UPDATE: More explanations and impacts of the changes in my follow-up here.
The healing blog that went up today was, for me, a huge breath of fresh air. There have been a lot of very vocal people who compare it to Cataclysm and instantly dislike it, however. I have some things to say that will, hopefully, ease a few people’s minds about the coming changes.
It’s pretty safe to say that a lot of these changes look like they are going to be very similar to the way healing felt in Cataclysm. While some absolutely loved it, there probably isn’t a single era in the game’s history that received as much negative feedback from healers as this one. Like everything in WoW’s design, though, nothing can be seen in a vacuum because one change to one thing will affect a lot of different areas of the game.
Early Cataclysm wasn’t a fun experience for a lot of healers, and fun is the most important thing. The reality is, though, that “Cataclysm sucked” because it was hard. Compared to everything in Mists and Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm launch content was extremely difficult. It actually had almost nothing to do with how healing worked. It was all just simply over-tuned for the average player.
Cataclysm also had the problem of base mana regeneration being very low, and scaling up far too quickly. With higher base mana regeneration, this won’t be a problem.
I reiterate: Cataclysm healing sucked because it was hard. This has very little to do with the healing style they aimed for.
Blizzard learned a lot of lessons from Tier 11 in Cataclysm. There will never be an era that sees all content be that difficult ever again. There have already been statements suggesting LFR will be easier at WoD launch than it has been for most of MoP. There will be ways to progress your character at your own pace and at a difficulty level that is appropriate to you. You’re not going to have to worry about a Cataclysm-like difficulty level ever again, unless you actively seek it. The changes that are happening to healing won’t change this.
“People Will Die Before I Can Heal Them”
It’s easy to believe that these changes being implemented in current content would make a lot of that content difficult, possibly even impossible to complete. The thing a lot of players don’t understand is that content is developed with what players are capable of in mind. Content is designed to appropriately challenge players. If you have all kinds of powerful tools, the new boss that comes out is going to make you use those tools. As more abilities are added, more abilities become instant cast, and so on, the content is going to demand making use of these things more and more.
Class design comes first, content design is based on what players can do, not the other way around. If you can’t heal as well on the move, content won’t expect you to heal as well on the move. If you can’t heal instantly, content won’t expect you to heal instantly.
One thing that seems to be lost in the noise is that health gained from each point of stamina is going up a lot. A bunch of your heals gaining a short cast time will be offset by everyone in your raid having 50% more health, so being a little slower is okay. They won’t be on the verge of death as quickly.
The problem with the current game is that healing is a rotation. Everyone just presses their best 1-3 buttons in a predefined order for an entire fight without many meaningful decisions, and the entire raid stays at nearly 100% the entire time … unless they die, which happens almost instantaneously when it does, with little to no hope of a healer reacting in time to save them. Nobody likes being one-shot. Not having to kill people instantly to challenge them is a significant part of why these changes are happening. Healers should also want to use all of their healing spells, and, right now, you really don’t.
“You’re Nerfing Me Because of PvP”
Some of these changes absolutely will have an impact on the PvP landscape, but the fundamental problem the developers are trying to solve comes from the same core issue in both settings. Take these high tech MS Paint diagrams.
Here we see the problem in both PvP and PvE. This is not exclusive to one setting.
As the expansion has went on, damage intake has increased far more than the health pool players have. This means that, in PvE, damage is more likely to kill you in a very short period of time now, even though it “felt good” a year ago. Taking avoidable damage is never a good thing, but even the best players get hit by stuff sometimes, and it feels cheap being killed instantly, especially if it’s something very difficult to avoid. It also feels bad for a lot of healers if they never have anything substantial to heal, which is the case far too often right now. Players are just topped off too quickly and easily.
In PvP, this is why you see frequent increases in base resilience and battle fatigue. Again, nobody likes being bursted down in one second, or seeing all the damage they dealt be meaningless because of a single heal cast (that was probably instant) so these things are necessary in the current game. But that doesn’t feel good, either, because when a new season starts, all of a sudden your damage and healing are reduced. The changes they are making fix both the PvP and PvE aspects of this problem.
In PvE, a model like this means that the number of instant death mechanics can be a lot lower later in the expansion, that healers can continue to use a wider selection of spells for the whole expansion instead of just the first few months of it before settling into an optimal “rotation”.
In PvP, a model like this means that base resilience and battle fatigue never have to be adjusted, and might not even have to exist at all. This means that going from PvE to PvP doesn’t feel like you’re being nerfed by 75% just because you’re attacking a player instead of a creature (which is currently a pretty jarring transition) and that you don’t just die instantly like new PvPers did before Resilience was removed from gear.
These are very positive changes in both areas of the game, but there’s even more to it than that. The potential this has for further in the future could be a very significant improvement in healer quality of life.
As healers have leveled at the launch of past expansions, mana regeneration has always dropped relative to how much you’re spending and it really does feel like you’re getting worse every level. This isn’t necessarily true if you start leveling a healer from level 1 right now, but if you had any time to accumulate gear at a previous level cap… well, an expansion launch can kinda suck. It has had to happen, though, or else we would end up with goofy things like Wild Growth healing entire health bars every tick. With healing done and health pools being parallel to each other, though, that harsh dip in performance doesn’t need to exist, and future expansion releases can be a lot more like below:
As you can see from this diagram, if the developers’ goals are accomplished, a “reinvention” of healing every single expansion won’t need to happen anymore. Adjustments can be a lot less dramatic, a lot less jarring, and have more time and focus spent on “cool” instead of rebalancing, and could also go a long way toward faster content releases between the final patch of an expansion and the next expansion.
Not only that, but playing an alt healer or doing Challenge Modes or anything else at lesser gear levels will not feel like such a massive adjustment.
Nearly every aspect of the changes discussed in the Dev Watercooler on healing is good. If you really understand what the changes are meant to address and why they are happening, it’s very difficult to come up with legitimate complaints about it. Worries about past experiences are fair, but they are being accounted for, and many of them are being directly improved by their changes. The only fair complaint is that it will be a short term adjustment… in the long term, it will only be a great thing for the game in all areas.