More on Healthy Gameplay

A few days having passed since the Dev Watercooler: Building Healthy Gameplay blog was posted, there has been a great deal of feedback and opinions shared between many people on the subject.  My previous post on the subject covered many concerns players have, and hopefully a few who read it were put at ease.  There are other thoughts and concerns that I’ve read or heard about since then, and other concerns players have had in the past on various healing related topics that are likely to be affected by this change.  In case you don’t want to read everything in my last post, here’s the CliffsNotes version:

“Reinventing Healer Gameplay” TL;DR version:

  • Early Cataclysm “sucked” for a lot of people because the content was tuned to be difficult.  How healing worked had very little to do with the difficulty, it was merely the first thing people felt to be different.  Since then, and increasingly so going forward, there will be content with a difficulty level that suits your tastes regardless of what changes happen with healing.
  • Mana regeneration had very low base values in Cataclysm.  Most of it came from gear.  In Warlords, base mana regeneration will be much higher, meaning you won’t feel as mana-limited at low gear levels.
  • Class design comes before content design.  Content challenges you based on what you’re capable of doing.  If you can’t cast instant heals or heal on the move, content won’t expect you to do it.
  • Healing done out-scaling health pools like it does right now causes a lot of damage in raid content to be instantly lethal, or else groups won’t be challenged by it.  The increase to player health in Warlords will make damage taken a lot less binary.  Instant death sucks and feels cheap!  It will happen less going forward.
  • Healers often feel like they are being nerfed when they level in an expansion.  This is because player health needs to “catch up” to healing done due to healing always out-scaling health at level cap.  Right now, this is necessary.  If it didn’t happen, we’d eventually get to a point where HoTs and ground heals are full healing players every tick.  The changes in Warlords will allow the transition into new expansions to be a lot smoother.

“Being nerfed while leveling sucks”

I thought I’d expand on this a bit more.

In past expansions, some players have complained about feeling weaker when you level up.  Your hit chance goes down, your mana regeneration seems to disappear and so on.  Up to this point, it’s been a necessary evil.  Nobody likes it.  Leveling up is supposed to feel like a positive.  But stats on gear providing smaller percentage boosts as you level has to happen, or else we’d get to a point where those stats can’t be upgraded further.  When you reached 100% crit, how do you make more crit on gear valuable?  It’s kind of hard to find a crit upgrade when you have 100% crit.  What happens when you have so much spirit that your mana bar never moves?  Gear becomes a lot more dull, because nothing affects your character beyond those points, and even your ability usage changes because “efficiency” stops mattering, obsoleting abilities that are based on efficiency.

All of the stats changes (not just less spirit on gear) should help to solve the “nerfed” feeling when you level up in the future.  You won’t start seeing dodges and parries after you level, you won’t start seeing your spells fly off to the side of your target.  Having all of your stats split evenly between 2 extra stats should mean that each individual stat won’t drop as much when you level in future expansions beyond WoD.  Having attacks missed feels like a harsh penalty.  At least when your crit goes down, you’re still hitting your target for normal damage.

“Cataclysm wasn’t hard, it was just tuned poorly”

This is something I’ve heard many times since Cataclysm launch, but the reality is that tuning is an important part of challenge in WoW.  As Watcher tweeted, tuning allows them to adjust how many mistakes a group or raid can make before wiping.  Tightly tuned encounters challenge players to maximize damage and healing while dealing with mechanics, which is quite a lot harder than just doing one or the other.  Only so much can be done in the throughput and execution areas individually.  Encounters without enrage timers, healing or DPS checks aren’t nearly as difficult as those with them.

Cataclysm was tuned to be challenging.  It was intended to be challenging, and the developers met that goal.

Warlords and beyond will have settings tuned for a wide variety of preferences and playstyles.  I assure you, the developers will meet that goal as well.  Doing so is paramount.

“Triage healing feels like a constant state of emergency”

Cataclysm felt – to many players – like you were fighting an uphill battle because it was tuned to be difficult.  The reality is that right now, players are nearly always in a state of emergency in raids.  Something can kill you almost instantly or before healers can react at any given time.  This is even sometimes true in LFR.  The idea is for these mechanics to be less binary – standing in fire is bad but isn’t going to kill you instantly… but do too much of it and your healers will run out of mana and people will start dying, the degree to which this happens depending on the difficulty setting you’re in.

“I like the way healing feels right now”

Something important to keep in mind is that there is a large gear disparity among players at max level.  Healing gameplay feels very different at different gear levels, but it very well may be a trend that players with an item level in the 500-520 range are happy with how healing feels right now, and the percentage of the population that doesn’t like it increases as item level gets higher.  As I’ve been saying, the problems with the current system become more and more prevalent the better your gear gets.  Many heroic raiders are currently at a gear level that most will never reach, so the problem the developers are solving is one that many players haven’t experienced all of the side effects of.

On the other hand, the lower your gear level is right now, the less the changes in Warlords are going to affect how the game feels to you, so if you’re an LFR-level player, it will be a much smaller adjustment.  Going into Cataclysm, healers of different play styles and gear levels were a lot closer together in relative power.

“Absorbs make healing less fun”

There is currently a lot of discussion about absorb healers being too powerful and not leaving anything for other healers to do, and about heal-over-time effects being almost entirely overheal.  This, as an example, is why Wild Mushroom gathers overhealing done to be used in their bloom effect – to increase the value of HoTs in the current environment.  That said, I’m not sure the dominance of absorbs in effective raid healing breakdowns necessarily makes absorb healers as overpowered as many would have you believe.  (My personal theory is that the prevalence of absorbs are a bit of a facade hiding the fact that Resto Shaman are the game’s best and most valuable all-around healer in PvE right now).

The changes discussed in the Dev Watercooler should do a lot to make absorbs a lot less important without even touching absorbs directly.

A large part of the value of absorbs is the fact that they, effectively, increase your maximum health beyond the number in your health bar.  If you have 600,000 health and a 200,000 absorb, you can obviously take 800,000 damage before dying.  And when such a large number of mechanics in the more difficult raid settings are capable of killing you before healers can react, that provides an absolutely huge survival boost.  If player health is doubled, however, the survival boost granted by absorbs is a lot less substantial, and heal over time effects and reactive heals are a lot more likely to save your life before you die.  An absorb cast on a player who isn’t at full health (which is a lot more likely in the WoD model) is effectively just a heal that un-heals after it expires if it doesn’t get used up, where direct healing doesn’t have a limited duration.

That said, absorbs will continue to have some value for the reasons they always have on top of effectively being heals.  Bursts of damage will continue to happen, and the buffer absorbs can provide will always have value.

In other words, the WoD changes do a lot to fix the absorb problem without even touching the classes who use absorbs, yet another positive side effect added to the already-large list of pros.

“I won’t feel any stronger over time if health and healing scale at the same rate”

This is a reasonable concern, but there’s another factor.  The damage of creatures and raid mechanics doesn’t increase over time.  As you and your raid acquire gear, attacks will deal a smaller percentage of their health, and you’ll need to cast fewer heals to mitigate that damage.  Once you’ve cleared content that your guild or the groups you run with take part in, it will continue to get easier over time for all the same reasons it always has – familiarity with the fights, stamina and throughput increasing with gear and so on.  You will certainly continue to have periods of time where once-hard fights feel easy before new ones are released.

Healing is also likely to continue to scale up a little faster than health, so over the course of an expansion, you will fill health bars faster and faster, it just won’t be as much of a shift as it is today.  Your HPS may even increase by the same percentage per item level as it does right now.  There will just be more health to use it on.

“Adding cast times makes my heals less skill based”

Removing skill from the game is a common concern players have, but I don’t think adding cast times does that.  I feel the reverse is true in both PvE and PvP settings.

Spells having cast times allow for a lot more planning and rewards foresight.  Predicting damage and timing your casts around it can be a large differentiator between players of different skill levels, and there isn’t as much room for that in the current healing game.

Some feel that fewer instant cast abilities will reduce or remove the opportunity for “clutch” heals – saving lives with a fast reaction time.  Instant casts aren’t being removed entirely, though, and the changes to smart healing will open up a lot of room for spell choice like that to have a tangible impact.  As things are, players who are close to dying just get healed by smart heals.  I wouldn’t ever refer to an AoE heal as a clutch heal, but saving a life with a well placed instant or Flash Heal feels awesome when it happens.

3 responses to “More on Healthy Gameplay

  1. Excellent follow-up to a likewise excellent post! Wild Mushroom is in kind of in a unique position since tier 15; one which I think it behaves contrary to what the devs intended, especially now that it’s just one mushroom (argleblargh… wtb the tier 15 model again! T_T). The fact that it now retains healing when moved just promotes spamming Rejuv on healthy targets to max out mushrooms for incoming burst healing (along with always having a maxed out mushroom for such situations) rather than mushroom placement being more limiting and thus more of a skill cap.

  2. Pingback: Reinventing Healer Gameplay | Wind Lashed

  3. Pingback: Let’s Grab a Drink! Dev Watercooler & Healing | mana tide totem

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