Overpowered vs. Easy-to-Use: Where Do We Draw the Line?

One Man Army, Danger Close, Grenade Launchers. The epitome of overpowered. The Adaptive Combat Rifle, ACR. The epitome of easy-to-use.

I’ve been thinking about the “this is OP” and “this is UP” posts in various places ranging from official forums, fan sites, even as far as Facebook and Twitter. There are very strong points about how a gameplay element is imbalanced but most of them are “this is imba because I can’t use it for jack/everyone thrashes me with it” kind of complaints that are skill-based and subjective, rather than objective. Of course, this basically steamrolled into asking if something is actually overpowered, or just really easy to use? For this post, I’ll be using Call of Duty and League of Legends as examples.

When is something overpowered? I’ve got a pretty big tolerance when it comes to this touchy topic. I believe that something is overpowered if it is a “best-in-slot” element, has incredibly little to no downsides, and has no counters, soft or hard counter. First off, a soft counter is something that opposes a gameplay element to a slight extent. For instance, Akimbo FMGs and Akimbo MW2 G18s are soft-countered by shotguns. You are fighting a close-range powerhouse with an alternate close-range powerhouse. A hard counter is a fully-opposite gameplay element. Using the same example, a long sight line and a sniper rifle is a good counter to these. With that said, OMA DC Tubes are horrendously overpowered. Blast Shield is supposed to counter it, but grenade launchers have a ridiculous one-hit kill range in MW2 and is significantly magnified by Danger Close. It wouldn’t be such an issue if you couldn’t refill it, but Scavenger gives you ammo refills, and One Man Army essentially gives you infinite ammo. You cannot counter such a ridiculous exploit. What’s the downside? Just… killing yourself, which isn’t even a downside in itself. You just respawn and keep tubing.

Some of the “Easy Mode” guns from across 3 Call of Duty games. Top left clockwise: Black Ops FAMAS, MW3 ACR 6.8, MW2 SCAR-H, MW3 FMG-9.

Then there’s other argument of “ease of use.” Something can be easy to use with a lot of pros, but still have cons that allow for some variety. The ACR both in MW2 and MW3 do not have a lot of recoil at all. It makes it easy to use, but still require you to have pinpoint accuracy. If you wave your mouse or analog stick around you’re not going to hit anything. There’s also the issue of a slow fire rate. From an objective standpoint, the AK47 and M4 Carbine have incredibly higher TTKs. Hell, the RPD Stopping Power and Grip kills ridiculously fast. With that said, why do you see it all over the place? It’s because it takes less effort to be effective. This ratio is what dictates how much something will be used. Looking at another game, look at Twitch. He’s considered to be a troll pick, but really, Jungle Twitch is a high-skillcap, max gank champion. He is as scary as Shaco because he can stealth before ganking, making proper warding a must. A must. The downside is he’s terrible in the jungle itself, and can easily be counter-jungled and out-dueled. This is the same deal with other champions like Fiddlesticks, Warwick, and Nautilus. Of course, the junglers we see are the ones that are easier to use like Dr. Mundo, Lee Sin, Shyvana, etc.

SHACO ES OP NERF PL0Z

This is also why we have tier lists. Most of them are based off the number of times they have been picked in major tournaments, while some of them are based off their current performance which is highly subjective and should be taken with a grain of salt. Ultimately, this tells everyone how easy characters are to use, which has some correlation to how powerful they are, but it’s not overpowered in any way. In the fighting game community, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3’s Tier Lists are based off current performance, and how good they can be at their roles. On the other hand, The King of Fighters XIII don’t exactly have a tier list because everyone is balanced enough to be good with, and the only tier list I’ve seen basically only separates the gravity of a character’s flaws but everyone still has the same maximum potential.

Now I’m not saying that nothing will ever make it very close to the line between OP and Easy. Blacklight: Retribution’s Heavy Assault Rifle is teetering on this line. The recoil is so predictable, and the hipfire is so incredibly accurate that nothing else compares to it, but it’s still pretty much outclassed by extreme range weapons like the Bolt-Action Rifle. Anyways, I’d really love to know other people’s thoughts on this. Be honest about it. How tolerable are you when it comes to categorizing something as overpowered? Did you have a scrub moment where you called something overpowered

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One thought on “Overpowered vs. Easy-to-Use: Where Do We Draw the Line?

  1. It is a case of choosing raw efficiency over something you have to work much, much harder for to achieve the same result. At the end of the day, reliability is your best weapon when you want to win.

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