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?