out. Try to help your teammates before they even know they need it. Cooperation requires tactical judgement - it would be a bad idea to let an Atlas walk through your lines while you all chased scout 'mechs - but it is the most important element in any PvP game.
Rule Five: Every Rule Has an Exception.
No ruleset written by mortal man can ever encompass all situations. These rules are general guidelines that will help those who understand and adopt them to cooperate with each other absent active coordination - they are not a suicide pact, nor is the guide to blame if you did something foolish - even if you Followed the Fracking Atlas at the time. As with any set of rules, you should understand them as completely as you can - so that you may know when to break them.
Supplemental Rules: While the above four rules will give you the basic practices needed to facilitate cooperation without voice communication in the heat of battle, there are a few extra things I want to point out without diulting the main four points:
Edited 12JAN2015: for existential clarity, and to add Rule 5.
18MAR2015: VOIP! YAY!
17DEC2016: additional editing for clarity of spoilered segments, addition of disclaimer about Escort game mode.
Edited by Void Angel, 17 December 2016 - 12:40 PM.