The Daily Grind: How do you feel about ‘oh shit’ buttons in MMOs?

The Daily Grind: How do you feel about ‘oh shit’ buttons in MMOs?

I hate “oh shit” buttons!

Justin and I were joking about this on a podcast a while back, but I mean it quite seriously. I don’t like those long-cooldown panic powers that take up tray and screen real estate. I seldom remember to use them. If I do remember to use them, it’s never the right time, and I always wish I’d waited. So usually I just… don’t use them. If I can’t count on them in whatever that MMO’s skill rotation happens to be, they may as well not exist. Plus, if I’m really in an “oh shit” moment, I’m probably too busy doing something else anyway. Like, you know, running away!

Surely I’m not alone here. How do you feel about “oh shit” buttons in MMOs? What’s an MMO where they are genuinely useful and good?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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I don’t mind them, if they’re actually useful when you do use them.

I dislike it when long-cooldown “uber powers” are too limited in how they work (“only works if you’re playing on a Tuesday” or “only enemies with koala bear DNA are affected”) .

I mean, if a game is going to give me a long-cooldown, ace-in-the-hole “ragnarok surprise!” power, then it better bloody well bring the lightning when I use it to save my character’s arse in a battle!

As others have said below, I don’t like games that rely too much on rotations-on-repeat for success. I tend to get bored, and feel like I’m being coerced into a rote combat style.

My opinions, anyway,


Bruno Brito

Depends on them. I prefer more passive effects, but since i’m a soloplayer mainly, i need some of the oh-shit buttons sometimes.

Always had a softspot for the DK ones in WoW.

Castagere Shaikura

Yeah, I never use them. They just are a waste of a skill spot for me. Even with ESO’s Ultimates, I have never needed to use them except with my warden for the Bear spot. I don’t even put points in them.


They’re pretty much worthless to me. I always have them on my hotbar and almost never use them. I view them like potions, something I’ll hoard so I have it “just in case” and never actually use. “If I use it now, what if I need it in 1 min more?” Tends to be my thought process. Plus, since those skills are so rarely used I typically have to hunt for them if I need them, and and the situation is usually resolved one way or another by the time I find them.


So after shifting from DPS to tanking for my FFXIV group, I’ve come to view what are traditionally considered “Oh Shit” buttons as “Plan to Use” buttons instead, though I concede that may be more an element specific to FFXIV’s fight design.

Even previous to switching to tank, I’d been broken of my “save this for a dire moment” tendencies. Self-heals? No longer just for last minute saves when things are going belly-up anyway. Big AoE happens, I hit that self-heal if I have one (and also means I’m more aware of if I need to use it just before the big AoE). Group mitigation tool? Chances are I already know when I’m going to use it.

Again, though, this is more specific to FFXIV’s combat and encounter design, where things like raising in battle is limited by MP and the time to hard cast if the insta-cast buff button was already used/no Red Mage available.

I can appreciate being more “save it until you’re sure it’s needed, and even then double check” for things like Rebirth in WoW, the 10-minute cooldown battle rez that Druids bring. It’s been a while since I last did any real dungeon or raid content in WoW (almost a decade at this point) but last I checked that game is noticeably more limited on bringing players back into the fight (but also doesn’t have as many one-shot mechanics, particularly in content that isn’t at the higher difficulty).


That’s what the F1 key is for. F2, F3, F4 are good for long cool down’s but F1 is alwasy the “Oh Shit” button.


Bad game design, usually introduced late in the life of the game, when devs had a lot of time to screw up things that worked and were fun.

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If you do not think an emergency button is essential then your game’s death penalty is too soft.


I mean… It’s the ‘in case of emergency, break glass’ button. I like having those. Yeah, you might prefer running away rather than use them… But what if you can’t? You can’t run in a boss fight, you can’t run in a raid.

Paladin in World of Warcraft was great for me because we had 3 ‘Horeh Sheeet!’ buttons. A blessing to put a Paladin bubble on others, A bubble we could put on ourselves, and a guaranteed full heal. I didn’t use them a lot, but I used them. I loved ‘Lay on Hands’, especially when it could crit and any of my heals as a Ret Paladin would put a Heal-over-time on the target. Having what is normally a 120~k heal crit? That’s a lot. And the Heal over time that is based on the amount healed? Crazy. Its only ever critted like… once… for me, but still.
And the Bubble? Aside from just the fun of it? I’ve used it to save dungeon runs. Sethekk Halls Heroic in Burning Crusade, joined a group looking for a DPS and a healer. I’m DPS (retribution for life). We get a ‘healer’, who is just a ret paladin with some cheap rep healing gear on–at least the few pieces they bothered wearing. Once we start, people start dying… Healer’s not healing. They yell at me its my job to heal because they can’t. Something about running out of MP, when their’s never dropped below 70%. Argument is had, but we’re doing… fine so group doesn’t feel like immediately throwing them out. Then we get to final boss. ‘Healer’ kills themselves immediately by standing in front of the boss during its death aoe you need to get behind a pillar for. From essentially 90% of its health to 0%, I had to balance a tiny mana pool (6k for Ret if memory serves) between heals and what is needed to attack. Used my blessing bubble to shield a DPS until I had enough mana to toss a quick heal to them. But I’m not a healer. Group damage whittled the party down to me and tank (we had the highest HP totals out of everyone). Tank goes down finally, and I’m left as the only one with the boss at a sliver. I bubble, heal and try to pop myself up as best I can, then burned the boss down the last bit before he killed me.

I liked my Bubblehearth. But I loved my bubble.

And heck, in FF14? Any class where I could while you were able to, I cross-classed oh-no buttons. You know how many times I’ve had to suddenly tank as a Dragoon? A lot. And it still happens. Couple weeks back, I had to play Tank during Amaurot…
Well, I didn’t have to… But our tank dropped right at the start of the dungeon, it was taking a while so healer said ‘why not’. I told them ‘I’m dragoon, I floor tank’ and… we got up to the first boss burning through all of my ‘oh no’ buttons just to keep myself up. Tank joins at that point, so I didn’t have to try and tank the boss, thank god…
Bloodbath and Second wind help, Fleet of Foot from Monk and the Parry Dragoon skill helped too when I was able to take and use them before. But my favorite skill was on Ninja, which was the ‘perfect dodge’ 1-attack skill. Cyclops going for the spin-to-win? Pop it. You’ve had to turn into a tank for Brayflox? Yep, use it.

Now that its just a buffer skill to reduce damage? I… tend to forget about it.

… And yeah, Red Mage raise. It’s nice having access to that.


I love them! In fact, I’d go so far as to say that they make-or-break a combat system for me.


“Oh Shit” skills add depth. They are, by their definition, impactful, meaning that the decision to use them (or not) will have a genuine impact on the outcome of the fight. This means that genuine player skill becomes more important, rather than it all being about stats and rotations (which are shallow, because they involve no decision making).

The early years of LotRO are my best example of these types of skills, that game used to have sooooo much depth in combat! The captain class, my main, was basically nothing but these types of skills! Out of the 30+ skills I had, only 5 or 6 were part of my rotation, the rest required some sort of decision making.

Most impactful skills of this type:

1) Strength of Man – 3k heal, 1 hour cooldown. At a time when I only had 3k health, this was a 100% heal on a very long cooldown.

2) Oathbreakers Shame – big damage increase on a target for 20s, 5 minute cooldown. Great for blasting down an enemy but most useful when co-ordinated with other players, so required careful timing.

3) Shield of the Dunedain – 50% damage bubble for a group member, 5minute cooldown. Perfect for rescuing someone from near death but you could only really use it once per boss. Do you use it on the tank, who is taking the most damage but who the healers are already focused on? Do you save it for a healer incase they get aggro? Do you use it to rescue a DPSer who got hit with some AoE, or risk leaving him?

It’s all about decision making.

Any player can go online and look up the best rotation or the best gear. Its easy and requires no skill at all. If combat only requires a bit of movement and execution of a rotation, then anyone can do it, but it’s boring. By adding lots of impactful skills like this, the player suddenly has to start making important decisions in the moment. Those decisions determine the success or failure of an encounter. In short, depth empowers the player and makes their personal skill the most important factor in combat.

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Tobasco da Gama

Absolutely. I usually find myself wishing that combat skills were more reactive, not less.