The Two-Button Phase

I understand why your game goes through the two-button phase. It gives new players a moment to learn things before adding complexity. Maybe it is comforting for people on their first MMO. You have a little/auto-attack and a bigger attack. Maybe it is a melee attack and a ranged attack. Whatever it is, when you are in the tutorial, you have two things you can do other than moving around.

It is very important for your game to get past this phase as soon as possible. The longer I sit there with just two buttons, killing three flavors of rat ten times each, the less likely I am to think that anything awesome lies behind it all. Giving me something non-interactive next is fine. Armor, a defense, a buff or heal that I will not need in the intro, fine. Very soon after, give me something shiny to hit things with. If I am still in the two-button phase ten minutes into things, I am probably logging off and never coming back.

: Zubon

11 thoughts on “The Two-Button Phase

  1. Luk

    After the first tutorial, there is another much longer tutorial(crisis zone) with a 3 button phase. At least you get a travel power at the same time, but even at lvl 10 you will still using mostly the same 2 buttons that you used in the beginning tutorial.

    Oh and a small tip, never pick melee power as your energy builder, it will gimp your toon in pvp for life.

  2. Yeebo

    I actually enjoy the three button phase because the travel power tends to change the basic play dynamic so much. Also, be sure to get a defensive power for your third button. If you get another offensive power, you’ll be using it merely for the sake of variety…not because you actually need it yet. Plus, you want an easy area to get used to using your defensive abilities.

    The two I’ve tried were a block power that does damage to everything near me and one that let me leap in and out of combat. Both very handy, and a lot more exciting than a third attack.

  3. Yeebo

    Edit: come to think of it, the second ability i was thinking of was a leap attack that can be used to get into combat with a big damage knockdown or get out of it. Not sure if that was technically a “defensive” ability…

  4. Rog

    I dunno, I don’t normally relate my enjoyment to the number of buttons I push. It’s more about the situations, activity and a number of other factors in which I push them.

    I will agree that two-buttons doesn’t lend itself to as many situations, but then I’m also aware that there are a great deal of classic games that I quite enjoy that got a whole lot out of 1 button, because in essence, adding other controls actually makes it quite a few more buttons just without the big red shiny emphasizing them.

    I have a Joust coin-op in my living room that still gets good activity. The joystick only goes side-to-side and it’s 1-button, so even factoring in all the controls there are only 3. Absolutely amazing game with tons of replay value.

    Case in point though, yes, Champions Online combat feels rather drab until you get to level 5 and get not only that next button to push, but as Yeebo points out, a travel power that adds another dynamic to the equations.

    That said, after my first character, the initial tutorial felt a whole lot shorter on subsequent runs through.

  5. Syncaine

    Perhaps the real issue is not the number of buttons you can press, but what you get out of pressing them? If the combat is drab, is having 9 hotbars of icons going to make things better? DarkFall has all of one button 95% of the time (swing/shoot/cast), yet the combat is more interesting than any MMO I’ve played, and having to rely on MORE buttons would only take away from that enjoyment.

  6. gattsuru

    Note that some of the “second button” powers in Champions Online have multiple different states. The Force Bolt framework, for example, has a second power that can either be a slightly stronger blast than the end builder, or can be charged up to the level of a sniper rifle. As you level up (and equip up) to have more maximum energy, this distinction becomes much more major.

    Unfortunately, not all do have this, or only one form makes sense (the Powered Armor options have a few things that would seem to have multiple states, but only make sense to use in one), but it does provide distinctions outside those situations.

  7. Moondog548

    Yeah the overlong 2-button stage is something I really felt in the CO nubworld. I really think adding one more skill before going into the final phase would have been a BIG boost to the overall experience. At least they let you stretch out immediately after the tutorial, and give you fair warning of what to expect skill-wise and when to expect it.

    Still, the powerhouse is such a great playground to explore the skill sets (and the movement powers sqeeeeeeeeeeee!) that putting it right before the tutorial finale would be a very big boon to selling the player on the game right then and there.

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  9. Tesh

    Man, I hated playing games on the NES. Or, was that “I hated learning to use all those freakin’ buttons on the SNES controller”? I can never remember. It’s been a while.

    1. Tesh

      Well, sure, *we* expect differences, but what about all those noobs who play on toasters? Mass market games *need* that simple, gentle learning curve. That’s one good reason WoW has been as successful as it has.

      Of course, I get frustrated with it too, but just watching my wife (who *did* grow up with an NES like I did) burn a half hour trying to grok *camera control* in Guild Wars, I’m reminded that I’m not in the bulge of the bell curve. *shrug*

      I wish there was a way to self-regulate the experience. For me, picking up a Death Knight’s rotations and Death Grip tactics was a matter of a few minutes, and I’d love it if the game let me *get on* with the game instead of having me grind through a few levels to make sure I get it. And that’s in the fastest starting experience in the game. If I were to start a fresh new Warrior (I’ve never played one), I’m confident that I’d be on top of things in a few minutes. If I were given a level 80 Warrior all kitted out, it would take less than an hour of messing around to be up and running in anything but the most experience-intensive raids.

      On the other hand, my friend who plays console games far more than I do (and is much more of a “gamer”) would have a bit more trouble acclimating because he’s used to a different set of controls and expectations. Everyone is different, but running us all through the meat grinder at the same leveling pace (Refer-a-Friend and alt Heirloom trickery aside) will naturally leave the most experienced and adept of us *really* tired of the learning experience. That’s the price we pay for mass market appeal and game design that stubbornly resists letting players tailor the experience.

      …so much for brevity.

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