Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Necessary but unloved

Rohan from Blessing of Kings has a great post on the problem of WoW healers:
"However, my problem is that it doesn't look like that many people want to heal. In my experience, healers are almost always the bottleneck in recruiting, and they burn out the fastest. Then the top tier guilds recruit healers from the lower tier guilds, and that means the lower tier guilds have even harder time picking up new healers. ... The basic fact is that the number of healers Blizzard wants to balance around simply does not match the number of players willing to heal. That contributes to the instability of raiding, and makes it harder for people to actually raid."
Very good observation. Your best chance in World of Warcraft to get invited into a top raiding guild is to make a holy spec priest. Been there, done that. Fortunately I belong to the minority of players who actually like raid healing. I once went to Karazhan with my frost mage, and was bored to death by the experience. Raid healing is a LOT more exciting than spamming damage spells. But I agree it is also stressful, and your most likely to get blamed for other people's mistake if you play a healer. Certainly not for everyone.

So how can we fix this? Rohan sensibly suggests tuning raid content for a lower number of healers. Only problem is making sure that it doesn't get too easy if raids bring more healers anyway. If really nobody wants to play the healer, maybe the raid group can get some NPC mercenary healers: SOE just announced the 15th (!!! Take that, Blizzard !!!) expansion for Everquest, and it'll have AI-controlled NPC mercenaries. I just doubt they'll heal well enough to raid with.

The other possibility is making healers more popular. Mythic has announced that healers in WAR will be more than just healbots. (More on that after the NDA drops.) The idea here is that if healers are better in PvE soloing and in PvP, more people will want to play one. And even Blizzard improved healers some time ago by making one third of their healing bonus count as spell damage bonus. Wrath of the Lich King even completely removes the distinction between spell damage bonus and healing bonus, and rolls both of them into one single stat, which hopefull will increase the damage output of holy priests even more. The downside of this is that now priests will have to fight mages and warlocks for the same cloth gear, while the other healing classes still are the only takers of leather, mail, and plate armor with spell bonuses. I hope Blizzard did consider that with their loot tables, because otherwise there will be some nasty guild drama everywhere, and ultimately even less holy priests.
BLizzard > all

They are unstoppable!

Diablo, Starcraft, Warcraft, World of Warcraft

all the best games; each better than the previous.
I think a lot of this comes down to issues with WoW hardcore raiding and raid design. There will always be some class/spec that is more in demand because it happens to stack better than others. If you reduced raid healing requirements to only need 3 healers, there's still no guarantee that dps warriors will get more spots in the high end guilds ;)

It also wasn't always easy to get a raid spot as a holy priest. I remember times when various dps classes (warlocks, shadow priests, dps shamans) have been more in demand.

I think it's interesting that tanks tend to burn out a lot less than healers, given that they both are group-oriented specs. Maybe it comes down to feeling more important, or that tanking is a bit more visceral.

Anyhow, they can rebalance healing as much as they like but I don't think it is going to make it any easier to keep a high end guild rolling. They have high turnover. It is the nature of the beast!
Actually, restoration shaman is your best chance at getting into an endgame raiding guild (Sunwell.) My guild sometimes has 6 shamans in one raid! (2 dps and 4 resto.) Priests are great, but excepting Felmyst, not necessary!
i don't think healing is less exciting than dps, but it is definitely more challenging and a healer has a bigger responsibility than a pure dps class (the same goes for tanking). Some people play the game for fun and don't want to have to think too much (warlocks anyone?)

However, just look at the raid setups for typical 5 man, 10 man and 25 man instances and you'll notice a difference. 1/5 of the players in a 5 man instance are healers (1). In 10 man raids 1/5 to 1/3 (2-3) or the players are healers. In a 25 man instance you typically bring 6-8 healers again 1/4 - 1/3 of the players.

So a casual leveing / heroic instancing guild has far less demand for healers than a raiding guild. Add to that the pressure that comes with healing and the blame healers often have to take and you probably get a higher burnout rate than other classes (apart from tanking) and thus a higher demand.
Tanks are the shortage in WoW rather then healers. They made tanking tol hard along with only need two or three out of twenty five people. Bad healers can still contribute but a bad tank just leads to a wipe.
Having a holy priest as a guild leader certainly helps with the problem of inept players blaming the healers. And that in turn reduces healer turnover due to frustration.

I agree that healers should be made much more viable for solo play than they currently are, but that's only one of the problems. IMHO, there's one problem that undermines the healers' supposed strength in group play: Feeling like a cheerleader. That everyone lese doing the important stuff, and you're stuck on the sidelines. And to that, I think that easing the requirements for healing is actually counterproductive. Leisurely playing whack-a-mole with health bars isn't something that I'd call fun. But playing a healer shouldn't be nonstop healbotting, either.

Felmyst is one encounter where you are not a cheerleader, but you're not a nanny, either. It's very easy to die on Felmyst, but DPSers are very much responsible for their own survival. Your performance is paramount to the raid's survival, but your fellow raiders know that you will not and cannot save them if they screw up. They have to trust you to do your job, and you have to trust them to do theirs.
> SOE just announced the 15th (!!! Take that, Blizzard !!!) expansion for Everquest,

Apples to Oranges. EQ expansions should be compared to WoW content patches, of which there have been quite a few.
Apples to Oranges. EQ expansions should be compared to WoW content patches, of which there have been quite a few.

By what measure? EQ and EQ2 have free content patches too. Sorry, but Blizzard not finishing Black Temple in time for TBC release and then adding it later in a content patch is NOT something in their favor. At the current rate Blizzard would need 30 years for 15 expansions, SOE just needed 10. I don't know the exact amount of content in each of these expansions, but I did play Kunark and Velious, which were certainly as big as TBC and WotLK, and not just equivalent to a content patch.
The problem with designing raids to only require 4-5 healers is that very little damage must be done to the raid. In fact you probably need to skip raid wide damage entirely since if there is a genuine threat to your 20 dpsers enough that 4-5 or more of them die then bringing a couple more healers to keep them up will always be optimal.

What's more every time you require a tank you add +1 healer to the raid requirements. It's most unusual for something to need tanking without that off-tank requiring a healer.

That's why there's a raid design issue. They don't want all their raids to involve one big boss tanked by some guy with 4 healers on him and close to zero chance of dying (since if the boss has a sporting chance to kill him the raid would stack healers).

As for the spell damage change while I like the grinding and pvp nuking aspects for healers I think perhaps they're being kinda sneaky with it. Suppose a Hunter, 3 Death Knights and a 1500 spell damage elemental shaman meet up for a 5 man? Who heals? Well currently the shaman just says I'm dps and someone gets kicked and the group waits for a healer. In WotLK that shaman is also a +2250 healing power untalented healer and no doubt more than adequate to keep the group up.

Seems that part of Blizzard's solution to tank and healer shortage is to make it so many more subspecs of tank classes and healer classes can tank or heal without respeccing. Like the old level 60 days. I wonder just how popular that will be after the hybrid heyday of TBC
Quoth Tobold: "The idea here is that if healers are better in PvE soloing and in PvP, more people will want to play one."

Well, we're going to test this theory in November (or whenever Wrath launches) when we roll out the Death Knight. I suspect what we're going to see is a lot of players who have avoided all of the tanking talents, opting instead for uncontrollable solo DPS pets that can't be used in Instances, and none of whom have meaningful DK tanking experience. Getting people to solo or PVP on a tanking/healing class does not automatically mean that there will be more tanks and healers available.

(Note that I'm not complaining about players who choose not to tank/heal, I'm just saying, this approach does not fix the problem it's attempting to fix.)
I personally feel Blizz should start letting their hybrid classes back up heal. I mean isn't it the point of hybrids to play muiltiple rolls? With the up coming spell power change I think this will be a possibility. There is no reason a ret paladin needs to keep dpsing if he sees the main healer go OOM.
Would having spellpower be a unified stat really create that much extra guild drama and problems? It seems that, while you would have more possible people compteting over single pieces of gear, there would also be less situations where, say, a piece of healing gear drops that no one wants because the healers have gotten geared in that section and no one else has a use for it.
Yes there's a shortage of healers but the demands on healers far outweight that of any other role except perhaps tanks. I had +1300 healing on a holy paladin before I was "accepted" into a kara raid. Meanwhile all the DPSers are clad in greens and occasional blues!!

Healers never get credit and almost always get blamed for wipes. Yet no one ever blames DPS guys for low damage or a tank that's too squishy?!?!

Again, the problem is the game mechanics of the holy tripod of heal+dps+tank.

They really need to change that. They waste so much effort rebalancing classes into different roles then rebalancing again for leveling and raids and pvp. It is not feasible.

I long for the day when an MMO has a totally different combat system than the tripod. Even a flat model would be more fun for everyone. At least that way certain roles would not bear all the burden.
"The other possibility is making healers more popular."
I fear that Blizzard is trying to do that by making healing (and also tanking) simply easier. But that won't do any good. Those who didn't heal until now will then be able to do it, but they still won't want to do it. And those who were happy with their healer as it is (like me) will be bored to death because every spell has smart targeting, overheal prevention, returns its own mana back, jumps to seven other people and spawns three minions who also heal fully automatically.

I'm also no big fan of WARs 'Battlehealers'. Being able to watch the battle and wait patiently until your heal is needed without blowing out your mana for other things and/or blocking your global cooldown with unneccesary things is one of the things that separate the good healer from the mediocre healer and the notion of teaching your healers how to play by getting everything difficult out of their sight doesn't appeal to me.
Kunark was the best expansion ever.
Eredar Twins is the worst for healers. You need 10-11 healers with 5 or 6 of them being resto shamans or CoH priests. It's kind of ridiculous that 44% of your raid needs to be healers.

Burnout happens to everyone. It's just more noticeable with healers and tanks since it's harder to make up for their loss. DPS'ers also get the daily competition of topping the dps meters. That keeps things somewhat interesting. Topping the healing meters always goes to the aoe healers and depends on the healing assignment.
Why do you think only clothies will compete for gear with +spell power? Boomkins vs resto druids, elemental shaman vs resto shaman, and pally tanks vs pally healers all come to mind.
Make respec free.
And you solve at least half of the problem.
I have a prot warrior and resto shaman that are both Kara+ geared. My biggest problem isn't getting burned out with raiding, it is that I get burned out with nothing else to do. Farming anything with a healer or tank is painful at best. And respecs are expensive.

I believe I've heard mention of have dual talent specs coming with WotLK. That, in my opinion, could be the best part of the expansion. (Assuming that they implement it.) I would be able to swap into my dps or PvP spec in the morning for some farming or PvP and then when it is time to raid swap back.
> The downside of this is that now priests will have to fight mages and warlocks for the same cloth gear

Not true. The only stat that is consolidated is healing and spell damage into spell power.

So, healing gear will still, generally, have more spirit/mp5 and int, whereas dps caster gear will have more crit or hit. There will be some overlap, sure, but this is also not a bad thing.

People have been complaining for years about boss drops being too specific, where you can end up sharding gear because a specific spec of a specific class did not attend.
I don't think design changes tailored to making healers solo better (+heal = spell damage, free respecs) will help with the problem of raid healing.

The problem with raid healing is raid healing. It's not as fun as healing a 5-man. The damage mechanics from raid bosses lead to so much spamming of the same stuff, it's just awful. The level of concentration required to heal in a raid is too much for too long, in my opinion.

I'm not a very good game designer, but I know bad design when I play it. And I've only taken my (now shadow) priest through Kara once in a healing role.
@Sean: As far as I understand the reason for the spellpower change, Blizzard wants all clothcaster (including holypriests) to wear the same items, so there will be less items you don't need while leveling and while raiding. I'm not yet sure if that will mean no more spirit for holys or more spirit for mages/WLs, but my guess goes to more spirit for everyone, because at least arcane mages already like those stats.
The shortage is a design problem caused by Blizzard failing to learn simple math.

5-man instance = 1 tank, 3 DPS, 1 healer
10-man raid = 2 tank, 5 DPS, 3 healers
25-man raid = 2-3 tanks, 14-16 DPS, 8-9 healers

If you take the standard 5-man ratio and extend it to 25-man raids, then the balance should be 5 tanks, 15 DPS, 5 healers. Of course, in actuality, that would result in an excess of tanks and a shortage of healers. The interesting thing is that if you switch 3 of your Tanks to healers – then it balances for 25-man content. This is why Prot Pallys and Feral Druids get frustrated and end up as healers. Of course, as Rohan points out, they may enjoy tanking far more than healing.

How big is the problem? Well, the three less tanks and three more healers required is a deviation of 60% from the expected 5-man ratio. That means prior to asking for respecs, a leveling guild reaching end-game that is balanced around 5-mans would not have raiding spots for 60% of the tanks and be short of the required healers by 60%. How utterly stupid is that?
Guild Wars NPC AI based Heroes are awesome healers...
Because YOU also have some control.
You have a little window open to control all of their skills.
And they are smart enough that if I hit a "Remove Condition" skill, they know who needs that specific heal.
I can also tell them not to engage in combat, so they stand around and just heal...I can flag them to make them stand in a specific area also, so they are out of AoE effects, and guess what...they don't complain.
I will take a GW healbot any day of the week.
All the the above applies to tanks too.

Dumbing down healing and tanking, which I'm afraid Blizz is going to do, is not going to create a hugh influx of new healers and tanks. It will problily bore the current healers/tanks to death.

For the DK prospective, if you've never enjoyed tanking chances are your going to skip over the DK tanking talents for the straight dps talents. On the wow forums everyone is under this illusion that their will be an abundance of tanks when the expanision comes out.

The only players who are going to tank with thier DKs are the current players who tank, because tanking (and healing) is not a class it's the player preference.

If Blizz made repecs free it would certainly help.

When I'm in arms spec I can't find a non-guild tank or healer to save my life and every group I joing asks if I can tank... Every DPS player asks if I can respec. Why? There's nothing worst then having some pvp rogue in sub spec, or some frost mage asking you to repec to tank, but they say they'll be fine in their pvp spec with their gimped damage.

I'm sure it's the same for healing classes.

This is what annoies me, healers and tanks are expected to bare the cost of respecing while the dps players get a free ride and most times qq about the healing and/or the tanking. "WTF you let me die." Or to the tank, "Can move this along faster".

I hate being forced to pay 50 gold to respec. I just feel the tanks and the healers are incurring all the cost of heroics/raids while the dps can get away with crappy damage reap the benifits of the healer/tank's effort.
angry raider,

I guess you haven't heard that they're moving Prot Pallies off of +sp damage plate and on to warrior tank gear (str, sta, def).

Well to be more accurate, Prot pally threat now will scale with both AP and sp dmg, but the tank plate itemization we've seen so far and from what Blizzard has said points to prot pallies moving to warrior tank gear & weapons. Which is nice, then we won't have to fight mages and warlocks for spell damage swords anymore. :-)

Also, I'm not sure how well ret pallies will off heal. They dont use spell damage anymore. Pretty much just the same as dps warrior gear. Well int currently helps longevity. Maybe they'll put something in the ret tree to make their heals scale with AP. Balance druids and elemental shamans look to be promissing off healers. Having your heals auto-boosted will make soloing a little easier. But then dps specs didn't have much trouble anyway.

If they just put more synergy in the heal trees, it would go a long ways. Like in the holy priest tree, the same talent lowers the cast time of a few heals and also smite and holy fire. If they made a few more talents double up, it would help. You're limited in this approach though. If it goes too far like feral was at one point where the warriors and rogues complained that feral tanked just as well and could dps just as well with the same spec.

They could just be done with it and tack a talented buff spell deep in each heal & prot tree that boosts all damage by ~35% but only works if not grouped.

I haven't raided in WoW yet, but I spent lots of time raiding in EQ as a cleric and yes the burnout was there. At least there you didn't have as much pressure to gear up since clerics main heal didn't scale with gear other than getting a bigger mana pool & more regen (mp5 equivalent).

In the Planes of Power expansion, they made healing a lot more difficult by making mob damage more spiky. Previous mobs all hit fast and light making the damage predictable. Now it was slow hits with big random range. That really made healing stressful especially in 6 man groups. Can you say premtive heal casting and canceling? But at least people needed a dedicated healer again. Luclin was rough as a cleric since anyone with heal spells could keep up with the wimpy mob damage and clerics didn't bring anything else to the plate

It's an interesting challange designing boss encounters. If they do too much damage, you're left with zerging being the only strategy (early eq Nagafen, Lady Vox, Cazic Thule were like this. AV seems to go like this a lot with the disorginization / lack of tanks or healers). Take it down a notch and tank & spank becomes viable, whether it takes 3 healers on the tank or 20. That becomes too easy, so you're left spicying it up with adds or aoe damage. That can make healing difficult. Later they started making bosses power up after a certain time, to make dps more important.

That's the only way I can see balancing things out. There's already enough 5 man & raid encounters that put pressure on the tank and/or healer. We just need more that do the same to dps.

It would be hilarious if the first boss of most 5 mans would death touch any dps that are doing less than xxx dps after a minute. Then the tanks and healers can finally throw it back and say, "You are the weakest link! Goodbye!"

70 paladin
62 hunter
60 warlock
42 druid
36 priest
"It would be hilarious if the first boss of most 5 mans would death touch any dps that are doing less than xxx dps after a minute. Then the tanks and healers can finally throw it back and say, "You are the weakest link! Goodbye!""

hahahahaha, I love it!
This comment has been removed by the author.
I see DPS blamed much more than healers. It's easy to track DPS performance on meters and WWS, while healer performance is much harder to measure (depends on raid healing assignments).

But I never play PUG's -- maybe that's where healers are blamed?
In addition to WWS, there's addons like GraveDigger which chronicle the last few seconds of someone's life, accurate down to the millisecond. If a DPSer (or worse, a tank) dies due to unavoidable damage with little or no heals, healers will get blamed. The new combat log makes it easy for individuals to see what killed them as well.
It seems to me that the switch to spellpower will help a lot if done right. It will boost the effectiveness of non-specialist healers such as balance druids (thus increasing the pool of candidates) and simultanously buff the damage output of "proper" healers, making that role less of a pain outside raids.

However, I'm still disappointed that blizz didn't add a second hero class with healing powers in Wrath. That would have helped too. Pet using healer anyone?
> The downside of this is that now priests will have to fight mages and warlocks for the same cloth gear

Pshaw! That's Hunter healing gear! (j/k)
Been a while since I've posted, mostly because I haven't had time to game much anymore and reading gaming sites make me miss the good old days =p However, I rolled a holy priest more or less because of your posts on it here. I did good, raided tons with my guild, and was often asked to raid with other higher ranked guilds.

Frankly, as much as I enjoyed healing, the holy priest still got blown out of the water by a shammie or paladin, and being told that they were first priority on the drops (seriously) really soured me on playing. Pallies could single target someone all day long, at a pace I could not keep up with, and that was even after I started min/maxing myself.

Being a healer sucks. I really enjoyed it in WoW, but the priest, who should have been the end-all best healer, was at best a situational healer, or a choice if you couldn't get another holy paladin.
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