The Soapbox: The trap of the I-win button

    
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This guest Soapbox was commissioned through Massively Overpowered’s Kickstarter campaign and is authored by a longtime reader named Syndar. The opinions here represent the views of our guest author and not necessarily Massively OP itself. Enjoy!

Everyone grows up knowing that it is more fun to win at whatever we’re doing than to lose, and so it goes in the gaming industry too. No matter what genre of games we play online or offline, we want to be the winner, some of us by any means or method. And so some people look for the easiest way to win.

The superficial point of games on the whole may be simple enjoyment, but those who look beneath seek to figure out the mechanics and maximize their performance too. In MMORPGs, that means sorting out how best to charge onward to the endgame or how to defeat the enemy. As online games evolve through their life cycle, we hear players complain that their class is not competitive because of some other class, and so all too often, developers fall into an impossible balancing patch cycle, making more and more corrective adjustments as the classes take turns at the top of the “overpowered” pile. As ridiculous as it seems, we’re hardly happy until we have that magical I-win button, and without adequate testing, that’s exactly what the developers deliver to us.

What exactly is an I-win button? It’s being able to sit at your PC and having to hit just one button (or something equivalently simple) to destroy your opponent. Yes, it is really a combination of one keystroke or two, like stun/nuke/nuke. I suppose in that example, the I-win button would be the stun because the character who was stunned cannot move and so is already dead — he just doesn’t know it yet. It might be lazy play, but that’s what I-win buttons are all about.

No doubt in our MMO careers, we’ve all played a flavor-of-the-month class that has been adjusted so that we can defeat others more easily… at least until that class is changed again in the next patch. I know I have. I know it is very hard to “balance” classes in MMORPGs. In fact, balance might just be the impossible design dream. But if people would think while they play and not just agitate for their personal competitive edge through flaming on forums, then maybe the developers would actually have time to focus on nuanced balance instead of just lurching from one tweak after another in the wake of every forum uproar.

Instead of intentionally or inadvertently begging for an I-win button in our games, we should be focusing on the use of strategy and tactics, either group or solo. If our methods don’t result in a win, we should go back, review our performance, and adjust so the next time we might prevail. If we win, well then we should try to figure out why so we can duplicate it! In an FPS, we wouldn’t just leap out in the open spastically and defeat the enemy; we’d use the proper cover and tactics. We should import that sort of careful play into MMORPGs as well.

There is no perfect MMO where everything is equal. We as gamers should be demanding games that make us better players by using our heads, not by making our toons better characters by giving them the I-win abilities. But even if the game developers can’t or won’t deliver that, we as players and payers bring a better gaming experience to ourselves, our fellow players, and our future allies and enemies if we if we make each other work at the win instead of whining over petty imbalances.

Sure it’s fun to win and see your kill count climb higher and higher as you push that easybutton over and over, trampling newbies and cheap mobs along the way, but in the end does it mean you are a good player, or is your overpowered toon doing all the heavy lifting?

What do you think? Are we caught in a cycle of I-win button play in MMOs? Do you use them, and if not, how do you counter?

Syndar is an old-school gamer whose favorite haunts have included Dark Age of Camelot, EverQuest, EverQuest II, H1Z1, DayZ, and Arma 3. You can hunt him down in his current games on the same nick.
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Morreion
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Morreion

DamnDirtyApe Veldan 
Hibernians and Albion called Midgard ‘Stungard’ back then.

BigMikeyOcho
Guest
BigMikeyOcho

Are we caught in a cycle of I-win button play? From what I see in others when I play, absolutely. Does *every* gamer strive to win, though? Nope, by far not all of us, I know I certainly don’t. I play MMOs for the story, the world created, and the characters I create. I’ll still upgrade my character with the best gear I come across and whatnot, but I will stay away from build guides as I don’t think playing with them is fun. The fun of a great character build is that YOU came up with it YOURSELF. If you just take something others have created and use that, are you the one really playing anymore? Can you take credit for any of your victories, or does the credit go to whoever made the build? For me, guides kill the fun entirely. But if I just wanted to “win”, I would look up those guides, I would use those builds, I would take the cheap overpowered abilities, and I would then have my hollow, meaningless victory. This is why I don’t play to “win”, as I feel using guides and exploits like that, even if you succeed you’re still far from “winning”. And if you’re just going to cheapen and undermine the experience for yourself, then why play at all?

DamnDirtyApe
Guest
DamnDirtyApe

Veldan Early DAoC Midgard Healers had an AE stun (with no diminishing returns if I recall) that was basically an ‘I win’ button.

wjowski
Guest
wjowski

frozendarkheart 
Nobody wants a Golden_Girl button.

ZenDadaist
Guest
ZenDadaist

Anarchy Online had a literal I WIN button for a while :D Big red one. You pressed it and YOU WON!

Veldan
Guest
Veldan

The only true “I win” buttons I ever saw were Aion’s sorcerer DP skills. I still have nightmares of Asmodians casting Shadowburst *shivers*

Honestly, maybe I’ve been lucky, but I don’t think I ever saw anything in the other MMOs I played that could classify as ‘I win”.

Cosmic Cleric
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Cosmic Cleric

Radfist Cosmic Cleric Developers are many things, but ‘dumb’ isn’t one of them.  They couldn’t have created a MMO if they were.
And, if they did have an imbalance, population wise, for a particular class, it would be an effective way to get the player base to ‘move around’ to the class with the I-WIN! button.

DPandaren
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DPandaren

Khalith Although, I think that is what makes playing a feral druid at the time far more rewarding. A cat druid who knew what he was doing would do a ridiculous amount of DPS in WoW as compared to other classes. But not everyone who played feral could John Madden the rotation and get it down. 

Although, I think the issues in TBC for the tank classes stemmed more from needing Resilience in PVE to be crit immune for raids.

Khalith
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Khalith

The poster makes a good point.  But the problem is that not all classes are on equal footing, there are legitimate cases where classes are genuinely underpowered.  Look at druid and paladin tank in TBC in WoW, they were designed solely for offtanking and didn’t have the same strength as warrior for main tanking, going in to wrath they had to buff them accordingly. Same with jugg tank in vanilla swtor, they were quite weak compared to the other tanks, they had roughly the same mitigation across the board which was awesome but Jugg had the weakest threat generation and required buffs as well.

Now all of these things could be overcome with gear and a good enough player, but is it right for a player to have work 2-3x as hard to make a class work on par with another? I don’t know about that.

Kageokami, oTQ
Guest
Kageokami, oTQ

TBH, why the “WoW pic” right now .. the game that is the most ” I-win” ( *coughmoneyEAmoneycough* ) is SWTOR. :P