Monday, February 23, 2009

Healing Fun (Revisited!)

As of lately there have been lots of threads about healing fun (or rather the lack of it). One might think that this is only a kneejerk reaction to the recent mana regeneration nerf announcement, but is that the whole truth? Could it be that healers in general like the idea of healing so much they can't see the shortcommings?

The healing role have always been very dear to me, and my characters tended to become healers if at all possible. I'll try to pinpoint what makes healing fun, and what makes healing not fun, and see if I can come to some sort of a conclusion.

When is healing fun?
Healing is challenging - I like it when healing is challenging. Mana shouldn't be a non-issue and I should have to use my spells to the fullest, unless I totally overgear the instance. Goes hand in hand with healing variation.
Use of non-healing spells - I like it when I can use spells that aren't immidiately associated with healing to help my group and help with my role. In fact it's one of the more gratifying feelings since it doesn't happen that often. At least not compared to using healing spells. Be it a timely spell interrupt, stun or crowd control.
Variation when healing - I like it when I'm encouraged to use my full set of healing and damage prevention spells when healing. I don't want to be able to spam one spell over and over again and get away with it.
Varying types of damage - In raids I like it when there's a mix of predictable and unpredictable damage, as well as targeted damage versus AoE damage. Unpredictable damage keep you on your toes and the predictable damage is a pleasant distraction.
When assignments matter - In raids I like it when you can assign healers to certain targets, and it makes the encounter easier. It shouldn't be rocket science, but assignments should matter.

When isn't healing fun?
Discrimination - It's not fun when a dungeon seem constructed as a counter to certain healing specs. What comes to mind is Magisters' Terrace for holy paladins, at least before WotLK. While it was doable, it was much easier for the remaining healing specs at the time.
Healer is to blame - It's not fun when everything that can go wrong in an encounter can be blamed on the healer. Since healers are responsible for keeping the group/raid alive, much of what can go wrong can be blamed on them. That comes with the job. But healers shouldn't be able to bail out damage dealers every single time they do something stupid, just because you can save them in theory if you react near instantly and/or waste loads of mana. Mostly a raid issue.
Spamming - It's not fun when one healing spell rule them all. This is even more important after the downranking nerf.
UI fall short - Healers spend most of their time watching health bars. Many of the UI shortcommings can be fixed by downloading 3:rd party addons. But the fact that the UI, after all these years, still is so primitive and poor for healers is incredible. In a bad way. Even with addons we can feel impaired in certain situation because of UI limitations.
When benched - It's not fun when a healer get benched only because the raid want to do a timed run or get some other achievement done. This is a fundamental flaw with healing in this game. You work yourself out of a raid spot.

So what can be done to make healing more fun?
Keep challenging healers - This is an obvious solution, and something that Blizzard always aim to do. Keep in mind that all specs need to be challenged but also encouraged to use all their spells to keep on top of healing.
Less healing fallback - Use more enrage timers, punish stupid damage dealers in ways other than by damage in some encounters.
Let healers increase dps - It kinda goes against all Laws of WoW, but it would be nice if healers can increase the potency of damage dealers dps by the means of active and passive buffs. The healers themselves shouldn't dps. It would be awesome if bringing the standard amount of healers would give a higher overall raid dps than bringing fewer, but decrease the overall dps if more are brought.
Revamp the UI - Sounds like a no-brainer, but it has hardly been touched from vanilla WoW so it can't be that obvious. Healers need to be able to have fun healing without addons. Some people say they do fine without them, but I can assure them that they'll never look back if they start using them. Healers need to be able to do this without addons: customize the look/size of the UI, filter options on buffs/debuffs shown and possibility to show both types at the same time, urgent debuffs that is always shown with a larger icon (encounter specific) and the possibility to make debuffs curable for the class shown as urgent or visualized in some other way, make the raid frame belonging to someone being targeted stand out from the crowd, easy way to go mouse-over healing (like Clique/Healbot), restored UI after disconnects, an actual threat meter... I could go on forever.
Thinking outside the box - I have no idea how fun it would be, but what about this: possibility to charge up a healing spell, possibility to start cast and hold healing spells, feint spellcasting, healing combos and so on.

There you go, some suggestions on how one can make healing more fun in WoW. This was mostly for PvE, as PvP is another matter completly. It has to do with survivability. What comes to mind in terms of PvP I'd say innate resilience, some base resilience that increase with level that keep burst damage down in PvP. Letting healers increase dps as suggested above might buy them some time as well.

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