Monday, January 24, 2011

How Hard is Healing? And is It Any Fun?

I think I realized: Merinna's healing is lacking because I don't have any maracas.
We don’t want healers to be able to make up for all of the mistakes on the part of the other players

Healers seem like they largely understand that Heroics are challenging, and sometimes get penalized when the rest of the group doesn’t understand that. If you feel like you can’t cast anything but your efficient heal or you’ll run out of mana, then something is going wrong with the fight. Likewise, if you feel like you must spam your inefficient heals to the exclusion of all else, then your group is ignoring key mechanics or is just undergeared.

The game could do a better job of telling a group why they failed so that so much blame doesn’t fall at the feet of the healer.
We do understand that some healers are frustrated and giving up. That is sad and unfortunate. But the degree to which it's happening, at least at this point in time, is vastly overstated on the forums.
The Ghostcrawler

I have heard it said that Ghostcrawler's main is a healing priest, so maybe that explains the level of empathy coming from him recently towards the healer's plight in heroic dungeon groups. I swear, it's like he's just telling us that all the death and carnage in the average heroic run really isn't our fault.

Healers used to be able to save somebody's butt when they did something they were not supposed to do.
Even on cutting edge new content, this was generally true: a healer's throughput could generally save even a noob who was bent on self destruction. It was often dicey, and never a forgone conclusion. But for me, this was a source of pride, really. I remember many occasions when I got high-fived for saving a party.

Healers can't do that anymore.
HPS throughput for almost every healing spell remained steady at what it was around lvl 80. In many cases the HPS was cut. Meanwhile, health pools for all character classes soared to unbelievable new heights.

The real problem comes when a dps stands in the fire too long, Let's say that 60% of his health just up and vanishes because of missteps. I have been thinking, "I don't have the mana to do anything about that!" But that is wrong. The real problem is time.

DPS healing demands the super-efficient heal. There are higher throughput spells, but those are for the tank or for when the boss decides to indiscriminately crush the crap out of the whole group with an evilly-placed AoE. Merinna's high-efficiency heal delivers 4,000-6000 points of healing, so we are talking about 10 to 14 individual casts on the one DPS who stood in the fire. It takes me 1.9 seconds per cast, so we are now talking about (roughly) 20 to 26 seconds to restore that dps to full health. This is not going to happen. 20 seconds is a lifetime during a boss fight. I can't devote so much time to healing on a dps while the tank is still taking damage and the boss is stomping eveyone.

My general goal, when this happens, is to stabilize flat-footed DPS around 50% of their health, which will keep them fighting so long as they don't stand in the fire again, and it will still create extra stress for me when the AoE falls. To do more than this is to risk going OOM about 45 seconds later. As Ghostcrawler said it: I can't save the party from its mistakes anymore.

Why is this Frustrating?
Besides having to listen to the douchebags who complain that they "need moar healz." it generally frustrates the hell out of me that I can't save somebody the way I have been used to doing. My unique ability to breathe life into the doomed is no more. My ability to be heroic has been nerfed. In this regard, healing is not as much fun as it used to be.

Are More Heals More Fun?
Ghostcrawler, all through the development phases of Cataclysm interated that he felt giving healers more choice about which heal to use would be more fun. I generally disagree with that. For a couple of reasons:
  1. Every heal cast requires a sort of computation of HPS and MPS balance, tempered by the time it will take to produce the desired effect, in regards to the cast time of the spell involved as well as the additional GCDs using augmentation spells to set that all up. I don't have a forumula on the wall or anything, but if you don't consider this on just about every heal, something will get away from you. Doing math has never been my idea of a good time.

  2. Blizzard has done a poor job so far of distinguishing the niches for the additional heals provided. In the Shaman arsenal, we basically have Healing Surge, Healing Wave and Greater Healing Wave. It quickly became apparent that The Surge produced comparable HPS to Greater Wave, with slightly improved mana burn. As a result, most Shamans just took Greater Healing Wave off the board. In patch 4.0.6, they have buffed the output of Greater Wave while also increasing it's mana cost slightly, and I can't find anybody who knows what to do with that. Greater Healing Wave remains a big, slow, expensive heal. "Slow and expensive" is like rat poison as far as I'm concerned. As for big, it still won't move a tank's health bar any appreciable distance, so it's not really that big.  It doesn't look like it has much place in my strategy, except macroed into an "Oh Crap!" button with a trinket and Nature's Swiftness.

  3. Look at what many people consider one of Blizzard's best talent speccs right now: Fire Mages. The Fire Mage throws his normal fireball, except when he gets a procc that enables an efficient big fireball (Pyroblast). He maintains some DoTs, throws in some CDs and burns away. The tree itself is a beautiful arrangement of complementary talents and well defined spells with clear use. And, fire mages can do all this, mostly without worrying about running out of mana. It requires skill to play this specc, but not so much thought, if you can appreciate the difference. The fire mage does not have an algorithm playing in his head about the balance of a big fireball versus a small fireball.

    Shaman Healing by contrast, has no proccs to touch off a big heal rather than a smaller heal. We manage our HoTs and CDs, but we have to actively choose between the size of the spell we are casting each and every time, requiring that math again. The choice of which heal to use is nowhere near as intuitive as a fire mage's choice.

    Fire mages hit those big glorious crits of 40,000 points and upwards. Meanwhile, if I crit a super-charged heal, it lands in the mid- to lower-20k range-- which is lower than what I could do with a plain ol' Greater Healing Wave in Lich King. And it has about 1/4 of the effect on a character's health bar that it did before. Talk about diminishing returns.

    One can simply say this is the difference between healing and pew pew. I say it's how healing is lacking in purely visceral fun.
Instead of trying to make up new paradigms for healers to fit into, Blizzard might be better off to try and apply something so well designed and popular to the healer's play experience. I dunno what that would look like. I'm not a developer. I just know that Eridar is a bit more fun than Merinna right now.

    Is This Worth Quitting WoW Over?
    I don't necessarily think so. I still see no point in a healer dpsing during a fight, but the mechanics of most fights are interesting and there is a variety of additional utility I can and often do provide to a heroic dungeon run. But then, deep at heart, I'm an optimist. And I don't throw the expression "broken" (as in, "Shamans are Broken! QQ!") very much.

    What Should Blizzard do About all This?
    If I could point the developers towards one thing that would take the ugly edge off healing right now, I would ask them to stop me going OOM so much. They have lain in a good paradigm in which the time it takes to provide a certain amount of health to any one player mitigates how much I can do to them, the OOM risk is adding insult to injury at this point.

    If I could point them to a second idea, give me some way to make a super-duper, "Wow! That was a big heal!" effect. The major CD a shaman can use to rescue a tank is the Nature Switfness Macro, but that provides the fairly unimpressive blast of Greater Healing Wave as an instant cast. My "Oh Crap!" spell moves the tank's health bar an average of 14%. Zzzzzzzzzzz....

    Try frickin' harder to redesign these heals and reniche them.  For example:
    • Make The Surge a smaller heal, but maybe make it almost mana neutral. This way, I have something I can do when I'm basically dead out of mana but want to feel like I might still make a difference, or as a spell that I could zing in on that dumb dps who stood in the fire in between more meaningful casts on the tank.
    • Make Greater Healing Wave slower but A LOT bigger. Like... a four second cast or something, but damn, when somebody receives a blast of Greater Healing Wave, they know it 'cause their health bar moved like 40%. If there is worry that Shamans will just pile on the haste, then make the cast time even longer to neutralize that, if you feel you have to. The Great Wave would be a rare ability to use, I think, but darn would its presence be felt when it is used.
    On a longer range plan, and if Blizzard is getting around to designing new play mechanics, they need to make a "charged heal." (charging spells in general would be pretty cool). A charged heal would be that I stab a heal button and hold it. The longer I hold it, the more powerful (and mana costly) the heal is. I know that something like this would drastically alter play, but a charge indicator would be a more intuitive and more visceral means of playing. Just sayin': it might be fun.

    But... what would this do to PvP?
    Who gives a $%&^#! Except for when a holy paladin could use Lay on Hands and all their weaselly invulnerability shields,  or when resto druids had the super power of high mobility and casting on the move... when did healing buffs ever substantially change the outcome or strategy of an arena match? 90% of the meaningful nerfs to glorious PvE abilities came because Blizzard was trying to balance the 2v2 bracket in Arena. 2v2 officially doesn't matter anymore, so screw the balance and let's move on.  And even if it does create a restoration shaman imbalance.... when did that ever happen before, to any shaman specc?  We've earned it!

    No comments:

    Post a Comment