Don’t worry about failure. Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.

I’ve slowly grown weary of ‘Falcon Hyperdrive’ abilities on my various MMO characters, to the point where I often can’t be bothered to use them at all. You know the sort of ability to which I refer, characterised by excessively long cooldowns and a power that has both the potential to change the course of a battle, as well as a chance to miss.

Healer: “The enrage timer is getting closer!”

Rogue: [with a gleam in his eye] “Oh yeah? Watch this.”

[Expectantly, they look towards the boss as Rogue runs up and flails around ineffectually in front of him. Rogue and Tank look at each other and are thrown into an acute state of concern.]

Tank: “Rwwwarrrggghhh!”

Healer: “Watch what?”

[Rogue tries another ability. Still nothing.]

Rogue: “I think we’re in trouble.”

Paladin: “Sir, the possibility of successfully triggering a long cooldown ability with a To Hit component when you need it most, is approximately 3720 to 1!”

Rogue: “Never tell me the odds!”

[The boss hits his enrage timer.]

Rogue: “We’re in trouble.”


Rogue: “Okay, let’s finish this fight. Ready for Blimey Charlie![TM] ability? One…two…three! Punch it!”

[Rogue fires-off his ability and… nothing happens. The boss punches Tank two inches into the ground.]

Rogue: [frantic] “It’s not fair!”

[Tank is very angry and starts to growl and bark at his companion. Again, Rogue desperately fires-off an ability.]

Rogue: “The ability triggered, it just didn’t hit. It’s not my fault!”

[Tanks puts his head in his hands, and lets out a whining growl. Healer looks derisively at Rogue.]

Rogue: “It’s not my fault!”

It’s gotten to the point now that I imagine the Whee Whee Bwoo Bwoo Bwooooooo sound of the Millennium Falcon failing to enter hyperspace every time one of my battle-winning abilities fails to make contact, and thus fails to have any effect whatsoever.

I can understand abilities that can only be used once per fight, even if they do present the player with that awkward dilemma of trying to balance whether the situation is dire enough that use of the ability is mandatory for the group’s survival, against the fact that an even more dire situation may occur at some point in the near future. It’s like a sort of game show –How Dire Is This?– where the contestants have to gamble and guess whether their current situation is the most dire it’s likely to get, or if they want to risk struggling through because they reckon an even more dire situation is just around the corner.

“Well it seems that our contestant has just about made it through the pit of flame-thrower-wielding scorpions. And with all three lifelines intact, no less!”

“That’s right Frank, the situation certainly looked pretty dire, but Geoff kept his nerve and now he faces the next challenge. A little scorched maybe, but with a full suite of special abilities. So let’s see how dire the next challenge is…”

“Well Alan, looks like the next challenge is located in Dire Maul.”

“That’s pretty dire right there, Frank.”

“Which has been populated entirely with dire rats.”


“Who are riding on dire bears”


“Who are piloting Dire Wolf mechs.”

“Well it doesn’t get much more dire than that!”

“While playing the Very Best of Dire Straits.”

“Well that’s not so bad…”

“On bagpipes.”

“Hoo boy! Well I don’t know about our contestant, but I’ve blown a few cooldowns myself, Frank.”

“I thought I could smell something.”

Perhaps it would help to alleviate the stress of the situation if these emergency ‘Blimey Charlie!’ abilities let off comedy sound effects when they were activated: lengthy high-pitched flatulence being a prime candidate.

So you’ve decided that the situation is pretty dire –those Dire Wolf mechs are firing dire boars from their cannons– and you wind-up your special ability. Like any good MMO player you announce your plan of action to the rest of the group, in part so that they can respond to the situation, and in part because you want them to know that you are saving their arses again. Or, if you’re like me, you sort of just half-gurgle into the microphone while you frantically try to find the ability’s icon, an icon which suddenly (and, I suspect, with deliberate malice) has decided to look like every other icon on your hotbar. Of course you use it so rarely that when you do come to need it you have to try to find it, buried as it is between the numerous pointless other abilities that you never use, like the one that drops your trousers in a comedy emote, or the one that summons an ice cream van, or the one that transforms you into Abe Vigoda.

There’s quite the fan faire by this point, people are lined up along the red carpet to watch your special ability arrive. You’ve deliberated over when to use it, you’ve spent time building up its arrival, and you’ve spent time actually finding it once you’ve decided to use it. Now the magic moment has arrived! The limousine pulls up to the kerb, the door opens, the flash and sparkle of cameras lights up the night like a swarm of fireflies going into meltdown, and your special ability springs forth from the dark confines of the smoked security glass cabin… and promptly trips over the carpet and falls flat on its face.

Yes, it seems especially cruel to have a To Hit check on an ability which is used so very rarely but is generally vital to the survival of your group when it’s eventually called upon. Not to forget that when it misses (and it’s amazing how often a 2% miss chance occurs, you’d have to guess that it happens at least 90% of the time) it’s the sort of deflatory flaccidity you would image a young man to suffer upon getting home and realising that, when asking for a DVD of *ahem* mature content, the comedian behind the counter has given him a documentary on the life and times of care homes for the elderly since 1946; you can almost hear the Whee Whee Bwoo Bwoo Bwooooooo of the Falcon’s failing hyperdrives as he looks down and observes his rapidly dwindling chance of reaching escape velocity, before pulling up his underpants, making a cup of tea, and settling down to an informative yet dreary program on the history of geriatric healthcare in post-war Britain.

5 thoughts on “Don’t worry about failure. Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.

  1. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    Gah, cooldowns in general are a rant for me. The one thing I hated about LotRO raiding was sitting around waiting for cooldowns to refresh after a fight (or wipe). The Minstrel and/or Capainns blew their refresh, so gotta sit around for 30 mins or so waitinng for it to regen. Gah!

    It also sucks when a special ability people are counting on misses. Champion’s interrupts being the example I’m most familiar with. Worst, you can never quite be sure in the heat of things if it had just missed or if your timing sucks. (I believe they eliminated the chance for it to miss, but it can still be avoided by much higher level enemies.)

    I loved LotRO, but there were some bits I could have lived withouth.

  2. Melmoth Post author

    @unwize: Heh, busted. I was trying to be generic, but in a huge coincidence I have just picked up with my Burglar again as a levelling project while I tinker with my Warden at the level cap.

    “Here comes the Fellowship Manoeu… oh wait, no it doesn’t. Right, HiPS, and here comes the backup Fellowship Manoeuv… god *damn* it.”

    @Brian: I seem to recall that Turbine (or was it Blizzard?) are changing their dungeon design so that your cooldowns will be reset before each boss fight, which is at least a step in the right direction. Even so, the number of long (up to twenty! minute) cooldowns on the Captain and Champion (I use those as examples because they are two classes with which that I am familiar) is quite silly, really. There’s always room in class design for emergency buttons, but honestly, you might as well not bother if you’ve got four or five of them, especially when you can generally only use them once per dungeon. And, in fact, I rarely did bother.

    Missing an interrupt due to a dice roll and not your own timing error is definitely a splendid example of it, it’s almost like adding in an arbitrary punishment to cover the case where someone is good at the game.

    I do love LotRO, it’s the only MMO I play at the moment, but it does have its rough edges still.

  3. nugget

    Hm! What’s interesting is you’re ranting about a damaging, or at least Pokeypokeypoking skill of some sort, as opposed to a hahaha can’t touch this thbbpt stick tongue out sort of skill.

    (Rants are good!)

    But see, I think the frustration you’re feeling is precisely because it’s an offensive action of some sort. You’re depending on it to DO THE POKEY in order to have an effect.

    For defensive actions with long cooldowns (like WoW’s Last Stand), or ‘relatively long in GW’s context which is a whole 30s to a minute lol’ things like Aegis or Whirling Defence… I don’t really feel that same frustration when they fail to work.

    In both cases I’m just really really glad I’ve managed to live JUST A LITTLE LONGER. XD Even though none of those are ‘invulnerability’ type skills, somehow, living longer even if you eventually splat is far sweeter than you fail to poke it in the eye with your super special pokey move. XD

  4. Melmoth Post author

    Ah, it’s definitely not about using long cooldowns and then failing (although that can be frustrating if you want to try the content again and don’t have those cooldowns available for another attempt), but more about such abilities requiring a To Hit check before they’ll even work. The Burglar in LotRO (as unwize rightly guessed above) is a prime example of this, with a couple of their signature ‘group saving’ abilities being on reasonably long cooldowns and requiring the character to hit the mob to activate them; when the player has made the right decision –picked a good time to use their scarce resource– and then the game denies it to them based on a random dice roll… well that’s part of the MMO design taken from Pen and Paper RPGs that I think we could do without.

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