Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
 
A zoomed-out view on healing

My newsreader is full of blog posts complaining about LFR in World of Warcraft, and a lack of healers. Meanwhile Pete from Dragonchasers writes about Defiance saying: "In theory you could set yourself up as a kind of healer but I’m not sure there’s enough there to make that a rewarding career path.". To me the two cases look like two sides of the same coin, with the same core problem. And it is a problem all collaborative multiplayer games with different roles have, even pen & paper ones.

Basically people have favorite classes and play-styles. Thus if you take any population and let everybody play whatever he wants, you get a "natural" distribution of everybody playing their favorite role. But in a group of a given size there is a mathematical optimum for maximum efficiency of the group that depends on the role distribution. That mathematical solution will differ not only for different group sizes, but also for different games, because it depends on factors like how much damage do players deal, how much can they withstand, and how much can they heal. The fundamental problem is that the mathematical optimum is rarely a fit with the natural distribution of everybody playing their favorite role.

The overall effect is that if you take one group of hippies with ultimate freedom, allowing each member to play whatever he wants, and compare them to one military group in which who plays what role is determined by a tyrannic leadership, the military group will always be more efficient. If you pursue maximum efficiency, the needs of the collective beat individual freedom. Which is a somewhat weird concept if you consider that you started out by joining a game to have fun, and not the military to fight for your countries survival.

I haven't played Defiance, and wasn't planning to after reading the first reviews. So I can't say exactly how efficient a healer is in that game. But there is always an optimum solution for efficiency, which could be zero healers, but also could be something higher, depending on group size. Whether that is a "rewarding career path" only matters as long as you let every player decide for himself what he wants to play. As soon as you get some sort of guild structure or similar organization, and players find out that having X healers around is improving their win chance over not having them around, somebody will be "forced" to play a healer. Or inversely, if zero healers is the optimum, somebody choosing a healing spec for fun will be looked down upon.

This is pretty much why I don't play in any guild structure in any game any more. I value my personal freedom very much, especially in a game that I choose to play for fun. I already submit to the greater good of the collective when for example I am at work, or with my family. I find the choice of either playing what the collective needs or spoiling everybody's fun by being selfish to be an unpleasant one.

Comments:
Could you share your news feeds opml/rss file?
 
Developers can create the content in a way that matches the player choices. For example the WoW LFR needs 8% tanks (down from 20% of 5-mans). The healer ratio is 24% which isn't much higher than the 20% which was never hard to reach in 5-mans.

The problem is rather the different situation of roles in different social circumstances. A damage dealer is in exactly the same situation in an LFR as he would be in a guild: shoot boss, brag on DPS number. A healer on the other hand - due to the "casual" nature of LFRs - is a target of constant abuse for mistakes other people do. My girlfriend stopped going LFR as healer when someone thrown a fit for lack of heals when he died FALLING DOWN THE HOLE OF ELEGON and the rest of the raid refused to kick him.

The problem is two dimensional, on the one axis there are roles, on the other axis there are degrees of "professionalism". Balance need to be present in both the lines and the columns, as you can't have professional healers without casual healers.

This was a problem in earlier WoW where casual play needed 20% tanks but HC play needed 10%.
 
The current LFR problems are exacerbated due to the fact that the new tanking mechanics is not visible, except after the tank died.

What I mean is:
- DPS: high numbers on recount = good
- Heal: high numbers on recount = good (at least in an LFR-no-assignment view)
- Tank: ???? You don't see the active mitigation anywhere, unless you go digging in the logs, check aura uptimes, estimate rage generation, etc.

But a failure on the tank to correctly manage his active mitigation translates to deaths: either that of the tank, or that of DPS who can't be healed because the healer is sending all he can to the tank. From the outside, people die for lack of heal and fingers are pointed at the healers.

It would be a lot simpler if there were tools which provide a direct measure of the tank's performance, "recount-like".
 
I actually Age of Conan had the healing done reasonably well, as different aspects were spread out over multiple classes (admittedly not always most logically).

I still remember fondly playing a tank, just to resurrect people by shouting at them to get up again :-)

Or CoX, where people actually had to heal themselves and damage prevention/mitigation was more diverse and interesting than raw heals.
 
don't go into much trouble to find why this happens..Is because you get loot depending on your spec...that means that if a class that can heal is interested on gear for other spec he needs to enter the LFR with that spec.

In the next patch you can select the spec you are interested to obtain gear for regardless the specc you are join and fight with. More people will join as tanks/healers for fast group and to get gear for the spec they are interested in.

But that will create another problem I suppose...people who are no interested/not good at tanking/healing will join as these roles to find group faster and then the whole group will suffer...but hey, blizzard can always make the retarded easy LFR even more retarded easy of people still wipe on it
 
@Giannis While the abilities may be reduced to not hit as hard LFR is not simple. Try turning off all of your raid warning addons and timers and try the fights. If you can still do them well after already knowin the fights good for you. However I doubt how well you would do on a new boss with nothing but he base interface for raid warnings.


http://www.restokin.com/2013/04/the-psychology-of-boss-design-part-1-information-overload/
 
I don't read WoW blogs anymore, so I'm not entirely sure what the issues in LFR are, but I felt I had to comment, just from healer pride! Is funny, I haven't healed in a couple years, my main game GW2 doesn't even have healers, but if you asked my role I would immediately and without question proclaim myself a healer. XD

I healed in WoW from Tempest Keep in bc, to Firelands in cata. And there absolutely is pressure from the game and encounter design to force a set role balance. It's all about the pointless and unavoidable raid wide aoe ticks. Sometimes I think they design a nifty encounter, then say 'And lets add a raid wide 2%/sec shadow dot, just to give the healers something to do'. I guess it was better than mass decursing, but still. o.O
 
I can't help but feel that a shortage of healers and tanks is Blizzards own doing.

They bias the at the casual end of the spectrum around daily quests and scenarios with 5 man dungeons being neglected.

Healing and Tanking gear severely impacts on your performance in those activities.

To compound the problem Blizzard made it more difficult to acquire off-spec DPS gear by refusing to allow us to purchase the previous tiers epic gear using justice points.

Instead they reduced the VP cost of the old gear......but I desperately need my VP's to buy the new healing gear otherwise if RNG doesn't go my way I will fail to make the ilevel required to access the next raid tier.

MMORPG players tend to be ruthlessly logical in their approach and it is clear that the solution is to switch play DPS and queue up whilst doing daily quests.
 
Imho a good part of the problem is power. Two thirds of the game are based around damage dealing and nowadays healers are the only ones who can't do that very well. Tanks were buffed so ridiculously over the last years, most people who can seem to level knew toons directly in tank spec because it deals more damage than DPS and is virtually indestructable. Plus, faster queues. Compare that to healers who take a lot longer to progress and die a lot easier.

Who don't we change things a bit?
- Healers get a new spell that allows them to "heal a mob to death". That spell only works against non-instanced NPCs and amounts to enough damage to reduce non-elites to bloody puddles before they even reach you.
- Damage Dealers massively lose durability, they either need to replenish their health after two non-elite mobs or have to kite/stun.
- Tanks still can take a lot of damage but take forever to kill something.
End result? A miracle! Healers are suddenly hugely popular outside of dungeons!

You could also make them more popular in dungeons: Just give them stronger HOTs and weaker other heals while reducing the overall difficulty. Playing a healer would require significantly less skill, drawing in people with less good reflexes, lazy people, people who like to chat while playing, etc. At the same time you couldn't just reduce the number of healers, because even good healers could only churn out a limited amount of healing.

Pair both of these measures and you get something strong in single player and easy in groups - which is exactly what draws most players to DPS right now.

Disclaimer: I don't deny that it takes skill to play a DPS excellent. But a DPS can get away with playing mediocre, Tanks and Healers have it harder there.
 
@Kiseran

I think your goal is good but the solution might be too fiddly to implement?

You are correct that it would be helpful if a healer could kill mobs as fast as a dps player whilst using their healing gear.

You also correctly identified that this would have to be limited to non-instanced mobs - otherwise everyone would bring healers to raids instead of DPS as they would have greater utility and could switch roles for those moments where burst healing or damage are required.

Implementing that idea could be harder than a far simpler solution?

The majority of healers have a dps offspec so....

Remove healing/tank gear and make the stats on DPS gear improve regen/avoidance when used in a heal/tank spec.

Spirit would improve the accuracy of DPS casts and improve regen as a healer. It already does this.

Haste on plate DPS gear could make a tank more nimble and able to dodge/parry/block better?

Sadly Blizzard claim that idea is too complex too...yet they have gone to the trouble of coding a loot-role option for Raid Finder - which will result in DPS players joining as healer and looting DPS gear. Which means by the final tier a large number of healers will be healing in DPS gear.... Oh wait...didn't I suggest that originally?

At the moment I don't believe healing is too difficult in group play. In RF I can do double or even triple the healing of some players (and I only have RF gear) and we still kill the boss. I don't see that there is pressure on healers to perform well given the output of guys that clear the raids each week.

It could be more intimidating in 5 mans where they carry the can entirely on their own. Not that the MOP 5 mans are hard to heal... I think the BIG problem there is that many potential players are deterred by the need to download an addon, configure it and remember the bindings for each heal.

Spell clicking nice pictures on a DPS class using the default UI is more attractive. The problem is that the blog and forum "community" aren't representative of the casual players and so we don't view things from their perspective. Having to fiddle around for hours with that they perceive to be complex addons is a major deterrent. If you sat down and showed them how to do it they would probably be surprised at how easy it is, but as things stand they read a forum post about how to configure healing add-on X and just think "oh too complicated, I can't be bothered with that and the gear I'd earn is useless for my dailies anyway".
 
Woody:

You might be underestimating the general population a little bit. :)

While I don't do WoW anymore, I healed raids for several expansions with rather good personal metrics using nothing but simple mouseover macros. And the standard raid frames around early pandas when I quit were entirely competitive with add-ons in terms of required information being displayed.

I don't think healing and tanking are inconvenient mechanically. It's always been about the responsibility and corresponding confidence/entry barriers.

Anyway, from what I'm reading, it seems to me that Blizzard is moving, slowly, to an 'everyone does damage' model with active mana recovery for healers and active mitigation for tanks. I would not be surprised if, in the end, they arrived at a model where damage for all three roles is comparable in casual play, but dedicated damage dealers are required for bigger things - e.g. through significant boss debuffs and synergies they bring, as well as powerful damaging abilities with slow ramp-up times suitable to the duration of a typical raid encounter.
 
"The majority of healers have a dps offspec so...."
Thats part of the problem imho. People who (hopefully) enjoy to heal are required to fulfill a role they might not enjoy for 2/3 of the game. That way it appears that DPS is the default role for the game with some (advanced?) players with weird tastes playing other roles for some time until they inevitably return to the default role (because they can't solo otherwise).

However I have to admit, my post didn't account for LFR at all. For me raiding is all about being part of a finely tuned machine, everyone working together as perfectly as possible. The idea of being randomly thrown together with a bunch of random strangers who are all just in it for the L00tZ, everyone trying to get the biggest benefit for the least amount of work seems obscene to me, so I never did LFR.
 
Soresu:

You think these people know how to set up mouse over macros?

Do you seriously believe they know what that even means?
 
And I note no one see the obvious solution: get rid from the holly trinity (tanke/dps/healer).

But, as it was made by GW2, the obvious solution never will be vented.

I too see that Defiance have public quests. Well, the other MMO from Trion, Rift, too have them. And GW2. And WildStar, from what I read. Can you observe a trend?
 
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